Last night, the Wilton Library hosted a screening of the documentary Food Fight. Supported by the Fink Family Foundation and the green initiatives by the library community, the film is another look at how the food industry affects our lives.
But while previous films like Food, Inc. and FRESH looked at the industrial side of agribusiness with a heaping spoonful of animal cruelty, the documentary, produced and directed by Chris Taylor, takes a brief but hard look at how we got to this point. Rather than coming off as one big complaint about the food system, his film gives just a little glimmer of hope that supporting your local farmer and growing your own food may be the key to changing the way we eat.
Beside the ubiquitous comments from journalist and food writer Michael Pollan and a brief appearance from Will Allen, the famed founder of Milwaukee’s Growing Power as highlighted in FRESH, the real star in this film was Alice Waters.
Some may know her as a great chef. Some may know her restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif. But anyone involved with food or cooking knows Ms. Waters as a visionary who started a food revolution.
What began as a desire to get fresh food in the 1970s grew into a nationwide interest in local farmers. “Eighty-five percent of cooking is finding the ingredients,” she said.
By paying local farmers for their freshly picked food, they formed their own direct, stable economy without a middleman. This was essentially the first farm to table initiative. And it worked. “I was simply looking for taste and in the process of looking for taste, I found the local farmer,” said Waters.
But too many people in this country don’t have access to a local farmer. Too many people shop the middle aisles of the supermarket where all the processed food lives. The film mentions a 60 square mile section of Chicago in which the only food available comes from a convenience store or a bodega. There are no farmers’ markets. There are no fresh vegetables. It’s all processed with the same shelf life as rocket fuel.
There was a time in this country when fresh food was all we had. During the Great Depression, starvation was rampant. Farmers were growing plenty of food, but nobody could afford it. Then World War II came and brought with it the “K” ration to keep our boys fit and strong to fight. In the post-war 1950s, the TV dinner was simply an upgraded “K” ration marketed for its convenience to the masses. Add to that the growing influence of the petroleum-based businesses and you have yourself a country full of fat and happy people.
And that is precisely the problem. We are fat. And it’s all the corn and soy-based products that petroleum big wigs have supported that made us that way. We have heart disease. We have diabetes. We have obesity. All of these are food-related illnesses. Each of them can be controlled, and even eliminated, by how and what we eat. However, we also need to claim personal responsibility. We buy those foods and we eat those foods. But we don’t have to.
None of this is news. This is a message that has been cried out repeatedly. And if you visit this site with any regularity, then I am simply preaching to the choir.
“Good food should be a right and not a privilege,” said Waters. While true, it is unfortunately a privilege that doesn’t come for a visit all that often for many people in this country.
Which each vignette in the film, the message is clear: One man (or woman, in this case) can make a difference. It’s not about the grandiose gesture or the big marketing scheme. The little things do matter. And those little things can grow by word of mouth.
So consider yourself lucky that you have a farmers’ market and fresh produce available. And if you don’t, find a way to get it. And if you can’t get it, grow it yourself. In the backyard. In pots. On the windowsill. Eating good food is a choice. Make it.