In the Pacific, eight island nations have recently come together to protect the world’s last healthy tuna populations from the perils of the lawless sea, the first agreement of its kind, reports Shannon Service in the Food & Environment Reporting Network (FERN)’s latest story, “The Saudi Arabia of Sashimi,” for Slate.
Frederick Kaufman’s book Bet the Farm: How Food Stopped Being Food highlights the peculiar irony of our modern food system: While we produce more food than ever before, nearly one in seven people goes to bed hungry each night, and the hungriest people in the world are farmers. But, as Kaufman points out, this paradox didn’t happen naturally; it was aided by financial brokers and food manufacturers who view food as a commodity—a financial instrument to be purchased low and sold high.
In the summer of 2010, Robert DuBois and Aaron Zueck headed out on a 100 day bike trip across the country to document the thriving local foods movement. In the YouTube video of this “potluck across America,” the two seem genuinely passionate about farmers and healthy food—and the movement they’re documenting. As the screen goes black, a voiceover says: “Every time you drink Pepsi you support the Pepsi Refresh project. Every Pepsi refreshes the world.”
Last week, in what is yet another example of Big Food’s symbiotic relationship with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), McDonald’s Director of Nutrition, Registered Dietitian Cindy Goody, spoke to her fellow colleagues at the Utah Dietetic Association meeting about the chain’s new “healthy initiatives.” McDonald’s is such a good friend of AND that it is also a “gold sponsor” at next month’s California Dietetic Association meeting.
Five weeks ago, my partner and I began a food stamp challenge with an unconventional twist: We use our food stamps to only buy organic food. I came up with this notion in part because I’m annoyed by the common perception that organic food is somehow “elitist.” Most recently, this meme was perpetuated by New York Times contributor Roger Cohen. (If you really want to know what I think of his line of thought, see here.)
The notion that only well-heeled Whole Foods shoppers care about organic food is misguided. As I’ve written about food justice organizations and urban farming projects over the past few years, I’ve met plenty of low-income people who go out of their way to find food that hasn’t been doused in pesticides. (What’s really elitist is the assumption that they wouldn’t want healthy food, too.)
For many daughters, the kitchen contains their mother’s secrets. In the tumult of pots and pans, the pinches of sugar and salt, reside recipes perfected over time without cookbooks, experience and intuition the only guides.
For East African daughters in City Heights, a neighborhood that is a major West Coast portal for refugees, the opportunity to cook twice a month as a group with their mothers is a chance to steep themselves in Somali, Ethiopian and Eritrean culinary traditions, passed down orally through generations.
Americans cultivate an estimated 18,000 community gardens, and now more of their growing is taking place in city lots and building rooftops. Urban gardeners see numerous benefits, from a heightened sense of empowerment to a lighter grocery bill to lowered crime rates. Yet challenges to such projects inevitably spring up like crab grass.
The Obama administration is losing its most powerful supporter of local and organic foods. Kathleen Merrigan, the No. 2 official at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, announced last week that she would be leaving her post as USDA’s deputy secretary. Sustainable agriculture groups responded with dismay and disappointment to what the Columbus Dispatch described as her “abrupt” departure. The food industry publication The Packer speculated that this could spell “the end of local food at USDA.”
Our founding fathers, white-maleness aside, did get a few things right. One of them was the concept of “separation of powers,” to ensure a system of checks and balances among the three branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial. But a dangerous provision snuck into the budget bill passed last week in Congress upends that system. Without any hearings on the matter, the Senate included language that would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to essentially ignore any court ruling that would otherwise halt the planting of new genetically-engineered crops.
Participant Media Films has a provocative mission. Through their films and partnerships with companies and organizations, they create social action campaigns, with the hope to entertain their viewers and ignite dialogue around world issues. Many of their mainstream documentaries of the last decade declare that our food system is broken. Films on fast food, animal welfare, factory farming, and now hunger have entered our dialogue to expose parts of the system that need fixing and reform.
Their new food documentary, A Place at the Table, seeks to uncover the stories of a few families who face poor quality of life and food insecurity due to lack of nourishing food in their daily lives.