Nutrition faces a racial reckoning

The nutrition science field faces a racial reckoning, while Latin America faces a malnutrition crisis. And when will publishing pay Black authors? Meanwhile, education philanthropists get serious about racial justice and an Indigenous coast guard is poised to save Canada’s shores.

But first, here’s your socially distanced Hanukkah/Chanukah week in review, in Haiku.

The light is still here.
Enjoying Mama’s latkes,
while missing Mama.

The light is still here.
Candle by candle, one by
one, from a distance

The light is still here.
As are the stories of all
the wonderous deeds.

The light is still here.
The sweets are still sweet, the songs
can still delight us

though we are apart.
A plague cannot extinguish
the light: It’s in us.

Wishing you a hopeful and illuminating weekend, and a sweet holiday to all who celebrate.

Ellen McGirt

On Point

Re-thinking white bread nutrition Does it matter that the dietician profession is predominantly white? Yes, says dietician Jessica Wilson, who was once the only Black student in her dietetics program at the University of California, Davis. Long bullied for her body shape, she found herself joining an industry that shamed “ethnic diets” and found the patients she treated, many of whom were people of color, immigrants or identified as queer, feeling erased by the recommended food remedies.“It makes people feel so guilty for not being able to eat what Goop would recommend,” she told the New York Times. “I was no longer able to use the tools that had been given to me in school with good conscience.” With a new focus on nutrition, inclusive dietitians are finding new ways to counsel patients using foods they love with respect for their backgrounds.
New York Times

Latin American countries face an epidemic of malnutrition A new report from the United Nations that analyzes Latin American food security for the five years ending in 2019, finds that the number of people experiencing hunger in the region has been steadily growing. In the age of COVID, it’s likely to get much worse. "If the projections we have of the impact of the pandemic occur, we could be going back to the [malnutrition] levels of the 1990s,” Julio Berdegué, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization's regional representative, told NPR. “We could lose 30 years in the fight against hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean. This is what we are talking about. It is a tragedy of unfathomable magnitude for millions of human beings." You can read the report in Spanish here.

Racial justice is now a top goal in education philanthropy A new survey of foundations conducted by Grantmakers for Education finds that nearly 40 percent of the foundations surveyed said that racial justice in education should be the primary focus of philanthropy over the next three-year period. It’s a significant stake in the ground: Some 24 percent said that K-12 education improvements should be prioritized; 17 percent said post-high-school workforce and college success was most important; creating and maintaining an equitable society came in at 14 percent; and civic education came in at 5 percent. “Our members have felt the call to action of the racial-justice reckoning that is happening right now and are very interested in being supportive of that and thinking about the ways that translates to support schools,” the executive director of Grantmakers for Education says.
Chronicle of Philanthropy

It’s time to pay Black authors In the aftermath of the eye-opening Twitter thread #PublishingPaidMe, which laid bare the shocking disparity in book advances offered to white and Black authors (here’s an example involving bestselling author Roxane Gay), the New York Times crunched the numbers after a year when a few books by Black authors became runaway bestsellers. Just how many Black authors are there, and how are they faring? “Of the 7,124 books for which we identified the author’s race, 95 percent were written by white people,” they find. “[W]e were shocked by the extent of the inequality once we analyzed the data.”
New York Times

Canada’s first Indigenous coast guard is already saving lives The British Columbia-based Coastal Nations Coast Guard Auxiliary is newly on the job and have been deftly translating their deep knowledge of the environment into successful rescue missions. Five nations—Ahousaht, Heiltsuk, Gitxaala, Nisga’a and Kitasoo—comprise Canada’s first Indigenous coast guard auxiliary. While it's newly operational, they were part of a four-year plan from Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan to preserve and protect the country’s coastline. Come for the heart-pounding rescue tales, stay for the inclusive vision.
The Narwhal

On background

Meet the descendants of formerly enslaved people who live in Mexico Eighty-six year old Lucia Vazquez Valdez is part of the Mascogo tribe in Northern Mexico. Her people fled slavery in the mid-nineteenth century, across a barely remarkable border. While she speaks almost entirely Spanish, she still sings hymns in English, a remnant of an earlier time. The Washington Post has put together an enormously moving portrait of Valdez and the little village that holds a key to our own troubled past: Nacimentos de los Negros, or Birth of the Blacks. She is the oldest member of her tribe, and the youngest among them, fully Mexican now, migrate back across the border to find agricultural work.
Washington Post

When you’re born a problem Susan Harness was just a girl, an American Indian girl, when she was taken away from her mother and given to a white family to raise. She was part of the “Indian Problem” as defined by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Forced assimilation was the only way forward. But for Harness and thousands of other adoptees – including three of her siblings from whom she was separated – it was a path to permanent alienation. “I felt stupid, inept and ‘less than’ in the white world; I felt shame,” she writes in this essay about her book Bitterroot: A Salish Memoir of Transracial Adoption. And the experience of forced removal has cemented ugly stereotypes, says the author and cultural anthropologist. "We are remembered for not being white enough… We are remembered for being poor and costing the government too much money… We are remembered for being too broken to raise our own children.”
High Country News

What makes Taika tick? Fans were delighted to learn that Oscar and BAFTA winner Taika Waititi had been tapped to write a feature script expanding the Star Wars universe. (Here’s all the Disney investor day news in one place.) Waititi has been such a refreshing, creative voice, so I went looking for more of his maker philosophy, which I found in this wonderful TEDx talk from 2010. It’s as much a standup performance as it is a master class in harnessing your own creativity. “I’m attracted to the idea of the outsider,” he says. “A lot of the themes in my work is exploring this idea of people who don’t belong.” He’s attracted to anyone who looks at the world through an unspoiled, innocent point of view. And don’t be afraid to have some damn fun. “If I can try and make it fun, that’s for me what being creative is all about. Looking at life through the eyes of a child.” Waititi says he came from a background where people told him he had to have one job, and do one thing, for the rest of his life. “I wanted to try everything.”
TEDx Doha

raceAhead is edited by Aric Jenkins.

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