by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Price-of-food

May 19 2009

Eating well on a low budget?

Adam Drewnowski and his colleagues at the University of Washington have been doing a series of papers on the cost of food per calorie.  The latest is a research brief answering the question, “Can low-income Americans afford a healthy diet?”  Not really, they say.  Federal food assistance assumes that low-income people spend 30% of their income on food but that assumption was based on figures from an era when housing, transportation, and health care costs were much less.  As Drewnowski has shown repeatedly, healthier foods cost more, and sometimes a lot more, when you look at them on a per-calorie basis.

Mar 8 2009

Foodie magazines: a quick summary

It’s Sunday, so let’s take a break and browse some food magazines.  These, from high-end Gourmet to mass-market Food and Family, are responding to the economic crisis by focusing on basic cooking skills.  In writing about this new trend, the New York Times business section has produced a terrific overview.  Have trouble telling the magazines apart?  Want to know how their advertising is doing?  And how about a little history?  It’s all here.  And who knew that Food and Family has the largest circulation of any food magazine (7 million)?  How come?  It’s owned by Kraft Foods, a company that knows what its audience likes.

As for eating well on a tight food budget, here’s Jane Brody’s advice, accompanied by a bunch of low-cost recipes.  Cook up a storm this weekend!

Jan 12 2009

USDA: subsidizing F&V won’t do much good

 The USDA has a new report out analyzing the effects of a 10% subsidy on fruits and vegetables.  This, its economists say, would increase consumption a little, but not enough to meet recommendations and the cost would be hundreds of millions of dollars a year.  Does this mean that lowering the cost of F&V isn’t worth the trouble?  Why am I not convinced by this argument?

May 18 2008

Rising food prices: waste or deeper reasons?

Joachim von Braun, the director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington DC, explained the reasons behind rising food prices to the State Department on May 6. His powerpoint presentation, (sent to me by a colleague) cites three reasons: high demand, high energy costs, and misguided policies, among them growing food for biofuels and–a new one–neglect of agricultural investment. Keith Bradsher and Andrew Martin provide evidence for this last suggestion with an article about how the lack of investment in rice research is hurting the Philippines. Andrew Martin writes in the New York Times about the extraordinary amount of food Americans waste every day–roughly one pound of food per person per day. He cites an estimate from the USDA that recovery of just one-fourth of the waste could feed 20, million people a day. The proverbial food for thought?

May 14 2008

Rising food prices: who is at fault?

The New York Times writes today that India’s politicians, economists, and academics are responding to the charge that increasing prosperity in their country is responsible for the global rise in food prices. No way, they say. Like Vandana Shiva (see previous post), they cite other reasons: the West’s diversion of crop land to produce biofuels, agricultural subsidies that undermine agriculture in developing countries, trade barriers that do the same, high consumption of beef and oil resources, and high degree of food waste, along with the decline in the exchange rate of the U.S. dollar. Time for some leadership on all sides, I’d say.

May 12 2008

Food prices again: risks vs. benefits

Alexandra Lewin, a doctoral student at Cornell, is working with Corporations and Health Watch in Washington, DC, which “tracks the effects of corporate practices on public health.” Her latest contribution is an analysis of the effects of higher food prices on school lunch programs. Given the impossibly small amount of money schools have to work with, they will surely, she says, “find it ever more difficult to say no to an easy source of revenue: soda, cookies, and other junk food. Here we go again.”

On the other hand, Dan Barber, the fabulous chef of Blue Hill in Manhattan and Stone Barns, writes in the New York Times that higher food prices now “could lead to better food for the entire world.” Market forces, he says may well force more attention to the benefits of small farms “bringing harvests that are more healthful, sustainable and, yes, even more flavorful.” This, of course, is what Michael Pollan and Alice Waters were quoted as saying a month or so ago. I hope they are right.

May 6 2008

The current food crisis: two views worth reading

The rise in food prices is blamed on a perfect storm of three factors: high oil prices, food grown for biofuels, and rising demand for meat in developing countries, particularly India and China. Vandana Shiva takes exception to this last accusation. The “crisis” is one of the least attractive result of globalization and corporate control of the food supply, she argues. The Washington Post has been running an excellent series of articles. The Post adds a fourth factor: the serious drought in Australia caused by global warming. If you were wondering what was meant by “global food system,” here it is.

May 5 2008

Eating Liberally Asks Marion: agribusiness and the global food crisis

I forgot to post the link to Eating Liberally’s last question (and my answer) about how agribusiness is influencing the current crisis over rising food prices. Here it is.