Kinks in the Food Chain

Take a good look at your dinner tonight, and try to figure out where it actually came from, and what exactly it is.

Americans today often don't know much about what it is they're eating, and the food industry wants to keep it that way—because if you actually knew what was in your food, you might not want to eat it.

Eric Schlosser exposed the "dark side of the all-American meal" in his book Fast Food Nation, and Michael Pollan revealed how dependent our industrial food chain is on the production of corn in his book The Omnivore's Dilemma. Now, in a new documentary from director Robert Kenner, the two authors team up to lead audiences in search of answers through the corporate maze of our industrial food-production system.

Food, Inc. opened in some big cities about a month ago, explains Jeff Yanc, program director and event organizer at the Loft. It didn't take long for the calls to come in asking if and when the film would be shown here in Tucson.

"Unlike a lot of activist documentaries, it's actually a good film, on top of all the great information," Yanc says. He explains that the film strives to tell people the truth—which is not necessarily what they want to hear. But he also says that the documentary essentially has a positive spin.

"It's not hopeless," he says.

There are a lot of small things we can do to help the situation. "You don't have to become an activist," Yanc adds.

One of the most direct ways of helping is to buy locally grown foods—and organizations that help Tucsonans do just that will be present on the film's opening night. The Food Conspiracy Co-op will be one of the local businesses there to present an honorable alternative to the situation presented in Food, Inc.

"People will be discouraged by what they see," says Torey Ligon from the co-op, "but they will be inspired by the alternatives."

Along with the co-op, the Community Food Bank's Community Food Resource Center, Tucson Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), Tucson's Primo restaurant (an advocate for local foods), many local farmers and local food experts will be present to offer food samples as well as information. Before and after the screening, the front patio of the Loft will become a "mini-market" where Ligon hopes the audience will have the "opportunity not just to learn, but be able to apply the lessons learned from the movie."

Inside the theater, local farmers will have a chance to be recognized for their hard work before the movie. "We really want to highlight the local growers and producers," says Ligon.

Local-food expert and grower Dana Helfer will then speak to the audience. Her efforts include growing in empty urban lots as well as the "teaching farms" in Marana, where those who are curious can learn the ropes of farming.

Then a short film from the Community Food Resource Center will play. Local Foods, Healthy Communities visits Tucson's local farms and farmers' markets, giving audiences an idea of what they can do to help out locally, and what they'll see when they do—including an explanation of what and when produce actually grows in the desert.

The event ties directly into the current Eat Local America! Challenge, says Ligon. She hopes people will be inspired by the events at the movie opening and will take part in the challenge by eating more local foods.

The collaboration between the Loft, the Food Conspiracy Co-op and the Food Bank seemed logical, Yanc says.

"We want to support what they do," Yanc explains. "We want to give attention to them and help the film get a bigger audience."

He says the message of the film is very connected to the mission of the co-op and that this is a film that "every segment of society" should see. He believes that Food, Inc. will be able to reach a larger audience than most activist documentaries because of its universal interest.

"Everyone eats!" he says.

The opening-night event may sell out, so if possible, buy your tickets ahead of time. If you miss it on opening night, the film will continue at the Loft for at least a week.

The Food, Inc. opening-night event will take place on Friday, July 17, at the Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd. The pre-screening event will begin at 6 p.m., and the film will begin at 7:30 p.m. For more information, call 322-5638, or visit Tickets cost $8.75 for adults, $5.75 for children younger than 12, $6.50 for students and members of the military, and $4.75 for Loft members.

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