Hunger in America is the premise behind a new documentary called “A Place at the Table”. This documentary focuses on the food insecurity issue we face here in America and poses difficult questions such as, “how can a country as prosperous as the United States have 50 million people (including 17 million children) living their lives amid food insecurity.” Great question! I’m wondering the same thing. One thing I have to say is, I really respect Jeff Bridges for casting himself in the documentary and being an activist working to end world hunger. Seeing actors (or just extremely wealthy people in general) put their millions towards something meaningful like this shows selflessness and generosity (which are hard to come by these days if you ask me!). So this documentary was actually just released in theaters on March 1st (but is also on iTunes and onDemand if you want to watch it). During the video you’re taken through the daily routines of three families in different states who constantly find themselves unable to feed themselves and their families. One shocking statistic that was reported in the video is, “the state where food insecurity is the most rampant — Mississippi — is also the place with the highest incidence of childhood obesity.” If that’s not a wake up call, I don’t know what is. They also talked about problems such as federal subsidies lowering the price of processed foods but having quite the opposite affect on fresh produce. Apparently since the obesity epidemic first emerged in 1980, the price of processed foods has dropped by 40% and consequently the price of fresh produce has risen by 40%! Something about that just doesn’t seem right. While I was learning about this documentary I also read a TON of reviews about it, one of my favorites being, “The documentary proves its worth most by how it treats the moral and political issues around the hunger crisis.” Straight to the point! We need more documentaries like this that speak the truth about one thing (among many) our government needs to do, make healthy and nutritious food more available and affordable. I realize it will take a lot more than that, but that’s a start! It really is an eye opener, it made me think about how much I take for granted being able to have access to healthy food and not really worrying about whether I’m going to have a meal or not. I can’t believe there are so many children that have to face that every day! If you have a chance, you really should watch it!
WIC in the news! March 22, 2013
When I started reading our lifespan and cultural competence assignment, I decided to do some research on the WIC ( Women, Infants and Children) program. I’ve realized I like researching programs involved in community nutrition to see just how productive they are. I feel like we all know about these programs but never really know how successful/unsuccessful they are unless we research it. I’ve always been interested in working with the WIC program because what they focus on is such an important time for mothers and their infants/children. So, I Googled “WIC nutrition news” and one of the first links that pops up was titled ” Obesity Drops Among Children Enrolled in NY State WIC Nutrition Program.” Success! I was curious at first why New York was the only state to come up with this news article but after reading I discovered why. New York was the first state in the nation to jump on board with WIC’s recent reform and new package of food vouchers. I actually wasn’t even aware WIC had made these changes! This new package incorporates the addition of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and a reduction in fruit juices. The New York program also added a healthy lifestyle promotion of increased physical exercise and reduced time spent watching TV. A study was then done to assess the impact of these changes. Researchers collected and analyzed about 3.5 million New York State WIC records from before and after the January 2009 changes in the food packages. What are the results you ask? Well, according to the study done through Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, and the New York State Department of Health, ” There was a 6% decline in obesity among 1 year-olds, from 15.1 to 14.2%, and a 3% decline among 2-4 year-olds, from 14.6 to 14.2%.” This is good news! On top of that, these results were found only 2 years after the new package had been implemented! To me, this shows hope for decreasing childhood obesity rates in other states as well, New York being the first to implement will obviously see results sooner than the rest of the nation. While these percentages seem small, any change is good change! Hopefully we can keep the trend going. Here’s a link to the article if anyone is interested!
Childhood Obesity Policy to the Rescue! March 1, 2013
More about policies! After brainstorming topics for our policy debate, it made me wonder what other nutrition related policies are out there! So I started doing some research on the web hoping to find any new policies that had been implemented recently, whether it be nationwide or in a small community. I found something that deserved acknowledgement in my first search, which was surprising to me. It wasn’t done recently but still deserved another look! I couldn’t find an exact date, but I believe it was somewhere between 2002-2004; The School District of Philadelphia implemented the “Comprehensive School Nutrition Policy Initiative”, while the name is a bit wordy, the idea behind this policy is brilliant! The policy was created by The Food Trust, a non-profit company in Philadelphia that strives to spread education about nutrition. The “goal” of the policy was to implement nutrition education from preschool through secondary school in ALL Philadelphia schools in an attempt to reduce childhood obesity. (Awesome yes?!) Some of the educational tools they used were 1.) Educational classes 2.) Food service that reinforces healthy eating habits 3.) Teachers trained in nutrition 4.) Community and Family involvement 5.) Re-evaluation of the program. This is what schools need! They need a well rounded program, not just a cafeteria lunch reform. I read more into the food service aspect and found out that these schools don’t serve soda at all and any juice sold must be 100% juice! I thought that was definitely worth mentioning. Also, the age group they targeted here is KEY! Young children are like sponges, so educating them about nutrition and healthy eating at a young age will most likely turn into good life long behaviors. Here is a link to the Food Trust website and program if you care to take a look!
This program has proven to be very successful and after being evaluated by Dr. Gary Foster of Temple University, showed that it successfully reduced the incidence of childhood obesity by 50 percent. These results were published in The Journal of Pediatrics, which is reviewed by a slew of board members with PhD’s, so I’m going to assume the data is pretty accurate.
This is so impressive to me! What I don’t understand is if this policy has yielded such outstanding results, why hasn’t it been spreading like wild fire? Why isn’t it being started in more schools? This is childhood obesity we’re talking about! We need all school districts to adopt this mindset and policy or one like it!
An *All Natural Post! February 21, 2013
Girl Scout cookies: Mango Crèmes with Nutrifusion. This is something that I’ve been meaning to blog about! I apologize ahead if this seems like a rant but this is something that really bothers me. These new and “improved” cookies are ridiculous! I’m not sure if anyone noticed in class when Dr. Byker had the slide up that listed the ingredients, but there isn’t any mango in the ingredients list at all. Let me repeat, NO MANGO IN MANGO CRÈME COOKIES. How can you have a Mango Crème cookie with no mango? This type of misleading marketing is one of my biggest pet peeves. Not only is it deceitful, it’s not any healthier just because you add the made up word “nutrifusion” to the name. I’m guessing the nutrifusion part is the less than 2% nutrients from whole food concentrate. Less than 2%. After reading a bit more, I found out that the “nutrifusion” part is actually the name of the company that formulates the so called nutrient powder, also known as “Grandfusion”. Somehow processed fruits and/or vegetables in powder form just don’t resonate well with me. Just eat fruits and veggies and leave cookies alone, right?
On top of that, it’s being targeted to children and adults! Adults I believe have more of an advantage because we can read the label and have a general idea of what’s good and bad, children on the other hand are very impressionable and basically take our word at face value. The little girls who are selling these cookies are duped into believing they’re selling nutritious cookies but are ultimately selling a big lie. This brings me to my next point; there should be policies to enforce restrictions or regulations on this! I realize there are regulations set by the FDA for food labels but I don’t think they’re “strict” enough, per say. Another thought, if there is talk of new policies taxing soda or sugar sweetened beverages; we should also be able to do something about advertising with misleading information, especially when it concerns our health. It’s become too easy to just throw seemingly healthy words around to get people to buy products. In my opinion, this is only setting us back. How do we honestly expect to overcome or even improve the obesity epidemic if we are marketing “healthy” foods to ourselves that aren’t what they seem, aren’t we then just blinding ourselves? So, with the blinders removed, the nutritious cookie is nothing more than a highly processed, white flour cookie with 8 grams of fat and 11 grams of sugar per serving, the same as thin mints (thin mints actually have less sugar, ha!)
Cafeteria Lunches: A love-hate relationship February 8, 2013
Do you remember what you used to eat for lunch in elementary and middle school? I do! And it was crap food! Of course I didn’t care then, but thinking back on it I’m appalled. My middle school used to provide burgers and fries from Checkers, or their chicken fries which are exactly what they sound like and very unnatural. On Fridays they would have Domino’s pizza and the other days of the week were a combination of chicken nuggets, the cafeteria pizza, or this weird chef boyardee style lasagna. I didn’t like any of that stuff so I would get cookies or a cosmic brownie and that’s it.Over the years there hasn’t been much thought put into cafeteria lunches until recently when Michelle Obama decided she wanted to make a change for the better. (This blog has nothing to do with Michelle Obama herself, so I hope no one takes offense!) Although after researching I’m not sure how much “better” it’s gotten. I kept finding articles talking about protests and some even referred to her movement as “Share the Starvation”. For example, here’s a video I came across on youtube of students and TEACHERS protesting the new changes (I found it hilarious that the teachers helped write the lyrics for this video!). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IB7NDUSBOo
From what I gathered, they’ve mainly reduced calorie and portion size. Which is ok, but reducing calories to 700 for all middle schoolers seems a bit extreme? Teenagers need WAY more calories than we do, especially if they’re active! Not to mention this is a crucial period of growth for them and they all require something different. Also, they’ve reduced the amount of protein they get down to 2 oz a day. I don’t know but for some reason this doesn’t seem right to me?
I will say that Michelle’s healthy lunch movement is positive though because I think school lunches desperately needed a makeover! And also the school system can only do so much for the health of a student, at least they’re taking steps in a positive direction by cutting down on sugars and sweets that are served at lunch and adding in more fruits and vegetables. What’s really beneficial is that awareness of childhood obesity is now present in school systems so hopefully progress will continue but there are bound to be hiccups along the way, as I think Michelle Obama is finding out 🙂
Quinoa: Community and Global Issue January 25, 2013
My post and thoughts for this week were spawned from watching the video “Mississippi “Food Deserts” Fuel Obesity Epidemic”. When they were discussing the commodity crop issue, regarding most of their crops being shipped out rather than staying within the community, it reminded me of an article I read recently about quinoa. Quinoa has been rising on the scale of popularity with Americans who are trying to eat healthier and this is a good thing, right? But, at what cost? The article I read is called, “Quinoa’s Global Success Creates Quandary at Home.”
It can be found here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/20/world/americas/20bolivia.html, if you’re interested in reading it! I’m not saying I agree with everything in the article, but it is definitely worth thinking about!
I don’t know about you, but honestly, I don’t often think about where my food comes from. So, when I found out that our increasing demand for quinoa in the US is potentially causing health and economic problems for the small community it comes from in Bolivia, it made me stop and think. The local people of Salinas de Garcí Mendoza, Bolivia, are now unable to afford their own LOCAL crop because the increase in demand has caused the price to be too high. This has turned quinoa into a commodity crop for them, being that a majority of the crop is destined for export.
So what effect does this have? Well, there are both good and bad sides of the spectrum. The good that has come from this is the fact that, in one of the poorest countries, there has been a notable increase in farmers’ income. However, opposite of this, according to this NY Times article and a local nutritionist in Bolivia, “Studies have shown that chronic malnutrition in children has climbed in quinoa-growing areas, including Salinas de Garcí Mendoza, in recent years.” So even though their income has increased, they are still unable to afford this healthy local crop and are forced to lean more towards cheaper processed foods. Which is exactly what WE want our country to avoid. To me, it doesn’t seem fair to force another country into the same predicament we ourselves are in. Some of the locals have resorted to attempting to grow, harvest and prepare their own quinoa. From what I’ve read and researched this is a long, painstaking process.
But, there is some good news on the horizon! This issue has been brought to the attention of government officials and efforts are being made to help quinoa become more affordable, such as; government loans to farmers, including quinoa in food packets given to pregnant/nursing mothers and also incorporating it into the menu’s at local schools.
While I want to encourage Americans to eat more quinoa because it is so unbelievably healthy, I don’t want other’s to suffer at that expense. I’m hoping we can find a happy balance in the future and will definitely keep tabs on progress made!
Here’s a picture of a local Bolivian family who farms quinoa, sometimes seeing a picture helps us to feel more connected to an issue. Plus, I didn’t know this is what quinoa looks like!
Community Nutrition January 18, 2013
Good evening everyone! What we’ve been discussing recently in Nutrition and Society is the concept of what community nutrition actually is. At first thought, it seems like a simple explanation but after this week I have a completely different outlook. There are so many components, big and small, that comprise “community nutrition”. The most interesting part to me was talking about how political health and community nutrition are. It is so important to recognize how our health is impacted by politics. This affects a huge majority of people in every day life simply based on the fact that the cost of ingredients put into processed foods is monitored and kept at a minimum to in return keep the cost of processed foods low. Most people when they go to the grocery store will select foods based on price, the cheaper the worse it is for you (usually). I totally get this! It’s expensive to eat whole foods that are organically grown, and for people who don’t live in a city like Bozeman, local foods aren’t always easy to come by. I would like to see more ways for lower income families to have access to healthy foods and not just settle for processed foods because they’re cheaper. For people that use food stamps, I think the foods they are allowed to buy should be limited! I’m not saying this to be cruel but keeping the definition of community nutrition in mind, this would be a way to promote the health of people in a community with lower incomes. If the foods they were permitted to get with food stamps were limited to healthy nutrition foods, this would only prove to be beneficial to those families.
On another note, Dr. Byker shared a website with us called foodpolitics.com and it is absolutely awesome! If you haven’t checked it out, I HIGHLY recommend it! It’s full of information on current issues involving, you guessed it, food and politics! One article I found particularly informative and entertaining was called ” Coca-Cola Fights Obesity? Oh, Please.” Here’s a link to it if you’re interested, http://www.foodpolitics.com/2013/01/coca-cola-fights-obesity-oh-please/
It’s funny to see what companies will do just to increase sales and what they CAN do because they are a multi-million dollar company. I will definitely be checking this website weekly to stay up to date on current issues because I’ve realized after this first week that being an individual in a community who is going to try to make a difference with my future career, I need to stay tuned in to current health trends, policies and programs!