This week, the Pew Research Center issued its annual State of the News Media report, chronicling a shrinking, some might say anemic, news industry. Employment at newspapers is down 30 percent since 2000, dropping below 40,000 people for the first time since 1978. The quality of reporting at many news outlets has fallen as budgets are squeezed and staff cut. Read more
Every five years, we have the chance to influence the way our food is produced, our land is conserved, and our health is protected. The legislation that addresses these issues is known as the Farm Bill, and in 2012, it’s up for renewal. “It isn’t really a bill just for farmers,” says food journalist Michael Pollan, in this video from Nourish Short Films. “It really should be called the food bill because it is the rules for the food system we all eat by.” Read more
Sometimes a spoonful of sugar does, indeed, make the medicine go down. Though you won’t find that catchphrase in the just-released hardcover edition of Food Rules, Michael Pollan‘s best-selling little eater’s manual.
Food Rules does sport the whimsical and witty illustrations of well-known artist Maira Kalman, however. And the new book also boasts 19 new rules—many gleaned from eaters around the country that Pollan wished he had thought of and included the first time around.
Take two is again full of commonsense kitchen wisdom such as If you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, you’re probably not hungry; and When you eat real food, you don’t need rules.
The takeaway message: food need not be complicated, and the act of eating is as much about pleasure and communion as it is about nutrition and health. In other words: lighten up a little and enjoy your dinner. Read more
People seem to have an insatiable appetite for food matters right now. Case in point: the public tickets for Edible Education 101 at UC Berkeley were snapped up in 12 minutes on Monday, according to a tweet from Alice Waters, who played a key role in bringing the curriculum to the university.
The 13-week course, co-taught by J-school professor and The Omnivore’s Dilemma author Michael Pollan, and Nikki Henderson, the executive director of People’s Grocery, a food justice organization in West Oakland, will examine the rise and future of the food movement. Student enrollment for the one-semester course also filled within minutes after it was listed online, as Berkeleyside reported earlier this month.
Why such interest? The class offers undergrads, grad students, and regular folk a chance to critique current food systems and dissect food politics with Pollan, Henderson, and Waters, as well as a slew of other big names in the food movement, including Marion Nestle and Eric Schlosser. The course kicks off with a lecture by Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini on August 30th. The class also coincides with the 40th anniversary celebration of Chez Panisse restaurant. Read more
Last week, Wal-Mart–the largest grocer in the world with over 8,600 stores in 15 countries, two million employees and sales of $405 billion–made news when it launched sustainable agriculture goals for the U.S. and emerging markets focused on regional food systems. The move is part of decade-long trend of food businesses–from producers to purveyors–adapting, or at least claiming to adapt, to the consumer demand for sustainable food.
Wal-Mart’s decision–the details of which I will get to in a moment–comes on the heels of the success of chains like Whole Foods, which also touts local foods. But unlike Whole Foods, which is considered “niche”, Wal-Mart is mainstream. Some say that this announcement is going to shake the ground under agri-business, which has vehemently fought against anyone suggesting changes to the food system for years now. But agri-business companies are not going to take this shift in consumer demand lying down.
In fact, agri-business elites have been trying either covertly or otherwise to convince the consumer that sustainable food advocates have misled them into thinking the current food system is unsafe, unjust, and unhealthy. And the evidence shows that more of the same is coming down the pipeline. Read more
Today, the man who encourages us all to eat food, mostly plants, and not too much will bring his prescription for a healthier population and planet to a group that, surprisingly, he hasn’t spoken to before: Doctors and other healthcare professionals.
The man, of course, is Michael Pollan—who talks about the importance of eating and growing sustainable food to folks as diverse as urban ag advocates and Oprah fans. The best-selling food book author will address physicians, dieticians, hospital food service staff, and others at the Food for Health Forum in San Francisco sponsored by HMO giant Kaiser Permanente. Read more
The valet made me do it. We bared our souls and talked with each other about food. We did it in the middle of the tastefully decorated lobby of a reputable Cannery Row hotel in Monterey, CA. It began as a very unexpected moment, and has become one of my all-time favorite experiences talking about access to good food. Because it was a conversation not with a chef, foodie or expert. It was with a regular person who longs to connect to food and is somehow stuck, marooned on an island alone, full of latent desire.
The valet—let’s call him Paul—asked me the very question I yearn to hear, and with him I had the discussion that I never tire of. Paul had parked my car when I checked into the hotel, had smiled professionally at me and held the door three mornings in a row when I sashayed excitedly out into the sunlight. The cause of my excitement was a food issue conference hosted by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The Cooking for Solutions Sustainable Media Institute is an annual gathering of journalists and experts who cover food system issues ranging from sustainable seafood to GMOs. It is the highlight of my year, second only to the Ecological Farming Association annual meeting. Read more
TED is a non-profit devoted to broadcasting innovative ideas spoken by persuasive thinkers. Its website spreads information through “TED talks,” a video component that spans a wide range of topics. Here is a selection of TED videos focusing on issues from the political food world—child obesity, industrial meat production, school nutrition programs, ecologically safe fish farming, food access within an urban landscape, re-envisioned permaculture—presented by some of the top enthusiasts and specialists. Read more
Causing no end of difficulties in our national discourse is the steadfast belief held by both the right and the left that everything is either right or left: bad or good, strong or weak, despotic or patriotic. You’re either with us or you’re against us. President Obama addressed this very effectively before both House Republicans and Senate Democrats in recent days. It is media driven to a large extent because the media need controversy to sell papers, or bytes or views or whatever it is they’re selling these days.
The most common form this takes is the old build’em-up-then-tear’em-down routine. Perhaps the only thing many Americans enjoy more than the uplifting emotion of a success story is the schadenfreude of watching that success come tumbling down. So when an idea comes to the fore, the critics ooze from the woodwork and their primary tactic is divide and conquer. Label it, frame the debate, and the fight is won or lost before the story is even told.
For a long time in the circles I travel in this was not a problem because the ideas embodied in what some have come to call SOLE food (Sustainable, Organic, Local, & Ethical) were not perceived as a threat to the established paradigm. Recent successes such as Michael Pollan’s work have, however, shined a very bright spotlight on advocates of real food. As a result, people who have been toiling at these ideas for decades are becoming targets of powerful interests in the Big Food lobby. Such is the case this week at WeeklyStandard.com, where Missouri Farm Bureau vice president Blake Hurst has found his most recent audience. Read more
On Wednesday, Michael Pollan appeared on Oprah to discuss the food system and the film Food, Inc. At the beginning of the program, entitled “Before You Grocery Shop Again: Food 101,” Oprah said that she saw Food, Inc., and it inspired her to host this discussion. “We all have to start paying more attention to what we’re putting in our bodies,” she said. “Do you know where you food really comes from? What’s been added, what’s been taken out? What goes down before they put a label on it?” Interspersed throughout the show were clips of the film, including the film’s introduction on the disconnect between our idea of food production and its reality; chicken production, featuring a farmer speaking out against the industry; and a family that can’t afford to eat real food and is forced to choose fast food. Read more