Food Tank recently had the opportunity to speak with Ali Berlow, the author of The Food Activist Handbook, who will be speaking at the summit.
Food Tank (FT): What inspired you to get involved in food and agriculture?
Ali Berlow (AB): First and foremost, my children, and trying to cook for them. But walking through the grocery store in my post-Omnivore’s Dilemma perspective was overwhelming and made me feel overthrown, defeated. I remember staring at all those anonymous animal parts in the meat aisle of the grocery store and coming to terms with how dehumanizing and de-animalizing it all was. Around that time, I also participated in a local pig slaughter that went horribly, terribly wrong. I vowed from that day on to work to never let that happen to another animal or person in the name of ‘local food’ again.
FT: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system?
AB: Policy work at all levels of government and #BlackLivesMatter—honestly coming to terms with our history of slavery, disenfranchised farm and seafood workers, and the institutional and structural racism that permeates our food systems today.
FT: What innovation in ag and the food system are you most excited about?
AB: Farm to School and good food education. In technology: responsible, commercial, science-based aquaponics. Growing food, (clean produce and fresh fish protein) every day of the year, no matter the weather, with minimum inputs. How can you beat that?
FT: Can you share a story about a food hero that inspired you?
AB: Temple Grandin. She was my first and remains my always-heroine for her exemplary work around the world in humane slaughter. I had the good fortune to spend time with her at a slaughterhouse. The plant was a confluence of both organic (conventional slaughter) and kosher (ritual slaughter). We spent three days on the floor with the workers and on the last day, Temple took us on a walk into a field of cows and she had us lie down on the grass quietly until the cows came up to us to check us out. It was a beautiful thing, which I’ll never forget.
FT: What drives you every day to fight for the bettering of our food system?
AB: My children, future generations, and the poem, “Capitalist Poem #5” by Campbell McGrath. (Note: it’s reprinted with permission in my book, The Food Activist Handbook, page 201.) Also, living through the food activism of Island Grown Initiative that taught me this: small steps can make big differences. Just start.
FT: What’s the first, most pressing issue you’d like to see solved within the food system?
AB: Access to fresh, healthy, culturally-appropriate, and ethnically-appropriate food for all, supported by a living wage, equitable distribution of resources, and good food education (also accessible to all).
FT: What is one small change every person make in their daily lives to make a big difference?
AB: There’s not one! We all can do more than one. Be a conscious eater. Cook at home. #VoteFood. Support family farmers and family fishermen. Minimize food waste and waste associated with food. Stop using single serve throw-away packages (like bottled water, pressed coffee pods). Eat well and eat together!
FT: What’s one issue within the food system you’d like to see completely solved for the next generation?
AB: The undoing of vertically integrated, consolidated corporate control of ocean businesses and agribusinesses.
FT: What agricultural issue would you like for the next president of the US to immediately address?
AB: Race in our food system. And debunking and reversing the results of the myth that America has to feed the world.
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