A review by mhall
The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table, by Tracie McMillan


This book clearly stated a couple facts that I "knew" to be true but hadn't ever articulated in my own head. The most striking was a response to the argument that the French spend a greater proportion of their income on food because they just appreciate it so much more than (bovine, tasteless) mainstream Americans. McMillan addresses this squarely by explaining how French people also have to spend much less than Americans for their health care, child care, and other government benefits, and when you look at the whole package, Americans cut their food budget by a percentage equal to their additional spending on health insurance and child care. Anyway, it's not really because of a lack of education or appreciation for the taste of expensive heirloom
vegetables, etc., but because of the struggle to get by, the need to work long hours to keep treading water, the lack of options. This book's main argument is that class matters, and that food is a precious shared resource which in America has been left to the vagaries of capitalism, leaving gaps in distribution of fresh foods,
and migrant farm workers who earn in the low five figures for a year's work of punishing physical labor.

Striking thing #2: McMcillan straight up acknowledges that it takes skill to be a farmworker, to stock shelves at Wal-Mart, and to work in the kitchen at Applebee's. You have to be able to prioritize, use logic, multitask, and implement an efficient system to do a good job. In many towns and cities, the vast majority of fresh produce is bought at a Walmart, duh. And the person in charge of the fresh produce at Walmart - the produce manager - might be someone who doesn't have experience or affordable health care or much of a paycheck. This person, with little support, might be in charge of overseeing the quality of produce for an entire town, and "produce managers aren't necessarily given any better training to manage a town's fresh food supply than they are to stock sneakers." (p. 234)

This is great because the author isn't just a blogger with a book deal, but rather someone who's done serious research into food justice, backed up with a ton of end notes and citations. This is great because the author keeps reminding us that class matters, in America, right now.