On the second Tuesday of every month, the meeting room above the Park Slope Food Coop fills with neighbors interested in the industry, politics, and culture of food. They gather to watch a thought-provoking film, take part in a Q&A, and enjoy some delicious refreshments — all for free, and for members and nonmembers alike.
It’s called Plow to Plate, and it’s been something of a well-kept Park Slope secret for over four years.
It started in September of 2009, when the Coop’s Safe Food Squad decided to create a film series which would put a spotlight on “issues related to the food system.” They began with H2 Worker, a documentary which examined the employment of nonimmigrant foreign workers for seasonal agricultural labor. Since then, they’ve proven just how wide-ranging “food system” issues are, with films about sustainability, the relationship between food and health, global agribusiness, the restaurant industry, even the history of Tupperware.
“I was invited by the team’s founder, Jay Tran, who wanted to use film to educate and inspire coop members about the impact their food choices have in the world,” she tells us. “The project was, in part, inspired by the fact that there are so many talented filmmakers in Brooklyn, many of whom belong to the Coop. We wanted to provide a space for residents of Brooklyn, Coop members or not, to see some of these incredible films about our food system.”
From the beginning, the goal has been to go beyond a simple viewing of the film, toward an active engagement in the dialogue surrounding it. Often a director, subject expert, or someone otherwise related to the film will sit in for a Q&A session after the screening. But why does Plow to Plate believe so strongly in publicizing these issues?
“The food system in America is in a dangerous state on a number of levels,” Lisa says, “and it’s important for consumers to recognize the power they have in using their dollar as a vote for a sustainable system for future generations. Education is the absolute best way to make a difference. Change starts at the individual level and we all have tremendous power in the choices we make about what we buy and how we nourish ourselves.”
The coordinators are always open to recommendations, and encourage feedback (email here). This month, they’ll be showing Food Beware: The French Organic Revolution, a 2008 French documentary about the dangerous consequences of agricultural toxins.
In it, director Jean-Paul Jaud speaks with farmers, health care workers, elected officials, researchers, children and parents to reveal varied perspectives on the relationship between food and health, and looks at practical solutions to the problems. Check it out tomorrow, December 10, at 7pm.