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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Shalini Kantayya Wins MacArthur Grant

Filmmaker, eco-activist and IATP Food and Community Fellow Shalini Kantayya has been chosen for this year’s prestigious MacArthur Foundation documentary film grant of $125,000. Her documentary, “Solarize This,” examines the human side of the green economy by focusing on three unemployed Americans in a solar jobs training program in Richmond, California.

Kantayya's work as an IATP Food and Community Fellows focused on the world water crisis and it's connections to global food security. She most recently directed and produced a series of short videos on Food Justice from the Ground Up.

The MacArthur Foundation, a supporter of independently produced film and video for more than 30 years, announced 13 grants totaling more than $1.6 million for documentary film projects. The documentaries address a range of important issues, including justice reform, global conservation and immigration.

 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

What I Did This Summer

The good folk at Canada’s Globe & Mail asked me to write a piece called “What I Did This Summer.” Never having written one before, I thought I’d channel my inner 12 year old.

Cuzco, Peru: This summer I started to write a book and film a documentary with my hero. His name is Steve James. He filmed ‘Hoop Dreams’ which was about basketball and hope and disappointment and race and inequality and America. Our film is called “Generation Food”. It is about how we will eat in the future.

So I went to Japan. People used to live long lives in Okinawa because of the traditional diet. Lots of people lived until 100. Now grandparents are burying their children. They don’t eat as they used to. When the Americans came with their military base, they brought fast food for the GIs. Everybody eats it now. I visited farmers who plant crops on US bases. They did it so often that the Americans gave up and just let them do it. I ate goat sashimi because it would have been rude not to.

Then I went to Cuba. I saw where Hemmingway pickled his liver. I learned why the US bans Cuban rum. If they let it in everyone would drink it. The food isn’t very good. The Cubans blame the Spanish for making them want to eat beans and rice and pork. This is a shame. Cubans have some of the tastiest fruits and vegetables on the planet. I talked to Cuban cooperative farmers. Some of them talked about money in ways that would make a Wall Street...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Lactation Consultants Need to Diversify Yesterday

Originally published in Women's E-News.

Sakia'Lynn Johnson was cautiously optimistic. Last year, as one of two African American international board certified lactation consultants in Florida, she had been asked to lead an African American special interest group for the first time in the history of the International Lactation Consultants Association's annual conference. It is the largest gathering of lactation consultants in the world.

Never mind that she was asked one month prior, when these conferences are likely planned a year in advance, and never mind that the time--7 a.m.--was not exactly primetime. But even in the small room that was assigned to the meet-up Johnson envisioned a sea of black and brown lactation consultants certified by the organization, the ones she hoped existed even though she had only met a handful in her decade-long career.

About 23 people showed up.

Only six were African American. Including Johnson herself.

The situation wasn't what she had hoped, but it was what she'd actually been expecting.

In fact, nobody seems to know how many African American international board certified lactation consultants (IBCLCs) there are in the United States. The membership association doesn't compile that information and the registering body (...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

You're Invited: Food+Justice=Democracy

See video

Get ready to change the story.
Food + Justice = Democracy is a national meeting like no other. Led by a national steering committee of food justice activists, the agenda elevates the food stories of communities of color and tribal nations. With this grounding, participants will co-create a national food justice platform to push our government and our political leaders to prioritize a fair, just and healthy food system.

Think you know the whole story? Think again.
For most people in the U.S., our knowledge of the food system comes from supermarkets and corporate advertising campaigns. The dominant narrative of our food system—that it is healthy and efficient—is inaccurate, incomplete and deceptive. Even the most popular “alternative” stories—that of idyllic farms supplying produce to local co-ops or organic cafés—provide an incomplete vision of what is needed and what is possible.

The full impact of the food system on the people who live and work throughout the food chain—particularly people of color, from the fields, to the processing plants, to the supermarkets, to the plate—is hidden. The lack of these stories being heard, and therefore considered in policy and planning processes, reinforces health inequities and the current legacy of historical injustices.

For more information on how we'll raise-up stories, build networks and change policy visit Food+Justice=Democracy.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Why the Farm Bill Matters to Asian Americans

Originally published in The Rafu Shimpo.

Defining Asian America is a hard task. Agreeing on common issues is even harder. Our community is made up of dozens of languages, from Toisan to Lao, every tax bracket, and the newly arrived Karen from Burma to 10th-generation Filipino Americans.
Perhaps the only thing we can agree on is a love of food. Fancy food, cheap food, Grandma’s food, weird food, comfort food: our relentless desire to create and share good food is a common thread across all our differences.

Our passionate attention to food can be mixed blessing: sometimes we are stereotyped solely as “food people” when our community holds many, many more talents. At the same time, Asian American restaurants, chefs, food markets, farms and even food blogs have used that narrow window of opportunity to become some of our nation’s best. We have a lot to contribute.
Our involvement in American food has reached a critical juncture, however, and I think we can no longer be content eating away in our little corners, enjoying traditional foods and reinventing them as our tastes change. We must start getting involved with important forces that dictate the American food and agriculture system. I’ve joined with others from around the country to set up AAPIFoodAction...

Friday, August 3, 2012

Rice is Nice: The Science of Calories

Originally published in Hyphen Magazine.

“No rice, please.” I keep hearing this disturbing sentence from Asian American friends. Many are fighting the battle of the bulge and some are convinced that rice is the enemy. Or maybe it’s gluten. Wait, was it sugar, or eating late at night? Despite an endless stream of nutrition information, we seem more confused than ever about what to eat to stay fit and feel good. As for myself, a rice-less future is not one I want to participate in! To add to the problem, the food and pharmaceutical industries often pay nutritionists as spokespeople, so sorting out truth from ads can be near impossible. The result: voodoo attempts at weight loss. 

For help, I reached out to Professor Marion Nestle, a UC Berkeley grad and one of America’s leading experts on health, nutrition and weight loss. She is the author of the popular blog Food Politics and a professor at New York University. Her newest book is Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics, and I hoped reading it would help me understand whether one of my favorite foods, rice, was leading to my...

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Bryant Terry On Buddhism and Food Justice

In this short video, Bryant Terry, author of The Inspired Vegan, discusses the way in which his spirituality infuses his work in the food justice movement.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

¡Veggie Libre! Visiting Cuba's State-Owned "Eco-Restaurant"

Originally published in GOOD.

In the Caribbean, a sea of tea green and gentian blue, of overlapping cultures, diverse tastes, a thousand histories and conflicting visions for the future, there’s one view that unites everyone: Cuba has the Worst. Food. Ever.

You might blame bad food on the blockade, yet there are thriving markets filled with fresh fruits and vegetables. In Havana, around 60 percent of the delicious tropical produce comes fresh from the city and its surrounds. Even if most Cubans eat it only a handful of times a month, the backbone of Cuban food needs to have bones in it. Anything that isn’t meat is just treading water, and often tastes that way too.

Some people suggest that today’s Cuban love affair with meat stems from the 'Special Period,' after the end of communism, when Cuba’s trading links sank with the Iron Curtain, and the average Cuban lost 20 lbs because food—especially meat—was so hard to come by. Yet while this explains meat's popularity, it doesn’t explain why it's often so poorly cooked.

Some of the more embarrassed Cubans I spoke to blamed the Spanish, for bringing their meat and beans and rice culture to the Caribbean. But Spanish food is often quite good, while Cuban cuisine rarely manages to rise above the culinary low water mark of 1970s English...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Droughts and Mirages in Washington and Beyond

Published earlier today in the Guardian, some thoughts on the drought, dustbowl, and what it’s going to take to get politicians off their knees. Here’s a version with added links and references.

If you’re wondering whether the US drought will create a global food crisis, the answer’s easy. It’s yes, because there’s a food crisis already. The latest year for which we have figures is 2010, when 925 million people were declared malnourished. Soon after the number was announced, the World Bank corrected it upward, and recently said that the number of hungry people is “almost 1 billion“.

Make no mistake: the US drought is fierce. In June this year, out of a possible 171,442 temperature records, 2,284 were broken and 998 were tied. The London Olympic Games should be so lucky. The drought isn’t merely bad because the crops are parched. Climate change has nudged the temperature more than a degree higher than the previous record-breaking US drought in the 1950s. The heat is killing natural systems, and making recovery far harder...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

For small farmers, a spreadsheet alternative

Originally published in the Washington Post.

Sustainable farming has emerged as a new, hip career path. In a down economy, why not? It’s a job that promises righteousness — eating local will save Americans from their sinister dependence on fossil fuels! — and deliciousness: How ’bout them heirloom tomatoes?

To capitalize on the trend — and to counter a projected 8 percent drop by 2018 in the nation’s 2 million farmers — the U.S. Department of Agriculture has set an ambitious target of adding 100,000 new farmers and ranchers this year alone. But is sustainable farming really sustainable for farmers? Most small farmers I have met in nearly a decade of reporting on agriculture simply don’t know. They sow, weed, water, harvest, and, at the end of the season, they cross their fingers and hope they have made a little money.

This, unfortunately, is all too common. “We see a lot of folks get started in farming because they want to grow things,” says Erica Frenay, who works with beginning farmers at the Cornell Small Farms Program. “But it’s really rare that we find someone who is incredibly enthusiastic about the invisible side of farming: the management and organization and record keeping. And the difference between success and failure is good management.”

...

Meet the Fellows

Kelvin Graddick

Kelvin Graddick manages a Georgia-based farmers cooperative that seeks to reclaim and expand opportunities in food and economic security.

Ideas in focus

Cultivating Leadership and Equity in the Food Movement

April 2013

The IATP Food and Community Fellows Program is coming to an end, but it's springtime for our work growing equity in the food system and cultivating diverse leadership in the movement.

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

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