Edible Education 101

I have started watching The Edible Schoolyard Project’s seminar videos called Edible Education 101, which is a class that was offered this year at UC Berkeley. Each video lecture features different guest speakers and covers a different topic. The two I have watched so far are “What’s Next for the Food Movement?” with Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman, and “Teaching Slow Food Values in a Fast Food World” with Alice Water and Craig McNamara. They are each about 2 hours long. Here are my notes from the two videos:

“Whats Next for the Food Movement?” with Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman

  • Article –> “What is the purpose of society?” new york times article by Mark Bittman
  • If we look at the food system and we see things that are wrong with it, it is probably in fact also what is wrong with our society
  • Reading –> Wendell berry’s book The Unsettling of America – essay titled “the agricultural crisis as a crisis of culture”
  • question of values, moral choices, what do we stand for
  • Reading –> Michael Pollan’s essay – “The Food Movement Rising”
  • Conversation led to publishing a national food policy – important issue that doesn’t have a policy, only have an agricultural policy – attempt to force a systemic conversation
  • Systems thinking – all elements connected, unity of it is key
  • When faced with the question of what to do to change the food system, you need to ask yourself what success would look like to you?
  • People drawn to this movement are looking for something more profound than simply getting big companies to go organic – they are interested in the social and cultural aspects of food.
  • Revolution versus reform questions
  • We often trivialize consumer politics – but when corporate power is unchecked, consumer power is very important
  • Progress we have seen comes from people voting with their fork
  • Check out –> Food chains movie
  • Labor politics – preciousness of consumer brands to companies and they will do anything to defend them – offers a path on various issues
  • Corporations are very powerful but they are also very weak, they are vulnerable and terrified of you/their consumer – that fear is something that can be exploited politically
  • Building an alternative food economy
  • Can participate in that work everyday-that market is driving change, getting bigger and will accumulate political power
  • Come up with a working definition of food in personal life
  • Greenwashing
  • “My Plate” food pyramid recommends 50% of diet come from fruit vegetables and whole grains, yet we send about 1% on agriculture that supports that production- need nutritional and agriculture policies to align with public health goals
  • Conflict underlying the “food movement” – a variety of different interests and opinions and topics that don’t always agree, can be very controversial
  • When asked a social justice question about food insecurity and food deserts and how to address this issue for people that don’t have the economic freedom to vote with their fork:
    • One institution in america that cuts across all classes, where we can reach everybody – where a lot of people get the majority of their calories in a given day and that of course is the public schools – argument for focusing our political energies on making school lunch and breakfast about real food (can’t think of a better focus for our work says Michael Pollan)
  • Health insurance industry – great ally for the food movement – they suddenly have an interest in prevention because with ObamaCare they are stuck with you if you have chronic diseases linked to diet
  • Favorable things in agriculture are the favorable things to public health and fighting climate change
  • Public health and good agriculture go hand in hand
  • Narrow agriculture = narrow diet, diversify one you diversify the other

“Teaching Slow Food Values in a Fast Food World” with Alice Water and Craig McNamara

  • Fast food not just about food-about culture
  • Fast food affects much more than our health- rituals, relationships, values, every element of the human condition and experience
  • All other problems grow out of fast food culture
  • Fast food values- degrade human experience
  • Values:
    • Uniformity- comforts us, expect everything to be the same everywhere, or something is wrong
    • Speed- lose the sense that things take time- the best things take time- growing food, getting to know someone
    • Availability- should be able to get whatever we want, whenever wherever – better to wait!! -spoils people and causes people to lose track of where they are in time and space, seasons stop mattering, idea that theres something always better over there, local culture is less important
    • Cheapness- affordability and cheapness are mixed up, no one understands the real cost of things, everything is priced artificial – things can be affordable but they can never be cheap- somebody somewhere is always being sold out when things are cheap (farm workers), can’t not not pay for something here and not expect to have other problems somewhere else (human rights, environment, health)
    • Work is drudgery – work is degrading and meaningless – when we work inside this culture we strengthen it (Fast food separates work and pleasure and then profits from that separation)
    • More is better: the more choices the better
    • Dishonesty
  • Fast food values are invisible but once you start to notice them you notice them everywhere – deception is a fast food value – things happen behind closed doors
  • Terminology has been hijacked
  • Slow food values: ripeness, aliveness, beauty, interconnected, community, integrity, honesty, respect,
  • EDIBLE EDUCATION– placing foods and food concerns at the center of the curriculum for the whole school- exposure to slow food values happens naturally and democratically
  • Schools can create sustainable support networks beyond themselves
  • 20% of our population goes to school– imagine what would happen if we adopted sustainable criteria for the buying of the food in the while public school system – including universities
  • Schools would become alternative economic engines for the farms and ranches surrounding them-  would automatically provide social and political support systems for farmers and farm workers across the nation
  • Core of this- radically re-imagined school lunch program
  • Teach them that the way they are feeding themselves is just as important as anything they are learning in school
  • Public education is our last, truly democratic institution – common place in our culture where we can read every student while they are still open and learning- place of equality in this country – schools are the place where we can make deep and lasting change – right through the cafeteria door
  • Soil is the mother of us all
  • One teaspoon of healthy soil contains over a billion living organisms- their health determines ours
  • Eat with intention
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