Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
May 14 2015

Milan Food Expo: A highly preliminary assessment

Throughout my travels in Italy the last couple of weeks, I was constantly asked for an assessment of the Milan Food Expo.

My answer: it’s too early to tell.  It’s only been open for two weeks and has lots more to do between now and the end of October.

In my posts on the Expo, I’ve talked about the logistics and a few of the pavilions.

But what about the overall content and take-home messages?  Expos are trade fairs, but this one is about feeding the planet—adequately and sustainably.

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The U.S. Pavilion carries out this theme:US

Most countries created exhibits based on these themes.  Many displayed vegetable gardens in raised beds or, in the case of the US pavilion, on a long, undulating wall.

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It’s useful to start with the United Nations’ Zero Hunger Pavilion.  Its gigantic ticker-tape display tells you the price of food commodities throughout the world in real time.

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The scrolling messages in English and Italian:

  • The food sector: reality vs. abstraction.
  • Extreme price volatility is a threat to food security.
  • The gap between supply and demand is mainly caused by increasing food consumption, climate variability, expansion of agro-energy production, and financial speculation.
  • Lack of transparency and profits for a few speculators intensify inequality in food distribution.
  • New rules are needed for agricultural governance.

Like most of the exhibits, this one states the problems and says what is needed to solve them.  But it leaves it up to you to figure out how to set or obtain the new rules for agricultural governance.

My view from this brief visit: The very existence of Milan Food Expo 2025 is a strong statement that food issues are worthy of serious public attention, worldwide.

For that alone, it succeeds magnificently.

May 13 2015

Milan Food Expo: The protests

When the Milan Food Expo opened on May 1, there were plenty of protests, fires, store break-ins, and overturned cars.

The protesters have been angered by Expo’s reliance on volunteer workers, the involvement of corporations like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola and a perception that much of the public money ploughed into the project has been lost to corruption.

Coca-Cola has a big presence at the Expo (see my post from last week) and in the city.

Coca-Cola sponsors Milan’s public bicycle program: BikeMi.

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McDonald’s also has a large restaurant on the Decumano (the main street of the fair), but the huge golden arches are in the back where they are only visible to people from outside the fair..

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The day after the protests, cleaners were washing away the last of the “No Expo” graffitti on Milan walls.

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Despite the initial controversy, the Expo is attracting huge crowds and vast hordes of school children.  Most pavilions are open, and some have long lines to get into.

Tomorrow: a preliminary assessment.

May 12 2015

Milan Food Expo: The Coldiretti Pavilion

I especially enjoyed the pavilion of Coldiretti, an association of Italian farmers.

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“No party” can—and is supposed to be—read two ways: no fun, or no political clout.

The pavilion houses a farmers’ market promoting the products of its members.

Coldiretti doesn’t have much use for GMOs, but for reasons we don’t often consider in the U.S.

2015-05-02 15.54.56In case you can’t read the photo:

What is good for the GMO multinational corporations is bad for Italy.

Because they cancel our extraordinary diversity.

Because they suffocate many to reward one.

Because the seeds of the earth belong to those who work it.

Because food certainties belong to “free research.”

Whatever you think of such views, I’m hoping the Milan Food Expo will get visitors thinking about these food issues and more.

May 11 2015

Milan Food Expo: The Trienniale Museum Art and Food Exhibition

Milan’s Trienniale Museum is offering an Arts & Foods exhibit in conjunction with the Food Expo.  Your Expo pass lets you in.

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I’ve been to many food-and-art exhibits, but this one is beyond enormous.  I seems to have everything.

Gursky:

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Warhol:

2015-05-03 12.15.47Gehry:

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American World War II posters:

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Food-related items—paintings, yes, but also teaspoons, coffee pots, refrigerators, and anything else you can think of that might have something to do with food—take up almost the entire museum.

And movie clips!  Buster Keaton!

The catalog is 4-inches thick, weighs at least 5 pounds, and costs 60 Euros.

Go.

But plan on many hours.

May 8 2015

Milan Food Expo: The James Beard American Restaurant

Along with the U.S. Pavillion at the Expo, the James Beard Foundation organized a pop-up restaurant at the top of the Galleria.  It opens today.

Here’s the view:2015-05-03 18.49.39

The location is spectacular, and the restaurant carries out the themes of the US Pavilion–red, white, and blue throughout.

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Chefs appear on a rotating basis with a schedule set up in advance.

If you are in the Galleria, it’s worth a visit!

 

May 7 2015

Milan Food Expo: The Coca-Cola pavilion

Coca-Cola is not a sponsor of the US Pavilion.  PepsiCo is.

Coca-Cola has its own pavilion:
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To enter, I registered for a key chain with a personalized chip.  Holding the chip to the exhibits gives me personalized information:

 

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Much of the Coca-Cola exhibit was devoted to the company’s commitment to the environment and to physical activity.

It also sold bags and items made from flip tops, some costing as much as 190 Euros (a Euro is about $1.20).

Visitors have to look elsewhere* for information about the effects of sugary drinks on health or about Coca-Cola’s long-standing opposition to bottle recycling laws or about who made the expensive flip-top bags and how much they were paid.

* My next book, Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning) comes out in October from Oxford University Press.

May 6 2015

Milan Food Expo: The Slow Food pavilion

Many of the Milan Expo country pavilions featured gardens or promoted sustainable agriculture.  I liked the one run by Slow Food International.

It’s the last pavilion of all if you come via the red-line subway.  Or, it’s the first if you come by taxi to the East entrance..  2015-05-02 18.15.10

Its raised-bed gardens are lovely in early spring:

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They came with instructions:

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I particularly liked the hefty guy made out of corn.  He reminded me of Kara Walker’s Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby.

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One side of the open-air buildings is devoted to tastings of artisanal products (all pavilions are supposed to serve food).  Another houses a place for lectures.

I’m sorry not to be speaking there, but I will be speaking on the terrace of the U.S. pavilion on May 12 at 4:00: “Cooking Up Change: the American Food Movement.”

May 5 2015

Milan Food Expo: promotion of physical activity (unstated)

Getting to the Milan Food EXPO by subway is not for the out-of-shape.

From the subway stop at Rho Fiera, the walk to the security gates is short.  But then!

Up the escalator to the walkway over the railroad tracks:

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Then to the next overpass to the fairgrounds:

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Continue to the end of that overpass:

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Enter the fairgrounds:

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Walk all the way to the end of that section.

Counting the walk to the subway station, it’s been 2 miles to that point (by step-counter).

At last!  The main drag of the Expo, the mile-long Decumano with the country pavilions aligned on both sides.

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The U.S. Pavilion is almost at the end, on the left, just after Kuwait’s.2015-05-02 16.19.08

By then, it’s been nearly 3 miles.  And just getting started!

To get to the U.S. Pavilion with less effort, take a taxi to the East security entrance.

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