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Excerpt: Food Town, USA by Mark Winne


Today The Preserve Journal Blog proudly and excitedly shares an excerpt from Mark Winne's newest book: Food Town, USA - Seven Unlikely Cities that are Changing the Way we Eat.


Mark Winne has worked for 50 years as a community food activist, writer, and trainer. From organizing breakfast programs for low-income children in Maine to developing innovative national food policies in Washington, DC, Winne has dedicated his professional life and writing to enabling people to find solutions to their own

food problems as well as those that face their communities and the world. (link)



We are also excited to announce that we can all look forward to reading even more from Mark Winne in The Preserve Journal ISSUE NO 3, where Mark has generously contributed a marvellous and inspiring piece called 'A Thousand Tropics in an Apple Blossom'. We cannot wait to share this with you!


Excerpt from Food Town, USA - Seven Unlikely Cities that are Changing the Way we Eat:


For 18 months I explored seven U.S. cities that, with perhaps one exception, were not known to most Americans for their exciting food scenes nor achievements in the food justice arena. They were somewhat “average” places that I had been “tipped off” to by various colleagues in the food movement as worth a careful look. They were places, according to my sources and later confirmed by over 100 interviews, where good food was fast becoming the new “normal” and whose people were putting their shoulders to the problems of climate change, opioid addiction, hunger, and racial inequality. I share these stories and present my conclusions – ones that are as universal to most North American cities as they are particular to these seven cities – in my new book Food Town, USA – Seven Unlikely Cities that Are Changing the Way We Eat


(https://islandpress.org/books/food-town-usa. Use code WINNE for 20% discount).


My travels and analyses produced several discoveries that will, if applied widely, make food a critical part of improving the quality of life for citizens of all cities. Among those discoveries was the role city governments must play in using food to promote sustainability, health, and equality.  In the following excerpt from Food Town, USA, I share a somewhat fanciful but nevertheless achievable plan to place cities at the forefront of socio-economic-environmental change.


“Should, by a bizarre twist of fate, I be elected mayor of a struggling city, I would move ahead aggressively with the following ‘lessons learned.’ First, foster a climate of social and economic entrepreneurism. Nurture, nest, and incubate the creative impulse of the people so that a thousand ideas bloom. Even if economic development funds are limited, provide seed grants where possible, and promote forums to raise up ideas, provide technical assistance, and offer mutual support to budding entrepreneurs. Ancillary to this strategy, I would put up the welcome sign for millennials—those who are returning home as well as those who never left. And whatever public “goodies” might be available—first-time homebuyer assistance targeting declining neighborhoods; two-dollar local craft beers every Thursday night on the town green—I would be certain to promote, even if I was the one drawing the beers.


I would pull together my economic development, planning, and public health staff to make food a priority. Were there neighborhoods underserved by affordable and healthy food outlets? They would be the first to receive assistance. Do we know how much food is purchased annually in our city by both the private and public sectors? If not, I would commission the necessary study; once those numbers are known, we would set goals for the purchase of food that is produced, processed, and distributed by locally owned farms and companies. Are there hospitals and educational institutions within my city limits who are not doing all that they can to support our local economy, including buying local food? If they weren’t, I would meet frequently with their respective CEOs to ask why not, and if they persisted with bureaucratic mumbo jumbo, invite them to weekly luncheons where I’d serve only locally produced meals until they relented.


Of course, the educational institutions would be expected to offer a variety of courses and programs on food and farming; the health care institutions would be expected to make “Food Is Medicine” both a mantra and a policy. Finally, I’d identify the brightest and most enthusiastic member of my staff and appoint her my Minister of Multicultural Celebration and Festivalization. Her sole duty will be to bring merriment to the streets of our city.


I will cast my eyes beyond the city limits and let it be known that all who produce food and beverages for our city are welcome, provided they care for our region’s natural resources and the people who work for them. If they can’t do that, then they are welcome to change, and I and my administration will do all that we can to help them move in that direction. We’ll let it be known that if you are a farmer selling food to us, we will do our part to ensure that your quality of life is not below ours. And if you are already a citizen of our place but struggle to make ends meet or wrestle with addictions, we are ready to ensure a healthy diet, and with assistance from our state and national governments that we will insist upon, the services you need will be provided.


Sustainability will inform all our work, and resilience in the face of climate change will be our manifesto. We will own what we have done to the earth by collectively altering our behaviors and by fighting any action that denies future generations the same well-being that we have enjoyed. I will ride my bike to all public events, carry my groceries in my baskets, and encourage others to do the same. My children and spouse will probably do even more, putting their old man to shame.


And every morning before I head out on my daily mission, I will lift my glasses to my face, the ones specially fitted with equity lenses, so that I can more clearly see the accumulated injustices of the place I was elected to govern. I will let others look through those spectacles as well so that they may see what I do, and that together we can work for the necessary corrections.”



About the author:

From 1979 to 2003, Mark Winne was the Executive Director of the Hartford Food System, a private non-profit agency that works on food and hunger issues in the Hartford, Connecticut area. During his tenure with HFS, Mark organized community self-help food projects that assisted the city’s lower income and elderly residents. Mark’s work with the Food System included the development of commercial food businesses, Connecticut’s Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, farmers’ markets, a 25-acre community supported agriculture farm, a food bank, food and nutrition education programs, and a neighborhood supermarket.


Mark is a co-founder of a number of food and agriculture policy groups including the City of Hartford Food Policy Commission, the Connecticut Food Policy Council, End Hunger Connecticut!, and the national Community Food Security Coalition. He was an organizer and chairman of the Working Lands Alliance, a statewide coalition working to preserve Connecticut’s farmland, and is a founder of the Connecticut Farmland Trust.

Mark was a member of the United States delegation to the 2000 World Conference on Food Security in Rome and is a 2001 recipient of the U.S. Department of Agriculture

Secretary’s Plow Honor Award. From 2002 until 2004, Mark was a Food and Society Policy Fellow, a position supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Mark serves part time as a Senior Advisor to the Food Policy Networks Project at the Johns Hopkins University Center for a Livable Future.


Mark currently writes, speaks, and consults extensively on community food system topics including hunger and food insecurity, local and regional agriculture, community food assessment, and food policy. Since 2013, Mark has served as a Senior Advisor at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future where he works on local and state food policy. His essays and opinion pieces have appeared in the Hartford Courant, the Boston Globe, The Nation, In These Times, Sierra Magazine, Orion Magazine, Successful Farming, Yes! Magazine, and numerous organizational and professional journals. Mark blogs regularly at www.markwinne.com. He is the author of Stand Together or Starve Alone: Unity and Chaos in the U.S. Food Movement (Praeger Press 2018), Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty (Beacon Press 2008), and the forthcoming Food Rebels, Guerilla Gardeners, and Smart Cookin’ Mamas: Fighting Back in an Age of Industrial Agriculture (Beacon Press, 2010).

Mark now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Mark holds a bachelor’s degree from Bates College and a master’s degree from Southern New Hampshire University. (link)


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