Local. Organic. Non-GM.
The Farm Bill. SNAP. Food Safety.
Edible Schoolyard. Urban Gardening. Homesteading.
Joel Sallatin. Alice Waters. Michael Pollan.
Top Chef. Master Chef. Hell’s Kitchen.
Food is a primary topic of conversation these days, whether you are a regular customer at the farmer’s market, a politician, a parent, or just watching network TV.
But what does this mean and why should we care? Are these signs of a food movement?
First, what do we mean by a “movement”?
Sociologists define a social movement as a broad alliance of people connected through a shared interest in blocking or affecting social change (source). So, if we are talking about a food movement, then the next logical question would be regarding the type of change that people are trying to affect.
This past February, TEDxManhattan hosted the third annual “Changing The Way We Eat” conference, a day-long discussion of food and farming, featuring talks by experts from various backgrounds in the food industry–from authors, to farmers, to chefs. While the perspectives and solutions proposed varied widely, the TEDx speeches underlined a belief that the food system in the United States is broken.
Frances Moore Lappé, the author of Diet for a Small Planet (1971), recently described the growing power of a grassroots food movement that “has been gaining energy and breadth for at least four decades.”
“Some Americans see the food movement as “nice” but peripheral—a middle-class preoccupation with farmers’ markets, community gardens and healthy school lunches. But no…It is at heart revolutionary…And that vast power is just beginning to erupt.” – Frances Moore Lappé (Source)
So, yes, it does seem like there is a food movement taking place right now, fundamentally based in a belief that our food system needs to be changed. Suggested solutions vary widely–but in my opinion, it’s not a zero sum game. For a movement to flourish, there need to be many different approaches, options that allow many different people to add their unique voice to the cause.
Literary food blogger Nicole Gulotta has also founded The Giving Table, a website that empowers everyone to change the food system by encouraging people to determine which areas of the food sector they are most passionate about. In this way, people are able to identify themselves within the movement, and find ways to contribute their time and talents.
While Nicole’s website is playing a direct role in the food movement by helping to connect interest to action, I think that food bloggers in general are also contributing to the food movement, even implicitly. By populating the internet with recipes and thoughts about food, food bloggers play a critical role in the food movement — they help to define the scene.
In The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food, Adam Gopnik describes the way in which the Paris food scene developed in the late eighteenth century. The “scene”, he writes, depended upon “a mass of critics, diners, chefs, and above all writers who were talking about and writing about food in new ways” (Gopnik, p.38). If no one is talking about or writing about a phenomenon, then we are not able to recognize it as a “scene.”
It seems to me that food bloggers today are playing a similar role as the first food writers did in Paris 200 years ago. In all the talk of a grassroots food movement, certainly the abundance of informal food writers (bloggers) plays a critical, though unexamined role. Even when bloggers are not directly advocating for a certain approach to food, but rather sharing simply sharing stories and recipes from their own kitchens, cooking on a daily basis heightens our awareness of the important role food plays in our lives, and may be a first step to opening our eyes to the larger food movement we are seeing today.
What do you think? Is there a food movement taking place? What role are food bloggers playing in this movement?