Saturday, March 10, 2012
Sacramento Food Film Festival
"Wait, Sacramento is having a Food Film Festival?" I thought in amazement. Discovering this event felt like someone designed and custom tailored a city-wide event according to my own personal interests. Even better, it meant that these issues were of interest not just to me, but to a much larger local community.
So today, off I went to the Guild Theater (pictured above) for a morning full of educational documentaries on the US food system. You might be thinking that this could put you to sleep, but in reality, it is a universal subject that affects each and every human being in our country, because seriously: we all need to eat. What we choose to eat and how speaks volumes about our values.
The three films I viewed were all awesome. I saw:
* The Last Crop: This locally filmed documentary followed a local husband-and-wife team (the Mains, above) who have organically run Good Humus Farm in the Central Valley since 1976. The film focuses on their struggle to obtain a land easement that would conserve their farmland for future generations. Their criteria: The land must be farmed, organically, by farmers who live on the land.
There were lots of fun interviews done locally here at the Davis Farmer's Market and local Natural Foods Co-Ops. Most surprising to me was how little California land is being conserved for farming - shocking, considering how much of the world our state provides with year-round produce!
* Dive: I expected this indie documentary to be another homage to the joys of "freeganism" - you know, hipsters retrieving gourmet delights from dumpsters, bemoaning our consumerism and wasteful society, eating like king's off of other people's only semi-expired meat, eggs, produce and dairy products...
I was only half right.
While the creator of the film starts off gloating over the spoils of his dumpster-diving expeditions, his perspective evolves to questioning why the still-good food isn't being donated to local charities and food banks. I learned that under the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act passed by Bill Clinton, grocery stores are protected from being sued for giving away their excess food to non-profits.
Yet many stores remain overly conservative, only giving away bread and dry goods while valuable fresh goods spoil in dumpsters. The film director hopes to foster ties between grocery stores and the truly needy of society so that the 30 million tons of wasted food our country produces each year can go to a better use than sitting in landfills.
* Lunch Line: This film sought to understand our school lunch system: where it came from (the government's desire to use excess food during the Great Depression), how it changed over the years (it became free to all but received no additional funding), and what needs to change now.
I had never stopped to think about school lunch as a form of socialism, but I learned that when it was first implemented, that's how some folks saw it and why they didn't like it. This film was entertaining and funny - the creation of the school lunch program is explained in terms of Twilight - yes, that's right, werewolves and vampires! You gotta see it to get it.
Another valuable point made that struck me is that it's one thing to jump on board the Jamie Oliver Food Revolution bandwagon and demand better school lunches, but it's another thing to find the funding to make it happen. My own school district cancelled all bus routes this week, so obviously they have significant budgetary concerns, landing school lunches near the bottom of their priority list.
A student at our local high school shared with me the following regarding his daily school lunch:
"You can get a small slice of pizza, or a smashed, nasty cheese-burger or a salad made of only iceberg lettuce. Obviously, the salad is a better choice, however, they run out before most kids even get into the line. Sure, each choice has fruits and veggies. The fruits are bruised, old, waxy and small. Oh yeah, and you only get one. The "veggies" are two or three baby carrot sticks with maybe a leaf or two of lettuce.
I have had several milks which are WAY, and I stress WAY, past due date as well. Many kids get a taco bowl for lunch which is a burnt taco bowl with super greasy, nasty meat, refried (again with the fried) beans with more iceberg lettuce and jalepenos. As a student of River City High School, I agree, they could do much, much better."
Clearly we can do better, but where is the funding going to come from? What price are we willing to pay to ensure that children (who obtain half of their calories every day at school) can be nourished? Should kids who are able to bring their own lunch from home rather than pay for rubbish? These are questions that I'll be pondering for a long time yet.