We spoke with Anna Lappé, a widely respected author and educator, an expert on food systems and a sustainable food advocate. We found out how to change the world and make great friends, how to kick your fear public speaking, and why it’s never too early to put your kids to work.
How did you become so involved in the food movement?
Depends on your definition of “involved”: My mother, Frances Moore Lappé, roped me into the family business early on. I was stuffing envelopes for her non-profit’s fundraising drives before I learned to walk. While my friends were going on trips to Disneyland as kids, my mom was packing me along with her to visit organic farming collecticves in Guatemala. I didn’t really see this as “my” work until I was in graduate school, helping my mother research her book, Hope’s Edge. Eventually she would promote me from lowly assistant to co-author, and the trip to write the book, traveling to visit hunger solutions in India, Bangladesh, Poland, Kenya, France, Brazil, and beyond would change my life.
Do you like working with your mom?
As shocking as it might be to some people: Yes! I heard my friend Annie Leonard, of Story of Stuff fame and now head of Greenpeace USA, speak recently. She said, she used to think the business of changing the world was like a sprint. As she got older, she realized it was more of a marathon but, turning 50 this year, she’s come to see it as a relay race, we pass on the work to the next generation, we pick up the efforts from the previous generation. There’s no one else I’d rather be carrying the baton for.
We love to share Food MythBusters. How did this project come about and where do you want it to go from here?
I created Food MythBusters because I was constantly struck by how many people were confused about the real story of food. Agribusiness and other Big Food players spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year trying to shape what we see, feel, and think about food. I wanted to do my little part to flip that story on its head, bust the biggest food industry myths and empower people to get involved.
What books on food are your favourite?
Where do you buy your food?
Thankfully, I’ve got a lot of choice where I live for fresh, locally grown produce from farmers I trust. In particular, I love getting a fresh farm box once a week from a local farm as part of a Community-Support Agriculture program. Today, there are thousands of these schemes across North America, where you can become a “member” of a farm and receive the bounty throughout the year. We also organized a fish CSA in our neighborhood. To my great delight, my 2 and 5 year old have discovered a love for wild salmon, dungeoness crab, even raw oysters.
The Green Table in New York City is run by my friend, chef and restaurant owner Mary Cleaver, and is a great model for truly farm-fresh food. Mary was into farm-to-table long before it was mocked on Portlandia.
What should others do if they want to be a Public Speaker like you?
Well, the first step is to discover what you have to say that you think people need to hear. I remember getting ready for one of my first public talks and being terrified. I was talking with my friend Anuradha Mittal, who heads the Oakland Institute, and confessing my fears. She said, well, do you feel like you have something to say that you want people to hear? “Of course,” was my quick and easy answer. “Then, focus on that,” she said. It doesn’t matter if you’re nervous or scared: It’s not about you, it’s about the message. She was right. And every time I have gotten butterflies since then, I think of her wise words.
What do you think everyone can and should do, starting now?
Everyone can flex their citizen muscle, as Annie Leonard would say, and get involved in the fight for fresh, healthy food for all. Best part about it: you help change the world and make some great friends.