The Los Angeles Times today (http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-1102-mcrib-
20101102,0,381391.story
) had a short article in the business section about McDonald’s plans to do a six week return run at all its locations for the McRib sandwich – the 500 calorie (including 240 calories from fat), nearly 50% of the daily intake for saturated fat, and 980 milligrams of sodium; all wrapped up as a pork patty molded into the form of a rib slab (without the bone) and a hoagie-style McDonald’s bun, plus the McDonald’s sauce. The headline on the jump page of the Times story captured the gist of the article – “Forget Nutrition, Fans Say – the McRib is back.” “You might be surprised at how seriously we take your child’s nutritional needs,” McDonald’s declares on its web site, an ironic counterpoint to the McRib nutritional details.

A food justice issue? High calorie, high fat, high sodium fast food, led by items like the McRib, are a huge food justice concern, targeting youth, poor people, and ultimately everyone who has access to the fast food outlets, which are nearly everywhere. But is the McRib just a nutrition and health issue? For food justice advocates some other issues should come into play:

– Where does McDonald’s source the pork from? The McDonald’s web site has only brief information about its suppliers, and nothing about pork. Given McDonald’s impact on suppliers and producers of some of its other items like potatoes and chicken (the McDonald’s French fry upended small potato farmers and reduced potato variety while the Chicken McNuggett laid the groundwork for industrial chicken production), it’s re-entry into the pork production arena likely bodes ill for the small pork producers and the environmental and labor hazards and abuses that have come to mark industrial pork production. These are food justice issues that groups like the National Family Farm Coalition and the Missouri Rural Crisis Center have highlighted.

– What chemicals and other ingredients go into the molding of the pork patty into the rib look alike? And where do those ingredients come from? The fast food industry and junk food producers have become experts in creating products that are as much chemical mash as actual food. How about a more transparent discussion of how the patty becomes the self-styled rib?

– What are the labor and environmental conditions for its suppliers? The huge fast food chains seek to distance themselves from the labor abuses and environmental hazards associated with the production of their various products and product sources by arguing that it’s the suppliers and not themselves who should be held accountable. But, as the campaign of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has demonstrated, those who are at the end point of the supply chain are an appropriate target for such accountability.

You might get a fat, salt, and calorie overload from the McRib, but there might also be a lot more that’s at stake.

Check out the op ed from yesterday’s L.A. Times written by Bob Gottlieb. We hope to see you folks at the Moving Forward Together Conference this Friday and Saturday to talk more about these important issues!

The cost of a global food chain

Global trade has made the food we eat cheaper. But there’s a price to importing food from faraway lands: It increases pollution, alters traditional diets and hurts local farmers.

“Check out the garlic the next time you’re in the supermarket. In another era, it might well have been grown in Gilroy, right here in California. But today, chances are that your garlic has traveled across oceans and continents to get to your kitchen.

Most garlic nowadays comes from China. Since 2003, the amount of garlic imported from China has nearly tripled, while the amount grown in California has dropped by nearly half. This means that instead of traveling several hundred miles to get to you, your garlic is probably traveling many thousands…”  Continue reading here

The article was subsequently featured in several other papers, including:

The Atlantic City

The Alabany Times Union

Korea Herald

Newsday (article not available online)

The agreement made last week in Florida between CIW farm workers in and Pacific Tomato Growers represents a landmark in their long battle for increased wages and improved working conditions. The story has gained a lot of attention from both local and national press, which workers hope will encourage other large companies to be more socially responsibile and work out similar agreements to better the circumstances of farm workers all over the country. The image below represents the long battle that CIW workers have been fighting to get to this agreement, emphasizing the accomplishment that it really is.

Image Credit: Associated Press

Check out the story from this morning’s Times-Picayune paper out of New-Orleans published a story in this highlighting the second stop on the Food Justice Book tour! The article highlights the Community Food Security Coalition conference that took place over the weekend, and the significance of choosing the city of New Orleans to host it.

Read the full article here: “Crisis tidbits on food coalitions menu”

Read the excellent commentary by Andy Fisher, executive director of the Community Food Security Coalition, that was posted today on Civil Eats regarding New York City’s request for the USDA to ban soda drinks for food stamp recepients. Andy lays out both the complexity of the request from a anti-hunger and public health perspective, and what the focus ought to be around these issues from the perpspective of the food justice framework.

Check out the article here.

For the past several years, policymakers, philanthropic organizations, and community organizers alike have come to focus on the concept of place as a guide and a framework for policy and action. The Obama Administration, most recently, has sought to elevate place-based initiatives as the centerpiece for establishing cross-cutting approaches to tackle such issues as poverty, lack of affordable housing, and educational performance. Even the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco has become engaged in looking at place-based initiatives, cosponsoring with the Aspen Institute Roundtable on Community Change a two-day conference in March 2010 around the theme “Improving the Outcomes of Place-Based Initiatives.”

Read the full policy brief from the edmund g. “pat” brown institute of public affairs