Food-Industrial Complex

The second lens is how, since the 1970s, wages adjusted for inflation have stagnated, and starting about the same time—not coincidentally—the USDA switches policies and starts encouraging farmers to grow as much food as possible and you get this long period of declining food prices; you get this steady drop in food expenditures as a percentage of income. I don’t think you can run an economy with structurally stagnated wages without food being really cheap.

Food Fighter : CJR

Really, really great interview at the Columbia Journalism review with Tom Philpott of Grist, pointing out the class issues in food politics.

Lunchtime Politics

A former school food administrator on Jamie Oliver’s program (thanks LA Foodie for the tip:

The school lunch program is broken and it will take the critical mass of a lot of people saying this isn’t right and demanding change. Nowhere in the Child Nutrition Act is there any requirement for nutritiona education. In my years as a Director I never saw, nor was I asked about nutrition education curriculum. It was, however, a topic of concern and discussion among my peers, we saw the need but no one listened. Today’s parent can’t shoulder this burden by themselves because most likely they didn’t receive much in the way of nutrition education either.

School meal programs are current up for reauthorization and are being actively discussed by Congress. If you’re concerned, outraged or simply want to see change, write to your local representative and state senators. Demand systemic change in the way the program is administered and operated. Demand training, demand nutrition education, but let your elected officials know that how we’re treating our youth of American with the existing program isn’t acceptable to you.

You know what’s better than blogging? Action. Here’s some links that will get you in touch with your Congressional reps.

House of Representatives



PS I wanted to note I queued this up last night before the Jamie Oliver palooza of this morning but I still think it is good reading.

On Jamie Oliver’s New Show

Haven’t watched it, but Melissa at Shakesville has (and has embedded it neatly in her post). But her critique is worth a read. I know he’s doing good things with school lunch programs, but reality TV nearly always brings out the worst in people…

The premiere episode has absolutely zero structural critique, not even a passing comment about the reason that millions of mothers feed their kids processed foods is because it’s cheap and fast, which is a pretty good solution for people who are short on money and time.

Oliver places the responsibility for unhealthful eating exclusively at the feet of the individual, seemingly without concern for the cultural dynamics that inform individual choices. The extent of the explanation provided for why someone might choose to stock their freezer with frozen pizzas is that they’re lazy and/or don’t know any better.

And then he wonders why he isn’t greeted by the citizens of Huntington with open arms.

At the end of the episode, a newspaper article comes out in which Oliver’s evident contempt for the community has been reported. Oliver claims his words were taken out of context; the people with whom he’s been working to revamp elementary school meals don’t believe him—and understandably so, given that he’s been a patronizing ass to them.

In the final scene, Oliver speaks directly to the camera, and he is crying, wiping tears from his eyes as he throws himself a little pity party: 

It’s quite hard to cut through negativity, always. And defensiveness. You know, I’m giving upmassive time that is really compromising my family—because I care! You know, um, the tough thing for me [exhales deeply] is they don’t understand me, ‘cuz they don’t know why I’m here. [sniffs] They don’t even know what I’ve done, the things I’ve done in the last ten years! And I’m just doing it ‘cuz it feels right [sniffs], and when I do things that feels right, magic happens! [sniffs; shakes his head disbelievingly] I’ve done some amazing things, you know? And that’s when I follow my heart. And when I never follow my heart, I always get it wrong. 

Look, I’m gonna be really honest: You do live in an amazing country. You put people on the moon! You live in an amazing country. And so do I, you know? And, right now in time, is a moment where we’re all confused about how brilliant we are and how technically advanced we are, and that is fighting with what once made our countries great, which is family, community, being together, and something honestly as simple as putting a few ingredients together and sitting your family or your friends or your girlfriend or your mother-in-law around that table and breaking bread. And if you think that’s not important, then shame on you!


Also, I mean, come on, her title is “Save me from myself, skinny Jesus chef!” 

-Julia Childless

Matzah Huzzah!

Story on cross-cultural food politics in Israel, via the Awl

The answer to the mystery is simple, said Arabs in several mainly Arab towns in Israel. They just like the taste.

“The kids love it. They eat it like cookies,” said Wisad Jamil, a 43-year-old woman lugging a carton of matzah and tub of chocolate spread to her car for her husband and five kids at the Umm el-Fahm store.

“Don’t the Jews eat our bread? Fine, we eat their matzah,” she said.


The Fight for Food in New Orleans

Link: The Fight for Food in New Orleans


Poverty is a massive issue in the 2010 version of New Orleans, and with that comes a food insecurity rate that is among the highest in the nation (60 percent of residents say they have to choose between paying utility bills and buying food some months). And as is true in so many other low-income communities around the country, the problem is not only about money, but also about access to quality food. Even if every New Orleans resident could afford high-quality groceries every day, the city’s infrstructure for providing the food can’t yet keep up with demand.

The average grocery store in the city — there are 20, compared to 30 before Katrina — serves 16,000 people, twice the national average, according to Amara Foster, who saw the problem up close as a National Hunger Fellow in New Orleans. Writing for the Center for American Progress, Foster reports that, especially in the poorest neighborhoods of the city, the number of corner markets selling chips and candy far outstrips the number of proper grocery stores, contributing to the oft-misunderstood connection between poverty and obesity.

New Orleans’ troubles convincingly illustrate the tremendous need for the expansion of anti-hunger programs proposed by President Obama. Obama’s budget for next year would dramatically increase the amount spent on child nutrition programs. Just as importantly, it would dedicate $400 million per year to bringing fresh food to corner stores and to funding new grocery stores and farmers’ markets. For New Orleans residents who don’t want to compete with their 16,000 closest friends at the grocery store, that’s a good idea.

I got into an argument last night with a guy who said that people eating badly was a “cultural” problem and that we just had to teach them to eat better. I wish I’d had this to show him.

-Julia Childless

A Small Victory for Food Workers

Chalk up another one for the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), the Florida-based community organization that has been trying for decades to improve the grim lot of migrant tomato pickers, most of whom toil for less than minimum wage. This week, ARAMARK, the giant corporation that supplies food to universities, hospitals, stadiums, and other institutions around the world, announced an agreement with the coalition that gives workers 1.5 cents more per pound for the produce they pick.

Good news for farmworkers and a great site to bookmark to keep up with such issues: The Politics of the Plate. They do a better job than we ever will.