Last month’s impressive Black Friday protests at a reported 1,000 Walmart stores highlight the growing movement against the company’s low wage culture. As the nation’s largest private employer, Walmart has done more than any other company to reinforce income inequality. With an average wage of $8.81 per hour, Walmart keeps its labor expenses low by encouraging its employees to rely on charity and sign up for federal benefits such as Supplemental Nutritional Assistance (SNAP).
The corporation’s impacts on the food system are no less troublesome. It has been at the center of the nation’s cheap food structure, forcing a globalization and industrialization that is grounded in a race to the bottom for labor and environmental standards. It has driven out of business an untold number of small food retailers, which were once the heart and soul of community food systems across rural America. Read more
When Allison Miller lost her job as a server at a restaurant that closed last summer, she wasn’t sure how she would make ends meet while living in San Francisco, one of the most expensive cities in the country.
Surviving on unemployment benefits, she was able to qualify for CalFresh, funded through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), AKA food stamps. Although she had limited resources, she wanted to continue to buy her produce at the farmers’ market, where she had developed strong ties with local farmers. Read more
Chef Sean Sherman grew up Ogallala Sioux on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. After working his way up through a number of kitchens in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Sherman decided he needed to strike out on his own. In April, he launched his event catering business as “The Sioux Chef.” And he’s working on a restaurant of the same name. Read more
One in 6 workers in the U.S. have food-related jobs; farmers, farmworkers, food processors, servers, and grocery store clerks are all part of the effort to get food to our plates. And yet, they are often invisible.
Five years ago, a handful of worker advocacy organizations came together to form the Food Chain Workers’ Alliance (FCWA) to help ensure that workers from the farm to the bodega have their voices heard. What started as a small coalition has grown to include 24 organizations that collectively represent nearly 300,000 workers along the food chain. Read more
Native American tribes have long shaped the food landscape in this country and many continue to be some of the most vocal advocates for sustainable food production and policies to promote better health for future generations. Below are three tribal nations working to preserve the land while building strong food businesses. Read more
If you’re on the hunt for a fresh, ready-to-eat meal in Detroit, the best place to find it just might surprise you. Take the Sunoco station on Fort Street or the Victory Liquor and Food store on Warren Avenue. Amidst the Hot Cheetos and snack-sized Chips Ahoy cookies, you’ll find a cooler stocked with everything from fresh fruit and yogurt parfaits and spicy feta and hummus wraps to Thai chicken salads made with fresh, green lettuce—not the wilted iceberg you might expect. Read more
New York’s Gotham Greens rooftop farming operation recently announced that it would be expanding and building the nation’s largest rooftop farm in Chicago’s Pullman neighborhood. It’s a boon for both rooftop agriculture and for the Windy City’s mission to become an urban farming hub. Read more
Jonathan Lewis, a writer who lives with his wife and daughter in the isolated town of Alamosa, Colorado, has received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), benefits, AKA “food stamps,” since February of this year. Before he and his wife had a child, they were able to afford the food they needed. But after becoming a parent, he says, “I never quite made enough to pay all the bills and make sure all three of us were fed.” So Lewis turned to SNAP “to bridge that gap.” Read more
It’s a Sunday afternoon in the Frogtown neighborhood of St. Paul, Minnesota and we’re sitting down to an outdoor supper. A breeze lifts up our paper plates and placemats and everyone dives at the table to hold them down. A man wandering past waves at someone a few seats over. “We haven’t met,” he says, “but I recognize you. How are you?” Read more
Are race and ethnicity the third rails of the food movement? At last month’s Food Book Fair in New York City, I moderated a panel discussion with a group of activists and chefs who strive to put race and ethnicity at the center of our conversations about food. The panelists included Bryant Terry, author of Afro-Vegan; Colleen Vincent, manager of house marketing & reservations at the James Beard Foundation; Jonathan Wu, chef and owner of NYC’s Fung Tu; and Fany Gerson, chef and owner of La Newyorkina. Throughout the discussion, the panelists unpacked some of the complicated social, economic, and cultural ramifications that race has on the food system. Read more