Tavis Smiley recently interviewed both Judith A. Carney, coauthor of In the Shadow of Slavery, and Janet Poppendieck, author of Free for All, on his Public Radio International show.

Asked about the inspiration behind her research, Carney describes how working in agricultural development in West Africa and across the Americas raised her interest in studying food systems in diaspora communities. Exploring further, she discovered that many foods familiar in the Americas, like rice, okra, millet, and sorghum, were originally brought, planted, and cultivated by slaves from Africa. These foods became a rich and nutritious botanical legacy, and became the foundation of new cuisines and food systems. This story has much to teach us today, Carney finds, as highly processed, low-nutrition foods abound: “By teaching ourselves what is good for our body and how people have collectively survived for centuries on these diets…this is a good time for us to have this conversation and to teach through food”, she says. Listen to Judith Carney on The Tavis Smiley show.

Janet Poppendieck

Poppendieck explains how the school lunch program became a business, focused more on trying to sell food to students than on nutrition. To keep under budget, cafeterias slashed costs, and nutritional value, from the menu. She describes how federally mandated nutritional standards lead to situations like schools cutting out whole milk to cut fat from the school lunch, but then substituting sugary chocolate milk to replace some of the calories. She points out that while the regulated school lunches are not the main cause of childhood obesity, the unregulated snack foods sold in the cafeteria and in vending machines are a major factor. Free lunch should be universal, says Poppendieck, and business has no place in the cafeteria. Listen to Janet Poppendieck on The Tavis Smiley Show.

Save the date: On April 5, Janet Poppendieck will speak at a panel discussion in downtown Oakland (location TBA) about the policy issues raised in Free for All.
More details here