Sunday, March 23, 2014

Crop Cash

"We are faced with two possible futures. One is a diversity of crops, of cultures, and of cuisines that can inhabit ecosystems sustainably and produce healthy food for urban centers. The other is long-distance food from nowhere, monocultural systems that aren't sustainable, and simplified diet, especially for the poor."
This quote from University of Toronto geographer Harriet Friedmann forms pivot point in a remarkable book by Frederick Kaufman. I found Bet the Farm while exploring the literature on models of trade in food with an advanced student of fair trade and other certifications.

Kaufman explores global food markets from the pizza box outward, first detailing the incredible scale and rapid growth of global pizza, particularly the pizza emerging from a small handful of transnational companies. The incredible efficiency of the industry justifies his choice of pizza as the major exemplar of his subtitle: How Food Stopped Being Food -- he uses the word "widget" far more than one would like in a food book!

One of the questions Kaufman explores is whether Friedmann is correct to assert that food choices are necessarily binary. If they are, the university at which I teach captures the dichotomy perfectly. What we teach in the classrooms and tout in our brochures is undermined in the hallways.

The need for a different path may be intellectually compelling, but the logic of simplistic food is difficult to resist in practice. Here a bank of high-fructose snackage sits available 24/7, directly behind a space built for a real-food cafe that was proposed, encouraged, and ultimately rejected. Although many students, faculty, and staff were behind a better path, Pepsi has been ready with cash and for now, that speaks louder.

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