Walking into the Whole Foods on Westlake and Denny downtown is like stepping into an epicurean wonderland: the four-pound containers of perfect strawberries (on sale, $7.99), the bound spears of asparagus (organic, from California, $5.99 a pound), the steam tables with chicken teriyaki and spicy rice ($7.99 a pound) and the glistening seafood display. Here, there's everything you could want and things you didn't even know you could want.
Joel Berg sees the want too, but from a different perspective. To him, the abundance on display, and its attendant cost, speaks of gross inequality. He points to the snow peas, at $6.99 a pound. "For peas?" he asks, exasperated. And don't get him started on the high-end cheeses.
Berg spends a lot of time thinking about food or, more precisely, why some people have it and others don't. As the director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, he works to represent that city's 1,300 soup kitchens and pantries, along with the 1.3 million New Yorkers who use them. Prior to his current post, he spent eight years with the USDA during the Clinton years, where he concentrated on programs to end hunger.
All of this work, this passion, has fueled his latest endeavor, "All You Can Eat: How Hungry is America?" (Seven Stories Press, $22.95), a treatise that examines a sad truth of our country: every night, one in eight people goes to bed hungry. Full of hard numbers and a good dash of wit, the book is a call to the president -- and the populace -- to take a hard look at our nation's hunger.
And so, after a quick stroll through the grocery store, with his sense of indignation on high alert, Berg sat down for a chat in the caf