• Audrey Sanchez

Reading List Suggestions for Understanding the Food System


Instead of focusing exclusively on the state of our food system, I’ve been spending some time trying to figure out how we got to this point. To that end, I’ve been reading a ton of books, peer-reviewed research, and long-form essays about the history of our food system, how industry shaped our food environment, and the resulting public health crisis associated with diet-related noncommunicable diseases.

As a former educator, I understand how important context and history are in the discussion about change and policy. So, I’ve compiled a list of books/resources, and one of my favorite quotes from each book, that folks interested in food policy and industry accountability may find useful.


A quick caveat: none of these resources is perfect in its analysis of and recommendations for an improved food system. That being said, they’re exceptional places to start and they prompt great conversation! And while they’re all available online, I was able to easily find each of the recommended books at my local library.


Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss

“Inevitably, the manufacturers of processed food argue that they have allowed us to become the people we want to be, fast and busy, no longer slaves to the stove. But in their hands, the salt, sugar, and fat they have used to propel this social transformation are not nutrients as much as weapons—weapons they deploy, certainly, to defeat their competitors but also to keep us coming back for more.”


Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal

“The avalanche of prefabbed, precooked, often portable food into every corner of American society represents the most dramatic nutritional shift in human history.”


The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor by Mark Schatzker

“Flavor factories churn out chemical desire. We spray, squirt, and inject hundreds of millions of pounds of those chemicals on food every year, and then we find ourselves surprised and alarmed that people keep eating. We have become so talented at soaking our food in fakeness that the leading cause of preventable death - smoking - bears a troubling resemblance to the second leading cause of preventable death - obesity.”


Food Politics by Marion Nestle

“This book exposes the ways in which food companies use political processes—entirely conventional and nearly always legal—to obtain government and professional support for the sale of their products. Its twofold purpose is to illuminate the extent to which the food industry determines what people eat and to generate much wider discussion of the food industry’s marketing methods and use of the political system.”


Fool Me Twice (PDF) an NDC Advocacy Report

This report offers evidence that the same unacceptable practices used by the tobacco industry are being employed by the food and alcohol mega-industries and argues that governments should consider policies to curtail such influence on public health policy. Decades of tobacco control show the alternative is millions of preventable deaths.


Next on my reading list…


Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat by Marion Nestle

The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite



What are you reading? Any suggestions for the team at Balanced?

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