FERN’s Friday Feed: Food deserts in farm country

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

The New York Times

“Farm towns like Winchester [Illinois] that produce beef, corn and greens to feed the world are becoming America’s unlikeliest food deserts as traditional grocery stores are forced out of business by fewer shoppers and competition from dollar-store chains,” writes Jack Healy. “So Winchester and small towns from Florida to Montana are fighting back by starting their own tiny, community-run markets.”

We need more food critics of color

Washington City Paper

A D.C. restaurant critic reflects on the whiteness of the region’s food criticism. “If you subscribe to the idea that restaurant critics should look like the communities they cover, the D.C. region has a discrepancy,” Laura Hayes writes. “Only 41 percent of the District’s population is white, according to 2019 data, yet there isn’t a single dedicated critic of color at a major outlet.” Hayes explores what the city, and the field, could gain from a more diverse slate of food writers: “Greater empathy, more even exposure, and further context.”

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The education of a food critic

New York

In an excerpt from this forthcoming book, Adam Platt introduces the familial forces — from his globe-trotting father who hailed from “a long line of Yankee toastmasters, amateur cooks, and cheerful, cocktail-­loving inebriates,” to his Uncle Frank, “the family gastronome”— that shaped his interest in, and love for, eating pretty much anything and everything.

In Brazil, an experiment in vegetarianism gone awry

The Washington Post

“It’s a surprising paradox of life here: Brazil, the world’s No. 1 exporter of beef — a country where cows outnumber people, and a party isn’t a party without a barbecue — also has one of the highest rates of vegetarianism,” writes Terrence McCoy. Some 14 percent of the country has given up meat. Yet an experiment in removing meat from one region’s school cafeterias didn’t go well. “There would be threats. Furious parents. A battle over science. Eventually, the federal government would get involved.”

The myths of meat-eating


Even though eating meat can be bad for the environment, modern humans have struggled to let it go, writes Rebecca Onion. In some cases, we’ve even constructed myths to justify our consumption — like that our ancestors were primarily carnivores, or that as countries develop, their inhabitants naturally want to consume more meat. But a changing climate may encourage more of us to adopt a less meat-heavy diet, which “shouldn’t be viewed as some kind of civilizationwide failure to celebrate our supremacy over the beasts of the field,” Onion writes. Instead, “imagine all our human ancestors pounding acorns, foraging moss, stalking and trapping lizards, day after day. Nothing flashy; just moving forward, together.”