Critical Investigation Into a “Sacred Cow” of the Food Movement

One of our biggest hits of 2014 was also one of our most-important pieces, in terms of challenging conventional wisdom and taking on the food-reform movement’s sacred cows in a critical but constructive way. In November 2014, Slate published Tracie McMillan’s provocative look at the first Whole Foods store in downtown Detroit, which the company claimed would be more than just a market for rich people. “Can Whole Foods Change the Way Poor People Eat?” spurred a broad, ongoing and overdue conversation about whether the food movement—which has been largely an elite phenomenon—can reach a mass audience. It was about access, but also about class and the motives of a food icon with big business interests.

The piece got more than 8,000 social media shares, including from some of the most influential media and food thinkers like Mark Bittman, Michael Pollan, and Emily Badger of The Washington Post’s Wonkblog. McMillan was interviewed by Huffington Post Live and Michigan Public Radio, and the story was picked up by the Metro Times and Deadline Detroit. It also was named one of 2014’s 15 best longform food stories by Eater, and was included in Best #CityReads of the Week on The Atlantic’s CityLab. McMillan also wrote an award-winning article for FERN on wage-theft among California farmworkers.

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