It seems like everywhere you look lately, food is in the mainstream media.
There are the articles about food crises, like salmonella in your spinach or listeria in your deli meat. The provenance of our food is increasingly unknown, and it’s amazing how disconnected we are as a society and how few people actually seem to care.
And you can’t forget the stories about food security or impending scarcity, and how we’re all going to hell in a handbasket for enjoying too many hamburgers or copious amounts of factory-farmed meat. Not to mention the hullabaloo over obesity epidemics caused by the vast quantities of processed crap that most of us have become too accustomed to swallowing, making us akin to force-fed fois gras geese.
Food’s permeated entertainment media too, with movies like No Reservations, Spanglish, Ratatouille, and the soon to be released Julie and Julia using the culinary arts as their captivating backdrop. Not one to be left out, in recent years reality television’s also jumped on the edible bandwagon with a plethora of shows to satisfy rampant foodies, like Top Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, The Chopping Block and many more (dishonorable mention goes to the crapfest that was The Restaurant – shudder!)
While I love the vast majority of content coming out of the food media menagerie, the segment I’m most keen on (and which coincidentally is growing) is that which is focused on using food as a humanitarian equalizing aid. There’s a whole new division of people using food to teach, transform and heal, and taking the idea of food as nourishment to it’s altruistic climax. Jamie Oliver did it when he first started Fifteen, shepherding misguided British youth to a more purposeful existence. Jeff Henderson took a stab at it too with his rather popular Chef Jeff Project, rehabilitating young drug dealers, gang bangers and other ne’er-do-wells by mentoring them in his catering business. And on our side of the border, Marc Thuet is currently giving ex-cons a second chance by staffing his newest venture, Conviction with them (results supposedly will air this fall).
This seeming trend is all the more reason why the appearance of this documentary warms my heart. I empathize with those who don’t have enough; specifically people who are marginalized and made to feel like they have no other options. That there are kindhearted individuals finding ways to use food to unite, inspire and help those who are less fortunate is truly a godsend. For those of us who are lucky, food is something we might not think too much about, other than for brief moments leading up to it’s consumption 3 times a day. For others, what may have once been a cause for concern or anxiety is now becoming a lifeline for making something of themselves and seizing a golden opportunity. Food always had the power to bring people together, but now it’s on the cusp of becoming the medium to purport positive life change. That’s a really amazing thing to witness.