Frances Moore Lappe Awtt Portrait

Frances Moore Lappé

Writer, Activist : b. 1944

“What an extraordinary time to be alive. We’re the first people on our planet to have real choice: we can continue killing each other, wiping out other species, spoiling our nest. Yet on every continent a revolution in human dignity is emerging. It is re-knitting community and our ties to the earth. So we do have a choice. We can choose death; or we can choose life.”


Frances Moore Lappé was born in Pendleton, Oregon. A graduate of Earlham College in Indiana, she was a “26-year-old trusting her common sense” when she began the research that led to the publication of Diet for a Small Planet (1971), a book which sold over three million copies and changed forever the way people think about food. Her little book showed that human practices, not natural disasters, cause worldwide hunger. She argued that food scarcity results when grain, rich in nutrients and capable of supporting vast populations, is fed to livestock to produce meat which yields only a fraction of those nutrients.

In Food First:Beyond the Myth of Scarcity (written with Joseph Collins, 1977), Lappé went on to identify other causes of starvation, including the centralized control of farmland and economic pressures to produce cash crops rather than basic food products. The authors argued that western colonization of underdeveloped countries creates conditions for waste and poor distribution of food resources, allowing whole populations to go hungry. Their vision for feeding the world is referred to as “food self-reliance,” in which communities produce the food they consume and manufacture the tools and fertilizers that they need

Daring Democracy (written with Adam Eichen, 2017) demystifies how Americans fell into a democratic crisis and documents “how everyday citizens are making historic change.” And in 2021, Lappé and her daughter, Anna, released a fiftieth anniversary edition of Diet for a Small Planet, reinforcing the need for plant-centered eating and updating Lappé’s personal journey toward becoming a leading advocate for “living democracy,” a scholar, media presence, journalist, and author/coauthor of nineteen books.

A passion for the democratic process has always infused Lappé’s work. She is a co-founder of the Institute for Food and Development Policy (popularly known as Food First) and the Small Planet Institute. She and her daughter, Anna, also cofounded the Small Planet Fund, channeling resources to democratic social movements worldwide. Lappé is the recipient of many awards, including, in 1987, the Right Livelihood Award (sometimes called the “Alternative Nobel”) for her “vision and work healing our planet and uplifting humanity.”

Like other visionary leaders, Lappé sees hope as something to be lived not sought after: “A lot of people think we find hope by marshaling evidence and proving there is grounds for it. But hope isn’t what we find in evidence; it’s what we become in action.”

Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States, said, “A small number of people in every generation are forerunners, in thought, action, spirit, who swerve past the barriers of greed and power to hold a torch high for the rest of us. Lappé is one of those.”


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