Smith College Admission Academics Student Life About Smith news Offices
Five College Calendar
Smith eDigest
Submit an Idea
News Archive
News Publications
Planning an Event
Contact Us
News & Events
Compiled by Eric Weld   Date: 11/13/08

On Food and Community

Q & A with Anna Lappé

Julia Child Day to Put Local Food on the Plate

By Jennifer DeBerardinis ’11


Bryant Terry (on left) and Anna Lappé

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 Julia Child Day 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.

Lappé recently responded to questions for the Gate about food, her background, and the upcoming presentation.

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 globe.

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 Seattle).

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 us!

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 be fun.

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).

DirectoryCalendarCampus MapVirtual TourContact UsSite A-Z