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Closing the Food Gap
Cover of Closing the Food Gap
Closing the Food Gap
Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty
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This powerful call to arms offers a realistic vision for getting locally produced, healthy food onto everyone’s table, “[blending] a passion for sustainable living with compassion for the...
This powerful call to arms offers a realistic vision for getting locally produced, healthy food onto everyone’s table, “[blending] a passion for sustainable living with compassion for the...
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  • This powerful call to arms offers a realistic vision for getting locally produced, healthy food onto everyone’s table, “[blending] a passion for sustainable living with compassion for the poor” (Dr. Jane Goodall)
     
    In Closing the Food Gap, food activist and journalist Mark Winne poses questions too often overlooked in our current conversations around food: What about those people who are not financially able to make conscientious choices about where and how to get food? And in a time of rising rates of both diabetes and obesity, what can we do to make healthier foods available for everyone?
    To address these questions, Winne tells the story of how America’s food gap has widened since the 1960s, when domestic poverty was “rediscovered,” and how communities have responded with a slew of strategies and methods to narrow the gap, including community gardens, food banks, and farmers’ markets. The story, however, is not only about hunger in the land of plenty and the organized efforts to reduce it; it is also about doing that work against a backdrop of ever-growing American food affluence and gastronomical expectations. With the popularity of Whole Foods and increasingly common community-supported agriculture (CSA), wherein subscribers pay a farm so they can have fresh produce regularly, the demand for fresh food is rising in one population as fast as rates of obesity and diabetes are rising in another.
    Over the last three decades, Winne has found a way to connect impoverished communities experiencing these health problems with the benefits of CSAs and farmers’ markets; in Closing the Food Gap, he explains how he came to his conclusions. With tragically comic stories from his many years running a model food organization, the Hartford Food System in Connecticut, alongside fascinating profiles of activists and organizations in communities across the country, Winne addresses head-on the struggles to improve food access for all of us, regardless of income level.

Excerpts-

  • Introduction Introduction
    I’ve Come to . . . Shop?

     
    To enter the parking lot of any Hartford, Connecticut, supermarket in 1979 required a sharp, reckless turn into a poorly marked curb cut. If you came at it too fast to avoid a collision with the suicidal driver heading right at you, you would bottom out your car’s undercarriage on the lot’s steeply graded entrance. Once in the lot, Hollywood car-chase skills were essential to maneuver across a parking area that was strewn with broken glass, overturned shopping carts, and potholes deep enough to conceal a bushel basket. Since the white lines marking parking spaces were faded or nonexistent, you left your car wherever it suited you.
     
    Once you got inside the store, the first thing you noticed was the smell. It wasn’t so much that “something has died” odor, but more the scent of something that rotted and was never fully cleaned up. When seasoned with a pinch of filth, marinated in gallons of heavily chlorinated disinfectant, and allowed to ferment over many years, the store released a heady aroma that brought tears to the eyes of men stronger than I.
     
    Crunchy sounds emanated from the floor as your shoes crushed imperceptible bits of grit and unswept residue whose origins had long since been forgotten. The black and white floor tiles were discolored, unwaxed, and marred at irregular intervals by jagged brown stains that were forever one with the tiles.
     
    Granted, these were pre–Whole Foods Market days. The supermarket industry did not yet have the technology that gives today’s stores the soft, warm glow of a tastefully decorated living room. Instead, the humming neon bulbs, shielded by yellowed plastic coverings, cast a sickly pallor over the shoppers, the staff, and, worst of all, the food. The iceberg lettuce, already suffering from a 3,000-mile journey by truck, looked like the victims of a mass beheading. The rest of the produce case, from mushy apples to brown bananas, displayed a similar lack of life. A stroll down the meat aisle was as appealing as a slaughterhouse tour at the end of a busy day. Small pools of blood that had leaked from hamburger and chicken packages dotted the surfaces of the white enamel meat cases, the blood at times indistinguishable from the rust that discolored the chipped veneer. The atmosphere did not encourage a leisurely appreciation of food, nor did you feel like engaging in more intimate acts of product selection such as touching, squeezing, or sniffing. The fear of prolonging the unpleasantness made “grab and go” the prevailing modus operandi.
     
    It didn’t take too many trips to this sort of market before I was suffciently motivated to go to a suburban grocery store. I was lucky; I owned a working automobile. Up to 60 percent of the residents in Hartford’s lowincome neighborhoods did not. Nor, as I would find out later, did the city’s public transportation routes go to the suburban supermarkets.
     
    My journey to the nearest full-size chain supermarket was six miles roundtrip. The store had easy vehicular access and a large, wellmaintained parking lot, as well as shiny, clean aisles, floors, and food cases. The floor space available for product display was at least twice that of the largest remaining Hartford store, and the products were pleasantly arrayed. The produce section, though not brimming with abundance by today’s standards, was quite ample and free of wilt, anemia, and other symptoms of imminent death. The store’s staff was reasonably friendly, albeit prone to the lassitude common among those who must do repetitive,...

About the Author-

  • For 25 years Mark Winne was the Executive Director of the Hartford Food System, a private non-profit agency that works on food and hunger issues in the Hartford, Connecticut area. During his tenure with HFS, Mark organized community self-help food projects that assisted the city's lower income and elderly residents. Mark's work with the Food System included the development of a commercial hydroponic greenhouse, Connecticut's Farmers' Market Nutrition Program, several farmers' markets, a 20-acre community supported agriculture farm, food and nutrition education programs, and a neighborhood supermarket.
    Winne now writes, speaks, and consults extensively on community food system topics including hunger and food insecurity, local and regional agriculture, community assessment, and food policy. He also does policy communication work for the Community Food Security Coalition. His essays and opinion pieces have appeared in The Nation, Hartford Courant, Boston Globe, In These Times, Sierra, Orion, Successful Farming and numerous organizational and professional newsletters and journals across the country. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
    To learn more about Mark Winne, visit is web site: www.markwinne.com.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    October 8, 2007
    Having been a part of the movement since the 1970s, serving as (among other positions) the executive director of the Hartford Food System, Winne has an insider's view on what it's like to feed our country's hungry citizens. Through the lens of Hartford, Conn.—a quintessential “inner city” bereft of decent food options apart from bodegas and fast food chains—he explains the successes he witnessed and helped to create: community gardens, inner city farmers' markets and youth-run urban farms. Winne concludes his tale in our present food-crazed era, giving voice to low-income shoppers and exploring where they fit in with such foodie discussions as local vs. organic. In this articulate and comprehensive book, Winne points out that the greatest successes have been “an informal alliance between sustainable agriculture and food security advocates... that shows promise for helping both the poor and small and medium-size farmers.” For the most part it is a calm, well-reasoned and soft-spoken call to arms to fight for policy reform, rather than fill in, with community-based projects and privately funded programs, the gaps left by our city and state legislators.

  • Publishers Weekly

    "A calm, well-reasoned and soft-spoken call to arms."

  • Gwyneth Doland, Sante Fe Reporter "Fearless, intelligent, and surprisingly funny."
  • Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, author of Harvest for Hope "It's heartening to find a book that successfully blends a passion for sustainable living with compassion for the poor."
  • Marion Nestle, author of What to Eat "Reading this book should make everyone want to advocate for food systems that will feed the hungry, support local farmers, and promote community democracy-all at the same time."
  • Anna Lappé, cofounder of the Small Planet Institute and author of Grub "By combining stories of his deep personal experience as an activist with keen insights into strategies for addressing food injustice, Winne fills a gap in the growing literature on good food, why it matters, and how to ensure that everyone everywhere has access to it. Plus, the book is a fun read. Winne's stories made me want to meet him down at the local farmers' market and then join him afterward for a cold beer."
  • Rod MacRae, Food for Thought "Part personal journey, part manifesto for creating food security in the United States, Closing the Food Gap sets out the dream of a nation without poverty and hunger, telling stories of people and community projects that have made a difference in the lives of the food-insecure."
  • Sierra Magazine "Eating is not only an agricultural act, these new voices tell us. It is also an ecological act, and a moral, political, and ethical one . . . books that concentrate on a single food issue -- like Claire Hope Cummings's Uncertain Peril, about transgenic seeds and the danger of corporate control of the food supply, or Mark Winne's Closing the Good Gap, about improving low-income families' access to nourishing food -- provide a lot of sustenance without sending you into a stupor."

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    Beacon Press
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Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty
Mark Winne
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