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The Center forFood in Community & Culture

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Lynn Walter on "Slow Food and Home Cooking"

This study examines whether Slow Food and other alternatives to “fast food” develop a relational aesthetic of food that effectively addresses the practical and strategic interests of mothers in relation to children. It also asks what role women have played in creating these alternatives and the extent to which they frame their actions in feminist discourses. Focusing on Italy and the United States as paradigmatic cases with which to analyze gendered food practices in relationship to slow food and home cooking, it is argued that the capacity of alternative agrifood networks to address both the immediate practical need for adequate and appropriate food for everyone while pursuing the long-term strategic interest in the sustainability of the agrifood system would be enhanced by an intergenerational time frame. The interests that mothers have in feeding their family could provide such a time framework for a politics of sustainable consumption. Read More "Slow Food and Home Cooking"

Jack Kloppenburg on "Resolving the Omnivore's Dilemma: Eating Pleasurably and Sustainably in the 21st Century"

Jack Kloppenburg spoke on campus 5:00-6:00 PM on March 27, 2008 in MAC 208 on "Resolving the Omnivore's Dilemma: Eating Pleasurably and Sustainably in the 21st Century." The rise of large agribusiness, decline of communities and small family farming, erosion of soil and water quality, and decline in individual health are all intertwined with what we choose to eat. Dr. Kloppenburg explored these interconnections and the many grass-roots ways that people are reclaiming communities by returning to real food grown with sustainable agricultural practices.

Dr. Kloppenburg is a Professor of Rural Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Co-Director of the Program on Agricultural Technology Studies, and an affiliate of both the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. He is well known for his book First the Seed: The Political Economy of Plant Biotechnology, 1492-2000 (Cambridge University Press), an analysis of the emergent social impacts of agricultural biotechnology. His most recent work envisions the emergence of a sustainable food system founded on local/regional food production, regional reinvestment of capital, local job creation, the strength of community institutions, and direct democratic participation in the local food economy. He is a founder and board member of the Research, Education, Action, and Policy on Food Group (REAP), a non-profit organization that publishes an annual Farm Fresh Atlas, organizes an annual Food For Thought Festival, has developed the Wisconsin Homegrown Lunch farm-to-school project, and is inaugurating a”Buy Fresh, Buy Local” initiative for Southern Wisconsin.

Immediately following his talk, there was a reception in the MAC Wintergarden atrium. These events formally announced and celebrated the opening of UW-Green Bay’s new research institute, the Center for Food in Community and Culture.

Barth Anderson on "The Omnivore's Solution: How to Find Food that Sustains"

Wedge Community Co-op offers organic, local, fair-trade, ecologically sound food and other consumer products at their store in Minneapolis and on-line. Barth Anderson, the Wedge’s Research and Development Coordinator, noted that its 13,000 members belong to the largest single-site co-operative in the United States. He was on campus on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2007 to lecture on "The Omnivore's Solution: How to Find Food that Sustains." He writes about the politics and economics of food and has traveled to see coffee production first hand in rural Nicaragua. He also serves on the Organic Task Force for Minnesota's Department of Agriculture and writes a food column for the Wedge Co-op Newsletter, which was nominated by the Utne Reader for Best of the Indie Press. The Center for Food in Community and Culture and the Humanistic Studies program co-sponsored his presentation.

Barth argued that the sustainability of our food system is built upon four relationships. 1. Farmers and consumers understand and appreciate that they are economically interdependent. Therefore, the prices that the Wedge pays to Minnesota and Wisconsin farmers are negotiated on the same fair trade principles and fair labor standards that it applies to chocolate, coffee, bananas, and tea growers in developing countries. 2. There is a relationship between food systems and the health of consumers, farmers, and farm workers. This means sustaining their health through such practices as organic agriculture and free-range chickens and grass-fed cattle. 3. Purchasing as many products as possible from local growers and in cooperation with other consumers enhances the relationship between food and the quality of life. Knowing who produces your food and the care they take to do it well, and, on the other hand, who eats your food and how much they enjoy it, promotes greater appreciation for high quality food and vitalizes rural communities. 4. Lastly, there is the long-term relationship between people and nature. Nurturing this relationship means using environmentally sustainable farming practices, like integrated pest management, for which efficiency of scale favor smaller, locally-owned, family farms.

by Aeron Haynie and Lynn Walter, October 2007

Zero Transfats? Not Really

The legal requirements states that a company can list one serving of its food product as containing zero grams of trans fat IF a serving has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. As it turns out, a number of foods have less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving; so the company can label them as trans fat free; but it does not take too many servings of various foods (with let's say 0.4, or 0.3 grams of trans fat) in a day before a person has had a significant amount of trans fat in total. All the while they may believe that they're not consuming any trans fats because each of the items could say 0 g trans fat.

Still the only precise way of knowing whether your food contains any amount of trans fat is to check to see if the ingredients list states partially hydrogenated oil. If that is in the ingredients list, then there are trans fats in the product.

In preparation for this transfat labeling, several food companies decided to reformulate their product to get rid of the partially hydrogenated oil altogether. This sounds like a good thing to do; but many of these same companies have switched to palm oil or so called palmkernel oil--you'll read this in the ingredient list instead of hydrogenated oil. This is a tropical oil grown in the rain forests of places like Indonesia, Malaysia and Sumatra (which are habitat for numerous endangered species like Sumatran tigers). Their rain forests are being cleared to make room for oil palm plantations in order to sell this cheap oil to the food industry as a replacement for hydrogenated oils. Furthermore, palm oil happens to be extremely high in saturated fats, so it is NOT a heathier alternative to hydrogenated oils.

by Debra Pearson, September 2006