Doing Good with Food (and Food Blogs): An Interview with The Giving Table
When I discovered the The Giving Table, I knew I had stumbled upon something that was right up my alley.
Those of us that talk, write, and post about food are privileged to be able to do so. While we might be concerned over whether or not cardamom or cinnamon would be a better spice to use (answer: cardamom) most of the world is simply dealing with getting food on the table. As I wrote a few weeks ago, “We have to start to learn how to turn passion for food into a passion for improving the food system, taking the pleasure that we get from eating and transforming it into advocating for real food, not only for the privileged, but for everyone.”
And that is when I came upon The Giving Table, which is attempting to do just that.
Started by Nicole Gulotta, The Giving Table’s tagline is simple: “Doing Good with Food.” Gulotta does that by mobilizing food bloggers and others to participate in social campaigns. Think about all those food blogs and all those food blog readers out there. If you could get them all to put some money towards a good cause, it would be sure to have some impact. Well that’s exactly how Giving Table works. It recently wrapped up a campaign supporting the Lunchbox Fund, an organization who provides daily meals for orphaned and impoverished children in townships and rural areas in South Africa.
I caught up with Gulotta to learn more about the inspiration for The Giving Table, how it works and how she sees the food world changing.
Anna Brones: What inspired you to launch The Giving Table?
Nicole Gulatta: As a food blogger, I was looking for ways to give back in a meaningful way. I started researching nonprofit organizations that worked in the food realm but couldn’t find what I was looking for online, so I created The Giving Table to act as a resource. Over time, it’s evolved into a platform to empower other food bloggers to take action and help improve the food system.
Give us the basics for how it works?
NG: Food bloggers develop content for their websites every day and attract loyal readers through their engaging storytelling and delicious recipes. The Giving Table’s “donate a post” model works in tandem with this content, and fits seamlessly into existing strategies. It’s a regular post with a deeper message. Every post includes three sections—a narrative, a recipe, and a call to action—and guidelines are provided for every campaign so our messaging remains consistent. The day of the event, bloggers help spread the word on social media, and reach out to their networks to join us.
AB: When we talk about “good food” it very quickly gets labeled as a pretentious thing. What can we do to democratize the subject of food?
NG: I think people assume it’s pretentious when they haven’t experienced it for themselves. Eating locally is about building community, supporting regional food economies, and being empowered by cooking for yourself and your family. When you think about food in a local way, it’s a lot more natural than how we function now. Farmers markets offer direct access to growers, rather than the barriers you find in supermarkets with food packaged by companies you know little about, yet control the majority of our food supply. Education tends to work in most sectors when it comes to changing perception. When people are aware of the issues and have tools to positively impact the system (like cooking at home or participating in Meatless Monday, for example), the tides will start to shift.
AB: What are some of your favorite food activism organizations?
NG: Share Our Strength focuses on eliminating childhood hunger in the U.S, which is a silent epidemic gradually coming into the light. There’s a relatively new organization supported by Tom Colicchio called Food Policy Action that rates members of Congress based on how they vote on food policies. It’s amazing to see how your representatives have voted on certain issues. On the animal welfare front, Mercy for Animals and The Humane Society are on the front lines exposing animal abuse and our broken factory farm system.
AB: Who is a food activist that you look up to and why?
NG: Alice Waters is inspiring. She’s created an entire movement to change how we approach food in the classroom, and it all started with one garden in Berkeley.
AB: Let’s say you talk with someone who is passionate about food and wants to start taking steps to make positive change in the food world. What’s the one thing that you suggest they do?
NG: I believe in the power of small changes. Buying a few more organic groceries, incorporating more meatless meals throughout the week, and cooking more at home are all great ways to start making a difference. Over time, what began as a conscious choice (and maybe even a struggle) to change, will feel like second nature. I also think it’s important to find out what’s going on locally and get involved in some way, whether it’s volunteering with a local food organization or getting to know farmers at your weekend market.
AB: Do you feel positive about the future of food politics or not?
NG: I feel mostly positive. Even a few years ago, we weren’t having conversations about GMOs and food labeling and obesity. Now it’s a normal topic of conversation around dinner tables and in the media. People are becoming more interested in what they’re eating, where it came from, and whether or not it’s healthy. Eventually, things will change because consumers demand it.
AB: Favorite thing to make at home?
NG: My standard answer is usually risotto, but lately I’ve been enjoying composing giant salads with a lot of different flavors and textures. Sometimes there’s nothing better.
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