By guest contributor Anna Lappé
While in graduate school studying Economic and Political Development, I found myself careening into the family business. I had decided it was high time my mother, Frances Moore Lappé, returned to her original insights in Diet for a Small Planet and pen a 30th anniversary sequel. She said yes; but only if I would help her. And that’s how I started on my own path to research, write, and communicate about the root causes of hunger and the benefits of organic farming.
It’s also how I found myself by my mother’s side in the Gianini Library at the University of California in Berkeley. The basement library was where her journey had begun. Buried deep in the stacks, she had been trying to understand the causes of world hunger when she uncovered a fact that shocked her to the core: The world was producing enough calories to feed every man, woman, and child on the planet—more than enough. Her original guiding question transformed from “Why hunger?” to “Why hunger in a world of plenty?”
That question took her from that university library in California to farm fields half a world away. In the process, she came to realize that the root of hunger is not a lack of food, but a lack of democracy, most notably the dearth of power in the hands of everyday people, especially farmers the world over. To address the real causes of hunger, then, she understood we must expand democracy. If we only concern ourselves with producing more, but do nothing to put power in the hands of more people, we will never root out hunger.
When my mother and I set out to take on these questions again in our book, Hope’s Edge, we wanted to share with readers the stories of people and places addressing these real roots of hunger. This journey took us to the foothills of India to the Driftless region of Wisconsin—and to Organic Valley, with its organic and family-farming-focused mission, democratic cooperative structure, and fair, stable pay price for farmers.
In the decade since our round-the-world journey, I’ve continued to work to explode myths about hunger, especially the most persistent of all: that we need chemical agriculture to feed the world.
Through my new initiative, the Real Food Media Project, I’m taking on this misinformation head-on. The project created a short “mythbusting” movie taking on the “feeding the world” myth, launched a national film contest to promote the stories of sustainable food and farming, and produced two inspiring “food heroes” films, including one about an Organic Valley farm family. I’ve also spoken to dozens of communities, from college campuses to food-themed festivals, and enlisted thousands to join our mythbusters community to dispel these misperceptions of organic food and farming.
Ultimately, the real mythbusters are those farmers showing that we can buck chemical dependency on the farm and produce not just enough food, but better food, more delicious food, and worry-free food. And food you eat in the comfort of knowing that the farmers who did the hard work to bring it to your table got paid fairly.
Named one of TIME magazine’s “Eco” Who’s Who, Anna Lappé is one of the country’s leading educators about healthy food, farming, and sustainability. In addition to running the Real Food Media Project, Anna is a founding principal of the Small Planet Institute and Small Planet Fund. Anna is also a national bestselling author. Her most recent book is Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do About It. A graduate of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and Brown University, Anna’s work on sustainable food and farming has taken her around the world. A frequent public speaker, in the past decade Anna has participated in hundreds of public events, from community food festivals to university lecture halls to a food-focused fundraiser at Sotheby’s.
Organic Valley is committed to building a just and sustainable food system and is proud to support Real Food Media Project in its efforts.
Hear Anna speak with Rootstock Radio about her motivations, taking up the mantle of activism from her parents, and the issues and projects that she’s passionate about.