Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Sep 8 2023

Weekend reading: The Politics of SNAP

Christopher Bosso.  Why SNAP Works: A Political History—and Defense—of the Food Stamp Program.  University of California Press,  2023. 

I did a blurb for this book:

Why SNAP Works is a lively, up-to-the-minute account of the history of thie program formerly known as Food Stamps, and contested from its onset.  Bosso’s compelling explanation of the reasons SNAP survived—and deserves to–in the face of so much opposition, makes his book a must read.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, not least because Bosso is such an entertaining writer.

The book makes a strong case for his take-home message::

Yes, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program can be better.  But without it, millions of Americans would be worse off.  And if that sounds like faint praise, so be it.  The paradox of want among plenty has not disappeared.  Short of a system solution to poverty—the root cause of food insecurity—and in a land of so much food, often bordering on the obscene, SNAP at least ensures that all Americans get a better chance at a decent diet, a minimum element for a decent life, without sacrificing all personal autonomy and pride.

At a time when the Farm Bill is up for renewal and SNAP is under siege (again), the is book could not be more timely.

I hope everyone in Congress gets a copy and reads it.

Hey, I can dream.

Sep 7 2023

Insects as food: the latest update

The idea of adding or substituting insects for other protein foods is a big deal these days, if you count the amount of venture capital going into insect food startups.

Here are a few of the latest things I’ve seen on the topic.  Enjoy!

Sep 6 2023

On Netflix now: “Live to 100–Secrets of the Blue Zones”

I’ve just watched this four-part series on Netflix for two reasons, (1) the concept is fascinating and Dan Buettner does a great job with it., and (2) I’m in it in episodes #1 and #4.

Thanks to Martin Bruhn of Common Meadows Creamery for sending the screen shot.

I won’t go into all the details about the episodes, because Gothamist did a great job of reporting and analysis.

Buettner’s basic idea was to find out why a few relatively small and mostly isolated populations (“Blue Zones”) have so many members who live to the age of 100.

Spoiler alert: the secrets, no surprise, are diet (largely plant-based), physical activity built into daily life, community and social support, and a sense of purpose.

I am for all of these and that’s how I live, which explains my enthusiasm for these films.

Buettner works with cities to turn them into Blue Zones that support healthy diets, walking, and community support.

I got involved in this when Buettner invited me to join his team—and the Netflix crew—in South Phoenix where they were suggesting ways to Blue-Zone up the local environment.  I’m not a city planner but I could sure think of things that would make that part of Phoenix much more livable—parks, walking trails, shade trees (if they didn’t need too much water), stores selling fresh food, community gardens.

I like the concept a lot.  See the films and let me know what you think of them and those ideas.  Enjoy!


Sep 5 2023

British Nutrition Foundation vs. concept of Ultra-Processed Food

I’m always surprised when the nutrition community opposes evidence for the association of ultra-processed foods with poor health outcomes.

I read an article about such opposition from the British Nutrition Foundation.

Bridget Benelam, a BNF spokesperson, explained: For many of us when we get home after a busy day, foods like baked beans, wholemeal toast, fish fingers or ready-made pasta sauces are an affordable way to get a balanced meal on the table quickly. These may be classed as ultra-processed but can still be part of a healthy diet.

I looked up the position statement of the British Nutrition Foundation.

At present, the British Nutrition Foundation believes that due to the lack of agreed definition, the need for better understanding of mechanisms involved and concern about its usefulness as a tool to identify healthier products, the concept of UPF does not warrant inclusion within policy (e.g. national dietary guidelines).

I also looked up its “Why trust us?” statement.

Our funding comes from: membership subscriptions; donations and project grants from food producers and manufacturers, retailers and food service companies; contracts with government departments; conferences, publications and training; overseas projects; funding from grant providing bodies, trusts and other charities.  Our corporate members and committee membership are listed on our website and in our annual reports.

With some diligent searching, I did indeed manage to find the list of corporate members.

Front group anyone?  Take a look.

Current members
AHDB (Agricultural and Horticulture Development Board)

Aldi Stores Ltd

Associated British Foods


ASDA Stores Ltd

British Sugar plc

Cargill Inc

Coca Cola

Costa Coffee

Danone Ltd


General Mills

Greggs plc

Innocent Drinks Ltd

International Flavors & Fragrances Inc.

J Sainsbury Plc

Kellogg Europe Trading Ltd

Kerry Taste & Nutrition

KP Snacks Limited

Lidl GB


Marks and Spencer plc

Mars UK Ltd

McDonald’s Restaurants Ltd

Mitchells & Butlers

Mondelez International

National Farmers’ Union Trust Company Ltd

Nestlé UK Ltd

Nestlé Nutrition

Nomad Foods Europe

PepsiCo UK Ltd


Premier Foods


Slimming World



Subway UK & Ireland

Tata Global Beverages Ltd

Tate & Lyle www.tate&

Tesco Plc

The Co-operative Group Ltd

Uber Eats

UK Flour Millers

Waitrose & Partners



Wm Morrisons Supermarkets plc



Sustaining Members

Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board

ASDA Stores Ltd

Associated British Foods

Coca-Cola Great Britain and Ireland

Danone UK Ltd

International Flavors & Fragrances Inc.

J Sainsbury plc

Kellogg Europe

Marks and Spencer plc

Mondelez International

Nestlé UK Ltd

PepsiCo UK Ltd

Tate & Lyle


Sustaining members agree to provide a donation to the British Nutrition Foundation for at least three years to support our wider charitable work focussing on consumer education, and engagement with the media, government, schools and health professionals. 

Help us improve

Sep 4 2023

Labor Day: an ever-timely food politics reminder

Enjoy the holiday!

Sep 1 2023

Weekend (all year?) reading: An Italian Feast

I just bought a copy of this book, mainly because I like reading everything Cliff Wright writes.  One of his previous books about Italian Cooking, A Mediterranean Feast, won two James Beard awards in 2000, one of them Cookbook of the Year, deservedly.

This one is a doorstop at 1191 pages and 5.6 pounds.

But no need to be intimidated.  The structure is quite straightforward.

The book takes each region of Italy, in alphabetical order from Abruzzo to Veneto, and takes those regions province by province to discuss and provide recipes for characteristic dishes.

Take Emilia-Romagna, for example.  First comes a history of the region, a discussion of its cuisine and questions about them, followed by characteristic recipes from the region and discussions and recipes of each of the provinces, also in alphabetical order, from Bologna to Rimini.

Wright introduces the book with a summary of how the history of Italy has influenced its food.  For example:

In terms of what people at in Italy in the last fifteen hundred years, there is so much for which one must account, from the diffusion of Islamic agriculture between the seventh and twelfth centuries; the Black Death of the fourteenth century; the transition of the world economy from feudalism to capitalism and the wealth created as a result of the trade in, mostly, food products; the discovery of the New World in the late fifteenth century and the introduction of its new foods in the following century; and the changes in the consciousness of people themselves due to the Renaissance, humanism, and the nascent stirrings of modern science.  This is a complex story, and it all has to be told so we can appreciate why Italian food is what it is today.

Hence, 1200 pages.

Interspersed throughout the book are boxed discussions of fasciinating details.  On eggplant parmesan from the Regional Cuisine of Campania, for example, he says (among other things):

Let us dig a little deeper here.  The first mention of something resembling eggplant Parmesan is from the rhyming poem Il saporetto by Simone Prudenzani (1387-1440).  Prudenzani was from Orvieto, and Il saporetto, while not a cookbook, is about food, where a dish mentioned refers to well-grated parmigiano cheese being stuffed inside (Dentro nel parmiscian ben gratusgiato)….I believe the version we know today, with its Parmesan cheese and tomato ragoût, first appears in print in Ippolito Cavalcanti’s Cucina teorico-practica, published in Naples in 1837….

The recipes come with similar dicussions.

You either love this kind of thing or not.  I tend to be for it.

For that reason, I do have a quibble with the book.  It does not come with an Index of anything except the recipes.

The scholarly apparatus is limited to brief endnotes, a lengthy bibliography of what he read for this (17 pages of small type), and an index of the recipes by category, and by region and province.  But the recipes are only a fraction of what is in this book.

The lack of an index is a serious omission.

Wright self-published this tome.

Still, I’m glad to have it.

Aug 31 2023

The Food Politics of—Barbie!

Now that Barbie is a feminist icon, I have to confess I have two of them in my NYU office.

At one point I must have owned three, because here is an illustration from my book, Food Politics, published in 2002.

The feet on the MacDonald’s Barbie are flat—she’s wearing sneakers, appropriately for a doll on her feet all day.

The Oreo purse is a nice touch.

I don’t know what happened to my Coca-Cola Barbie but the other two are still in their boxes.

Who knew?

Aug 30 2023

School is starting: What the USDA is doing (a lot, actually)

I received an email from the USDA about what it is doing about school meals for the fall (and see ALSO at the end of this post).

It included links or attachments to resources.

This last one shows the money USDA has put into school meals since 2021.

This looks impressive.  Let’s hope it does good. 


The Chef Ann Foundation, which teaches scratch-cooking in schools, is recruiting applicants for its Healthy School Food Pathway Fellowship.  This is a 13-month training program.  See messages and graphics.  They are also hosting an explanatory webinar—tomorrow—for which you can register here.

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