Food Day: Growing a Movement Around What we Eat

by Sarah Henry on October 23, 2011 · 21 comments

in berkeley bites,farmers' markets,food events,food politics,food security

Food Day, October 24th, highlights the good, bad, and ugly of the way we consume food in this country.

Can Food Day, on October 24th, do for the growing food movement what Earth Day did for the nascent environmental movement back in 1970?

The organizers, the Center for Science in the Public Interest in D.C., certainly hope so. A national, grassroots campaign, Food Day is designed to celebrate what we eat while drawing attention to the need to overhaul this country’s food system from farm to fork. In this way it is similar to Earth Day which sparked widespread interest in the fragile nature of our planet.

Events planned for Monday, including in Berkeley and around the Bay Area, will highlight the good, bad, and ugly of the way we consume food in this country.

Simply put, how we grow, transport, process, market, and eat is not sustainable for the environment or our health, said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of CSPI and the creator of Food Day in a recent piece for The Atlantic. Dietary diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart attacks are rising at alarming rates. Industrially raised meat sucks up energy, pollutes the land and water, and is cruel to beast and worker alike.

Even in places like Berkeley where local, seasonal, organic, sustainable, and fresh food is available in abundance, too many people lack access to good grub and/or go hungry or malnourished.We are a nation, to quote UC Berkeley visiting scholar Raj Patel, of the “stuffed and starved.”

Food Day, whose advisory board includes Michael Pollan and Alice Waters, local heavy hitters on the edible revolution front, seeks to mobilize citizens to step up efforts to reform what’s wrong with our food system (hello Farm Bill). The campaign has six admirable goals:

1. Reduce diet-related disease by promoting healthy food.

2. Support sustainable farms and cut subsidies to agribusiness.

3. Expand access to food and end hunger.

4. Protect the environment and animals by reforming factory farms.

5. Promote health by curbing junk-food marketing to kids.

6. Obtain fair pay and safe conditions for food and farm workers.

The Berkeley City Council voted to proclaim October 24th Food Day, and to adopt the Seattle Farm Bill Principles. This is a set of six guiding principles that could serve as a framework for policy discussions around the renewal in 2012 of the federal Farm Bill, the primary piece of legislation that determines the nation’s food and agriculture policy.

“Sometimes it takes action at the local level to help to create change at the federal level,” said Ecology Center Executive Director Martin Bourque. “This may be a case — as with the Kyoto Protocol and climate change — where cities lead the way with innovative government strategies. We need a Food Bill not a Farm Bill.”

On Monday, the Ecology Center will mark Food Day with a tour of local women-owned farms for its members, as part of a series of activities in honor of what many hope will become an annual event.

Food Day activities will get major play in and around the UC Berkeley campus on Monday, said Kristen Rasmussen, a workplace wellness dietician for faculty and staff at Cal who serves as the university’s Food Day coordinator. Highlights include a BYO Lunch Picnic. (Read the full list of events.)

Speakers include Food Day co-organizer and UC alum Lilia Smelkova and Appetite for Profit author Michele Simon. “This is an excellent opportunity to talk about what’s wrong with our broken food system,” said Simon. “But we don’t want to do a lot of complaining. We also want to talk about solutions and what individuals can do to improve food for themselves and their communities, both locally and nationally. The time is ripe to organize around this issue.”

The Berkeley Student Food Collective plans on hosting a sandwich-making event during the day (11 am-4 pm) at its storefront at 2440 Bancroft across from campus, and in the evening will co-host Edible Occupation 101: Careers in Sustainable Food and Agriculture, a panel discussion featuring Sprouts Cooking Club founder Karen Rogers, local farmer Esperanza Pallana, and urban agriculture planner Nathan McClintock.

Every Monday the student stand The Local sells fresh organic produce on campus. Photo: Courtesy The Local

The Local, the student-run organic produce stand that is on campus every Monday (Upper Sproul Plaza, 10 am-2 pm) will be open for business as usual and will also distribute free samples of Cheese Board wholegrain bread.

“Though the food movement is growing, many still see it as exclusive,” said The Local’s Mickey Davis, a 21-year-old senior in the Nutrition Sciences Department. “Not everyone is aware of the peril our food system is in, and a dangerous number of people do not understand the severity of the situation we are in health-wise, environmentally, or economically, and how the food system is closely related to that. It is important to invest time, celebration, and awareness to these issues on Food Day, to help spread the word to others who may otherwise not know.”

While Berkeley has much to celebrate on Food Day, there’s still plenty of work ahead on the food front, even in this food-focused and food-forward town.

“We can take pride in being early adopters as far as farmers’ markets and CSAs, and for being leaders on school food reform, and on the forefront of community gardens and urban agriculture,” said Bourque at the Ecology Center. “But even in Berkeley, with its very advanced alternative food system, we have large numbers of people dealing with diet-related illnesses and huge disparities still when it comes to access and affordability. We need to keep fighting to make good food available to every person in our community.”

This post originally appeared on Berkeleyside. You might also like:

Berkeley Student Food Collective: Education Through Eating
Sprouts Cooking Club: Growing the Next Generation of Chefs
Author Raj Patel’s Food Revolution: From Crisps to Salad
Alice Waters’ 40 Year Campaign for Good Food
Michael Pollan Talks Food Rules at Ferry Building
Berkeley Farmers’ Market Man, Ben Feldman
Cheese Board Collective: 40 Years in the Gourmet Ghetto


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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Tessa @ FlexYourFood October 24, 2011 at 4:29 am

It’s so great to hear more about Food Day! I really wish I was back in the States so I could be part of it. How exciting would it be if it did catch on like Earth Day back when it started?!


Sarah Henry October 24, 2011 at 8:09 am

Indeed, Tessa. And thanks for chiming in. Where are you based?


Tessa @ FlexYourFood October 24, 2011 at 8:57 am

I’m currently living in Newcastle, England and nothing like that is happening here as far as I know. :( Maybe I’ll start it!


Sarah Henry October 24, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Go for it!


Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart October 24, 2011 at 10:36 am

I had not heard of Food Day. Thanks for the head’s up. Those veggie pix are lovely. I’ve been on a beet kick for a while. Juiced with just a little lemon, beets are awesome!

I think another challenge for many people is time. It’s often faster / easier to eat some fast food or processed food. And, with so many people working SO much harder to keep up financially, I suspect many people don’t have the time to plan for, find, buy, and cook healthier options.
Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart´s last [type] ..Dog Blog Poll Results: What is Lilly Looking At?


Sarah Henry October 24, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Pleasure, Rox, glad it resonated with you. I’m a big beets fan too: Love ‘em in salads with candied walnuts, goat cheese, organge segments, and field greens.

Appreciate your point re time and money but so much has been written about how folks can eat well on a budget and not spend all day in the kitchen. Mark Bittman is a good place to start on this score.


Susi October 24, 2011 at 1:21 pm

How fantastic! Methinks Oz should get on board with this one – we’ve got such a long way to go but hey, you gotta start some where…xo


Sarah Henry October 24, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Maybe you can kickstart it in your community, Suse.


merr October 25, 2011 at 9:37 am

I’m a day late for Food Day, but also a year early, as now I know about it from you!


Sarah Henry October 25, 2011 at 11:45 am

Never too early to plan for the next year, Merr. Kind of a mantra of mine since I’m so often late to the table.


Susan October 25, 2011 at 10:50 am

I helped plan a Food Day dinner in Boston and it was a huge amount of work (especially since nobody had heard of Food Day yet), but very exciting to see a little over two dozen people coming together to celebrate the Food Day principles. Next year we’ll start planning a few months earlier so it will be even bigger and better.
Susan´s last [type] ..My Food Day Story: Food is a Team Sport by Lyn Huckabee


Sarah Henry October 25, 2011 at 11:46 am

Fabulous, Susan. Knowing you and your brood there was likely a lot of artisan preserved goodies in the mix. Good on you.


NoPotCooking October 25, 2011 at 12:45 pm

I’m sorry I missed Food Day! This is such an important topic.


Sarah Henry October 25, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Always next year, NPC. Besides, as the author of three (is that right?) cookbooks coming out this fall it’s Food Day every day in your world, methinks.


Jeanine Barone October 25, 2011 at 8:41 pm

The goals of Food Day are so vital to the health of our nation. I just hope that there can be a better connectivity between farm fresh food and our inner city children and families.


Sarah Henry October 26, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Every day I report on such programs, or read about the good work of ones I haven’t seen, so I’m encouraged, Jeanine, but so much remains to be done.


MyKidsEatSquid October 26, 2011 at 6:51 am

It’s interesting, I’ve only heard about Food Day online. Even tho we’re in farm country and an agricultural state, there were no events planned to celebrate that day. I wonder if this idea will take off like Earth Day. Do you know how long it too for Earth Day to gain traction?


Sarah Henry October 26, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Good question, MKES, and I don’t know if I have the answer. There’s also the long-running World Food Day, which happened earlier in the month. All a bit confusing. Time will tell.


Alexandra October 26, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Blog Action Day this year was Oct. 16. The topic was also food. I blogged about GMOs. I regret the advisory board did not include the labeling and eventual elimination of GMOS as one of its worthy goals.
Alexandra´s last [type] ..More on OWS and GMOs


Sarah Henry October 26, 2011 at 4:39 pm

And I learned about Blog Action Day from you, Sandy. Too many days, not enough time. Do you think all this attention serves a purpose or just winds up diluting the message? Food for thought.


Living Large in our Little House October 27, 2011 at 1:47 pm

This was the first year I heard about Food Day. Such a great idea!


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