The week brought seasonally appropriate topics:

  • Lent prompted discussions on fish, and non-fish.
  • National Nutrition Month kicked off with health advice aplenty.
  • New books offered a reprieve from winter doldrums.

These Fish Are Bananas!

The Lenten season, when some Christians abstain from meat, usually brings a chorus of limited-time foodservice offers featuring fishy Friday items. Perhaps in a sign of the times, we noticed an uptick in coverage of farmed fish, fishing industry troubles and fish alternatives.

  • Eater Chicago described the vegan fish fry at Upton’s Breakroom made from banana blossoms that “mimic the texture of fried whitefish.” We always found banana blossoms more like orange roughy, but whatever …
  • In its coverage of a wheat-based alternative fish product, Food Ingredients First attributed increased interest in fish alternatives to growing awareness of overfished seas, marine pollutants and microplastics.
  • On March 1, The New Yorker detailed an emerging issue around the production of fish meal. With the burgeoning industry on the Gambian coast, processors there are supplying fish meal to Chinese, European and American fish farms as a protein additive. The process has raised big environmental concerns over waste management, water quality and wildlife preservation.
  • An oversupply of imports, clogged ports, and a reduced workforce due to COVID-19 stymied the fish supply chain, according to a February 25 Wall Street Journal report.
  • Environmental Defense Fund posted a video series called Portraits of Change to raise awareness of the impact climate change has on fisheries.

Nutrition Marches On

March is the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ National Nutrition Month and leading voices seized the opportunity to share noncontroversial messages like “eat your vegetables.” Additionally, several studies garnered attention for the potential impacts on health and nutrition policy.

  • The USDA, which helps set dietary guidelines, suggested resources for personalizing diets based on age, culture and preferences. even includes a modest catalog of recipes. We’re disappointed to report the recipes include no casserole cuisine.
  • Tyson Foods promoted its partnership with the Second Harvest food bank as a way to nourish needy families.
  • On March 1, the American Heart Association published a Harvard study that found eating at least two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables each day is associated with a longer life.
  • The Alliance for Food and Farming shared several other studies supporting the health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables.
  • The International Food Information Council found that parents have devoted more time to children’s nutrition during the pandemic.
  • The New York Times highlighted recent research that suggests diet is primarily responsible for childhood obesity. The study found that increasing exercise did not increase how many calories children burn from day to day.

Books Report

New books covering topics from the environment to human metabolism drew the attention of influential voices recently.

  • New York Times food reporter Kim Severson reviewed the best-selling cookbooks of 2020, describing how they “tell the stories of our pandemic kitchens.”
  • Research Director for U.S. Right to Know Carey Gilam authored “The Monsanto Papers,” published this month, which follows the landmark lawsuit against Monsanto by a plaintiff who claimed the herbicide caused his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • In his book “Burn,” Duke University global health professor Herman Pontzer revealed “for the first time how human metabolism really works so that we can finally manage our weight and improve our health.
  • NPR reported on the March 2 release of “Hooked: Food, Free Will, and How the Food Giants Exploit Our Addictions” by investigative reporter Michael Moss, who also authored “Salt Sugar Fat.”
  • Meatingplace blogger Mark Graves challenged solutions offered in Bill Gates’ new book “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster,” as a move to promote his business investments in two plant-based protein companies.
  • Marion Nestle contributed a jacket description to the upcoming release of “Palm Planet: How Palm Oil Ended Up in Everything — and Endangered the World” by Jocelyn Zuckerman, a James Beard Award–winning journalist.

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Draining the Swamp

Consumer advocacy group Feed the Truth took its first public action in the form of the report “Draining the ‘Big Food’ Swamp.” The report criticizes the biggest players in the $1.1 trillion food industry for having too much political influence over the food system and calls on the Biden administration to “build upon its ethics commitments and start by ensuring an end to the revolving door between government and industry.”

Draining the Soup

On the other end of the policy spectrum, Campbell’s rejoined one of the food industry’s biggest lobbying groups, the Consumer Brands Association (Food Navigator). The soup giant left the organization (then called Grocery Manufacturers Association) in 2017 over disagreement on GMO labeling and ingredient disclosure policy. Food Navigator reported that CBA had a 30% increase in membership in 2020, including both large and small brands.

The C-School Pivot

Grub Street interviewed recent graduates from Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park and the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan about job prospects entering “a field that, in many ways, is no longer recognizable.” Their statements are refreshingly optimistic and range from profiting from the fledgling edible cannabis business to starting a bundt-cake-from-home service.

‘Highly Potent’ Protein

Food Dive’s Megan Poinski detailed the story of an Ecuadorian athlete whose autoimmune illness inspired his research into nutrition to aid his recovery. Ricky Echanique stumbled upon chocho, a legume found high in the Andes mountains. He founded Mikuna Foods to turn what they call the “greatest, most highly potent plant-based protein in existence” into an ingredient. Now that’s a tall order.