What FoodAnthropology Is Reading Now, April 3, 2017

David Beriss

A brief digest of food and nutrition-related items that caught our attention recently. Got items you think we should include? Send links and brief descriptions to dberiss@gmail.com or hunterjo@gmail.com.

Let’s start with U.S. policies that can have an impact on what we eat and drink. Over at Modern Farmer, Brian Barth has this round-up of cheery news, from the incredibly slow confirmation process for President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Agriculture (still not confirmed), to proposed budget cuts for USDA and EPA, and opposition to something called (not by its authors), the “filthy food act.”

On that last point, you can read more about the effort to streamline government regulations (as it pertains to food) in a variety of places. On the broad issue of regulatory reform, this article from Politico provides a helpful overview. It is worth being skeptical of anyone who claims that they just want to make government more efficient, especially if the areas in which they focus their efforts happen to benefit their supporters. This editorial at Food Safety News makes the case that the regulatory reform proposed by the current administration will significantly undermine the regulation of food safety. Here is another analysis, from the Environmental Defense Fund.

On the proposed budget cuts, this article from Civil Eats, points out some of the effects of the president’s proposed budget on the regulation of food, on agriculture, and on food-related workers. It is, of course, only a proposed budget blueprint, not real appropriations for real agencies. However, the proposed budget is meant to provide insight into the new administration’s priorities, in case you were wondering about them.

We all probably know that kids who are not hungry do better in school. According to this article from The Atlantic, recent research in American schools suggests that better quality school lunches can improve student learning (or at least test scores) too. The idea that studies like this are necessary to justify feeding children better food at school tells us a great deal about American thinking about food, education, children, and more.

On the NPR blog The Salt, yet another reminder that the food industry (in this case, restaurants, bars, and agriculture) plays a significant role in human trafficking. Many people find themselves working in what amounts to slavery. The article refers to a recent report human trafficking and modern slavery, which you can find here.

The state of Arkansas recently passed legislation that would make anyone who takes pictures or videos of activities in nonpublic areas of private businesses subject to civil penalties. This is being criticized as “ag-gag” legislation because it was written to protect the poultry industry from animal rights activists. As it is written, the law could also limit the activities of whistleblowers in any number of industries.

What might those activists want to photograph? Perhaps meat processing plants. In Brazil, one of the world’s largest meatpacking companies is in the middle of a scandal in which its employees have been selling rancid meat to schools, grocery stores, etc. This article, from Civil Eats, points out that even if you buy only locally produced meat, you may still feel the global effects of the industrial meat industry.

From pemmican and tourtière, to poutine and Tim Horton’s donuts, this interesting article uses iconic foods to tell a story about Canadian history. Fascinating, to be sure, but also clearly just a start. Still, you have to give the author, Ian Mosby, credit for hard eyed realism. He includes fish sticks, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, pablum, and other items that one generally does not associate with the word “cuisine” but that have had a real impact on everyday diets.

While we are in Canada, it is interesting to consider the ongoing debates around the links between food and ethnicity. This article, by Sara Peters, makes a case against something called “culinary gentrification,” which is the appropriation of foods (or of discourses about food) of an immigrant group by people in positions of greater power. The setting is Toronto, where there are indeed many kinds of people and foods.

Just when you thought it was safe to talk about urban agriculture, Wayne Roberts decided to review three books and insist on the use of the plural—urban agricultures—when discussing the topic. That covers an actual serious set of questions and issues that really are worth thinking about, like the relationship between urban agriculture(s) and urban planning, or the ways people can make urban agricultural practices part of their lives (like, I assume, cleaning up after your dog). There are a lot of ideas covered here, many of which could be of use in urban anthropology or food and culture classes.

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Filed under anthropology, anthropology of food, Food Studies

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