Cozy Up: Book and Film Picks for the New Year

Ashley Symons
January 2, 2018

With the start of a new year often comes reflection and resolution: eat healthier, save money, cook more. It's also really cold and dark in much of the country, which can mean increased time spent indoors. In this spirit, we'd thought we'd share some film and book recommendations from our Action Forum community. (Learn more about the Action Forum and join online discussions here.) Everything on this list relates to the food system, commodities, buying habits, farm histories, etc. It's by no means a complete list. What are some of your favorites or what's in your queue? Share in the comments below. 

In no particular order: 

Films & Documentaries

Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things - Examines the many flavors of minimalism by taking the audience inside the lives of minimalists from all walks of life—families, entrepreneurs, architects, artists, journalists, scientists, and even a former Wall Street broker—all of whom are striving to live a meaningful life with less. 

Black Gold - Tadesse Meskela is a man on a mission to save 74,000 struggling coffee farmers from bankruptcy. As the farmers strive to harvest some of the highest quality coffee beans on the international market, Tadesse travels the world in an attempt to find buyers willing to pay a fair price.

In Search of Balance - explores a vision of health, science and nature that recognizes the importance of the interconnections between us, the food we consume, how we produce that food and the natural world at large including the mysterious, invisible world of the human microbiome. Through conversations with scientists, doctors, farmers and personal stories of healing, In Search of Balance uncovers the myriad ways of how it’s all connected.

Cooked - Explored through the lenses of the four natural elements – fire, water, air and earth – Cooked is an enlightening and compelling look at the evolution of what food means to us through the history of food preparation and its universal ability to connect us. Highlighting our primal human need to cook, the series urges a return to the kitchen to reclaim our lost traditions and to forge a deeper, more meaningful connection to the ingredients and cooking techniques that we use to nourish ourselves.

​​Waste Land - Filmed over nearly three years, ​Waste Land follows renowned artist Vik Muniz as he journeys from his home base in Brooklyn to his native Brazil and the world's largest garbage dump​.​

The Price of Sugar - A film about exploitation of Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic involved with production of sugar, and the efforts of Spanish priest Father Christopher Hartley to ameliorate their situation.

Food, Inc. - This film lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government's regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA.

We Feed the World - A film about food and globalization, fishermen and farmers, long-distance lorry drivers and high-powered corporate executives, the flow of goods and cash flow–a film about scarcity amid plenty. With its unforgettable images, the film provides insight into the production of our food and answers the question what world hunger has to do with us. 

Women in Coffee - From farmer to barista, the film profiles five inspiring women who are paving the way in the coffee industry, while also showing the journey coffee takes to get to your cup. "Women in Coffee" offers a perfect opportunity to spark community discussions around Fair Trade, gender empowerment, and relationships across food supply chains.

Readings

Storefront Revolution: Food Co-ops and the Counterculture - In the 1960s, the cooperative networks of food stores, restaurants, bakeries, bookstores, and housing alternatives were part counterculture, part social experiment, part economic utopia, and part revolutionary political statement. The co-ops gave activists a place where they could both express themselves and accomplish at least some small-scale changes. But these activists could not always agree among themselves on their goals.

Concentration and Power in the Food System: Who Controls What We Eat? - This book reveals the dominant corporations, from the supermarket to the seed industry, and the extent of their control over markets. It also analyzes the strategies these firms are using to reshape society in order to further increase their power. 

The Small-Mart Revolution: How Local Businesses Are Beating the Global Competition - Explores the benefits that mega-stores and huge corporations supposedly deliver to communities are illusory. Crunch the numbers and you'll find that locally owned businesses turn out to be much more reliable generators of good jobs, economic growth, tax dollars, community wealth, charitable contributions, social stability, and political participation.

The Populist Movement: A Short History of the Agrarian Revolt in America -  A concise review of how agrarian political insurgents challenged America’s two party political system and the corporate state it protected. 

Good Food, Strong Communities - Shares ideas and stories about efforts to improve food security in large urban areas of the United States by strengthening community food systems.

The New Food Activism: Opposition, Cooperation, and Collective Action - Explores how food activism can be pushed toward deeper and more complex engagement with social, racial, and economic justice and toward advocating for broader and more transformational shifts in the food system. 

The History of Authentic Fair Trade: A Comic Book - To help articulate an authentic version of Fair Trade,​ Equal Exchange​ created a comic book that presents the history of Fair Trade with illustrated condensed stories, and heroes and villains​, in hope that r​eaders will dig deeper, ask questions, and think about the future of small farmers, co-ops, and alternative trade organizations.