Equality

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What we can do about food deserts

A display of red, yellow, green and orange peppers for sale at a supermarket for 88 cents.
A display of red, yellow, green and orange peppers for sale at a supermarket for 88 cents.
Photo: NeONBRAND via Unsplash

Food insecurity is more often in the news since Covid-19 is making it worse. While problems can be easy to identify, what’s difficult is finding effective solutions. There are a few solutions to food deserts and food apartheid that are worth discussing, but first, let’s talk more about the problem.

What are food deserts?

In case you didn’t read my previous story, an area is considered a food desert when a sizable portion (at least 500 people or 33 percent ) of the population living in a low-income census tract is about 1…


A Q&A with a Filipino activist leading the fight for the rights of peasant farmers in their homeland

A crowd of protesters holding vertical red flags and carrying a large banner with Tagalog writing.
A crowd of protesters holding vertical red flags and carrying a large banner with Tagalog writing.
Photo from a 2015 KMP demonstration, before Duterte took office. Duterte campaigned on the populist promise of redistribution, but since taking office in 2016, not only has he failed to deliver that land, he has cracked down on those who dare to fight for it. Photo: Pacific Press contributor/Getty Images

Early in the morning of August 10, Randall “Ka Randy” Echanis, 72, was murdered by unidentified assailants in his apartment in Quezon City, Metro Manila. Echanis was the chairman of the left-wing Anakpawis Partylist, and deputy secretary-general of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas — KMP, the Peasant Movement of the Philippines.

He joins a long list of human rights activists and farmers who, it is widely suspected, were killed by the government of President Rodrigo Duterte for fighting against feudal policies and defending the rights of peasants to own land.

Much of the farmland in the Philippines is concentrated in the…


Examining the personal thrill and political power of free food

A “free food” sign in front of a church.
A “free food” sign in front of a church.
A sign outside the church during a food distribution at the Salem United Methodist Church in Shoemakersville, Pennsylvania, in July. It was the first food distribution for the church, an effort to fill a gap in the coverage of food pantries in the area and as a response to the increased need because of the pandemic. Photo: Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Sure, the general principle of an opportunity cost — that getting one thing we desire means giving up another we also desire — seems ironclad. Yet, whenever someone invokes this adage it’s always a finger-wagging naysayer with one pithy message: You don’t deserve that.

I’m here to tell you that you do.

Whenever someone asked me as a child what my favorite food was, I always said, “Free food.” I loved the free lollipops at the drive-thru bank teller. Somehow they just tasted sweeter than the ones you actually had…


The Philly chef and activist aims to bring good food to the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood

Kurt Evans in front of a black backround and studio lights, wearing a shirt saying the US prison system is legalized slavery.
Kurt Evans in front of a black backround and studio lights, wearing a shirt saying the US prison system is legalized slavery.
Photo: Vernon Ray

Strawberries are scarce in Strawberry Mansion. The North Philadelphia neighborhood borders the eastern flank of Fairmount Park, where a Revolution-era country house gave the area its nickname in the 1840s when dairy farmers moved in and started serving visitors strawberries covered in sweet cream from their cows. Over 180 years, Strawberry Mansion went from a place associated with fresh food to a place suffering food apartheid.

“Besides little bodegas and Chinese eateries, there’s hardly any food up here,” said 35-year-old chef and activist Kurt Evans.


What makes an ingredient coveted? Colonization plays a role

A large basket overflowing with heirloom tomatoes of various sizes and colors.
A large basket overflowing with heirloom tomatoes of various sizes and colors.
Photo: Fun With Food/E+/Getty Images

August is the time of year when the tomato becomes a luxury item for many. Its ruby-red juiciness, its intensity of flavor — now is the moment at which the mundane becomes spectacular. Like spring for ramps in the U.S. northeast, summer for tomatoes is a thrilling time. Does a food have to bloom as its best self briefly and then disappear in order for it to be appreciated as a local, seasonal gem? A tomato, even in its best…


This is what I learned

A grandma sitting in between two young women. They’re all holding up glasses of red liquid with lemon wedges on the rims.
A grandma sitting in between two young women. They’re all holding up glasses of red liquid with lemon wedges on the rims.
From L–R: the author, Grandmother Sharon from North Carolina, and Iska Lupton. Photos: Iska Lupton

Unsure of what to expect beyond burgers and squelchy macaroni cheese, we set off in our tiny Ford Fiesta, two women with a very specific mission: We were in the U.S. from the U.K. to hunt down grandmothers. More specifically, American grandmothers who can cook.

It’s part of our quest to share stories and recipes of matriarchs in the cookbook, for which Iska Lupton and I have been traveling the world to uncover the culinary secrets of each nation through its grandmothers’ cooking.

Just before the Covid-19 outbreak, the final leg of our mission culminated in a Great…


Author Molly Watson revisits answers to the question in a different world from when she wrote the book

Hands using wooden utensils to toss a bowl of green beans, cherry tomatoes, and grilled tofu cubes in sauce/vinaigrette.
Hands using wooden utensils to toss a bowl of green beans, cherry tomatoes, and grilled tofu cubes in sauce/vinaigrette.
Photo: istetiana/Moment/Getty Images

Whether we’re looking for the best way to freeze summer vegetables or how to navigate dining out with an over-orderer, writer Molly Watson brings a lot to the table. She has worked for decades as a food writer and editor, has a Ph.D. in history, and she looks at everything through the sensible, practical lens of somebody raised in the Midwest.


Amber Tamm Canty is the up-and-coming farmer-activist who’s determined to make it happen

Photos courtesy of Amber Tamm Canty

Amber Tamm Canty is a farmer of sorts. The better part of her work experience has been in agriculture; she wrote on her site that in the last four years, she “has come to possess knowledge in cannabis, farm education, permaculture, tropical agriculture, agroforestry, urban farming, floral arrangements and lastly the healing powers of the Earth.”

With local agriculture comes activism: Amber wants to connect New Yorkers with the Native American heritage and reclaim land for Black and Brown people. Her goal is rooted in her young self, growing up in Coney Island projects, where she did not have access…


The BA Test Kitchen was a happy place before, and it can be that once again. This time, though, it will be for real

The airy, summer finale to Bon Appétit’s Thanksgiving series: a robust 43-minute video of good kitchen rowdiness.

It’s a late summer day somewhere in the coastal north, and eight chefs fill a bustling home kitchen. Carla pushes her pan of potatoes into an overworked oven, next to the unfinished turkey. Brad and Andy bicker bitelessly about their cranberry sauce while Claire and Christina chop up the rest of their salad. In the backyard, Rick and Chris sip cocktails and coolly make fried rice, their main project (Thanksgiving stuffing) abandoned. Molly passes around impromptu lobster rolls, gratefully received by the other…


And more required reading

Michael W. Twitty, culinary historian, in Rockville, Maryland. Photo: Washington Post/Getty Images

This is a food site, yet not all of these links have to do with food. I and the team believe that it’s useful and important to use this platform to show support for revolutionary changes around race, equity, fairness, and inclusion, changes that are long overdue.

Here’s the second round of updated links, as well as — as we’ve said since we started narratives, features, opinions, and reported pieces that reflect our values. You can find the first round over here.

June 22, 2020

“I see the news talking a lot about violence. And it disturbs me, because they…

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Food from every angle: From Medium x Mark Bittman

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