Hi friends, it’s Julia!
As the founder of Moonshot and a Climatarian, I’m always reading, watching and listening to new books and media to stay up to date on the latest updates and hopeful climate news.
I’d like to share some of my highlights with all of you so that we can all stay informed. Hopefully, together, we can spread climate optimism across the country.
I’m kicking off our Book Club with an inspiring young author named Mackenzie Feldman. Mackenzie is a 26-year-old environmental activist from Honolulu, Hawaii and the co-author of Groundbakers.
Growing up on Oahu, Mackenzie saw the effects of corporate agribusiness and the resulting pesticide exposure has had and continues to have on her community. Simultaneously, Mackenzie witnessed the power of the Hawaiian food sovereignty movement.
That’s why in college, she founded Re:wild Your Campus, formerly known as Herbicide-Free Campus. The program works with students and groundskeepers around the country to make campuses more climate resilient by eliminating herbicides, building soil health, incorporating native plants, designing landscapes that save water, and increasing edible landscapes.
Now, Mackenzie is launching her first book!
She wrote Groundbakers with her mom, Kathy, compiling 60+ vegan, gluten-free recipes alongside 16 interviews with farmers, doctors, chefs, activists, and more who are changing the food system and making healthier, culturally-relevant food accessible for all.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE THIS BOOK?
Groundbakers truly feels like a collection of everything my mom and I have learned about the food system. Ever since I was a kid, my mom emphasized the importance of healthy eating.
My mom began developing creative, delicious, plant-based versions of comfort food that would otherwise always be expected to have meat or dairy in it, such as enchiladas, sloppy joe’s, and brownies. These meals became so popular amongst friends and family that we wanted to figure out a way to get the recipes out to even more people!
At the same time, when I was in high school, my mom and I learned about all of the pesticide spraying going on in our home state of Hawai’i due to GMO corn seed testing, and how communities living near these testing sites began to see skyrocketing rates of cancer and birth defects. We learned about the industrialized food system and how detrimental the impacts of practices like pesticide use, monoculture, factory farming are to human health and the environment.
I became inspired to study Food Systems at UC Berkeley and was taught by some of the most brilliant and inspiring leaders working to make healthy food more accessible and affordable. I couldn’t help but feel that while so many of us LOVE food, most people were not getting the information I was getting in class about how the food is grown and how the folks who grow the food are treated. To complement the education I was getting in the classroom, my mom and I decided to visit organic farms in Cuba, as well as take a road trip from California to Oregon to interview farmers and share this information with people through a blog.
Between classes and farm visits, I was learning SO much. I felt like I had this opportunity and responsibility to share what I was learning with others. Combine that with the amazing recipes my mom was creating, and voilá, we had a book!
WHERE DOES THE NAME 'GROUNDBAKERS' COME FROM?
We wanted to emphasize that this book is SO much more than just our plant-based recipes. The book’s core focus is the interviews we did with 16 incredible leaders who are working to improve our food system. My mom and I feel so grateful that we got to interview truly some of the most inspiring people we have ever met. Some of the folks in the book include Leah Penniman from Soul Fire Farm, Sean Sherman from The Sioux Chef, José Andrés from World Central Kitchen, and many more.
Somehow the name Groundbakers came to us. These leaders really are doing groundbreaking work that is not easy in our current industrialized system, whether it’s through decolonizing food ways, farming without chemicals, advocating for land access for BIPOC farmers or making healthy food more accessible.
We knew that these leaders must enjoy cooking, or at least eating healthy food if they spend their livelihoods advocating for it, so we of course had to ask them for a recipe :)
When learning about a problem, my pet peeve is when we are not given any possible solution or way to get involved. It was important to me that we included food facts as well as ways to get involved. I hope to inspire a whole new generation of groundbakers through the book.
HOW DID YOU SELECT THE FOOD LEADERS IN THE BOOK?
We knew we wanted to interview a wide range of folks, including farmers, chefs, nonprofit leaders, teachers, and doctors. I wanted readers to learn about all of the diverse ways that you could have a career in food systems, no matter your specialty or interest.
From the start, we had our dream list of folks who would be incredible to interview and feature, but getting in touch with them would be another story. We just went for it and somehow we found a way to interview every single person we had on our dream list.
WHAT'S YOUR BEST ADVICE FOR PEOPLE JUST GETTING STARTED ON THEIR FOOD JUSTICE JOURNEY?
I’ve always loved the phrase think globally, act locally. My best advice would be to just START.
You know your own community, so find a way to get involved and take action through a lens you care about (pollinators, workers’ rights, soil, farming, food accessibility…the list is endless).
I list some great groups on the last page of the book that you can research and get involved with. No matter how small, you will find that once you contribute in a way that feels energizing and authentic to YOU, the path opens up before you. Before you know it, you will be inspiring others who will take action because of the example you set.
When it comes to food, my one piece of advice is that it will never be just about voting with your dollar. When you are advocating for a healthy food system, it’s always important to think about a healthy food system for WHO? The reality is, most Americans can't afford or access healthy food.
How can we work to build a better food system that works for everyone?
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE RECIPE IN THE BOOK?
That’s a tough one but I think it has to be Mac’s Favorite Mac and Cheese! The combination of Yukon Gold Potatoes, sweet potato, carrots, and onion is creative, and with the combination of spices, it actually tastes better than the classic mac and cheese I would have as a kid (and is of course much healthier)!
ANY PARTING WORDS FOR OUR READERS?
Food and the act of sharing it is one of the greatest gifts of life. I know some of the information in the book about our current food system is depressing and can feel overwhelming, but I hope that the work of the Groundbakers inspires you and gives you hope that another world IS possible.
It is important that amidst the time we spend advocating and worrying, we also find time and ways to enjoy our lives. Throw a dinner party and cook your friends our Sweet Potato Enchiladas. Bring your neighbor Tahini Banana Bread. Drink Morning Water before you start your day.
I promise it will make your life a little more joyful as you work hard to change the world :)
To snag her book, head to groundbakers.com or Amazon.