Spring is Here! The April Issue

Dear Readers,

The Sprout is back with a jam-packed issue covering topics from farmworker justice to smoothie bowl recipes sure to satisfy your Spring cravings. And no, we’re not joking around!

With the Spring comes a dizzying array of food and agriculture conferences and symposiums in the New England area that are hard to keep track of! But don’t worry, Kathleen Nay has kindly compiled all of the must-sees in one place for your viewing pleasure. Then Caitlin Joseph updates us on the labor justice front, detailing recent developments in the Coalition of Immokalee Workers Fair Food Program and how they will be coming to Friedman this month! And activism doesn’t stop at the picket line: Mike Zastoupil tells us about Feed the People, and how two friends are fueling the resistance with burritos.

Have a negative view of GMO’s? So did Laura Barley…until she came to the Friedman School. See what changed her mind.

And then Jennifer Pustz takes us back in time to the rations of World War I, offering reflections on our current “everything in moderation” movement and issues with overconsumption. What does “moderation” mean exactly? Katelyn Castro fills us in on this and other suggestions from the Dietary Guidelines that are so often misinterpreted.

Our writers then take you on a food tour, from Shannon Evins’ review of the Barcelona Wine Bar in the South End, to Katie Moses’ description of Louisiana “soul” food (recipes included!). Julia Sementelli then helps us welcome Spring with four delicious, refreshing smoothie bowl recipes.

Thank you for reading!

Micaela & Kathleen

In this issue…

The April/May Food and Nutrition Conference Circuit

by Kathleen Nay

“With nearly a dozen conferences taking place in and around Boston this month, how should I choose which one(s) to go to?”  If you’ve been asking yourself this question, you’re in luck. Kathleen Nay has the rundown of food and nutrition conferences, seminars and lecture series to check out.

Obligations and Opportunities for Farmworker Justice

by Caitlin Joseph

Anyone who cares about public health and nutrition, affordable and healthy food access, agricultural sustainability, rural communities, international trade, or corporate social responsibility, should be paying close attention to how the recent rise in anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy will impact the people the U.S food system is currently dependent on: farmworkers. On Wednesday, April 19, farmworker activists from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) who live and work on the frontlines of these issues will be at the Friedman School to talk about their current campaigns and their perspective on the recent political landscape.

Political Dissent with Burritos

by Mike Zastoupil

While thousands of Americans have taken to the streets to protest the Trump administration, these two guys have taken to…their kitchen. Learn how Feed the People is fueling the resistance in Boston with delicious burritos.

Musings from the In-Between: My Coming to Terms with the GMO Industry

by Laura Barley

Monotony. Uniformity. Cataclysmic Tragedy, Subsequent Death. As a self-identified liberal attending an institution built on the premise of promoting social welfare through nutritional outcomes, this is how Laura Barley has historically described images of technologized agriculture. Her take on GMOs now? Read on. 

“Food will Win the War!” American Food Policies during World War I

by Jennifer Pustz

“The consumption of sugar sweetened drinks must be reduced” . . . “use less meat and wheat” . . . “buy local foods.” These are familiar phrases at the Friedman School in 2017. But these slogans and many others could be found on posters one hundred years ago after the United States officially entered World War I in April 1917. Friedman student Jennifer Pustz a story from food history that may offer inspiration for the promotion of gardening, conservation, and sustainability in the twenty-first century.

Balance, Variety, and Moderation: What Do They Really Mean?

by Katelyn Castro

Balance, variety, and moderation have been referenced in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for decades. Yet overtime, the ambiguity of these terms has clouded their importance and left their meaning open for interpretation—often misinterpretation.

A Slice of Spain: My Night at Barcelona Wine Bar

by Shannon Evins

Longing for warm nights when the sun sets at 9:00pm? Wishing summer break would hurry up already? Tapas may be the answer you need. Step into Barcelona Wine Bar in the South End to have a taste of vibrant Spanish culture. Your time there will surely give you a slice of Spain.

Soul of the Louisiana Kitchen

by Katie Moses

When the only remnants of Mardi Gras are plastic beads hanging from the oaks along St. Charles Avenue, Louisiana still draws people from around the world for the lively music and incredible food. Discover the secret to the depth of flavor in Cajun and Creole cuisine and recreate a classic Louisiana dish, red beans and rice, in your own kitchen.

Four smoothie bowl recipes that will put a Spring in your step!

by Julia Sementelli

While there a handful of smoothie bowl spots in Boston, I have found that the best smoothie bowl is the one that you make at home! Fuel up for finals with these four perfect-for-spring smoothie bowls that will keep you feeling satisfied and refreshed to take on this busy yet exciting month.

The April/May Food and Nutrition Conference Circuit

by Kathleen Nay

“With nearly a dozen conferences taking place in and around Boston this month, how should I choose which one(s) to go to?”  If you’ve been asking yourself this question, you’re in luck. Kathleen Nay has the rundown of food and nutrition conferences, seminars and lecture series to check out.

Graduate school is about learning a subject deeply, engaging in research, networking and thinking about the future, whether that’s our future careers or the future of our field. An excellent way to participate in all of these endeavors is to attend conferences that offer meaningful opportunities to make connections with other professionals while observing the work and research up close. As it happens, this April and May are chock-full of conferences, seminars and lecture series about food, environment, nutrition and labor, all taking place in New England or the Northeast. Maybe you recently attended the Just Food? Forum or the Boston Food Tank Summit on April 1, and you’re raring for more. Here’s your official Conference Calendar for the rest of April and May.

 

April 3, April 26 and May 8: Harvard Lecture Series, “The Future of Food: Climate, Crops and Consequences”

Times and locations vary; Cambridge, MA

Cost: Free

Hosted by the Harvard University Center for the Environment, this lecture series will highlight interactions between agriculture and climate. On Monday, April 3, Michael K. Stern, CEO of the Climate Corporation, will give a talk entitled “Trends and Challenges in Global Agriculture: The Opportunity for Digital Ag.” On Wednesday, April 26, listen as Wrigley Fellow David Lobell speaks on “Improving Agriculture in a Warmer World.” Finally, on Monday, May 8, Lisa Ainsworth, a professor with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and USDA ARS researcher, will conclude the series with a discussion about “Understanding and Improving Crop Responses to Global Atmospheric Change.” Learn more about the Harvard University Center for the Environment and watch past recorded lectures from the series here.

 

April 5 – 7: New England Farm to Institution Summit

Leominster, MA

Cost: Registration now closed

The New England Farm to Institution Summit promises two exciting days of learning from and sharing with hundreds of farm-to-institution advocates. The Summit will focus on farm-to-school, farm-to-campus, and farm-to-health care programs. While registration for this event has already closed, it’s worth putting on your calendar for next year! You can learn more about the Summit, speakers, and host organizations (Farm to Institution New England, Health Care Without Harm, and USDA Farm to School) here.

 

April 6: Venture Capital Investment for Food

6:00 – 8:30 PM, Boston, MA

Cost: $25 General Attendance

Branchfood hosts a networking event and panel discussion that will bring venture investors across the food and food-tech industries together to discuss financing food businesses, opportunities for innovation, market trends, and how to launch a successful food startup. Panelists will include Marcia Hooper, Partner at investing firm HooperLewis, Alex Whitmore of Taza Chocolate, and Nick Mccoy, Managing Director at Whipstitch Capital. Attendees will have the chance to network with industry mentors and investors, and to stay for a food tasting. Get the evening’s schedule, registration, and parking information here.

 

April 7: Tufts Food Systems Symposium

10 AM – 2 PM, Medford, MA

Cost: Free, with registration

The first-ever Tufts Food System Symposium’s theme is “Intersections of Waste and Food Insecurity.” It will feature keynote addresses from Doug Rauch, former president of Trader Joe’s and founder of Dorchester’s Daily Table, and Sasha Purpura, executive director of Food For Free. These will be followed by a panel discussion with Boston-area advocates, students, and faculty. Attendees are invited to take place in table conversations over lunch, provided by Tufts Dining. A poster session and mini-expo will conclude the afternoon. Participants are asked to register at the Food[at]Tufts website.

 

April 7 – 8: Graduate Student Research Conference

8:30 AM – 5:00 PM, Jaharis Building, Boston, MA

Cost: $15-25 Early Bird Pricing ends April 3 at 5 PM; $25-35 for day-of registration

The 10th Annual Graduate Student Research Conference presents this year’s theme, “The Future of Food and Nutrition.” Graduate students from varied disciplines will gather to present original research relating to food systems and nutrition science. Helena Bottemiller Evich, senior food and agriculture reporter at POLITICO, will give the keynote address, followed by a panel discussion including Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning professor Julian Agyeman, SR Strategy president Sylvia Rowe, and Richard Black, a 25-year veteran of the nutrition field. Participants are also invited to attend a post-conference reception for refreshments and networking. To register or read more, visit the Graduate Student Conference website.

 

April 10: Nature Research Seminar

11:00 AM – 1:00 PM, Sackler 114, Boston, MA

Cost: Free

Sir Philip Campbell, Editor-in-Chief for the international weekly scientific journal, Nature, will speak about management challenges for principal investigators and researchers looking to publish their work. Topics will include working with editors, post-publication pressures, lab integrity, data management, reproducibility, mentoring, best practices and more. Sir Campbell’s 50-minute presentation will be followed by a Q&A session. Read more about the event from Tufts’ Vice Provost for Research.

 

April 21: 8th Annual WSSS Symposium

9:00 AM – 5:30 PM, Medford, MA

Cost: Free to Tufts students, faculty and staff; $10 for non-Tufts affiliated attendees

Each year, graduate students in the Water: Systems, Science and Society (WSSS) certificate program host a Symposium about water topics. This year’s theme is “Untapped Potential: Making Water Markets Work for All” and will focus on possible public-private solutions for regional water-based issues. Attendees will hear from speakers working in public, private, and non-governmental sectors, and research-track WSSS students will present their work at the lunchtime poster session. In fact, WSSS invites all students working on water-related research to participate in the poster session. Cash prizes will be awarded! To enter, submit your abstract using this form no later than April 7. Check out the Tufts Institute of the Environment website for registration info and to see a list of speakers and schedules.

 

April 23: AllLocal Dinner at Mei Mei Restaurant

5:30 PM, Boston, MA

Cost: $55 – $65

For something a little different to break up your busy conference calendar, consider attending an AllLocal Dinner at Mei Mei Restaurant near Fenway. AllLocal events raise awareness about the benefits and challenges of seasonal cooking while promoting local agriculture and highlighting New England’s regional food system. Attendees will hear from Chef Irene Li and a local farmer, while enjoying eight family-style dishes and locally crafted libations. Mei Mei Restaurant is committed to sourcing local, pasture-raised, and humanely slaughtered meats and sustainably grown foods from family-based producers. Proceeds from the dinner will support the Boston Local Food Program. For details about the dinner and to buy tickets, visit the Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts’ events page.

 

April 25: Food Hub Forum

8:30 AM – 5:00 PM, Boston Public Market, Boston, MA

Cost: Free to students and seniors; $25 General Admission

For anyone interested in urban agriculture and regional distribution, the Boston Public Market’s Food Hub Forum is a must-attend event. Topics will include urban hubs, regional food systems, the history and future of Boston’s market district, economies of local restaurant and food retail businesses, and incubator services. Attendees are invited to partake in libations and networking after the event. Find full details and register here by April 22.

 

April 28 – 29: New England Meat Conference

April 28, 10:00 AM – April 29, 3:00 PM, Manchester, NH

Cost: $45 – $349 (several packages offered)

The New England Meat Conference brings farmers, processors, butchers, value-added producers and chefs together to discuss the economies, infrastructure, and potential for growth of the New England meat industry. Topics will include production, processing and pricing, whole-animal purchasing, emerging markets, inventory management, scalability, and more. Attend educational sessions, network with industry stakeholders at the trade show, and attend the Meat Ball, a competition where chefs will offer live demos. Registrants can opt to attend one or both days. Special pricing is available for students. More information at the New England Meat Conference website.

 

And if meat isn’t your thing…

 

May 20 – 21: Reducetarian Summit

May 20, 8:00 AM – May 21, 6:00 PM, Manhattan, NY

Cost: $99 Advance Student Admission; $199-399 General Admission

The central question of this first-of-its-kind event is, “How do we as individuals, organizations, communities, and societies work to systematically decrease meat consumption?” Join and share with more than three dozen high-profile food industry leaders in workshops, breakout sessions, panel discussions, and delicious meals. Topics will include the impacts of animal agriculture, using strategic communication tools to change attitudes and behaviors, the politics of meat, strategies for internalizing the external costs of factory farming, and more. For a complete list of presenters and moderators and to register, visit the Summit’s website.

Are there any conferences, seminars, or similar events missing from this list? Let us know in the comments below!

Kathleen Nay is a second-year AFE/UEP student. You can catch her volunteering at the Food Tank Summit on April 1, in attendance at the Tufts Food Systems Symposium on April 7, and at the Food Hub Forum on April 25.

Obligations and Opportunities for Farmworker Justice

by Caitlin Joseph

Anyone who cares about public health and nutrition, affordable and healthy food access, agricultural sustainability, rural communities, international trade, or corporate social responsibility, should be paying close attention to how the recent rise in anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy will impact the people the U.S food system is currently dependent on: farmworkers. On Wednesday, April 19, farmworker activists from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) who live and work on the frontlines of these issues will be at the Friedman School to talk about their current campaigns and their perspective on the recent political landscape.

Since its inception, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ (CIW) Fair Food Program (FFP) has revolutionized the fresh tomato industry in Florida, which Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Molloy once described as “ground zero” for modern slavery (Stern, 2013). Hired farmworkers remain among the most economically disadvantaged populations in the U.S. They have some of the lowest wages in the workforce and experience frequent periods of unemployment, due to the seasonal nature of their work (CIW, 2014). According to the National Agricultural Workers Survey, between 2007 and 2014, 25 percent of farmworkers worked more than 50 hours per week and were paid an average of $9.57 hourly. During that time, 24 percent of workers also had non-farm jobs throughout the year, 55 percent had children, and average family incomes ranged from $17,500 – $24,999 (National Agricultural Workers Survey, 2016).

In addition to the economic hardship of farm labor, many workers face brutal working conditions that include extended exposure to the elements, sexual harassment and assault, physical and verbal abuse, and often-toxic contact with pesticides and farm chemicals (CIW, 2014; National Agricultural Workers Survey, 2016; Strochlic, 2010). Moreover, an average of 66 percent of farmworkers did not have health insurance between 2007-2014 (National Agricultural Workers Survey, 2016).

The CIW Approach: Third-Party Verified Corporate Social Responsibility

Through worker-led advocacy, CIW engages downstream brands in produce supply chains to gain commitments for its Fair Food Program (FFP), through which, companies agree to pay an additional penny per pound for the tomatoes they purchase in exchange for verification that growers in their supply chain are in compliance with the Fair Food Code of Conduct, which includes zero tolerance for forced labor, child labor, violence and sexual assault. Participating growers agree to use the premium they receive to increase wages for workers, and receive inspections from the Fair Foods Standards Council (Fair Food Program, 2015 Annual Report: Worker-Driven Social Responsibility, 2015).

Why is it effective?

Over time, retailers have gained an increasing share of the food dollar from farm to plate. As Figure 1 shows, the average monthly retail price of tomatoes in 2015 was 75 cents higher than in 1992, while the value received at the farm gate was one cent lower. Between 1992 and 2015, the percentage of the retail value received at the farm gate (the farm share) declined 17 percent.

 

Figure 1: Farm to Retail Price Spreads, 1992-2015

Source: Calculated by ERS, USDA, using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

 

Mergers and acquisitions have increased the consolidation of market share in the retail industry and placed downward pressure on the prices for tomato growers (Kaufman, Handy, Mclaughlin, & Green, 2000; Sexton, 2010). While retailers took home the lion’s share of food dollar gains since the 1990s, farmers faced tightening margins and increasing import competition from Canada and Mexico, which now account for one third of U.S. fresh tomato consumption (USDA Economic Research Service, 2016). Mexico invested heavily in the development of protected plant varieties in recent years, allowing its growers to capture a growing share of the import market (USDA Economic Research Service, 2016). As a result, domestic farmworker wages remained stagnant at rates reflecting those of the 1970s (Asbed & Sellers, 2013). The FFP premium allows farmers to recapture the one-cent per pound of the revenue lost to retailers since the 1990s and siphons those gains to farm-laborers.

Wendy’s and FFP

Despite CIW’s success in securing commitments from major restaurant brands and retailers in recent years, Wendy’s remains the only one of the five largest fast food companies that has yet to participate in the FFP. Instead, it developed its own Code of Conduct, meant to satisfy organizers calling for the company to improve its practices. This code, however, doesn’t come close to providing the verifiable protections that the FFP’s Code of Conduct involves. Wendy’s has also shifted its tomato procurement to Mexico since the FFP began operating in Florida. As a result, CIW is calling for widespread pledges to Boycott Wendy’s until they comply.

Anti-Immigration Policies: Impacts on Agriculture and the Food Supply

While it remains unclear how the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies will hold up to further challenges in federal courts, we don’t have to look far into the past to find examples of how harsh policies and rhetoric can negatively impact domestic agricultural industries. In the years following the passage of strict anti-immigration policies in Alabama and Arizona, for example, workers fled, crops rotted in the field, and farmers lost revenue. Production of certain fruit and vegetable crops in those states dropped, as many produce farmers retired early or shifted production to trees and other less labor-intensive crops. Farmers and poultry processors in Alabama tried to save their industries by recruiting unemployed U.S. citizens to work in their fields and factories, but found that these workers simply weren’t up to the task, and many quit early.

 

These case studies serve as a warning sign that mass immigrant intimidation and deportation could result in shocks to our food supply, increased food waste to field losses (and associated natural resource waste), increased food prices, less wholesome foods on our plates, and further blows to rural agricultural economies that are already struggling. Conversely, analysts project that increasing farmworker wages enough to lift most out of poverty would 1) yield minimal impacts on U.S. consumer spending; 2) drive mechanization in agriculture, potentially increasing agricultural efficiency and the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables; and 3) pose little threat to the global competitiveness of U.S. agricultural industries (Martin, 2011). Such estimates imply that ensuring safe, dignified lives for farmworkers in U.S. could benefit nearly everything we work for here at the Friedman School.

The Friedman Justice League will host the April 19th seminar, and hopes that faculty, staff, and students alike will attend to learn why we as citizens, students, and food system professionals should look to farmworkers’ struggle to lead our practice, knowing that their pathway to justice is the same pathway that can lead us to a healthier, more sustainable food system.

Caitlin Joseph is a second-year master’s candidate in the Agriculture, Food, and Environment program, specializing in Food Systems Planning and Public Health. She approaches food systems issues from a human rights framework, and hopes to use the tools she’s gaining at Tufts to help manifest a brighter future for people and the planet. Before grad school, her hobbies included gardening, teaching kids to garden, and making as many things as possible out of rhubarb (also from her garden).

Works Cited

Asbed, G., & Sellers, S. (2013). The Fair Food Program: Comprehensive, Verifiable and Sustainable Change for Farmworkers. U. Pa. J.L. & Soc. Change, 16(1). Retrieved from http://scholarship.law.upenn.edu/jlasc/vol16/iss1/3This

CIW (2014). Fair Food Program, 2014 Annual Report: Worker-Driven Social Responsibility. Retrieved from fairfoodstandards.org

CIW (2015). Fair Food Program, 2015 Annual Report: Worker-Driven Social Responsibility. (2015). Retrieved from http://fairfoodstandards.org/15SOTP-Web.pdf

Kaufman, P. R., Handy, C. R., Mclaughlin, E. W., & Green, G. M. (2000). Understanding the Dynamics of Produce Markets: Consumption and Consolidation Grow. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details/?pubid=42295

Martin, P. (2011). Would a raise for fruit and vegetable workers diminish the competitiveness of U.S. agriculture? (EPI Briefing Paper No. #295). Washington, D.C. Retrieved from http://www.epi.org/files/page/-/old/briefingpapers/BriefingPaper295.pdf

National Agricultural Workers Survey (2016) U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and

Training Administration. Retrieved 20 November 2016 from https://www.doleta.gov/agworker/naws.cfm#d-tables

Sexton, R. J. (2010). Grocery Retailers’ Dominant Role in Evolving World Food Markets. Choices Magazine, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, 25(2). Retrieved from http://econpapers.repec.org/article/agsaaeach/94763.htm

Stern, S. (2013). Building Partnerships to Eradicate Modern-Day Slavery: Report of Recommendations to the President. Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/advisory_council_humantrafficking_report.pdf

Strochlic, R. (2010). Toward a More Socially Just Farm Labor Contracting System in California.

USDA Economic Research Service (2016). Tomatoes. Retrieved from: http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/crops/vegetables-pulses/tomatoes.aspx).

 

 

 

 

Political Dissent with Burritos

by Mike Zastoupil

While thousands of Americans have taken to the streets to protest the Trump administration, these two guys have taken to…their kitchen. Learn how Feed the People is fueling the resistance in Boston with delicious burritos.

It was a bitterly cold day to be standing outside the bandstand at the Boston Common, but that didn’t stop a few hundred people from showing up to express their support for Planned Parenthood. There were women wearing handknit pink hats and an assortment of protest signs clutched between frozen mittens and gloves. Everyone was listening to the speeches from community advocates and Massachusetts congressmen pledging their commitment to fight for women’s health clinics in the face of impending federal budget cuts.

Many people would have left the protest feeling physically and emotionally drained, had they not encountered two young men giving away burritos. “Would you like a burrito? They have black beans and sweet potatoes. They’re free. Thanks for coming out and protesting today.” An older woman took one and said “Oh, you’re serious? Thank you!” while three teenagers said, “This is amazing! You totally made my day!” and ran away munching their burritos. One man stuffed three or four into his pockets, after timidly asking if he could do so. They all walked away with warm, full bellies and a feeling that the world isn’t so bad after all.

Meet Sean Pulsfort and Gideon Burdick, the two young men behind the not-for-profit burrito operation that they call Feed the People. Their motto is “Feed the People, Fuel the Resistance,” and making burritos is their way of expressing their political dissent with the Trump administration. Like many great ideas, they came up with Feed the People late one night over a couple of beers and lively conversation. The conversation had been about ways to meaningfully engage in politics and keep people’s spirits up after what many considered a disheartening presidential election. Sean said, “We can make burritos…maybe it will make people happy.”

Sean is a trained chef and works for a food service hiring company while Gideon works for a produce distributor, so they naturally turned to food as a way to connect with their community. They made a website and Facebook page, researched the laws around giving away free food and crowdsourcing money, and quickly raised a few hundred dollars from family and friends. The burritos are all made at their apartment in Jamaica Plain, where you can find them waking up as early as 5:00 AM to make the burritos from scratch. So far they have made a breakfast burrito with eggs, cheese, black beans, roasted potatoes and roasted poblano sauce, and a vegetarian burrito with beans, cheese, sweet potatoes and tomatillo sauce. They purchase all of the ingredients in bulk from a restaurant supply wholesaler, which allows them to keep costs low. Once the burritos are made, usually about 125 in total, they’re wrapped in foil and transported to the protest rallies in insulated delivery bags and coolers to keep them hot and ready to eat.

Sean and Gideon said they learned a lot from Food Not Bombs, another organization that has been giving away food to activists since the 1980’s and got its start nearby in Cambridge, MA. “We had to research laws regarding giving away free food to people,” said Sean. “There have been city ordinances in Florida and other places that have banned giving free food to people for various reasons.” The burritos they make for Feed the People are always vegetarian, which keeps costs down and reduces food safety risks, but also appeals to a wider audience.

So far, Feed the People has nourished protestors with burritos at a data rescue gathering at MIT and the Planned Parenthood Rally in the Boston Common. They plan on attending the March for Science in Boston on April 22, and any other protests and rallies that may occur in the future. When asked what their needs are to make more burritos in the future, they ask only for funding. “It costs about $1 to make each burrito,” Gideon says, and at this point they don’t really need volunteers because they can rely on friends if they need to. They intend to keep the burrito operation small and “grassroots” for now, but Gideon said he would “take a food truck” if they could afford it.

If you would like to learn more about Feed the People, you can visit their Facebook page or their website. The next time that you feel tired or frustrated with the state of politics in the country, remember that there are people out there making tasty burritos to fuel your battle.

Mike Zastoupil is finishing his Master’s in Agriculture, Food and Environment. He is a proud roommate to Sean and Gideon, and a supporter of Feed the People.  

Musings from the In-Between: My Coming to Terms with the GMO Industry

by Laura Barley

Monotony. Uniformity. Cataclysmic Tragedy, Subsequent Death. As a self-identified liberal attending an institution built on the premise of promoting social welfare through nutritional outcomes, this is how Laura Barley has historically described images of technologized agriculture. Her take on GMOs now? Read on. 

As we’re all too aware, the genetic modification of food is one of the most polarizing innovations in agriculture, placing tech-absolutists against agro-ecologist hippies and scantly leaving room for anyone else in between. Quite honestly, it’s a cultural scandal and a public relations nightmare. Never before have humans been able to penetrate so deeply into the fabric of our consumption and manipulate it for our own gain. Think about it: scientists have figured out how to take splices of nanoscopic DNA from one species, most commonly Bacillus thurgensis, then coat those splices onto gold particles, and use a gene gun to blast the gene-coated particles into plant cells that will then replicate and express the desired trait(s). Kind of crazy, right? Frankly, it feels weird that we’d ever have to go to such lengths just to grow food efficiently, but I suppose I’m learning how far a psyche of reductionism can take us.

As esoterically impressive as this technology may seem, it’s been integrated into seeds sown across millions of acres of farmland in the United States and 28 countries across the world. The extent of genetically-modified corn and soybean’s success is apparent in the magnitude of its planting, but I’ve always been inclined to wonder—just because something is massively popular, does that make it inherently successful or positive? Besides concerns for biological safety, which have largely been debunked, the proliferation of genetically-modified food has elicited a persistent sense of ecological and cultural doom in the general public much more than it’s elicited any sense of technological optimism. Where exactly does this aversion stem from?

As ‘liberals’, we are inclined to believe that a sense of the common good should prevail over the interests of a small handful of individuals. Arguably, this foundation informs many of our deep suspicions of the heavily consolidated seed and agro-chemical business—that they must not care about small farmers, that they must not care about the impoverished citizens of the world, because they’re driven so singularly towards massive profits.

Through my work with Ellen Messer, the Friedman school’s impressively well-informed professor of anthropology, I’ve looked into the careers of various scientists and biotech institutions who’ve set the business of genetically engineering food into motion. And honestly, their sh*t didn’t stink as bad as I’d hoped it would. Perhaps my lips are red from the Kool-Aid I’ve just drunk, but underneath the dark, tainted veil of their corporate monikers, I can see that these people are simply scientists. Take, for instance, Beatriz Xonocostle, researching the genes involved in drought tolerance to preserve maize cultivation in an increasingly dry Mexico, or Dennis Gonsalves, the developer of Rainbow Papaya that revived the Hawaiian papaya industry after years of serious blight – are these people who I should consider ‘enemies’? These are people attempting to experiment with and innovate the most sophisticated technology possible to make growing food easier. When I get down to it, I see (mostly) earnest people doing the best they can to solve continual global problems of food insecurity and hunger quite literally from the inside out. Now, don’t get me wrong – I understand there are certainly much more vibrant ways of achieving food security that promote biodiversity and empower farmers at smaller scales. It all looks good and feels beautiful. I’ve simply begun to understand that there are tangible and highly nuanced reasons for the successes of agricultural biotechnology, and that these innovations aren’t likely to disappear anytime soon.

Conveniently, this moderation leaves me at the crossroads of empathy and apathy. In fact, nearly all of my classes at Friedman so far have. I seem to be sitting smack-dab in the middle of the ‘it’s complicated’ intersection, watching rush-hour traffic zoom around me. Given the wealth of information and perspectives lent out to me, I’m no longer afforded the luxury of advocating holistic remedies from my isolated Californian, organic-farming-community bubble. Instead, I’m left to look critically at individual successes and failures to determine exactly which agricultural circumstances merit the use of genetic technology, or any technological or political intervention at all for that matter.

My argument is this: we’ve got to understand these people and corporations both for the results they produce and the intentions they carry. It doesn’t behoove us to assume ignorance on their part; it only stunts our own understanding of the axioms on which the global food system rests upon. A crucial part of our education is to properly consider the sets of choices we will undoubtedly face in the various roles we will all play in our careers, as farmers, policymakers, advocates, consumers. The middle of the road can be an uncomfortable place to be, but I’m ready to embrace it for the responsibilities it renders.

Laura Barley is a first-year Agricultural, Food, and Environment master’s student ceaselessly curious about the complexity that global food systems has to offer. Further dialogue and questions can be asked at laurabarley88@gmail.com.

 

“Food Will Win the War!” American Food Policies During World War I

by Jennifer Pustz

“The consumption of sugar sweetened drinks must be reduced” . . . “use less meat and wheat” . . . “buy local foods.” These are familiar phrases at the Friedman School in 2017. But these slogans and many others could be found on posters one hundred years ago after the United States officially entered World War I in April 1917. Friedman student Jennifer Pustz a story from food history that may offer inspiration for the promotion of gardening, conservation, and sustainability in the twenty-first century.

One hundred years ago, on April 6, 1917, the United States ended over two years of neutrality and officially entered World War I. Although the war ended in November of the next year, the nineteen-month period of involvement had an enormous impact on everyday life in the U.S., especially when it came to food and government engagement in food supply and distribution. In Victory Gardens, canning clubs, and kitchens all over America, women engaged in a massive effort to produce, preserve, and conserve food to support the war effort.

By the time the United States entered the war, the issue of food production and conservation had become a top priority for American soldiers and European civilians. After nearly three years of constant ground war, Europe’s agricultural fields were ravaged, much of the labor force had joined the military, and trade was disrupted both on land and at sea. The result was a humanitarian crisis that required the assistance of the United States, whose policy of neutrality and geographic distance from the front lines had protected agricultural production from serious harm.

President Wilson established the United States Food Administration by executive order on August 10, 1917, and Congress passed the Food and Fuel Control Act, also known as the Lever Act. Herbert Hoover, a former mining engineer with prior experience in facilitating food aid to Europe, was hired to serve as the administrator. The Food Administration’s goals were broad—from regulating exports and managing the domestic food supply, to preventing hoarding and profiteering, to promoting agriculture and food conservation. In addition to the federal program, state branches of the Food Administration promoted programs that met the needs of their residents and responded to their own unique food production and consumption issues.

Food will win the war. Wheat is needed for the allies, 1917. Charles Edward Chambers, illustrator. Boston Public Library Prints Department. http://ark.digitalcommonwealth.org/ark:/50959/ft848v37p

 

Hoover took no salary to provide a model of self-sacrifice that he hoped to see in other Americans. One remarkable aspect of the World War I Food Administration story is the overwhelming success of a voluntary effort. In a report about the Massachusetts Committee on Public Safety, published shortly after the war’s conclusion, the author noted the following:

“At no point, even in the most intense shortage of sugar, did the Food Administration establish any legally effective system of rationing for householders; and in the case of both sugar and wheat substitutes, the selfish disregard of Food Administration requests, shown by a few, was much more than offset by the voluntary efforts of that great majority who went well beyond the requested measures, and brought about a total saving far greater than would have been possible by a mechanical rationing program” (311).

Efforts to increase food production targeted large-scale farmers to homeowners with very little land, and almost everyone in between. Even industrial sites engaged in food production. At the American Woolen Company’s 50 mills, over 500 acres were cultivated; factory workers produced over 45,000 bushels of potatoes, 40,000 ears of sweet corn, and thousands of bushels of root crops and summer vegetables. The industrial production was so successful that it was “recognized by many manufacturers that such provision for their employees is of great value, not only in contributing to the support of families, but in its bearing on permanence of occupation and on contentment of mind” (339).

Household Victory Gardens sprouted up in “all manner of unheard-of-places” and allowed homeowners to reduce their dependence on the national food supply by growing their own produce for immediate consumption and canning the surplus for winter months. The U. S. Food Administration advocated for raising livestock as well and promoted “Pig Clubs” for boys and girls. Pigs could aid in reduction of food waste by eating the family’s household scraps. In Massachusetts, the supply of pigs was unable to meet the demand for them.

A massive publicity and communication campaign supported the public adoption of conservation methods. Posters that promoted reduced consumption of sugar, wheat, and meat played upon emotions of patriotism and guilt. Literature on food conservation was translated into at least eleven languages in Massachusetts: Armenian, Finnish, French, Greek, Italian, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish, Syrian, and Yiddish. More than 800,000 of these leaflets were distributed. A group of five cottages, surrounded by demonstration gardens, were located in the Boston Common between May and October 1918, where visitors could hear lectures, see demonstrations, and pick up educational materials.

War garden entrance on Boston Common during war with Germany, 1918. Leslie Jones, photographer. Boston Public Library Print Department. http://ark.digitalcommonwealth.org/ark:/50959/5h73qd62f

Americans who participated in home gardening and preserving their harvests took some burden off of the general food supply. In Topsfield, Massachusetts, a canning club provided facilities and services for fruit and vegetable preservation. For a 50-cent membership, one could order and buy from the club’s stock at 4 percent discount, send her vegetables and fruits to be preserved in exchange for the cost of labor plus overhead, or could do her own canning using the club’s facilities, which were open 4 days per week. In one season, the canning club produced 3000 jars of fruits and vegetables, 1800 glasses of jelly, and 500 pounds of jam.

Americans voluntarily adopted practices such as “Wheatless Mondays” and “Meatless Tuesdays,” as did hotels and restaurants, which participated in “No White Bread Week” between August 6-12, 1917. Recipes that conserved sugar, wheat, fats, and meat dominated women’s publications and cookbooks of the time. The 1918 book Foods that Will Win the War and How to Cook Them included this recipe for “War Bread”:

2 cups boiling water

2 tablespoons sugar

1 ½ teaspoons salt

¼ cup lukewarm water

2 tablespoons fat                 

6 cups rye flour

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour

1 cake yeast 

To the boiling water, add the sugar, fat and salt. When lukewarm, add the yeast which has been dissolved into the lukewarm water. Add the rye and whole wheat flour. Cover and let rise until twice its bulk, shape into loaves; let rise until double and bake about 40 minutes in a moderately hot oven.

Young people were not exempt from “doing their bit.” The U. S. Food Administration published books, including some for use in schools, to influence young readers who would pass the message on to their parents. Home economics textbooks for college classes applied lessons on macro- and micronutrients and energy metabolism to the state of the food supply in the United States and abroad.

After the war ended on November 11, 1918, the activities of the Food Administration slowed and the agency was eliminated in August 1920. The government implemented mandatory rationing during World War II, but since then, Americans have experienced little to no government interference with their food consumption. Many of the voluntary efforts promoted in the name of patriotism in 1917 and 1918 resonate with some of the food movements of today, such as reducing the amount of added sugar in foods and increasing consumption of whole grains. One would hope it would not take a war and a national propaganda campaign to change behaviors, but perhaps it is worth looking back one hundred years for inspiration to promote gardening, healthier and more sustainable eating habits, and reduced food waste.

Jennifer Pustz is a first-year NICBC student in the MS-MPH dual degree program. In her previous professional work as a historian, Jen’s research interests focused on the history of domestic life, especially the lives of domestic workers, the history of kitchens, domestic technology, and of course, food.

Works Cited:

C. Houston and Alberta M. Goudiss. Foods that Will Win the War and How to Cook Them. New York: World Syndicate Co., 1918; George Hinckley Lyman. The Story of the Massachusetts Committee On Public Safety: February 10, 1917-November 21, 1918. Boston: Wright & Potter Printing Co., 1919.

 

 

Balance, Variety, and Moderation: What Do They Really Mean?

by Katelyn Castro

Balance, variety, and moderation have been referenced in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for decades. Yet overtime, the ambiguity of these terms has clouded their importance and left their meaning open for interpretation—often misinterpretation.

“Everything in moderation.”

“It’s all about balance.”

“I eat a variety of foods… well, a variety of ice-cream flavors!”

These words are often used to justify our food choices or to make us feel better when our diet is not 100% nutritious. Not anymore! Instead of using these words to rationalize our eating habits (which is completely unnecessary and counterproductive), let’s talk about how these nutrition concepts can be interpreted with a more intuitive approach to healthy eating.

Variety

Fruits and vegetables are usually the food groups that we focus on when we talk about variety in our diet. However, variety is encouraged within all the major food groups and among the food groups.

Besides making meals more colorful, eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, dairy, proteins, and grains provides a wider range of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, prebiotics, and probiotics—keeping our heart, mind, skin, eyes, and gut functioning optimally. Varying protein with a combination of eggs, dairy, legumes, grains, and nuts is especially important for vegetarians to receive adequate amounts of all essential amino acids.

In addition to the benefits of variety at the biochemical level, a varied diet can also make eating more satisfying and flexible. While it can be easy to rely on your food staples for meals, introducing new ingredients can bring attention back to the flavor and enjoyment of eating, preventing you from eating on autopilot. Swap out an apple for a grapefruit or peach; have turkey or fish in place of chicken; substitute barley or quinoa for pasta. Choosing local and seasonal foods will also keep your diet varied diet throughout the year. Giving yourself permission to eat a variety of foods within all food groups can be freeing, helping to overcome rigid eating habits and food rules and appreciate the range of foods that satisfy your hunger and cravings.

Photo credit: https://stocksnap.io

Moderation

Sweets, fatty meats, fried food, fast food, soda… these are all foods recommended to “eat in moderation,” or limit, in some cases. Whether it is unwanted weight gain or increased risk of type 2 diabetes, the negative health effects of eating excess added sugars and solid fats have been identified in the literature. However, cutting out sugary and fatty foods completely can be just as damaging for our emotional health, leaving us disconnected from friends and family and preoccupied with thoughts about food. Food is a huge part of our culture; it’s social, celebratory, and meant to be enjoyed in good company. That’s why moderation—not restriction or overindulgence—is the secret to healthy, happy eating habits.

But, what does moderation really mean? Technically, the most recent dietary guidelines recommend limiting added sugars to less than 10% of total calories per day, saturated fat to less than 10% of total calories per day, and trans fat to as little as possible. Realistically, this may translate into having more added sugars one day (i.e. when you’re eating cake at a family birthday party), and having more saturated fat another day (i.e. when you eat pizza with friends on a weekend).

Moderation is about being open to day-to-day variations in your diet depending on your appetite, cravings, and activity level. Sometimes a big bowl of ice-cream is just want you need to satisfy your sweet tooth, other times a small square of chocolate may be enough to keep sweet cravings at bay. Savoring the flavor of sugary and fatty foods and becoming aware of how your body responds can help you determine what “eating in moderation” means for you.

Photo credit: https://stocksnap.io

Balance

Out of all three of these terms, balance probably has the most interpretations. A balanced diet is often defined as a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat within the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges set by the Institute of Medicine. A balanced meal, on the other hand, refers to a balance of food groups consistent with MyPlate or Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate: fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, one fourth with lean protein, and one fourth with whole grains. Together, creating a balance of food groups and macronutrients can make meals and snacks more filling (from protein and fiber) and provide more sustained energy (from carbohydrates in whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables).

Beyond balance within our food choices, energy balance looks more broadly at the balance between energy intake (calories from food) and energy expenditure (calories used for exercise and metabolic processes). Energy balance is associated with weight maintenance, while energy imbalance can contribute to weight loss or weight gain. However, this concept is often oversimplified because energy expenditure cannot be precisely calculated since many factors like the stress, hormones, genetics, and gut microbiota (bacteria in our digestive tract) can alter our metabolism. For example, chronic stress can lead to high levels of cortisol, which signal the body to store fat, contributing to weight gain. In contrast, a diverse composition of gut microbiota may enhance metabolism and promote weight loss, according to preliminary research.

Considering the multiple factors influencing our metabolism, listening to our bodies’ hunger and fullness cues can often guide food intake better than relying on calculated formulas and food trackers. Creating balance, variety, and moderation in our diets can help us meet our nutritional needs and achieve energy balance, while preserving the joy and connection that food brings to our lives.

Photo credit: https://stocksnap.io

Katelyn Castro is a second-year student in the DI/MS Nutrition program at the Friedman School. She’s a foodie, runner, and part-time yogi on a mission to make healthy eating easy, sustainable, and enjoyable. You can find her thoughts on all things relating to food and nutrition at nutritionservedsimply.com