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Frances Moore Lappe on Food and Democracy

Portrait of Frances Moore Lappe

A Gallatin lecture with Frances Moore Lappe explores humanity’s fear of scarcity and the role that hunger plays in a democracy…

In 1971, the book Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé hit the shelves. It changed the landscape of how we thought about hunger. She posited that it wasn’t that there wasn’t enough food—there was more than enough—it was that we as a species were making scarcity out of plenty. The issue still remains, with an abundance of calories being produced but 1.8 billion children developmentally stunted because of malnutrition. Driven by her desire to figure out why there was pervasive hunger in the world, Lappé has taken a truly interdisciplinary and investigative approach to the issue of hunger and how to solve it. She uses sociology, ecology, gender studies, political science, and more to explore and explain and ultimately try to alleviate our current set of problems around world hunger.

At the March 12th Albert Gallatin Lecture Fat, Famine & Froot Loops: Where’s Democracy When We Need It? Lappé drew from her latest book, EcoMind: Changing the Way We Think to Build the World We Want and challenged listeners to think about why are we together making a world that we would never choose individually. To her, the ability to eat is linked not only to availability of resources, but democracy, saying, “If someone is going hungry then it means that they are being denied a voice in their circumstances.” And the truth of combatting hunger comes down to changing the way we conceptualize the world and our places in it.

She spoke about the power of a mindset and suggested that most people think using a “Scarcity Mind” —based in the belief in separateness, stasis, and, of course, scarcity. It’s this kind of mindset that allows us to accept conditions and situations that ultimately lead to the deprivation of others. However, with an EcoMind, which is focused on fostering connections, continuous change, and co-creation, we would be able to provide for more people.

She closed out the talk by offering a plan for how we should move forward. We as a society and as a species, said Lappé, can reach a place of mutual cooperation and accountability by being boldly humble. She stressed that we have to be conscientious and use our aggressively social nature (which can, at times lead us astray) and by making a public commitment to democracy.
— Melissa Bean