Unsupported Conclusions

Lately I feel as though I’m drowning in a sea of unsupported conclusions whenever I read the news. Today’s winner is this article from the New York Times, which includes the statement “Americans eat many more vegetables when meals are prepared for them in restaurants than when they cook for themselves”.

I’m not going to debate the underlying causes, motivations, or possible fixes for the disastrous affair that is our current food growth and distribution system, at least not in this post.

Instead I just want to point out that:

  1. The correspondence between (food bought by restaurants) and (food bought by restaurants that is eaten by humans) is not one-to-one. The restaurant system is not zero waste.
  2. You cannot draw a conclusion about how many vegetables Americans generally eat when cooking at home vs restaurants in the context of a global pandemic. For example, consider the added anxieties people are experiencing with respect to grocery shopping:
    • I’ve seen many debates over the extent to which it is necessary to sanitize food,¬†particularly produce.¬†I’ve seen all sorts of ridiculous advice floating around, the worst of which was probably the Michigan doctor who decided all produce needed to be washed with soap*. Other advice I’ve seen is to avoid fresh produce altogether, and instead opt for frozen fruits and vegetables.
    • Lots of advice is to limit the frequency of your grocery trips to once every two weeks. This is a design choice that inherently limits how much fresh produce you’ll buy.

By the way, has anyone seen any recent figures for vegetable/fruit purchasing and consumption by ordinary people? I haven’t. I can tell you that Misfits Market has a waitlist now, because so many new people have signed up for their service and they haven’t yet been able to scale up to meet demand. A similar service, Imperfect Foods has also expressed increased demand and corresponding delivery adjustments/delays.

I’ve also seen efforts on a small scale to increase CSA/buying club availabilities to help small farmers find alternative, local markets, and I look forward to seeing what results from these and similar experiments.

Additional point with respect to #2 brought up by a friend: Let’s not forget that people are capable of growing some portion of their own produce. Victory Gardens, anyone? Even in my tiny corner of the world, I’ve seen lots of first-time gardener posts in my neighborhood groups.

*Your stomach will not thank you for consuming soap.