Author Archives: foodanthro

What FoodAnthropology Is Reading Now, February 19, 2019

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.

We must begin this review with a shout out to FoodAnthropology co-editor Amy Trubek, who was interviewed by Evan Kleiman on her wonderful show “Good Food” about her recent book “Making Modern Meals: How Americans Cook Today” (2017, University of California Press). This is why the anthropology of food and nutrition is great! You can (and should) listen to Amy’s interview here, or to the whole episode, which looks broadly at modern home kitchens and cooking, here.

What varieties of rice did enslaved Africans grow and cook when they were first brought to the Americas? That question has been explored in a lot of recent research. One of the more fascinating threads in this research is traced out by Kim Severson in this recent New York Times article about “hill rice,” a variety that may have been common among West Africans living along the Atlantic coast. Chef B.J. Dennis and historian David Shields found this variety still growing in a region of Trinidad settled by Africans who had been enslaved in the U.S. The story is interestingly complex and provides great insight into the history of African foodways in the Americas.

You may already know that “services,” broadly defined, make a growing contribution to the U.S economy. Within that, however, it seems that restaurants are now one of the largest sectors. In this article from The Atlantic, Derek Thompson points out that restaurant jobs make up a stunningly large amount of all job growth in some cities in recent years (more than a third of the new jobs in New Orleans since 2010). What does the growth of often poorly-paid jobs of this sort mean for the future? Thompson is not optimistic.

As we have noted in other recent columns here, cases of sexual misconduct have roiled the restaurant industry in significant ways in the last year. Generally, individuals have been accused of anything from bad behavior to actual crimes, but whole businesses have suffered as a consequence. This may or may not be just—after all, if an owner or chef is accused, should all the waiters, bartenders, line cooks, etc. pay the price? In this article from The New Yorker, Helen Rosner raises the question of the responsibility of restaurant critics in this situation. Should they write about restaurants owned by bad actors? For another view, read this article by Tim Carman, from the Washington Post.

The politics around pesticides and organic food is always complex. This article, by biologist Allison Wilson, reviews a recent book by Philip Ackerman-Leist, “A Precautionary Tale: How One Small Town Banned Pesticides, Preserved Its Food Heritage, and Inspired a Movement” (2017, Chelsea Green Publishing). The book tells the story of how an Italian town decided to declare itself pesticide-free as a growing non-organic apple industry grew nearby. You can also watch an interview with the author from KPFK’s “Rising Up With Sonali” here.

Meanwhile, President Trump and his colleagues continue to pursue some of the favorite policy dreams of the American right, including undermining or getting rid of programs for poor Americans whenever possible. This includes SNAP, also known as food stamps. The president recently proposed replacing the program with a service that would deliver food directly to people’s homes and the White House budget has proposed sharp cuts to the program. The politics of SNAP and the program’s notable effectiveness are analyzed by Kriston Capps at Citylab, here.

On a somewhat-less-serious note, consider the question of how to translate menus. There are often curious translations on menus in restaurants owned by recent immigrants, but even fancy white table cloth restaurants feature menus that are (sometimes willfully) hard to interpret, even for native speakers of the language in which they are written. Emily Monaco explores this entertaining issue in this article, from Atlas Obscura. I was interviewed for this article and pointed her toward the charmingly obscure menus of Terre-à-Terre, in Brighton.

It is Presidents Day here in the U.S. and Civil Eats has reprinted an analysis of the 8 presidents who they think most shaped the U.S. food system. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama are the 8. The contributions each president made are not all positive and this is not about cheerleading.

It might seem odd to put a neighborhood guide in this reading digest, but between the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and the distressing anti-immigrant discourse drifting hysterically out of Washington D.C., I think it is worth noting that some of the most impressive additions to America’s culinary diversity are Korean. So, with that, note this stunning guide to Koreatown, in Los Angeles. I have seen whole cities with less interesting guides. For those of us who are not in LA, we can dream. If you are there, get busy.

Sometimes I think that it is important to remind the world why New Orleans is such a great food town. So let’s end with a few items that confirm that assertion. First, this article by Brett Martin about “family meal” at the iconic restaurant Commander’s Palace. You may want to change careers. Second, an ode to the lost fried pie maker, Hubig’s, which burned down in 2012 and may never come back. These little fried hand pies were mostly distributed in gas stations and hardware stores and not something you would have been likely to encounter as a tourist…but, as the author, Sophie Lucido Johnson notes, they were objects of much affection and are greatly missed. On another sad note, the city has been in mourning since the passing, last week, of Arthur “Mr. Okra” Robinson, one of the last itinerant vendors of produce in New Orleans. For the last several decades, Mr. Robinson drove his iconic truck through the city’s neighborhoods, calling out the produce he carried in a style that has its roots in the old mobile vendors of products and services that worked for centuries in cities around the world. His loss is keenly felt and his voice will be missed.

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AFHVS/ASFS CFP Deadline Extended!

Extended deadline for the upcoming AFHVS/ASFS conference. You have another week! Don’t miss it.

afhvs asfs 2018 logo

The University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems is pleased to host the Joint Annual Meeting of the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society and the Association for the Study of Food and Society.

This conference is an invitation to engage with the political and governance issues that arise in agricultural and food systems. Giving voice to these issues is fundamental to resolving them, so that we may better function in harmony with natural systems—while ensuring economic viability, food security, and the sovereignty of all people.

Abstracts due: February 22, 2018 at https://afhv2018.wiscweb.wisc.edu

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News of the New Year at SAFN

David Beriss
President, Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition

Happy New Year!

We have news of changes here at FoodAnthropology and, more broadly, at the Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition. First, Rachel Black, having completed her extended term as our glorious leader, has now joined the ranks of our many illustrious past presidents. We are all grateful for her amazingly productive work. And I am sure she will continue to play a significant role in shaping this organization and the anthropology of food and nutrition in general.

At the last meeting of the American Anthropological Association I officially became the new president of SAFN. Hopefully I can live up to the standards set by my predecessors. I have only just begun to learn the secret codes, handshakes, and mysterious workings of the AAA itself. I keep hoping that an image of Sidney Mintz will appear in the sugar on a beignet and point the way forward, but that has not yet happened. I suspect that successful leadership of SAFN will mostly involve finding ways to help other people pursue whatever brilliant ideas they have for the organization. And, as it happens, there are already people stepping up with great ideas to pursue.

In coming weeks, I will post updates about some of those ideas and activities here. One of the first and most important ones has to do with the blog itself. Amy Trubek and Abigail Adams are taking over as co-editors of FoodAnthropology. They already have a number of really great ideas for new themes for posting here. You will continue to read many of the occasional postings (like our reading digest, “What FoodAnthropology Is Reading Now”) and series that have proven popular over time. I am sure that Amy and Abigail will bring in new writers and themes in coming weeks that will make the blog more dynamic and exciting. If you have ideas, reach out to them at atrubek@uvm.edu and Adams@ccsu.edu.

Unlike some of the bigger sections of the AAA, SAFN does not have its own conference. What we do have, however, is the ability to participate in one of the most exciting interdisciplinary annual food studies conferences anywhere. The joint annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Food and Society and the Agriculture Food and Human Values Society occurs every June and showcases a lot of the best and most interesting research in food across many disciplines (we posted the CFP on the blog a few weeks ago, here). It is a terrific opportunity to network with people and there is usually a significant SAFN presence. This year’s conference will be in Madison, Wisconsin, from June 13-16. We would like to organize several SAFN panels there. The overall conference theme is “The Agroecological Prospect: The Politics of Integrating Values, Food, and Farming,” and, of course, panels and papers on other topics are welcome. Let’s use the blog and the SAFN listserv to organize panels starting now. Got ideas? Let us know or post a call on the listserv to recruit others. The deadline for submissions is February 15, so we must get organized quickly! (You must be a SAFN member to use the listserv. Not a member? We would love to have you among us! See the top of the blog for a link to how to become one.)

Last year we created an elected position for a student representative on the SAFN Executive Board. We are now officially seeking nominations for that job! Our current appointed student representative, by the way, is Kelly Alexander, whose work you can find all over this blog. If you are interested in running, please contact David Sutton, who is our nominations chair.

I will post further updates here soon, as will the many other contributors to this blog. You should reach out to Amy and Abigail with ideas for ways you can participate in the blog as well. This has proven to be a wonderful resource for getting information out to the world on the work of anthropologists in food. When you post here, a lot of people will read what you write, including many people outside the world of universities. Use that power to get your work read! This is an exciting time to be working on food and nutrition. Let’s get the stories of our research and of the people we work with out there!

 

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Sustainable Development Postdoc

The following announcement was received from Amy Trubek, who notes that there are several UVM Food Systems faculty affiliated with the Gund Institute. That, along with the fact that ending hunger is a sustainable development goal, ought to make this a great opportunity for food and nutrition oriented anthropologists.

POSTDOCTORAL ASSOCIATE, GUND INSTITUTE, THE UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT

The Gund Institute for Environment at the University of Vermont (UVM) is recruiting Postdoctoral Associates for Fall 2018 to conduct research on major global environmental challenges.  We seek exceptional early-career scholars committed to connecting interdisciplinary research to real-world issues in environment and sustainability.

About the position:

Postdocs are expected to pursue rigorous, original research that spans traditional disciplines and contributes to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.  Postdocs will be supervised by at least one Fellow of the Gund Institute at UVM as their advisor or co-advisor.  Co-advisors from different departments are encouraged. We expect postdocs to develop additional collaborations with other UVM scholars, and to participate actively in seminars, trainings, gatherings, and other events hosted by the institute.

These are two-year positions, given satisfactory progress in the first year. We offer an annual salary of $49,000 plus benefits, and a discretionary fund of $5,000/year to support research costs and travel. Postdocs will also have opportunities for professional development (e.g., media and communications training). Expected start date is September 1, 2018.

About the Gund Institute:

The Gund Institute is a newly expanded campus-wide center for interdisciplinary research, where more than 100 faculty, global affiliates, post-docs, and graduate students collaborate widely to understand the interactions among natural, social, and economic systems. Consistent with the mission of the Institute, we pursue projects that both advance research frontiers and address concrete environmental issues.

Eligibility and application:

Candidates must have completed their PhD by the expected start date, and no earlier than 5 years before it. Competitive candidates will have a strong record of success in their PhD program, a demonstrated commitment to interdisciplinary work, a keen interest in connecting research to policy and decisions, and high potential to become global leaders in sustainability.

If interested, first contact potential advisors from among the Gund Fellows to discuss your ideas. The best proposals are typically co-developed with potential advisors. Submit an online application by March 15, 2018, including a cover letter, CV, and research proposal.

Applications also require a letter of support from a proposed advisor. These should be emailed directly toJeannine.Valcour@uvm.edu by the applicant’s proposed advisor by March 15. Applications will be evaluated on scientific merit, potential for real-world impact, excellence of the applicant, fit with Gund Institute research themes, and feasibility.

About the University of Vermont:

The University of Vermont (UVM) is the only comprehensive university in the state and Vermont’s land-grant institution. UVM enrolls 13,000 students, including 1,500 graduate students, and attracts more than $138 million in research awards annually. The campus overlooks Lake Champlain, between the Adirondack and Green mountains, and is surrounded by the small, historical city of Burlington, perennially voted one of America’s best places to live. UVM is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer. Applications from women and people from diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds are encouraged.

For more info: https://www.uvm.edu/gund/postdoctoral-fellows

 

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What FoodAnthropology Is Reading Now, December 22, 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.

We have not written here (yet) about the movement against sexual misconduct currently sweeping through the restaurant world, along with many other industries. It has been striking, however, to observe how different writers have grappled with the complexities of power (and its abuse) as deployed in the food world. In this piece in the New Yorker, for instance, Helen Rosner takes on the discourses of sensuality, appetite, and gender that have framed the careers of chefs like Mario Batali. Julia Moskin and Kim Severson’s article in the New York Times provide insight into the working of raw power in the restaurant industry, this time in the case of Ken Friedman. This is, of course, not just a New York story, as this earlier piece by Brett Anderson at the Times-Picayune regarding the behavior of New Orleans chef John Besh demonstrates.

Women are not just victims in the restaurant world – they are also accomplished workers, leaders, and owners. This article from Southern Living provides brief vignettes about thirty women in the world of Southern food and their accomplishments. Helen Freund provides a New Orleans-focused analysis of women working in food here. As these women point out, there are a lot of gender related issues that need to be addressed in the industry.

Changing topics dramatically: Pen Vogler provides this article about the idea of “clean eating” in Dickens’ writing and time. Although a seasonal reference to Christmas dinner is included, this is not an article with which to work up an appetite. Consider this, from The Pickwick Paper: “’Weal pie,’ said Mr. Weller, soliloquising, as he arranged the eatables on the grass. ‘Wery good thing is weal pie, when you know the lady as made it, and is quite sure it ain’t kittens; and arter all though, where’s the odds, when they’re so like weal that the wery piemen themselves don’t know the difference?’” Look it up to consider the seasonality of kittens in pie. Ah, England.

More Dickens related material, but also more appetizing: Mayukh Sen makes the case for why “The Muppet Christmas Carol” is one of the best food movies ever made. There is certainly a lot of food in the movie. We will need to see it again to determine if this argument is persuasive.

At this time of the year, many people are compiling best-of lists for all kinds of things. From the Longreads web site, here is a short list of their favorite food writing from 2017. It includes a piece on the local food movement in post-coal Appalachia, an article about chef Angela Dimayuga, who brings together queer theory and restaurant management, a surprising take on Olive Garden, Christianity, Gaugin, and more from Helen Rosner, and more. The painting she refers to, Gaugin’s Christ in the Garden of Olives, seems to have very few breadsticks.

Everything has a history, including the chilled premade sandwich in the United Kingdom. It seems that before the 1980s, these ubiquitous convenience foods, available all over London (and beyond), were not something people there ate. Sam Knight, writing in The Guardian, presents this is amazing story, involving marketing, clever invention, changing eating habits, convenience, and, of course, the famous Earl himself. Sandwich factories, sandwich empires…it is all here.

Food writer and historian Adrian Miller wrote this article about gatekeepers in the world of food writing for NPR. He explains some of the very curious limitations encountered by writers of color in the world of food and proposes a few ways to address them. Miller’s view is complex and provides a useful addition to the ongoing debates about who speaks for different kinds of foods and the communities they may represent.

Fabio Parasecoli has written an additional critique of the world of foodies and food writing in this short piece on HuffPost. Maybe we can call this transnational cosmopolitanism in the service of a localist ideology? Or making the world safe for Brooklyn? There is a lot to think about in this article and it would make for a wonderful discussion starter in your next food studies class.

Restaurants, as we have often noted here, can be a kind of total social phenomenon, where many of the social concerns of society are brought together in one space. This includes the creation of new families in which people, workers, and customers alike, can create deep social bonds. This lovely article from Kara Baskin in the Boston Globe, illustrates the kinds of relations some older customers develop with restaurant workers and owners in Boston.

We have been meaning to call attention to SAFN VP Amy Trubek’s recent book “Making Modern Meals: How Americans Cook Today,” which was published by the University of California Press a few months ago. While you are at it, you might read this blog entry Amy wrote about home cooks for National Cooking day.

A few years old, but new to us: the story of Oedipus, told with vegetables. This is a short film by Jason Wishnow. Spoiler alert, it does not have a happy ending. Tragic. Be careful with potato peelers.

Happy holidays!

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Kiddush: Local Flavor

Leslie Carlin

The ‘Kiddush’ lunch is a tradition at many synagogues, including the one I belong to in downtown Toronto. It’s a shared meal to which all are invited following the Saturday morning services; usually about 120 people attend ours. A professional chef does the shopping and cooking, and the meals are tasty, attractive, and elaborate: a soup, salads, a hot stew or casserole, something sweet and delectable for dessert. Coffee, tea. Whiskey or ‘schnapps’ on a side table, if there’s a bar or bat mitzvah. Once a year, however, the Food Committee, comprised of volunteers from the shul membership, takes over to organize a ‘self-catered kiddush’, providing the chef with a vacation and augmenting community spirit. Somehow, due no doubt to advancing age and weakness of will, I have become a member of the food committee.

Each year the community kiddush meal adopts a theme. This time we aimed to reflect the indigenous heritage of the First Nations groups of Ontario. At the same time, we must follow the Jewish laws of ‘kashrut’ and of Sabbath: the synagogue and its kitchen are kosher and meatless, and all dishes must be fully prepared before dusk of the evening before, Friday. There can be no switching on or off of electric circuits, or lighting or dousing flames. As a further constraint, the committee has undertaken to promote use of ingredients that are organic and, where possible, local.

No problem! Duck soup! (Oops, no, not vegetarian.) Maybe ‘piece of cake.’ Or ‘easy as pie.’ Not!

toronto restaurant photoWe invited Shaun Adler to advise us. Shaun is the chef and proprietor at nearby Pow Wow Café , whose signature dish is the Ojibway taco, to attend our planning meeting. On a Tuesday evening, eight women and one man (the chair) surround Shaun at a long, wobbly table of scuffed gray plastic in the synagogue’s basement. “We’re so grateful that you have agreed to share your time and knowledge,” says the chair.

“Last year, we had a Moroccan theme,” a woman informs Shaun, checking her notes. “Two salads.”

“No meat. And the ingredients have to be kosher,” her neighbor adds.

“It all has to be cooked here,” someone else explains, waving her hand toward the small kitchen area at the far end of the room. “And be ready before sunset on Friday evening.”

“We’re doing all the preparation ourselves,” says another person.

Shaun holds up a hand. “Hey, everyone. My last name is ‘Adler’. My mom’s First Nations and my dad’s Jewish. I know about this stuff.” Shaun’s indigenous roots are Lac de Milles Lac First Nations, a branch of the Ojibway, based in northwestern Ontario, out beyond Thunder Bay. Shaun pulled out a spiral-bound pad of lined paper and a pen, gazed into space for a moment, and started to scribble. The vocal chorus flowed around him. “Okay, here it is,” he announced suddenly, tapping the pen on the paper. We all stopped speaking and listened.

Here it is, our kosher, vegetarian, Ojibway-inspired, locally-sourced, pre-cooked Kiddush menu, for a day of rest in the midst of a Canadian winter:

— Corn chowder in a mirepoix base, including celery, potatoes, garlic, cream, with a dish of cooked pickerel on the side

— ‘Three Sisters’ stew: lye corn, butternut squash, and red kidney beans, with parsnips and tomatoes, with a vegetarian broth.

— Wild rice pilaf—the wild rice sourced from Curve Lake Reserve—using Shaun’s cooking tip: boil with four times the volume of water normally used, which he says is a unit of rice to 1.5 of water, and then straining out the remainder to use in preparing the Three Sisters stew; or, he says, you can drink it—with dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, a little vinegar, maple syrup, and seasoned with salt and pepper.

— A green salad spiked with deep fried Jerusalem artichokes, julienned, skin on, and julienned carrots

— And finally, for dessert, bannock, with a compote of stewed apples and pears. Plus whipped cream.

Everyone is invited!

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Review: A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism

A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism: Understanding the Political Economy of What We Eat, Eric Holt-Giménez, Monthly Review Press, 2017.

foodies guide to capitalism

Jo Hunter-Adams

Working in food studies often means grappling with inequity (and deciding where best to focus our own energies in light of inequity). Yet food systems exist on so many different scales, and connections to health, well-being, and nourishment seem infinite. In the face of this complexity, we become specialists in specific parts of the food system, and can easily lose sight of the broader context. A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism offers a key contextual primer for food researchers and activists. The book provides much-needed context for understanding of the consequences of treating food as a commodity. As such, it provides important tools for good, deep thinking on food systems. Here, the cliché “think global, act local” seems resonant: we become specialists in a particular space and a particular food niche, yet require understanding of broader trends (including capitalism) to work more effectively and avoid triggering a cascade of unintended consequences.

An overview of the book, in quotes (Loc refers to Kindle version)

Introduction: Do Foodies Need to Understand Capitalism?

Understandably, they [those working on food] concentrate their efforts on one or two issues rather than the system as a whole, such as healthy food access, urban agriculture, organic farming, community-supported agriculture, local food, farmworkers’ rights, animal welfare, pesticide contamination, seed sovereignty, GMO labelling…the list is long. (Loc 129 of 5123)

Critical knowledge of capitalism—vital to the struggles of social movements through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries—largely disappeared from the lexicon of social change, precisely at a time when neoliberal capitalism was destroying the working class and relentlessly penetrating every aspect of nature and society on the planet. (Loc 172 of 5123)

Chapter 1: How Our Capitalist Food System Came to Be

By the end of the nineteenth century, mercantilism, colonialism, and industrialization had all combined a new form of global capitalism that spread powerfully, if unevenly, around the earth. … The flow of cheap raw materials from the colonies to the centers of imperial power transformed livelihoods, territories, and systems of governance as food, land, and labor became global commodities. (Loc 433)

Chapter 2: Food, a Special Commodity

Ever since peasants were pushed off the land and made dependent on wages, agricultural labor has been paid far less than its social value (what it costs to reproduce a farmworker’s capacity to work) much less what it adds to the price (exchange value) of food products. Today agriculture and food processing in the United States and Western Europe largely depend on undocumented labor. (Loc 963 of 5123)

Unless we change the underlying value relations of our food system—the contradiction between food as essential for human life and food as a commodity—we will be working on the margins of a system that is structurally designed for profit rather than need, speculation rather than equity, and extraction rather than resilience. This doesn’t mean that the many social innovations challenging the inequities and externalities of the corporate food regime around the world are not worth implementing. On the contrary, our food system needs innovation. But for these hopeful alternatives to have a chance of becoming the norm rather than the alternative within a food system that is structurally favourable to large-scale industrial agriculture, we will need to know what structural parts of the system need changing. (Loc 1044 of 5123)

Though we are not likely to lose the commodity form of products any time soon, we can work to change the relation between use and exchange values, and we can change the terms of socially necessary labor time (and working conditions) to make a more sustainable and equitable food system that reduces the exploitation of workers and does not pass off onto society the social costs (the externalities) that the producers ought to bear. (Loc 1065 of 5123).

When voting with our fork, we should remember that the freedom to buy food according to our values does not in and of itself change the power of commodities in our food system. If we want to change the power of commodities in the food system, we will have to change the way we value the labor in our food as well. (Loc 1103 of 5123).

The logic of capital—rather than the logic of fairness, compassion, ecology, conservation, or health—governs our food. Our attempts to transform the food system hinge on changing the social relation embedded in our food. Because food is both a commodity and an existential necessity, and because our food system impacts all other aspects of our social and economic system because we all eat, the social relation of food is pivotal in terms of human well-being. The firms controlling our food system understand this perfectly, exploiting the public use value of food to extract exchange values for corporate profit. Substantive changes to the food system will affect the entire economic system. Perhaps this is precisely what we need. (Loc 1103 of 5123)  

Chapter 3: Land and Property

Her (Elinor Ostrom’s) fieldwork with traditional societies convinced her that natural resources held in common could be sustainably managed without regulation from government. She also believed that collective action and reciprocity were critical components to human survival and for solving social dilemmas in which individual short-term self-interest undermines the greater good. (Loc 1371 of 5123)

Chapter 4: Capitalism, Food, and Agriculture

Peasants and smallholders still feed most people in the world, though they cultivate less than a quarter of the arable land. (Loc 1801 of 5123)

Subsidies are often criticized by some environmental groups, which claim that they drive overproduction of cheap food and are given primarily to large farmers. The reality is that low prices drive overproduction, which results in subsidies. Eliminating subsidies (without other major structural changes to supply and price) would likely drive small and midsize farmers out of business, thus contributing to further farm consolidation into larger and larger farms. (Loc 1819 of 5123)

Agroecology has been endorsed by the international agricultural assessment on science, knowledge and technology for Development and the former United Nations Rapporteur on the Right to Food as the best agricultural method to end hunger, eliminate poverty, and address climate change. Indeed, this is because agroecology is, in human and ecological terms, a “rational agriculture.” But agroecology is not part of the agricultural development programs of the U.S. development, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, the Department for International Development (DFID), the World Bank, or the plans for agricultural development of the African, Asian, or Inter-American Development banks. Funding for agroecological research in the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the United States represents less than 1 percent of the funding dedicated to conventional agriculture. (Loc 2149 of 5123)

Chapter 5: Power, Privilege in the Food System: Gender, Race and Class

Only power that springs from the weakness of the oppressed with be sufficiently strong to free both. Any attempt to “soften” the power of the oppressor in deference to the weakness of the oppressed almost always manifests itself in the form of false generosity; indeed the attempt never goes beyond this…. An unjust social order is the permanent fount of this “generosity,” which is nourished by death, despair, and poverty. That is why the dispensers of false generosity become desperate at the slightest threat to its source. (quoting Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Loc 2628 of 5123)

Industrial agriculture has taken the farmworker’s voice away, so we don’t hear them identifying as people of the earth. We have been identified as machines, as beasts of burden. It’s convenient for people to identify us that way because then it’s easy to exploit us. But if you’re talking about a human being who can express herself or himself as a person of the earth, with this intellect and wisdom about the right way to grow food, then it’s not as easy to exploit. A lot of the family farmers and growers know that the way they’re growing food and treating the earth is wrong. (Loc 2447 of 5123):

We can’t change the food system without transforming capitalism. Yet we can’t transform capitalism without changing the food system. And we can’t do either of these without ending patriarchy, racism, and classism. So, if we want a better food system, we have to change everything. Admittedly, this is a tall order for any social movement. The question for the food movement, however, is not, how do we change everything but “how is the food system strategically positioned to influence systemic change?” (Loc 2740 of 5123)

Chapter 6: Food, Capitalism, Crises, and Solutions

We should all feel sorry for ourselves for losing one of our most precious institutions, the family farm.” Farm depressions do not reverse farm consolidation; the land will continue to be farmed, but by some other farmer who pursues the inevitable (Loc 3204 of 5123)

We can use a lot more produce raised locally, but to think that a corn and soybean farmer could convert their land to fruits and vegetables is unrealistic. Midwestern farmers plant corn and soybeans fencerow-to-fencerow because there are really no alternatives in the capitalist commodity system. (Loc 3225 of 5123)

The challenge for our planet is not how to (over) produce food, but how to keep smallholders on the land while sustainably producing healthy food. The challenge is not to attempt to engineer “climate-smart” commodities for nutritionally fortified crops, but to build overall nutrition and resilience into the whole agroecosystem. This will take more—not fewer—highly skilled farmers. (Loc 3345 of 5123)

Conclusion

The challenge of building a public sphere for the twenty first century is not to re-create the past, but to build a new, transnational public sphere that has a critical analysis of capitalism, builds social legitimacy for movements for food justice and food sovereignty, and connects them with the broad environmental and social justice movements. It is not enough to build an apolitical public space in our food system. Creating alternative markets is not the same as shutting down capitalist markets. Both actions are needed for regime transformation. We need a movement that is able to forge a militantly democratic food system in favour of the poor and oppressed globally and locally, and that effectively rolls back the elite, neoliberal food regime. (Loc 3649 of 5123)

We also need to ask, who will transform the food regime, how will it be transformed, and in whose interests, and to what purpose? (Loc 3658 of 5123)

Understanding why, where, and how oppression manifests itself in the food system, recognizing it within our food movement and our organizations (and within ourselves), is not extra work for transforming our food system. It is the work. (Loc 3662 of 5123)

While not intended for an academic audience, this book provides a plain language, big picture understanding of the food system, and would be very well-suited to an undergraduate class. The book is U.S. centric, yet resonates and is applicable to a global audience.

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