by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Coronavirus

Apr 8 2020

Passover during the 11th plague: Celebrate!

This comes from ©Bill Wurtzel’s “Food For Thought about COVID-19.”

And a reader, Harvey Carroll, forwards this (original source unknown):

One of my favorite chefs, Mark Strausman, has posted instructions for a virtual passover.  Here, for example, is his video for do-it-yourself matzo.

Dayenu!

Apr 7 2020

Food and Coronavirus: the good news (!)

In this week’s updates of items related to food and Coronavirus, let’s start with the good news (yes, there is some).

I.  Free meals for New Yorkers

The New York City Department of Education has announced that it will make three free meals available every day for any New Yorker, at more than 400 locations.

  • No one will be turned away at any time
  • All adults and children can pick up three meals at one time
  • Vegetarian and halal options available at all sites
  • No registration or ID required

What, you might wonder, is in these meals?

This is no time to criticize, and I won’t.

This is a monumental undertaking and city officials deserve much praise for making what look like typical school meals available to everyone.

Much praise also to the school food service and other personnel who are preparing these meals.

II.  Recognition that the lowest-paid workers are essential

The economy and society run on the work of farmworkers,  many of them immigrants and undocumented, health care employees, restaurant delivery and food service personnel, and so many others involved in our food system.  The indispensible value of their work has suddenly become visible.   That’s a good first step, but not enough, of course.

III.  An opportunity to document history

A crisis of this magnitude calls for analysis.  It’s hard to do that when you are right in the middle of it, but the Association of Public Historians of New York State has issued a call for documentation and offers suggestions about what to write and collect right now.  We can all do this and lay the groundwork for future historical analysis.  I’m interested in the food and food politics aspects that I’ve been posting about on this site.  All suggestions welcome.

IV.  A return to home gardening and cooking

Salon’s recent article about renewed interest in gardening, canning, and baking focuses attention on how difficult it has become to get seeds and find flour, yeast, and eggs in supermarkets.   My local CSA baker (Wide Awake in Ithaca) is offering sour dough starter, flour, recipes, and instructions along with weekly loaves.  It’s still too cold to plant anything up here in the Finger Lakes, but the robins are back, the forsythia is in bloom, and it will soon be time to start the peas.

Apr 6 2020

Tone deaf food ad of the week: Doritos

Really, I can’t make this stuff up.

Apr 3 2020

Coronavirus: Weekend advice about what and how to eat

The Mexican food advocacy group, Alianza por la Salud Alimentaria, has produced this guide for taking care of your food needs during this emergency.

And here’s a general survival guide.

Apr 1 2020

Coronavirus and food: Happy April Fool’s Day

This is what the bagged salad section of the Wegmans in Ithaca, New York, looked like early last Friday morning (right after the store opened for the day).

Thanks to Stephanie Borkowsky for the photo.

Mar 31 2020

What does $2 Trillion do for US Food Systems? (Not much, alas)

President Trump’s $2 Trillion relief package is the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020.’’

This 880-page (!) bill addresses food systems in several ways, most of them in “Title I Agricultural Programs” which starts on page 609 like this:.

For an additional amount for the ‘‘Office of the Secretary’’, $9,500,000,000, to remain available until expended, to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus by providing support for agricultural producers impacted by coronavirus, including producers of specialty crops, producers that supply local food systems, including farmers markets, restaurants, and schools, and livestock producers, including dairy producers: Provided, That such amount is designated by the Congress as being for an emergency requirement pursuant to section 22 251(b)(2)(A)(i) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency 23 Deficit Control Act of 1985.

This sounds good (in Ag-speak, specialty crops are fruits and vegetables), but what this means in practice, according to the New York Times, is

  • About $23.5 billion in assistance to farmers ($9.5 in subsidies, $14 in borrowing authority)

But this will go mainly to soy and corn producers, key Trump constituents in an election year.  This amount follows nearly $26 billion in aid already provided to offset losses from the China trade war.  This new funds exceed USDA’s entire discretionary budget request for next year.  The USDA Secretary may allocate the funds as he wishes, with no oversight.

So much for welfare for the rich.

As for the poor, the bill provides

  • About $25 billion for food assistance (domestic food programs $8.8 billion, SNAP $15.8 billion).

This too sounds like a lot but all it does is account for the expected increase in demand from people newly out of work.  It does not in any way increase the amount that individuals and families receive.

How did this happen?  Chalk it up to effective lobbying by agribusiness.

The gains for agribusiness were accomplished, says the Times, by “A small army of groups mounted the fast-moving campaign for aid, including the politically powerful American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Joining them were other smaller players representing producers of goods like turkey, pork and potatoes or sunflowers, sorghum, peanuts and eggs.”

Earlier, Politico reported that nearly 50 organizations representing farmers, equipment manufacturers and agricultural lenders sent a letter stating their needs as a result of declining demand from school and restaurant shutdowns and direct-to-consumer sales.

The bill does little to help the folks who most need help.  Anti-hunger groups tried, but failed.

Poor people need to vote.  And organize.

Mar 30 2020

Coronavirus and food: weekly update

RIP

  • Floyd Cardoz, a chef whose food I loved, is one of the early casualties.  I last talked to him at an event not six weeks ago.  He was having a hard time.  But to end like this?  A heartbreak.

Predictions of high risk

Effects on food systems

The alcohol industry responds

Here come the panaceas

Here come the frauds

For useful information

  • The CUNY Urban Food Policy Center is studying the effects of Covid-19 on New York City’s food system.  Its website is here.
  • The New York State Health Foundation has COVID-19 resources for nonprofits and community-based organizations, about food assistance as well as other matters.
Mar 27 2020

Every crisis has heroes: here’s ours

Thanks to Dr. Leon Axel for his cartoons, especially this one.