Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Nov 11 2016

Weekend reading: how to manage a small organic farm

Connor J. Fitzmaurice and Brian J. Gareau.  Organic Futures: Struggling for Sustainability on the Small Farm.  Yale University Press, 2016.  

This is an academic analysis of organic farming by two sociologists based on classic ethnographic fieldwork at a small organic farm in Massachusetts.  They introduce this book by exploring the meaning and consequences of organic “bifurcation,”

the observation that there are increasingly two organic sectors, one made up of relatively large farms that look more and more like the highly mechanized and highly capitalized conventional farms of agro-industry, and the other made up of small farms that are less mechanized, less highly capitalized more likely to sell directly to the consumer, and (at least in some cases) less likely to consider profit ahead of other concerns…we hope to extend and complicate the concept of bifurcation by paying attention to the relational, emotional, and moral underpinnings of organic farmers’ market relationships.

In trying to make a living in organic farming and to maintain personal values about how organic farming should be done, farmers encounter “moral, economic, and relational ambiguities.”  The authors refer to ways in which farmers manage those ambiguities as “good matches.”  Much of the book deals with what organic farmers have to do to achieve such matches.

This is real-world analysis.  Anyone interested in becoming a small farmer, or in what is entailed in doing this work, will find this book a reality check.

Nov 10 2016

Why food politics matters: the importance of bread and community

Yesterday morning, post-election, I received an email from Steffan Sander, who bakes fabulous hard-crust bread in Tompkins County.  He runs a bread CSA, to which my partner and I happily belong.

I asked his permission to share his message.

Oh! My Dearest Breadfriends,

My heart goes out to each and all of you. Here we have been up till all hours, and then sleeping fitfully. Bakers do that anyway, but last night was different.

We started the bakery a little more than five years ago. Why? Because we were hungry for good bread. Because we wanted to work and play with our dear friends. Because it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. But it was more than that.

We built this bakery because we had a vision–of a place that would nurture our community, that would feed us all honestly and with the fruits of our shared soil and water. We saw the bakery as a place where skilled and hard work would be applied to simple materials, and that our work would then feed us all. We envisioned loaves shaped with care, each embodying our attention and love. We imagined those loaves shared and eaten, given away, or simply (if briefly) appreciated as a source of quietness. Nourishment.

There have been days–too hot or too long or too dry or too wet–when all of that has seemed a dream. But this morning, I feel it more strongly than ever. What I saw last night was half a country intoxicated by the pleasure of finally being allowed to openly express anger, resentment, and hatred. It is that awful pleasure that concerns me. I do not think it will subside anytime soon.

There will be plenty of work to do in the weeks and months to come.

For now, I wanted to tell you this about our bakery: we rededicate ourselves to kindness, to generosity, to difference, to complexity, to respect, and to reason. We rededicate ourselves to hard work, to vision, and most of all, to love.

With great and sorrowful affection,

Stef

This is why the food movement matters and is such a source of hope—and pleasure.

Thanks Stef.

Nov 9 2016

Savor the moment while it lasts: soda taxes pass!

The results, now almost final, look like this:

Soda tax votes in California:

  • San Francisco, CA, Measure V, 1 cent/oz: 62%
  • Oakland, CA, Measure HH, 1 cent/oz:       61%
  • Albany, CA, Measure 01, 1 cent/oz:          71%

And

capture

Recall what this cost, and then some:

Next?  Fingers crossed.

But at least this.

Nov 8 2016

Vote! Today!

You can always vote with your fork.  Today is the day to vote with your vote!

- Created 2013

Nov 7 2016

WHO Europe takes on food marketing to children

The World Health Organization’s Europe branch has issued a brave new report: Tackling food marketing to children in a digital world: trans-disciplinary perspectives (2016)


I say brave because marketing to children is the food industry’s line in the sand.
Food and beverage companies will not stop marketing to children because doing so will hurt their bottom lines too much.

WHO Europe makes eight recommendations, all of them highly political:

1. Acknowledge States’ duty to protect children online with statutory regulation
2. Extend offline protections online
3. Define legal age, rather than leaving commercial interests to do so
4. Define marketing directed to children
5. Draw on existing legislation, regulation and regulatory agencies
6. Compel private Internet platforms to remove marketing of foods high in saturated fat, salt and/ or free sugars
7. Develop appropriate sanction and penalty mechanisms
8. Devise cross-border international responses

The report’s conclusion:

Children’s participation in digital media should not, however, be predicated on receiving digital HFSS [high in saturated fats, salt and/or free sugars] advertising. Digital marketing can amplify the power of earlier marketing practices by identifying and targeting more vulnerable populations with sophisticated analytics and creating engaging, emotion-focused, entertaining ways to reach children.

Nor should children’s digital participation be predicated on “devolving” consent to parents, which is akin to States expecting parents to completely prohibit their children from watching all television in order to avoid HFSS marketing, rather than implementing broadcast regulations.

Instead, States and supra-national actors should devise ways to allow children to participate in the digital world without being targeted by marketers with immersive, engaging, entertaining marketing of products that have been demonstrated to be injurious to their health.

Now if governments would just listen….

Nov 4 2016

Weekend reading: Rudd Center report on baby food marketing

The Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the Univeristy of Connecticut  produces terrific reports.  The latest is Baby Food FACTS: Nutrition and marketing of baby and toddler foods and drinks:

 

Infant formula companies have a marketing problem: breast milk is a better option, all formulas have the same nutrient composition by FDA regulation, and babies only need to use formula for a few months.

Baby food companies also have a marketing problem: babies can eat table foods (suitably ground or cut) and don’t really need the stuff in jars (convenient thought they may be).

The Rudd Center report takes a good hard look at the

  • Contents of food and drink products marketed to parents for their babies and toddlers (up to age 3)
  • The marketing messages used to promote these products
  • Degree to which marketing messages correspond with expert advice on feeding young children

The findings: The nutritional quality is pretty much as advertised but nearly 60 percent of advertising dollars go for products that are not recommended for young children such as sugar-sweetened toddler milk, nutritionally poor snack food, and Pediasure, a high-calorie liquid nutrition supplement.

Here’s the full report 

And here’s a summary

Nov 3 2016

Food Policy Action’s 2016 Congressional Scorecard

This year, only three Senators—Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Richard Durbin—got top scores from Food Policy Action for their votes on food and farm issues.  This is down from the 29 who earned perfect scores in 2015.

In the House, 79 representatives got perfect scores as opposed to 87 in 2015.

The annual Scorecard ranks lawmakers on whether they support legislation on issues such as GMO labeling, hunger, fisheries management, food waste, pesticides, the EPA’s waters of the U.S. rule, among others.

Image result for food policy scorecard map

It’s disappointing that fewer legislators are getting top scores, since one of the purposes of this activity is to hold them accountable and encourage more liberal voting on food and farm issues.

 

 

Nov 2 2016

Marijuana-infused edibles: No money in them? Really?

As decriminalization of marijuana use proceeds steadily, I am seeing more attention focused on cannabis-infused edibles.  These are now produced commercially by businesses that go well beyond brownies.

Pediatricians, as I’ve discussed previously, are worried about kids eating them.

These days:

  • Edibles account for half of cannabis sales.
  • Baked goods alone account for 10% of cannabis sales.
  • The total cannabis market is projected to reach $27 billion this year.

But in Colorado, where such things are legal, producers are complaining that the regulatory environment is so difficult that they can’t make a profit.

According to a report in the industry newsletter, Bakery and Snacks, the profit problem was the focus of an education session at a Las Vegas conference on “The Future of Wholesale Baking with Marijuana,” conducted by two producers of infused edibles, Sweet Grass Kitchen and Love’s Oven.  Their gripes:

  • “Regulations are killing the business.”
  • “The leftover cannabis after extraction…has to be destroyed by bakery employees on camera, and locked in a compost container and sent to a compost facility.”
  • “Licensed marijuana bakers have to pay around $16,000 per month to the State of Colorado and the City of Denver for product testing conducted by a verified third-party laboratory.”
  • The labeling requirements are onerous: “It’s very difficult to stamp a baked good like a chocolate chip cookie. We don’t make Oreos. This new law has forced us all to spend a lot of capital on new machines and capabilities that are way above what a non-infused bakery of our size would typically have.”

Startups are always hard.  But with half of $27 billion at stake, and more and more states considering legalizing the stuff, I can see why they are hanging in there.

While we are on the topic, a new paper in JAMA reviews statistics on marijuana use in the U.S. and reports 7000 new users a day, and rising.  It calls for better surveillance of how much is used, and how.

I will be watching the use and the business of edibles with much interest.

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