Celebrating Nutrition on America’s “Food Day”

Crossposted from the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project Hamburgers, pizzas, french fries, and sugary drinks-in today's fast-paced world, these foods have become staples for many Americans. But this unhealthy diet has led to an increase in chronic health problems such as obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 34 percent of adults and 17 percent of children and adolescents are now obese, staggering numbers that the organizers of Food Day, a nationwide event taking place on October 24, hope to decrease dramatically. But promoting safe, healthy and affordable food is only one aim of Food Day, which is sponsored by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit watchdog group that fights for food labeling, better nutrition, and safer food. The organizers also want to support sustainable, humane farming, and fair trading conditions. Around the United States, cities and communities are coming together to showcase the benefits of eating healthy, locally grown, and organic food. Philadelphia is organizing a city-wide event focused on ending hunger and food "deserts"-areas where healthy, affordable food is difficult to obtain. In California, organizations are building a statewide Food Day partnership to promote new food policies, and in Iowa, conferences are being held to highlight how small and mid-sized farmers can get their produce to markets. In addition to these forums and celebrations, nearly 400 individual events are being sponsored by communities, groups, and companies across the United States. These include:  

  • San Francisco. The organization savenature.org is hosting benefit dinners on October 20-22 to show how delicious earth-friendly food can be.
  • Boston. Boston Food Swap is organizing a crowd-sourced potluck-where they will provide the venue, and attendees will provide local, organic food to show that responsible food is both nutritious and tasty.
  • Phoenix. In a "Lunch and Learn" session for students and the general public, a panel of local farmers and chefs will demonstrate how they work together to provide sustainable food.
  • Universities. Events are being planned at the University of Vermont, University of Pennsylvania, University of Minnesota, University of North Carolina, New York University, Stanford, Yale, and Harvard School of Public Health, among others.

Celebrating Nutrition on America’s “Food Day”

Crossposted from the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project Hamburgers, pizzas, french fries, and sugary drinks-in today's fast-paced world, these foods have become staples for many Americans. But this unhealthy diet has led to an increase in chronic health problems such as obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 34 percent of adults and 17 percent of children and adolescents are now obese, staggering numbers that the organizers of Food Day, a nationwide event taking place on October 24, hope to decrease dramatically. But promoting safe, healthy and affordable food is only one aim of Food Day, which is sponsored by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit watchdog group that fights for food labeling, better nutrition, and safer food. The organizers also want to support sustainable, humane farming, and fair trading conditions. Around the United States, cities and communities are coming together to showcase the benefits of eating healthy, locally grown, and organic food. Philadelphia is organizing a city-wide event focused on ending hunger and food "deserts"-areas where healthy, affordable food is difficult to obtain. In California, organizations are building a statewide Food Day partnership to promote new food policies, and in Iowa, conferences are being held to highlight how small and mid-sized farmers can get their produce to markets. In addition to these forums and celebrations, nearly 400 individual events are being sponsored by communities, groups, and companies across the United States. These include:  

  • San Francisco. The organization savenature.org is hosting benefit dinners on October 20-22 to show how delicious earth-friendly food can be.
  • Boston. Boston Food Swap is organizing a crowd-sourced potluck-where they will provide the venue, and attendees will provide local, organic food to show that responsible food is both nutritious and tasty.
  • Phoenix. In a "Lunch and Learn" session for students and the general public, a panel of local farmers and chefs will demonstrate how they work together to provide sustainable food.
  • Universities. Events are being planned at the University of Vermont, University of Pennsylvania, University of Minnesota, University of North Carolina, New York University, Stanford, Yale, and Harvard School of Public Health, among others.

Back to School and Back to Good Food

Crossposted from the Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing the Planet.

As summer comes to an end, school is just around the corner for children across the United States. For children enrolled in state schools, this typically means the return of unhealthy lunches that are best described as "fast food": hamburgers, chicken nuggets, fried snacks, and sugary soft drinks. Yet school lunch programs can play a key role in reinforcing healthy eating behaviors by integrating such measures as school gardens, nutrition education, locally sourced organic food, and efforts that affirm the value of mealtimes.

Childhood obesity is a major problem in North America, where annual obesity rates have seen significant gains in recent decades. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17 percent of U.S. children and adolescents aged 2-19 are obese, nearly triple the share in 1980. Many studies document the connection between a school's food environment and dietary behaviors in children. As anyone who grew up in the U.S. public school system can attest, lunches served in the country are highly processed and high in sodium, sugar, and fat.

Initiatives that connect schoolchildren to fresh, healthy foods and that encourage healthy eating habits from a young age are critical to ending the obesity endemic. One example is the U.S.-based 30 Project, which brings together key organizations and activists working on hunger, obesity, and agriculture to talk about their visions for the food system over the next 30 years. The effort is exploring long-term solutions to address obesity and improve the food system by ensuring that everyone has easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables, among other goals.

With children preparing to begin the school year, Nourishing the Planet offers the following five solutions for schools to encourage healthy eating:


  • Connect Local Farmers to Schools: Providing locally sourced foods in school cafeterias improves diets and strengthens local economies. The U.S. state of Vermont is a leader in the nationwide Farm to School movement, which integrates food and nutrition education into classroom curricula and serves local foods in school cafeterias. Over the past decade, 60 percent of Vermont schools have joined the effort, forming a statewide network aided by the state's Agency of Agriculture, Department of Health, and Department of Education. Children benefit from farm-fresh foods for breakfast and lunch, and local farmers expand their business into a market worth over $40 million. Urban areas across the United States, from New York to Los Angeles, are also participating in this growing movement.

  • Savor Mealtimes: Emphasizing the importance of mealtimes teaches children to appreciate the value and taste of good food. France, which has one of the lowest rates of childhood obesity in Europe, takes lunch very seriously. School lunches are well funded, and every part of the meal is prepared on school grounds in professional-grade kitchens--a stark contrast to the heat-and-serve kitchens in U.S. schools. Kids from preschool to high school are served four- to five-course meals and are encouraged to take time eating and socializing with friends. At some schools, detailed menus even suggest what parents should serve their children for dinner. Soft drink and snack machines are banned from school premises.

  • Implement School Gardens: School gardens provide hands-on opportunities for children to cultivate and prepare organic produce. In the United States, REAL School Gardens creates learning gardens in elementary schools in high-poverty areas of north Texas. The organization has found that the school gardens not only nurture healthy lifestyles and environmental stewardship, but can also improve academic achievement through active participation. REAL School Gardens supports 81 schools, providing daily access to nature for more than 45,000 children and 2,700 educators.

  • Nutrition Education: The city of Chicago's public school district doesn't offer mandatory nutrition education as part of its curriculum. To fill this void, the nonprofit Communities in Schools of Chicago (CISC) connects 170 schools to volunteer professionals who run a broad range of programs that address the social, emotional, health, and enrichment needs of students. Demand for nutrition classes has almost tripled in the past four years. This is due in part to the results of a Personal Health Inventory administered by CISC to more than 5,000 students, which showed that nutrition was the lowest scoring area.

  • Equal Access to Healthy Foods: Childhood obesity disproportionately affects low-income families that may not be able to afford healthy foods. Schools in Greeley, Colorado, are taking a giant leap forward by cooking every meal from scratch. This is a much healthier alternative to the processed factory-food items that dominate school cafeterias today, and can be more cost effective for poorer school systems that take advantage of U.S. federal reimbursement rules. With 60 percent of the city's students qualifying for free or reduced-price meals, Greeley is proving that it isn't only rich school districts that can provide their children with healthy meals.


Additional Examples:


  • The Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) coordinates relationships among school cafeterias and local food producers in California's San Francisco Bay Area, bringing nutritious meals to students who might not otherwise be able to afford them.

  • The Fresh from the Farm program in Chicago conducts classroom activities such as tastings, cooking demonstrations, visits from farmers, helping in school gardens, and field trips to local organic farms.

  • Revolution Foods delivers tasty and healthy breakfasts, lunches, and snacks to schools in Colorado, California, and Washington, D.C. Many of the ingredients are organic and locally sourced, and no artificial flavors, trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup, or milk with hormones and antibiotics are used at all.

  • Seeds of Nutrition helps schools in Atlanta, Georgia, start school gardens and teach children how to prepare delicious recipes using the fruits of their labor. The group also collaborates with teachers to create cross-curricular lessons that center on gardens and food.

  • The Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, California, is a one-acre organic garden and kitchen classroom where inner-city students at a local Middle School participate in all aspects of growing, harvesting, and preparing seasonal produce.

  • New York City's enormous school district used its market power to pressure vendors to reduce food prices and eliminate unhealthy items, including fried food, artificial ingredients, and trans fats, from its cafeterias. With this welcome change, many children now enjoy fresh fruit, salad bars, whole-grain breads and pasta, and foods made with low-fat and low-sodium recipes.

  • In 2010, Italy adopted a nationwide policy to supply all school cafeterias with locally sourced organic food in an effort to curb childhood obesity and preserve culinary traditions. Seventy percent of all school cafeteria food in Rome is now organic, with ingredients coming from 400 Italian organic farms.

Obesity is an immense problem for children growing up in today's world of processed junk food, but many opportunities exist to reverse this trend. Schools are the most efficient means of transmitting healthy behavioral changes that can last a lifetime to students, families, and communities. It all starts with connecting schools to the best foods available: fresh, organic, and local.

‘Pssst. Hotdogs Ten Bucks Each’

 

                            by WALTER BRASCH

 

I walked straight ahead, looking neither right nor left in a darkened alley illuminated by a half-moon.

“Pssst.”

I quickened my pace, but there was no avoiding the shadowy figure.

“Ain’t gonna harm ya. Jus’ wanna sell ya somethin’.”

I hesitated, shaking. Stepping in front of me, he shoved a hotdog under my nose. “Ten bucks each,” he whispered ominously through his throat.

“Ten bucks?!” I asked, astonished at the cost.

“You want it or not?”

With Michele Obama (who chose to attack obesity rather than poverty, worker exploitation, or even hunger and malnutrition), supported by publicity-hungry legislators, hotdogs were the latest feel-good food to come under assault. A medical association whose members are vegans had spent $2,750 to place a billboard message near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The picture showed four grilled hot dogs sticking out of a cigarette box that had a skull and crossbones symbol on its face. An oversized label next to the box informed motorists and fans of the upcoming Brickyard 400, “Warning: Hot dogs can wreck your health.” The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine claimed that just one hot dog eaten daily increased the risk of colorectal cancer by 21 percent.

The Committee isn’t the only one destroying Americans’ rights to eat junk food. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, which seems to come up with a new toxic food every year, once declared theatre popcorn unhealthy.  Many schools banned soda machines. Back in 2011, McDonald’s reduced the number of french fries in its Happy Meal and substituted a half-order of some abomination known as applies. Even cigarette company executives, trying to look professorial at a Congressional hearing, once said that smoking cigarettes wasn’t any worse than eating Twinkies. However, smoking a Twinkie could cause heart and lung diseases, cancer, and diabetes.

Nevertheless, in Michele Obama’s second term as First Anti-Fat Lady, I was desperate for my daily fix of hot dogs, and my would-be supplier knew it. I leaped at my stalking shadowy figure with the miracle junk.

“Not so fast!” he growled, pulling the hotdog away. “Let’s see your bread.”

"I don't have any bread," I pleaded. "Not since a zoologist at Penn concluded that hummingbirds that ate two loaves of bread a day got constipation."

"Not that bread, turkey! Bread! Lettuce!"

“I haven’t eaten lettuce in three years since the government banned it for having too many pesticides, and the heads that remained were eaten by pests.”

The man closed his trench coat and began to leave.

“Wait!” I pleaded, digging into my pockets. “I’ve got change.”

He laughed, contemptuously. “That’s not even coffee money.”

“I don’t drink coffee,” I mumbled. “Not since the government arrested Juan Valdez and his donkey for being unhealthy influences on impressionable minds.”

I grabbed for his supply of hotdogs, each disguised in a plain brown wrapper, each more valuable than a banned rap record. He again pulled them away.

“I ain’t no Salvation Army. You want ’dogs, you pay for ’dogs. I got thousands who will.”

“I need a fix. You can’t let me die out here on the streets.”

“If it was just me, I'd do it. But there’s the boys. They keep the records. If I give you a ’dog and bun, and don't get no money, they’ll break two of my favorite fingers. I don't cross nobody. And I don’t give it away.”

“Please,” I begged. “I need a ’dog. It’s all I have left to live for. I don’t care about colorectal cancer. Without hotdogs, my life is over. You can't let me die out here on the streets.” He shrugged, and so I suddenly got bold. “Give me a ’dog,” I demanded, “or I’ll tell everyone you have the stuff. You won’t be able to meet the demand. The masses will tear you apart like a plump frank.”

“You wouldn’t do that to a guy just trying to make a buck, would you?”

“Two ’dogs with mustard and onions, and I keep my mouth shut. No ’dogs and I scream like a fire engine.” He had no choice.

Walking away, he stopped, turned back, and called after me—“Tomorrow. This corner. This time. Two ’dogs. Twenty bucks. I'll see you every night."

I didn’t reply. He knew he had me.

 

[Rosemary Brasch, who likes hotdogs, assisted on this column. Walter Brasch says he prefers hamburgers, but will defend to the death the right of Americans to eat what they want. His latest book is Before the First Snow, a look at a part of America, as seen by a “flower child” and the reporter who covered her story for more than three decades, beginning in the 1960s.]

 

 

‘Pssst. Hotdogs Ten Bucks Each’

 

                            by WALTER BRASCH

 

I walked straight ahead, looking neither right nor left in a darkened alley illuminated by a half-moon.

“Pssst.”

I quickened my pace, but there was no avoiding the shadowy figure.

“Ain’t gonna harm ya. Jus’ wanna sell ya somethin’.”

I hesitated, shaking. Stepping in front of me, he shoved a hotdog under my nose. “Ten bucks each,” he whispered ominously through his throat.

“Ten bucks?!” I asked, astonished at the cost.

“You want it or not?”

With Michele Obama (who chose to attack obesity rather than poverty, worker exploitation, or even hunger and malnutrition), supported by publicity-hungry legislators, hotdogs were the latest feel-good food to come under assault. A medical association whose members are vegans had spent $2,750 to place a billboard message near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The picture showed four grilled hot dogs sticking out of a cigarette box that had a skull and crossbones symbol on its face. An oversized label next to the box informed motorists and fans of the upcoming Brickyard 400, “Warning: Hot dogs can wreck your health.” The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine claimed that just one hot dog eaten daily increased the risk of colorectal cancer by 21 percent.

The Committee isn’t the only one destroying Americans’ rights to eat junk food. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, which seems to come up with a new toxic food every year, once declared theatre popcorn unhealthy.  Many schools banned soda machines. Back in 2011, McDonald’s reduced the number of french fries in its Happy Meal and substituted a half-order of some abomination known as applies. Even cigarette company executives, trying to look professorial at a Congressional hearing, once said that smoking cigarettes wasn’t any worse than eating Twinkies. However, smoking a Twinkie could cause heart and lung diseases, cancer, and diabetes.

Nevertheless, in Michele Obama’s second term as First Anti-Fat Lady, I was desperate for my daily fix of hot dogs, and my would-be supplier knew it. I leaped at my stalking shadowy figure with the miracle junk.

“Not so fast!” he growled, pulling the hotdog away. “Let’s see your bread.”

"I don't have any bread," I pleaded. "Not since a zoologist at Penn concluded that hummingbirds that ate two loaves of bread a day got constipation."

"Not that bread, turkey! Bread! Lettuce!"

“I haven’t eaten lettuce in three years since the government banned it for having too many pesticides, and the heads that remained were eaten by pests.”

The man closed his trench coat and began to leave.

“Wait!” I pleaded, digging into my pockets. “I’ve got change.”

He laughed, contemptuously. “That’s not even coffee money.”

“I don’t drink coffee,” I mumbled. “Not since the government arrested Juan Valdez and his donkey for being unhealthy influences on impressionable minds.”

I grabbed for his supply of hotdogs, each disguised in a plain brown wrapper, each more valuable than a banned rap record. He again pulled them away.

“I ain’t no Salvation Army. You want ’dogs, you pay for ’dogs. I got thousands who will.”

“I need a fix. You can’t let me die out here on the streets.”

“If it was just me, I'd do it. But there’s the boys. They keep the records. If I give you a ’dog and bun, and don't get no money, they’ll break two of my favorite fingers. I don't cross nobody. And I don’t give it away.”

“Please,” I begged. “I need a ’dog. It’s all I have left to live for. I don’t care about colorectal cancer. Without hotdogs, my life is over. You can't let me die out here on the streets.” He shrugged, and so I suddenly got bold. “Give me a ’dog,” I demanded, “or I’ll tell everyone you have the stuff. You won’t be able to meet the demand. The masses will tear you apart like a plump frank.”

“You wouldn’t do that to a guy just trying to make a buck, would you?”

“Two ’dogs with mustard and onions, and I keep my mouth shut. No ’dogs and I scream like a fire engine.” He had no choice.

Walking away, he stopped, turned back, and called after me—“Tomorrow. This corner. This time. Two ’dogs. Twenty bucks. I'll see you every night."

I didn’t reply. He knew he had me.

 

[Rosemary Brasch, who likes hotdogs, assisted on this column. Walter Brasch says he prefers hamburgers, but will defend to the death the right of Americans to eat what they want. His latest book is Before the First Snow, a look at a part of America, as seen by a “flower child” and the reporter who covered her story for more than three decades, beginning in the 1960s.]

 

 

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