Food and Community
Anna Lappé, activist,
author and co-founder of the Small Planet Institute, will
join Bryant Terry, eco-chef and food justice activist,
for the featured presentation of on Thursday,
Nov. 20, at 4:15 p.m. in the Campus Center Carroll Room.
Lappé and Terry
teamed to write the critically acclaimed book Grub:
Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen, a
half-exposé about the food industry, half-cookbook
with healthy, responsible, organic recipes.
responded to questions for the
Gate about food, her background, and the upcoming
The Gate: How did you first become interested/involved
in the concept of food and sustainable agriculture?
Anna Lappé: As my friend Tom Philpott over at Grist
likes to call me, I’m definitely a “green-diaper” baby.
Some of my earliest memories are stuffing envelopes for my
mother’s non-profit Institute for Food and Development
Policy and sitting at my father’s dinner table as he
described his work with communities exposed to toxics in
the factory or in the fields. I knew I was hooked for life
in working on food and sustainable agriculture after traveling
for my first book to India, Brazil, Bangladesh, Poland, France,
and Kenya, where I met some of the most impressive, unsung,
environmental heroes on the planet. I wanted to continue
sharing their stories and learning how my work here in the
United States can support their important work across the
Gate: In your view, how far away are we from the ideal system you
envision of growing and producing food, as outlined in Grub? What
would it take to get there?
AL: With the current worldwide food price crisis still raging,
experts estimate that 850 million people are considered among
the ranks of the hungry. We also know that farm workers in
this country continue to be among the lowest-paid workers
and experience some of the highest rates of on-the-job injuries,
often through exposure to toxic levels of pesticides. Add
to this grim picture skyrocketing Type 2 diabetes, heart
disease, and other diet-related illnesses in the U.S. and
abroad and the situation looks pretty bleak.
But I’ve always believed we live in a both/and era:
Things are both getting much, much worse and much better
at the very same time. For across the planet eaters and food
producers from Brooklyn to Bangladesh are reclaiming power
over their food systems, whether through creating urban farms
producing the most local food possible for area residents
(like Added Value’s farm in Red Hook, Brooklyn) or
by heading to the barricades of international trade meetings
to demand fairness in trade policy for food and agricultural
products (like the international network La Via Campesina
has been doing since the streets filled with protesters in
Gate: In Grub, why did you decide, interestingly,
to include art, poetry and music? What is the importance
of the artistic supplements to the message of the book?
AL: Because food is all about culture, art, community,
and connection. We couldn’t write a book about food
without including those elements. It was so natural for
Gate: What will your presentation with Bryant Terry at Smith entail?
AL: Bryant and I will share insights we’ve learned
through writing Grub and also from being on the
road meeting communities across the country bringing grub
to life on the ground. Hopefully, we’ll provide you
with some new ways of looking at the food on your plate,
your connection to it, and what you can do to be part of
the global movement for fair food for all. Plus, it’ll
We are also so looking forward to meeting Smith students
and learning more about what the community there is doing
to connect with food.
Gate: What can folks here expect to come away with?
AL: We always hope people come away feeling two things: fired
up and inspired to take new action (or encouraged to continue
the hard work they’re already engaged in).