White Resentment on the Night Shift at Walmart

New York Times Sunday Review • Dec. 18, 2016

Seven years ago, I joined the night shift at a Walmart in rural Michigan. For $8.10 an hour, I spent four or five nights a week filling shelves with the flour and sugar and marshmallow fluff that residents of the local county, which in 2008 voted for Barack Obama, needed to get through the holidays. Four years ago, the county went with President Obama a second time, though by a thinner margin. But this past November, the county, like the state, turned red.

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Was Stone-Age Wine a Drink of the People?

“The Plate,” National Geographic • May 23, 2016

Think about wine in the ancient world, and chances are you’ll picture chalices, feasts and rituals: The stuff of elites. But ruins in Greece suggest that wine may have roots that are more populist than we typically think—even as far back as the Stone Age—according to a new study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

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Stateside with Cynthia Canty

Michigan Radio • Dec. 8, 2014

When Whole Foods opened in Detroit, there were questions on whether or not the vast majority of Detroit could afford the upscale grocer. Goals were set into place to make the grocer more accessible to the citizens of Detroit. The results, however, have been a mixed bag.

Here, I discuss piece for Slate and FERN, “Can Whole Foods Change the Way Poor People Eat?” with Michigan Radio’s Cynthia Canty.

Can Whole Foods Change the Way Poor People Eat?

Slate; Food and Environment Reporting Network

Nov. 19, 2014

(1) “Everybody Was Talking About It”

A couple of years ago, as winter gave way to spring, Toyoda Ruff began to think about changing how she ate. Ruff had always been heavy, but her son, Tarik, a freshman honor student, had recently crossed the 300-pound mark, prompting Ruff to ferry him to appointments at a children’s weight loss clinic, 11 miles away in Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood, and to document everything he ate for two months. At 270 pounds, her husband, Jermaine Harris, wanted to slim down, too. Ruff was beginning to see her family’s weekly fast-food habit and visits to Golden Corral’s all-you-can-eat buffet as a problem.

As Ruff mulled over these changes, a friend cajoled her into joining a healthy cooking class at their church. Ruff was on medical leave from her job as a probation officer due to an injury, and the break gave her time to consider her meals. The more she thought about eating healthy, the more intrigued she was by a new store: Whole Foods, which had just opened in Detroit. “It was on the news. People were talking about it at church,” Ruff said. “Everybody was talking about it.” Continue reading “Can Whole Foods Change the Way Poor People Eat?”

Why class, and poverty, are the biggest problems with food

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.

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