What FoodAnthro is reading now, October 31, 2016

Here are a few food and nutrition-related items that we’ve been reading recently. Do you have items you think we should include? Send links and brief descriptions to dberiss@gmail.com or hunterjo@gmail.com.

Starting with the juxtaposition of extreme famine and extreme…what’s the word for it? I’m not sure… In Nigeria, people are experiencing the famine in previous breadbaskets, as a result of the insecurity caused by Boko Haram:

When aid groups did start to get access to some cities in Borno this past summer, they were shocked by what they found. People were eating grass and locusts. The rates of severe acute malnutrition — a life-threatening lack of food — were among the highest in the world. About half of all children were malnourished.

So here’s the opposite:  I found myself being sucked into this story about Amanda Chantal Bacon’s Mood Juice (!?):

I turn over the empty sleeve and read the ingredients — organic astragalus, ginseng, organic eleuthero, organic schisandra, rhodiola, and organic stevia — and realize I’ve only heard of approximately one and a half of them.

As out there as Moon Juice seemed, there are commonalities to be found in the extremes, and I found this essay helped me avoid my instinctive snigger reflex and claw back a little empathy:

It is, in its weird, obsessive way, against every ethos that makes California the American promised land of endless sun, delicious vegetables, and not fearing the reaper; and yet, it is quintessentially Californian in its cultish belief in a paradise on Earth.

Moon Juice seems to represent to a world in which every meal has to be multilayered masterpiece, something the phenomenon of craft butcheries seem well-poised to speak to:

“There’s this meat fetishizing and narcissism in which we feel like we deserve to have the greatest incarnation of meat every time we eat it, instead of prioritizing things like the farmers, accessibility, and cost,” he says.

The UN has a special representative on the right to food, who spoke last week of junk food as a violation of the right to adequate food:

Hilal Elver, the U.N.’s special representative on the right to food, said Tuesday the rise of industrial food production combined with trade liberalization has allowed large corporations to flood the global market with cheap, nutrient-poor foods that force poor people to choose between economic viability and nutrition, effectively violating their right to adequate food.

The challenge is improving access to nutritious food. Two articles this week speak, from two different perspectives, about how urban farming doesn’t seem to be a standalone solution to access to good food, yet they’re still a powerful tool for community engagement.

Despite these barriers, our 2016 study into the state of urban farming showed that huge positives can come out of these spaces. For example, urban farms often act as a social incubator, bringing together communities and connecting cultures. Many also impact significantly on health and well-being, allowing city-dwellers to access fresh food and sometimes even supplement diets.

“I don’t believe community gardens contribute much to food access, but they certainly do build community and highlight the need for fresh food,” said cultural anthropologist Dr. Howard Rosing.

As South Africa pushes to institute a sales tax on sugary beverages, it was interesting— and perhaps unsurprising to me— to find that Coca-Cola is probably going to be just fine, either way.

To respond to consumers’ growing aversion to the sweetener, the company is offering smaller bottles and cans — essentially getting customers to pay more for less product. It’s also creating new brands and reformulating existing drinks to cut sugar. Coca-Cola says the shift will actually increase sales, and the company’s third-quarter results on Wednesday backed up that confidence.

And finally, news of Chipotle’s woes have reached us here in South Africa, and this article provided a fascinating in-depth view of the company. It’s a long read, but it’s worth it. Author Austin Carr framed their problems this way:

When a listeria outbreak caused by Dole’s packaged salads was linked to four deaths last year, the public outcry was not nearly as intense or sustained (despite an ongoing federal investigation). When Tesla reported its first driver fatality while using its Autopilot feature last June, it didn’t affect the company’s stock price at all. Why were these deaths only blips for Dole’s and Tesla’s reputations? By contrast, Chipotle spent a year in hell even though no one died—and more than 265,000 Americans get sick annually from illnesses linked to E. coli.

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