Tracie McMillan's triptych of the American food system — The American Way of Eating — is based on her months of fieldwork as a fieldworker in the Central Valley, a produce stocker in Walmart, and a kitchen worker in Applebees. One of her major contributions is foregrounding food distribution networks.
The more time I spend traversing the divide between Detroit and its suburbs, the more I realize the term “food desert” isn’t quite right. Massive amounts of food floods into Detroit every single day, through its produce terminal and wholesale markets. Starting at midnight, semi after semi comes in full of produce, bringing loads from the nation’s eastern ports: Chilean plums and grapes through New York, Honduran melons through Miami. In the mid-twentieth century, Detroit had four wholesale markets, sprawling conglomerations of market stalls and loading docks where farmers and brokers sent their wares to be sold, and where stores and restaurants came to buy it; today, two remain. Other places, like thriving New York City, have seen their market districts erode as property values shot up, while the most lauded market preservation projects like Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal have focused on developing retail food shops. Either way, those cities have lost most of something that Detroit still has intact: food infrastructure.
Food pours into the city every day, and the wholesale markets here are its first way station. It’s impossible to know exactly how much comes through the Terminal and Eastern markets, though, because nobody keeps an eye on the volume of sales. (The USDA tracked wholesale market sales until the late 1990s, but stopped when private distribution centers grew so large that officials realized they only had part of the picture — and couldn’t compel private companies to divulge their sales figures.) Organizationally, markets like the Produce Terminal and Eastern Market work like shopping malls: The market provides a building and basic infrastructure, but each vendor operates independently of the market itself, and of other vendors. Compliance with food safety and fair business practices is the business of each vendor, each of whom deals individually with the government agency responsible for oversight; the market itself is little more than a landlord.
Corner stores can get deliveries from chip manufacturers or soda companies and dry goods like pasta can find their way onto shelves via jobbers, independent distributors who take a case of spaghetti to one store, three to another, and on down the line. Yet there’s never really been an equivalent for produce; corner stores typically specialize in shelf-stable items that don’t need the constant attention that a case of lettuce does, making small-scale produce distribution a dicey entrepreneurial pursuit.
In a lot of ways , it still is, but in early 2010 federal officials introduced a new coupon for WIC clients, which could only be redeemed for fruits and vegetables. In Michigan, then, any small store that makes the investment in produce has access to the $16 million market created by these new vouchers.
Peaches and Greens had launched a mobile market in 2008, opening up the store about four months later. When the WIC program changed its rules, they hit upon an idea: Instead of stocking only their own stores, they could help justify the hassle of these early morning trips by functioning as a small-scale distributor for other stores. Most of what we buy today will go to the Peaches and Greens store and truck, but when Marvin returns to the market in a couple days, he’ll be buying stock for a number of corner stores that have begun selling produce, as required by the WIC program.
Der Künstler Nikolaus Gansterer hat eines der Kernelemente des The Vienna Projects, die sogenannte Memory Map kreiert. Gansterer lebt und unterrichtet als bildender Künstler in Wien und Berlin. Nach einem Studium der Bildhauerei erschafft der 40-jährige Künstler heute Installationen und Skulpturen, wobei er bevorzugt mit ganz unterschiedlichen Materialien und Medien arbeitet.