As the holiday season kicks in after Thanksgiving, concerns about food insecurity also increase. In this week’s installment, we note that:

  • Hunger and giving go hand in hand.
  • Cocoa production is attracting criticism.
  • Influential people are on the move.

Millions to Give

The pandemic gave new meaning to the annual GivingTuesday platform as a growing hunger crisis hits families especially hard during the holidays.

  • GivingTuesday challenged everyone to show an act of kindness on December 1: “United, we stand stronger than coronavirus.”
  • The New York Times ran “hunger by the numbers” to underscore how hunger has worsened in New York City.
  • Ohio State University assistant professor Zoë Plakias told Feedstuffs: “Ultimately, all of these food programs are Band-Aids. … This is a poverty problem. This is not a food supply problem. … The problem is people not having the income to purchase that food.”
  • Hormel Foods donated to Make-A-Wish and Feeding America to commemorate the day (3BL Media).
  • Young Farmers thanked donors for supporting young farmers and ranchers with donations.
  • No Kid Hungry credited #HungerFighters and Citibank with raising $2 million to help end childhood hunger in the U.S.
  • Finding an unusual funding source, Southern Smoke Foundation, which helps employees in food and beverage with crisis-relief expenses, will benefit from chef David Chang’s Who Wants to be a Millionaire win (Grub Street).

‘Globalization Reduced to a Chocolate Bar’

Chocolate always has a special place in our hearts and stomachs, but this week developments showed a slightly less sweet side of supply chain management. Major chocolate makers faced concerns tied to workers and sourcing policies in West African nations.

  • On December 1, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a lawsuit that blames Nestlé and Cargill for child slavery on Malian cocoa farms. The Washington Post’s Peter Whoriskey outlined the tricky legal arguments at play in this 15-year-long court battle.
  • On November 30, Bloomberg broke news that leaders from Ghana and The Ivory Coast had accused Hershey and Mars of undermining cocoa duties designed to supplement workers’ wages. The countries, which control 70% of the global supply, threatened to suspend support for the companies’ sustainability pledges. The authors summed the disagreement up as “globalization reduced to a chocolate bar.”
  • The following day, Hershey reinforced its commitment to human rights, sharing an excerpt from its 2019 Sustainability Report.
  • Separately, Ben & Jerry’s committed to working with Fairtrade America to pay above standard market prices for cocoa.
  • Barry Callebaut published a 2019/2020 progress update on its ‘Forever Chocolate’ sustainability campaign, emphasizing progress in labor practices and environmental impact.

Moving and Shaking

The core of our weekly reporting comes from content by and about our database of the most influential voices in food production. As people gain influence or switch jobs, we must evolve and adjust the database accordingly. Lately, we’ve noticed some interesting new players and significant updates from important industry voices.

  • The November election will bring about a revised cabinet for President-elect Joe Biden, including a new secretary of agriculture. In an interview with Politico, frontrunner Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) advocated for her nomination to this alpha-influencer position.
  • Former New York Times columnist Mark Bittman and Union of Concerned Scientists leader Ricardo Salvador opined that the Department of Agriculture should be renamed the “Department of Food and Well-being” to reflect its role in shaping hunger and nutrition policy.
  • Agriculture committees in both chambers of Congress will see new leadership in January. Supermarket Perimeter outlined the situation in the Senate and Feedstuffs covered the House of Representatives.
  • PepsiCo appointed its first Chief Medical Officer, Pietro Antonio Tataranni, MD, “to oversee all aspects of the company’s efforts to protect its global workforce, products and communities in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
  • The Wall Street Journal editorial board summarized comments that Whole Foods CEO John Mackey made at an American Enterprise Institute virtual conference late in November: “Too many progressives and universities never see this larger story because they can’t get past the idea of profits, which they believe are dirty.”
  • Food Processing shared the news that former Butterball COO Peter Brown will take over as CEO of Seaboard Foods pork division.
  • Mother Jones mainstay Tom Philpott posted an introspective essay, distancing himself and colleagues from farmer Joel Salatin. Salatin had been a “media darling” and inspiration for influential voices like Michael Pollan and Alice Waters. However, Salatin’s libertarian views and alleged bigoted behavior have fragmented the ranks of “progressive farming.”

“The USDA still reflects the culture of 1862, the year of its creation … we might as well change the department’s name from its archaic, misleading misnomer to something that reflects the country’s needs: a Department of Food and Well Being.”

Ricardo Salvador, Union of Concerned Scientists and cookbook author Mark Bittman (The New York Times)

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Fast-food Faces

The New Yorker showcased the work of photographer Richard Renaldi, who traveled the country taking pictures of fast-food workers and documented their unique struggles during the pandemic. “When they see you in the uniform, it’s like they forget you’re a human being,” said Cherta Cogle, an A&W worker making $8.50 an hour in West Virginia.

Meat: Strong for Bones

WebMD shared a study by BMC Medicine that found people who do not consume meat are at a greater risk for bone fractures. The study followed participants over the course of 18 years and found that those with a vegetarian diet had a 9% increased risk for fractures, while those with a vegan diet had a 43% increase in risk.

The Nose Knows

Science Daily reported how “a team of scientists led by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has invented an artificial olfactory system that mimics the mammalian nose to assess the freshness of meat accurately.” That’s right: a meat sniffer. We could not find a picture, unfortunately. Or, perhaps, fortunately.

Bringing Back the Chestnuts

In Wonkette, crop scientist Dr. Sarah Taber posted a brief history of chestnut trees in the U.S. and how they sustained a population with excellent wood and abundant nutrition. She optimistically noted that, “Between decades of diligent crossing by plant breeders, biotechnology, and a virus that attacks the chestnut blight fungus, we have a path to bringing chestnuts back.”