Food Books to Inspire Action in 2020

January 30, 2020


Looking for a fresh food read to dig into? Resolved to take action in 2020? We asked some local friends and partners who are creating change in our food system—from food media and education, to food justice and anti-pesticide action—for some books that have shaped the way they approach their work in food (including a couple favorites from our team). These books will help to deepen your understanding of our complex food system, and inspire you to go beyond voting with your forks to taking action in your community.

As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice from Colonization to Standing Rock  (2019)
by Dina Gilio-Whitaker

What is at the root of injustice? For Native peoples around the US (and the world), it’s colonialism. Dina Gilio-Whitaker asks us to look more deeply at injustice and how we can fight against it. For as long as we’ve known, food has been a powerful tool of subjugation: by taking away culturally relevant food, people are separated from their culture, means of survival, and health. This book challenges us to think more deeply about the roots of injustice and how we can decolonize our habits, our minds, and our movements. 
—Tiffani Patton, Creative Engagement & Storytelling, Real Food Media

The Farm Bill: A Citizen’s Guide (2019)
By Dan Imhoff with Christina Badaracco
What do commodity crops, land conservation, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) have in common? Why, the Farm Bill, of course. To understand crop subsidies, SNAP, global trade relationships, and more, we have to look at the Farm Bill. And let’s face it: this behemoth of a bill isn’t exactly easy to read.  Luckily for us, Dan and Christina break it down for us non-policy heads in their book The Farm Bill: A Citizen’s Guide. This graphic dive (literally—the book is filled with illuminating illustrations and infographics) into the important and often-contested bill is a must-read to understand how our food system is shaped and how to change it, citizen or not.
—Tiffani Patton, Creative Engagement & Storytelling, Real Food Media

Feeding the Other: Whiteness, Privilege, and Neoliberal Stigma in Food Pantries (2019)
By Rebecca T. de Souza
If you work in or around food justice issues, this book is a mandatory read. Health and culture researcher Rebecca de Souza nails it by tackling narrative ethics in anti-hunger campaigns and food justice efforts. Through case studies of two different food pantries, she captures how these narratives reenact the same inequitable power structures and dogma that plague the communities they serve. She dives deep into how whiteness, the alternative food movement, and neoliberalism color everything in service areas like pantries. This book is valuable and thoroughly on-point in analyzing how issues of  “helpers” working with undernourished and under-resourced communities unwittingly reinforce colonial, white, and patriarchal power systems. A treasure.
—Kelly Kozak, Co-Owner, Bernal Cutlery

Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies (2013)
By Seth Holmes

This book changed my life and helped me understand the intersectionality of our food system. Food justice is racial justice; it is economic justice; it is immigration justice. When we go out of our way to purchase organic foods, we benefit not only our own bodies, but the bodies of the millions of farmworkers who are exposed to pesticides at much higher amounts than consumers. We must leverage our privilege as consumers in whatever way we can to be in solidarity with farmworkers and fight for their rights as human beings, whether through supporting farmers with good practices, boycotting companies with bad ones, advocating for policies, or marching in the streets. Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies inspires me to fight for a world where the people who grow our food are visible, free from chemical exposure, treated with dignity, and have the same rights as every citizen in the United States.
—Mackenzie Feldman, Founder and Executive Director, Herbicide-Free Campus

Hunger (2008) 
By Roxane Gay

In Hunger, author Roxane Gay shares a powerful personal account of moving through the world in a large body. Her experiences highlight the prejudices and discrimination that large bodies face, ranging from traveling on planes to getting trolled online. For Gay, becoming fat (her word) was initially a way to protect and nurture herself—Gay looks intimately inward, exploring her complex relationship to food stemming from significant trauma experienced as a young woman. Hunger is eye-opening, raw, heartbreaking, and funny. Add Gay’s Bad Feminist to your reading list as well!
—Danielle Boulé, Training and Development Manager, Leah’s Pantry

A Place at the Table: New American Recipes from the Nation’s Top Foreign-Born Chefs (2019) 
By Gabrielle Langholtz, Rick Kinsel
A thrilling, visually stunning cookbook highlighting the stories and recipes of America’s best chefs, who also happen to be immigrants, including Marcus Samuelsson, Dominique Crenn, Corey Lee, Nite Yun, and many more. This book embodies why our country’s culinary tapestry is so delicious, diverse, beautiful, and interesting: because food does not follow borders; it transcends them. This book is a celebration of truly American food.
—Ave Lambert, Director of Education, CUESA

Stuffed and Starved (2007) 
By Raj Patel
It is no secret that despite our globalized society producing more food than ever, a billion people are overweight and nearly the same number are starving and malnourished. How is this disparity possible? Raj Patel walks the reader through a thoughtful history of how a commitment to industrialization and corporatization has decimated food systems around the world, and he outlines the health, societal, and economic inequities that these policies have reproduced for the communities on the ground. Stuffed and Starved is a required read for all, but especially for those of us who are looking to better understand the impact of globalization on our food “choices”—not everyone has autonomy in how they are able to eat. Only when we are informed by a systemic, international, anti-oppressive perspective can our food choices be meaningful. 
—Vanessa Lieu, Wellness Policy Team, SFUSD

Vandana Shiva Reader: Culture of the Land (2014) 
By Vandana Shiva
I was entranced as a young student when I came across some of these early works by our foremost speaker and scholar on food sovereignty and living the food movement. This compilation of Shiva’s work is a must-have for those looking for oneness in all intersections of food, as well as solutions to our common problems. From Navdanya to quantum physics, anti-GMO agroecology to eco-feminism, Dr. Shiva will light a fire in your heart and support it with hard science. She inspires all of us to reclaim our food freedom. 
—Ave Lambert, Director of Education, CUESA

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