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So Beautiful, So Broken: Hunger, Pinterest and Food Bloggers as Activists

by Ethan Tussey

by Hannah Heller for IN MEDIA RES

Food Bloggers Against Hunger was an online campaign to support anti-hunger programs, designed by Nicole Gulotta, a food blogger and the founder of The Giving Table. The premise was simple: provide talking points, links, and a common call to action that food bloggers across the country could share with their readers, in posts that they “donated” to the campaign. Alongside the usual photographs and recipes, readers of the 250 participating food blogs found links to contact their congressional representatives in support of SNAP funding and anti-hunger legislation. Participating bloggers also encouraged their readers to watch A Place at the Table, the documentary from Participant Media (of Food, Inc. fame) that follows the hunger struggles of three food-insecure families in the United States. Food Bloggers Against Hunger was mentioned in The New York Times Diner’s Journal, was tweeted about by Mark Bittman, was directly responsible for 2,363 letters written to congress … and resulted in 16,478 pins on Pinterest.

Including the number of pins as a "result" in the campaign summary captures one of the tensions inherent between food blogging and food activism; while they share the rallying cry of local! organic! seasonal!, bloggers trade in Pinterest-worthy glamour-shots of their produce, while activists appreciate the politics delivered with their CSA. But do the tensions between food blogging and food activism negate the effectiveness of this campaign? 

Michael Pollan said recently "Here's an example of what can happen when people do connect the dots. When a blogger in Texas last year wrote about "pink slime" there was an overwhelming public response ... This was terrifying to the food industry ... There is great power in this." Each blog post in the anti-hunger campaign resulted in dozens of pins to Pinterest, yes.  But there is also the real possibility that each post helped someone connect the dots between hunger and our damaged food system; beautiful as the bloggers' images for the campaign may be, it is a story of brokenness that they are telling. 

Can food bloggers be food activists? I'm hopeful that even within the prescribed, photogenic norms of food blogging culture, campaigns like this one can bridge the gap between self-serving posturing and authentic thoughtfulness, between self-branding as a food activist and taking concrete action, between Pinterest and real political power. 

Food Activism

A short take on activism and food

from Food Bloggers Against Hunger (2013)
Creator: Nicole Gulotta
Distributor: Vimeo
Posted by Ethan Tussey