A Reminder: Vote with Your Vote

In many states and cities next Tuesday is an election day. Eat Drink Vote reminds us that food is political because our votes affect what we eat. The food and agricultural companies know this and they invest heavily in campaigns to encourage the election of politicians who will protect their interests and profits. For consumers, the challenge is to overcome this well organized and well-funded influence in order to elect politicians who will encourage a food system that is healthier for people and the planet.

As a result of the growing awareness of the vote-food connection, more candidates are speaking about food policy. For example, in August Marion Nestle moderated a food forum for mayoral candidates in New York City. Hopefully, this type of forum will become more prevalent in elections for local, state and national political offices.

Another example of the politics of food is seen in elections related to initiatives, specifically those related to GMOs. These elections provide a crystal clear example of how food and ag comapnies organize and spend to protect their profits and interests. One of the first of GMO initiative elections was in California, Proposition 37, a 2012 initiative related to the labeling of genetically engineered food. The initiative lost - narrowly - after opponents - largely out-of-state - provided nearly $44 million for opposition advertising. The supporters were able to raise just $7.3 million so that they were outspent by more than 5 to 1. Who were the opponents? Big spenders included Monsanto, Kraft, PepsiCo - and given that it is Halloween today, it should also be noted that large candy manufacturers (Hershey, Nestle and Mars) also contributed to defeat Prop 37.

This election brings us a similar initiative and pattern. This time the initiative is I-522 and the state is Washington. The spending ratio between opponents and supporters is similar as is the influence of out-of-state money - and even more is being spent than in California on a per voter basis. More about this will follow in the next few days as more news about spending in Washington comes in.

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Trick or treat?!

Halloween is a wonderful example of some of what is discussed in Eat Drink Vote: it combines marketing to children with support for a product (i.e., candy) that depends heavily on government subsidy for its ingredients. And - the marketing works!

Here are a few pieces of information picked up in a quick perusal of the web:
- 10% (or nearly $2 billion )of the annual $24 billion candy sales occur in the few days before Halloween. (Source: Dailyinfographic.com)
- This includes approximately 90 million pounds of chocolate candy - which is nearly twice the 48 million pounds of chocolate sold at Valentine's Day. (Source: Nielsen Wire)
- Total money spent for Halloween-related candy and merchandise is growing - quickly. Sales are projected to total $13 billion in 2013, up from $3.29 billion in 2005 - a whooping increase of nearly 300% in just a few years. (Source: National Retail Federation)

So, if you want to be part of the change in the food movement, you might want to keep this in mind, if not for this year than for future years. There is a really good chance that the candy in your grocery store got there this year - and probably next year as well - due to marketing targeted to consumers and retailers as well as ongoing lobbying support for ingredients in candy. A question to ask yourself might be: Is the Halloween candy a treat for me or for the manufacturers of the candy?
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Jeff Danziger, Marion Nestle and Signe Wilkinson: One night only!

If you are in New York Wednesday October 23, we invite you to attend a discussion with Marion Nestle along with Jeff Danziger and Signe Wilkinson, two cartoonists who have cartoons in Eat Drink Vote. The discussion will address the broad issues of the food movement, the challenges of pairing text and cartoons plus the creative processes that underlie the individual efforts.

This promises to be a lively discussion. Marion Nestle was described by Michael Pollan in Forbes as the #2 most powerful foodie in America (after Michelle Obama) and she is the author of Eat Drink Vote as well as other books and diverse articles. Jeff Danziger is the rare American cartoonist whose cartoons are as well known outside of the US as they are inside of the US. He is the winner of several awards but his most valued may be that he was included on Bernard Goldberg's list of "100 People Who Are Screwing Up America." Signe Wilkinson is the Editorial Cartoonist at the Philadelphia Daily News and also has her share of awards - both dubious and prestigious. As for the dubious, Signe was named "the Pennsylvania state vegetable substitute" by the former speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. As for the prestigious, Signe was the first female (and so for only one of two) to win the Pultizer Prize for Editorial Cartoons.

The event is at the Society of Illustrators, 6:30 - 8PM and information is found here.
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Caption Contest x 2

Now you get to be an editor and a cartoonist!

For caption contest #2 - Submit a caption for the cartoon shown above. What is this fellow saying? Entries will be accepted until November 17 and the top three entries will then be posted here for visitors to the site to vote on. After all, the book's title is Eat Drink Vote!

Caption Contest #1: And, speaking of voting ... Select your favorite from the three finalists. Voting ends Monday Novembeer 5 and the winner will be announced Electio Day, Tuesday November 6.

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Profit is Most Important Ingredient

As Marion Nestle notes in Eat Drink Vote "Food marketers, of course, are in business and always looking for ways to cut costs and increase profits."

Yes, food marketers aim to make products that people want but their ability to stay in business depends on their ability to make a profit. So, profit has to be the first objective. When consumers account for the profit motive, they can look at food marketing and packaging through a slightly different lens. Additionally, consumers can act on this knowledge by "voting" with their purchases for those companies that work to promote the health of their customers and the planet.

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Upcoming Appearances

Hey Northern California and New York City - Check out these events!

October 15 - If you're in San Francisco, Marion Nestle will be at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco at 6PM. She'll appear in a conversation with Narsai David, Food and Wine Editor, KCBS Radio. Tickets are required and they may be purchased here.

October 19 - Near Corte Madera? See Marion Nestle at Book Passage, 11am. Registration, which included purchase of the book, is required. Details are here.

October 23 - New York City - Marion Nestle will be joined by two cartoonists whose cartoons are included in Eat Drink Vote: Jeff Danziger and Signe Wilkinson. They will appear at the Society of Illustrators 6 - 8PM. Tickets are required and details are here.

October 30 - New York City - At the James Beard House, Noon - 1PM - Marion Nestle will speak about Eat Drink Vote as part of the Enlightened Eaters Events. Reservations are required and a donation is suggested. Details are here.
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How This Book Started

In one way, this book started with an e-mail. It would be more accurate to say that this book has been years in the making.

Marion Nestle has been researching, studying and writing about issues related to food politics and nutrition since the 1970's. The Cartoonist Group has been working years to collect and archive cartoons that date back to the 1970's and earlier. The two efforts intersected when Nestle contacted the Cartoonist Group to inquire about licensing the above cartoon for her book Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics. As Nestle recounts in the Introduction to Eat Drink Vote, "When I contacted her (Sara Thaves of the Cartoonist Group) to ask about licenses and fees, Sara wondered whether whether I was the author of Food Politics. She had long wanted to showcase the food cartoons of artists in the group. Would I be interested? I most certainly would. I suspected that working with cartoonists would be tremendous fun, as indeed it was. Sara and I talked. We met. This book is the result."

So, in a nod to Steve Kelley's contribution to the introduction of Marion Nestle and the Cartoonist Group, we invite you to search and see more of his editorial cartoons here.
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