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, CSUSM Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Planning Greig 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.

"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."