Routledge is pleased to share with you our author Q&A session with Parke Wilde. His newly published title Food Policy in the United States is a second edition of the popular title, originally published in 2013!
This new edition offers a timely update to the leading textbook dedicated to all aspects of U.S. food policy. The update accounts for experience with policy changes in the 2014 Farm Bill and prospects for the next Farm Bill, the publication of the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the removal of Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status for trans fats, the collapse of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) treaty, stalled child nutrition reauthorization legislation, reforms in food-labeling policy, the consequences of the 2016 presidential election and many other developments. The second edition offers greater attention both to food justice issues and to economic methods, including extensive economics appendices in a new online Companion Website.
Read our Q&A interview with Parke and watch his video where he explores the question “Who should study U.S. Food Policy?”.
Congratulations on the publication of the second edition your book Food Policy in the United States. What do you want your audience to take away from the book?
The ambition of this book is to prepare readers to make a constructive difference in the world of food policy. Just as national politics in the United States has descended into a dysfunctional partisan mess, the world of food policy too often feels like trench warfare. This book gives people a chance to retreat to a quiet hilltop behind the lines and study the field from a greater distance. You may ask, how can any one person really make a difference? My response is that the principles reviewed here are useful at all levels of analysis: not just for understanding federal policy, but also for understanding policy at lower levels of government and within the many institutions that influence food policy, including firms, trade associations, and non-profit public interest organizations. With a bit of study, we can all do much better than the status quo.
What audience did you have in mind when originally writing you book?
The primary audience is graduate students and upper-level undergraduate students who seek a serious but accessible treatment of economic and political aspects of the U.S. food system. The first edition also proved useful to mid-career readers with great on-the-job knowledge of some aspects of the field, but who wished for a one-volume background source to understand things more systematically. The readership includes people in disciplines that are close to food policy (such as agricultural and applied economics) as well as people whose primary interests are further afield (such as public health and nutrition science). Both groups have strong reason to want to learn the details of U.S. food policy.
What makes your book stand out from its competitors?
This book occupies a position halfway between traditional agricultural policy textbooks and the more lively world of journalistic books on food policy controversies. For decades, agricultural policy textbooks focused on the economics of farm production, distribution, and trade, sometimes ending with just one or two chapters briefly covering the whole world of environmental and consumer issues. Food Policy in the United States strikes a different balance. It still offers a thorough account of farm policy and international food commodity trade, but it then goes on to provide a full chapter on each important public interest issue, including environmental sustainability, food safety, dietary guidance, food advertising, anti-hunger programs, and child nutrition programs.
What first attracted you to this topic as an area of study?
My first job out of college was as a reporter and editor for Nutrition Week, the scrappy publication of the Community Nutrition Institute, a small food policy advocacy organization. We covered lively controversies in anti-hunger programs, school meals programs, food safety regulation, environmental dilemmas, farm subsidies, trade disputes, and even federal commodity checkoff programs. These controversies may sound current, but that was 27 years ago! Subsequently, I earned a Ph.D. in agricultural economics from Cornell, worked 5 years as an economist for USDA’s Economic Research Service, and worked 15 years as a faculty member at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. Food policy remains endlessly fascinating.
Tell us an unusual fact about yourself and your teaching or writing style?
You may laugh, but perhaps the most unusual fact about me is that for several years I have given up flying in airplanes, as an environmental discipline. Chapter 4 in this book is about environmental constraints on food and agricultural production, including the impact of average consumption patterns for animal foods and plant foods, but the critical issue of climate change has broader implications for all aspects of our lives. I am doing a tour in March, 2018, partly in connection with the release of this second edition, entirely by Amtrak. In the same spirit, I have a personal practice of getting my nose out of my data and myself out of the office, to walk around all the U.S. cities and counties I visit, looking at local agriculture and food retail at the ground level. It brings me joy to see the profound connections between my studies as a scholar and the natural and social world that surrounds me as a human being.
You have published your second edition with Taylor and Francis. What do you like about publishing with Routledge what has encouraged you to continue working with us?
With Taylor and Francis, Routledge, and especially with the Earthscan Food and Agriculture Series, it is rewarding to offer not just a solitary monograph, but to be part of a collection of writers working and thinking about the important food and environmental issues of our times.
Parke Wilde is a food economist and professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, Boston, USA. Previously, he worked for the Community Nutrition Institute and for USDA’s Economic Research Service. He received his Ph.D. in agricultural economics from Cornell University, USA. At Tufts, Parke teaches graduate-level courses in statistics and U.S. food policy. His research addresses food security and hunger measurement, the economics of food assistance programs and federal dietary guidance policy. He is a director of the Tufts/University of Connecticut Research Innovation and Development Grants in Economics (RIDGE) Program. He has been a member of the Institute of Medicine’s Food Forum and of the research committee advising AGree, a national food policy initiative. He is on the editorial board for Applied Economics Perspectives and Policy.
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