Women in Food: Journalist Jane Black Looks for ‘Solutions’
September 9, 2014 | Morgan Bulger
This piece is the part of a Seedstock series profiling women who are leading change in sustainable agriculture and local food. Read more profiles here.
As writer of the Smarter Food column for the Washington Post, among many other outlets, Jane Black has been a prolific journalist on topics of food, food politics, and sustainable agriculture. She has made it her career to broaden the discussion around the creation of a more sustainable food system, by taking culture and scale into consideration. Seedstock recently had the opportunity to speak with Jane to discuss her career so far, the path she took to get there, and what’s next in the pipeline for her career.
“The idea for the Smarter Food column really came from my reporting,” Jane explains, “I wanted to look at what was not getting a lot of coverage; the nitty gritty stuff that needs to happen to make real change.”
Jane focuses on what she calls “solutions journalism,” profiling businesses and organizations that are creating sustainable solutions to the various problems within the food system. The Washington Post Food section for which Jane was a staff writer, won the James Beard Award for the best newspaper food section in both 2009 and 2010. Jane was also recognized by the Association of Food Journalists for her feature writing and essay writing, and has won awards from Les Dames D’Escoffier, and the City and Regional Magazine.
In a time when so many writers and journalists are succumbing to click-bait and soundbites, Jane has made her career out of exploring stories untold, and telling them in full. One of the biggest challenges for Jane has been getting people to care about unsexy topics like distribution, scale, and cultural factors impacting the way people eat.
Jane attributes her success to her genuine love of food and eating. In addition to the thrill of writing about food politics and other tough topics, she also enjoys getting to meet a new chef, try a new vegetable, or enjoy a delicious meal. Without this love of food, Jane asserts, it would not be possible to do what she does.
“You have to love food and these issues more than anything else.” she says. “I think about food all day. If you want to be a food journalist you have to be thinking it, eating it, and breathing it.”
Jane started her career by writing international news and technology reporting pieces for BBC and Businessweek Online before attending the Leiths School of Food and Wine for culinary school. She was then hired as the food editor for Boston Magazine, where she worked until she was hired as a staff writer for The Washington Post. Her work has also been featured in the Huffington Post, the New York Times, the Atlantic, Food & Wine, and New York Magazine.
Jane is now in progress on a book inspired by the filming of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution in Huntington, West Virginia, and the cultural implications and factors that affect the way we eat. The book hopes to explore broader topics of American cultural traditions surrounding food and eating, with the intention of making the conversation surrounding changing eating behaviors more inclusive.
When asked what impact she hopes to have through her writing, Jane laughs.
“Every journalist wants to change the world right?,” she chuckles. “I hope to educate and inform, and try to expand the debate into areas that don’t get a lot of ink.”