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The Unbearable Whiteness of Milk: Food Oppression and the USDA

UC Irvine Law Review, Vol. 3, p. 1251, 2013

29 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2014  

Andrea Freeman

University of Hawai'i William S. Richardson School of Law

Date Written: 2013

Abstract

Food oppression is institutional, systemic, food-related action or policy that physically debilitates a socially marginalized group. This theory attributes racial/socioeconomic health disparities to policies and practices that appear neutral yet disproportionately harm vulnerable individuals, particularly those whose identities lie on multiple axes of oppression, including race, gender, sexual orientation, age, ability, and immigration status. Unbearable Whiteness explores this theory through the specific example of the USDA's dual role of nutrition adviser and entity responsible for the dairy surplus. The USDA's advice in the federal Dietary Guidelines led to a thirty year decline in milk sales. In response, the USDA formed a marketing branch that partners with fast food companies to increase the amount of cheese in their products. This tactic has successfully reduced the surplus and added harmful amounts of saturated fats to the diets of communities who rely primarily on fast food for nutrition in urban centers. These populations consist mainly of low-income African Americans and Latinos. Unbearable Whiteness explores how the joint actions of industry and government may lead to the creation and perpetuation of health disparities and explores legal challenges to the problem.

Keywords: food policy, critical race theory, food justice, health policy

JEL Classification: I18

Suggested Citation

Freeman, Andrea, The Unbearable Whiteness of Milk: Food Oppression and the USDA (2013). UC Irvine Law Review, Vol. 3, p. 1251, 2013. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2338749

Andrea Freeman (Contact Author)

University of Hawai'i William S. Richardson School of Law ( email )

Honolulu, HI 96822-2350
United States

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