Ten Questions with Ali Berlow, Author of “The Food Activist Handbook”

From foodtank.com, by Lani Furbank
Ten Questions with Ali Berlow, Author of “The Food Activist Handbook”

Food Tank, in partnership with American University, is hosting the 2nd Annual Food Tank Summit in Washington, D.C. on April 20–21, 2016. 

This two-day event will feature more than 75 different speakers from the food and agriculture field. Researchers, farmers, chefs, policymakers, government officials, and students will come together for panels on topics including food waste, urban agriculture, family farmers, farm workers, and more. 

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.

To find out more about the event, see the full list of speakers, and purchase tickets, please click HERE. Interested participants who cannot join can also sign up for the livestream HERE.

To join us at Food Tank's São Paulo, Brazil Summit in September 2016, please click HERE. To join us at Food Tank's Sacramento, CA Summit on September 22–23, 2016, please click HERE. To join us at Food Tank's Chicago, IL Summit on November 16–17, 2016, please click HERE

Want to become a sponsor of the Food Tank Summit? Please click HERE

Want to suggest a speaker for one of the Summits? Please click HERE

Want to watch videos from last year's Food Tank Summit? Please click HERE

Sponsors for this year's Food Tank Summit in Washington, D.C. include: Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition, Chaia DC, Chipotle, Clif Bar, D.C. Government, Driscoll's, Edible DC, Elevation Burger, Fair Trade USA, Food and Environment Reporting Network, Global Environmental Politics Program of the School of International Service, Greener Media, Inter Press Service, Leafware, Niman Ranch, Organic Valley, Panera Bread, and VegFund. 

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