Lana Dee Povitz presents Stirrings: How Activist New Yorkers Ignited a Movement for Food Justice (University of North Carolina Press, 2019), in conversation with Kim Phillips-Fein and Kathy Goldman.
In the last three decades of the twentieth century, government cutbacks, stagnating wages, AIDS, and gentrification pushed ever more people into poverty, and hunger reached levels unseen since the Depression. In response, New Yorkers set the stage for a nationwide food justice movement. Whether organizing school lunch campaigns, establishing food co-ops, or lobbying city officials, citizen-activists made food a political issue, uniting communities across lines of difference. The charismatic, usually female leaders of these efforts were often products of earlier movements: American communism, civil rights activism, feminism, even Eastern mysticism. Situating food justice within these rich lineages, Lana Dee Povitz demonstrates how grassroots activism continued to thrive, even as it was transformed by unrelenting erosion of the country’s already fragile social safety net.
Using dozens of new oral histories and archives, Povitz reveals the colorful characters who worked behind the scenes to build and sustain the movement, and illuminates how people worked together to overturn hierarchies rooted in class and race, reorienting the history of food activism as a community-based response to austerity. The first book-length history of food activism in a major American city, Stirrings highlights the emotional, intimate, and interpersonal aspects of social movement culture.
Lana Dee Povitz is visiting assistant professor of history at Middlebury College.
Kim Phillips-Fein teaches American history at New York University. She is the author of Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics (Metropolitan Books, 2017) and Invisible Hands: The Businessmen’s Crusade Against the New Deal (W.W. Norton, 2009).
Kathy Goldman is a long-time community activist who has been working on food, hunger and poverty issues since 1965. In 1980, she founded the Community Food Resource Center, now part of the Food Bank for New York City, and served as its Executive Director until 2003. With longtime collaborator Agnes Molnar, she co-founded the Community Food Advocates, Inc. Goldman’s advocacy work has focused on federal food programs, such as school lunch and breakfast, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). She is a lifelong New Yorker.
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