What People Are Saying



“Katherine Gustafson is a troubadour for sustainable food, inviting us to jump into her rental car as she maps the inspiring alternative food system emerging across the United States. And here’s a pleasant surprise: we don’t spend any time in the privileged bubbles of Brooklyn or Berkeley; Gustafson’s expansive and hopeful portrait puts the rest of America back in the picture. Change Comes To Dinner shows us the outline of a sane food system: now it’s up to us to fill it in.”

— Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine

“The rise of the local food movement is the single most encouraging trend in America in the last decade--and Katherine Gustafson is reporting from the cutting edge. A deliciously important book!”

— Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

"It would have been enough if Katie Gustafson had simply captured the inspiration and energy inherent to America's sustainable food revolution. But she does much more than that, writing with a keen eye for detail and wisely recognizing that good food writing isn't really about food: It's about the people behind it."

— Ben Hewitt, author of The Town That Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food


 “In her wildly successful cross-country search for alternatives to our industrialized food system, Katherine Gustafson comes up with a terrific new word: ‘hoperaking,’ the gathering of inspiration (and the opposite of muckraking). The people whose work she describes here should inspire anyone to get busy and start planting.”

— Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at NYU and author of What to Eat


Which future would you rather live in: the one where wide swaths of monoculture are grown in chemical baths and turned into salty chips with imitation cheese to be consumed by your grandchildren during an 11-minute lunch break, or the one in which food stamps double in value at the farmers’ market and ex-cons enthusiastically craft locavore meals for inner-city school kids? Katherine Gustafson agrees with you. Tired of hearing pessimistic stories of our ever-darkening collective future, she coined the term “hoperaking” and set out on a mission to show us what it means, from the community garden that reformed a crack-addled neighborhood to the town that revived its economy by farming for nearby restaurants.

Gustafson has a knack for tracking down everyday people with big ideas. Ideas that could really change our future. Ideas that are already changing people’s lives, like school gardens that turn kids into vegetable lovers and influence their careers, like a hospital that started feeding patients healthy food, then set out to entire the whole town to eat well.

Gustafson focuses on community-building and job creation to build her case for sustainable, local farming. Leaving environmental gain as a potential perk to an already-winning system gives Gustafson’s argument a bulletproof quality. It also frees her to investigate under-examined issues, like dynamics between race, class, and access to healthy food. As for Gustafson’s hoperaking goal, mission accomplished.

Suzanne Lindgren, Utne Reader, July/August 2012

Both inspiring and realistic, Gustafson’s book provides a helpful assessment of the possibility of big changes in the U.S. food system. Recommended for general readers interested in eating healthy, questioning where their food comes from, or knowing more about the business of farming.

— Rebekah Wallin, Library Journal

A journalist on the sustainable-food beat for both online and print publications, Gustafson began researching this title as a “hope-raking” effort to counteract the “soul-crushing” information she had gathered about the industrial food complex. Traveling from coast to coast and from farm fields to flourishing urban gardens, Gustafson interviewed local food activists, agricultural entrepreneurs, community gardeners, heirloom-bean farmers, and a wide cast of other individuals working to improve the food systems in their communities. In packed, thematically organized chapters, Gustafson writes with a blogger’s casual irreverence (“As the Irish potato famine of the 1840s demonstrated, monoculture is an unbelievably stupid idea”) as she combines vivid details and dialogue from each site visit with sobering statistics and big-picture questions that frame the book’s urgent topics. Part personal travelogue, part comprehensive, fascinating snapshot of a rapidly growing movement, this probing, often entertaining account is an essential, inspiring read for those interested in food production and politics and the complicated, essential roles both play in our social welfare.

— Gillian Engberg, Booklist

Amid numerous stories about the industrial-food complex and its pitfalls, freelance writer and change.org blogger Gustafson seeks examples of what “a better food system” would resemble, traveling across America to find alternatives.

In four parts—“Local is as Local Does,” “Green Thumbs,” “Growing Empowerment” and “How Does Your Garden Grow?”—the author chronicles her experiences with, among others, organic farmers and locavores; a Montana co-op; universities with dining programs that partner with community resources; a hospital with its own garden; online grassroots efforts; agricultural programs that encourage the next generation of farmers; and coordinators of urban greenhouses. Gustafson discovered that such projects, despite enthusiasm, were sometimes beleaguered by logistical problems, and that practical motivations, such as job creation, could also play as significant a role as more idealistic environmental, social-justice and lifestyle concerns. Readers who are familiar with works such as Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma (2006) will appreciate how Gustafson does not examine the darker aspects of getting food from farm to table. Though the examples she provides are not intended as groundbreaking solutions, they present an overview of what is possible. Gustafson’s personable approach to a sometimes-controversial topic results in a modulated argument for a food economy that is neither anti-corporate nor solely in favor of small businesses. This is a work of realistic assessments, featuring moments of inspiring optimism. As the author notes about one self-proclaimed “change agent,” “when you do what you love with fervor and even ferocity, the universe responds.”

Recommended for an informed, general audience intrigued by but perhaps just beginning to explore sustainability.

Kirkus Reviews


How can you not love this book?

Fertile Ground USA

Nice to see an optimistic outlook for a change.

Eating Rules

Change Comes to Dinner by Katherine Gustafson is a highly worthwhile read... quality journalism to motivate the most apathetic of us to buy local, organic and seasonal.


Gustafson’s work is positive yes, but she’s still journalist enough to see when co-op models can’t be scaled up or when a solution doesn’t answer all its critics. She obviously cares but she’s not blinded by idealism and it makes for a much more palatable read. It gives her stories much more credibility. . .

This collection is an honest appraisal of the issues facing those trying to keep some of the American food chain independent and local. It’s also a relaxed and inspiring road trip through some of the best schemes, approaches and figures out there fighting for what they believe in. The combination of honest pragmatism and hoperaking makes this an unusual book, but one definitely worth adding to the shelves for balance.

Alex in Leeds

The tone of the book is highly narrative and conversational. We get to see not just the wonderful ideas that people have come up with, but also the day-to-day roadblocks that get in the way. There’s humor and frustration, wonderment and awe.

Errant Dreams Reviews

Whether you are concerned about the environment, troubled about your health vis a vis the food you eat, or simply someone who wants to eat food that tastes good, Change Comes to Dinner is worth reading. It will change the way you look at food. The book was so good, I may go back for seconds!