Currently browsing posts about: Food-movement

Oct 24 2013

Happy Food Day, 2013

October 24 is Food Day, which its organizer, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), calls “a nationwide celebration of healthy, affordable, and sustainably produced food and a grassroots campaign for better food policies.”

Food Day aims to help people Eat Real. That means cutting back on sugar drinks, overly salted packaged foods, and fatty, factory-farmed meats in favor of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and sustainably raised protein. Food Day envisions shorter lines at fast-food drive-throughs—and bigger crowds at farmers markets.

Food Day is about taking personal responsibility for what you eat—what I like to call “voting with your fork.”

Join the Movement: The most important ingredient in Food Day is you! Use October 24 to start—or celebrate—eating a healthier diet and putting your family’s diet on track.

It is not, alas, about working to change policies that will make it easier for people to make healthier food choices.  For that, you must celebrate World Food Day on October 16 (and see post on that topic)—getting political and voting with your vote!

The food movement needs both (compromise on October 20?).

In honor of both, here’s this from Eat, Drink, Vote.

ClayBennett_Cartoon

 

 

 

Jul 18 2013

The Mayors’ Forum: History in the Making

Last night’s forum with six candidates for Mayor of New York surely marks the first time that political candidates have had to grapple publicly with food issues—those of greatest concern to members of the 12 co-host organizations and 76 supporting organizations involved in planning this event.

The issues:

  • Ending hunger and food insecurity
  • Improving the wages and conditions of food industry workers
  • Getting city food agencies to be more responsive to public concerns
  • Improving access to healthy foods among low-income residents
  • Expanding participation in school meal programs and improving the quality of school food
  • Taking action to reduce the health consequences of obesity among city residents
  • Using the city’s vast purchasing power to support regional agriculture and the food economy
  • Integrating the Hunts Point Produce Market into the regional food economy
  • Promoting use of city land for urban farming

The candidates made it clear that they had thought about these questions and had come prepared to answer them.

The take home lesson: New York City’s food movement is strong enough to make city candidates sit up, listen and take food issues seriously.

The agenda is clear: maintain the momentum and hold the next mayor accountable.

For a recap:

The candidates who appeared:

  • Sal Albanese – @SalAlbanese2013
  • Bill de Blasio – @deBlasioNYC
  • John Catsimatidis – @JCats2013
  • John Liu – @JohnLiu2013
  • Christine Quinn – @Quinn4NY
  • Anthony Weiner – @AnthonyWeiner

 

New Picture (7)

One of the co-host organizations, the Food Systems Network of NYC, puts the agenda in a slightly different way, in its “Recipe for the Future of Food“:

  1. A New Public Partnership for Food (a City of New York Department of Food and an Independent New York City Food Systems Council)
  2. Better Health and an End to Hunger
  3. A Strong Food Economy with Good Jobs
  4. Support for Regional Agriculture through Smart Procurement and Protection of Working Land and Water Resources
  5. New Farm-to-Plate Distribution Infrastructure
  6. Better Food Waste Reduction and Nutrient Recovery

There’s plenty to do.  Do it!

Addition:  The account in the Wall Street Journal.

May 5 2013

Reflections on the 10th anniversary of Food Politics

My monthly (first Sunday) column in the San Francisco Chronicle appeared today.

I used the May 1 publication of the tenth anniversary edition of Food Politics (Michael Pollan wrote the Foreword) to reflect on what ‘s happened since the book first appeared in 2002.

A decade later, the Chronicle’s headline writer put it this way: 

Plenty of positive change happening
Q: I see that “Food Politics” is out in a 10th anniversary edition with an introduction by Michael Pollan, no less. Has anything changed in the past decade?

 

A: I can hardly believe it’s been ten years (eleven, actually, but who’s counting) since the University of California Press published “Food Politics.” This has been a great excuse to look back and realize how much has changed. Optimist that I am, I see much change for the better.

My goal in writing “Food Politics” was to point out that food choices are political as well as personal. In 2002, reactions to this idea ranged from “you have to be kidding” to outrage: How dare anyone suggest that food choices could be anything other than matters of personal responsibility?

How times have changed. Today, the idea that food and beverage companies influence dietary choices is well recognized. So is the reason: the industry’s economic need to increase sales in a hugely competitive food marketplace.

Business pressures created today’s “eat more” food environment – one in which food is ubiquitous, convenient, inexpensive, and in which it has become socially acceptable to consume foods and drinks frequently, anywhere, and in very large amounts. Given this kind of marketing environment, personal responsibility doesn’t stand a chance.

If the “eat more” food environment is the problem, then the solution is to do something to make healthier food choices the easy choices.

And plenty of people are doing just that. In the last 10 years, we’ve seen the emergence of national movements to promote healthier eating, especially among children. These movements – plural, because they differ in goals and tactics – aim to create healthier systems of food production as well as consumption.

On the production side, their goals are to promote local, seasonal, sustainable, organic and more environmentally sensitive food production. On the consumption side, some of the goals are to improve school food, restrict food marketing to children, and to reduce soda consumption through taxes and limits on portion sizes.

These movements do plenty of good. I see positive signs of change everywhere.

Healthier foods are more widely available than they were when “Food Politics” first appeared. Vast numbers of people, old and young, are interested in food issues and want to get involved in them. The first lady is working to improve access to healthier foods for low-income adults and children.

Wherever I go, I see schools serving healthier meals, more farmers’ markets, organic foods more widely available, young people joining Food Corps, more young people going into farming, more concern about humane farm animal production, more backyard chickens and urban gardens, and more promotion of local, seasonal and sustainable food to everyone.

When my university department launched undergraduate and graduate programs in food studies in 1996, we were virtually alone. Universities viewed food as too common a subject to be taken seriously. Now, practically every college and university uses food to teach students how to think critically about – and engage in – the country’s most pressing economic, political, social, and health problems. Many link campus gardens to this teaching.

Food issues are high on the agendas of local, state, national and international governments. I can’t keep up with the number of books, movies and websites covering issues I wrote about in “Food Politics.”

These achievements can also be measured by the intensity of pushback by the food industry. Trade associations work overtime to deny responsibility for obesity, undermine the credibility of the science that links their products to health problems, attack critics, fight soda taxes, lobby behind the scenes, and spend fortunes to make sure that no city, state or federal agency does anything that might impede sales.

Food and beverage companies faced with flat sales in the United States have moved marketing efforts to emerging economies in Asia, Africa and Latin America, with predictable effects on the body weights and health of their populations.

Despite this formidable opposition, now is a thrilling time to be advocating for better food and nutrition, for the health of children, and for greater corporate accountability. As more people recognize how food companies influence government policies about agricultural support, food safety, dietary advice, school foods, marketing to children, and food labeling, they are inspired to become involved in food movement action.

I’m teaching a course on food advocacy at New York University this semester. I want students to take advantage of their democratic rights as citizens to work for healthier and more sustainable food systems. Whether they act alone or join with others, they will make a difference. So can you.

The development of the food movement is the biggest and most positive change in food politics in the last decade. May it flourish.

May 1 2013

Today: The Tenth Anniversary edition of Food Politics

Please welcome the Tenth Anniversary Edition of Food Politics.

It’s comes with an exceptionally gracious Foreword by Michael Pollan.  I wrote a new Preface and a lengthy Afterword to bring it all up to date.

Doing the Afterword gave me a chance to think about what’s happened in the food movement over the past ten (eleven, really, but who’s counting) years since Food Politics first appeared in 2002.

Indeed, a great deal has happened, and much of it good, thanks to everyone who is working to create a healthier and more sustainable food system.

Read and enjoy!

Feb 6 2013

New books in my library

Philip Ackerman-Leist.  Rebuilding the Foodshed: How to Create Local, Sustainable, and Secure Food Systems. Chelsea Green 2013.

Rebuilding the Foodshed introduces readers to local food systems in all their complexities.  In moving from industrial to regional food systems, communities must consider an enormous range of factors, from geographic to socioeconomic.  Difficult as doing this may be, this book makes it clear that the results are well worth the effort in their benefits to farmers and farm workers, as well as to eaters.   This book is on the reading list for my food advocacy class at NYU this summer.

John Ayto.  The Diner’s Dictionary: Word Origins of Food & Drink, 2nd ed.  Oxford, 2012.

The Diner's Dictionary: Word Origins of Food and Drink

The is the second edition of a book first published in 1990, long before the food movement really got going.  You won’t find an entry for locavore.  It’s also British. You will find an entry for lobscouse: “from its name comes the term scouse ‘Liverpudlian’, which has come into wide use since the Second World War.”  I happen to adore this sort of scholarly discussion and delighted to have this book, but it may be a bit of an acquired taste.

 

Jan 10 2013

Predictions for 2013 in food politics

For my monthly (first Sunday) Food Matters column in the San Francisco Chronicle, I devote the one in January every year to predictions.  Last year I got them all pretty much on target.  It didn’t take much genius to figure out that election-year politics would bring things to a standstill.  This year’s column was much harder to do, not least because the FDA was releasing blocked initiatives right up to the printing deadline.

 Q: I just looked at your 2012 crystal ball column. Your predictions were spot on. But what about 2013? Any possibility for good news in food politics?

A: Food issues are invariably controversial and anyone could see that nothing would get done about them during an election year. With the election over, the big question is whether and when the stalled actions will be released.

The Food and Drug Administration has already unblocked one pending decision. In December, it released the draft environmental assessment on genetically modified salmon – dated May 4, 2012. Here comes my first prediction:

The FDA will approve production of genetically modified salmon: Because these salmon are raised in Canada and Panama with safeguards against escape, the FDA finds they have no environmental impact on the United States. The decision is now open for public comment. Unless responses force the FDA to seek further delays, expect to see genetically modified salmon in production by the end of the year.

Pressures to label genetically modified foods will increase: If approval of the genetically modified salmon does nothing else, it will intensify efforts to push states and the FDA to require GM labeling.

Whatever Congress does with the farm bill will reflect no fundamental change in policy: Unwilling to stand up to Southern farm lobbies, Congress extended the worst parts of the 2008 farm bill until September. Don’t count on this Congress to do what’s most needed in 2013: restructure agricultural policy to promote health and sustainability.

The FDA will start the formal rule-making process for more effective food safety regulations: President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act in January 2011. Two years later, despite the FDA’s best efforts, its regulations – held up by the White House – have just been released for public comment. Lives are at stake on this one.

The FDA will issue rules for menu labels: The Affordable Care Act of 2010 required calorie information to be posted by fast-food and chain restaurants and vending machines. The FDA’s draft applied to foods served by movie theaters, lunch wagons, bowling alleys, trains and airlines, but lobbying led the FDA to propose rules that no longer covered those venues. Will its final rules at least apply to movie theaters? Fingers crossed.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will delay issuing nutrition standards for competitive foods: When the USDA issued nutrition standards for school meals in January 2012, the rules elicited unexpected levels of opposition. Congress intervened and forced the tomato sauce on pizza to count as a vegetable serving. The USDA, reeling, agreed to give schools greater flexibility. Still to come are nutrition standards for snacks and sodas sold in competition with school meals. Unhappy prediction: an uproar from food companies defending their “right” to sell junk foods to kids in schools and more congressional micromanagement.

The FDA will delay revising food labels: Late in 2009, the FDA began research on the understanding of food labels and listed more relevant labels as a goal in its strategic plan for 2012-16. Although the Institute of Medicine produced two reports on how to deal with front-of-package labeling and advised the FDA to allow only four items – calories, saturated and trans fat, sodium and sugars – in such labels, food companies jumped the gun. They started using Facts Up Front labels that include “good” nutrients as well as “bad.”

Will the FDA insist on labels that actually help consumers make better choices? Will it require added sugars to be listed, define “natural” or clarify rules for whole-grain claims? I’m not holding my breath.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participation will increase, but so will pressure to cut benefits: Demands on Snap – food stamps – reached record levels in 2012 and show no sign of decline. Antihunger advocates will be working hard to retain the program’s benefits, while antiobesity advocates work to transform the benefits to promote purchases of healthier foods. My dream: The groups will join forces to do both.

Sugar-sweetened beverages will continue to be the flash point for efforts to counter childhood obesity: The defeat of soda tax initiatives in Richmond and El Monte (Los Angeles County) will inspire other communities to try their own versions of soda tax and size-cap initiatives. As research increasingly links sugary drinks to poor diets and health, soda companies will find it difficult to oppose such initiatives.

Grassroots efforts will have greater impact: Because so little progress can be expected from government these days, I’m predicting bigger and noisier grassroots efforts to create systems of food production and consumption that are healthier for people and the planet. Much work needs to be done. This is the year to do it.

And a personal note: In 2013, I’m looking forward to publication of the 10th anniversary edition of “Food Politics” and, in September, my new editorial cartoon book with Rodale Press: “Eat, Drink, Vote: An Illustrated Guide to Food Politics.”

Dec 4 2012

The food movement: new books

The digital age may be upon us but I see no sign that books are disappearing.  They flood in, and a great many of them are worth reading and adding to my office library.  Here are a few recent ones on various aspects of the food movement.

Michelle Obama, American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America, Crown, 2012.

Sometimes a garden is just a garden, but this one is a movement on its own.  As the First Lady explains:

I wanted this garden to be more than just a plot of land growing vegetables on the White House lawn.  I wanted it to be the starting point for something bigger…I was alarmed by reports of skyrocketing childhood obesity rates and the dire consequences for our children’s health.  And I hoped the garden would help begin a conversation about this issue—a conversation about the food we eat, the lives we lead, and how all of that affects our children.  

Sally Fairfax, et al.,  California Cuisine and Just Food.  MIT Press, 2012.

I wrote the foreword to this account of the development of the San Francisco Bay Area food movement, starting with:

California Cuisine and Just Food takes a deep and comprehensive look at past and present efforts to bring tastier, healthier, locally grown, and ethically produced food to San Francisco Bay Area eaters, poor as well as rich.  The story is inspiring.  The authors of this collectively written account, cautious academics as they must be, describe the development of the Bay Area food scene as a “district” rather than as a social movement.  But I have no such compunctions.  It looks like a social movement to me.  This book is about how the Bay Area food movement evolved to what it is today: a vibrant community of highly diverse groups working on highly diverse ways to produce better quality food and promote a more just, healthful, and sustainable food system—for everyone along the entire system of what it takes to produce, transport, sell, prepare, serve, and consume food.

Katherine Gustafson, Change Comes to Dinner:  How Vertical Farmers, Urban Growers, and Other Innovators are Revolutionizing How America Eats, St. Martins, 2012.

I blurbed this one:

In her wildly successful cross-country search for alternatives to our industrialized food system, Katherine Gustafson comes up with a terrific new word: “hoperaking,” the gathering of inspiration (and the opposite of muckraking).  The people whose work she describes here should inspire anyone to get busy and start planting.

Robin Shulman, Eat the City: A Tale of the Fishers, Foragers, Butchers, Farmers, Poultry Minders, Sugar Refiners, Cane Cutters, Bee Keepers, Wine Makers, and Brewers Who Built New York, Crown Publishers, 2012.

Eat the City is about the men and women who came to New York City–now and in the past–and planted gardens, harvested honey, made cheese, and brewed beer and made New York what it is today.  Robin Shulman uses their stories to bring this rich history to life and to reflect on the forces that brought immigrants and their food traditions to this city.   Not all of these stories have happy endings, but they inform, move, and inspire.

Aug 14 2012

More on growing the food movement: Harvard’s career guide

Thanks to Emily Broad Leib, Director of the Food Law and Policy Division of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation at Harvard for sending a link to the Center’s new Food Law and Policy Career Guide.

She sent this as a follow-up to my August 1 post providing a spreadsheet of organizations working on food, nutrition, and health issues.

This lists more than 150 food advocacy groups in order to suggest opportunities for involvement in food issues to those interested in food law and policy.

It lists organizations and agencies  in universities, government, research, and the private sector, domestic and international.  It also lists fellowship and grant opportunities and relevant food websites.

Most useful.  Thanks for this!

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