Food writing is not just listicles of the best New York pizza and trending food on Instagram. It’s also the social justice aspect of food journalism.
That was a key message for Hunter Journalism Intern Kalli Siringas, who attended a Jan. 29 Urban Food Policy Forum on new directions in media reporting on food, along with food journalists and activists, at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy.
“It was nice to be surrounded by professionals who are working hard to change the landscape of food journalism as we know it,” said Siringas. “There are deeper stories to tell about the way we engage with food — and it’s exciting to learn more about it.”
“The food system reporting that I do is actually health journalism,” said freelance journalist Lisa Elaine Held, among the panelists who described the role of journalism in changing the food landscape.
Held also discussed the importance of shifting away from simpler food-related topics like nutrition or what trending supplement to take. “What isn’t simple is how food is produced and the forces that actually dictate what ends up on people’s plates,” she explained.
Panelists shared personal writing and reporting experiences, as well as ideas for the future of food writing.
‘A lot of food that is sold is not food, but closer to poison. And that’s not a food issue, but a social justice issue.’— Food journalist and author Mark Bittman
Kysha Jones, the food editor for the Amsterdam News, spoke to her experiences growing up in Harlem and wishing for a way to showcase food within her community for those interested in exploring the food landscape outside of what was readily available.
Jones added that she has found a way to do just that through her writing, as well as her role as an associate producer of Harlem’s premier food festival, Harlem EatUp!. “It’s an opportunity to really highlight local food makers and local artisans and show what they do,” she said.
One commonality among food journalists on the panel was that, in many ways, food is beside the point. Joe Fasseler, the deputy editor of The New Food Economy (now The Counter), pointed out that “food is our lens” to find the larger story, such as how our lives are affected by large agribusiness, what we consume and how we utilize it.
Food journalist and author Mark Bittman, a former columnist for The New York Times who now edits Heated, agreed, “A lot of food that is sold is not food, but closer to poison. And that’s not a food issue, but a social justice issue.”