Food Industry Trends Bringing Hope to a Pessimistic Nutrition Professional
My dog often hears my annoyed muttering as I go through the various newsletters in my inbox and doomscrolling my way through the day’s feeds. This time of year I find myself easily triggered by the overwhelming amount of content that is diet culture masquerading as new food trends, weight-centric New Year resolutions, and sponsored posts with unfounded claims promising lofty solutions you didn’t even know you needed.
Amid today’s muttering and scrolling I paused, took a deep breath, stretched my keyboard fingers, and made a resolution of my own; seek out aspects of the food industry that make me hopeful for the future. My goal was to find inspiring content to remind my colleagues and other quarantined foodies, whose companion animals are tired of hearing frustrated sigh after sigh, that there are good people working towards good things.
- Anti-Racism & Re-Indigenizing Food
Our food system was built around White normative culture and keeping power from marginalized groups of people who are continuously disadvantaged by systemic racism. BIPOC communities have been fighting for food sovereignty and food justice in spite of the many structural barriers. Groups like Indigikitchen, Back to the Roots, National Black Food & Justice Alliance, and other groups are supporting their communities, advocating for the re-indigenizing of food and nutrition, and fighting against the injustices of our food system.
The racial and social justice movement of 2020 brought long-needed public accountability and awareness for these systemic issues and, in turn, to the organizations working towards food justice, food sovereignty, and food empowerment. Consistent anti-oppression action is needed and it’s crucial that non-BIPOC people of the food industry support the initiatives of BIPOC lead grassroots organizations. Since the switch to exclusively virtual seminars, panels, and conferences due to COVID-19 there are daily opportunities for individuals and brands to learn and act to dismantle White Supremacy and White normative culture in food and nutrition. I have noticed this shift across food businesses, academia, and public institutions and it’s up to each of us to continue the momentum, awareness, and accountability to make necessary changes for an equitable and accessible food system.
- Prioritizing Plants
I have been vegan for almost 7 years and was vegetarian for 6 years before that and am constantly impressed by how far animal-free food has come. Current market research shows the plant-based food market value to be $5 billion and growing. Along with innovations in food and other goods I am excited for the increasing awareness and activism to improve challenges of mainstream, animal-centric agriculture.
Projects like Transfarmation provide opportunities to support farmers who want to evolve their practices and crops with the rise of the plant-based food industry. We also see plant-based brands and groups combatting censorship and labeling laws as well as Ag-Gag legislation. We’re seeing cultural shifts alongside the growth of plant-based foods and ethical shopping trends that are making positive change in addition to changing the markets.
- Increasing Transparency
I am a strong proponent for increasing transparency in our food system so that every consumer has the opportunity to make informed choices. The government agencies and infrastructure at the core of the United States food system were founded to protect consumers from misrepresented items and set standards for food safety. Consumers have shown time and again that they want increased transparency and accountability in corporate ethics, ingredients, inputs, etc. This preference for more ethical consumption comes through clearly via social media and shifts in purchasing habits; people want to be able to fully vet where their food comes from and where their money goes.
This movement isn’t satisfied with empty gestures or sneaky marketing and consumers are showing that accountability and action must go along with increased transparency. Companies like Ben & Jerry’s are corporate leaders and consumer favorites for their commitment to social justice and public pressure to address racial justice, diversity, and inclusion has prompted big brands to pledge monetary support and commitments for actionable changes.
- Qualified Content Creators
I spend a decent amount of time online in both my professional and personal life and have really appreciated the rise of qualified influencers and experts educating social media users through a virtual platform. These people are qualified in their field and contribute to the popularity of impact-focused influencing and activism. Their content has led to culture shifts that extend beyond screens and brings nuance and credible information to the chaotic state of social media.
While I wouldn’t recommend Instagram as the first resource for nutrition education, I welcome the rise of qualified creators building a platform for their area of expertise, especially in the food space. Food is something deeply personal and unique to individuals. Thanks, in part, to popular media and the pervasiveness of diet culture our society has placed too much trust in the food and nutrition advice of celebrities and influencers. I’m encouraged by the medical professionals, science communicators, registered dietitians, and passionate academics who are credible resources on social media. A few of the food and nutrition focused accounts I trust for evidence-based, intersectional, educational content are: Pixie Nutrition, The Nutrition Tea, Body Positive Dietitian, Dr Joshua Wolrich, Taylor Wolfram RD, and Jessica Wilson MS RD.
Meet the Author
Kayla (she/her) is the Head of Nutrition Communications for Foodspace Tech and is passionate about nutrition education, food innovation, and working to create an equitable food system. Connect with Kayla on LinkedIn for more food news and discussions.
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