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Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty [Kindle Edition]

Mark Winne
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In Closing the Food Gap, food activist and journalist Mark Winne poses questions too often overlooked in our current conversations around food: What about those people who are not financially able to make conscientious choices about where and how to get food? And in a time of rising rates of both diabetes and obesity, what can we do to make healthier foods available for everyone?

To address these questions, Winne tells the story of how America's food gap has widened since the 1960s, when domestic poverty was "rediscovered," and how communities have responded with a slew of strategies and methods to narrow the gap, including community gardens, food banks, and farmers' markets. The story, however, is not only about hunger in the land of plenty and the organized efforts to reduce it; it is also about doing that work against a backdrop of ever-growing American food affluence and gastronomical expectations. With the popularity of Whole Foods and increasingly common community-supported agriculture (CSA), wherein subscribers pay a farm so they can have fresh produce regularly, the demand for fresh food is rising in one population as fast as rates of obesity and diabetes are rising in another.

Over the last three decades, Winne has found a way to connect impoverished communities experiencing these health problems with the benefits of CSAs and farmers' markets; in Closing the Food Gap, he explains how he came to his conclusions. With tragically comic stories from his many years running a model food organization, the Hartford Food System in Connecticut, alongside fascinating profiles of activists and organizations in communities across the country, Winne addresses head-on the struggles to improve food access for all of us, regardless of income level.

Using anecdotal evidence and a smart look at both local and national policies, Winne offers a realistic vision for getting locally produced, healthy food onto everyone's table.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Having been a part of the movement since the 1970s, serving as (among other positions) the executive director of the Hartford Food System, Winne has an insider's view on what it's like to feed our country's hungry citizens. Through the lens of Hartford, Conn.—a quintessential inner city bereft of decent food options apart from bodegas and fast food chains—he explains the successes he witnessed and helped to create: community gardens, inner city farmers' markets and youth-run urban farms. Winne concludes his tale in our present food-crazed era, giving voice to low-income shoppers and exploring where they fit in with such foodie discussions as local vs. organic. In this articulate and comprehensive book, Winne points out that the greatest successes have been an informal alliance between sustainable agriculture and food security advocates... that shows promise for helping both the poor and small and medium-size farmers. For the most part it is a calm, well-reasoned and soft-spoken call to arms to fight for policy reform, rather than fill in, with community-based projects and privately funded programs, the gaps left by our city and state legislators. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Reading this book should make everyone want to advocate for food systems that will feed the hungry, support local farmers, and promote community democracy—all at the same time. "—Marion Nestle, Paulette Goddard professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University, and author of Food Politics and What to Eat

"Winne tackles the world of food deserts, hunger relief, and the disparities of the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ from both a personal and professional viewpoint that at once educates on and illuminates these very complicated issues, making them and their interrelationships not only understandable but also compelling for all those who care about social justice in our country."—Chef Ann Cooper, author of Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children

"Winne has done it all—food coops, emergency feeding, farmers’ markets, community gardening, Community Supported Agriculture, public policy. He tells us why and how, weaving into his own experiences stories from other cities across the country to create an essential picture of how people like him are struggling to reset the country’s table for everyone."—Joan Dye Gussow, author of This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader

"Closing the Food Gap reveals the chasm between the two food systems of America—the one for the poor and the one for everyone else. Mark Winne offers compelling solutions for making local, organic, and highly nutritious food available to everyone. It’s heartening to find a book that successfully blends a passion for sustainable living with compassion for the poor."—Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, founder of thhe Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace

"By combining stories of his deep personal experience as an activist with keen insight into strategies for addressing food injustice, Winne fills a gap in the growing literature on good food, why it matters, and how to ensure everyone everywhere has access to it. Plus, the book is a fun read. Winne's stories made me want to meet him down at the local farmers' market, and then join him afterward for a cold beer."—Anna Lappé, co-founder of the Small Planet Institute and author of Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen

"Winne's passion for justice and commitment to sustainability make this book essential reading for those who want to help make the vision of healthy abundance for all an American dream come true."—Janet Poppendieck, author of Sweet Charity?

Product Details

  • File Size: 391 KB
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press; Reprint edition (January 15, 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004R1Q73W
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #564,770 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fresh and engaging perspective on food justice December 17, 2007
Having read almost every book out there on food policy (and having written my own), I can safely say that Closing the Food Gap has something unique and important to offer. The author has been in the trenches and speaks from first-hand experience, which is rare to find among writers on this topic. Even though I am familiar with the many of book's issues, I thoroughly enjoyed the personal, accessible style and poignant story-telling. If you are looking for an introduction to food justice issues in the U.S., then this is the perfect doorway in. Winne takes us into a world where there are no easy solutions. But by the end, we are convinced that we must find a way to fix the deep injustices in our food system. What makes this book a critical contribution is its elegant argument for access to affordable and sustainable food for everyone. Even if you think you've read other books like it, you really haven't. Read this book and then pass it on.

Michele Simon, author, Appetite for Profit: How the food industry undermines our health and how to fight back
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clarion call for sane, systemic changes January 10, 2008
Mark Winne's book is a must read for those concerned about the growing poverty, hunger, and income inequality in America today. The personalized account of his journey from a comfortable, middle-class upbringing in New Jersey to community organizing in the gritty, underserved neighborhoods of Hartford, Connecticut is witty and informative, demonstrating why he has become a leader in this nation's food security movement.

Winne's claim that our current "food system is racist, classist, and sexist" is supported by his well-documented experience in Hartford. He doesn't let any of the powers that be off the hook, from "the mean-spirited ideologues" who have, at times, dammed the federal assistance pipeline to corporate junk food purveyors who he says should be tried and sentenced "to eat nothing but their own food for twenty-five years to life" and even to food bankers who "will do virtually anything to appease [their corporate] donors." His clarion call for bolstering sane, systemic changes in local food structures - like farmers' markets, community gardens, and community supported agriculture - rings true.
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29 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lost me at the last chapter September 16, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I've had the privilege of attending a food policy workshop at which Mr. Winne was the guest speaker. The man has a lot of experience in a wide range of food policy issues. As another "overeducated white guy" (his words), he's dedicated much of his life to improving the food security of those who need help most. Through much of the book, he reiterates time and again how meaningful change must come from within - it can't be forced on a community from an outside source. He honestly shares his successes and failures in a variety of efforts - bringing grocery stores back into underserved neighborhoods, establishing farmer's markets and community gardens, growing CSAs, working with food pantries, even changing bus routes so people from underserved areas can reach the serves they need (food and other services as well). I found his narrative informative and engaging. Best of all, it was real - "We did this, it worked. We did that, it didn't." This was not a "in theory only" book.

What really bothered me, and why I am only giving this book three stars, is how at the end of the book he turned his back on every lesson he's learned and called for top-down, big money, legislative efforts to enforce change. The blew me out of the water. I know Mr. Winne has a very socialist viewpoint, but, dang, from his own experience he should know that simple handouts never solve anything except for in the short term, and federal bureaucracy is very slow to respond to the needs of the people and inevitably does do at higher costs than local programs. He says this himself earlier in the book. I was really disappointed.

Read the book, learn from his successes and failures - there is a lot of good material here - just be aware that it ends in contradictions.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Points well taken April 4, 2008
Winne has authored a brilliant treatise on the real issues surrounding food insecurity in The US. With tremendous real world experience, Winne puts a human face on the problems of poverty and the serious costs all of us pay for merely throwing money and food at the problem OR worse yet - ignoring the poor. I read this book, got angry and more importantly got inspired to make a difference in Northern Illinois. READ this book, talk to your friends about it and take home how interconnected poverty, food insecurity, diet-related disease, and escalating healthcare costs really are. THANKS Mark Winne
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good food -- but for whom? August 6, 2012
I'm an academic, and read this book in part for possible use in a class that I teach on philosophy and the food system. Criticisms of the food system are very popular these days, and my current (and very incomplete) list of food books is pushing a couple hundred. Winne's book stands out from this crowd in two respects: his perspective as an activist rather than an academic, and his attention to aspects of the food system and the "food movement" that are often overlooked.

As Winne notes near the beginning, he's a college-educated white man, but his working life has been spent as professional activist and organizer for food access in impoverished urban communities around the US. Much of the book is stories from either his own experience -- especially in Hartford, Connecticut -- or from other activists and organizers. His tone is generally thoughtful, and he stops occasionally to reflect on what succeeded and what failed in these efforts. In a few places -- though only a few -- he steps back even more, giving his take on the fundamental problems with our food system. But he's not an academic, and he's not offering an academic analysis. In my class, I can see using his book (or a few of the best chapters of it; more below) in tandem with more theoretical readings: How well does this theory fit with Winne's experiences? How useful would it be for what he's trying to accomplish? In this respect, Winne's book is similar to Barry Estabrook's Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit. However, where Estabrook is a journalist writing about activists, Winne is an activist writing about himself.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A crucial book to start your search for new foodways
This is a great book to quench your new-found hunger for food knowledge. It starts with the issues of justice, and the need to do something about hunger and malnutrition. Read more
Published 8 months ago by wayne roberts
4.0 out of 5 stars Changing the way we think about hunger in America
Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of the Plenty, challenges readers to think about the issue of hunger from a systemic lens. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Devin
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring Book
This book eloquently presents the challenges of feeding people in urban areas. It describes the scope of the problem in the United States, as part of the broader world challenges... Read more
Published on December 21, 2010 by Theo Moliere
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative, engaging and empowering book on hunger in America
I was assigned Winne's book for a class that I am taking on urban food systems and I could not put it down. Read more
Published on October 1, 2009 by A. Hanson
2.0 out of 5 stars Great idea, bad writing.
With all respect to Mr. Winne's argument, his writing is boring and droll. I did not enjoy his book at all, and dreaded having to read it for my college English class. Read more
Published on September 28, 2009 by Lit Dude
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
This book gives an excellent picture of the food and hunger crisis in this country. It's easy to forget with one third of our population being obese that there are also many who... Read more
Published on April 25, 2009 by Nicholas
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and Informative
I just happened to see this book at my local farmer's market and I am very thankful to Mark Winne for sharing his experiences and ideas. Read more
Published on March 22, 2009 by K. Nally
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Book
This book is probably the best descriptor of how our food systems end up leaving out those in poverty. Extremely well written. Read more
Published on January 14, 2009 by New Orleans Farmer
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More About the Author

For 25 years Mark Winne was the Executive Director of the Hartford Food System, a private non-profit agency that works on food and hunger issues in the Hartford, Connecticut area. During his tenure with HFS, Mark organized community self-help food projects that assisted the city's lower income and elderly residents. Mark's work with the Food System included the development of a commercial hydroponic greenhouse, Connecticut's Farmers' Market Nutrition Program, several farmers' markets, a 20-acre community supported agriculture farm, food and nutrition education programs, and a neighborhood supermarket.

Winne now writes, speaks, and consults extensively on community food system topics including hunger and food insecurity, local and regional agriculture, community assessment, and food policy. He also does policy communication work for the Community Food Security Coalition. His essays and opinion pieces have appeared in The Nation, Hartford Courant, Boston Globe, In These Times, Sierra, Orion, Successful Farming and numerous organizational and professional newsletters and journals across the country. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

To learn more about Mark Winne, visit is web site:

Photo copyright: Norah Levine


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