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Reinventing the World: Food . 49 minutes, 2000. Asterisk Productions .

Reinventing the World: Food   

REVIEW of Reinventing the World: Food.

Reinventing the World: Food, the second installment of a three part Canadian series, asserts that the best place for food in our lives and society is close to home and easily accessible by all. It is a call to shift away from perfectly uniform produce to the blemished irregularity of real food, which connects all of us to each other and to place. Most radically, food should no longer be treated as a market commodity but as a basic human right that is regularly available to all people, high income or low. Numerous case studies, individuals and organizations are proving that their vision of a reinvented food system can become a reality.

In Canada, organizations like Small Potatoes Urban Delivery (SPUD) and Toronto’s Food Share are committed to providing organic, locally grown produce to all types of citizens. Young farmers are supplying a community supported agriculture (CSA) program, a model in which farmers and eaters share in the risk of growing food. In Sao Paolo, Brazil, we witness a political system that sets flat prices for their produce and is able to supply low income and rural citizens with high quality, healthy food. This way, no one should go hungry simply because they don’t have enough money. Frances Moore Lappé, author of Diet for a Small Planet, organic farming advocate Joan Dye Gussow, food activists, and others contribute to a compelling narrative that is simultaneously about ending hunger, improving health through good food and supporting local farmers and communities.

Though set in a Canadian context, the content is still applicable to the food system in the United States. Arguably, Canadian politics may be much closer to adopting a nationalized food provisioning system than the U.S. Still, considering the idea of food as a basic human right that should be governmentally sponsored gives viewers of the film interesting questions to ponder. This idea challenges our current model of capitalism and could prove difficult to gain wide support because many people benefit from the status quo. However, this system seems to work in Brazil, but how would it translate in Canada or the U.S? The commentators are silent on the logistics of adapting this system in Canada and the U.S. but are certain that removing food altogether from the market system would alleviate many problems.

The film’s message is more insistent than questioning and may turn off viewers who do not share the same perspective. Nevertheless, the narrative is a passionate and inspirational testimony for the inherent values and universal accessibility of diverse, local, and organically grown food. Viewers may round out this film with literature that addresses the politics of food, food as a basic human right and the benefits of organic, locally sourced food.

Selected Resources

Flammang, Janet A. The Taste for Civilization: Food, Politics, and Civil Society. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2009. Print.

Gussow, Joan Dye. This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader. White River Jct, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2002. Print.

Kent, George. Freedom from Want: The Human Right to Adequate Food. Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2005. Print.

Patel, Raj. Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System. Hoboken, NJ: Melville House, 2008. Print.

Patel, Raj. The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy. New York: Picador, 2009. Print.

Lia Spaniolo
Michigan State University

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS for Reinventing the World: Food.:

1. What are your initial reactions to the film?

2. What do you think are the main messages the film is trying to get across?

3. Grocery stores often sell perfect looking fruits and vegetables. Why does our culture value the attractiveness over freshness and taste?

4. How is the city of Sao Paolo in Brazil helping to reduce hunger?

5. Do you agree that food is a basic human right? Why or why not?

6. Some of the people interviewed in the film felt that food should be taken out of the market economy and instead be publicly funded. How would citizens benefit from this change? What might be some of the drawbacks?

7. Why do you think farmers do not receive much benefit for their product within a market system? If farmers don’t benefit, who does?

8. Because our society operates under a market system, would the elimination of food be too radical a move? Why or why not?

9. How do you feel about a publically funded food system in the U.S.? How would it work or not work?

10. Frances Moore Lappé stated that today the choices are clearer than ever to reduce our environmental impact through a better food system. What choices do we need to make? Why do you think these choices were less evident 30 years ago?

11. Why is it important to preserve seeds and plant and animal varieties? What is the value of crop diversity and heritage breeds?

12. What does it mean to say that food can promote social cohesion? How do you experience people, culture, traditions, and develop relationships through food?

13. How do you see yourself operating in a reinvented food system? Which strategy, of the ones presented in the film or others, is most appealing for you (i.e. farmer, CSA shareholder, SPUD member, etc.)?

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