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Everybody Eats: The Unifying Power of Food
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By Sharon Hoyer

There probably isn’t a single issue of sustainability and health that consistently strikes as passionate a chord as the production, distribution and preparation of food. It makes sense—what we take into our bodies is a very tangible part of our constitution; if we truly are what we eat, than what we choose to eat sends a powerful message about our relationship with the world.

Perhaps this is why the food movement so successfully unites people from all hues of the political spectrum. Case in point: the cover of last month’s American Conservative was a treatise on how food movements like Locavorism and Slow Food exemplify conservative values.

In "Food for Thought," John Schwenkler makes the case that good food—food unmitigated by government subsidies and regulations, food distributed by small, independent farms—fits tidily into the conservative ethos. “Conservatives, after all," he writes, "style themselves as the great defenders of the family, of local community, and of traditional cultural mores.” The portrait of a family sitting down to a wholesome, home-cooked meal supplied by their local farmer is indeed a distinctively republican vision in the most traditional, Rockwellian sense. Schwenkler even considers the grassroots-level activism of Slow Food as a basis for broader conservative reform:

Neighborhood gardens, cooking classes in schools and church basements, and the promotion of local and co-operative markets are the kinds of projects that will build community; revitalize regional economies; encourage stable, healthy families; and instill the kinds of civic attitudes that make expansive and centralized government appear burdensome.

Schwenkler’s statement that the renewal of culinary culture should not “be left to activists, environmentalists, and government bureaucrats” is right on; a bright green future includes everyone. We need to share ideas and spark meaningful discussion between folks who don’t always see eye-to-eye—or who assume they don’t. So how do we get people talking over the fence on other issues of sustainability? Since food is our strongest bond to the earth and each other, leaving our yards entirely to work in a community garden is a potent way to start.

Sharon Hoyer is a freelance writer covering sustainability, culture and arts in Chicago. You can find more of her writings on the environment at the Examiner and Centerstage Chicago. You can find her in the garden or on her bike.

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Comments

Great post! It's refreshing to see an attitude of unification and inclusiveness!


Posted by: Anthony Iamurri on 13 Aug 08

Thank you for pointing this out! Changing our food system should not be a partisan issue. Local is good for everybody- communities, farms, people, and the earth, and it's certainly not just about people in birkenstocks going to whole foods. I may be a car-free SF liberal, but I can still get behind Ducks Unlimited- when I was more into bird hunting I volunteered for events for them, and I can tell you they draw a very conservative, shotgun toting bunch- but they do a ton to protect the wetlands because, well, that's where birds live. Republican has become synonymous for corporate interest, but that needn't be so- green can be by us all, for us all.


Posted by: Jamie on 13 Aug 08

This is the unifying element used in this Portland social network... Bright Neighbor is a game changer!


Posted by: Randy White on 13 Aug 08

So in this vision, personal relationships replace government regulation and subsidy and "expansive and centralized goverment" appears "burdensome". So the localvore movement is now a justification for the end of government as we know it? Let's get rid of the USDA while we're at it (and the FDA - a proposal I've actually heard recently on what passes for a news channel these days). We need to put the words "food justice" back into the conversation. We can't let the market decide whether we get e-coli from our food. Do you think in this bright green new world there will be room for anyone but wealthy (mainly) white people, whatever their political stripe on the liberal-conservative (but never radical or revolutionary) spectrum. Are we really this blind to issues of class, race and gender?


Posted by: aj on 14 Aug 08

Animal agriculture is a leading cause of global warming and the leading cause of environmental destruction around the world. Small farms or not if you are eating an animal based diet then you are causing more harm than good. Switching to plant-based foods solves so many problems.


Posted by: JC on 17 Aug 08

Saving the planet is a human race-wide issue. It's that simple and at the same that complicated. Good to see bridges being built for common goals.


Posted by: Mab on 17 Aug 08



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