Food for Thought

How to Change The Food System

This article was originally published on September 4th, 2016

I never set out to work in food, or work with food, or write about food, or whatever I am doing with food. Truth be told, I got into food because almost everything assigned to me at the London School of Economics was way over my head. Most of my classmates had no problem breezing through complicated, wordy, theoretical/analytical texts, but I found most readings borderline incomprehensible. The only way I could understand them was to break the information down like I was a 4-year-old. As a mental exercise, I started to apply theory to what I was eating every day: What would Bourdieu say about my Pret-a-Manger sandwich? What is my Pret-a-Manger sandwich telling me about food distribution networks? What are the preservatives in this food telling me about the technologies of this time? Shit. Should I be eating at Pret-a-Manger?

So it wasn’t really that I was interested in food per se; it was more that food became the conduit to me understanding my course work. Ultimately, though, I realized that food connected me to all the larger issues that kept me up at night like climate change, sustainability, labor rights, human rights, animal rights, and public health (to name just a few). Once I discovered these connections, my passion for food really took root into my soul and changed the path of my life.

Food is something we all share, we all need, and we all can relate to. And, like I said, it connects us all to some of the largest seemingly intractable problems of our time. With this in mind, don’t you think it’s strange that food policy hasn’t come up at all in this (completely nutty) Presidential election? None of the candidates have articulated a food policy and that needs to change. Why? Because agricultural subsidies are making us sick; because most of our agricultural methods are unsustainable at best and toxic and deadly at worst; because the world population will only continue to rise and we’re running out of arable land — and let’s not even get into water usage and food waste! Are those good enough reasons for you? I hope so…Have no idea where to start? ME NEITHER! So, I made some calls and got 14 big ideas from some of food’s biggest luminaries including Dan Barber, Marion Nestle, Tom Colicchio, Leanne Brown, and Ruth Reicl. Here are 14 Ideas For How The Next President Can Change The Food System.

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  • Josh

    These same issues keep me up too. I suspect that the brain and soul damage caused by the food and drink fed to the masses by big business is partly behind the insanity of the current political climate. The amount of work to actually control what goes into our bodies on an individual level is daunting. I have been very pleased with the results of my baby steps in this direction. Sourcing local food suppliers and growing my own food, careful water processing, and container management (e.g. glass over plastic), seem to have made a huge difference in my life. Scaling this process would be challenging. Education such as you are doing helps the most. Spending our money on choices that influence big business can help, but the lobotomizing of the population through the garbage we fed them (food and marketing) keeps large swaths of the population fat, dumb and quiet. Unfortunately I am struck by the problems associated with overpopulation. If we viewed people on the street and in the community as bears or cows instead of people, it helps me understand the sheer number of people trampling our planet and how challenging feeding and caring for them all has become.