Saturday, August 22, 2009

Joel Berg speaks at the CIA

This past week I was invited back to my alma mater, the renowned Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, to listen to Joel Berg, author of All You Can Eat: How Hungry is America and founder of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger.

Joel Berg is an activist in the areas of hunger and food security around the country, with a home base in downtown Manhattan. I had the chance to meet with Berg earlier this year; we sat down one on one to discuss the issues of hunger and the importance of local, organic, and sustainable foods to the poverty-stricken communities of New York.

I started writing about food because I felt a need to educate people about the 36.2 million food insecure Americans and how we can help them obtain reasonably-priced, nutritious foods that are, hopefully, locally and organically grown in a manner that gives back to the earth.

With that in mind, I worked to connect the chefs at the CIA with Joel Berg to in order to organize this lecture for the students and faculty. Joel Berg is an accomplished man with an impressive resume; he's a graduate of Columbia University and served under the Clinton administration in senior executive service positions at USDA before founding the NYCCAH.

He spoke about the history of American hunger and what we can do to help. He had the opportunity to speak to a more focused audience than usual at the CIA, since food is the attendees' number one interest.

The lecture was intended to make the connection between cooking for necessity and cooking for passion. He revealed the possibilities of serving food to the food insecure and becoming an active member in local hunger organizations. He pressed people -- "citizens" -- to the hunger issue to local politicians' attention.

Berg repeatedly added that government intervention was needed, suggesting that, if the government would invest $24 billion into feeding the food insecure, we could potentially eliminate the $90 billion we spend every year on food insecure-related costs such as medical care and ongoing obesity problems.

He also discussed the relationship between malnutrition/obesity and food insecurity issues. Raj Patel does the same in his book Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System. Joel also addressed access issues, i.e. what it takes to obtain nutritious foods in low income areas of America. The lecture showed just how lucky we are to come home to a meal every night.

For more information or to join the fight, read All You Can Eat: How Hungry is America? by Joel Berg and check out the NYCCAH.

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