At the James Beard Foundation Food Conference this week, I argued that addressing poverty was not a marginal concern for anyone interested in changing our food system, but a central one. But upon reflection, I realized I’d left something important out: Lower-income Americans matter for the food movement in an integral way, because it’s their concerns—not those of elites—that can give food advocates political weight. To push food into a political issue instead of a lifestyle change takes numbers—and there are way more low-income people than there are wealthy.
I had the complete pleasure of attending this year’s Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium Oct. 23-26 this fall.It was a particularly compelling program, centered on “Who Is Welcome at the Welcome Table?” and examining issues of race, class and equity in food.
I also had the delight of introducing the work of Mr. Joseph Piko Ewoodzie, who discussed his sociological work studying the foodways of black Jacksonians from three different socioeconomic classes.
Sept. 21, 2014
I not only enjoyed writing a quick piece for the delightful Eater website about what inspires my work, and why I think food can change the world, but am honored to be among 71 (!) other food world names, most of whom are way plenty more accomplished than me.
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.
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.
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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)!
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: Continue reading “I’m blushing: Nice shout-out from The American Prospect”