Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Food Tank’s Summer 2020 Reading List

Food Tank

By Danielle Nierenberg and Alonso Diaz

With record high unemployment, a reeling global economy, and concerns of food shortages, the world as we know it is changing. But even as these shifts expose inequities in the health and food systems, many experts hope that the current moment offers an opportunity to build a new and more sustainable food system.

To understand what it will take to move forward, Food Tank has compiled its summer reading list to delve into the issues that affect our food system today. These 20 books provide insight into food access and justice in Black communities, food relief and school nutrition programs, the effects of technology on global food supply chains, the relationship between climate change and food production, and much more.

1. Be My Guest: Reflections on Food, Community, and the Meaning of Generosity by Priya Basil (forthcoming November 2020)

Priya Basil explores the meaning of hospitality within a variety of cultural, linguistic, and sociopolitical contexts in this short read. Basil uses her cross-cultural experience to illustrate how food amplifies discourse within families and touches on the hospitality and the lack thereof that migrants and refugees experience. Be My Guest is at once an enjoyable read and a hopeful meditation on how food and hospitality can make a positive difference in our world.

2. Biodiversity, Food and Nutrition: A New Agenda for Sustainable Food Systems by Danny Hunter, Teresa Borelli, and Eliot Gee

In Biodiversity, Food and Nutrition, leading professionals from Bioversity International examine the positive impacts of biodiversity on nutrition and sustainability. The book highlights agrobiodiversity initiatives in Brazil, Kenya, Sri Lanka, and Turkey, featuring research from the Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition Project (BFN) of the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT. Through this analysis, the authors propose that the localized activities in these countries are not only benefiting communities, but are transferable to other regions.

3. Black Food Geographies: Race, Self-Reliance, and Food Access in Washington, D.C. by Ashanté M. Reese

In Black Food Geographies, Ashanté Reese draws on her fieldwork to highlight community agency in response to unequal food access. Focusing on a majority-Black neighborhood in Washington, DC, Reese explores issues of racism, gentrification, and urban food access. Through her analysis, she argues that racism impacts and exacerbates issues of unequal food distribution systems.

4. Black Food Matters: Racial Justice in the Wake of Food Justice edited by Hanna Garth and Ashanté M. Reese (forthcoming October 2020)

Access, equity, justice, and privilege are the central themes in this forthcoming collection of essays. The food justice movement often ignores the voices of Black communities and white food norms shape the notions of healthy food. Named for Black Lives Matter, Black Food Matters highlights the history and impact of Black communities and their food cultures in the food justice movement.

5. Diners Dudes & Diets: How Gender and Power Collide in Food Media and Culture by Emily J.H. Contois (forthcoming November 2020)

In Diners, Dudes & Diets, Emily Contois looks at media's influence on eating habits and gendered perceptions of food. Focusing on the concept of dude foods, the book follows the evolution of food marketing for men. In doing so, Contois shows how industries used masculine stereotypes to sell diet and weight loss products to a new demographic. She argues that this has influenced both the way consumers think about food and their own identities.

6. Feeding the Crisis: Care and Abandonment in America’s Food Safety Net by Maggie Dickinson

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is essential for individuals who face food insecurity on a daily basis. Still, the program fails to reach many, including those who are unemployed, underemployed, or undocumented. Feeding the Crisis provides a historical overview of SNAP's expansion and traces the lives of eight families who must navigate the changing landscape of welfare policy in the United States.

7. Feeding the Other: Whiteness, Privilege, and Neoliberal Stigma in Food Pantries by Rebecca T. de Souza

In Feeding the Other, Rebecca de Souza explores the relationship between food pantries and people dependent on their services. Throughout the work, de Souza underscores the structural failures that contribute to hunger and poverty, the racial dynamics within pantries, and the charged idea of a handout. She argues that while food pantries currently stigmatize clients, there is an opportunity to make them agents of food justice.

8. Feeding the People: The Politics of the Potato by Rebecca Earle

In Feeding the People, Rebecca Earle tells the story of the potato and its journey from a relatively unknown crop to a staple in modern diets around the world. Earle's work highlights the importance of the potato during famines, war, and explains the politics behind consumers' embrace of this food. Interspersed throughout are also potato recipes that any reader can try.

9. Food in Cuba: The Pursuit of a Decent Meal by Hanna Garth

In Food in Cuba, Dr. Hannah Garth looks at food security and food sovereignty in the context of Cuba's second largest city, Santiago de Cuba. Throughout the work, Garth defines a decent meal as one that is culturally appropriate and of high quality. And through stories about families' sociopolitical barriers to food access, Garth shows how ideas of food and moral character become intimately linked.

10. Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America by Marcia Chatelain

Scholar, speaker, and strategist Marcia Chatelain provides readers insight into the ways fast food restaurants expanded throughout Black communities. Dr. Chatelain traces their growth during the 20th century and their intersection with Black capitalists and the civil rights movement. This book highlights the dichotomy between fast food's negative impacts on Black communities and the potential economic and political opportunities that the businesses offered them.

11. Honey And Venom: Confessions of an Urban Beekeeper by Andrew Coté

In Honey and Venom, Andrew Coté provides a history of beekeeping while taking the reader through his own trajectory in the industry. A manager of over one hundred beehives, Coté raises colonies across New York City, on the rooftops of churches, schools, and more. Coté's passion for beekeeping comes through clearly as he narrates the challenges and rewards of his career.

12. Life on the Other Border: Farmworkers and Food Justice in Vermont by Teresa M. Mares

Agriculture, immigration, and Central American and Mexican farm workers may conjure ideas of the Mexico-U.S. border, but in Life on the Other Border, Teresa Mares gives a voice to those laboring much farther north. Mares introduces the readers to the Latinx immigrants who work in Vermont's dairy industry while they advocate for themselves and navigate life as undocumented workers. This is an inspiring read that touches on the intersection of food justice, immigration, and labor policy.

13. Meals Matter: A Radical Economics Through Gastronomy by Michael Symons

In Meals Matter, Michael Symons argues that economics used to be, in its essence, about feeding the world but has since become fixated with the pursuit of money. Symons introduces readers to gastronomic liberalism and applies the ideas of philosophers like Epicurus and John Locke to the food system. Through this approach, he seeks to understand how large corporations gained control of the market and challenges readers to rethink their understanding of food economics.

14. No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg addressed the United Nations at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit and has since been a global symbol of environmental activism. Her community organizing and impassioned speeches are uncompromising as she argues that climate change is an existential crisis that needs to be confronted immediately. No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference includes Thunberg's speeches and includes her 2019 address to the United Nations.

15. Perilous Bounty: The Looming Collapse of American Farming and How We Can Prevent It by Tom Philpott (forthcoming August 2020)

In Perilous Bounty, journalist Tom Philpott critically analyzes the centralized food system in the U.S. and argues that it is headed for disaster unless it sees some much-needed changes. Philpot argues that actors within the U.S. food system are prioritizing themselves over the nation's wellbeing and provides well-researched data to back up his claims. Providing readers insight into the experiences of activists, farmers, and scientists, this is a great read for those starting to learn about the state of the country's food system and for those who are already deeply involved.

16. Plucked: Chicken, Antibiotics, And How Big Business Changed The Way The World Eats by Maryn McKenna

In this exposé on the chicken industry, acclaimed author Maryn McKenna explains the role antibiotics played in making chicken a global commodity. Plucked makes it clear that food choices matter and show how consumers' desire for meat, especially chicken, has impacted human health. McKenna also offers a way forward and outlines ways that stakeholders can make food safer again.

17. Stirrings: How Activist New Yorkers Ignited a Movement for Food Justice by Lana Dee Povitz

Between 1970 and 2000, food activists in New York City pushed to improve public school lunches, provide meals to those impacted by the AIDS epidemic, and established food co-ops. In Stirrings, Lana Dee Povitz draws on oral histories and archives to recount the stories of individuals who led these efforts. She highlights the successes of grassroots movements and reminds readers of the many women leaders in the New York food justice movement.

18. The New American Farmer: Immigration, Race, and the Struggle for Sustainability by Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern

In The New American Farmer, Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern offers a look at farm labor in the U.S. Although most farm owners are white Americans, farm workers are overwhelmingly immigrants and people of color. In this book, Minkoff-Zern details the experiences of farm laborers who are becoming farm owners themselves and outlines the many barriers that workers must overcome during this transition. Through interviews with farmers and organizers, Minkoff-Zern shows that these farmers bring sustainable agricultural practices that can benefit our food system.

19. The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here by Hope Jahren

Hope Jahren breaks down climate change for readers in an accessible and data-driven book. The Story of More explains how greenhouse gas emissions and consumption of natural resources in developed nations exacerbate climate change and outlines the consequences of these actions. Although she argues that the planet is in danger, she also provides a variety of everyday actions, like decreasing meat consumption, that consumers can take to make a difference.

20. Vegetable Kingdom: The Abundant World of Vegan Recipes by Bryant Terry

Author, chef, and food justice activist Bryant Terry provides readers with over a hundred recipes to create approachable and flavorful vegan dishes, without relying on meat alternatives. This book is a wonderfully practical recipe book that begins with a list of recommended tools, is organized by ingredients, and even includes a music playlist. Vegans and non-vegans alike will appreciate Chef Terry's Vegetable Kingdom.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

An elephant at Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island. In Defense of Animals

By Marilyn Kroplick

The term "zoonotic disease" wasn't a hot topic of conversation before the novel coronavirus started spreading across the globe and upending lives. Now, people are discovering how devastating viruses that transfer from animals to humans can be. But the threat can go both ways — animals can also get sick from humans. There is no better time to reconsider the repercussions of keeping animals captive at zoos, for the sake of everyone's health.

Read More Show Less
Isiais now approaches the Carolinas, and is expected to strengthen into a hurricane again before reaching them Monday night. NOAA

Florida was spared the worst of Isaias, the earliest "I" storm on record of the Atlantic hurricane season and the second hurricane of the 2020 season.

Read More Show Less
A campaign targeting SUV advertising is a project between the New Weather Institute and climate charity Possible. New Weather Institute

To meet its climate targets, the UK should ban advertisements for gas-guzzling SUVs, according to a report from a British think tank that wants to make SUVs the new smoking, as the BBC reported.

Read More Show Less

A company from Ghana is making bikes out of bamboo.

By Kate Whiting

Bernice Dapaah calls bamboo "a miracle plant," because it grows so fast and absorbs carbon. But it can also work wonders for children's education and women's employment – as she's discovered.

Read More Show Less
Scientists say it will take a massive amount of collective action to reverse deforestation and save society from collapse. Big Cheese Photo / Getty Images Plus

Deforestation coupled with the rampant destruction of natural resources will soon have devastating effects on the future of society as we know it, according to two theoretical physicists who study complex systems and have concluded that greed has put us on a path to irreversible collapse within the next two to four decades, as VICE reported.

Read More Show Less
Researchers have turned to hydrophones, instruments that use underwater microphones to gather data beyond the reach of any camera or satellite. Pxfuel

By Kristen Pope

Melting and crumbling glaciers are largely responsible for rising sea levels, so learning more about how glaciers shrink is vital to those who hope to save coastal cities and preserve wildlife.

Read More Show Less


The fact is, cats play different predatory roles in different natural and humanized landscapes. PIXNIO / CCO

By William S. Lynn, Arian Wallach and Francisco J. Santiago-Ávila

A number of conservationists claim cats are a zombie apocalypse for biodiversity that need to be removed from the outdoors by "any means necessary" – coded language for shooting, trapping and poisoning. Various media outlets have portrayed cats as murderous superpredators. Australia has even declared an official "war" against cats.

Read More Show Less