FERN’s Friday Feed: Covid-19 and the future of fast food

Welcome to FERN’s Friday Feed (#FFF), where we share the stories from this week that made us stop and think.

McDonald’s reimagines the drive-through


From designated pick-up lanes serviced by conveyor belts to stores “with limited or no in-room dining at all, just a kitchen surrounded by drive-thru lanes and pick-up parking,” McDonald’s was already remaking it restaurants for an on-demand world. Now, writes Brian Barrett, “[t]he dramatic changes wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic have made that transformation all the more critical … And given its quick-service ubiquity, where it goes the whole industry will likely follow.”

How can states prepare to get a Covid vaccine to food-system workers?


Labor advocates, the food industry and public health experts are all pushing for food-system and agricultural workers to be included among those designated for early access to any Covid vaccine. But, as Leah Douglas explains, even if they are, states will need to overcome barriers of trust, language and other access issues that could keep those workers from taking the vaccine when it’s ready.

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Don’t save the honeybee?

Scientific American

“The rise in hobby beekeeping, now a trendy activity for hundreds of thousands of Americans, followed strong awareness campaigns to ‘save the bees.’ But as a species, honey bees are least in need of saving,” writes Alison McAfee. “Media attention disproportionately covers them over native pollinators, and murky messaging has led many citizens — myself once included — to believe they are doing a good thing for the environment by putting on a beekeeper’s veil. Unfortunately, they are probably doing more harm than good.”

Food and class have always been intertwined

The Guardian

“What emerges is a picture of perpetual motion as foods go in and out of fashion, becoming markers of sophistication in one age, and cluelessness the next. This is, Vogler says, because the cultural value of food works on a cycle of innovation-imitation-innovation. The moment that people whom you’ve always considered a bit beneath you start eating your favourite foods – chicken, black forest gateau, bread as soft and white as a pillow – it is time to go searching for something new to mark your superiority, perhaps duck, carrot cake and sourdough so scratchy that it shreds your tongue to ribbons.”

The race to save Appalachia’s ginseng


“For centuries, diggers have tromped into the woods in this part of the country to pull up ginseng roots and sell them for $500 to $1,000 per pound to middleman buyers, who in turn sell them to China, where ginseng is prized as a curative,” writes Tim Robinson. “But both this storied plant and this practice are imperiled by overharvesting, an issue that could worsen this year thanks to Covid-19 … But even before this potentially tumultuous year, stakeholders in Appalachia … have been racing to preserve ginseng and its economic potential.”