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Junk Food Marketing Makes Big Moves in Developing Countries

KFC TV commercials that have aired in China over the last few years reveal a remarkably wide range of marketing techniques. In the ads, humor, irony, playfulness, and sentimentality present the restaurant’s quick-serve food as something that can help families bond, nourish athletes, entertain children, and even make teenagers cooler. Overall, the ads associate KFC with a modern lifestyle, suggesting (implicitly of course) that the Chinese can get their piece of middle class affluence–along with a full belly–for a reasonably low price. Read more

Why We Must Occupy Our Food Supply

Our food is under threat. It is felt by every family farmer who has lost their land and livelihood, every parent who can’t find affordable or healthy ingredients in their neighborhood, every person worried about foodborne illnesses thanks to lobbyist-weakened food safety laws, every farmworker who faces toxic pesticides in the fields as part of a day’s work.

When our food is at risk we are all at risk. Read more

Inside One Corporation’s Decision to “Go Humane”

I manage supply chains for Bon Appétit Management Company, which is another way of saying that my job is to think about chicken and pork. Not just the meat, but the lives of the animals themselves. I suspect there are few other non-meat-eaters whose corporate roles require them to think about farm animals as much as mine does.

But thinking about production systems and negotiating with suppliers can only go so far. Today, we’re saying that we’re fed up. Read more

Is Walmart’s March into Cities Helping or Hurting?

Having saturated the rural landscape, shuttering local stores in small town America along the way, now, in the wake of stagnant sales and increased competition, Walmart desperately needs to expand into urban markets.

And what better urban market than one full of eight million people? While the big box retailer is eager to enter the Big Apple, challenges loom large. Given the negative reputation Walmart has earned for being hostile to workers among other problems, many New Yorkers are skeptical, to put it mildly.

To counter the opposition, Walmart is positioning itself as the solution to urban food deserts – areas where finding real food is next to impossible. But as Anna Lappé has eloquently argued, the big box chain isn’t the answer: “Let’s be clear, expanding into so-called food deserts is an expansion strategy for Walmart. It’s not a charitable move.” Read more

Processed Food Industry: Eating Fruits and Vegetables Bad for the Economy

An effort to get American children to eat more fruits and vegetables should, even in hyper-polarized Washington, be a no-brainer.  Last week, Congress declared pizza sauce to be a vegetable in school lunches.  Now, major food manufacturers are escalating their attacks against healthy food calling proposed food marketing guidelines “job killers” that will devastate the American economy.   Read more

Why the Food Movement Should Occupy Wall Street

I went to the Occupy Wall Street march last week, as part of the NYC food justice delegation. We carried baskets of farmers’ market vegetables and signs reading “Stop Gambling on Hunger” and “Food Not Bonds.” Food justice advocates came out from around the city—urban farmers, gardeners, youth, professors, union members, and community organizers. The vegetables attracted a lot of attention. Food so often attracts a lot of attention—the New York Times is just one of the outlets to focus in recent days on the makeshift kitchen at Zuccotti Park. What was more surprising were all of the puzzled looks we got from the bloggers, photographers, and other marchers who wanted to talk to us. “What’s the connection here with food?” we were asked many times. Read more

Who Put McDonald’s in Charge of Kids’ Health?

When McDonald’s sneezes, the media jumps. Such was the case yesterday when the company announced it was giving the Happy Meal a makeover. Well not really, but that’s how it got reported, because the media loves simple stories. But when it comes to marketing and PR by multinational corporations, nothing is ever that simple.

While my colleagues have done a great job of explaining why nutritionally, this move is little more than PR (see Marion Nestle and Andy Bellatti), missing from the analysis so far is this: what McDonald’s really wants is to remain in charge. Read more

Walmart’s New Initiative and Our Health: More Harm Than Good?

Since Walmart’s announcement last week that it will “reduce sodium by 25 percent, eliminate industrially added trans fats, and reduce added sugars by ten percent by 2015,” some experts on food policy and health are claiming this is a step in the right direction, an encouraging sign of progress. Still others think the jury’s out and it remains to be seen if the initiative will prove beneficial. From a nutrition perspective, I find both of these claims faulty. If we intend to take the obesity and diabetes epidemics seriously, and if we truly care about the abysmal state of health of the American people, we cannot put our faith in an empty Walmart promise that barely scratches the surface of our country’s food and health crisis. Read more

Big Food Pledge Placates White House. Who Needs Policy When You’ve Got Promises?

You’ve got to hand it to the food industry. They certainly know how to get the attention of the White House just when they need it most. As announced this week by Michelle Obama herself, the nation’s leading food companies have made yet another pledge, this one in the form of an agreement signed with the Partnership for a Healthier America, an off-shoot of the First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign. Read more