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10 Apr
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I was a hungry college kid, too

The Washington Post has a sobering piece up this morning: Hunger among college kids is now so common that more than a hundred schools have established food banks on-campus for students.

First, I was appalled. And then I remembered: I could have used one in school, too.

I’ve long had a running joke for use in polite circles: That if I hadn’t been nannying for a kind and wealthy family in Soho, where I ate dinner with them four nights a week, I would have developed scurvy. I relied on those meals. As Tara Bahrampour reports:

“Between paying rent, paying utilities and then trying to buy food, that’s where we see the most insecurity because that’s the most flexible,” said Monica Gray, director of programs at the College Success Foundation-District of Columbia, which helps low-income high school students go to college.

Food’s the flexible thing in the budget, and so it falls by the wayside. Tuition can’t be changed; rent can’t be changed; utilities can’t be changed. But you can always eat less.

And so I did. Even with my four meals a week, I simply didn’t go grocery shopping because doing so meant spending all the money I had on-hand. Instead I ate piece-meal; I made do with bagels and canned shakes from the bodega. I got so thin that sitting on hard surfaces became uncomfortable. So did sleeping on my side, even on a mattress. Friends started telling me I needed to eat more.

Twenty years ago, I was an unusual case. I was a working-class transplant in a rich kid school, stumbling my way through college. I thought it was normal to drop 20 pounds in a year.

It is a damn shame that today, my college-years hunger wouldn’t be unusual at all.

31 Jan

February 2014 rears its chilly head

Looking for fun in February? Perhaps you’d enjoy catching one of my talks, in NYC and Philly. Hear about those, other upcoming talks, my favorite new reads and my wonderful new gig at Wesleyan here.

09 Dec

my crazy year: Year-End roundup

In case you’re not subscribed to my mailing list (sigh: can’t win ‘em all), but you’d still like to know what’s up with my professional work, click RIGHT HERE to see the latest and get links to all the best new stuff. See you in 2014!

18 Nov

the calm after the storm: autumn 2013

I can often be a whiner. But right now I’m feeling silent on that front, because the fall has been pretty amazing. I have had the incredible luck to be overwhelmingly busy with work, including reporting for two features that I’m actually excited about — big news for any freelancer. (Keep your eyes out for my byline, fingers crossed, in the New York Times Magazine and National Geographic.)

But I’ve also been privileged enough to be traveling to talk about The American Way of Eating and why having a frank conversation about food and class is important in today’s America. Here’s a quick recap below, mostly to give a shout out to the wonderful, generous people who’ve been hosting my writerly self all across the country (and generously helping me cover living expenses in the process)!

…more…

03 Sep

I’m blushing: Nice shout-out from The American Prospect

I got a nice surprise this morning when a friend forwarded me The American Prospect’s Labor Day email highlighting their most important labor pieces from the last year. More to the point (for my purposes here, anyway) was the way they sold it: …more…

30 Aug

Nice shout out from Slate’s LV Anderson as she tears into Jamie Oliver

This sharp piece from Slate’s LV Anderson brings class angst to the fore, and while I don’t envy her target — Jamie Oliver, the celebrity chef who entertained us by descending on America’s fattest town with dancing flash mobs brandishing woks and utensils—I am flattered to be held in esteemed company: …more…

11 Jun

#AWE a top summer reading pick

If you’re looking for some summer reading, #AWE got a couple nice shout-outs recently:

Molly at Word, the best little neighborhood bookstore in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, says “it’s a great investigative tale even if you’re not a sucker for The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Salt Sugar Fat.” Feel free to grab a copy of the book and see if you agree!

And Will Budiaman over at The Daily Meal put #AWE in the first slot for “10 Must Read Books for Home Cooks This Summer.” And called it “gritty undercover investigative reporting at its best and most riveting.”

17 May

wow: an awesome press photo #that never happens

Delighted to win the Food Politics and Environment category at James Beard Journalism Awards 2013. Photo by JuanCarlos-H.

If you follow my Twitter feed @TMMcMillan, you’ll already know that on May 3, I was honored to receive the James Beard Journalism Award for Food Politics and the Environment. The irony of swanning around in a party dress with a champagne flute for writing about farm workers sleeping in the field is not lost on me — and neither is the fact that I should enjoy such things when they come my way. Here’s hoping this means that America, in general, is a little more interested in talking about things like farm labor than before!

 

03 May

James Beard Awards: A deep if problematic honor

Here’s what I”m thinking on my way to the James Beard Foundation Journalism Awards tonight, where The American Way of Eating—as well as a feature I wrote on farm labor contracting for The American Prospect—is up for an award:: …more…

23 Mar

Nice nod from the New Yorker

A lovely nod this weekend from the New Yorker’s Daniel Fromson, via his recommended readings:

Theft is also a major theme in “As Common As Dirt,” from last September’s American Prospect, a narrative that is worth revisiting in light of its nomination for a James Beard Foundation Journalism Award on Monday. Tracie McMillan, author of the well-received “The American Way of Eating”—a “Nickel and Dimed”-esque account of toiling in a Walmart produce department, an Applebee’s, and the fields of California—returns to the last of these places and introduces readers to the seventy-five-year-old Ignacio Villalobos, who is lovingly sketched down to the plastic bags with which he lines his leaky boots. But it’s McMillan’s willingness to dig into a little-discussed corner of agribusiness, and the straight-talking tone with which she lays out the facts, that makes the piece stand out. The article is about farm-labor contractors, who “give American produce growers what companies like China’s Foxconn offer to Apple: a way to outsource a costly and complicated part of the business”—often at the expense of workers like Mr. Villalobos, who are routinely paid less than what they’ve been promised.

Read more:

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2013/03/weekend-reading-tycoons-apartments-california-farm-laborors-malis-struggles.html#ixzz2ONoHpA00