If you flip on the TV or click through YouTube, sooner or later you’ll run across an advertisement for soda pop, sugary snacks, or other processed food of questionable nutritional value.
The food and beverage industry spends more than $100 million annually on advertising, and millions more on in-store displays to catch our attention. And much of that advertising is pitching products like Big Macs and Pepsi—foods that are not sustaining to the planet, much less to human health.
Behind these consumer brands is an equally large industry: corporations selling seed, fertilizer, implements, and other links in the industrial supply chain. These industries also spend a great deal of money to influence public opinion in their favor.
The local, organic food movement, by contrast, has always been a grassroots consumer movement, led by nonprofit organizations and individuals who care about their health, their food, and the future of our environment.
But in the crowded media landscape, dominated by giant corporations with unlimited budgets, how can this grassroots movement get its message out?
One organization, Real Food Media, is proposing an answer. Founded by Anna Lappé (daughter of Francis Moore Lappé), the organization generates media questioning the food industry and promoting more sustainable solutions, and supports other creative artists who share their goals.
The Food Mythbusters series, for instance, questions conventional wisdom on topics like fast food advertising, and the need for genetic engineering. Other films explore “food heroes” who are standing up to industrial food systems, or underreported issues in the food industry.
One of the more innovative approaches the group has taken has been to launch a competition for short films exploring subjects related to food and sustainability. The contest has drawn more than 500 entries, many of which have been compiled into a library under creative commons license for anyone to use. The organization has also launched a “pop-up” film festival program in conjunction with the contest to help the films find an audience.
This year, Real Food Media branched out from its media mission to join other organizations in creating The Good Food Purchasing Campaign, which aims to help local governments work with large institutions to purchase better food. The campaign proposes five core values—local economies, environmental sustainability, valued workforce, animal welfare, and nutrition—to guide institutional purchases.
Taken together, the programming of Real Food Media is designed to begin to counteract the fantastic amounts of money spent on promoting industrial food systems, and to give a media voice to the organic grassroots. Theirs is a message, according to Lappé, that we can no longer afford to ignore: “We can feed the world with organic farming,” she says. “Indeed, it is the only way we will in the face of a future of climate instability and scarce water.”