Recipe for a Healthy Food System

For years, I’ve talked about what I like to call “less-meatarianism” – an attempt to move away from the all-or-nothing mantras of dietary restrictions and think about incremental investments that we as eaters can make in a healthier and more sustainable food system.

Eating less and better meat makes sense from just about every perspective. At this point, we know that reducing meat consumption and eating more plant-based foods promotes better health (something the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are finally talking about, though not explicitly enough). Beyond our health, decreasing meat consumption could have far-reaching implications for industrial meat production and its practices that we know are damaging to our environment, our workers, and our animals’ welfare. Continue reading

Posted in Food Politics

Puzder’s Record on Food Labor

Here are a few words by Jose Oliva and the Food Chain Workers Alliance about the proposed new Labor Secretary, possibly Trump’s worst appointment yet (although given the others, that’s not for sure):

Andy Puzder is a completely unacceptable choice for Labor Secretary. An avowed enemy of restaurant industry reforms, his past is riddled with class action wage theft lawsuits, sexist remarks, and falsehoods that paint wage increases as ‘job-killers,’ minimum wage earners as entitled teenagers, and his own employees as lazy welfare recipients. His nomination threatens the incredible gains our members in the restaurant industry such as ROC United have made over the past eight years, including eliminating the subminimum wage and establishing One Fair Wage for all workers. Contrary to what Puzder and his associates at the National Restaurant Association would have you believe, restaurant workers are largely women and people of color, making as little as $2.13 per hour, and thus relying on tips to survive. As a result, they face disproportionate rates of poverty, discrimination, and sexual harassment. They deserve a Labor Secretary that believes, as Dr. King once said, that all labor has dignity. On behalf of the nation’s 21.5 million hard-working food-chain workers and the 12 million restaurant workers, the Food Chain Workers Alliance and the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United opposes the nomination of Andy Puzder as Labor Secretary.

Posted in Food Politics

Recipe for an Affordable Food System

By Mark Bittman

This Thanksgiving let’s stop and really give thanks for the food on our table, and for those who bring it to us, who are in disproportionate numbers among those Americans who can’t afford this necessity. About one in seven Americans relies on food stamps through SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)—including 13% of food workers—and we know the program only reaches a portion of those who are eligible; countless others struggle to afford good ingredients every day.

Making good food more affordable is a widely shared priority; despite our political differences, most Americans are united in the belief that our children should not go hungry. Yet when we talk about solutions, we too often confuse affordable food with cheap food. While this may seem like semantics, it’s not—what we’re really talking about is the ability to cover the true cost of what you need to buy. Continue reading

Posted in Food Politics

How to Bake Everything: Apple Crisp with Real Apples and Real Talk

I’d really like to know what folks think about this video, which is the second (the first is here) in a series I did with my friend Ricardo Salvador (@cadwego), who heads the Food and Environment team at Union of Concerned Scientists, of which I’m happy to be a part. The series combines cooking—in this case an apple crisp, more on which in a second—with a discussion of the production of food and the policies that guide it (often mis-guide, of course). I hope the main points are clear. (I also discussed the election and the future of food policy with Mother Jones.) Continue reading

Posted in Baking, Food Politics, Mark Bittman Books

Recipe for a Better Food System

For the last year I’ve been working with my friend Ricardo Salvador and the Union of Concerned Scientists, strategizing about our so-called food system and making healthy food affordable for everyone.

One upshot of this is a recipe video series called, appropriately enough, “Recipe for a Better Food System,” which connects great recipes to even better food policies.

The first video uses peak season tomatoes to get us talking about the people who get those tomatoes (and all our food) to our tables, and the reality of their working conditions. You’ll learn something, I hope, and maybe get some ideas for dinner.

You can also find the video on the Union of Concerned Scientists’ blog.

Posted in Farming, Food Politics, Recipes

What Should We Be Eating? Nutrients Are Not Enough

What is a healthy and affordable way to eat? How should we think about the Food Pyramid? How do we cut through all the competing ideas about what’s right, to understand how we should eat? And what policies could be changed to get Americans eating more healthily and sustainably? Watch my talk below at the New York Times Food for Tomorrow conference to hear my thoughts on how we should tackle some of these pressing questions.

Posted in Food Politics

Wanna Fix the Food System? Science Can Help

carrots

A few weeks ago I published my farewell opinion column in the New York Times. After five years, I felt ready to make the leap from writing about a broken food system to trying to do something about it. I had decided it was time to shift my focus toward activism and action.

In doing this, I wanted the help of the best and brightest people working to transform the way we grow and eat food in this country. These people had to develop positions – on the food system, among other things – that were based in reason, and whose policy and advocacy strategies are rooted not in politicking but in science. That was important to me and increasingly rare in a world where so many opinions are based on … well, previous opinions.

Wanted: healthy, green, affordable and fair solutions

I learned a lot about fact-based opinion while doing journalism and later writing opinion columns at the Times, and one of the people who helped me through this process was Ricardo Salvador, who is currently senior scientist and director of the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. (He’s also not only an intellectual crush of mine but like abrother to me.) At UCS, Ricardo works with citizens, scientists, economists and politicians to work towards transforming our current food system into one that endeavours to grow food that’s healthy, green, affordable, and fair.

In general, UCS – which follows the example set by the scientific community – shares information, seeks the truth, and lets their findings guide their conclusions. As a result, they’re heralded as a trusted resource for both their fairness and accuracy. That’s why UCS is regarded as one of the most reputable sources for rigorous and independent science, and has been for decades.

For this reason and so many more, I am excited to announce my new partnership with the Union of Concerned Scientists, where I will spend the next year as a Fellow working alongside Ricardo and his team. As good friends and now colleagues, we will embark on some of the innovative thinking, careful planning, and prioritized research needed to drive big changes in the national conversation around food systems, including (we hope!) the development of a book project. We’ll work to mobilize a broad range of voices and elevate important ideas.

An urgent need for leadership

Ricardo’s vision for a sustainable and just food system is one that I deeply respect and share – and one that we’ve written about together. This vision is especially important as we enter a critical political window to push both current and future leaders to talk about the crisis of our food system and outline an agenda for working toward a better one.

Ricardo and I also share an understanding of the urgency of these conversations. Our current food system works well for a handful of corporations at the expense of farmers, rural communities, taxpayers and food workers, to name just a few. The impact on the health of both our people and our planet is grave. The cost of this system is too high, the consequences too dire, and the practices and policies too outdated to allow them to continue without challenge. We need reform and we need leadership committed to ensuring access to healthy, affordable, and safe food for all Americans.
I can’t help but feel like I will be learning from the best as I work to tackle these challenging topics alongside some of the smartest scientists and advocates out there. And of course, I look forward to sharing what we learn with all of you.

Posted in Food Politics

The Changing Face of California Agriculture

This is the ninth episode of “California Matters,” a series of videos about sustainable agriculture and healthy eating that I produced in collaboration with the Global Food Initiative at the University of California.

Jennifer Sowerwine’s work at the University of California, Berkeley, centers on bringing largely unrepresented voices to the table for discussions around food security and food systems change. Much of her time is spent working with Hmong and Mien farmers in California’s Central Valley, some of whom I visited a couple of years ago for a story I wrote about that area in The Sunday Magazine.

Many of these farmers, or their families, came to California from Southeast Asia, usually Laos, mainly as political refugees in the ’70s and ’80s. Sowerwine looks at how they got into small-scale farming, how they find and keep land, how they make farming economically viable, and how they’re adapting and changing their practices to meet new challenges. In looking at these things — along with labor and crop diversity — she’s found that these farmers have had little access to government resources.

Read the rest of this article here.

A Watchful Eye on Farm Families’ Health

This is the eighth episode of “California Matters,” a series of videos about sustainable agriculture and healthy eating that I produced in collaboration with the Global Food Initiative at the University of California.

C.H.A.M.A.C.O.S. stands for the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas, and also means “kids”in Mexican Spanish. It’s the name given by Brenda Eskenazi, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Berkeley, for a group studying the effects of exposure to agriculture chemicals on children born in Salinas Valley between 2000 and 2002. The longitudinal study has followed more than half of the research population since birth.

Eskenazi and her team have focused primarily on three aspects of health that may be affected by these exposures: neurobehavioral development, which, if disrupted, can affect a child’s I.Q.; respiratory health; and growth, including weight and metabolism. This population sees higher rates of exposure to organophosphate chemicals, which are found in pesticides, than the general population, so there are possible implications of this study for farmworker communities and Californians at large.

Read the rest of this article here.

The Roots of Organic Farming

Visiting the farm at the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at the University of California, Santa Cruz, was a personal high point of this series, though I couldn’t say exactly why. It could well have been because there’s an experimental blueberry plot there, and when I went in the spring, it was raining, and the green leaves were sparkling and the wet berries were offset perfectly, and here was this glistening working farm on an otherwise more-or-less normal college campus, which just happened to be on a hill above the Pacific.

Or it could have been because the Santa Cruz campus has a series of beautiful, renowned, well-run gardens and farms, unlike on any other campus in the country.

Read the rest of this article here.