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Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty Paperback – January 1, 2009
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
A calm, well-reasoned and soft-spoken call to arms. —Publishers Weekly
"Fearless, intelligent, and surprisingly funny." —Gwyneth Doland, Sante Fe Reporter
"It's heartening to find a book that successfully blends a passion for sustainable living with compassion for the poor."—Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, author of Harvest for Hope
"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, author of What to Eat
"By combining stories of his deep personal experience as an activist with keen insights into strategies for addressing food injustice, Winne fills a gap in the growing literature on good food, why it matters, and how to ensure that 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, cofounder of the Small Planet Institute and author of Grub
"Part personal journey, part manifesto for creating food security in the United States, Closing the Food Gap sets out the dream of a nation without poverty and hunger, telling stories of people and community projects that have made a difference in the lives of the food-insecure." —Rod MacRae, Food for Thought
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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.
Winne offers us an especially keen view of the class dynamics of the food system and the movement that aims to change it. The food movement, especially in the wake of Michael Pollan's three books on food (The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World,The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals,In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto) and the documentary Food Inc., has emphasized artisan and home production, organic/natural practices, and the aesthetics of food. However, over the past thirty-five years, supermarkets have followed their white, middle-class customers from cities to suburbs and politicians have dismantled the economic supports that helped impoverished households maintain food security. Urban farmer's markets and community gardens may be well intentioned, but aren't an adequate replacement for a familiar grocery store and food stamps.
Finally, I found four chapters to be especially thought-provoking -- and I've been thinking about food a lot over the past two years, so that's saying something! Chapters three and four deal with urban farmer's markets and food banks. Winne is skeptical about farmer's markets to address food security, since food insecure households can't afford to pay the premiums small farmers need to stay in business. Food banks do a much better job providing "emergency" food, but are dependent on wealthy and powerful benefactors and consequently are hesitant to pose deep criticisms of the food system. Chapter five discusses the economics and geography of urban grocery stores, including the best discussion of public transit systems and food deserts that I've come across. And the first half of chapter seven looks at the obesity epidemic, portraying the food industry as a predator of vulnerable consumers in the urban jungle.
Michele Simon, author, Appetite for Profit: How the food industry undermines our health and how to fight back
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.