by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Supermarkets

Jul 3 2020

Weekend reading: catching up on recent reports

Read these and you will be up to date on anything known about food systems in the age of COVID-19.

FAO and Hopkins Dashboard

This gives data on aspects of food systems—supply chains, food environments,  consumer behavior, diets and nutrition, and the effects of key drivers like climate change and income, 170 indicators in all—on the food systems of 230 countries and territories.  This is one-stop shopping for this kind of information.

“What struck us back in 2017 while working on the UN High Level Panel of Experts on Food Systems and Nutrition Report was the lack of accessible, organised, quality-checked information on food systems. Without that data, it’s difficult to identify the best evidence-based actions that could improve food systems,” said Johns Hopkins Global Food Ethics and Policy Program Director Jessica Fanzo. “It was really important to us, given the level of complexity and interconnections inherent to food systems, that the data be presented in a way that is easily usable – and that’s what the Dashboard does. Now decision makers have easy access to both data and to policy advice that is specific to their situations.”

Oxfam: “Exposed: How US supermarkets are failing their workers in a global pandemic”

Oxfam analyzed the formal policies of major US supermarkets during the first months of the pandemic, including Albertsons/Safeway, Costco, Kroger, Walmart, and Whole Foods/Amazon in five key areas: paid sick leave, hazard pay, protective gear, engagement with workers and worker representatives, and gender and dependent care. While all of these supermarkets stepped up some of their policies, none of them are doing nearly enough as they continue to make outsized profits on the backs of their low-wage workers.

Here are the Press release and the report.

CGIAR: Actions to Transform Food Systems Under Climate Change

Nothing short of a systemic transformation of food systems is required if we are to feed the world’s current and future population sustainably under climate change…we aimed to identify the high priority actions that we must collectively take now, for climate change adaptation and mitigation in food systems.  [Note: CGIAR was formerly the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research, but now goes just by CGIAR]

Here is the report.

HLPE [High Level Panel of Experts] 15: Fooc Security and Nutrition: Building a Global Narrative Towards 2030.

Following the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the HLPE was asked to urgently prepare an issues paper on the potential impact of the pandemic on global food security and nutrition for an extraordinary meeting of the CFS on 19 March 2020. The key findings and recommendations from this issues paper have been updated and included in this report…The current COVID-19 crisis is unprecedented in its global scale and the situation is changing rapidly, with many unknowns. It serves as a reminder of the fragility of the global food system and the importance of global coordination.

Here is the report.

 

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.

Nov 2 2018

Weekend reading: Supermarket USA

Shane Hamilton.  Supermarket USA: Food and Power in the Cold War Farms Race.  Yale University Press, 2018.

Image result for supermarkets usa shane hamilton

I did a blurb for this one:

Who knew that supermarkets, of all things, were key elements of U.S. free-enterprise, anti-Soviet, Cold War propaganda.  Hamilton fully explains how “farm wars” led directly to today’s international industrial agribusinesses.   This superb book is a must-read.

Jun 30 2017

Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods: a roundup

I’ve been asked to comment on Amazon’s proposal to buy Whole Foods.  So much has been written about it that it’s hard to add anything new.

My immediate thoughts:

The facts: Amazon offered $13.7 billion to buy Whole Foods.  This may seem like a lot of money but it’s just 3% of Amazon’s $470 billion holdings.

How did this happen?

What are the implications?

Effect on retailers: Their stocks dropped immediately.  Amazon is serious competition.

Disruption: This may be a major disruption to grocers, but this industry may have had it coming.

Organics: Whole Foods specializes in organics; producers already cannot keep up with demand.  Farmers will have to grow more, but if Amazon imports organics that will open up possibilities for fraud.

E-commerce: this could increase the value of physical stores if done right, as well as online grocery shopping.

Food chains: Amazon on top.

 “Conscious capitalism”: The end

Maybe, feeding the world (says Alice Waters)

Better food for all?  Civil Eats considers this question, but asks will this do what Walmart does—force lower wages for workers and lower prices for farmers. 

Humor: Alexa: tell me some jokes about Whole Foods’s prices, drones, and Amazon’s ruling the world.

Jan 11 2017

What SNAP recipients buy at one big retail grocery

Advocates have been pressing USDA for years to (1) get data on what SNAP recipients buy with their benefits, and (2) permit pilot studies of what happens to purchases of soft drinks if you exclude them from the benefit package.

In 2012, I did a post on the 2012 SNAP to Health report.  Its recommendations:

  1.  Protect SNAP benefits.
  2.  Collect data

Lots of people have been trying to get USDA to produce data.  Anahad O’Connor, the author of the New York Times account, filed a Freedom of Information request with USDA.  In response, USDA sent him a report it had commissioned from IMPAQ, a “beltway bandit” consulting firm.  His story is here (I’m quoted).

Now we have a partial answer.  IMPAQ analyzed data from one large, unnamed retailer (could it be Walmart?).

Here’s USDA’s summary of the study (and here’s the complete study).

The USDA says the study shows that SNAP recipients buy pretty much the same amounts of what everyone else buys.

Summary category data show that both SNAP and non-SNAP households focused their spending in a relatively small number of similar food item categories, reflecting similar food choices. The top five summary categories totaled about half of the expenditures for SNAP households and non-SNAP households (50 versus 47 percent). Commodity-level data (in the full report) show that both SNAP and non-SNAP households made choices that may not be fully consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

My reading of the report suggests that in this study, SNAP recipients spent more of a combination of their SNAP benefits and their own private money on:

  • Sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Hamburger
  • Frozen meals
  • Salty snacks
  • Lunch meats
  • Flavored milk
  • Kids cereals
  • Frozen French fries
  • Convenience foods in general
  • Infant formula

The report does not discuss why these differences might exist but it would be interesting to find out.

If sugar-sweetened beverages really comprise 9.5% of purchases, that comes to $6 billion a year.

That’s why taking them off the list of eligible foods is worth a try.

Recent SNAP news

The USDA is sponsoring a pilot project to allow SNAP participants to buy foods online from certain retailers, including Amazon in three states, Fresh Direct in New York, and various grocery chains in other states.

The idea is to make it easier for SNAP participants to get access to healthier foods.

I hope the USDA is keeping score on what gets bought online, and whether foods cost more.  The benefits are not allowed to be used for delivery costs.

Dec 8 2016

Food Politics Alaska style: Supermarket prices

I visited the AC supermarket in Utqiagvik, the town formerly known as Barrow.

It could be anywhere USA, with anything you could possibly want, including fresh blueberries from Argentina.  How’s that for food miles?

Remember: all of this, no exceptions, comes in by cargo plane.

The produce section was lovely, with remarkably fresh foods at equally remarkable prices.

Would you believe the green leaf lettuce is $3.50, the baby carrots $7.29, and the romaine $4.69?  New York prices on steroids.

How about white potatoes at $3.29, red ones at $2.79, and baking potatoes at $18.99 for 10 pounds.

Or the reason I was so concerned about the tossed out school lunch milk cartons: $7.11 on sale.

How about bread on sale for $5.98 a loaf?

Just to make me feel at home, here are the sugary drinks down one entire aisle.  The 12-packs were on sale for $10.98, which must not be enough to discourage sales.

Are soft drinks a problem in Utqiagvik/Barrow?

Yes, they are.

The prevalence of obesity and diabetes is low, but rising steadily, and the Indian Health Service dentists told me that they see plenty of little kids with rotted teeth from drinking sodas and sweet juices in baby bottles.

The nutrition transition is taking place in America too, and for the same reasons that obesity and diabetes are becoming problems in the developing world.

Aug 10 2016

Supermarkets promote unhealthy food products

In Great Britain, at least, supermarkets promote junk foods more than they promote healthy foods.

No surprise.  Junk foods are more profitable!

May 8 2014

5 rules for supermarkets: the English translation

Bernard Lavallée, Le nutritionniste urbain, has supplied an English translation of the French graphic I posted a couple of days ago:

5tips_marion_nestle_eng

He’s done other food graphics.  You can see them at this site.

Thanks for sending!