anna brones

writer + artist + activist

Posts Tagged ‘food politics

Marion Nestle

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“Food choices are about your future and that of your children.

They are about nothing less than democracy in action.”

-Marion Nestle

Marion Nestle is one of the leading thinkers and activists when it comes to nutrition and food politics. In fact it’s hard to do any reading or research about food politics without coming across her name.

She is the author of several books, including Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health and the most recent Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning).In October, she will release her latest book: Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We EatShe is Paulette Goddard Professor, of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, Emerita, at New York University, which she chaired from 1988-2003 and from which she retired in the end of 2017.

There was a point in my life when I debated on applying to NYU’s Master’s Program in Food Studies (a program she pioneered), just so that I could have the opportunity to have Marion as a teacher. And while I never got around to that, she has kindly answered various interview questions of mine over the course of many years as I have written about food and nutrition myself.

The quote that I decided to use for her portrait is from her book What to EatThe book was originally published in 2006. That feels like an eternity ago when it comes to food politics. After all, it feels like a lot has changed in our conversation about food over the last decade. There are many more options at the grocery store, and the conversation about health has begun to shift to not only our personal self, but that of the environment and the workers who put food on our table.

And yet despite some of the progress that we have made, we still face many of the same problems, and some have gotten worse. Over the last decade, obesity rates have jumped. In 2007-2008, the CDC reported that 33.8% of American adults were obese. For the period of 2015-2016, that number grew to 39.8%. Food insecurity has grown a small amount as well; today 12.3% of American households are food insecure, compared to 10.9% in 2006. Some of us may have easier access to things like farmers markets, and yet, independent farmers are struggling; in the U.S. the suicide rate is double that of veterans. Systemic racism and economic inequities continue to plague the food system.

In researching this piece, I came across an interview with Marion on Civil Eats, taking a look back at her three decades of work and what has changed and what hasn’t. It’s a reminder that even when it comes to our conversation about food, the basics are still the same.

I went into nutrition in 1976. And everybody was saying, I remember quite vividly, “We want you to teach this nutrition class because there’s so much public interest in it.”

Three books had just come out. Frances Moore Lappé’s Diet for a Small Planet, which is still in print, was cataclysmic in its impact. I mean, think about what she talked about in 1975: Eat less meat, and it’ll be good for health and the environment. You know, we’re still right there. 

So what’s keeping this from truly moving forward? The combination of a food and agribusiness industry that’s about high profits and high margins that don’t consider things like human and environmental health, and the political policies that are at the base of that system. Real change requires industry, infrastructural and political change.

That feels overwhelming. But what we as citizens do have control of on a daily basis is what we put into our bodies, and I keep coming back to Marion’s quote from What to Eat. Not everyone has the luxury of making choices about food, but for those of us who do, they are a way to take daily action. What we eat matters, to both ourselves and our communities.

Marion continues to be a resource yet she always provides a fresh voice. She updates her Food Politics blog regularly, and as someone who cares strongly about food and the food system, for me, she is a constant source of inspiration and wisdom.

She kindly answered a few Women’s Wisdom Project Q&A questions.

Anna: What does wisdom mean to you?

Marion: Wisdom to me means knowing enough about people and history to make thoughtful decisions about daily life.

Is there an influential woman in your life who passed along a piece of wisdom to you? Who and what?

A dean in my high school assured me that I would have a much better time as an adult.

We have been eating food for all of human history, and yet today, it seems like these days we need specialists to inform us what we should and shouldn’t eat. Do you think that we have lost our common sense in regards to what we eat? If so, why?

The food industry spends fortunes to convince us that our common sense is wrong.  It’s hard to resist that kind of propaganda.

When it comes to food and food production, as we have modernized, what wisdom do you think that we have lost?

If we are to eat well in the future, we must grow food sustainably, replenish soil, preserve water quality, and do everything we can to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

What do you see as the future of food?

No matter how many of us there are, we will still need to eat.  We must plan for that.

What wisdom would you share with your younger self?

Courage!

This papercut is a part of the Women’s Wisdom Project, a project focused on showcasing the wisdom of inspiring, insightful women by making 100 papercut portraits.

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Written by Anna Brones

June 27, 2018 at 07:05

The Obligation of Food Lovers

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“If you are a food lover, then you have an obligation to think about what you’re eating. You have an obligation to know where your food comes from, and you have an obligation to know how the broken food system is negatively affecting so much of the population. We have to start to learn how to turn passion for food into a passion for improving the food system, taking the pleasure that we get from eating and transforming it into advocating for real food, not only for the privileged, but for everyone.”

From this week’s Foodie Underground column on EcoSalon.

Written by Anna Brones

February 12, 2014 at 14:14

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Should We Care About Organic Food?

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“I now feel completely vindicated for NOT buying organic foods.”

Well, great.

The internet was abuzz with the recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine that found little evidence that organic foods are more nutritious than conventional grown food, and I found myself getting severely agitated by comments like the above posted in social media circles. Granted, I spend a lot of time thinking about food, but simple statements like the aforementioned prove to me that we are entirely removed from the food process and what we are eating. We are oversimplifying a complex issue.

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Written by Anna Brones

September 11, 2012 at 08:18

The Real Impact of Your Cup of Specialty Coffee

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Dukunde Kawa or Kilenso?

I was at Coava Coffee Roasters for an afternoon meeting and having to choose what beans I wanted my iced Americano to be made from. Here, roasting is taken seriously, and on any give day you have your pick between the two blends of the day, always sourced from specific cooperatives on the other side of the world. I went with the Rwandan one, liking the taste, but also, for a variety of reasons – including once having a roommate from Rwanda – because the cooperative was on my radar.

Coava is of course different from the majority of coffee shops. Most times we stand in line, decide whether or not we should go for the soy latte today because we’ve been feeling a little dairy intolerant lately, opt for the extra shot and go on our way. But our coffee choices aren’t insignificant. Far from it, in fact.

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Written by Anna Brones

July 21, 2012 at 06:00

Are You Part of a Food Trend or Part of a Movement?

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This is the latest installment of my Foodie Underground column.

“I just had a Portland moment and only you will appreciate,” my friend said, calling from Tuscon in the middle of a Sunday.

“Ok, what?”

“Well, so we walked into this cute coffee shop and the first thing I thought to myself ‘I wonder where they roast their beans?'” she paused. “Who am I?”

At first thought I saw nothing wrong with this situation. Good coffee shops tend to sell good coffee, and if they’re really good, they’re probably running a coffee roasting operation in the back. Nothing weird there.

But at second thought, I realized what she meant. Most people, even those in coffee-centric cities, are probably more concerned with what coffee drink they’re going to buy than where the beans were roasted. We’re in the minority.

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Written by Anna Brones

June 12, 2012 at 06:49

Why We Have to Normalize Food Consciousness

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I was pulling out ingredients for dinner from the refrigerator and my friend was visibly squirming looking at the quart glass bottle of green sludge that was on the first shelf.

“It’s just a kale smoothie.”

She looked at me and rolled her eyes.

“I know, I know… who has kale smoothies in their refrigerator?” I responded. I paused for dramatic effect in order to underline the absurdity of my next statement. “It has chia seeds in it too.”

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Written by Anna Brones

April 9, 2012 at 17:17

Does Being a Foodie Make You an Elitist?

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Last week the Oregonian published the “Non-foodies Food Guide,” which spurred some local outrage. An issue that’s near and dear to my heart, I weighed in over on my weekly Foodie Underground column. So does being a foodie make you an elitist? Or do we need to drop our hangups and start focusing on the real problem at hand: access to healthy, fresh and local food for everyone? Here’s an excerpt.

Despite the recent inclination to team the term “foodie” with “snob” there are a whole group of foodies out there that are simply concerned with where their food came from, how it was raised, and what’s being added to it to make the end product. In fact, if there’s one thing the underground food movement has taught us, it’s that local, sustainable, fresh fare is desirable, not just because it’s trendy but because it’s healthy and better for the environment.

Read the whole article here.

 

Written by Anna Brones

October 20, 2010 at 07:49