Food For Thought After Sonya Kendrick’s Lecture on Food Democracy

Instead of apologizing for my obsession with food-related topics in my past few blogs, I would like to reiterate that FOOD IS LIFE. As I previously mentioned in my post about Good Food and Good People, food is important in every aspect of our lives. So while my topic of conversation for the past few blogs may be redundant, it is SO important. Listen up!

This past week I had the honor of attending a special lecture on Food Democracy. However, I was also invited to a special dinner beforehand with the lecturer, Sonya Kendrick. But before I get into my first impressions of Sonya and since this is a post about food, I have to tell you about the delicious restaurant we ate at

I’ve been to some great restaurants in downtown Decorah, but I had never been to the La Rana Bistro. However, La Rana is definitely a place that I will be going back to. The restaurant has a seasonal menu and is all locally sourced. In terms of food and sustainability, this set up is “the golden standard” so, being the food-sustainability junkie that I am, I was grateful for such a high quality meal.

The feast included an appetizer of fresh, crisp bread with an olive oil-red wine vinegar combo and hummus as well as my entree, the special of morel mushrooms, chicken, asparagus, and greens on a bed of wild rice; great food grown ethically and sustainably—the perfect setting for a talk with Sonya about Food Democracy.

My impressions of Sonya were a jumble of adjectives—strong-willed, tough, tenacious, someone with a lot of frustration and pain, but also a lot of heart. Her organization, called Feed Iowa First, is a non-profit that focuses on the principle of Food Democracy, which basically means that all people have the right to quality, nutritious food. As someone who shares her same measure of strong-will, I appreciated her answer to the question how did you even get started? Her reply was straightforward, “If someone tells me I can’t do it, I’m going to f**king do it.”

A lot of the people that I go and listen to about various issues are very patronizing; they talk as if the success they have had is unique to them and while us listeners may be inspired by their achievements, we cannot ourselves ever hope to achieve them ourselves.

Sonya, on the other hand, was so refreshingly real. At her talk, she described her experience using a food pantry and how the worst food is always donated. She talked about the light bulb that went off in her head that said hey you can do something about this and how she went to a church and asked if she could farm some of their land to grow vegetables for the food pantry. She talked about growing food and people and about how, after fighting in Afghanistan, she realized that she wanted to fight with the plow rather than the sword.

She talked to us rather than at us.

And she is just a normal person doing her best to make a real difference in the world—exactly what I hope to do.

Here's Sonya Kendrick hard at work in the fields

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