Ruin Their Crops on the Ground: The Politics of Food in the United States, from the Trail of Tears to School Lunch (Hardcover)

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The first and definitive history of the use of food in United States law and politics as a weapon of conquest and control, a Fast Food Nation for the Black Lives Matter era

In 1779, to subjugate Indigenous nations, George Washington ordered his troops to “ruin their crops now in the ground and prevent their planting more.” Destroying harvests is just one way that the United States has used food as a political tool. Trying to prevent enslaved people from rising up, enslavers restricted their consumption, providing only enough to fuel labor. Since the Great Depression, school lunches have served as dumping grounds for unwanted agricultural surpluses.

From frybread to government cheese, Ruin Their Crops on the Ground draws on over fifteen years of research to argue that U.S. food law and policy have created and maintained racial and social inequality. In an epic, sweeping account, Andrea Freeman, who pioneered the term “food oppression,” moves from colonization to slavery to the Americanization of immigrant food culture, to the commodities supplied to Native reservations, to milk as a symbol of white supremacy. She traces the long-standing alliance between the government and food industries that have produced gaping racial health disparities, and she shows how these practices continue to this day, through the marketing of unhealthy goods that target marginalized communities, causing diabetes, high blood pressure, and premature death.

Ruin Their Crops on the Ground is a groundbreaking addition to the history and politics of food. It will permanently upend the notion that we freely and equally choose what we put on our plates.

About the Author

Andrea Freeman, a pioneer in the field of food politics, is a professor at Southwestern Law School. A Fulbright scholar and author of Skimmed: Breastfeeding, Race, and Injustice, Freeman has published and appeared in the Washington Post, Salon, The Takeaway, Here & Now, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Black Agenda Report, and more. She lives in Los Angeles.

Praise For…

"A sweeping, whistle-stop tour of U.S. history . . . Ripe with sharp analysis and fresh ideas . . . Readers will relish this piquant new perspective on America’s political relationship with food."
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

"Freeman takes a hard look at the history of America’s agriculture and food distribution policies and finds them riddled with political corruption, inefficiency, racism, classism, and greed."

"A useful reminder that food can oppress, coerce, and undermine the bodies and aspirations of vulnerable minorities."

"Ruin Their Crops on the Ground nourishes readers with jaw-dropping stories and revelatory data about the use of food as a tool of oppression. This passionate book enlightens and enrages. A glass of milk will never be the same."
—Paul Butler, author of Chokehold: Policing Black Men

"With superb research and a compelling narrative, Andrea Freeman has pulled back the curtain on this country's use of food as a tool in fostering racism, discrimination, and inequity."
—Michael Moss, author of Hooked: Food, Free Will, and How the Food Giants Exploit Our Addictions

"Ruin Their Crops on the Ground adds a critical yet overlooked dimension to the history of U.S. economic and racial oppression, exposing policies rooted in slavery and colonialism that have long targeted marginalized communities. Today, far from securing the nation's health, the government enriches corporations by subsidizing unhealthy food production while saddling disenfranchised groups with nutrition-related diseases and blame for their supposedly bad choices. This eye-opening book will change your view of food and its contribution to America's profound inequalities."
—Dorothy Roberts, author of Killing the Black Body

Product Details
ISBN: 9781250871046
ISBN-10: 1250871042
Publisher: Metropolitan Books
Publication Date: July 16th, 2024
Pages: 272
Language: English