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Colicchio on The Food Movement and it's lack of effectiveness


Just saw this on Bill Moyers site. I am sure this will elicit responses, both positive and negative from the Greek chorus. I personally find it pretty well thought out.

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  1. Illuminating article; thanks for posting this.

    1. Thanks for that, Phaedrus. Excellent article.

      1. Apparently, they are on a media blitz. Much respect to the Chef for speaking up for what he believes.


        1. Food Policy Action needs a good lobbyist or twenty to keep up with the competition.

          1. It's a very well-reasoned article.

            I don't think many people think there is a "food movement" in America focused on combating hunger. To the extent there is one, it's focused on one of two things: 1) new food trends for wealthy diners, and 2) a national movement to move us off fast food and processed food.

            On the latter movement, its proponents are poorly positioned. Americans for decades have been bombarded with advertisements leading them to believe that fast food and processed food aren't bad for them, much in the same way the tobacco industry did the same thing decades ago. But in this fight, Americans generally don't think it's an issue even though the facts are very clear otherwise. With fast food, Americans are much more prepared to fight for their right to sustain themselves on McDonalds and super-sized sodas and contribute to the nutritional decline of their children.

            I was in Paris 15 years ago when the government introduced legislation regulating fast food advertisements to promote the message that McDonalds and related fast food items should only be eaten occasionally as part of a healthy diet. As an American back then I thought that was socialist and draconian. Now I see it differently.

            1. Very well written. I also think that Food Policy Action has present a good scope that's focused without being so narrow that it falls into more recent science that hasn't gained consensus.

              1. its a good article and makes the biggest point

                "but if you’re not getting anyone elected, then your issues don’t matter here. Sorry"

                right now the industry holds the politics and the "food movement" folks are generally portrayed (sometimes rightly) as elitist idealists.

                I live here:


                there is so much contradiction and confusion about food and food policies it is really confounding - there is an excess of public assistance and still hunger. - I see the bread and food lines daily, I also see gluttony on food stamps and food stamps sold for drug$. I remain convinced that the food stamp programs are more about subsidizing the food industry than feeding the people. Yet I do not doubt their necessity.

                We have, soup kitchens, education programs, food "thrift stores" urban farms, CSA's and burgeoning cooperatives - but all the people who "care" about food and access are not unified - there is a huge gap between those focusing on hunger & education vs those focusing on sourcing ... meanwhile big food lobbies to allow food stamps in restaurants

                I really believe education is a key component - so many of the urban poor here have amazingly limited knowledge of food (so does much of the professional class to be honest) - there are increasing numbers of programs to get food, and knowledge into peoples hands but no comprehensive reform.

                maybe I am crazy but I think "Home Ec" in an updated non gender specific form should be in schools (along with art and sports, shop and everything else we are loosing) knowledge is power and sadly our education system here and in many major cities has been failing for decades.

                1 Reply
                1. re: JTPhilly

                  "right now the industry holds the politics and the "food movement" folks are generally portrayed (sometimes rightly) as elitist idealists."

                  Or total wackos.

                2. I disagree that this is well thought out. It started off promising, then concluded lamely that government needs to spend more, without identifying the specifics of the problem including where the needs are concentrated, the origin of the problem and more comprehensive explanation of solutions that have been tried/failed and why, how much will be required, etc. No creative ideas identified at all. I also don't like that he uses second-hand info to make assumptions about how this unidentified "congressman" addressed the issue ("Marion Nestle once described a meeting she had on Capitol Hill where she used the term “the food movement.” The congressman chuckled and said, “The food movement? What food movement?”...it would be more powerful if he were describing his own exchange, with specifics.) Additionally, jumping to the conclusion that government needs to legislate higher minimum wage is short-sighted; when corporations are required to do this they will simply replace these jobs with more automation. More people will be out of work. Investing in science and technology education, for example, makes more sense to me than legislating higher wages for no-skills jobs. I admire his passion but don't agree that the solution is well considered.

                  13 Replies
                  1. re: Niblet

                    I want the minimum wage to be $15 per hour everywhere......Just so people have to eat their words about it being a good idea.

                    1. re: Niblet

                      but the point of the article was not to identify the solution - it was to simply say - until the "food movement" is a voting block there is no "food movement" when the local politicians came to our community meeting for a q&a prior to the last election it was interesting to see them squirm when put to the wall about food access and cooperatives - because it was not something they had on their radar - currently my community is an anomaly in being focused on these issues but if they heard it more they would incorporate these things into their policies

                      1. re: JTPhilly

                        Can you elaborate on what you asked them for and what they responded with.

                        1. re: JTPhilly

                          Okay, then I will say: having read this I don't think he did a good job explaining what the "food movement" is, at all -- and a vague concept that no one understands warrants further scrutiny, not automatic funding. Obama-care should be the lesson, not the model.

                          On thinking about this, I believe one point Colicchio was trying to make is that the "Food Movement" is not well defined or understood. Maybe he should start by defining it more clearly.

                          1. re: Niblet

                            I think that is sort of on point actually - the "food movement" is ill defined and does not have a clear base to lobby from.

                            in my civic they were specifically asked about support for cooperatives - something that is important to a lot of people in that room - so a very specific question - but they all rattled off answers that made no sense none of them could articulate a policy on food access, probably because they never had been asked to even while food access is constantly cited as a major problem in that district in particular.

                            I think I mentioned up-thread - IME there is a big divide between those sourcing organic ramps for $$$$/LB at the farmers market and those trying to put wholesome food on poor families tables - so all we have are band aids and not comprehensive reform - or even a policy for comprehensive reform, or a group with the power to lobby for it. That's what I took from the article.

                            The lack of a consolidated "movement" does not mean there is nothing wrong - watching kids eat soda and chips for breakfast, morbidly obese adults filling up heir drive-a-carts with processed shiny boxes of "food", noting that a bag of frozen berries at the dollar store comes from China, seeing the folks lined up at feedings, something IS wrong and the point is while a lot of people care they are not organized enough to be politically powerful - while big food - making those shiny boxes, importing those frozen berries across continents, replacing my Icecream with "frozen dairy product" and insisting its because I like it that way - does have a lobby, a powerful one and are making money on all ends all while poor nutrition and insufficient food access continue to increase.

                            1. re: Niblet

                              From my experience with a different political issue when one side is very well organized, well funded and well established in the lobbying world and the other side is a mix of being perceived as "too fringe" (in food terms think PETA vegans), not cohesively organized, and not comparatively well funded - the first step is often to provide some kind of flexible umbrella to start under.

                              In this case I think the basic statement is that right now the food industry lobbying groups are well formed as well as lobbying groups to cut government programs (i.e. SNAP). So just saying "the (or this) food movement is about strengthening government programs and being separate from industry/business interests" is a start. For previously organized but 'fringe' groups there may be a "this isn't enough and we won't join" response - but there is also room for groups with the mindset "this is a more mainstream venture that we'll cooperate with because we recognize that our specific values will remain fringe but we support the existence of a counter lobbying group".

                              I don't want to mention the specific example I'm thinking of where this has worked given it's highly political and 100% non-food related perspective - but it's worked. At this point it's all about initial organizing and presenting a counter voice. Specific platforms will have to emerge later to be successful but when there exists a vacuum of a counter voice - creating a counter voice is a strong first step.

                              1. re: cresyd

                                And then it can be *too* flexible, one recent example is the Occupy movement; they failed to provide a cohesive message. I was an initial supporter and emailed Occupy leaders with I'd deemed ought to have been their message via Top Critical Issues (and I'm nobody but it was frustrating in the extreme). Because of their ill-considered lack of focus and organization the movement became a joke, and the whole endeavor was a setback for a lot of people who really could've used a message clearly conveyed to Washington DC. And a big part of that message was intolerance for big business/lobbyists being in bed with politicians.

                                1. re: Niblet

                                  That can be a problem - but it doesn't have to be. Especially if the initial umbrella group starts with a more vague mission that slowly becomes more formalized with input from membership and affiliated organizations. Occupy started more as a grassroots/protest movement versus a lobbying group. So it's not an immediate concern I'd necessarily have - though given how broad food issues can be - it is definitely a risk.

                              2. re: Niblet

                                I think he is explaining that the "food movement" is split between those who are interested in promoting local/organic food and those who interested in fighting hunger. He wants both sides to get together.

                                From his experience, private charity can't possibly make up for cuts in domestic spending such as the $8.8 billion taken away from SNAP. That's a problem he wants to solve. So, I think he has to walk a tight line in appealing to food snobs with above-average income to get them to support the large-scale programs necessary to combat hunger without turning them off from the necessary redistributionist properties of such programs.

                                If he wanted to be clear, he should be telling some foodies to stop being selfish jerks who are mainly concerned with their own dining experience and things they can post to Facebook/Twitter, but being too honest with them may be a counter-productive tone.

                                1. re: FoodPopulist

                                  I think the bigger point he's making is that different groups that are all interested in various parts of the "food movement" are collectively getting wiped out by the very well-organized and well-funded food industry. Food policy has one defining characteristic which is that it tends to support large, established food providers like industrial agriculture and food processors. Our government policies make it easy for food institutions to mass produce the same foods that the government advises are healthy for us - even when the prevailing science says otherwise.

                                  I don't think the people to worry about are rich foodies who post to Facebook. The people to worry about are the ones who don't think there's any problem -- or that the real problem is the idea of government infringing on their God-given right to drink a 64-oz Double Big Big Gulp, and using that story to stop all progress on re-educating the country on proper food health.

                                  1. re: calumin

                                    Part of the problem are the people who claim to be concerned about food policy but are in favor of cutting food stamps (SNAP).

                                    1. re: FoodPopulist

                                      Most of the politicians in favor of cutting food stamps were from the Tea Party. The earlier farm bill would have cut SNAP spending by five times the amount that was ultimately agreed to.

                                      There is no doubt that the US has the ability to fix problems of hunger in our country. What we don't have is the collective political will, because some elected politicians think it's not the government's job to do so.

                                  2. re: FoodPopulist

                                    I think there are plenty of local groups that are interested in both local/organic AND fighting hunger. A great one in my neighborhood is http://arcadiafood.org/

                                    However, such organizations put their energy, and not-unlimited resources, into programs, not lobbying. Food Policy Action could fill that void as long as it doesn't become another marketing arm for "healthy food" manufacturers.

                            2. And yet he sells $4 oysters.