We’ve all heard plenty of bad news about America’s industrially farmed, long-distance, heavily processed, chemical-intensive food system, which is fueling obesity and global warming, among other ills.
But we haven’t heard enough good news about the growing effort to solve these problems and revolutionize the American food system. In the last decade, since the release of Eric Schlosser’s 2001 bestseller, Fast Food Nation, the shift toward a sustainable food system has become one of the most hopeful social movements of our time.
Here are 10 of the most powerful voices in the rising food movement:
Will Allen 1 of 10
Through his Milwaukee-based organization Growing Power, Will Allen has demonstrated that organic urban agriculture can bring not only good food to the inner city but good jobs as well. Allen now employs more than 100 urban farmers, most of them formerly homeless or incarcerated, and has brought the essential goal of social justice to the food movement.
Mark Bittman 2 of 10
A longtime weekly food columnist for The New York Times, Mark Bittman has been on a mission for decades to help Americans understand how to cook and eat healthy, whole foods simply and affordably. Recently he has been exposing the links between meat consumption, obesity, and global warming, and has been advocating vegetarianism.
Wendell Berry 3 of 10
Farmer, activist and author Wendell Berry has published more than 25 books, none more influential than his 1977 masterpiece The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture, which arguably touched off the movement to reform the American food system. His writing is grounded in the notion that your work must be rooted in the land and place you inhabit.
Wes Jackson 4 of 10
The president of The Land Institute , which he founded in 1976, Wes Jackson sees farming as the root of all problems we face as a civilization. He argues that fossil-fuel dependency, environmental pollution, overpopulation, and global warming stem from the moment when humans first started tilling the soil. He advocates small-scale "natural-systems agriculture" that nourishes the soil rather than depletes it.
John Mackey 5 of 10
The CEO of Whole Foods, which he co-founded in 1980, John Mackey is a controversial business leader who has been criticized by many for his radical political views. But there's no doubt that he's been a driving force in the spread of the organic and local foods movement throughout America and the world. Whole Foods currently has more than 340 stores in the U.S. and Canada, employs more than 73,000 people, and produces more than $11 billion in annual revenue.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore
Marion Nestle 6 of 10
New York University professor Marion Nestle is an indispensable voice working to reform the agricultural policies in the U.S. that are supporting the industrialized food system and putting small organic farmers at a disadvantage. She has also challenged the food-industry marketing that advocates America's unhealthy diet.
Michelle Obama 7 of 10
First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign has pushed the food issue into the public consciousness, showing how America's fast food diet fuels childhood obesity. She planted the first vegetable garden at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt's victory garden during World War II.
Jamie Oliver 8 of 10
The provocateur formerly known as the "Naked Chef," Jamie Oliver brought an edgy but passionate voice to the sustainable food movement through his TV show "Food Revolution" in which he taught middle and low-income Americans, many struggling with obesity, to cook healthy food from scratch. He has waged a zealous campaign against processed foods in school lunches.
Michael Pollan 9 of 10
Maybe no one has educated more Americans on the problems of our industrialized food system than Michael Pollan, author of bestselling books The Omnivore's Dilemma and Food Rules. Pollan has criticized in particular the prevalence of corn-derived ingredients in the American diet that are fueling the obesity epidemic and are grown with heavy petroleum inputs.
Alice Waters 10 of 10
Chef, writer, and activist Alice Waters has been at the helm of the sustainable foods movement since 1971 when she founded her seasonal, organic restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. The Edible Schoolyard Project she founded in 1995 at Berkeley's Martin Luther King Junior High School has since inspired a nationwide trend in school gardening.