Every day, citizens are creating a better world through their individual and community food choices. Author Anna Lappé offers inspiration for this growing movement.
What changes are you noticing in the public conversation about food?
Anna Lappé: We’re beginning to see a kind of collective awakening that something is out of whack with how we think about and grow food. It’s like what happened with tobacco and cigarettes. There were many years during which people raised concerns about smoking, yet it’s just been in the past few decades that we’ve had a total shift.
I think there’s going to be the same kind of shift around food. We could imagine that in my children’s or grandchildren’s lifetimes, they will look back on this era and think, “Isn’t that funny that we thought it was wise to advertise sugary sodas to our kids? That we encouraged a high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar diet?” The possibility is there for this radical shift to happen. It’s happened before with other public health crises, and so it could happen again.
What’s unique about this moment in history?
Anna Lappé: I feel this profound sense of being alive at this historic moment. We’re at a crossroads. On the one hand, we’re heading even further along the road of highly industrialized food. It is making us sick and leading to all kinds of health problems.
On the other hand, there is this incredible emergence all around the planet. I’ve seen it from Bangladesh to Kenya to Brazil to the U.S.—people reconnecting with where their food comes from, tapping back into our natural wisdom about what nature can provide for us. At this moment of such incredible stakes, we each have an opportunity to align our lives in the direction of health and sustainability.
How can individuals shape our food future?
Anna Lappé: When we think about the larger food system, we can sometimes feel removed. We feel like, “What power could we possibly have to affect the way food is grown if we’re not farmers?” I think a lot of people feel sometimes overwhelmed, like it seems too huge to start thinking about changing their diet.
It’s about taking out one thing at a time, not feeling like you have to radically change everything. Ultimately, making the healthy choices is not about deprivation. There is nothing more pleasurable than eating healthy and feeling energized.
We all have an incredible amount of power to make a difference. Think about the power that you have as an individual eater. Unlike most things that we spend money on, you need to consume food on a daily basis. What are the choices that you make about food? What can you do, as a member of a community? Can you influence how your children’s school looks at food and their role in purchasing and growing food? Is there something you can do with your friends or your colleagues, or in your congregation?
What is the role of active citizenship?
Anna Lappé: The power is in our hands if we engage as active citizens around food. I’ve seen active citizens near my house in Brooklyn who got together and said to the city government, “Look, there’s an entire three-acre plot of land here in this community that we want to use to grow our own food. Won’t you let us use our parkland to do that?” The city government gave them the green light, and now there is a thriving organic farm. Active citizens stepped up and made it happen.
We’re all citizens. We’re all part of a democracy that should be responsive to our voices. I love that Cezanne quote, “The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution.” Changing our relationship to food has a global ripple effect, and it can connect us to some of the biggest questions of our time.More: Anna Lappé, Environmental Issues, Farm to Fork, Food and Community, Food and Health, Food Justice, Global Community, Taking a Stand