As a blogger about applied storytelling, my goal with Blog Action Day is to explore the ways food and story intersect.
We can tell something of a visual story with food. Food is is the center of many of our cultural traditions — the stories we regularly enact. A PBS series, for example, The Meaning of Food explored “our relationships to food and reveals the connection food has to our identity: personal, cultural, and familial. Everything about eating — including what we consume, how we acquire it, who prepares it, who’s at the table, and who eats first — is a form of communication that is rich with meaning.” When the series site states, “Our attitudes, practices, and rituals surrounding food are a window into our most basic beliefs about our world and ourselves,” it could just as easily be saying that attitudes, practices, and rituals surrounding food are a window into our stories.
Similarly, Earthbound Farms supports its brand by offering a Web site section of Food Stories, about how “the stories of our food adventures are the stuff of rich family traditions and deep friendships.” Doesn’t look like the site has been updated since 2009, however.
The blogger behind Victual Storytelling asserts that a story to tell exists behind every meal. “I hope to show you something new about food,” she writes, “through the meals I eat, the people who feed me, those I cook for and the stories behind the food.”
Much of the narrative about food in recent years has concerned the unhealthful and inhumane aspects of the Western diet, the industrial food system, and factory farming. Author Michael Pollan(The Omniivore’s Dilemma and several other titles) is well-known for telling the harrowing stories of our food system. A Canadian effort that has gained significant buzz is The Story of Food, a 5:40 video intended to get people thinking “about our broken food system and what’s gone wrong!” The film is embedded at the end of this post.
How did our system get this way? The book, The Hungry World “tells multiple stories about people and institutions that played major roles in the 20th century struggle to ‘modernize’ the production of food, an intrinsically non-modern activity.
In From Factory Farm to Vegan, Angie Hammond tells her story of growing up on a chicken factory farm but later evolving into a vegan.
The flip side is of the farming system is the relationship of food to sustainable living, a subject covered in Cooking Up a Story, which offers “unique documentary stories about farmers and ranchers, food artisans, and others whose lives center around sustainable food and agriculture.”
Consumers are increasingly concerned about the story of where their food comes from. In the curriculum guide, Nourish, “Each story includes when, where, why, and how a certain food gets from the farm to your plate and who is involved in getting it there.”
In Food Curated, Liza DiGuia hopes to share stories of where good food comes from through short documentaries. “I believe food is a shared experience,” she writes, “and there is so much to the process that I find so beautiful and so compelling to film and capture.”
Perhaps the most significant way that Blog Action Day can raise awareness of food issues is by addressing hunger. As with any sort of cause, stories are a powerful way bring the issue to life. Three sites that tell stories about hunger are:
- The Real Stories section of Feeding America
- The Stories section of the Austin Food Bank’s site
- The Hunger Stories section of World Vision’s site.
- Hunger Map 2011, which tells a visual story of worldwide hunger.