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Book Group: The New Food Activism, by Alison Alkon and Julie Guthman (eds.)
October 4 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pmFree
The Slow Food Russian River Book Group will be discussing The New Food Activism: Opposition, Cooperation, and Collective Action, by Alison Alkon and Julie Guthman (eds.) (University of California Press, 2017).
The Book Group meets the first Thursday of the month, 7 – 9pm, usually in Sebastopol. It’s a convivial dinner. Please bring a dish for four and a beverage.
To be a member of the Book Group you don’t need to be a member of Slow Food, although – of course – we hope that with time you will become one.
About the Editors
Alison Hope Alkon is Associate Professor of Sociology and cofounder of the master’s degree program in food studies at the University of the Pacific. She is the author of Black, White, and Green: Farmers Markets, Race, and the Green Economy and coeditor of Cultivating Food Justice: Race, Class, and Sustainability.
Julie Guthman is Professor of Social Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is the author of Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in California and Weighing In: Obesity, Food Justice, and the Limits of Capitalism.
Publishers Blurb of The New Food Activism: Opposition, Cooperation, and Collective Action
The New Food Activism explores how food activism can be pushed toward deeper and more complex engagement with social, racial, and economic justice and toward advocating for broader and more transformational shifts in the food system. Topics examined include struggles against pesticides and GMOs, efforts to improve workers’ pay and conditions throughout the food system, and ways to push food activism beyond its typical reliance on individualism, consumerism, and private property. The authors challenge and advance existing cont.
Contents of The New Food Activism
1 • Introduction 1
Alison Hope Alkon and Julie Guthman
Part One: Regulatory Campaigns
2 • Taking a Different Tack: Pesticide Regulatory-Reform Activism in California
Jill Lindsey Harrison
Pesticide drift—the offsite, airborne movement of pesticides away from their target location—has become an increasingly controversial issue at the urban–agricultural interface, particularly in the wake of the large-scale drift incidents that have occurred every year or two since 1999 in California’s southern San Joaquin Valley (Harrison 2011). In each of these large-scale incidents, up to several hundred workers and residents of farmworker communities have been exposed to highly toxic airborne soil fumigants and/or aerially applied insecticides. These events produce serious acute illness (nausea, vomiting, eye and skin irritation, difficulty breathing) and contribute to the many chronic diseases these…
3 • How Canadian Farmers Fought and Won the Battle against GM Wheat
On May 10, 2004, agricultural giant Monsanto conceded defeat to a coalition of organizations opposing the introduction of transgenic Roundup Ready (RR) wheat in Canada by announcing that it would “discontinue breeding and field level research of Roundup Ready wheat” (Monsanto Company 2004). The withdrawal of RR wheat from North America marked a significant victory for the global movement against genetically modified (GM) crops. One of the world’s most powerful agrochemical companies had decided to abandon commercialization of a crop that it had spent years and significant resources developing and advancing through the Canadian and American regulatory systems. Moreover, this…
4 • How Midas Lost Its Golden Touch: Neoliberalism and Activist Strategy in the Demise of Methyl Iodide in California
Julie Guthman and Sandy Brown
In march 2012, after more than a decade of seeking regulatory approval for the soil fumigant Midas—registered brand name for methyl iodide—Arysta LifeScience, the largest privately held agrochemical company in the world, withdrew it from the United States and other markets. Midas was designed to replace methyl bromide, a fumigant favored by strawberry growers in California and tomato growers in Florida that was destined for phaseout in compliance with the international Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. Methyl iodide was touted as a suitable alternative because it shares important qualities with methyl bromide, in terms…
Part Two: Working For Workers
5 • Resetting the “Good Food” Table: Labor and Food Justice Alliances in Los Angeles
In a 2013 public service announcement (PSA) created by the Food Chain Workers Alliance, titled Guess Who’s Coming to Breakfast, the son of an interracial couple asks where bacon comes from, to which they respond, “It came from the store.” The next moment, a Black woman walks through the front door and says, “Wrong again.” Those who have been following the past several decades’ explosive growth of interest in food politics might expect to learn about the farm the pig was raised on, and the environmental hazards created by corporate-owned factory farms. But this PSA pushes viewers beyond typical food…
The popular food movement has made serious inroads into changing the ways our nation thinks about the food we produce, purchase, and consume. However, it often finds its highest expression as a form of individualized consumer politics—voting with your fork—in which the purchasing decisions of individual consumers are lauded as the primary tool for making changes in the food system. As demonstrated in chapter 1, this politics of consumption elevates the choices of eaters while remaining blind to how front-line communities are engaged in social change processes. In particular, consumer-centric models ignore the variety of ways that workers…
7 • Farmworker-Led Food Movements Then and Now: United Farm Workers, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, and the Potential for Farm Labor Justice
In critical discussions concerning food-movement activism, the overwhelming emphasis on consumer engagement is often scorned for drawing energy away from the growth of a more politically motivated food movement—one that, ideally, would better highlight worker rights, food access, and food justice more broadly. Although much food activism is indeed aimed at addressing the needs of relatively wealthy consumers (as suggested in chapter 1), this narrative overlooks the historical and present-day instances of consumer-based initiatives aimed at improving working conditions in the fields. In this chapter, I will outline the history of these initiatives and discuss what the recent success…
Part Three: Collective Practices
8 • Collective Purchase: Food Cooperatives and Their Pursuit of Justice
Shopping for food is an everyday spatial practice. People animate city streets and suburban shopping centers by performing habitual acts of consumption, loading carts and cars with the things that nourish them and the people they love. Though these activities may be routine, even banal, the scale of consumer power they invoke is vast: personal consumption in the United States totaled more than $12 trillion in 2014 (Bureau of Economic Analysis 2014). Depending on how consumers manage their resources, these banal acts have the potential to either reproduce or transform existing social and economic relations (Hilton 2008).
9 • Cooperative Social Practices, Self-Determination, and the Struggle for Food Justice in Oakland and Chicago
Meleiza Figueroa and Alison Hope Alkon
For more than two decades now, academics and activists have engaged in debates about how food movements and alternative food systems should best respond to the challenges of a corporate food regime that is environmentally, socially, and, for all but the most elite actors, economically destructive (Altieri 2009, Bell 2010, McMichael 2009, Perfecto et al. 2009, Shiva 1991). Farmers and entrepreneurs have developed alternative food systems that emphasize the ethics and quality of their local, organic, artisanal, and fair trade goods, while activists have worked to create support for these products and their distribution networks (Goodman et al. 2012, Hinrichs…
10 • Urban Agriculture, Food Justice, and Neoliberal Urbanization: Rebuilding the Institution of Property
Urban agriculture has arisen as a popular strategy in food movements to build alternatives to industrial food systems. Food justice advocates embrace gardening as one strategy in larger battles to address affordability and access to healthy food, community self-determination, and racial and economic inequality. And in the San Francisco Bay Area, the geographic focus of this chapter, urban agriculture has gained tremendous popularity, with hundreds of gardens dotting the landscape. Today’s urban agriculture is situated within a national history in which gardening has been popularized at moments of crisis or social need but only as a form of temporary and…
A food justice movement with a difference has been quietly blossoming in Boston. It is springing forth from Roxbury and Dorchester, two adjoining lower-income neighborhoods of color, where for decades residents have been organizing and struggling for community control over development. This movement encompasses a variety of initiatives to take back land; to grow, process, distribute, and sell food; and to repurpose organic wastes. It is driven by desires for a more just, sustainable, and democratic local food economy.
One poignant example is the Garrison-Trotter Farm in Roxbury, which broke ground in July 2014. This farm was the first to…
Across the United States—the wealthiest country in the world—people are clamoring for healthy, affordable food and for the resources to produce it. Over the past two decades, the U.S. food movement has grown dramatically and has steadily incorporated a broad spectrum of issues, from labor and environmental struggles to calls for food security, food justice, and local, organic, non-GMO, and cruelty-free food. Once concerned primarily with the interests of consumers, the diverse communities and organizations that make up the U.S. food movement are increasingly drilling down to the deeper capitalist foundations and political–economic contradictions of our food system….
13 A New Food Politics
Alison Hope Alkon and Julie Guthman
In 2006, when collecting data for her bookBlack, White, and Green, Alison spoke with Kirk, a manager at the first entirely organic farmers’ market in the United States. Like most of the market’s vendors and customers, he was white, college-educated, and politically progressive. Kirk described the farmers’ market as a way to advocate for a healthy environment while working around, rather than challenging, an unresponsive state:
I think that people continue to work on the government, but the government hasn’t shown us anything good for an awfully long time. Democrat or Republican, they still don’t get it.… With the…
Alison Alkon on Farmers Markets, Food Justice, and Green Economy
“A convincing roundup that demonstrates that the food movement is (finally) coming of age, The New Food Activism is a chronicle of a dozen important victories around agriculture, justice, public health, and more, which points the way toward a future in which food is increasingly a focus of crucial rights movements. A must-read for food organizers and their allies.”—Mark Bittman, food columnist and author of How to Cook Everything
“People want to eat ethically, and to do that, they need to care about the well-being of workers throughout the food system. This book highlights a promising direction for food activism, one that puts the lived experience of those who grow, cook, and serve our food at the center of its call for systemic transformation.”— Saru Jayaraman, author of Forked: A New Standard for American Dining
“The New Food Activism is one of the most important books on food this century. It is required, inspiring, and challenging reading for every student of food, every ‘foodie,’ as well as every grower, worker, and eater in today’s food system. In this groundbreaking book, the authors develop a powerful critique of our food system and our mainstream food movements. In the process, they provide diverse, inspiring examples of food activism that foreground race and class equity while pushing against industrial, corporate control of our food. This unique book and the food campaigns it analyzes are critical to the possibility of true food justice. This book nourishes new realities in our food system.”— Seth Holmes, author of Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States