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Food Fights: The War Over Consumers’ Stomachs

Chart showing major food groups.
National Archives, photo 44-PA-798B

Industrialization introduced a new system for how Americans produce and consume food. During the 19th century, people left farms to work in factories. Those factories created high-calorie, low-quality food, which was distributed nationally through the advent of canning and refrigerated rail cars. Low-wage workers were essential to keeping prices low.

In the book “Food Fights: How History Matters to Contemporary Food Debates” (UNC Press/2019) scholars discuss the complexities of America’s food and food system. Some essays reveal the unmet promises of genetically modified foods and tackle the failures of food activism and agricultural labor unions. Others are less critical: An essay from Peter Coclanis, the director of the Global Research Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, highlights the successful advances of American agriculture and the entrepreneurial spirit of American farmers.

Charles C. Ludington co-edited the book and joins host Frank Stasio to talk about everything from industrial agriculture to food activism. Ludington is a teaching associate professor in the history department at North Carolina State University.

Dana is an award-winning producer who began as a personality at Rock 92. Once she started creating content for morning shows, she developed a love for producing. Dana has written and produced for local and syndicated commercial radio for over a decade. WUNC is her debut into public radio and she’s excited to tell deeper, richer stories.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.