National Food Expert and Activist Coming to U.Va. Next Week

March 31, 2010

March 31, 2010  — National food expert and activist Mark Winne says there are two food systems in the United States; one for the poor and another for everyone else.

Winne, the author of "Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty," has worked for more than 35 years to narrow this food gap and will share his insights April 6 at 5:30 p.m. in a public lecture at the University of Virginia's School of Architecture, Campbell Hall, room 158.

Winne's lecture, "Food Rebels and Smart-Cookin' Mamas: Fighting Back in the Age of Industrial Agriculture" is free and open to the public. It will be followed by a reception. Parking is available in the Culbreth Road Garage.

"Closing the Food Gap" tells the story of how Americans get their food. He says poor people often get their nourishment from food pantries, bodegas and convenience stores, while the more comfortable classes increasingly seek out organic and local products.

He draws on his tenure as executive director of the Hartford (Conn.) Food System, one of the nation's oldest organizations dedicated to fighting hunger and improving nutrition on a grassroots level.

In his book, Winne's exploration starts in the 1960s and shows how communities since that time have responded to malnutrition with a large number of strategies and methods, including farmers' markets and community gardens.

"Perhaps one of the most frustrating and perplexing features of the food gap is a certain relativistic quality that has wormed its way into our food system over the past 10 years," Winne writes. "Just as lower-income groups make some small gains in closing the food gap by, say, having access to new food stores in city neighborhoods or benefiting from a marginal improvement in the Food Stamp Program, higher-income groups leap ahead with an increase in their purchase of organic and locally produced food. … The gap never decreases and indeed … often increases."

Winne is also scheduled to address a "Food System Planning" class led by Tanya Denckla-Cobb, associate director of U.Va.'s Institute for Environmental Negotiation, and Timothy Beatley, Teresa Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities in the Department of Urban and Environmental Planning. The class seeks to raise awareness and provide practical experience for students in this emerging field of food systems planning. This year, the class' focus is on policy, and students are conducting a "food policy audit" on the Thomas Jefferson Planning District.

This event is sponsored by the Student Planning Association and U.Va. Food Services.

— By Jane Ford