Longtime food columnist for The New York Times, Mark Bittman is signing off. The writer delivered his final regular opinion piece in Saturday's issue, announcing that he is leaving The Times "to take a central role in a year-old food company." Bittman did not offer specifics about the start-up but described it rather vaguely as "putting philosophy into action." The columnist writes:
I've long seen myself as an activist and an advocate as well as a journalist. Although I'm eager to understand both sides of an argument, I've felt that my job was to parse an issue, get the facts right, figure out what I thought was the correct position on that issue, and express it.
Mostly I believe that I've identified the major issues facing us in the interwoven worlds of food, agriculture, nutrition and the environment. (Not that I was first, not by a long shot.) Unless I'm not reading enough, there don't seem to be any new significant issues surfacing, just the same intransigent themes that I'm going to try to take on directly as an entrepreneur.
Bittman goes on to write about the tremendous growth he's observed over the last several years in coverage of food issues. He cites the surprising progress being made on labor and school lunch programs and the lack of progress on antibiotics use in agriculture and junk food.
Bittman's weekly column launched in 2011 with a manifesto detailing how he believed Americans could improve their diets and the environment. Throughout its 5-year run the columns continued to punched holes in in the status quo of national food policy using logic, economics, and science. In 2014, the James Beard Foundation gave Bittman a Leadership Award for "using his international platform... to educate consumers about healthier food choices." Prior to starting his column, Bittman regularly presented simple recipes through Times Video and contributed many more to The Times' cooking site. Most recently, he visited the West Coast to produce the web series California Matters in partnership with the Berkeley Food Institute that looked at everything from LA's Chinese food scene to urban foraging. Bittman plans to reveal more details about his new venture soon.