Asked & Answered

Jaman Matthews | Heifer International, World Ark | May 1, 2008

World ArkKirk Bergstrom is founder and president of WorldLink, the organization behind a new initiative called Nourish. The project, says Bergstrom, was inspired by an essential question: How can we create a more sustainable food system? It invites people to examine their relationship to food and to understand the story of their food. To explore these issues, Nourish is producing a PBS television special, a companion website and a school curriculum.

World Ark: The full name of the initiative is Nourish: Food + Community. What does that phrase “food plus community” mean to you?

Kirk Bergstom: “Food plus community” recognizes that food culture is deeply embedded in community. Food is meant to be a communal experience. The act of cooking and sharing a meal nourishes the bonds of family and friends. A farmers market serves as a community gathering place.

WA: You have some big names signed on for the project.

KB: We wanted the voices of thoughtful individuals who bring a “big picture” to the issues of food and agriculture. One person skilled at enlarging our worldview is Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food. Another is Anna Lappé, author of Hope’s Edge and Grub. Bryant Terry, author and chef, brings an urban sensibility and a love of cooking. We also interviewed Nadine Burke, a pediatrician and nutritionist who works on the front lines of the obesity epidemic. Chez Panisse restaurant founder Alice Waters speaks about her pioneering work with The Edible Schoolyard. And British chef Jamie Oliver shares his unique joie de vivre for cooking and community.

WA: There is certainly a national conversation surrounding food these days. But it seems that much of it has become about specialty foods and celebrity chefs. Is food just a fad, simply a niche topic for the wealthy?

KB: While the media may focus on the trendy new restaurant or celebrity chef, food is about much, much more. Our relationship to food encompasses the whole world. To create a more sustainable food system will take bold vision and a real commitment to change–from agricultural policy to agricultural practices. It will require corporate responsibility and individual responsibility. We all have a stake, and we all have a say. As Michael Pollan says, “Vote with your fork.”

WA: What do you hope Nourish will accomplish?

KB: Nourish is intended to stimulate questions and dialogue. Our hope is that Nourish plants seeds of inquiry–within families, within schools, within communities–that begin to transform the way people relate to food. Food is one of our most intimate relationships. It makes us and remakes us every day. It also makes and remakes our world.

WA: Why is Nourish important now?

KB: Nourish is important now because so much is at stake. The health of our children, our families and our communities depends on choices we make today. Food and agriculture touch on so many aspects of our daily lives. When we look beyond our plate, we begin to consider the whole–the people, places and processes that stretch from seed to table. If we choose a sustainable path, we’ll create a healthier world.

WA: How can people reconnect to food and community?

KB: In our fast-paced world, slow down enough to better understand your choices. When you have a meal, think about where the food came from and how it got to you. Take a moment to read the ingredients label before you buy a food product. Seek out local, organic alternatives. Share more meals with friends and family. And always honor the people who bring us our food.

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