One potential silver lining of the pandemic is repairing broken systems

An empty restaurant.
An empty restaurant.
Photo: Wes Branch via Unsplash

As the U.S. hurtles toward its first Covid winter, here’s a silver lining sentiment to temper the gloom and doom dominating the news cycle: Maybe, just maybe, all this devastation will expose the broken things in American society and create an opening to fix them.

The Great Chicago Fire gave rise to the city’s iconic skyscrapers; the blizzard of 1888 prompted New York City to take its trains and power lines underground; the Great Depression spawned FDR’s New Deal. When the current slow-motion disaster is finally behind us, what overdue changes might emerge from the wreckage?

The restaurant industry, which…


Startups, tech companies, and marketers are turning to hospitality industry gurus for their next big idea

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Illustration: Kyle Platts

When Will Guidara and Anthony Rudolf hatched the idea for a hospitality conference in 2013, theirs was a relatively modest ambition: to give their restaurant colleagues a day to share ideas and inspire one another. Rudolf had recently left a position leading operations at Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, the parent company of Per Se and the French Laundry; Guidara was then the co-owner and dining room mastermind behind the acclaimed New York City restaurant Eleven Madison Park. The chefs they worked with traveled the world for festivals and symposia, collaborating and commiserating with others at the top of their craft…


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On a recent Tuesday afternoon, Matt Barnard, the CEO of the indoor farming company Plenty, stood at the entrance of a Whole Foods in midtown Manhattan, surveying a mountain of berries.

Inbound shoppers wove around the display — a ziggurat of strawberry cartons, flanked by smaller piles of blueberries, raspberries, and cherries — stopping every so often to peel a container off the stack. In early summer, the strawberries sold here are local, sourced from farms in New York and New Jersey. But for most of the year, they come from California, where 90% of the U.S. strawberry crop is…


But even as demand increases for grass-fed milk, many producers aren’t earning a decent living

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Grazeland Jerseys photo

Jon and Miranda Powers live in a white clapboard farmhouse in a sparsely populated part of New York state where the foothills of the Adirondacks spill down toward the Erie Canal. Across from the house is a red barn, and around it, expanses of pasture broken up by the occasional cluster of poplar trees. On a cold, sunny morning in April, before the ground has begun to thaw, Jon and Miranda and I stand in the field behind their house, watching 50 woolly cows go to town on a fresh bale of hay.

Miranda, who wears jeans and a blue…


Industry experts place their bets on the supermarket of the future

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Illustration: Ilya MIlstein

The trouble with predictions about the future of food is that they usually wind up being wrong. Where, for instance, is the dog-sized cow engineered to graze in my backyard? Meals today don’t come in pill form, and despite decades of anticipation, insects haven’t replaced farm animals as a meaningful source of protein. You’ll understand why I’ve approached the question of how we’ll shop for food in the year 2069 with some amount of hesitancy.

To find my footing, I called Max Elder at the Institute for the Future, a think tank based in Palo Alto, California. Elder works as…


A dynamo young researcher has discovered that a pill could help address the loneliness epidemic and the aggression that often comes with it

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Credit: ibreakstock/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Loneliness was once seen as a minor social woe — a misfortune affecting nursing home patients and extreme introverts — but lately, researchers have begun to view it as something of a public health crisis. Loneliness seems to exacerbate dementia, diabetes, high blood pressure, even cancer. It’s as bad for one’s health as a pack-a-day smoking habit. Meanwhile, at least one in four Americans today report that they don’t feel close to people, and those numbers appear to be worsening.

Despite a growing body of research into the problem, we’re still fumbling for solutions. Treatments fall into four main categories…


The New New

Scientists are scrambling to head off one unexpected impact of climate change

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Illustration: Jordan Moss

Late in the summer of 2012, while walking his coffee groves on a hillside rising above Santa Ana, El Salvador, Mario Mendoza Corleto noticed something unusual: the leaves on some of his trees were coated with an orange fungus and had begun dropping to the ground. It was “leaf rust,” a form of blight that had pestered coffee farmers in El Salvador since the 1970s. Normally, spraying the trees with fungicide once or twice a year would keep the disease at bay. Not anymore. “This year it was totally different,” Mendoza recounted to me recently. “Spraying didn’t help.”

As the…


FUTURE HUMAN

In the fast-growing field of genetic dieting, the promises of weight loss and better health are many. Here’s how the claims stack up

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Illustration by Lan Truong

In stressful times, one of my favorite acts of self-care is to hunker down behind my desk and binge-watch TED Talks, riding the swells of emotional well-being that come along with, say, learning how David Blaine held his breath for 17 minutes underwater, or uncovering the secret power of introverts. It was in this context that I first discovered Neil Grimmer, the CEO of Habit, a company that aims to liberate humans from fad diets forever, using a concept called personalized nutrition.

Grimmer took the stage at TEDx San Francisco clad in thick-rimmed glasses and black jeans, a pair of…

Elizabeth G. Dunn

NYC-based journalist covering food + innovation. Professional writer, amateur mother. www.elizabethgdunn.com

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