By Michelle Edelbaum, "Watch What You Eat,"July/August 2010
Robert Kenner’s Oscar-nominated documentary Food, Inc. exposed the inner workings of our industrialized food industry and changed the way many think about their food. Now a new documentary, Fresh, The Movie, builds on that exposé by highlighting everyday solutions that can help us fix our flawed food system. Fresh filmmaker Ana Sofia Joanes talks with urban gardeners, sustainable farmers and a supermarket owner who is revitalizing his community by stocking his store with local produce. We talked with both Joanes and Kenner about their films.
RK: Since Food, Inc., the food movement is exploding. People are concerned about what they’re eating and groping for alternatives. Fresh talks about the alternatives—it’s the bright side of Food, Inc.
ASJ: It’s hard not to see it as a sequel, but Fresh is its own movie. Food, Inc. did a great job of raising awareness, but left you feeling like “What can I eat?” Fresh is an answer—and inspires you to be part of the solution.
ASJ: I hope that as more people shift a portion of their food budgets to locally, sustainably-grown products, it influences the rest of the industry. We won’t get rid of industrial agriculture altogether, but right now everything that’s not industrial food (organic, fair trade, local) is just 2 percent of the marketplace.
RK: I didn’t go to jail! [Laughs.] I had no idea what a litigious world I was entering into. I spent more on legal fees for Food, Inc. than my other 15 movies combined times three. For me the biggest surprise was at a hearing about labeling cloned meat, and an industry representative said, ‘I don’t think it’s in the interest of consumers to be given that information.’ That’s when I realized this film was about more than just food—people want transparency. We have a few powerful companies that control the system and don’t let us know what’s in our food.
ASJ: It’s a myth actively pushed by big companies that we need large industrial farms to feed the world. Big corporations are growing corn and soy for cattle, but cattle don’t need to eat corn and soy. So we’re not really growing food for people. Plus, we’re doing it in a way that’s efficient, but unsustainable. Medium-size farms can be sustainable and efficient. Sustainable agriculture requires more labor, which is more expensive, but these farms are just as productive as large farms and less wasteful.
ASJ: Michelle Obama planting a garden has been a tremendous gift to the real or sustainable food movement. One measure of this is the remarkable growth in seed sales last year compared to previous years. And now her Let’s Move campaign is forcing all of us to look at the real cost of our food choice. It’s only then that we realize there is no such thing as a cheap meal, that we pay for it with our health and with our taxes.
RK: Michelle Obama had the audacity to plant a garden without chemicals and she got attacked for it. Today it’s a political act to grow a nongenetically modified, organic garden. Who would’ve thought? Fifty years ago that’s what everyone grew. To do the right thing, the Obamas and our senators need the support of people who go to the supermarket and we need to give them that support.