CSUSM Professor Co-Authors Book on Bay Area Food Democracy

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Media Contact: Margaret Lutz | mlutz@csusm.edu

CA Cuisine

Organic, slow, whole,  ethical, seasonal – these are all words that might be used to describe the rising food movement known as California cuisine, a style of food that integrates the flavors and styles of food from around the world with fresh, local ingredients. In recent years Michael Pollen, author of Omnivore’s Dilemma, and Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, have turned the public’s attention to the inequities and contradictions in our industrial food system, highlighting the benefits of cooking at home with real, wholesome ingredients. Now, as Americans turn a more critical eye to the contents of their fast food paper bags and their children’s school lunches, California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Planning, Grieg Tor Guthey, has co-authored a book that focuses on food access and fairness among San Francisco Bay Area alternative food activists and advocates. 

In California Cuisine and Just Food, recently published by MIT Press, Guthey partners with researchers Sally Fairfax, Louise Nelson Dyble, Lauren Gwin, Monica Moore and Jennifer Sokolove to explore how the Bay Area became one of the epicenters of today’s expanding alternative food movement, a vibrant district of diverse interest groups working to produce a nutritious, sustainable and just food system.

“This is not just a story about food alone,” said Guthey, “It’s a story about the past and present efforts to conserve land and open space, make conditions safe for food service workers and laborers, and to create fair access to nutritious, good food for rich and poor alike.” 

The alternative food movement brings together a dizzying array of diverse people with a shared agenda. Farm workers, nonprofit leaders, Environmental Protection Agency representatives, doctors and scientists, academics, food service workers, artisanal farmers and food producers, restaurateurs and chefs, community organizers and environmentalists are among those that have come to the table, so to speak, to improve America’s food and change the way people eat. 

“What’s clear about the Bay Area food movement is that change doesn’t happen all at once,” said Guthey. In fact, the book chronicles about 50 years of escalating food quality expectations in the region, beginning with a rejection of corporate commodity foods in the 1960s in favor of bulk, unprocessed and vegetarian alternatives to the realization of the different impacts of diet-related health issues, food crafters and food system workers in the 2000s. 

In California Cuisine, the authors show that progress toward food democracy in the Bay Area has been significant: innovators have built on familiar yet quite radical understandings of regional cuisine to generate new, broadly shared expectations about food quality, and activists have targeted the problems that the conventional food system creates. But Guthey and his colleagues caution that there are many food challenges that remain. 

About Greig tor Guthey: CSUSM Faculty Expert

Guthey’s research interests include economic geography, environment and planning, sustainable economies, agriculture, food, wine and complexity. Currently he is developing a community garden on CSUSM’s campus, dubbed “The Food Project,” while also working on an article about sustainability and place. 

About California State University San Marcos

California State University San Marcos combines the ambiance of a mid-sized, personal, modern campus with the unequaled value of the California State University. Since its founding in 1989, the campus has distinguished itself. Students benefit from the latest facilities and equipment, a superb faculty that enjoys teaching, and a rigorous academic program that prepares students for a successful life in and out of the workplace. A recent survey reported that our annual spending in the region was $161 million, generating a total impact of $307 million on the regional economy. Eighty-five percent of CSUSM’s alumni stay in the region. CSU San Marcos is located on a 304-acre hillside overlooking the city of San Marcos. It is 15 miles east of the ocean; just 30 miles north of downtown San Diego.