The Food Chain examines the business, science and cultural significance of food, and what it takes to put food on your plate.
Coronavirus: Obesity's defining moment?
Emily Thomas asks whether the coronavirus pandemic will turn out to be the defining moment in the fight against obesity. Will we see governments take radical action, now that the pandemic has turned the spotlight on this growing global problem? And why hasn’t the pandemic made most of us eat more healthily?
Even experts have been surprised by just how strong an impact obesity has been found to have on the risks of coronavirus. We hear from Professor Barry Popkin, of the University of North Carolina, who led a major study into the relationship between the two. He tells us he’s worried that food companies are using the pandemic to push ultra processed food on low-income populations.
Professor Corinna Hawkes, of City, University of London, explains how obesity policy became personal in the UK after Boris Johnson caught the virus.
And Jacqueline Bowman-Busato, Policy Lead for the European Association for the Study of Obesity, tells us how her own experience of living with obesity has led her to lobby for changes in how obesity is viewed and treated. She says the pandemic has provided a much needed wake up call on a neglected and misunderstood public health issue.
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(Picture: Fat cells, Credit: Getty Images/BBC)
The preppers and the pandemic
Preppers have been preparing for a global emergency like coronavirus for years, stocking up supplies just in case society was ever brought to a standstill. So when our food systems began to buckle under the pressure of the pandemic, were they sitting pretty, and has this much ridiculed community now been vindicated?
Emily Thomas revisits some preppers she first met three years ago to see how they’ve been coping since the crisis hit. Pete Stanford tells her he didn’t need to join the supermarket scramble for food in the first weeks of lockdown, but the crisis has made him rethink the way he preps and how much he’s willing to share. Lincoln Miles tells us he’s had a flood of new customers to his prepping shop, but that even he wasn’t prepared for the spike in demand.
And we speak to a prepping newcomer, New York Times reporter Nellie Bowles, who’s gone from ridiculing this community to believing that being prepared is the socially responsible thing to do.
(Picture: A man with a backpack and axe in the forest. Credit: Getty Images/BBC)
The fertiliser that blew up Beirut
Following the Beirut explosion, we’re exploring the chemical that caused the blast - ammonium nitrate. It’s something many of us will have come across before, it’s in some of our antibiotics and used to feed yeast but it’s most commonly sold as a fertiliser. Graihagh Jackson examines how this substance has changed the world - feeding millions on the one hand, and fuelling warfare, pollution and biodiversity loss on the other.
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(Picture: Ammonium nitrate on petri dish. Credit: Getty Images/BBC)
Margarita Forés: My life in five dishes
She was born into one of the most prominent and wealthy families in the Philippines, but life has not been easy for Margarita Forés.
She was forced to flee her country during President Ferdinand Marcos’ military dictatorship, she battled bulimia as a young woman and has overcome cancer twice. She tells Graihagh Jackson how cooking has helped her cope with some of her toughest challenges, offered a way to win her family’s approval, and helped her prove to herself that she could make it on her own.
Now an award-winning chef and owner of Cibo, a successful chain of restaurants in her home country, she made her mark by blending Filipino ingredients with Italian cooking techniques, after falling in love with the country whilst at a cookery school there.
And she has set her sights on pushing for Filipino food to be internationally recognised, whilst championing local farmers and their ingredients.
(Photo: Margarita Forés. Credit: Margarita Forés/BBC)
Sean Sherman: My life in five dishes
After decades of racism, persecution and forced assimilation, Native Americans had lost many of their traditional foods and recipes. Award-winning chef Sean Sherman has made it his life’s mission to bring them back from the brink of extinction.
He tells Graihagh Jackson about a “feral” childhood spent on a vast reservation in South Dakota, USA, and how his impoverished community was forced to rely on highly processed, government-supplied commodity foods, which he says have had serious and long-term health implications for his people.
A successful but highly stressful career running restaurant kitchens pushed him to the point of burnout – he explains how a recuperation mission to Mexico led to an epiphany about his own food heritage and a meticulous effort to revive it and rid it of colonial influences.
He’s since written an award-winning cookbook, set up a non-profit to educate others about North America’s native cuisines, plans to open a restaurant next year, and tells us he wants to make his indigenous food movement a global one.
(Picture: Sean Sherman. Credit: Heidi Ehalt/BBC)
Food media's moment of reckoning?
When a misguided halloween costume resurfaced on social media in June - no one could have predicted the events that ensued. It ignited a twitter storm about racism in food writing and led ultimately to the resignation of two food editors at major US publications. Graihagh Jackson hears from the whistleblower at the centre of the controversy and from critics of mainstream food media, who say myopic, white-washed and problematic representations of food are all-too-common. We hear from people trying to change the status quo and ask if this is the moment of reckoning the industry needs.
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(Picture: Letters on a chopping board. Credit: Getty Images/BBC)