Food: A Consumer's Guide to the Food System
by Leo Rubin
As a society, we have become much more aware of where and how our food is produced. We hear terms like "Organic" "GMO-Free" and "Fair Trade" regularly from products ranging from fresh produce to coffee to chocolate. We're more conscious of the living and working conditions of the people who produce our food and the welfare of the animals we consume. We're more aware of the effects agriculture can have on our environment, and how our environment influences agriculture. Overall, we've become increasingly aware of the many aspects of our food system, how we impact these aspects and how these aspects impact us.
In his new book from MIT press, food scholar Fabio Paresecoli explored many of these concepts. He explains how we have moved passed the idea that food simply is grown on a small farm by a loving family who sells their products locally to understand that our food system is vast - global even - and is composed by multinational corporations and industrialized agriculture that is heavily influenced by a variety of factors. There are more stakeholders than just the producer and the consumer - from the shipping companies that ensure that you have year-round access to fresh produce grown in South America to the governmental organizations that set health and safety standards and drive everything from price to availability. There is a web of interconnected influences that form how we eat, how safe our food is, where and when we can buy it, and what we pay for it. While the developed world has greatly benefited from these advancements, there are many in the global south (often the same people who grow our food) who suffer from much greater levels of food insecurity than we face here - which isn't to say that the global north doesn't suffer from its own form of food insecurity or instability.
This is essentially a primer in all-things food systems and will allow you to get a better understanding of this multifaced web that has huge consequences. Paresecoli does an excellent job of getting to the point and explains rather complex topics like UN food policy into easy to digest summaries. While there is much more to be said on the topic, this has become my go-to recommendation when folks ask for my suggestion on food policy essential reading.