FERN’s Friday Feed: The limits of the “food desert” label

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

Resilience in the face of a “food desert”


Anthropologist Ashanté Reese’s research in the Deanwood neighborhood of Washington, D.C., deepens our understanding of “food deserts” by lifting up the resilience of low-food access communities in the face of shuttering supermarkets and lack of city investment. “By looking past the label [of food desert], [Reese] argues, we can finally understand and address the decades of disinvestment that have depleted neighborhoods of healthy retail options—and we can finally appreciate the resilience of current residents,” writes Barry Yeoman.

The queer joy of Tammy Wynette’s cookbook

Southern Foodways

The cookbook of country music icon Tammy Wynette encourages indulgence and joy, writes Mayukh Sen, a contrast to Wynette’s challenging personal and musical life. “In her music, Wynette sang of heartache and loss. Her cookbook pulses with jubilation. She tunneled her way out of life’s miseries with cans of cream of chicken soup and jars of mayonnaise she’d use to make chicken divan.” The singer’s femininity and joy “seemed to highlight the parts of myself I’d worked to silence, rooted in my anxiety over my gayness and how I expressed it,” writes Sen.

FERN Talks & Eats is coming to Brooklyn on October 1st!

Join us for an engaging panel discussion that will delve into the #MeToo movement and issues of equity and inclusion in the restaurant business. Amanda Cohen, chef at Dirt Candy and one of our panelists, wrote an essay about this in Esquire, highlighting the media’s neglect of women chefs until the current scandals. “Women may not have value as chefs, but as victims we’re finally interesting!” she wrote. We’ll hear about the ways that #MeToo intersects with race, gender, class and identity politics – ultimately influencing the food on our plates. We’ll hear personal stories, discuss the problematic past, and reimagine a future restaurant culture. It’s a discussion that’s nothing if not timely. We hope you’ll join us. Tickets available!

Booker’s attempt to heel big ag mergers

The New Food Economy

A new bill from New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker would enact a moratorium on large-scale agriculture, grocery, and food mergers, and establish a commission to study the effects of consolidation on the American agricultural economy. Despite representing a farm-light district, Booker “has a keen interest not just in eaters, but in producers and growers,” writes Sam Bloch. “The release of the bill now, in this Senate…is strategic to capture the attention of elected officials leading up to their re-elections.”

Climate change’s effects on French wine 


In France’s most famous wine region, warming temperatures are forcing winemakers to adapt or collapse. “Simply put: Bordeaux’s climate is steadily getting hotter,” writes Aleszu Bajak. “At stake are the more than 700 million bottles of wine, mostly red, that the region produces in a good year, and the more than $2 billion it takes in annually exporting them around the world. To protect their valuable crop and way of life, Bordeaux’s winegrowers are now rushing to harvest the fruit before it grows too sweet and too ripe on the vine.”

Remembering Kenny Shopsin

Eater New York

Kenny Shopsin, the legendary owner of Shopsin’s General Store in New York, has died. “Opened in 1973, Shopsin’s General Store started as a grocery in Greenwich Village before turning into the diner it is now, ending up in the Essex Street Market,” writes Stefanie Tuder. “Shopsin was the beating heart of the restaurant, often kicking customers out for minor infractions and creating arbitrary rules such as no ordering the same thing as anyone at the table, no tables larger than four, one child per customer, and no cellphones. He became famous for it.”