Diet for a dysfunctional planet

At the age of three, Anna Lappé accompanied her mother—“Diet for a Small Planet” author Francis Moore Lappé—on a research trip to Guatemala. Mother and daughter have taken many trips since then, including a journey round the world to explore food systems, hunger and poverty. That odyssey led in 2002 to “Hope’s Edge,” a sequel of sorts to “Small Planet.”

The word “hope” made it into the title, said Lappé, 29, at a Dec. 1 Institute for Environmental Studies seminar, because despite the obstacles, “there’s been a widespread emergence ... of communities and organizations looking to transform the food system.” Here in the U.S., she is heartened by efforts to make healthy food more accessible. Though corporations continue to eat up the competition—in 10 years, said Lappé, one in every three dollars spent on food will go to Wal-Mart—and 30,000 farms are lost every year, communities are fighting back.

Lappé noted the proliferation of farmers markets and the growth of the organics movement as hopeful signs, as well as the banning of junk food and sodas in public school systems—including Philadelphia—and community efforts to block genetically manufactured foods. “Yes, there are obstacles,” concluded Lappé, “but there are tangible things we can do.”

For future Institute for Environmental Studies seminars, go to www.sas.upenn.edu/earth/ies/seminar.html

Originally published on December 9, 2004