What FoodAnthro is Reading, December 14, 2017

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.

There is a need for continued land reform in South Africa, and for transformation in the farming sector. Yet having good quality agricultural land with ready market access is often still not enough to make ends meet, which points to broader problems in pricing and the value chain:

Crime costs him dearly. “I haven’t had a salary in the last 12 years. I am living off my savings,” he says.

Yet apparently it is the beginning of the end of Big Food in South Africa?!

Cuba is everyone’s favourite example of a well-developed organic agicultural model. This article describes Cuba’s current food system. While Cuba does not supply all of its own food, it has a large and growing set of farmers using organic practices:

“Organic farming does not bring the kind of large yields that will solve all our problems. But it solves many of our problems, and it is starting to become important,” said Juan José León, an official at the Ministry of Agriculture. “Ecological farming arose as a response to a reality that smacked us,” he continued. That reality was the collapse of the Soviet Union. “They were difficult years. We had to produce food somehow, somewhere.”

Of course, now, Cubans navigate food production in a context where fertilizers and machinery can (and are) once again imported.

The NYTimes ran this article on obesity in Mexico, where free trade is named as an underappreciated cause. Interestingly, the experiences of the sugar tax in Mexico is not discussed in the article:

Since then, the Ruizes have become both consumers and participants in an extraordinary transformation of the country’s food system, one that has saddled them and millions of other Mexicans with diet-related illnesses.

In Paris you can get publicly supplied sparkling water. I’m insanely jealous, not only of the sparkling water and the croissants, but also jealous of a city where this makes it to the top of a to-do list.

In a world where fewer crops are feeding more people, food Policy Councils play a growing role in shaping food systems. This story focuses on the slow, plodding, and important work in building food systems:

“These women don’t give up,” says Ostrander. “They are cooperative, putting aside their egos to walk across the aisle to work with people with different agendas. They are leading from the middle.”

Slow and cumbersome, this is not the food revolution Pollan and other leading food activists advocate. But in the absence of a national food agenda, local food policy councils are meeting immediate needs to improve access to healthy food. They might just build an army of dedicated folks who believe they have a right to healthy food and know how to fight for that right and make those changes stick.

The G7 acknowledged Food Systems at their recent meeting in Milan:

9. We acknowledge that food systems have a huge impact on human health. Therefore, in the context of the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition, we advocate for food systems that support healthy and sustainable diets, ensuring food security, safety and nutrition for everyone, including vulnerable and marginalized populations.

On a similar note, the Rockefeller Foundation had an article that claimed that food was at the core of the global agenda. This past week also saw the Food Security conference here in Cape Town. This article summed up the challenges of insufficient focus on maldistribution and processing:

The question of why those calories aren’t equally distributed, or what happens to them once they leave the farm gate, did not get equal airtime at the conference, which failed to capture how much the food system has changed in recent decades, and the resulting explosion of poor health outcomes.

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