Food Sustainability | A Conversation with Erin Healy, Youth LEAD Founder

In a world where production and consumption of mass produced food items is the norm, one Miami-based nonprofit organization stands out among the rest as promoting a much healthier way of eating. Youth L.E.A.D. is a “food justice” organization devoted to getting youth to “adopt healthy, sustainable behaviors and advocate for food & environmental justice in their schools and communities.”

L.E.A.D. runs several different kinds of events. Its “Activist Academy” is a “4-month training that includes field trips, food preparation classes, community outreach, guest speakers, and hands-on activities”; it also hosts adult cooking classes and various farmers’ markets.

Youth L.E.A.D. Farmers’ Markets Schedule
Saturdays Noon-3pm | behind Arcola Lakes Library | 8240 NW 7th Ave
Sundays 11am-1pm | St. Philip Neri Church | Bunche Park Rd & NW 157th Street
Last Saturday of each month 11am-2pm | LAB | 400 NW 26th Street

I recently caught up with L.E.A.D.’s founder, Erin Healy, and asked her about her inspiration for L.E.A.D. and her thoughts on the current state of food production in the world.

Cover of Eating Animals

Her impetus to start L.E.A.D. came from a genuine concern with the health and environmental problems that were being brought about by big companies in the food industry in the past few years. She explained how genetically enhanced foods cause an array of health problems for their consumers, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, and how the current agricultural system is one of the leading causes of global warming. Personally, and through her organization, Healy advocates the production and consumption of locally grown produce and food items that are tastier and more organic than their current mass-produced counterparts.

Healy’s ideas ring true in today’s society, where pieces of nonfiction such as Jonathan Foer’s Eating Animals reveal the nasty side of our efficient food production techniques.

But the question is one of feasibility – can we actually afford, in these harsh economic times, to switch, on a large scale, to production of our own fruits and vegetables? Healy argues that people who could feasibly do this, don’t. There’s a good number of common folk that could switch to independent production that don’t, and when this collective follows suit, we’ll be much better off as a society.

L.E.A.D. reaches out namely to impoverished or otherwise low-income communities in Miami Dade County, such as Overtown or Little Haiti. Healy argues that this is the case for two reasons: one, because it’s generally such communities whose interests are least represented in government; two, because of an anti-stereotypical envelope – not all people concerned about the environment are white, middle-class hippies.

L.E.A.D. is currently sponsored by the Miami Foundation but is looking to achieve 501c3 status so as to open the door to more ways of self-funding.

For more details about Youth L.E.A.D., visit http://www.youthleadmiami.org. L.E.A.D. is currently looking for volunteers for its farmers’ markets. Follow youthleadmiami on Facebook, @youthleadmiami on Twitter!

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"Emperor" Movie Review

Emperor (in theaters March 8th) is not your typical action-heavy World War II flick. Rather, it concentrates on the American rebuilding effort of Japan after the end of the Great War and the healing of Japanese-American relations. General Bonner Fellers (played by Matthew Fox) is tasked by General Douglas MacArthur (played by Tommy Lee Jones) to decide whether or not the Japanese Emperor Hirohito will be hanged for war crimes. Fellers meets with various members of the Japanese empire and government, all the while looking for a Japanese girl named Aya (played by Eriko Hatsune), whom he’d met years prior in the United States as an exchange student in college.

The film’s greatest strength lies in its photography. The destruction caused by American bombings in Japan is beautifully recreated in all its grotesque glory. The personal homes of the delegates Fellers meets with are authentic Japanese abodes; the delegates themselves are played by Japanese actors, speaking heavily accented English in many cases. The most striking visual parallel in the film is that of the beautiful Japanese Imperial palace against the utilitarian aspect of the American headquarters.

The film thus sets itself up as a telling exposé on the significant cultural rifts that existed between an occupying Western country and its Oriental subordinates, but while it brings this issue to light, it continues to distract itself by developing a love story that feels extraneous and painting the portrait of a gluttonous, self-indulging General that may or may not have Japan’s best interests at heart. MacArthur is often shown taking pictures of himself around the headquarters until it’s made explicit that he’s gunning for the American presidency. Fellers’ love and subsequent search for Aya upon arriving in Japan after the war is a plot line whose sole purpose is to establish Fellers’ “righteousness” for the investigation, since he has a “love for Japan”.

Both subplots feel forced, as does the writing at times, in an effort made to make the movie appear more dramatic.

It’s not until the final scene that the end goal of the film’s objective as a contrast between two cultures is poignantly felt. 

It’s a shame, because the film had sufficient potential as a cultural diversity piece, especially given the excellent photographic work. Ultimately though, it’s a half-baked attempt at a love story, a personal profile and historical fiction all wrapped into one.

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