Live Well
March 2020

Injustice in the Food System

I recently watched an interesting documentary called A Fine Line, about women chefs and the fact that, even though women have always had a primary role in the kitchen, only a small percentage are head chefs or own their own restaurants. After watching the movie, I was struck by the extent to which the food system is built on and has survived on inequality.

For many years and even today, farming has been built on slavery and oppression. The US food system was built on labor and land that was stolen from Black, Latinx and Indigenous people who worked the land. For example, the Bracero Program that existed in the United States from 1942-1964 was the largest guest worker program in which Mexicans came to the United States as farm workers. Labor laws enacted around the same time deliberately excluded farmworkers from labor protection laws. Even after slavery was abolished and the Bracero Program ended, Black people and Mexicans were intentionally kept off the land, migrant workers are still a very real part of the current food system, and farm workers continue to be confronted with dangerous working conditions. According to the latest Census of Agriculture, released in 2019, in 2017 95.4% of producers were white, 3% were Hispanic, 1.7% were American Indian/Alaskan Natives, 1.3% were Black, and 0.6% were Asian, and 0.1% were Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders.

As the documentary, A Fine Line, demonstrates, only a small percentage of women are head chefs in restaurants or own their own restaurants. According to eater.com, there are no females on the World’s Best 50 Chefs list. Moreover, between 2013 and 2017, there was only a marginal increase in the James Beard Award Finalists from 20.9% to 28.4%.

Finally, according to Feeding America, “More than 37 million people struggle with hunger in the United States, including more than 11 million children.” Furthermore, “African American households face hunger at a rate more than twice that of white, non-Hispanic households…and one in six Latino households in the United States struggles with hunger.” In addition to struggling with hunger, many minority communities live in food deserts and don’t have equal access to healthy and fresh foods.

The irony of this is that the food system is built on relationships among people and between people and the earth, and those relationships are crucial for it to function. We can’t keep justifying a system that is built on inequality and injustice, and in many ways perpetuates it. We need to consider how our food choices may inadvertently maintain an unequal and unjust food system, and strive to create change.

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Cook Well

White Bean and Tomato Gratin

This recipe is adapted from Ali Slagle’s Cheesy White Bean-Tomato Bake. It’s really simple to make and very hearty and comforting. I like to serve it with garlic bread and salad. Serves 6

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 cups tomato purée
2 cans butter beans
1/4 cup basil or oregano, chopped
1 cup Raclette cheese, grated
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and oil a 9×13 baking dish.
  2. Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Sauté onion, garlic, carrots and celery until softened, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add tomato purée and cook until thickened, another 2 to 3 minutes. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Add beans and cook until warmed through. Add the basil and oregano and mix well.
  5. Transfer mixture to baking dish, sprinkle with cheese and bake for 10 to 15 minutes.

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Worthwhile
I am pleased to announce that my second cookbook, Think Eat Cook Sustainably: 100 Recipes, plus Tips & Ideas for a Healthy World has just come out. We are at a critical time, and the decisions we make when it comes to food can have a big impact on the world around us. In the book, I discuss the importance of eating not just for yourself or for your family, but also for the environment. Order your copy

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Learn

Rachel’s Recommended Reading

In this monthly blog post I share with you some interesting articles that I find worth reading:

I was thrilled to read that Blackrock has decided to make climate change a key part of its investment strategy. READ

Imagine the type of change that could happen if all large institutions adopted a Cool Food Pledge! CHECK IT OUT

We can only hope that the USDA will be serious about addressing climate change and how it affects farmers and our food supply. READ

Time to go out and plant some trees! READ

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