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Too much food. Not enough food.

Too much food. Not enough food.

“It looked like prairie dogs out there, with all the people standing on top of their trucks, trying to get an eagle-eye view of the line to see how much longer they had to wait.” Brian Billeck

by Erika Block
The Sticky List: Issue 3 - 4/14/20

This week we're talking about food and it's giving me whiplash!

Farmers are dumping milk and tilling crops back into the fields. At the same time food banks across the country are overrun, with thousands of people lining up for donations.

Meanwhile, the internet is full of memes about quarantine stress eating - putting on the "COVID 19". Weight Watchers is even offering virtual workshops on how to avoid it.

Vegetable seeds have been selling out as more people prepare to grow their own food in the tradition of Victory Gardens that started during WWI, alongside the last pandemic.

Grocery sales are expanding, while farmers markets are shut down. Small farmers, whose businesses frequently rely on these markets, along with restaurant sales, are vulnerable.

And while we're not running out of food, there are indicators there could be supply chain disruptions in the coming months, as farms that rely on migrant workers from Mexico anticipate labor shortages and large meat processors shut down due to infected employees. Local farmers and food producers are a hedge against this disruption, if they can survive.

In non-pandemic reading this week, I revisited a timely Freakonomics article by Steven J. Dubner that asks the question: Should Trader Joe’s be running… America?

If you're concerned about your information diet, perhaps marked by overconsumption these days, I'd recommend hitting play on the video below, Information is Food.

On that note, I have a question for you: the Sticky List is averaging ten linked stories per week. Is this a good amount, or would you prefer a shorter edition? Hit reply and let me know.

Eat thoughtfully. Stay well.


JP Rangaswami: We treat information like we treat food.

Should America Be Run by... Trader Joe's?

Just about everything Trader Joe’s does, outside of exchanging food for money, is unorthodox for a modern grocery store.

The quirky little grocery chain with California roots and German ownership has a lot to teach all of us about choice architecture, efficiency, frugality, collaboration, and team spirit.

So here’s the big question: if Trader Joe’s is really so good, should their philosophy be applied elsewhere?

Slow Reading is the New Deep Learning

Slow food is the antidote to fast food. Slow reading is the antidote to the Evelyn Wood School of speed reading. David Handel dives into memory, cognition, and how we learn.

Feast or Famine

The workers feeding America

America isn't running out of food. But there's increasing strain on the supply chain as the workers who produce and deliver our groceries are sheltering at home, quarantined or are (justifiably) too spooked to show up for work.

“The supply chain used to flow very evenly, but when you have surges, it takes more people," says Brian Beattie, senior vice president of sales at Lineage Logistics, which runs a large network of cold storage facilities.

Dumped Milk, Smashed Eggs, Plowed Vegetables: Food Waste of the Pandemic

With restaurants, hotels and schools closed, many of the nation’s largest farms are destroying millions of pounds of fresh goods that they can no longer sell.

We just can’t feed this many

In perhaps the most sobering reminder yet of the economic fallout caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the San Antonio Food Bank aided about 10,000 households Thursday in a record-setting giveaway at a South Side flea market.

“It looked like prairie dogs out there, with all the people standing on top of their trucks, trying to get an eagle-eye view of the line to see how much longer they had to wait.”  

Food Supply Anxiety Brings Back Victory Gardens

Americans were once urged to plant in every patch of available soil — and produced about 40 percent of the nation’s fresh vegetables.

The Counter

"A nonprofit, independent, nonpartisan newsroom investigating the forces shaping how and what America eats."

I recommend it if you're interested in the politics, trends, or business of food. Their COVID-19 coverage includes these highlights:

I’m a produce trucker. Covid-19 has made my life a logistical nightmare. | The Counter
“We are the ones delivering food to shelves. And if we stop, no one will have food.”
I run a small-town butcher shop. Covid-19 has transfomed my business—possibly forever.
We used to be a place where our community gathered. Our approach has changed in ways we never could have imagined.
With Covid-19, America’s independent cheesemakers have nowhere to sell | The Counter
With restaurants closed, survival means finding new ways to feed animals, preserve product, and bring in income until the crisis passes.
Bonus - Plague Water

The 1700s Plague Cure That Inspired an Uncannily Contemporary Cocktail

An art historian, a culinary researcher, and a Twin Cities distillery teamed up to recreate the herbaceous drink.

When Nicole LaBouff and Emily Beck first decided to create a modern version of plague water, the potent herbal liquor that early-modern Europeans believed could help prevent epidemics, they had no idea how contemporary their experiment would soon prove.

While modern doctors tend to think of food and medicine as distinct categories, for much of human history—and in many cultures today—the two categories were interchangeable.

End Notes

  • Photo of cars by William Luther - Vehicles start lining up before dawn as locals hit hard by economic effects of coronavirus seek aid from the San Antonio Food Bank.