Ex Libris

In my blog title I call this a journey and that is what it is and what it has been.  I have been socially conscious for as long as I remember, but my interest in this topic has developed and increased over time.  I would like to share with you some of the books I have read that have increased my interest in food insecurity or helped me to understand the complexities of the issue.  Most of the books I will share are not specifically about food insecurity, but seem crucial in my journey.  All of them, however, are good reads!

animal-vegetable-miracleThe title that probably started me down my current path of helping the food insecure is Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life.  This book chronicles Kingsolver and her family’s attempt to eat locally.  They intended to eat only food that had been produced so close to their home that they knew who grew or raised it or they grew or raised it themselves.  From this book I learned the importance of eating locally and seasonally.

As a result, I changed the way I feed my family.  Our yard is too shady to grow a garden, so I frequent farmers’ markets and farm stands.  I also purchase a share in a CSA (Consumer Shared Agriculture).  A CSA share is vital in the winter when most of the farmers’ markets and stands are not operating.  In the grocery store I try to stay away from produce that I know could notsunchoke or Jerusalem artichoke possibly be grown around here at the given time of year.  There is no way asparagus is grown within a hundred miles of Pennsylvania in December!  As a result, we are not only eating better tasting produce, we are eating new things too.

You may think it is a leap to go from this book to food insecurity, but it wasn’t for me.  This book got me thinking about how people used to eat, generations ago, when giant grocery stores did not exist.  That thought lead to how people manage today if they don’t have access to all the food in today’s giant grocery stores either because they can’t afford the food or because they live in a food desert.  Additionally,  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle touches on our current agriculture industry, including how we farm and what gets subsidized.  Topics, I would later learn, that are critical in understanding how we can grow so many crops and yet still have hungry people.

Within a few month of reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural omnivore's dilemmaHistory of Four Meals by Michael Pollan.  In this book Pollan follows food from it’s source to the final meal.  He examines how Americans feed ourselves by looking at industrial food production, organic or alternative food production and foraged food.  This book rocked my world and shattered more than one belief I held about what I should be eating.  If there was a list of books that all Americans were required to read, I would argue that this book should be on that list.

Like the Kingsolver book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma does not discuss food insecurity or even hunger in America, but it does address how we feed ourselves and how far we have drifted from how our great grandparents fed themselves.  Several of the problems Pollan addresses in his book are the same ones touched upon in Kingsolver’s work and are interwoven into the problem of hunger in America.

Both of these authors have websites associated with either the specific book or the entirety of their writing.  I will include links below.  The website for Animal, Vegetable, Miracle contains excerpts and indices from the book, links to websites referenced in the book and all of the recipes discussed in the book.  Michael Pollan’s website has links to synopses of all his books, his articles, and websites he finds to be good resources.

I will continue to share books and articles that have influenced and/or educated me on the topic of food insecurity as well as the broader topic of food in America.  I welcome suggestions as well.  I’d love to hear what has shaped your thinking on this topic.

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