The Capitalism in our Food

Marion Nestle | 09.11.2017

Click here to view this Backgrounder in Portuguese. Click here to view this Backgrounder in Spanish. 

This Backgrounder by Marion Nestle is excerpted from the forthcoming book (October 2017) by Food First’s Eric Holt-Giménez, “A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism: Understanding the Political Economy of What We Eat”. Co-published by Food First Books and Monthly Review Press, “A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism” takes on the social, environmental, and economic crises of the capitalist mode of food production. You can pre-order your copy today at

When Eric Holt-Giménez asked me to introduce his Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism, I said yes right away. I love the title, I think the food movement needs this book, and I am tired of having to treat capitalism as the “C-word,” never to be mentioned in polite company. Those of us “foodies” who love to eat and want our food system to produce tastier, healthier, and more sustainable diets—and to provide a decent living to everyone involved in this work—need to bring capitalism out of the closet, understand the problems it causes, and deal with them front and center. Eric (if I may) has done us an enormous favor by producing this book at this time.

We are endlessly told that the American food system gives us an abundant and varied food supply that is the envy of the world.

Perhaps, but these purported benefits come at a high cost: food insecurity for 45 million Americans (half of them children), obesity in nearly two-thirds of adults, incalculable damage to the quality of our soil, air, and water, and foods excessively high in calories, sugars, and salt. Capitalism may not be the only explanation for these problems, but it is a great place to begin to understand why they exist.

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