Archive for the ‘From the Director’ Category

Posted on May 2, 2012 - by

Share Your (Mis)Education Story!

I’ve started a new documentary, PLAY (working title), and want your feed-back!

A couple months after FRESH’s release, I gave birth to Maayan. And two years later, Sasha was born. They have brought unprecedented joy into my life. Maayan and Sasha are perfect, the way, I believe, all children are. They shine, they are self-assured, they are curious, they are happy. So I watch with dread children a little older who have lost some of their spark, some of their confidence. Children who already feel anxious about learning by the time they reach third grade, some already feeling “dumber” than their friends, some having to curb their natural excitement and energy so they can sit for hours on end “learning,” instead of playing and exploring.

As Maayan is getting close to school age, I’ve been researching and learning more and more about our current educational system. It’s become clear to me that our antiquated system of education no longer meets the needs of children or society. We are stuck with an “industrial” system of education that requires all children to learn the same information, at the same time, in the same way, ignoring the incredible diversity of personalities, learning styles, talent and desires that our children exhibit. A system that values some forms of intelligence (logical/academic) over others (emotional, artistic, practical, etc.), leaving so many of us unseen and devalued. My research has lead me to think that our educational system, one that used to be the best in the world, one that built this nation, is now no longer educating our children, but is instead preventing our children from reaching their full potential.

Like our industrial food system, our educational system is broken. In PLAY, I hope to open people’s minds and hearts to the possibility and potential of a radical shift in our thinking about education, the way I did in FRESH for food.

As I develop this new project, I’d like to hear your stories: what is your and/or your child’s experience in school?

Please read below for examples of stories I’m looking for and send me your story by emailing me at

Thank you in advance for your contribution. I look forward to hearing your stories!

Ana Joanes

Here are some questions that might guide you in sharing your story. But please don’t limit yourself, if you feel like my project speaks to you (either because you agree or you don’t), please email me and share your thoughts.

Your (mis-)education story:

  • Were you made to feel stupid? Were you tracked at an early age because you were not “good” in academic subjects? Did you drop out because school didn’t seem to be a good match for you? Were you told that what you want to do is not valuable? Did you learn to fear or dislike math or other subjects (or all things school-related)? I’m looking for stories of people whose talents and strengths were not recognized in school and who, instead, were made to feel bad for not learning how and what is valued in our school system. Would you say that your self-worth is still tied-up with the way your teachers treated you? Are you still looking, or have you given up looking, for a way to express your potential in life? Or have learned since what you are good at and have found your place/ your element.
  • Were you good at school? excelled in all the way you were supposed to? did you end up in the best college and then best graduate school (law school? med school?). Only to end up in a job you don’t really like? are you now stuck — well-paid and with all the status but still unfulfilled? Do you not know what you’d like to do instead, but wish you could find a more meaningful occupation? or perhaps you took a radical turn and are now following your bliss?
  • Did you have a great time at school? how did your school meet your needs? did your teachers see you and help you achieve your potential? in what way? did you develop your love for learning? self-knowledge? communication skills? creative potentials?
  • Do you believe you’ve got no special talent and that you’re not particularly creative? If so, can you trace when you started feeling that way?

Your child’s (mis-)education story:

  • Is your child’s special talent and learning style recognized and nurtured or ignored and dismissed?
  • Is your child excited to go to school or dreading it?
  • Is your child learning about him/her-self, developing his/her confidence, his/her ability to communicate with others?
  • Did you have to take your child out of school? why? what happened since?

Like this message? Forward it and pass it on!



Or, copy and paste the following text into Twitter: Help Ana Joanes with a new documentary: Share your (mis)education story! @FRESHthemovie


Posted on October 22, 2010 - by

FRESH 1% Winner: Our School at Blair Grocery

We are pleased to present the winner of this year’s FRESH 1% grant, Our School at Blair Grocery (OSBG), an incredible organization located in the the New Orleans Lower 9th Ward.  You can see the 9 other organizations that were up for the grant on this page, and read more about why we started the FRESH 1% grant here.  We asked OSBG to write a big about who they are so you all could get to know them!  Below is their message to you.

Please consider donating to OSBG – you can do so directly from their front page. :)

-Lisa Madison, FRESH

Driving over the Claiborne Bridge into New Orleans Lower 9th Ward, you’ll see a gas station, the Dr. Martin Luther King Charter School – the first and still only public school to return to the neighborhood and the Magnolia Corner Store. North of Claiborne, the view resembles a jungle. Thousands of lots remain vacant and hundreds more are neglected and overgrown. A mere 10 percent of the neighborhood population has returned since Katrina demolished New Orleans in 2005.

Take a walk down our street and the complex, intersecting challenges to resilience are impossible to ignore. Education, food security, safe spaces for after-school learning, meaningful employment opportunities, decent affordable housing and health care for folks who are themselves trying to lead a healthy lifestyle – none of these are in place in our neighborhood, and many individuals can’t quite seem to plug into the limited systems that are in place to make it work out for themselves. There remains a great deal of work to be done.

Amongst this landscape appears an oasis. Tall banana trees tower and lean into the street, a golden sun made of plywood scraps hangs on the fence. Flowers and green edibles abound. In the face of neglect, a handful of teachers and students have constructed beauty, growth, and potential. Our School at Blair Grocery (OSBG) is an independent community school, sustainability education center, and food producing urban farm. Our mission is to create a resource-rich safe space for youth empowerment and sustainable community development. We envision a community where empowered youth work together in a reflective practice to actualize local, environmental justice based solutions to global challenges.

Our School at Blair Grocery (OSBG), founded in 2008 by Nat Turner, is located in the old Blair Family Grocery. Turner came to the neighborhood with a black dog, a blue bus, and $12 in his pocket. He saw a need for a safe learning environment in a unique neighborhood that had one of the highest poverty and highest homeowner rates in New Orleans.

Our students, ages 13-19 are young people who have not found success in traditional public education, but need and deserve a supportive environment to learn and grow. They face serious life challenges, learning difficulties, and other educational obstacles, and if it weren’t for OSBG, most would not be in school otherwise. Despite the challenges our students and community face, together we are learning, growing and taking leadership in the development of sustainable community food enterprise.

We apply personalized learning strategies, and hands-on approaches to helping students connect to the curriculum while building real-life skills and developing the knowledge, capacity and agency to achieve their goals. Local challenges become the lens through which we work with students to understand larger lessons about education, society, environment, and economy. On any given day at OSBG it is possible to see students planning, planting and harvesting sprouts and micro-greens, analyzing the racial and economic history of New Orleans and its relationship to current challenges to food access, composting, learning construction skills to build a greenhouse or plumbing for aquaponics or water catchment, building vocabulary through studying hip-hop lyrics, researching ideal conditions for worms to redesign our vermicomposting system, or meeting with one of New Orleans top chefs to talk about their work at OSBG and sell them food they grew to sustain their school.

Despite the difficulties we have faced, and continue to face in our work, we have a lot to be proud of right now:

* During the Summer of 2010, Our School at Blair Grocery hosted nearly 500 high school and college students from around the country for 12-day intensive service-learning experiences as part of “Food Justice Summer”;
* We are in the final stages of renovating our building for final inspection, the old Blair Family Grocery Store, which sustained the damage of 15+ feet of water;
* We are growing and selling nearly $1500 per week of sprouts and microgreens to local restaurants and projecting $3000 per week by January, getting us closer to financial sustainability;
* We are providing meaningful and educational employment opportunities on the OSBG farm to 10 local youth, who work with us after-school and on weekends;
* We recently received notice that our grant proposal to the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA was approved providing us with support “Toward a Viable and Sustainable Community Food Economy”;
* We will be participating in and hosting many elements of the 2010 Community Food Security Coalition’s conference in New Orleans this weekend;
* We hare begun our 2010-2011 school year with 5 full-time students, and anticipate 15 by Thanksgiving;
* and we are very proud to have won the national online vote for the FRESH 1% grant thanks to all of our supporters who helped spread the word about the contest, and the movie.

As we continue to push forward in our struggle for economic justice, food justice and educational justice for our community, we continue to need support in many ways. Make a donation by credit card on our blog at Donations of equipment and materials for both the farming and educational aspects of our work are always welcomed and appreciated too. We could always use more shovels, pitchforks and wheelbarrows. Classroom supplies like notebooks, computers, printers, books and other resources that our students can take advantage of to learn and grow are wonderful. Dedicated interns and volunteers are always welcomed. Services like printing, website development, etc. could be helpful. Vehicles that aren’t in constant need of repair would be great….but anyways, we could go on and on. When you are building something like we are, there is always more things you could use, and more work to do. Without all of the support we have received so far from those that believe in our work, we would never have made as much progress as we have.

What we really need are mass-based political movements calling citizens of this nation to uphold democracy and basic human rights for everyone to be educated and have enough good food to eat, and to work on behalf of ending subordination and domination in all its forms – to work for justice, transforming our educational and food systems. In Will Allen’s Good Food Manifesto for America, he challenged us all to “demand [and take] action… [so that collectively], we can move along a continuum to make sure that all of citizens have access to the same fresh, safe, affordable good food regardless of their cultural, social or economic situation.” Our School at Blair Grocery will continue to take up that challenge in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans and beyond.


Posted on September 23, 2010 - by

Is retiring Ronald a waste of time?

Is retiring Ronald a waste of time?
from Ana Joanes, Director FRESH

Quick answer: Absolutely Not!

There’s lots of reason why we think retiring the clown is a worthwhile efforts.  But perhaps the best reason is that retiring Ronald is fighting McDonald’s, and fighting McDonald’s is fighting an unsustainable food system.  And you’re right, retiring Ronald is not the same as requiring McDonald’s to have its “happy meals” meet basic nutritional standards, or, imagine!, sourcing locally and sustainably.  But doing so would signal that our culture has finally come to realize the threat industrial food poses to our health, our environment, our community.  Most importantly for us at FRESH, our “Retire the Clown” campaign will turn many of us into activists.

Our campaigns (from Genetically Modified Salmon to pesticides on our strawberries) are chosen for the importance of the issues they raise and for their potential in affecting change. But they are also chosen as means to mobilize more and more people. Our goal is to play a part in raising awareness and motivate action until our small but vibrant movement can reach a tipping point.  Many of you (over 10,000!) got their blood boiling when we shared that the FDA was about to approve GE salmon.  Your signatures and comments contributed to shake up the FDA’s complacency!  Perhaps just as meaningfully, it contributed to more people becoming cognizant of the threat posed by GMOs, and, as a result, changing their purchasing decisions.  Similarly, our “Retire the Clown” campaign could contribute to changing McDonald’s MO while getting many more of us involved.  Our involvement will ripple through our communities, bringing always more and new people into the movement.

I deeply believe that, as we need diversity in the fields to grow healthy and delicious food, we need a diversity of ways to mobilize people to take action, to start working toward a better food system. Toward this goal, we will continue to try different things and to partner up with new and wonderful people and organizations.  And we, of course, will continue to welcome your thoughts and opinions, in all their honesty and passion — we expect nothing less from such a great  community!

Eat well,
Ana Joanes
Director, FRESH

PS – you can read more about why retiring Ronald is a good thing here!  Click on image to view online, or download PDF here:


Posted on July 19, 2010 - by

FRESH 1%: Practicing Generosity When Times are Tight

from Ana Joanes, director of FRESH

This week we decided to give one percent of all of FRESH revenue of 2010 to one of the incredible non-profits out there that are making a difference in the sustainable food movement. Although now doing so seems obvious, the decision did not come easy.  Making FRESH was a labor of love, but the stress of unpaid debts and the responsibility to keep our office started to weigh me down.  Soon I found, passion and faith were slowly replaced by an attitude of scarcity – a protectively closed heart and mind.  My financial insecurity made it hard for me to truly appreciate what came out of what seemed to be a wild and out-of-reach dream 6 years ago.

For years, while making FRESH, I would wonder how my movie would ever get seen (the majority of independent productions never find their audience) and I would daydream of ways for my movie to contribute to the movement I was recording.  And now, it’s happened.  FRESH was released in May 2009, a little over a year ago, and against all odds — no money, no distribution company, no festival wins — it took off.  FRESH has now been screened thousands of times around the country in people’s living-room, churches, libraries, school and universities, and, in independent theaters and art houses. And most importantly, FRESH has been used as a platform to raise awareness and transform inspiration into action. With our growing visibility (and mailing list) we decided to start our own activist campaigns, raising awareness and calling to action our supporters on a variety of issues around our food system.

With so much positive going on, I decided that I couldn’t wait for some secure financial future to start giving back.  Hence came the idea to give 1% of our revenue to a non-profit that embodies the passion and hope that we believe will change the face of the sustainable food movement.  We will accept entries for this grant through August 6th, choose 12 and then open up a voting process to our supporters (there are 50,000 of you!). Stay tuned!


Thank you,

Ana Joanes
Director, FRESH

photo from flickr user micah.e


Posted on February 3, 2010 - by

Urgent: USDA to rule on mutant alfalfa

Dear FRESH supporters,

Genetic food giant Monsanto is at it again. Its next target: a new product that could eliminate all organic alfalfa, a key food for raising organic-fed cows and pigs without any genetic engineering. Oceanflynn on Flickr

The USDA is well on its way to approving Monsanto’s genetically modified alfalfa. In its own report, the USDA says that not enough consumers care enough about organic foods for the USDA to block Monsanto’s modified alfalfa seeds. [1]  This is absurd since one of the main reasons people buy organic food is to avoid genetically engineered crops.

The USDA is only accepting public comments for the next two weeks. We need you to write to the USDA right now and tell them they must not approve Monsanto’s mutant alfalfa. We’ll deliver your comments before the deadline. [2]

Click here:

Alfafa is one of the major food sources for certified organic animals, not only because of its quality as forage, but because Monsanto’s patented genes are already found in 95% of soybeans and 80% of corn. If the USDA lets Monsanto sell its new alfalfa, it will inevitably overtake organic alfalfa crops through the natural pollination process. [3] As a result organic farmers may be feeding their cows genetically modified food.

Just like its corn and soy, Monsanto’s alfalfa is designed to tolerate its leading herbicide: Roundup. We can’t allow Monsanto’s greed to take-over one more crop. The consequences to our choice as consumer, to biological diversity, to the survival of our small and organic farmers depends are too dire.

Monsanto’s domination of our food must stop. For the USDA to shrug it off like nobody cares is to add insult to injury. We only have two weeks to submit our comments.The fight for FRESH food will continue, and with your help we’ll make it clear that people care about the food they eat.

Let’s show the USDA and Monsanto that people want food free from Monsanto’s modifications. Write your comments to the USDA now and say no to genetically modified alfalfa.

The fight for FRESH food will continue, and with your help we’ll make it clear that people care about the food they eat.

Thanks for all you do.

ana Sofia joanes

FRESH the Movie



1. United States Department of Agriculture. Glyphosate-Tolerant Alfalfa Events J101 and J163: Request for Nonregulated Status. Draft Environmental Impact Statement-November 2009. P.T-2.
2. Docket: APHIS-2007-0044: USDA Seeks Public Comment on Genetically Engineered Alfalfa
3. United States Department of Agriculture. Glyphosate-Tolerant Alfalfa Events J101 and J163: Request for Nonregulated Status. Draft Environmental Impact Statement-November 2009. P.95.

Reviews Supplemental documents here:
10 Things you should know about GE Alfalfa
Photo courtesy of OceanFlynn on Flickr


Posted on January 13, 2010 - by

Who’s fighting FRESH?


Photo by: Peter Blanchard via Flickr

When it comes to the Big Bad Wolf of our food system, look no further than Monsanto.

Monsanto squeezes out farmers, seed growers, and practically everyone else in the business of growing food. Monsanto has its patented genes inserted into 95% of soybeans and 80% of all the corn grown in the United States. Their monopoly is so insidious that the Department of Justice is looking into whether Monsanto’s business practices are illegal.
Vu Manh Thang – I Am Superman

And now, Forbes Magazine named Monsanto the #1 company of the year for 2009.

Whatever the selection criteria at Forbes, I don’t support them or the values they embody.

In order to regain control of our agriculture, we MUST raise awareness and inspire MORE people to vote with their dollars. This is our mission at FRESH and we need your support. 2010 can be a huge year for the future of food, but FRESH needs your help to do it.

Can you please donate $5, $10, $25, or more to help us spread the word about fresh food?

Click here to donate:

What Monsanto fears is the public knowing there’s a new way forward for our food, free from genetic engineering and harmful pesticides. That’s why, when Michelle Obama created an organic garden at the White House, Monsanto had the nerve to protest the garden, urging Michelle Obama to use pesticides on her food!

Monsanto is the prime example of everything that’s wrong with our food. They’re a huge corporation that plows down everything in its path in pursuit of cheaper food for bigger profits. And now that Forbes named Monsanto company of the year, it’s clear that fresh, organic food advocates are the David to Monstanto’s Goliath.

Monsanto would like nothing more than to see the sustainable food movement fail. But with your help,we’re building a grassroots movement to fight back and free our food from Monsanto’s grasp.

We’ve got a mountain to climb in 2010, and we’re convinced we can do it with your help. Please donate today to help us spread FRESH across America. Help us raise our voice and raise the voices of all of the farmers and food producers who we fight for.

Click here to donate $5, $10, $25 or more to FRESH the help us fight back against Monsanto.

Thanks so much for your help in making 2009 a great year for FRESH, and for your support in making 2010 even better.

Take care,

ana Sofia joanes
FRESH the Movie


Posted on November 12, 2009 - by

FRESH Heroes: Climbing poeTree

Poetry that can move your soul, inspire and educate. I was totally transfixed by Alixa’s and Naima’s multimedia performance about water. These beautiful women cannot be easily contained. Depending on who you ask, you might hear about Alixa and Naima as mural painters, rabble-rousers, or “exterior” decorators. They are as notorious for their fist-raising performances as they are for their arts-based political education workshops; as recognized for their visual art as they for Fashion Statement, their line of silk-screened clothing. Basically, Alixa and Naima are poets who moonlight as street artists, and infiltrate public schools and prisons with infectious ideas of how people can shape their own destinies.

Climbing poeTree from ana joanes on Vimeo.