I’d like to propose a toast… to food diplomacy! On this topic, PD scholars seem surprisingly quiet. Here are a few examples of the role food can play in PD:
1) Food as aid. While other countries send cash, America ships food around the world stamped with USA. Our method has drawn criticism from many but satisfies American agribusiness and shipping companies. Click here to see a Business Week article on the problems with America's food aid, a key element of soft power.
2) Winning hearts, minds and stomachs in other countries. According to an article in Korea’s JoongAng Daily, the popularity of Korean food abroad is (quite literally) fueling diplomatic efforts. The article mentions gifts of Kimchi to Colin Powell, "known to be a kimchi maniac." Currently, Korean officials are planning food-related events in Mexico, Dubai, and Egypt.
3) Globalization of food--accidental PD. Sasha Issenberg’s book The Sushi Economy describes the journey of sushi around the world. Sushi is often reinterpreted and recreated to match local tastes. Can favorable views of Japanese food lead to favorable views of Japan?
4) Hunger and poverty. On a more serious note, food highlights the paradoxes in our world- the challenges of abundance in some countries and the reality of chronic hunger in others. These present long-term challenges for NGOs, governments, and individuals.
I’m only scratching the surface here… health, security and energy issues are all connected to the politics of food. In fact, last summer, the LA Times did an entire series on food diplomacy.
Any other examples of food in public diplomacy?