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CSI Professor Bets the Farm

December 04, 2012

CSI Associate Professor Frederick Kaufman addresses the quality of the world's food supply in his latest book.

Frederick Kaufman sets out to discover the connection between the global food system and why the food on our tables is getting less healthy and less delicious, even as the world’s biggest food companies and food scientists say things are better than ever, in his recent book Bet the Farm: How Food Stopped Being Food, published in October 2012 by Wiley.

As an English professor at the College of Staten Island and a food journalist, Kaufman continues to provoke the controversy started with his recent cover story for Harper’s, “The Food Bubble,” which led to appearances on the NBC Nightly News, MSNBC, Fox Business Channel, Democracy Now, and Bloomberg TV. 

Kaufman’s investigation leads him to the front lines of the food supply system and food politics as he visits farms, food science research labs, agribusiness giants, the United Nations, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, and more. 

“I had been a food writer for many years when I came to realize that the issue was no longer food, but not enough food. Why were a billion people on Earth going hungry, when there was more than enough to eat?” Kaufman said about his impetus to write the book. 

Kaufman’s attempt to find out who is behind the current food crises began by looking at fast-food pizza. His simple quest to find out how Domino’s manages to make the same pizza everywhere while keeping prices affordable led him to follow the trail left by mozzarella makers, tomato farms, and eventually CEOs. 

Dr. Kaufman followed up the publication of his book by speaking at an event co-hosted by the Library Archives & Special Collections and the Greener Library Committee entitled, “How Food Stopped Being Food.”  As in the book, Kaufman revealed that money pouring into the global derivatives market in grain futures is having astonishing consequences that reach far beyond your dinner table, including the Arab Spring, bankrupt farmers, starving masses, and armies of scientists creating new GMO foods with U.S. marketing and shipping needs in mind instead of global nutrition.

Frederick Kaufman is an Associate Professor of English and Journalism at the College of Staten Island and at CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism. Kaufman’s nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Sunday Book Review, New York magazine, Harper’s, The New Yorker, Gourmet, Gentleman’s Quarterly, Interview, Spin, Spy, Aperture, Allure, Publisher’s Weekly, The Village Voice Literary Supplement, and numerous other publications. His previous book, A Short History of the American Stomach (Harcourt), won the Gourmand World Cookbook Award for “Best Culinary History Book” in 2008. Other books include Manuel Alvarez Bravo: Photographs and Memories, and the novel 42 Days and Nights on the Iberian Peninsula with Anís Ladrón. Documentary film writing credits include Fast Pitch, the grand prize winner of the Nashville International Film Festival. Kaufman received his BA from Yale and a PhD in English from The Graduate Center, CUNY.

By Carlo Alaimo

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