First Steps Toward Sustainable Food Solutions:

Weighing Political, Economic, and Ethical Trade-offs

Spring 2014, Stanford University; Co-Instructors: Mark Budolfson and Priya Fielding-Singh

Course Description

Most food courses offer either a purely factual account of the challenges we face in connection with food, or idealistic accounts of what solutions would be best in a perfect world. Our approach is different. Our focus is on effective real-world policymaking and activism. Our aim is to identify the best initial steps toward the ultimate goal of sustainable food solutions given the messy real-world constraints of political feasibility and human irrationality that stand in the way of ideal solutions. For example, even if policymakers and activists agree that factory farms should ideally be eliminated, they still face the more pressing question of what initial steps of policy and activism would be most effective at moving us toward that goal. Similarly, even if policymakers and activists share goals of food justice, they still face the more pressing question of how best to work toward those goals from our starting point here and now. With that in mind, our goal is to use a weekly discussion of highly accessible readings from social science, behavioral economics, public policy, and ethics to illuminate how best to make the political, economic, and ethical trade-offs that are necessary for progress toward realistic solutions. In the process, we aim to distill more general insights about effective policymaking and activism that apply beyond the domain of food issues, and to include diverse perspectives that are often neglected in university food courses.

Readings (Numbered Readings are Required)

Optional Background Reading

Paarlberg, R. Food Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know, 2nd ed. Oxford UP, 2013

Nestle, M. Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health, 3rd ed. California UP, 2013

April 4: Issues in Food Systems: An Overview of Human Rights, Animal Welfare, Public Health, and Environmental Impacts

1. Nestle, M. Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health, 3rd ed. California UP, 2013. Introduction

2. Jayaraman, S. and E. Schlosser. Behind the Kitchen Door. ILR Press, 2013. Chapters 1, 2, and 7

3. Drum, K. “Food Deserts not to Blame for Obesity and Poor Nutrition”, Mother Jones, 2014

Optional: Nestle, M. Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health, 3rd ed. California UP, 2013. Chapters 4, 8, 9, and the Conclusion

Optional: Aizer, A. and J. Currie, "The Intergenerational Transmission of Inequality: Maternal Disadvantage and Health at Birth", Science, 2014

Optional: Albritton, R. Let them Eat Junk: How Capitalism Creates Hunger and Obesity. Pluto Press, 2009. Introduction and Chapter 4

April 11: Obesity and Hunger

1. Bittman, M. "It's the Sugar, Folks", New York Times, 2013

2. Berg, J. "Doing What Works to End U.S. Hunger", Center for American Progress, 2010

3. Yen, S. “The Effects of SNAP and WIC Programs on Nutrient Intakes of Children”, Food Policy 35(6), 2010

4. Clifford, S. "Why Healthy Eaters Fall for Fries", New York Times Sunday Review, 2013

5. Dolnick, S. "The Obesity-Hunger Paradox", New York Times, 2010

Optional: Thaler, R. and C. Sunstein. Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness. Penguin, 2009. Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5

Optional: Sunstein, C. "Objections to Nudges", in Simpler: The Future of Government, Simon and Schuster, 2013. Chapters 6 and 9

Optional: Berg, J. All You Can Eat: How Hungry is America? Seven Stories Press, 2008

Optional: Saul, N. and A. Curtis. The Stop: How the Fight for Good Food Transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement. Melville House, 2013

April 18: Nutrition and Public Health

Guest Participant: Marion Nestle, Professor of Food Studies, New York University

1. Nestle, M. Food Politics Blog (Marion suggests searching for some topic that interests you, and doing some historical reading on what Marion has said about that topic.)

2. Spiegel, A. "Mind Over Milkshake: How Your Thoughts Fool Your Stomach", National Public Radio, 2014

Optional: Almond, D. and J. Currie, "Killing Me Softly: The Fetal Origins Hypothesis", Journal of Economic Perspectives, 2011

Optional: "Toxic Food Environment", Harvard School of Public Health

Optional: Bhattacharya, J. et. al. "Poverty, food insecurity, and nutritional outcomes in children and adults", Journal of Health Economics, 2004

Optional: Freudenberg, N. Lethal But Legal: Corporations, Consumption, and Protecting Public Health. Oxford UP, 2014

April 25: Policy Solutions: An Overview of Approaches to Systems Change

1. Institute of Medicine and National Research Council, "Local Government Actions to Prevent Childhood Obesity", National Academies Press, 2009. pp. 45-8 and 56-64

2. ChangeLab Solutions, "Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Playbook", 2013

Optional: Food and Agriculture Policy Collaborative, "Health Food, Healthy Economies", 2013

Optional: California Obesity Prevention Program, "2011 Community Grants Case Studies", 2011

Optional: Frieden, T.R. “Government’s role in protecting health and safety.” New England Journal of Medicine, May 16, 2013

Optional: Tackling Wicked Problems: A Public Policy Approach", Australian Public Service Commission, 2007

Optional: Case Studies of Cigarette Taxes and Soda Bans in the USA

a. Palinkas, M. "Are Cigarette Excise Taxes Effective in Reducing the Habit?", The Public Purpose, 2011

b. Fletcher, J. “Are Soft Drink Taxes an Effective Mechanism for Reducing Obesity?”, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 30(3), 2011

c. Fletcher, J. “The Effects of Soft Drink Taxation on Soft Drink Consumption and Weight for Children and Adolescents.” Journal of Public Economics 94(11-12), 2010

May 2: Human and Labor Rights

1. Holmes, S. "Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies", talk at Berkeley, 2012

2. McMillan, T. "The Truth about Money and Class at Applebees", Slate, 2012

Optional: Holmes, S. Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States. California UP, 2013

Optional: McMillan, T. The American Way of Eating. Scribner, 2011

Optional: De Cordoba, J. "The Violent Gang Wars Behind Your Super Bowl Guacamole", The Wall Street Journal, 2014

Optional: Levitt, S. and Dubner, S. "Which Came First: The Chicken, or the Avocado?", Freakonomics Podcast, 2014

Optional: "Immigrant Worker Health & Safety", via OSHA website, especially pg. 4 (pg. 5 of the PDF)

May 9: Animal Welfare and Factory Farming

1. Safran Foer, J. "Against Meat", New York Times, 2009

2. Pachirat, N. Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight. Yale UP, 2011, pp. 144-161 (appendix optional)

Optional: Singer, P. and J. Mason "The Ethics of Eating Meat", The Ethics of What We Eat. Rodale, 2006

Optional: Foster Wallace, D. "Consider the Lobster", Gourmet, 2004

Optional: Pachirat, N. Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight. Yale UP, 2011

Optional: Striffler, S. Chicken: The Dangerous Transformation of America’s Favorite Food, 2007

Optional: Levitt, A. Guilt-Free Food, 2007

Optional: Richards, J. and E. Richards. Cheap Meat: How Factory Farming is Harming Our Health, the Environment, and the Economy, 2011

May 16: Environmental Impacts

1. Foley, J. "A Five-Step Plan to Feed the World", National Geographic, 2014

2. Naylor, G. "National Geographic's Five Steps Won't Feed the World", Huffington Post, 2014

3. Seufert, V. et. al. "Comparing the Yields of Organic and Conventional Agriculture", Nature, 2012 (abstract only)

4. Garnett T. et. al. "Sustainable Intensification in Agriculture", Science, 2013

Optional: Marshall, M. "Organic Food: No Better for You, or the Planet", New Scientist, 2012

Optional: Fischer, T., D. Byerlee, and G. Edmeades Cropyields and Global Food Security. ACIAR Press, 2014

Optional: Federoff, D. S. et. al. “Radically Rethinking Agriculture for the 21st Century.” Science, 2010

Optional: Worldwatch Institute, "Can Organic Farming Feed Us All?", World Watch Magazine, 2006

Optional: "Livestock's long shadow", United Nations FAO, 2006

Optional: Report on Food and Climate Change, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability

Optional: Sustainable Intensification in Agriculture: Navigating a Course Through Competing Food System Priorities, Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, 2012

Optional: "Climate Smart Agriculture Sourcebook", United Nations FAO, 2013

May 23: The Role of For-Profits, Non-Profits, and the Technology Sector

Guest Participant: Austin Kiessig, Food Entrepreneur, Founder and CEO of Endeavor Foods

1. Kiessig, A. "If You Can't Beat 'Em...Steal Their Playbook", Edible Startups Blog, 2014

2. Paratore, M. and Kiessig, A., Edible Startups Blog, 2011-2014

3. Essig, T. "An Entrepreneurial Solution To The Problem Of Getting Local Food To Local Tables: Trust, Convenience, and Perceived Value", Forbes, 2011

4. Environmental Working Group's Food Scores App and Website

Optional: Kiessig, A. "What Big Ideas in Food Get Funded in Silicon Valley?", Edible Startups Blog, 2013

Optional: Helpler, L. "Google, Big Data, and Robots: Tech's new food security moonshot, GreenBiz, 2014

Optional: Brownstone, S. "Why Silicon Valley Wants to Hack the Food Industry", The Guardian, 2014

May 30: External Critiques, Neglected Perspectives, Social Justice

1. Stanescu, V. “Green Eggs and Ham”, The Journal of Critical Animal Studies 8(1-2), 2010

2. Guthman, J. “Bringing Good Food to Others: Investigating the Subjects of Alternative Food Practice”, Cultural Geographies 15, 2008

3. McMillan, T. "Anthony Bourdain and Top Chef Have it Wrong: the Boys' Club Is No Fun", Daily Beast, 2012

Optional: Alkon, A. and J. Agyeman. Cultivating Food Justice: Race, Class, and Sustainability. MIT Press, 2011

Optional: Matchar, E. "Is Michael Pollan a Sexist Pig?", Salon, 2013

Additional Resources

National Geographic, The Future of Food, Multi-Article Series, 2014

Pollan, M. and R. Patel, The Rise and Future of the Food Movement, Course at UC Berkeley, 2014 Edition

The Rise and Future of the Food Movement, Course at UC Berkeley, 2015 Edition

Nestle, M. Food Politics Website