Thinly sliced: Soylent’s next move? Snacks

This is the web version of a list we publish twice-weekly in our newsletter. It comprises the most noteworthy food stories of the moment, selected by our editors. Get it first here.

“Make it Grain.” The Nation posted a lengthy exploration of the burgeoning Sweetgreen empire, and how the fast-casual company has heavily relied on hip-hop marketing tropes since its (relatively) recent founding. Perhaps to no one’s real surprise, the beloved farm-to-table lunch staple isn’t actually situating its franchises in the neighborhoods where hip-hop is most influential. A little reporting revealed that Sweetgreen shops are located in 95 percent majority-white neighborhoods. Cue record scratch.

Solid food. For a while there, it felt like we were done with Soylent. Save for the occasional think piece pointing out that it’s essentially Slimfast for 30-year-old men, the company seemed to be expanding quietly and without much fuss. On Thursday, all of that changed: Soylent announced its expansion into solid food with its 100-calorie “mini meal,” a somehow-disrupted version of a square-shaped protein bar. Actual subhed from the glowing New York Times writeup, where the reporters didn’t seem to question why “mini meal” is the appropriate terminology where “snack” might do the trick: “What is food?”

Surf wars. Maine lawmakers want to establish a task force on aquaculture sustainability that is expected to recommend a reduction in coastal farming leases. That would likely appease lobstermen, who have long felt that oyster farmers were encroaching on their traditional harvesting territory. At the same time, the recommendation may disappoint oyster farmers, who believe that the growth of Maine’s aquaculture industry should be encouraged. The Bangor Daily News has the story.

Take a hike. Harri, a hospitality hiring company, says rising minimum wages have forced one in 10 restaurateurs to close. In a new survey of 4,000 restaurants, over 40 percent of respondents said they cut positions, over 60 percent reduced employees’ hours, and over 70 percent raised menu prices. What else? Two percent of them eliminated tipping. The survey doesn’t reveal where these restaurants are located, but the findings were first announced at aNew York City restaurant industry conference, Restaurant Business reports.

SNAPFU. Two years ago, thousands of SNAP users in Washington, D.C. lost their benefits after the local health department transitioned to a new computer system and gummed up the works. The ensuing lawsuit is still making its way through the courts. But a new contemporary art installation called Transaction Denied uses dozens of receipts from failed SNAP purchases to depict the real-life consequences of that civic tech project gone terribly wrong. Citylab has the story of two UX designers who are memorializing the government’s faulty IT efforts in a D.C. food pantry slated for demolition.

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