Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Consider me stimulated.

Attending the Food Movements Unite and Conscientious Carnivore panel discussions and our class Q&A with Michael Pollan, exposed me to many different aspects of the sustainable food movement.

Although I found each of these experiences enlightening and motivating, there were several ways in which the three conversations did not overlap. Exporting our food system to the developing world, global poverty and hunger, and global trade as a form of imperialism were discussed at length at Food Movements Unite but nowhere else. Food access for the poor and urban deserts within the U.S. weren’t addressed at the Conscientious Carnivore, and the lifestyle they advocated requires a large meat freezer, a decent kitchen, and other conditions that seem best suited for people living comfortably. Both Michael Pollan and the panelists at Food Movements Unite stressed the importance of changing policy, but Pollan was less dismissive of personal choice as a mechanism for change, and the Conscientious Carnivore was all about personal choice.

The topic of collaboration was a unifying theme of these events, and yet, no one seemed to have an obvious plan as to how to organize the many disparate groups involved in the larger food movement. In fact, I don’t think the organizers of the two panel discussions even knew about each other. I learned about these events in completely different ways.

The Conscientious Carnivore was not only the first event I’d ever attended at the Commonwealth Club; it was the first time I’d ever even heard of the organization! Later, I found out that both Raj Patel and Michael Pollan had participated in events there within the past year unbeknownst to me.

Since I began this blog a year ago, I have researched many aspects of the food movement, and I continue to stumble upon completely new (to me) organizations even within the Bay Area. How can the sustainable food movement as a whole affect change when different groups seem so disconnected? How can we mobilize people without a cohesive network for action and advocacy?

On the last day of our class, after Michael Pollan had taken off, we asked our students what they thought of the course and what they had learned. Several students said that this was their favorite college course and expressed concern as to how they would continue to participate in changing the food system. They are now where I was a year ago – impassioned, but stumbling around trying to find a way to make a difference. These students need a guide, a way to figure out where they can help and how.

In pondering these issues, I envisioned a website that would link all sectors of the food movement. The goal would be to educate people about the inter-related issues within the sustainable food movement and to create a database of all of the organizations, websites, and blogs that are invested in each area. As more people discover the damaging effects of our current food system and global trade policies, there should be a place for them to identify areas and organizations in which they can contribute.

I put together this food movement map as a starting point. Someday, I would want this to be interactive, with each topic linking to a wiki-style entry covering the main interests and challenges in that specific area and links to the relevant organizations and/or blogs (shown here using the gradient background).

I’d love to get some feedback on this. Are there any food sustainability issues I have left out? Anyone know how hard it would be to create an interactive version? This is just a first step, of course. I know there are many more organizations working in these areas, and it would to take a lot of research (not to mention web development skills) to actual put together a complete and informative website. It's exciting to think about though!

For now, here are links to the organizations I did include:

Health and education:
Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard
Food News
Marion Nestle’s Food Politics

Policy, law, and networking:
Comfood (listserve hosted by the Community Food Security Coalition)
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Food Democracy Now
US Working Group on the Food Crisis
Sustainable Food Jobs
Oakland Food Policy Council

Food First
Share the World’s Resources
People’s Grocery
Hayes Valley Urban Farm in SF
Oakland Local

Alternative food systems:
Buy Fresh Buy Local
Local Foods Wheel
Edible Communities
Animal Welfare Approved
Organic Consumers Association
Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture
Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association
Eat Wild
Offal Good
Oliveto Community Journal
American Community Gardening Association
Slow Food
Berkeley Student Food Collective

Sustainable and ethical farming systems:
Compassion in World Farming
Community Alliance with Family Farmers
Seafood Watch
La Via Campesina – International Peasant Movement
The Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems


  1. 2 bubbles I'd like to see on there:

    A 'scale' concept under the ethical farming umbrella (and also under access), specifically, how we can grow enough food for all, and have a lot of that be local still while accomodating the giant number of people in urban population centers.

    A 'consumption' concept under Health and Education, which focuses on growing the right total amount of food (instead of tossing so much). I'd also like to see what would/could happen (using best-guess numbers) with respect to farm sizes, methods and side effects if we could just make this a reality. Perhaps it's also a solution to the Scale bubble?

  2. Thank you for the info. It sounds pretty user friendly. I guess I’ll pick one up for fun. thank u

    Bay Area Web Developer