Tracie McMillan

Tracie McMillan is the author of The New York Times best-seller The American Way of Eating. McMillan is currently a Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan and a senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism. You can contact her by visiting her website at

Recent Articles

As Common As Dirt

In the fields of California, wage theft is how agribusiness is done.

(Photography by David Bacon)
"As Common as Dirt" has won the 2013 James Beard Award in the Politics/Policy/Environment category. The award is the highest honor for food journalism. This article was produced in collaboration with the Food & Environment Reporting Network , an independent, nonprofit news organization producing investigative reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health. One morning earlier this year, in the borderland town of Brawley, California, 75-year-old Ignacio Villalobos perched on a chair in his trailer, removed a plastic bag from the well of a rubber boot, and finished dressing for work. Dawn was still an hour away, and in the wan light of the kitchen, Villalobos took off his house sandals and pulled the bag over his right foot. He bunched it at the ankle, then slipped his foot into his boot. “These shoes aren’t made for water,” he said, adding that morning dew and irrigation keep farm fields damp—even in the desert of the Imperial Valley where he was...

The Trouble With Food Politics

Barbara Kingsolver's new book on local and homegrown food typifies the elite class outlook that too often afflicts the politics of good eating.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver, with Camille Kingsolver and Steven L. Hopp (HarperCollins, 384 pages) On a spring morning several years ago, I made a final visit to a politicized cooking class for New York City public high school students. During earlier visits, I had watched teachers promulgate a body of then-eccentric ideas about food: the benefits of local and organic produce; the dangers of a diet based on McDonald's; the environmental destruction wrought by conventional agriculture. During those initial visits, the teens handily dismissed their lessons. One young man, after declaring his love for daily visits to McDonald's, declared simply, "I'm not going to change what I eat." I packed up my notebook, and promised to return at the end of the year to see how well the lessons had sat with a dozen poor and working-class teenagers of color. I was sure that despite the urgency of the issue at hand -- nearly half the city's public elementary...

Working, Stiffed

It's difficult to imagine a more sympathetic figure than Barbara Brooks. A full-time child care supervisor and part-time college student, Brooks is raising five kids on her own in a downmarket Long Island town. In the entire 90 minutes of Roger Weisberg's Waging a Living , a documentary about the working poor set to air on PBS on August 29, few moments resonate more than when Brooks wipes away tears to explain, “The harder I work, the harder it gets.” Premiering a week after the tenth anniversary of welfare reform, Brooks' on-screen debut also happens to fall precisely one year after Hurricane Katrina thrust poverty back into the national consciousness. This is all the more resonant when one considers the fact that only about 13 percent of Katrina's evacuees were unemployed, according to a Washington Post survey conducted of the storm's refugees in Houston shelters last September. Nonetheless, 60 percent had family incomes under $20,000 a year. Still, as Weisberg spins a...