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Preaching to the Choir

It started with UPS. Not long ago I was driving through Los Angeles and while stopped at a light, turned and looked out the window. Directly next to me, parked on the side of the street, was a UPS truck where a driver was presumably taking his lunch break. He was drinking a Coke and eating a small package of crackers with cheese inside. I cringed. It was everything lunch shouldn’t be: mindless, unhealthy and lacking any nutrients that would fuel the rest of his afternoon.

That moment (and in reality, it truly was just a moment), made me think about who we’re trying to reach with all this good food chatter. I don’t need the message, and you probably don’t either. If you’re here or following me on Twitter, you already care enough about food to learn more about the issues facing our food system. I don’t need to tell you to eat healthier or buy your produce from local farms or volunteer at soup kitchens. The people we need to reach are out there, going about their lives, eating crackers and drinking soda for lunch.

How do we affect change for the people who aren’t already in the choir? In the third installment of an interview with Michael Pollan in the Washington Post, Pollan addresses the “preaching to the choir” syndrome.

“That argument about the choir, that stings, and I’m always trying to figure out ways to get past it. That’s why I wrote this book. The original “Food Rules” was an attempt to write a book for people who don’t want to read a whole book on food. A book that people can hand their parents or their kids or doctors can hand to their patients, that is really just cut to the chase, entertaining, pretty simple. That was my goal.

I never set out to write a bestseller before, and that book I did set out to write a bestseller. I wanted to do everything I could to sell as many copies of that book as I could, and that reached a lot of people who are not in the choir. And has been given to a lot of people who are not in the choir.”

I don’t have answers to the questions I’m posing today, but I wanted to get these ideas out in the open. It’s certainly a challenge to convince a nation of people who rely on cheap, fast food to pay more for organic produce, eat less meat and cook their meals at home. Good food is a choice, and creating new habits or consciously changing one’s relationship to food forces change. And change is hard.

4 Comments to Preaching to the Choir

  1. One thought: It seems like-minded people tend to congregate. It’s easier for us to have friends and family over for supper when we know they agree with our lifestyle. Maybe the movement is about reaching 1 person at a time. Inviting a friend into your home and sharing a meal, giving a basket of farm fresh produce or artisan products for a special occasion, or inviting someone to help you harvest from the garden. I think living by example and making time to share with others is a way to reach beyond the choir.

  2. I found that the best way to change my eating and purchasing habits has been education, so even if you feel like you’re preaching to the choir, you’re surely sharing tidbits that they don’t already know. I love that Michael Pollan book—my baby brother is a freshman in college this year and majoring in nutrition, and I plan to give it to him for Christmas.

  3. givingtable

    @ladomestique: I like this sentiment. One person at a time seems manageable to me!
    @Cookie and Kate: I agree, education is so important to help shift the mindset. And what a great gift idea for the holidays!

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Food for Thought

"To care about food but not food production is clearly absurd." // Wendell Berry

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