Food Justice: a New Social Movement Takes Root

Uploaded by GoogleTechTalks on 01.03.2011

Robert Gottlieb is a professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and the director of the
Urban Environmental Policy Institute in Los Angeles. He has authored over 12 books including
"Food Justice" which is the topic he will present on today. Other books include "Food,
Health and the Environment," "Reinventing Los Angeles," "Nature and Community in the
Global City," and "The Next Los Angeles: The Struggle for a Livable City." He is also a
co-founder of rhe National Farm to School Network, a program that connects small local
farmers to school lunch programs nationally. Throughout the health at Google speakers series,
we've heard a lot from doctors on how to improve our over all personal health through diet,
exercise and other lifestyle choices. Professor Gottlieb comes from a different perspective.
Rather than looking just at personal health, he strives to answer broader questions such
as what are the social economic and political forces that have brought us to this point
and how can communities come together to fix problems like hunger, malnutrition, as well
as how justice plays a role throughout. Please join me in welcoming Robert Gottlieb to our
campus. >> GOTTLIEB: I understand that in talks like
this we get always lots of feedback. So, that would--that would be helpful, I think, in
terms of what I want to share with you. Let me start--let me do a couple of things. I'll
tell you a little about the program we have at the Urban Environmental Policy Institute
which includes a number of programs around food issues. Everybody is looking both over
there. There we are. And then I'll kind of situate that in terms of this book that Anupama
Joshi, my co-author and I--Anupama is actually the director of National Farm to School Network.
And both--what we mean by food justice and then how we illustrate that both in relation
to the issues and problems around food injustices and then some of the stories that we've identified,
groups and movements and individuals who are trying to bring about system change. So, the
Urban of--I'm a professor at Occidental College. Alisa was a student of mine and very engaged
in food issues as a number of other folks at Occidental. The institute's an interesting
mix. It's kind of a high breed between kind of a research and educational entity and one
that involves engaging in action and policy change. And as a high breed, we not only try
and identify some of the issues and problems but how you start bring about change. So,
an illustration of that would have been when we started the Farm to School Program, which
I'll talk about in a little bit, we wanted to get inside the Los Angeles Unified School
District. And so, we presented the research we had done to demonstrate where it first
begun in a smaller school district in Southern California and how it could be applied to
the second largest school district in the country. And we found a lot of resistance
within the school bureaucracy, within food services. And so, we decided that what really
needed to happen is a policy change. And in order to get a policy change, we felt we needed
to really reach out to students and parents to be part of the process of bringing about
that change. And what happened, in fact, was some of the key issues we identified were
not only what was going into the cafeteria, but where the kids were going in terms of
getting food that is known in the school food language as competitive foods, namely the
vending machines where you had the sodas and the junk food and that became the alternative
to food that was not considered very appetizing in the cafeteria. So we focused on that and
we hired some parents to be organizers to reach out to the--both the kids and to the
parents and started a campaign. And the starting point, really, was the vending machines and
getting the sodas out and identifying, for example, through our research the average
amount of sodas consumed and the sugar quantities involved in the amount of soda that a teenager
would drink in the course of a week. And there was a mason jar full of sugar and that became
the symbol of the campaign. This was back in 19--in 2001, 2002. And out of that campaign
and out of the work we--and identifying the issues, the L.A. Unified School Board passed
the first really major change that took place around the sodas and vending machines by banning
sodas in the vending machines and having a student constituency that was engaged in the
issue that became really an important part of the process. So that's the kind of thing
that we do in our institute. We identify programs, we do research, we do organizing, and we bring
about policy change. And we operate on multiple set of issues. We basically have a social
justice mission. We deal with issues of immigration and housing and transportation, but our largest
set of programs are in the area of food. And amongst those, we do this Farm to School Program
of the idea of getting local, regional food grown by local, regional farmers into school
cafeterias and other institutions like Google. We have a program called Farm to Preschool
and we focus on preschool because aside from the importance of thing--of the preschool
to cage well, it's also some of the fastest increases in obesity and weight gain are happening
in a zero to five population. So that becomes an important way of thinking about how do
you change the way kids think about food and what kind of program to develop in order to
bring about that change in perspective and attitude and connection to food. We have programs
that deal with women, infant, and children program. We call it Farm to WIC where we are
going to places where WIC coupons are used, like these stores that only sell wheat products
and trying to get local food into those stores, fresh produce into those stores that the people
who have the WIC coupons, the--who'll qualify low income women with infants can have access,
not only to fresh food but local food that is going to be that much more appealing. We
have a program that deals with the connection with food and transportation. The whole area
around food access is really a significant one because you can--you can urge people to
change their feeding patterns in terms of what they will eat, you can urge them to go
to a Farmers Market or to go to a market that sells fresh produce, but if it's not in the
community, if you don't have access to that, then you've got significant issues in terms
of changing the food culture. And that's particularly important in terms of the thing--the people
who are most vulnerable in terms of how the food system operates. People with low income
communities don't have supermarkets, don't have farmers market. So we have a whole program
we've developed around food and transportation. We also have a program we call the Regional
Food Hub or Food Hubs and I'll talk about that in a little bit also because that would
be an interesting project to describe in terms of thinking about the needs that we have to
make that are operational. But the concept of the Food Hub in short is that if you have
now this idea of making the connection between people who grow food locally and people—-and
the institutions that can access that food, how do you create a system where you can have
multiple farmers working together and the institutions, identifying the needs that they
would have to get that food? And like in L.A., we also work with food trucks, for example,
to try and get healthy and fresh produce into the food trucks as well and that maybe they
could use a kitchen facility in our Food Hub. So, it's a--it's a complex concept of making
those linkages and making the system work to support what we would call a regional food
economy or a regional food system. So that's what we do. Lots of projects we try and innovate,
develop new programs, we evaluate them, we think about the policy context, we do organizing,
and our students get engaged in a whole range of these programs as well. So that's what
we do. And as part of that, we've really become part of kind of an emerging food movement
around the country. And the food movement has many ways of addressing food issues. And
within that, we had begun to make the argument that food justice within the context of emerging
food movement is really critical. And by food justice, we think of it in a number of ways.
On the one hand, we do think of it--in what we call the "Food Systems" or "System Ways".
So we think about--if you think of it, it's supply chain terms, you know, from growing,
producing, processing, manufacturing, distributing, retail, where it's sold, and how it is consumed
as a system from sea to table. What is the nature of that system? What's happening within
that? Particularly from a perspective that says, are there environmental problems in
that system? There are. Are there issues of disparities? There are. Are there issues of
undermining local and regional farmers whether in this country or abroad? There are. Are
there issues around worker injustices whether it's in the confined animal feeding operations
where much meat production is now based and the people who work there are subject to the,
kind of, occupational hazards, subject to a whole wide range of exploitation that goes
on in terms of those operations, whether it's in terms of thinking about people who work
in retail or in restaurants. I--It's just last week in a--in a press conference in L.A.
for an organization called the Restaurant Opportunities Center which is an organization
that got formed out of the bombing--the World Trade Center events, the 9/11 event, where
the top of the World Restaurant was destroyed and when it reopened sometime later, the restaurant
workers were fired to bring in a nine union lower wage workforce. And so, the workers
who had been displaced set up their own cooperative restaurant but then started advocating for--around
the conditions of restaurant workers and so, the press conference that I was at was related
to a release of a report of the conditions of restaurant workers. Something that food
movement might or might not be addressing but which is really critical when you think
of the in-system terms and these were issues around wages, in terms of occupational issues,
in terms of no sick time; where you'd have people who would be working didn't have the
ability to take off time when they were sick and they were serving your food. And so, that
becomes kind of a central food justice issue of how, not only restaurants can maybe be
more sustainable and sourced locally but also how are they treating the people who work
in those places. So, food justice is a perspective on system issues. It also looks particularly
at the disparities within that system where you have people who are most vulnerable even
as you talk about the system as a whole creates problems for everyone. And I think there is
no better example of that when we think about the issue of--this issue weight gain and obesity
where you have--all population groups have seen this change taking place in the last
three or four decades and particularly pronounced in the last 20 years across the board; age
groups, ethnic and racial groups, income level, but those obesity levels are most pronounced
amongst people who live in low-income communities, people of color who, going back to that food
access issue, are most vulnerable in terms of what kind of food they do access and what
are the circumstances--the system circumstances that they experience in terms of their connection
to food. So, you have obesity as a consequence of the way our food system is organized for
everybody. It's a system issue but that they are also most--those who are most vulnerable.
And then the third approach we take in terms of food justice is that you ultimately can't
separate the idea of food from other kinds of social and economic issues that come into
play and constituencies that are impacted by those issues. So, another way of thinking
about food justice is, you are also connecting it to things like, transportation or a land
use, or what's happening when we lose farms at the urban edge and you instead have a real
change in the nature of the, kind of the Metropolitan Region and all the related problems that go
along with that. Food issues are a powerful environmental questions. What are the inputs
in terms of how food is grown? How is that changing and as we become more of an industrialized
food system? And that both in terms of the production of food as well as even in the
retail sector we're to use a term that an English theorist called it the, kind of the
Industrialized Food Retail that is really developed where, for example, WalMart in 1987
had zero percent of the market share of food retail and today it has over a third and it
is by far the largest food retailer in the world and its practices; how it retails food
and how it's organized is very much part of this kind of Industrialized Food Retail model.
So we see that happening in terms of thinking about how these systems operate across the
board throughout this supply chain. So, the Food Justice book was really an attempt to
do two things. On the one hand, to document in the first half of the book, how–-if you
do kind of walk through the food system, what happens at each stage of that food system
that addresses these questions of food justice and food injustices. On the second half, is
telling, the kind of a narrative of where and how there are efforts to change the way
the food system operates from a food justice perspective. So you have a wide range of an
issue that's there taking place around the country and around the world that are seeking
to find a kind of an alternative to the direction in which the food system has evolved particularly
in the last 30, 40 years with these massive changes that are taking place in food growing,
in terms of the manufacturing and processing of food, the retail side where we and how
we consume our food as well. So, some of the stories included--there's a--for those of
you who have the book, there's a wonderful photo on the cover of the book of a group
in Holyoke, Massachusetts called Nuestas Raices. And they started about 15 years ago where--in
Holyoke, Massachusetts it's a very--a poor community. It's actually the poorest in the
State of Massachusetts. It's heavily Puerto Rican. And so, a number of young people decided
that they wanted to do something to deal with a problem not only of lack of healthy food
but that they wanted to connect back to the traditions of food growing that they and their
families experienced growing up. And so they started an herb garden. Growing the kinds
of herbs that were part of their cuisine and they expanded to become not only growing food
but creating what could be considered like a little mini food hub in Holyoke, Massachusetts
and doing the range of other kind of economic development programs for the community using
food as the center piece. So, that's the--telling the story of how that group got started and
how it's really mushroomed into kind of a major player in rethinking food in Western
Massachusetts. Another group that we profile which we have folks who have come here from
the Salinas Valley is a group called ALBA which has done a remarkable job and we actually
had the advantage of having some of the ALBA organics produce here at Google. ALBA started
out trying to identify--well, it has a long complex history but in a nutshell it tried
to identify the ways in which people--mostly immigrant farm workers in the Salinas Valley
and other parts of Central California could be able to make a transition to themselves
participating in being--becoming food growers. It's really a critical transition if you think
about both from the justice perspective of how farm workers are treated in California,
in this country but also in terms of skill and knowledge and capacity to grow food that
you don't have that opportunity to do that. So, that's the evolution of this--the organization
was how you have some land that could be made available to farm workers who can become farmers.
And it's part of a broader theme that we talk about where you are seeing for the first time
a shift where there are more farmers in the last census of agriculture than there had
been in the previous census. This was the 2007 census that I think you will see in the
2012 census of agriculture even more striking change. It's not that we've seen a wholesale
shift in agriculture but you're starting to see pockets particularly Asian, Latino, farmers,
women and young people. There are sort of four constituencies of people who are becoming
connected to the land--reconnected to the land. Of course, it also takes place in urban
settings as well as outside of urban areas in the form of the Community Garden Movement,
the Urban Agriculture Movement, ways in which people start thinking about food growing as
a culture, a vocation and in fact, a way to have a sustainable livelihood. So, that's
another story we tell about. And we talk about the group in Florida that--tomato pickers
in Immokalee County in Florida who suffered incredible abuses in terms of the patterns
of recruitment of people coming on across the border to being sent into the field and
really being subject to conditions of near slavery; locked up, subject to wide range
of abuses and incredibly low wages that were provided for the--for the tomato crop that
was being picked and some of the other crops in that part of Florida. And what happens
back in the mid '90s is desired by some of these folks who were most subject to these
conditions and started to expose this kind of near slavery conditions to think about
ways in which they could, given the weight against them of changing the situation of
the field, how could they begin to shift, make a dent in that kind of imbalance of power
and lack of capacity from people working in the tomato fields to bring a better change?
So, they created an organization called the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Some of you
might be familiar with them. And they decided that the growers--the large growers were not
going to yield at all to the idea of not only a kind of a wage increase but to recognize
and give some dignity to the people who are working in the fields in terms of their representation.
So they thought, "Well, let's go up street. Who purchases the tomatoes?" And they started
by targeting Taco Bell. They had a four-year campaign to say, "We want a penny a pound
more and we want some recognition in terms of the rights of the people working in the
fields and we want you to agree to that and then pressure the growers to bring about that
change." And they mobilized students around the country and people who have faith who
got involved and thinking about food justice as in social justice as their issue that they
could engage with and identify. Went from Taco Bell, they finally succeeded after four
years. They went to McDo--they went after McDonald's. They went after some of the retail
chains and just as our book was released in October, we'd be going around--going around
the country and we were happy to say that they finally got the growers to agree, so
great victory. Limited, you know, a penny a pound. The little bit of recognition. Enormous
obstacles but a really inspiring story of people over time mobilizing, getting constituencies
to cook up with them and bring about that one change that becomes an emblematic of how
that change can magnify and develop further in terms of related kinds of issues in the
fields or in other parts of the food system. So, let me end with a–-I'll tell you a personal
story in terms of some of this work and connect it back to Farm to School which is one of
the signature programs that have developed in farm institution. We were trying this about
15 years ago to think of ways in which we could support farmers markets in low-income
communities. There were—-there was in a particular one market that had been the very
first farmers market in the South--in Southern California that was set up in the late 1970s
when they made their revival. Actually, farmers markets were designed in the late '70s and
early '80s as kind of food justice institutions if you will. They were designed to bring affordable,
healthy, fresh local food into communities that had lack of access. The first farmers
markets were sponsored by a group called the Interfaith Hunger Coalition in L.A., in places
like Philadelphia and Chicago when they were starting. There was a group in Philadelphia
called the Food Trust. These were really kind of low-income strategies for fresh food access.
They change--farmers markets obviously have changed overtime for a lot of good reasons
in the sense that it became very popular and so it became very attractive in communities,
in middle-income communities and places where there might not have been quite the same food
access problem but there was real interest in getting healthy fresh local food and they
were community institutions. So, a great gathering place where you don't have that kind of--those
kinds of places. But in the process, you–-it's not that the low-income markets were abandoned
but they tended to be more limited. Fewer farmers were coming to those markets. There
were-–there were the burdens of how to find the appropriate places for those markets.
So we were trying to figure out how could we support the farmers market in an area,
this was a Gardena area and reach out to low-income folks in that Southwest region of L.A. And
we found that it was really difficult. We tried our CSA model, that one where people
would pay at a subsidized rate and maybe only have to pay once a week rather than once every
six months. It wasn't working. So, we though--well, what we really need is the place-–the places
where you can have kind of this--the institutional support for this and that's--that was the
origins of thinking about Farm to School. And at that point--my daughter was in a school
in Santa Monica. Santa Monica sounds like one of those wealthy enclaves. It actually
has low-income enclaves within the wealthy enclave. And the school where my daughter
went had 50% free and reduced student body. In other words, 50% of the kids qualified
for a free and reduced lunch, which meant that they were hovering near the poverty line.
So, my daughter would come back and tell me that, you know, the school lunch sucks. They
tried a little bit of a salad but the lettuce was brown, and she actually liked getting
fruit and even vegetables. And she wanted something different, and so she was kind of
not eating in the school cafeteria. So, that was sort of like a--an epiphany from myself.
Why not go to the school? So we went to the food service director, a fellow by the name
of Rodney Taylor, who was then the food service director. He came out in the food industry.
His picture is in the book. An industry guy, you know, a food service industry guy. Bottom
line considerations, you don't do anything different. You got to--you got to have the
food that the kids will connect to. So that means you got to have the kind of the chicken
nuggets, you have to have the pizza, you have to have the--and you have to also buy the
commodity foods because you are under constraints on budget. So we came to him and said, "You
know, we have a thriving Farmers Market system in Santa Monica. Why not get the farms that
are coming to the Farmers Market to set aside food that they bring to the Farmers Market
that can go into the school cafeteria?" And Rodney said--he tells a story, even goes around
the country saying, "Oh, here was another rich white pear with too much time on his
hand coming and lands this issue on me. And what I'll do is, I'll test it out and I'll
show that the kids will not eat the fruits and vegetables." So, he set up a salad bar
as an alternative to the hot meal. It serves the way you can–-some of your school cafeterias
can have these choices which the offer and serve system is called. So he's decided he
would have pizza the first day as the alternative to the salad bar that was set up with Farmers
Market produce. And the kids came, we hired an organizer to help reach out to the parents.
A young Latina, fresh out of UCLA, and she got feedback form the parents about how they--the
kids would respond, you know. Make sure you've got a slice of lemon or a lime that can squeeze
on the lettuce and you can do X, Y and Z in terms of how you show where the food is. And
sort of the big breakthrough with the kids was, they did actually have a school garden.
And so, we did some tastings, and the kids said, "Well, that looks like the food fruit
that was coming from the Farmers Market from the local farmers. Looks like they are food
from the garden, you know, and, you know, we love that food from the garden," which
is never connected to having food in the cafeteria. So by the time that they came around and Rodney
set out the choices, 75% of the kids chose the salad bar, and it blew Rodney away. He
said, it's–-as he talks about it now, he says, "It changed my life. It gave me a sense
of purpose that I didn't have, that I needed to become a champion for the kids, and I could
see that becoming a champion of the farmers was the way I could become a champion of the
kids." And that was the origins of farm to school. At that point, there are only three
programs around the country, this is 1997; the one in Santa Monica and two small ones
in North Carolina and Florida that were designed to support farmers there. Today, it's in all
50 states. It's been embraced by Michelle Obama. It's--it was part of the recent Child
Nutrition Legislation that has just passed. And it came out of a kind of a history of
mobilization and of practice of trying to show why this kind of approach is--creates
change at each level. And it really–-it symbolizes for us the Food Justice story.
Because farm to school is a system change; it's for everybody in terms of a school-food
system. But it's particularly—-when you think of it in the public school system, you
have kids who are substantial portion in places like LA--LAUSD for example is, 70% of the
kids qualify for free and reduced lunch. I bet you if we go to East Palo Alto, we'd see
that kind of--those kinds of numbers, or in Salinas, or in San Francisco, in some of the
school district. So you're also talking about kids who, otherwise, might not have access
to that type of food. So it's a--also becomes a Food Justice story in terms of those who
might be most vulnerable. And it's finally something that allows you to think about--learning
about food differently is also a way of thinking about deeper set of issues in--that one comes
and encounters; whether it's how you grow food and what does that mean in terms of environment
or--and what is--what are the economics of food and how is it operating? So it becomes
also a teaching lesson and a way to connect to a number of different very powerful issues
that we need to confront in our communities. So, I'll leave it at that. Open it up if you
have questions or thoughts or things you want to share. Our folks from Alba are here if
you want to ask them about anything. I had an update yesterday, I guess, in the San Jose
Mercury News talking about some of the Alba farmers but also the connection of immigrants
and food. There's an interesting article I read in--coming up in the paper, in The New
York Times this morning in the food section, the dining section, about how immigrant cuisine
is changing sub-urban areas and places like Indianapolis, a fascinating article. And I
think it's part of thinking about new ways of–-we are just starting to address food
in our--in this country and in our society. So, questions, thoughts? You can clap. It's
all right. >> I'll be the first. Fantastic talk. Thank
you very much. I was just wondering if you could draw a connection between food and social
justice to justice for animals, what we put on our plates or what some of us put on our
plates. Because I think, you know, you read--I'm seeing different books out there. And the
condition for–-the conditions for workers working in factory farms and working in slaughter
houses and so forth is probably among the most abominable for all workers. If you could
just like, maybe comment on that a bit. >> GOTTLIEB: Yes. Two connected points. First
in terms of, there are important constituencies out there that are talking about what's happening
to animals in the factory farm system, particularly in these confined animal feeding operation
structures, their incredible environmental issues as well in terms of the waste that
are generated and the kind of pollution that's associated with it. And there are these animal
abuse issues that are really important. But to separate one set of issues out from, as
you rightly pointed out, the issue of worker justice and work conditions for the people
who work in those places, it really limits us. And that's really part of the message
of Food Justice, is to not make that separation but see the connections between those sets
of issues. There's a wonderful phrase that Eric Schlosser used taking about the tomato
workers he spoke in a Slow Food Conference. And he was saying, "Look, do we really want
to eat an heirloom tomato if it was picked in the--under conditions of slavery?" And
I think--so that's really important that you'd not separate the two. The other thing about
what's happened in terms of the processing plants. We've really seen a big shift in the--that
began in the '60s and '70s influenced in part by the kind of supply chain issues that led
to the feedback to somebody's processing operations; how the meat was being produced in effect
and for whom, whether it was the chickens that were being turned into the chicken nuggets.
And the workforce that had been in those processing plants up through the 1960s tended to be a
relatively stable union workforce that had relatively decent wages as production workers
had at that time. And when you started seeing these changes in the supply chain and the
way the processing plants operated, you basically saw a wholesale shift away from that workforce.
A lot of folks were–-the plants were moved to different places like in Colorado, and
an immigrant workforce was brought in there. It was non-union, highly exploited and subject
to kind of some of these horrific conditions that we've read about in terms of what goes
on and whether it's the poultry plants or the meat production, the beef production plants.
So yes, it's very much connected. And part of our arguments that brought our food movement
is that, it's really important to make those links, to not separate out one issue from
the other. >> Cool. Thank you very much.
>> How do we get–-how do we get grocery stores for our neighborhoods? With my understanding
is they're just like convenient stores. It's just like there's no access to produce or
anything reasonable for the people. Even they want to get it, they just can't get it.
>> GOTTLIEB: Well, it's a really important question and there are actually a couple of
different answers to that. On the one hand, there are efforts to say, "Why have the supermarkets,
for one the large--larger full service markets. Why are they not in the urban core areas in
the inter city areas?" They used to be. There was really a major change that began–-again
as we see other changes going through the food system happening in retail--beginning
and say in the mid-1960's or even a little bit earlier where you had kind of the flight
from urban areas to suburban locations. Often close to free ways, great parking and car
centric places. So, the disadvantage when you sort of build your market around the idea
of access by car rather than other strategies for access, you disadvantage your urban core
areas where land is actually more expensive, more limited so, you can't have that big parking
footprint. Number of reasons that were all part of the change in food retail markets
were leaving; were abandoning the urban corp. Well, there's now a merge, you know, a lot
of work in this area saying, you know, "The markets have to come back in." It is their
social responsibility. There's also an economic opportunity thus the suburban markets became
saturated. There have been sufficient numbers of studies out there that really make a compelling
argument that food market, even with these constraints around land cause and the income
level of the shoppers, you still can make--have significant economic return. And those markets
that have been set up that have made that jump have turned out to be very successful
but there is still a lot of resistance. So, there's been a lot of organizing trying to
do that. Not--hasn't gotten as far as it ought to. The other part of that is always to think
about either the alternative kinds of places to access fresh food like Farmers Markets
and making them more viable, you know, increasing their capacity. So, a core of Food Justice
demand, for example, for Farmers Market, is that they'd be able to accept SNAP benefits,
the food stamp benefits and have the system, the electronic benefit transfer system that
will allow them to access the Farmers Market. And then, there's a–-yet a third an issue
that's going on called The Healthy Corner Store Initiative which is looking at stores--the
small stores that have historically been, kind of, too expensive, limited if any produce
making their money off of candy and cigarettes and liquor, if there were liquor stores that
were define sells as food stores. And how do you change that situation? What do you
do to really make these more responsible kinds of community stores? And so, there's an effort
in Pennsylvania called the Fresh Food Financing Initiative that has really created an incentive-based
program even as simple as creating refrigeration in these smaller stores. It's also been boasted
by the fact that we have more ethnic markets now that are developed that kind of a small
store level. So, there are some changes that are taking place in that level but it's a
core problem that it doesn't go away and needs advocacy in all these different levels.
>> I think you might have just answered a lot of my questions but I live in intercity
at Oakland and I taught there for five years and that's, you know, that's definitely--you
don't see there were no grocery--well, not many very quality grocery stores in the area
where I taught. But I've noticed the recently--actually, a whole food which is kind of an extreme as
far as [INDISTINCT] foods go has opened up in a--not the worst area but also not the
nicest and every time I go there it's just--they appeared to be doing great business. So, is
getting--are getting stores like cold foods or, you know, maybe low in price versions
or all versions of that in this city, is--does the actual city government tend of player
like do they--can cities kind of deal with or approach companies or individuals interested
in this or is it tend to be more kind of an organic individuals want to go groups approaching
the stores themselves? >> GOTTLIEB: Did everybody hear that? Okay.
The answer is actually both but you--there are areas or role for policy including the
local policy to ensure that not only that a store comes but that the store, for example,
hires locally, has fresh produce and is–-the other kinds of things that are important like,
has culturally appropriate foods in that store. All those kinds of things can lend themselves
to different kinds of policies that advantage stores were doing it and disadvantage stores
who are refusing to do certain kinds of things. And there are different policy instruments
that are available. We did a study when Tesco which is the third largest global retailer
and that they are American--they had to--they're British Company and they entered about five
years ago into the U.S. under the name Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market and their target
is to sort of an undercut Trader Joe's. And--so, we did a study of how Tesco operates globally.
And in that, you can access it to our website. We listed a range of policy strategies that
you can have to really--and specifically design. In that case with Tesco and Fresh & Easy,
what can you do when somebody wants to kind of increase their foot print in different
communities and--or they're not going in to communities, they're going in to one set of
communities versus another? So, there are a lot of policy opportunities but ultimately,
you can't make change unless you have people who are advocating and mobilizing and seeing
themselves as part of the movement to bring about that change. And there are examples,
illustrations of when that's happen when people have mobilized where they brought about that
kind of change. So, another question and then I have a question for all of you.
>> What would be the top two things that Google can do to be the most forward-thinking...
>> GOTTLIEB: Great. >> ...and progressive for corporation of this
size and we are almost 30% supportive of small farmers and local farmers like our relationship
with Alba. We do have a really high food values, high in sustainability but if we really wanted
to push, what should we be doing? >> GOTTLIEB: Great. That was actually what
I was going to ask all of you and I'll give you my take on it but I actually like to hear
your take as well. Certainly, the roll as a major institution is important and there's
a whole range of ways to do that. One, of course, is what food is available and where
it is being purchased from and how you scale that up? I understand you have CSA for Google
employees. All those kinds of strategies are important. There are other things that you
might have or not have that people are exploring. We've been talking with Kaiser for example,
about the idea of–-I don't know if Google is self-insured or what relationships they
have around health insurance but there are strategies to advantage, for example, your
insurance premium goes down if you are member of CSA, so you are thinking about how you
incentivize the change that could take place. So, as an institution, there are a whole range
of opportunities and the partners that Google has. So it extends not just in terms of this
place here and what food gets purchased but how does [INDISTINCT] or how does Google operate
itself in terms of other place, other facilities, other partnerships that it has where it can
talk about its connection to bring about changes and how people relate to food and where it
comes from. I think the other piece of that connection that Google could make is, right
now we are in a situation where some of the stories that we talk about, things like farm
to school, for example, are in a stage where they have moved from–-how can I best put
it?--from the pilot stage to something deeper. But in doing that, there are both barriers
and challenges of how you make that happen keeping the eye on the price of the type of
regional food system that you want to support and the justice component throughout it. So
this food hub is a great example of that. There are all kinds of needs now as it gets--this
farm institution model expands of linking farmers who operate--when they operate individually,
find that they can't really be an effective supplier. You need to aggregate. You need
to connect. But then the institutions have different needs. And there's also a land that's
not being farmed that could potentially be farmed particularly if there were that connection
to somebody who needs crop X point Y in terms of their needs from an institutional perspective.
So there's--there are a range of kind of tech issues, if you will, of how to configure a
system based on this hub model where you're aggregating, consolidating; you're doing maybe
even some processing connecting and then you're going out to the institutions. And those--this
is the--where farm to school was 15 years ago, the hub model is today. It's just beginning.
It's catching around the country. There are the ones, in Northern California, there are
the ones in Southern California, in San Diego, there's one emerging in LA. And then also
how do you link that state Y so that operates? So those are the kinds of needs and there
are other illustrations of that as well. >> Talking about making [INDISTINCT] and economic
model and aggregating the food shift. >> GOTTLIEB: It's an economic level but it's
also–-it's defined not simply as an economic model but it has a kind of social justice
mission associated with it whether it's in terms of support of the local farm. A group
set of the farm workers as well as in terms of who gets--you know, who can access the
supply if in fact there are issues around the price points or their schools who don't
have kitchens. So one of the things that we model of this kind of a floating salad bar
that could actually be brought to the schools but there are also policy changes that you
want to bring about. So there are technical issues within the building, the capacity to
create that kind of alternative, regional food economy, but also a justice based regional
food economy. So let's set up a meeting. >> We don't have enough land to for all of
our students coming out of our program. And so--and then at a K through 12 level with
the kitchen prep areas and whatnot, I was--I was at a meeting with our congressman and
the local K through 12 in Watsonville area. And if everybody is on board to do more of
this, bring in fresh local produce but they don't have the area to prep it. So in our
case, just--our growers need access to more capital and more land. So it really comes
down to economics, you know, money and how we can find a better source like that. So,
I don't know, maybe a grant or something to help stimulate that just to get everybody
on tract. >> GOTTLIEB: Well getting back also to thinking
about the points you are raising, how would you identify land that could maybe made--be
made available for food production whether--including in urban areas, for example, as well as in
terms of land that's either [INDISTINCT] or is unutilized, or a foreclosed land and what's
happening to it. So kind of the inventory issue is also significant. There are lots
of possibilities and it--you know, the food movement and the food justice movement is
both a new movement but it's very rapidly taking on really major--both major opportunities
and major challenges. We've seen a shift from just thinking of it in terms my own trajectory.
When I got involved in the early '90s, an enormous shift in consciousness that's taken
place and discourse around food in ways in which the desire to do things differently
around food is out there but the capacity to make that change is uneven even as we start
seeing some of these breakthroughs. >> On that note, what do you see as the biggest
obstacle to having that--there--the capacity being increased, I guess, to have this movement
be--you know, take a greater hold? >> GOTTLIEB: Well, I think we're at a point
where there are real potential institutional breakthroughs and how those institutions have
operated is going to be the challenge. So let me give you an example. Walmart's announcement
that it wants to purchase local and organic. The argument I would raise about Walmart doing
that is on the one hand, I think it is a great victory that this food retail--this global
food retailer which had only defined what it would get into its stores is now saying,
"Well, this is important. It has to reach out." It's also, it's vulnerable to the criticism
of the role it's played. So on one hand, it's a great [INDISTINCT]. On the other hand, it's
at best questionary, if not dangerous because of the way--in fact, Walmart operates is that
it doesn't have that approach of thinking of justice orientation. It does put the squeeze
on its suppliers. It dictates the terms of it. And we tell—-we tell a story in the
book of--from a local midwestern grower who recounted it to us. When Walmart really wanted
to get in to the Chicago area and so it wanted to kind of scale up its reputation. So it
said, "Well, we're going to go organic and we're going to go local to show to people
in Chicago that it really was capable of moving in this direction." So it decided it would
highlight local watermelons in the summer. So it contracted with one of the largest of
the growers–-still kind of a medium-sized grower-–and said, "Well, here is our supply
needs and this is the price you're going to have to agree to, and here is the volume needs
and when you have to it." And as a consequence, that grower became a broker and bought out
basically the water melon crop in a radius around where Walmart was supplying. What that
meant is that there were, A. no watermelons of that season in the farmers market, and
B. the growers were less of a price through the Walmart system when they would have threw
a direct marketing system. So that becomes the challenge. As the opportunity to change
the food system, the way it operates, we increase that capacity. We're going to start meeting
these kinds of challenges and then thinking about how in fact you're going to continue
to build without then becoming squeezed by who the dominant players are and how they
operate. So it's a--it becomes a political challenge, it becomes a social challenge and
it becomes an organizational challenge. And we'll see what happens, but we are at the
point. Well, I thank Google for setting this up and having some books available to you.
And hope we can continue the dialogue.