“A market and a sentiment are not a movement”

Love this article from Sunday’s NYT which was sent to me by a non-foodie friend. As always, I appreciate Pollan’s clarity and honesty, but I do disagree that this election season is a litmus test for our work.
The present administration has not made localized healthy food systems a core part of its mandate yet and as much as I appreciate the First Lady’s resolve and leadership on good food, lets be honest: it’s not the only flag (or even the main flag) that they are flying. As for initiatives, ballot referendums in California have yet to have serious impact on the rest of the nation. Trust me-I worked on Ohio’s Issue 5 back in the 1990s that was modeled on California’s labeling law of cancer and birth defect-causing ingredients: talk about a bloodbath.
I also say that the issues centrally addressed by this referendum are exactly what we are NOT about: refashioning the industrial food system at its edges. Our work is life and death on every front and about creating an alternative food system that by its very life means death to poisonous, fake foods controlled by a few dozen monolithic corporations. (Asking them to refashion their products for approval is like Al Capone being asked to use a 6 shooter rather than a Tommy gun-everyone would still be in danger and he would still have become richer and more powerful.)
I’d say that the true test of this system as an election kingmaker will be when there are actually candidates that stump for office using localized healthy food systems for all as their mandate. Unfortunately, that has little chance of happening on its own.
The other way we can test this system is when we actually reach across race and class lines and age groups to find one day that the majority of the country has 1) successfully shopped at a farmers market more than once 2) went to a school that regularly served healthy food that was culturally recognizable 3) honors farmers and harvesters by refusing to vote for developments that drive up prices of farmland or waterfront property and 3) choose brands that don’t pollute, use dangerous ingredients or undercut workers to bring you the best price on a product.
Then, the mandate in DC will not depend on the weak resolve of a privately funded politician, but on the goodwill of the electorate. And yeah, until then, it’s a damn good article about movements.

“One of the more interesting things we will learn on Nov. 6 is whether or not there is a “food movement” in America worthy of the name — that is, an organized force in our politics capable of demanding change in the food system. People like me throw the term around loosely, partly because we sense the gathering of such a force, and partly (to be honest) to help wish it into being by sheer dint of repetition. Clearly there is growing sentiment in favor of reforming American agriculture and interest in questions about where our food comes from and how it was produced. And certainly we can see an alternative food economy rising around us: local and organic agriculture is growing far faster than the food market as a whole. But a market and a sentiment are not quite the same thing as a political movement — something capable of frightening politicians and propelling its concerns onto the national agenda.”

NYT

Advertisements