Last week, Tracie McMillan won a James Beard journalism award for her reporting on farmworkers in California. Her piece "As Common As Dirt" discusses issues in farm labor such as subcontracting and wage theft. She follows Ignacio Villalobos, a 75-year old farmworker who is a plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against a former employer. Many farmworkers in McMillan's piece, including Villalobos, work upwards of 15-hours a day but receive pay for barely 8 hours worth of work at minimum wage. The piece highlights severe inequality at the base of our country's food chain.
Coca-Cola announced its new "Coming Together" initiative, which has several programs to help consumers make better choices. The company will soon be offering low- or no-calorie options in every market to provide an alternative to full-calorie drinks. They have declared they won't be marketing to children under 12. And they will support "active living" programs across the world to encourage consumers to increase physical activity. Though clearly a marketing strategy, there is merit in the company shifting their attention towards consumers' health concerns.
The honeybee crisis continues across the country as bee colonies swiftly decline in population. Over the past six years, on average 30 percent of colony populations died each year. This past year, farmers came close to a "pollination crisis," where there wouldn't be enough bees to pollinate crops like blueberries, almonds and apples. Farmers talk about pesticides, parasites and urban development preventing bees from being able to pollinate effectively. Regulators are struggling to keep up with colony collapse and find effective solutions.
Modern Farmer highlights "food fakes" - contamination and intentional mis-labeling that causes counterfeiting across the food industry. The author argues that this kind of activity has been happening in food production for centuries. Some of these incidents, such as swill milk in the mid-1800s, result in significant mortality. Others, such as the common replacement of cassia instead of pure cinnamon in American groceries, are less dangerous but still misleading.
Climate change continues to have an impact on grape-growing regions across the world. As the weather warms, growers are forced to consider new varieties. The kinds of wine being produced in areas of Europe are already changing, and experts anticipate that in a few decades the entire landscape of wine production will have shifted. This shift will likely have a huge impact on areas like Bordeaux or the French Rhode Valley, known for their regionally-specific wine production.
About the Author: A student in Providence, Rhode Island, Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her other work can be found at her website.