Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
May 29 2017

Today is this blog’s tenth anniversary!

I can hardly believe that I have been writing this blog for ten yers, but this is indeed the tenth anniversary of its official beginning.  I will be writing about the blog this week, reflecting on its origins and why I keep doing it.

Stay tuned.

In the meantime, have a thoughtful and generous Memorial Day! 

May 26 2017

Weekend reading: Food & Society

Amy E. Guptill, Denise A. Copelton and Betsy Lucal.  Food & Society: Principles and Paradoxes, 2nd ed.  Polity, 2016.  

Image result for Food & Society: Principles and Paradoxes

I did a blurb for this one:

Food & Society gives us a fascinating introduction to the issues in food studies of greatest current concern.  From identity to health, marketing, and the externalized costs of food, this exceptionally well researched and written book explains why food matters so much and why it generates such intense controversy.  The book may be aimed at students, but anyone interested in food issues will have much to learn from the paradoxes it presents.

May 25 2017

IFIC’s annual food-and-health survey: always intersting

The industry-funded International Food Information Council has just announced the release of it 12th annual Food and Health Survey.  This asks people what they think about a wide range of consumer issues related to food and nutrition.

The report is full of interesting tidbits about how Americans think about food issues.

Or this one:

This one is impressive:

And here’s my favorite:

Lots of interesting material here, all to be taken with some degree of caution since the data come from an online survey taking 22 minutes to complete.

May 24 2017

What does the administration’s FY2018 budget mean for food politics?

In two words: nothing good.

For starters, it begins with an Orwellian title: A New Foundation for American Greatness–President’s Budget FY 2018

It continues with Orwellian explanations: “Major Savings and Reforms,” and “America First–A budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.”

How?

  • It cuts spending for the safety net for the poor and for farmers.
  • It increases spending for the military and the wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
  • It uses voodoo economics to pay for matters like food safety (a little more money but also more responsibilities)

Ordinarily, I would do a deep dive into this but why bother?  The New York Times says the budget is wishful thinking; it hasn’t got a chance of passing.

But see for yourself.  The best place to begin is with the Associated Press’s adorable interactive charts.  Type in your favorite agency, hover over the bubbles, and check out the historical sets that follow.  Might as well have some fun with this (thanks AP).

May 23 2017

What ag schools really need to teach: a report

The Association of Public Land-Grant Universities has just released a report titled “Challenge of Change” about how the USDA can do a better job of funding research to solve important problems in food and agriculture.

The challenge:

 

Traditionally, the effort to achieve food security has been largely focused on the need to increase yields in order to produce more food. There is now broad recognition that production alone will not solve the grand challenge. All aspects of our food systems must be considered: nutrition, food safety, food loss, economic costs, individual behaviors, incentive structures, and societal factors affect not only production, but also access and utilization. There is also now an understanding that production increases must be achieved in the context of water availability, energy limitations, and environmental impact.

The report concludes that universities will need to change, so as to:

  • Elevate Food and Nutrition Security to a Top Priority
  • Align University Resources and Structures for Transdisciplinary Approaches
  • Enhance and Build University-Community Partnerships
  • Educate a New Generation of Students to be Transdisciplinary Problem Solvers

To achieve food security, food and agriculture will need to change to:

  • Broaden the Focus Beyond Yields
  • Change the Food System’s Incentive Structure
  • Develop the Capacity of Universities in Low-Income Countries
  • Leverage Technology, Big Data, and Information Science Information

This is an important report because it comes from land-grant universities .  These are currently responsible for supporting industrial agricultural systems and virtually ignoring—or firmly opposing—sustainable agricultural production methods.

A challenge for change indeed.  I hope land-grant universities listen hard.

 

May 22 2017

WHO resources for ending the double burden of malnutrition (under- and overnutrition)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has just published a series of papers on “double-duty” actions needed to end world malnutrition.  By this, it means addressing not only classic undernutrition and its consequences (stunting and wasting of children, nutrient deficiencies and starvation in adults) but also obesity and its risks for chronic disease.

In a commentary on the WHO site and in The Lancet, Fracesco Branca, Alessandro Demaio, and Corinna Hawkes say:

This is the potential of “double-duty actions”—interventions, programmes, and policies that have the ability to simultaneously reduce the risk or burden of both undernutrition and overweight, obesity, or diet-related NCDs (noncommunicable diseases). Double-duty actions offer an integrated approach to addressing malnutrition. WHO proposes three levels for increasing the efficiency of nutrition actions through a double-duty approach.

The three levels are:

  1.  Ensure that current interventions, policies, and programmes designed to address one form of malnutrition do not inadvertently increase the risk of another.
  2. Leverage existing actions designed to address one type of malnutrition to simultaneously reduce other types.
  3. identify the shared drivers between different forms of malnutrition to proactively identify de novo actions for reducing all forms of malnutrition.

 

The WHO expands on these ideas in a policy brief.

They describe the interventions that can and should be taken in an action policy brief.

These are useful resources for anyone interested in and concerned about doing something about the double burden of malnutrition.

May 19 2017

Weekend reading: Food First

Tanya M. Kerssen and Teresa K. Miller.  Food First: Selected Writings from 40 Years of Movement Building.  Food First Books, 2015.

Image result for Food First: Selected Writings from

I just got sent my copy of this book, for which I did this blurb:

For 40 years, Food First has been at the forefront of deep thinking about the consequences of agricultural and food consumption practices and injustices, and what needs to be done to achieve food systems that are healthier for people and the planet.  It is an invaluable resource for students, scholars, and advocates.  May it flourish for another 40 years at least!

It’s a reader, introduced by Francis Moore Lappé, with dozens of short essays on hunger, food aid, the green revolution, agroecology, peasant food sovereignty, food justice, climate justice, and transformative food movements.

It also has a timeline of the impressive achievements of Food First, starting with Frankie Lappé’s inspirational Diet for a Small Planet (I used it as a textbook in the first nutrition class I ever taught) and ending with Eric Holt-Gimenez’s anniversary speaking tour.

Happy anniversary First Food, and apologies for the late greetings.

May 18 2017

U.S. agriculture at a glance: USDA’s charts

USDA’s charts make it easy to understand basic aspects of farming in the United States.  This one covers about 175 years of American history.   The number of farms fell fast after the end of World War II and is still declining, while the size of farms increased.

Where are the jobs in the food and agriculture industries?  Mostly in food and beverage service and stores.

Farming?  A mere 1.4%.

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