The story of how pizza became a vegetable in school lunches in the introduction of Marion Nestle’s new book “Eat Drink Vote” takes two full pages on my Kindle. When she’s done recounting the politics of how Congress caved to food companies, she explains that while she’s written a lot about this issue and others, “political cartoonists can tell the whole story in one drawing.”
That sentence is followed by a 2011 political cartoon from the Dayton Daily News titled “New Congressional School Lunch Food Pyramid” and a drawing of a slice of pepperoni pizza standing straight up, like a pyramid. The cartoon is also on the book’s cover.
Nestle is public health nutritionist. Unlike a traditional nutritionist who teaches individuals how to make better food choices, Nestle’s job is to “try to change the social economic, and political environment so that it promotes the health and well-being of individuals.” One of her goals in writing the book is to get readers to join her.
She mentions the “vote with your fork” idea that many sustainable food advocates share – if you spend your money on healthy, sustainable food, you’re sending a message to food companies. But, she also wants readers to exercise their democratic rights as citizens. She encourages each of us to “vote with our vote” by getting involved in food politics.
The cartoons she’s chosen for her book are meant to inspire readers to do just that.
The cartoons cover the whole spectrum of food and politics - connections between illegal immigration and the low price of produce, the problems with getting children to eat healthy foods, school lunches, genetically modified foods, contaminated food, pet foods, food labeling, locavores, organics and more.
The 250 cartoons in the book really do say a whole lot with a few words and some clever pictures. But, the book isn’t just cartoons. Each cartoon is accompanied by Nestle’s explanation of how politics affect what the cartoon is conveying. A cartoon of the Morton Salt Girl being captured by FDA workers in hazmat-like suits, for example, is accompanied by a discussion about the debate that surrounds the issue of how much government should be involved in the personal food choices of individuals.
If you’d like to wrap your head around the basics of some of today’s food politics issues so you can be a better informed voter, “Eat Drink Vote” is a place to start. The issues are explained from various points of view, and the political cartoons add a dimension to the understanding of those issues that plain text couldn’t do without hundreds of words.
Also on MNN
- Advice from food politics royalty
- Weighing in USDA’s school lunch standards
- Eating arugula has become a political act