Frances Moore Lappe: Diet for a Small Planet

A Plowboy Interview with Frances Moore Lappe - fighting the world hunger myths.

| March/April 1982

"Oh yes, Frances Lappe . . . isn't she that cookbook author who mixes beans and rice? "

As the above quote implies, a lot of people do think of Frances Moore Lappe as a sort of "Julia Child of the Soybean Circuit". . . but that's not the only stereotype this woman has had to contend with. She's been seen as everything from an empty-brained cheerleader to a slogans—pouting radical, but Frankie (as her friends call her) is actually a complex, concerned person who strives—in her own thoughts and actions—to avoid narrow and oversimplistic analyses or solutions.

The abiding concern of Lappe's work—the very large job of fighting the injustice of hunger in a world of plenty—has led her to explore food-related topics ranging from protein complementarity to the detrimental aspects of our nation's foreign aid. In the course of those studies, she's authored (or coauthored) Diet for a Small Planet . . . Food First: Beyond the Myth of Scarcity . . . Aid as Obstacle . . . What Can We Do? . . . World Hunger: Ten Myths . . . Mozambique and Tanzania. . . Casting New Molds . . . and, recently, a completely new version of her first book, called The Tenth Anniversary Edition of Diet for a Small Planet.

This energetic woman also founded—in cooperation with Joseph Collins—the Institute for Food and Development Policy, a research and education group that's having a real impact on food policy in the world today. Institute publications have been read and admired at the village level in such places as Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Central America . . . the group's staffers have provided national planning assistance to the presidents of both Tanzania and Nicaragua . . . and Mexico has devised a completely new land use policy based on "food first" concepts.

Just as important, Frankie hasn't let her determination diminish her warm and unpretentious personality. She puts a great deal of energy into raising her two children, Anthony and Anna . . . is honestly willing to answer "I don't know" to a question she hasn't fully studied . . . and was just as attentive to the needs of the two MOTHER staffers who visited her as they tried to be to hers.

Photographer Steve Keull and writer Pat Stone spent a long but memorable day interviewing Ms. Lappe in her home city of San Francisco. (Actually, one of the reasons the exchange took so long was that the threesome tape-recorded the discussion in snatches: Frankie was so burned out on indoor desk work—having just finished her new Diet volume—that they spent the entire day at wharfs, public parks, and open-air diners in search of an outdoor spot where they could hear themselves talk.) We think that-regardless of whether you agree with everything Ms. Lappe says—you'll find this edited transcript of their discussions more than a little eye-opening.

PLOWBOY: Ms. Lappe, you've made the struggle against the causes of world hunger your life's work. I'd imagine that one of the most difficult obstacles to educating people about such problems is the fact that many individuals find the issue too depressing to even think about.

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