Thursday, January 27, 2011

Want to read a good book?

To add to the three books we recommended in the summer, here are two more inspiring books we read recently. They’re sure to stretch your understanding of what it would take to create equitable access to healthy food in America.
Ehrenreich, Barbara. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2001. We highly recommend this classic, which chronicles the author’s experiences supporting herself in 3 locations (Florida, Maine, and Minnesota) at low-wage jobs such as waitress, house cleaner, and big box retail salesperson. Work was exhausting, psychologically demeaning, and anxiety-ridden; it required her and her co-workers to eat poorly, neglect their health, live in substandard housing, and live only a car-repair’s distance away from homelessness. Ehrenreich’s powerful conclusion is this: that for those of us more comfortably-off “the appropriate emotion is shame—shame at our own dependency, in this case, on the underpaid labor of others. ... To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone else.” (page 221)

Winne, Mark. Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty. Boston: Beacon Press, 2008. (You can read excerpts here: This book is chock full of the author’s first-hand experiences and lessons learned from decades of work to improve community food systems, from community gardens, farmers’ markets, and community supported agriculture to the history of public responses to the problems of hunger and food-related disease. How can we eliminate the disparity between the abilities of rich and poor Americans to access healthy food? How can we arrive at a food system that is healthy, just, and sustainable for all? A few quotes will give you the flavor of Winne’s wisdom:
  • “I have come to believe that community gardens can help people fill the food gap only when they are motivated and encouraged to do the hard work that form the building blocks of community.” (Page 66)
  • “What could the effect of food banks be if all the energy that was put into soliciting and distributing wasted food was put into ending hunger and poverty? … Put all the emergency food volunteers, staff, and board members from across the country on buses to Washington, D.C., to tell Congress to end hunger, and you would have a convoy that would stretch from New York City to our nation’s capital.” (Page 77)
  • “The poor get diabetes; the rich get local and organic.” (Page 125)
  • “In a country reluctant to attack the root causes of poverty and redistribute wealth that is ultimately created by each of us, attacking hunger and food insecurity are the best routes available now. If nothing else, they will connect Americans to short-term solutions and, over time, to the long-term one—namely fighting poverty.” (Page 174)
If you've read these books, let us know what you think. Have you read other books offering solutions to the problem of hunger in America that you find particularly insightful?

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