About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

#53 - Food, Inc.

Food, Inc.: How Industrial Food Is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, and Poorer -- and What You Can Do About It, edited by Karl Weber (New York: PublicAffairs, 2009).

Jacket summary: "The movie Food, Inc. is shaking up our perceptions of what we eat. This powerful documentary deconstructing the corporate food industry in America has been hailed by Entertainment Weekly as 'more than a terrific movie -- it's an important movie.'

"Now, this unique companion book explores the challenges raised by the movie in fascinating depth through thirteen essays, most of them written especially for this book, and many by experts featured in the film. Highlights include:
  • Eric Schlosser on the industrialization of our food supply
  • Michael Pollan on the benefits of locally-sourced, organic eating
  • Robert Kenner, director, on the making of Food, Inc.
  • Marion Nestle on sorting out food facts from fictions
  • Anna Lappe on how the U.S. food system promotes global warming
  • Muhammad Yunus on the global impact of food industrialization
  • Joel Salatin on how to declare your independence from industrial food
  • Gary Hirshberg on how organic food is going mainstream
"If daily headlines about food poisoning, pollution, labor abuse, and rampant hunger have left you worried or confused about the foods you eat, Food, Inc. provides the facts behind the problems -- and shows you what you can do to make a difference."

Table of Contents:

Part I: Food, Inc.: The Film
  • 1. Reforming Fast Food Nation: A Conversation with Eric Schlosser
  • 2. Exploring the Corporate Powers Behind the Way We Eat: The Making of Food, Inc.
Part II: Inside the Food Wars
  • 3. Organics -- Healthy Food, and So Much More
  • 4. Food, Science, and the Challenge of World Hunger -- Who Will Control the Future?
  • 5. The Ethanol Scam: Burning Food to Make Motor Fuel
  • 6. The Climate Crisis at the End of Our Fork
  • 7. Cheap Food: Workers Pay the Price
  • 8. The Financial Crisis and World Hunger
Part III: What You Can Do About It
  • 9. Why Bother?
  • 10. Declare Your Independence
  • 11. Eating Made Simple
  • 12. Improving Kids' Nutrition: An Action Tool Kit for Parents and Citizens
  • 13. Produce to the People: A Prescription for Health
My take: This book is exactly what it says it is: a companion volume to the movie. It's also well worth reading whether or not you've seen the movie, as it neither presupposes knowledge from the film or rehashes all the same ground that's visited there. Rather, it does a nice job of going into more detail about some of the points not really elaborated on in the movie -- specifically, the degree to which the "always low prices" in our industrial food system rest on the backs of exploited farm workers, and the role our food system plays in exacerbating climate change. On one hand, this is hardly a balanced perspective; on the other, I do believe Kenner's claim in the second chapter that he tried to present the big food companies' perspectives, but they simply refused to talk to him.

If you're wondering whether the movie is worth it, are interested in the subject without the visuals, or have seen the movie and want to know more, read Food, Inc. It just may put you off a lot of food items for good, though.

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