Diet for a Small Planet revisited


by Jackie Alfonso | April 29, 2009 • Thirty years ago, Francis Moore Lappé published “Diet for a Small Planet”. It was not the first of its kind, but it was the first to explain how vegetarians could stay righteous while keeping their hair, and it was the first to carry out the long and detailed discussion that demonstrated an important new idea (at least new to many Americans).

Lemonade Chronicles is a blog written by Jackie Alfonso, a local writer who is deeply concerned about food … and other issues.

This was the idea that hunger in the world is not caused by a lack of food; rather it is caused by a lack of democracy and infrastructure. That idea was vital to understanding the world food situation, and the role Americans in particular play in feeding most of our food production to meat animals. While many of the recipes are best forgotten, the book itself was as significant as Silent Spring had been earlier.

Later, I came to understand more directly some of the related issues. I had a Russian developer from Novosibirsk stay in my house for several weeks. We went to the large grocery, where he wept when he saw the staff bringing yet more bananas and apples out to the floor: in his world, the apples went out in the morning, and when they were sold, there were no more apples until they suddenly reappeared weeks later. He also did the research to prove that there were more miles of paved road in the state of Minnesota than in all of Russia. So of course a creative person could get rich taking the plane to Moscow with burlap bags full of melons.

Frankie, as she is called by some, has a more recent publication, Hope’s Edge, written with her daughter, Anna. Together and separately, they visited many parts of the world and discovered that not only has there been little change, but in many places there has been a regression to even worse distribution patterns of food in areas that have satisfactory potential. There is really nothing new – lack of democracy means that power lords control food and therefore the health of citizens in many places. Bad planning and disorganization have brought soils to barrenness. The egos of a few would rather see their people starve than vote.

Every household would do well to have both books, and every elementary school could teach the principles and help children understand why.