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12/16/2012: "Mixed Bag: Trickle Down Dining, Growing Food Waste, Looming Grain Crisis, Continuing Converations"

121612Salmonjars654 (35k image)
Eating Alaska continues to travel: College and University campuses, public libraries, community groups, homes, conferences, food justice and food security discussions. In Alaska, where the film is set, the conversations have changed since we started cooking up this project.

We began the film with women hunting as a thread. A hook--as we challenged ourselves to tell a coherent, funny and serious story of what it means to eat local and to think about where food comes from. We wanted to mix sharing and extolling beautiful scenery, a frontier spirit and living close to the land, hunting and harvesting wild foods with realistic challenges like toxins polluting wild food and farmed fish damaging wild stocks. We decided to take viewers on an adventure and mix in food colonization impacting the health of Alaska Natives, barge and plane based food miles, a harsh climate and the end of cheap oil.

In Alaska, as well as other places, there's some good news since we wrapped the film and set off screening and airing Eating Alaska from Fairbanks to Warsaw, in small rural libraries and schools, urban film festivals and national conferences. There are more farmers' markets now. There's a state food policy council, e-mails filled with updates on resources to create gardens and improve food opportunities, plus efforts to get local fish on the plates of kids in school. More funders, politicians, writers and other non-profits have joined in the conversations about food systems, local economies, making a connection to food and the environment, to the value of protecting a resource like salmon for economic, as well as ecological reasons. Chickens and backyard gardens are on the rise. But so are food prices and the gaps in who gets to eat well.

Add this to the mix on the national and international front: Prop 37 in California, requiring the labeling of GMO's on foods failed. Food safety breakdowns with peanut butter, spinach and eggs has led to recalls and lots of media. Yet as an article on the Grace Foundation site suggests, this has "failed to change the way food is produced, or processed." There are discussions of food waste. For example, Susie Cagle writes in Grist, "40% of food grown in the U.S. is trashed -- and a lot of it is still perfectly edible." Plus there's new studies of how food insecurity increases the likelihood of shopping for low prices, impacting food choices and obesity.

A new year is around the corner. While the UN warns of looming worldwide food crisis and food unrest, growing out of low grain reserves, at least handful more of us will be eating kale and beets. According to a restaurant consultant group: "Its observation on trickle-down dining sticks out in particular. Kale, beet greens, chard, turnip greens and mustard greens -- all rejected by mainstream diners in past years -- are "trick[ling] down to mass-market feeders." A burger with BBQ-flavored kale chips is a thing, apparently." (Read more on the crisis at the Guardian and on food trends at Huffington Post)

Like our documentary, with its twists and turns, there isn't a one size fits all solution to how more people can get access to healthy sustainable affordable food. We can hope and take part in a larger movement to ensure that awareness and discussion go hand in hand with action and can help impact attitudes as well as policies and programs.

In the meanwhile, that image above is our home caught and canned smoked salmon. Our gifts for the season. Doing it yourself takes time. it serves not only as sustenance, but at times, as a good buffer against the darkness of headlines and the results of studies.

Ellen Frankenstein, on 12.16.12 @ 22:45AKT