It was a big day at the Royal Plaza Hotel in Marlborough, where the Massachusetts Public Health Association held their annual meeting and the agenda included a focus on local and sustainable food. A clip was aired of King Corn, a new documentary about two guys who move to Iowa to grow an acre of corn and accompany it on its journey through the food processing world. One of the producers and stars of the film was there to talk about the impact of farm subsidies and the overproduction of starchy corn on our diets and health.

Frances Moore Lappe gave the keynote address and touched on many of the issues that concern both food lovers and public health advocates alike. For Lappe, our current industrial agricultural system is “reductive, extractive, and destructive.”The intensive use of resources like water and fossil fuels required to produce industrial meat are staggering; the public health implications from that misuse even more so.

But Lappe didn’t linger too long on meat production. It was a way of getting at her main point–that we can trace our social ills to what she calls “thin democracy;” that is, a democratic system that citizens are only peripherally engaged in. She urged us to work towards “living democracy,” where inclusion and fairness are valued and citizens have active, public lives and help to create the world we live in.

Sounds good to me. Chefs, grab your knives. Let’s start by poking more holes in the industrial food system. And while we’re at it, let’s team up with the public health community. The more, the merrier. And healthier.