Posts Tagged ‘obesity’

Food Access Solutions: Urban Ag, Local Food, Community Development

Sometimes it’s hard to know if you are seeing something that is actually happening. Sometimes it’s hard to know if our own interests, backgrounds, experiences and lessons are shaping what is going on around us to the point where we are, in a sense, creating our own reality—or if our reality is largely the same as what is actually taking place—that is, if our reality is the same as other people’s realities.

I will eventually make more clear what I mean by this. I hope.

Panel Event: Food Access Solutions

On Friday, I spent a good part of my day at a panel-focused event titled, “Food Access Solutions: Urban Agriculture, Local Food & Community Development.” It was held in a large auditorium in a great new building in Southeast D.C., and there were about fifty of us there to see and hear experts in the field shed some light on the issue of healthy food access and sustainable community development.

Throughout the past eight months or so, I have been surrounded by this food debate. Meanwhile, the food debate has been raging, unbeknownst to me, for decades. Though I feel like this year it has hit critical mass. Meanwhile, it has taken me all this time to put the pieces together and realize that everything that’s going on isn’t really about food. The food issue is merely a symptom of a wider issue of a shift in our cultural values. Namely, that people are craving human connection, are dying for a sense of community, whether or not they realize it. Not to be dramatic, but regardless of where we live or what social class we belong to, we have become slaves (the concept of “food freedom” was discussed at length) to a commercialized, industrialized, profit-driven society that doesn’t cultivate mutual respect or promote equity, and ultimately devalues the natural resources we depend on. Consumerism has replaced consumer-power, as Robert Egger said during the panel. This causes us to devalue our neighbors, friends and family, who depend on those resources along with us. And what the current food revolution is about is fixing this broken value system, through tactics that help to chip away at the symptoms of it, with the hope that eventually the problem itself will begin to reverse.

FYI, here is who was there:

There is a lot worth mentioning and talking about from the panel, but in the interest of keeping this somewhat brief, here are just a few questions that I think elicited the most interesting responses, along with my commentary.

Who do you think is missing from this conversation and this panel today?

Ahh. I appreciated this opening question. Some answers included: city planners, very young people (kindergartners, elementary and middle school students), grocery stores/retailers. I also think that we need government officials (from FDA, USDA) included in the debate, as well as politicians, as these are the people that are helping to shape the policy which determines how our food system functions.

What are some possible solutions?

I was really surprised to find that the majority of the discussion focused on local community efforts that can be made, rather than wide-scale policy changing. I think the general feeling was that a bottom-up approach, rather than a trickle-down approach, may be what we need to rely on, at least to start, in order to motivate changes. In a way, this makes some sense, because if you can mobilize people in pockets all around the country, or world, you can really have an impact–but if you spend your money and efforts targeting a government who ultimately is only serving its financial interests and the interests of the people, nothing can change. You have to change the interests of the people first, and then, if there is a legitimate government, it should follow suit and work to align with those interests. Some ideas that the panelists included:

  • Using music, games, activities at farmers markets to draw more people to them, as well as offering the markets more often and at different times.
  • Urban agriculture methods. So think city/community gardens. AU has one, window farming, roof farming, hydroponics, etc. (I have a o going up soon about these methods in more details, so stay tuned.)
  • Food producers need to reach out more to the existing small corner markets and stores and get their fresh produce there.
  • Making more farmers markets available to under-served communities.
  • Programs like Farm to School, which involve more people, young people especially, in the act of growing their own food from an early age, so they appreciate it more.
  • Making food a more inherent part of our culture, something that we pride ourself on, enjoy the taste of, and would rather spend time with than other consumer endeavors.
  • Shifting the power from large corporations back into the communities, because if you bring a local food economy somewhere, you will build up their economy in general, produce more jobs, and make the community better able to weather the storm when crises occur.

Open Q&A

During the question and answer session, many stood to offer their accolades to the speakers. One young woman, around my age, who works at the Earth Day Network, stood to ask how she, as a middle-class white girl with a passion for the causes of community development and fighting hunger and providing healthy food to those in need—can do without just playing that role of the rich, white girl swooping in to “save” the struggling black community. Malik talked about how we need to stop looking at the issue as one where we are “saving” people, but instead, empowering them. He also said that there are countless nonprofit organizations that start up and go into these communities to help them, but instead of then employing the actual citizens of these communities, the organization leaders hire their other white friends. If we expect to empower people, we must include them in the processes that seek to empower, instead of keeping them on the outside, working minimum wage jobs. But he also mentioned that members of the black community have to “step up,” as he put it, and become active in that sort of work in order to allow themselves to be empowered.

I asked a pretty specific question. I wanted to hear more about how to incorporate the large family farm operations in this discussion, and what role those large commodity crop growers could play toward making healthier food more accessible while reducing the impact that their food has on the world from a greenhouse gas perspective (industrial livestock raising, nutrient soil depletion from not rotating crops, the fuel used to create fertilizers, the fuel used to transport food). I hate to say I didn’t really get an answer to that question–so then I asked how Michael, the farmer on the panel, managed to transform the corn/tobacco operation that once existed into his livestock/vegetable farm which exists today. His answer was, “very slowly.” He also said he relied on a lot of community support for it to happen. I’m not sure if that meant financial support or just support of them buying his food. It wasn’t really enough of an answer for me. So we chatted for a bit after and I got his contact information.

After, I was talking with a girl there who had interned at National Family Farm Coalition. I told her how I was interested in learning more about how to find that balance between being able to grow more fruits and vegetables in places where nature allows them to grow, without pitting large farmers against small farmers. In a sense, how to take away the whole “if you can afford small farm food, that’s great–but if you can’t, there’s factory farming which can provide you cheaper, less nutritious food.” I wanted to know what he had done, in order to use his as a case study for other projects. But his situation was not entirely the same as many large-scale farms across the country. Anyhow, the girl, who was about my age, said something worth noting, which amounted to basically, “If everyone always waited around for someone else to provide a model for how to do something, nothing would ever get done.”

Our Collective Reality

Here is where I am coming from in this discussion. I am a privileged, white girl from a middle-class family who has received an amazing education from a private institution; who has never been forced to miss a meal in her life; who never had to stow away food handed out in elementary or middle school during state-wide exam days or after school activities so I could bring it home to feed my family for dinner; who knows what self-induced starvation feels like, but has never once opened the refrigerator or the pantry only to find that there is not one thing to eat; who knows what healthy food is and what it isn’t and never once has had a problem getting somewhere that offers that food and being able to afford it.

I walked away from this panel finally feeling justified in my thinking of this whole movement as a big deal. It’s not a trend; it will go down in history books. We have to all do what we can to make sure that this is a turning point for the better instead of the worse.

I also walked away from this panel and counted the number of people who would be considered obese as I walked toward the metro station. I sat down on a seat on the train facing one such person, a young black mother and her, I assume, toddler son. He was adorable in his vintage-looking Mickey Mouse t-shirt and Nike sneakers. She was feeding him snacks from a couple plastic baggies, one of which appeared to be filled with sugar cookies and the other with Fruit Loops cereal. And after watching them for a few minutes, watching him eating and giggling and playing, completely ordinary interactions—I felt completely overwhelmed with the strangest combination of despair and hope.

I live a completely different life than the people who are being affected most negatively by our food system. I’m sure I live a completely different life than the mother and her son on the metro, and though our immediate, personal realities are quite different, when it comes down to it, we face the same threats, and our collective reality, as humans, remains the same. This should be what unites us in the struggle.

Tambra Stevenson, a panelist from the DC Food Justice Coalition, reminded us of Harriet Tubman’s famous quote, which I feels ties this entry up nicely: “I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”


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Putting “health” back in “health care”

Two weeks ago (geez, has it really been that long?!), Obama signed off on the health care bill. Meaning a whole lot of different things. At the time it passed, I asked my tweeps to give me their two cents on the health care bill.

Some opinions

“It isn’t about you (or me), mostly. Well, not at least until you turn 26, and/or get a job, or are determined to have a pre-existing condition. It’s about people our parents always taught us to help, those less fortunate, those we serve on Christmas Eve morning, at kitchens during the week. People we feel for, and want job training to help. Now, it also helps millions more without work, with cancer, diabetes. It opens a market with a serious competitor, not unlike Sams Club or Wal-Mart, it opens States to competition, it makes insurance companies less greedy.” – Dave

“We were the only rich country that didn’t ensure that its citizens have health insurance; now we’re not.” – John

Katharine at From A to Pink, who suffers with Cystic Fibrosis, directed me to the provisions in the bill that can help those with chronic disorder, like CF. The bill help people like her across the country who previously were denied coverage due to their pre-existing conditions.

“I don’t think insurance companies nor the government need to be involved in health care. Consumers pay doctors directly, costs decrease.” – John

“I do think health reform is needed- costs for doctors, patients and insurance companies are outrageous, but I don’t think this current bill is tackling the main problems like malpractice, the food system and preventative care. Also what scares me more, not just about the bill, but our government system in general, is how the bill got passed. I felt it got pushed too quickly and not thought out for the public, but for the politicians to get re-elected or liked by Obama. If it was written well, with a democratic majority, it should have been passed easily months ago, but even now, it barely passed and that scares me when it’s so expensive and might not comprehensive or helpful to us.” – Jacquie

“We have no money left. One day, someone will have to pay for this. Oh, and Obama’s a socialist.” – Charlie

“Health care bill…meh. It’s passed, so I’m going to have to get over my disagreement and hope it works out for the best!” – Gabrielle, at Une Vie Siene

Photo credit: adrianclarkmbbs

My opinion

At first glance, it appears that Obama’s health care bill has divided Americans into two separate camps: those opposed to it, who are focused on the economic toll it will have on the country—and those for it, who are focused on the obligation we have to make sure everyone has health care, regardless of  inability to pay or pre-existing conditions.

I feel like there are bits and pieces of all of these arguments I can agree with. The moralist in me sees that health care reform is needed while the pragmatist in me sees that it will be expensive and will not get at the heart of the problem. Maybe it’s pointless to talk in hypotheticals. I don’t think it is, though. And I finally have an opinion of my own about this whole thing (and sorry it has taken me so long to get around to posting it!)…

As is customary in this country, the government has focused on dealing with the problem (unaffordable health care and too many uninsured), which always creates more problems, instead of using tactics to prevent health problems in the first place. I know not all health care is treatment care, a lot of it is preventative care or care for illness that could not have been prevented—care such as annual check-ups, vaccinations, insulin injections for people born with Type 1 diabetes, treatment for cancers, autoimmune or other chronic disorders and a slew of other problems, not to mention treatment for accident-related injuries.

However, there are still too many health care dollars that are spent cleaning up messes that should have never been made in the first place. I found this article in Grist recently. Dr. Matthew Nisbet, who actually teaches at AU, was interviewed in a piece called, “Why aren’t climate scientists talking about health care reform?” I found it to be an interesting piece, and it is true. The climate change advocates aren’t really putting as much effort into drawing the connection between our human health and global warming. But I think this issue very similarly mirrors the gap that I see in the health care debate between “health/fitness/wellness” and “health care.” And why is there such a gap? Why is “health” sitting in one corner of the room while “health care” sits in another? It’s almost like when we, as individuals, think of “health” we think of all the personal actions we make to improve our health, while “health care” is the bureaucratic (and therefore often flawed) process we go through for the stuff we can’t take care of on our own. Why isn’t this relationship more interconnected?

My recommendations

  • Gym memberships Apparently, there are some health insurance companies that give rebates, discounts, or even free gym memberships. I doubt mine does. (But I guess I should check before I speak…no matter anyhow, as I have a couple free gym options at my finger tips as it is.) I think this is an excellent idea. How fundamentally smart. I was slightly appalled to read this on Insurance News Net: “…under the new law the government does plan to begin cutting payments to Medicare Advantage, a privatized, managed-care version of Medicare, in 2011. Such plans, in which members often enjoy little or no premium and free gym memberships, may be forced to reduce some benefits or increase premiums for the 10 million people enrolled in them.” Why not require health insurance companies to offer some sort of incentive for people to get active—in the form of free or reduced price gym memberships? Ten percent of the health care dollars we spend per year in this country are spent on obesity-related problems, mostly type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The food people are eating is much to blame, but so is a lack of activity.
  • Healthy eating and cooking workshops Jamie Oliver is making an effort to change the quality and nutrition of food in public schools (as is being documented on Food Revolution—and yes, I will be posting about this show soon. I am waiting to form my opinion after more episodes have aired)—however, children only consume about 16% of their total food from the cafeteria (more if they eat breakfast at school.) As Jamie Oliver’s program has so far revealed, many parents aren’t feeding their children properly at home. Sometimes it is because they don’t know how to cook healthy meals, sometimes it is about lack of time or money. Whatever it is, there is advice for them and that kind of  help should be something the government is interested in providing. Obama’s Let’s Move campaign will hopefully tackle this issue. But why not find a way to weave it into health care? Why not offer people an incentive to attend these workshops through their health care costs? If I was a parent, you better believe I would take my kids to a cooking class once a week if it meant I would get a rebate on my health insurance.
  • Smoking cessation In the U.S., smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death. Oh. My. Goodness. WHY. Honestly, this topic makes my blood boil more than the food system. The cost of medical care and lost productivity related to smoking is (conservatively) estimated to be $150 billion per year. I have a lot of friends and two parents that won’t love that I say this, but I will say it anyway, because I love them: tobacco should be outlawed. Call me a prohibitionist, but that is my opinion and I am sticking to it. Health insurance companies should be required to cover all expenses related to smoking cessation, whether it be in the form of the patch or hypnotism or whatever. If a method has been proven to work, it should be covered. It is an outrage that people are still dying from lung disease and cancer in this country (many from SECOND hand smoke!)
  • Rewarding people for rewarding themselves OK, here is a new-agey little idea. But whatever, I’m a new-agey gal. What if health insurance companies offered a “bonus” to their members if they could prove that they actually took their alloted vacation time? Stress is one of the top causes of heart-related problems, as well as a contributing factor of most other health problems. Taking care of oneself means taking time for yourself. Not enough people are doing this. And their health is paying the toll.

Pick apart my ideas as much as you like. I encourage a healthy debate. But keep in mind that sometimes it is the most radical and different ideas that become innovative solutions for complex problems. Does anyone have any other ideas for ways to incorporate more health into our health care?

The way I see it, health care reform doesn’t come down to health–it comes down to money. It comes down to the have’s and the have-not’s and the question of how we can provide health care to more people, but it doesn’t address how we can make people healthier. If we can implement ways to keep Americans from getting sick in the first place, we can save billions on health care, which will lower premiums for everyone.

Because we all need health care. But some of us aren’t doing our job of taking care of ourselves the way we should in the ways that we can. That is where the government should be focusing its efforts—helping people help themselves so costs for all can go down. That way, the people who need doctors’ help more than others can get the coverage they deserve.

When local food serves as preventative care

This week, I finally got to writing about a topic in The Eagle that I have been waiting to cover all semester. The stars aligned perfectly for my column on how we as consumers can make changes to better our health, contribute to “protesting” industrial food as much as possible and help the environment at the same time. In the last few days, this has all happened:

  • On Sunday, the House narrowly passed the health care bill that has been been dividing our country over the past months. On Tuesday, President Obama officially signed the bill,  a monumental event in our nation’s history, however divisive it may be.
  • Sunday night, Chef Jamie Oliver’s new series, “Food Revolution,” previewed on ABC. Chef Oliver will tackle the poor eating habits of the unhealthiest town in the country. I am excited to see what happens.
  • I’ve been working more with our chef/restaurant liaison at Food & Water Watch, Rocky Barnette, who really wants to help us get the word out and connect with people. I was working on editing some of footage of an interview we had with Rocky last week. Should be online soon, so stay tuned.

Anyhow, check out my health column from this week and let’s get a conversation happening. I would love to have your feedback–did I miss anything? AU’s Eco-sense mentioned the community garden in the comments already, which is great. I didn’t mention our garden on campus but hope to be a part of it this year.

Anyhow, this photo is sort of random, but the backstory is that today I tried this new tea at work, Yerba Maté, and it tasted (well, not very good) but also like the kava drink they gave to us when I was in Fiji last July. And I don’t know, I guess I am just feeling beach-sick and reminiscent . Photos like this remind me how much there is worth saving.

PS – Thanks everyone who gave me their feedback on the health care bill via twitter. You can also direct message me or send me an email or write in the comments. I am compiling them all and will post in the next day or two. There’s still time to throw your two cents in the mix. The reason I wanted to do this was to get a sense of how the people around me are feeling, as opposed to what all the talking heads are saying. I will write a post soon about my feelings on health care, which I think is important, since health is half of what I do here.

Have a great Thursday!

When it comes to food, you get what you pay for

“How much do you spend on food?”

Lately it seems I have been reading this question all over the place, especially in the food blogosphere. Recently, Ryan at Greens for Good got real with the question on her blog and I wanted to speak my two cents as well. ‘Cause I’m startin’ to get a little fed up. No pun intended.

People (myself included some days) are complaining about the high cost of food, even though on average Americans spend less on food than basically all other developed and under-developed nations. When it comes to the percentage that Americans spend of their take-home pay on food, I have seen and heard figures ranging from 10 percent to 16 percent, but either way, this statistic is a far cry from the 40 percent that our grandparent’s generation use to pay for their food. Google-searching “how much do you pay for food each week?” led me to this discussion board, which is a telling account of what people are spending on food, and what they are getting in return. I especially noted this comment, from a “Kathy” from Minneapolis:

“I am in awe of most of you who can feed your families for so cheap. I too googled this because I am spending WAY too much on food for a family of 6. We never eat out, I pack lunches every day, and buy 90% organic, including household cleaners, meats, produce, etc. All that organic stuff is EXPENSIVE, but I feel worth it for my family’s health. A lot of our health problems have gone away since eating clean and healthy foods! Plus, we are all losing weight. I am not going to put how much I spend per month here, because I am embarrassed by how much I am spending. It is comparable to Lisa above who spends $400/mo on just herself… I can see that. x 6 and we are almost there. Grass fed beef, organic milk, whole grain breads and pastas, organic chicken, omega eggs, etc… it is just EXPENSIVE, and no coupons for that stuff! I cut back everywhere else, because I believe it is more important that we are fed healthy. It is paying off! I used to spend about $600/month… but that is what made us all in such poor health! It would be hard to go back to that.”

Tell me about it Kathy, I was in awe too. Some of these people are reporting that they spend $100/month on groceries for a family of two! Either they are grossly underestimating, aren’t including a LOT of eating out, are surviving on Ramen noodles, or are growing their own food in a garden or something. I just can’t figure out how two people could feed themselves for that little money. That is literally $12/week per person.

So, let’s talk about why this isn’t a good thing.

Last night, I watched King Corn for the first time, which I think helps to illustrate where our cheap food comes from, and what makes it so dangerous and necessary to avoid. Basically, this is a simplified explanation for how our food system currently works, with a little history thrown in…

“Get big or get out,” no ‘Butz’ about it

“What we want out of agriculture is plenty of food, and that’s our drive now. This year, 1973, we’re going to see the most massive increase in production of farm products ever in the history of this country and next year we are going for a still further increase on top of that, as we pull out all stops.” – Earl Butz

Basically it all started with this guy, Earl Butz, who became Secretary of Agriculture in 1971. He completely overhauled federal agricultural policy and many New Deal era farm support programs. He urged the production of commodity crops like corn, and rewarded farmers for growing more, which forced out small farmers and began this financial struggle of the small farmer operation.

Yeah. Way to go, Earl.

Downward spiral

The more corn we grew, the more we had to find something to do with it.

One thing we started doing was feeding it to cows, who were never meant to eat a primarily corn-based diet, and now it is often 60 percent of their diet. When they do, they put on a high amount of body fat quickly, becoming obese animals (which is desirable for agribusiness who want to create food as efficiently as possible, despite the fact that it is nutritionally devoid and full of saturated fat.) According to King Corn, “If you look at a grain-fed t-bone steak, it would have 9 grams of saturated fat while a comparable steak from a grass-fed cow would have 1.5 grams of saturated fat.”) That is why when you bite into a hamburger at McDonald’s, you are eating mostly fat (well, mostly corn) and NOT protein. But the cows also suffer from a completely separate condition aside from obesity from eating corn, they develop a condition known as acidosis. To combat this acidosis, the industry began mixing antibiotics in with their corn feed. This is why antibiotics are in the industrial meat that we eat (and if it doesn’t say antibiotic free, the cows the meat came from were fed antibiotics). In fact, 70 percent of the antibiotics that are produced in this country end up in cattle feed.

Now, the other thing we started doing was scientifically re-engineering our corn to make it into high-fructose corn syrup, which is used in processed foods. In fact, most of the corn fields of this country aren’t actually producing any edible food, they are producing a food commodity, the main ingredient of a chemical reaction. We all know about HFCS now, but 20 years ago, no one really did, no one asked any questions. But all the while, Americans were becoming more and more obese, and now we know why. But we are still eating this food. McDonald’s and Tyson and all the other huge agribusinesses out there (well, there aren’t all that many, actually) are still in business.

Not in Kansas anymore

“If the American people wanted strictly grass-fed beef, we would produce grass-fed beef for them. But it’s definitely more expensive, and one of the tenants in America is that Americans want and demand cheap food.” – Farmer in King Corn

Our subsidy program rewards the overproduction of cheap corn, which translates into cheap food, and translates into more calorically-dense and nutritionally deficient food, which translates into obese people, which translates into more diabetes and other health problems, and more medications and hospitalizations and health care costs.

But the thing is, we have this information now. In 2001, Eric Schlosser wrote the book, Fast Food Nation, which has been compared by many to the work of journalist Upton Sinclair, who wrote The Jungle, investigating the conditions of factory workers in the early 1900’s. This book really paved the way for all the questions and investigation. Now, food advocates like Michael Pollan have taken this movement by storm. Omnivore’s Dilemma is now available for kids! Awesome! Millions of people know the Food Inc. story or have seen it. We are finally in a position to begin changing things. Which is great. And yet, not enough.

Yesterday, Oprah had Michael Pollan on again. I was working so I didn’t actually get to watch, but my sister basically provided minute by minute updates on my phone. Now, I know that Oprah is careful about saying anything to cross the line and land herself in another food libel litigation suit, but it pains me to no end to hear her saying things like, “But eating this way and spending so much money just isn’t realistic for most people,” (what is realistic? Spending hundreds of dollars per month on diabetes medication?) or “Remember, this is just the OPINION of some people.” (No. It’s not opinion. This is reality.) Don’t placate Americans’ fears about our food. We have salmonella showing up in our hydrolyzed vegetable protein for crying out loud. There is so much cause for concern it’s ridiculous. It is unfortunate that these multinational corporations hold so much power and influence (aka our money) that they are able to keep Oprah and other prominent figures from actually coming right out and saying what they already know to be true: that our food is slowly killing us. I consider Oprah to be a good barometer for what people in this country are thinking and believing, and I appreciate her giving attention to this topic. But we can’t let corporations keep this upper hand. It’s time to bite the upper hand that feeds us (and makes us sick).

Shifting Priorities

I’m not saying go out and spend a ton of money on your food just to say you did. But, we need to take more time to consider what we put into our bodies. Food holds so little value anymore. We aren’t caring enough about the food that we eat and it is reflecting in our poor health. We are caring much more about things that don’t really matter. What are we caring about instead? Our clothes, our cars, partying on the weekend, whatever.

So the question of, “How much do you spend on food?” really becomes, “Where do your priorities lie?” In your health? Or somewhere else?

In an effort to allow people who may feel sheepish about exposing how much or how little they spend on their food every month, I am putting up this poll. Please still leave me comments and criticisms or whatever, but also do the poll. I know it is hard to track how much money you spend, but make a rough estimate to the best of your ability. (I thought about putting up a poll asking, “What percentage of your income do you spend on food?” But I think that gets complicated. Based on rough figures in my head, and if I happen to go out to dinner that week, I estimate that I spend about $100/wk on food, less if I don’t eat out, more if I eat out somewhere fancy like last weekend. This figure represents about 30% of my ‘income’.)

I am going to do an experiment over the next week. I pledge not purchase or consume any products with HFCS, will purchase local and organic ingredients whenever possible, and will pay no attention to price. I will save my receipts/write down what I buy and report back next weekend.

In the meantime, what are some ways in which you manage to save money while purchasing healthy, local food that don’t involve sacrificing quality?

Industrial food lies at the heart of childhood obesity problem

The thing I really enjoy about writing my column in The Eagle this year is that I am finding so many areas I can tie into health. There is just so much to talk about when it comes to health beyond the obvious diet and fitness. There’s body image as I discussed last time, there’s positive psychology, there’s the financial side of keeping healthy, there the health of your skin and other preventative care—I’ve covered a lot of areas so far this semester. It has sort of made me consider that maybe editorial is in my future. But, who knows.

Image: aka*kirara

Anyhow, this most recent column deals with the politics behind our industrial food system on the level of school lunches. Many people aren’t aware, but the standards the USDA has set for the food that goes toward the National School Lunch Program are worse than those that even Burger King has in place in terms of quality and safety. I think it is appalling how we are so surprised about the obesity epidemic when it is clear that all we have been feeding children, specifically those from the lower class segments of this country, is garbage. We’ve been feeding our children garbage, and now they are quite literally dying, many from early-onset diabetes, a condition they will have to medicate for the rest of their shortened lives at the contentment of the pharmaceutical companies, and at the expense of our already crippled health care system. It is just a mess.

But I think there are some solutions, and I touch on a few of those at the end. This column is really what this blog is all about and I am excited to be able to share it in the paper. Hopefully it will help get a few more people interested in finding out more about the problem.

I don’t know about anyone else, but this spring break could not have come at a better time. Speaking of health, I have been neglecting mine recently—I haven’t been to yoga in a week and I’ve been sleeping an average of 3 hours a night 😦 . I’m not going anywhere special, or even home to Florida for this break. Just hanging here in D.C., doing the usual routine minus just my classes on Wednesday. Hopefully the weather will begin warming up and I can take a run outside a few times or something. And I also hope to do more reading for this independent study and really buckle down with it. Hope everyone has a lovely spring break, if it’s that time for you. 🙂

Get real, Obamas: “Let’s Move” campaign offers few real solutions

By now, we’ve all heard about Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign. Some think it’s great. Some dislike it for its focus on the Obama daughters, Sasha and Malia.

Some think President Obama should lay off calling his daughters “chubby” and quit smoking if he is going to pretend to care so much about their health. I won’t even throw out that stones-and-glass-houses quote, since it doesn’t really apply here, considering Sasha and Malia clearly have nowhere near a weight problem. Not to mention, none of us know what these comments are doing to their self-esteem, and fear-mongering isn’t really going to do any good.

http://blogs.suntimes.com

from the Chicago Sun-Times

I feel it was irresponsible for them to involve their daughters in this campaign, especially in a not-so-positive way. You can read about my full take on this in my column in today’s Eagle.

And, I’m not “condoning” obesity in anyway. Weight-related problems are costing us billions, and obesity-related health problems such as heart attacks and diabetes are killing hundreds of thousands of Americans every year. Not to mention, obesity-related deaths are the number two cause of preventable death. (But guess what’s still got number one? Yep, cigarettes.) I think maintaining a healthy weight is important, but being a little overweight does not an unhealthy person make. If you are chain smoking cigarettes to suppress your appetite, you are doing more damage to your health than a non-smoker who has a few extra pounds on them.

Childhood obesity is a problem, and it is important to tackle because crucial eating and exercise habits are formed at a young age.

from the Cape Cod Times

However, how about reforming our food system, and getting at the root of the problem, Mr. and Mrs. Obama? Mr. President, you picked on Sasha and Malia, and now, I’m picking on you. Yeah. What are you gonna do about it?

I’m addressing this issue in my next column, and hope to incorporate some possible solutions that deal with fixing our broken food system. Replacing the crappy food we eat with real food will allow people to maintain a healthy weight more naturally.

Leave me a comment with one suggestion you think would get at this issue without singling out our already body-conscious youth and turning the attention back to eating real food.