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Hot Cheetos and Takis. It’s like David Simon faced off against Michelle Obama through a YMCA music video.

17 Aug

smart, savvy piece why Michigan’s cherry crisis won’t drive up store prices — and why packers are turning to Poland ::

16 Jul

Prices usually skyrocket when farmers take that kind of a loss, or in severe cases consumers might just have to give up on a fruit for a season. But that won’t happen in this case because of some unique factors in the tart cherry industry. As a result, cherry processors are scrambling to get what fruit they can, sometimes from Poland or Turkey, and taking a financial hit in an effort to keep prices low.

More Americans cooking—not b/c they’re broke but b/c they know how @michaelpollan @JamieOliver @Bittman: It’s working! ::

11 Jun

Credit whomever or whatever you like — foodie journalists, celebrity chefs, the depressing state of the American economy — but Americans are increasingly cooking at home, according to a recent poll, reports trade magazine Progressive Grocer. Two key findings:

(1) Americans are cooking more

In fact, seven in 10 Americans say they are cooking more instead of going out in an effort to save money, according to a survey released in mid-May by The Harris Poll. Fifty-seven percent of consumers agree that going out for dinner is now a luxury, compared to their previous dining preferences, and less than a third (29 percent) say they would cut other expenses in order to be able to eat away from home.

Emphasis added there, because I think it’s points to an interesting fact: Most Americans are willing to cook at home as a bid at economic independence. The idea that Americans are just too lazy to cook doesn’t seem to hold up here.

(2) We’re cooking more, in part, because now we know how to do it

According to the Harris Poll, the economic malaise that started a few years ago has had a lingering effect. “At the beginning of the downturn, we saw consumers saving money by changing their behavior in two ways: eating out less frequently and shifting their eating-out dollars away from casual dining towards fast-food/quick-service restaurants,” remarks Mary Bouchard, VP and thought leader at Harris Interactive. “Now, with several years of experience with constrained budgets, they have shifted even further from the busy lifestyle convenience of eating out on a regular basis to making time for cooking at home.”

That last bit of emphasis — also added by me — would suggest that folks like Jamie Oliver, Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman, not to mention Rachael Ray, have got it right: When we know how to cook, we do it more.

Thrilled to read this report from @FoodChainWorker. Less thrilling: It found 86% of food workers make poverty wages.

6 Jun

Why @Target ‘s expanding grocery business makes me queasy #PlayingCatchup

8 May

What I find most interesting about Target’s expansion as a grocer is that its produce offerings (not unlike Walmart’s) tend to be slim and of not-the-best-quality-ever. I’m completely comfortable with people making use of canned and frozen produce, but there’s something about shifting our food supply away from things-we-can-eat-as-they-are and toward things-someone-else-makes-and-sells-us that makes me incredibly uneasy.

Damning piece on Walmart bribery scandal in Mexico from @NYTimes

22 Apr

It is rare to obtain this much evidence, of corruption this deep. Best snippets here, but read the full — utterly damning — piece from David Barstow:

he former executive described how Wal-Mart de Mexico had orchestrated a campaign of bribery to win market dominance. In its rush to build stores, he said, the company had paid bribes to obtain permits in virtually every corner of the country.


Wal-Mart dispatched investigators to Mexico City, and within days they unearthed evidence of widespread bribery. They found a paper trail of hundreds of suspect payments totaling more than $24 million.


Primary responsibility for the investigation was then given to the general counsel of Wal-Mart de Mexico — a remarkable choice since the same general counsel was alleged to have authorized bribes.

The general counsel promptly exonerated his fellow Wal-Mart de Mexico executives.

Quick thoughts on @NYTimes cover story on food deserts

19 Apr

I’ve been besieged with emails about the NYT’s cover piece yesterday on food deserts, so here are a couple quick thoughts:

(1) Food deserts have always been a crude measure

Keep in mind that this is a fairly new area of public policy. I’ve long though that food deserts are a crude measure at best; that the imbalance between healthy food and junk food in neighborhoods is important; and that using supermarkets as the only measure of access to healthy food is problematic. (Sorry, no links here, though I do talk about this in my book.)

So it’s good to complicate our thinking on this. Access has never been the only problem when it comes to changing the way we eat. That said, it is certainly part of the problem and needs to be addressed head on. These studies don’t suggest that healthy food options are not important, just that they are not a silver bullet solution. (which nobody has ever said they were in the first place).

(2) Who walks 2 miles to get groceries?

I have a sneaking suspicion that study author Roland Strum hasn’t spent much time with urban working families. How else can you explain this inane assessment:

Within a couple of miles of almost any urban neighborhood, “you can get basically any type of food,” said Roland Sturm of the RAND Corporation, lead author of one of the studies. “Maybe we should call it a food swamp rather than a desert,” he said.

Seriously?Mr. Strum, do you walk from Clinton Hill, Brooklyn to the Brooklyn BRidge to pick up your groceries? Or take multiple train lines and buses?  In Detroit, a car-based city if ever there was one, ONE FIFTH Of the adults do not have a car.

Are we serious in thinking that, if someone isn’t willing to walk two miles with a week’s worth of groceries, that means they don’t care about their diet and health?

That said,yes the food desert concept needs rfining. See bullet-point number one.

(3) Healthy food is like water

Do you think poor people should only have dirty water? That they should pay for cleaner water if they want to drink it?That you’d better be willing to walk two or three miles to get potable water out of a tap?

I like to think not. And yet that’s how we think about healthy food: That it’s something you get if you pay for it, but have no right to. And today we pay the price for that in terms of health and well being — and lack thereof.

It should be as easy to eat well as it is to eat junk, and until we make that possible I think we will lose this battle.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Deadlines, book tour and personal finances are taking precedence for now.

Have you TRIED grocery shopping in a low-income neighborhood? @NextAmCity does @NYTimes one better on food deserts p://

19 Apr

“Our food systems are making people sick…The right to food means…the ability to have a balanced, nutritious diet.”

3 Apr

how did I miss this? 1/4 of party stores w/SNAP in Detroit sell expired meat?

3 Apr

In the hubbub of book publication and tour, I nearly missed this survey of Detroit corner stores holding both liquor licenses and SNAP certification. Done by the Restaurant Opportinities Center Detroit (full disclosure: They are sponsoring a book event with me on Thursday) in conjunction with Doing Development Differently in Detroit (D4) and Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength (MOSES), the report analyzes a survey of 207 corner stores visited in Detroit and finds — somewhat surprisingly, at least to me — that expired food is quite common in these stores: 22 percent sold expired meat, and 38 percent sold expired food.

One of the most frequent responses to complaints about the lack of grocery stores in low-income areas, and the corresponding abundance of what we here in Michigan call “party stores,” is that people in these communities don’t “demand” better food. The corollary of that is that the market perfectly reflects what IS in demad — and I have a hard time believing that 22 percent of Detroiters “demand” expired meat, and that 38 percent are asking for expired food.