HALFWAY THOUGHTS ON TODAY’S FOOD MOVEMENTS — STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION — GIVE ME ANOTHER DAY!
Some people wonder if youthful food movements spreading through cities across the Global North are half-full, half-empty — or maybe even half-baked.
The timing for such questioning is perfect. Once a new trend gets over its first flush, people start to judge it as a movement that will be around for a while. That’s when tough questions crop up.
The food fad/trend-turned-movement is in the midst of such questioning right now.
It’s an important learning opportunity — the social movement equivalent of teething.
We’re often too easily comforted by complacent sayings about how progress is made in social movement history. An old saying, sometimes wrongly attributed to Gandhi, has it that the path to success goes like this: “First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you….Then they debate you. Then you win.”
Sounds like a pretty smooth and easy ride.
Not so! From the inside of social movements, the order goes more like this: First, we’re exhilarated by the power of the new idea and the bounce it gets from friends and enemies. Then we find out that getting beyond our tiny circle of support is harder than we thought. Then people point out our mistakes. Then we rethink, regroup and set a course of action that leads to debate and win.
Food movements are at the halfway — hopefully half-full — point of this narrative arc.
A number of academic heavies have criticized food movement leaders for their inattention to food system policy, politics and government, and their elitist neglect of disadvantaged people who suffer most from food industry wrongs.
It’s time food movements take a half-time break for rest, reflection and renewal.
I learned a lot from two informed, positive and well-written contributions to the discussion. One is an academic article by Lesli Hoey and Allison Sponseller. The other is Mark Winne’s latest book, based on his 47 years as an organizer working on food issues. I will present their arguments, and then offer some of my own.
To disclose any bias, I should say I know two of the three writers quite well.
I met Lesli about ten years when she invited me to speak at Cornell, where she got her Ph D in city planning. Two years ago, she invited me to do a speaking tour around Michigan University in Ann Arbor, where she’s a popular professor. She later joined me and our family and friends on a canoe trip through the wilderness of northern Ontario.
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