Published: May 6, 2016
The data pointing to the hazards of our current food system can be alarming, and the stories about it overwhelming. That’s why we took a different approach to storytelling when we created Food Patriots documentary film and Social Impact campaign. We believe that consumer pressure will fix the food system a lot faster than the federal government. So to grow consumer demand for fresh, local, sustainably raised and organic foods, we need to get new people into the conversation about where their food comes from.
The chart on the left tracks the growth in organic foods measured in billions of dollars spent by consumers. On the right is the growth in the number of people who said that they buy organic food. (While Food Patriots takes a larger view of Good Food, the organic data available from USDA is emblematic of the overall national trend.) So If we are going to really move the needle, we need to get more people thinking about where their food comes from. We need to focus on growing the chart on the right.
Back in 2012, when we started working on Food Patriots, most of the Food Films and articles about the food system scared the bejeezus out of me. This approach worked for me, and obviously about 40 million other people, but what about everyone else?
I don’t know about you, but when I tell my friends and family all the scary things I know about our food, and what I think they should eat, they usually roll their eyes and get really annoyed with me. I was living this struggle every day with my husband and teenage sons.
That’s why we needed a different approach. Instead of the hard core exposé, Food Patriots uses a personal approach, a sense of humor and tells a conversion story that people can relate to.
We have developed what we call The Groundswell Model to engage the public in a story. We have used this model successfully with several other films. It works. The key is to engage other stakeholders, reach people in places where they are, connect them to a movement, and involve them in moving the needle. Here’s what the Groundswell Model looks like.
We released Food Patriots in February 2014. We have presented over 400 live screening events, earned dozens of media stories and tens of millions of media impressions. We’ve partnered with brands and advocacy organizations, schools, faith organizations, libraries, health departments, corporate wellness programs, farmers’ markets and retailers. The result is that consumer demand is increasing AND industry is changing.
Last summer I met Kora Lazarski from SPINS. They are a data company that tracks Natural, Specialty, Wellness, and Conventional products across all US. With SPINS data we can see the impact that stories have on consumer behavior. For example, in October 2015, the World Health Organization came out with a widely publicized study that showed the eating bacon increases the risk of cancer. Data shows a precipitous drop in bacon sales the week the story hit, and for a few weeks hence. But when the story faded from the news, bacon habits resumed. Persistence is important!
With businesses tuned into consumer trends, we have seen giants like Campbell’s, ConAgra, General Mills, Mars and Kellogg’s choose to voluntarily label GMOs. Restaurants are increasingly advertising meat raised without antibiotics, and producers are adjusting to fulfill increased demand.
The pressure is finally being felt at the top. In a letter, investors representing over $1 Trillion in assets urged fast food chains in the US and Great Britain to act to reduce farm antibiotics. The letter said,
“As stewards of these food companies and responsible investors, we want to protect both human health and shareholder value.”
Jeremy Coller of Coller Capital who instigated the letter told The Guardian.“The world is changing, regulation on antibiotic use is set to tighten, and consumer preferences are shifting away from factory-farmed food.”
Are Food Patriots winning? Not yet. But we’ve definitely made some big gains. We need to keep up the work and each do our part to keep the conversation going.
If you would like to book a screening or speaker for an event at your school, workplace, faith group, college or community group, please fill out the form here and we will get in touch.
Food Patriots is a project of Groundswell Educational Films. We are a non-profit organization that is sustained by generous donations, mostly from individuals. All donations are 100% tax deductible.