What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Wed, March 17, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Alex Loud, leader of Slow Food Boston
For a number of years now, a host of organizations in Massachusetts have been pushing to reduce the amount of junk food being marketed in public schools in the state. Before this year, however, these efforts had been consistently rebuffed in the Massachusetts legislature and cafeterias around the state have continued to hawk a sorry collection of chips, sugary cereals and soda. Last week, however, all that changed.
On March 11th, the Massachusetts state Senate voted unanimously in favor of a bill known as the “School Nutrition Bill.” The bill as written currently will ban junk food, sodas and sports drinks from being sold in schools either in vending machines or cafeterias. As the Boston Globe put it:
“The measure establishes nutritional standards for items available at vending machines, school stores, and snack bars during school hours, and it essentially bans the sale of soda, candy bars, fried chips, and even sports drinks, which health officials say can sometimes have more sugar than their carbonated counter parts.
The bill calls for selling nonfat and low-fat dairy products, non-fried fruits and non-fried vegetables, whole grains and related products, and beverages without additives or carbonation, non-sweetened water, and 100 percent fruit juices.”
Posted on Mon, March 15, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Valerie Scott
I wish I was virtuous enough to stick to just water and wine, but Im not like most of America, I like soda. So why do I support the controversial proposal in New York to impose a tax on soda? Because taxes like this one are proven to reduce weight and lower risk of diabetes. And I think thats worth a few extra pennies of punishment for a guilty pleasure.
All week, Ive been hearing commercials from the Alliance for a Healthier New York in favor of the proposed NY soda tax. New York state health officials are aiming to levy a penny-per-ounce tax on sugary soda. New York Governor David Paterson proposed the soda tax in January and last week Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged state legislators to impose the tax.
I was still on the fence until a new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill convinced me that a soda tax is worthwhile. The study followed more than 5,000 participants for 20 years, tracking the average price of fast food and soda in the counties in which the participants lived. The diet, weight and insulin levels of the participants were also analyzed. The results show that weight and risk of diabetes decreased for people in communities where soda and fast food prices increased.
The senior author of the study, Barry Popkin, Ph.D, states, Our results provide robust evidence to support the potential health benefits of taxing selected foods and beverages as a way of improving public health.
Of course, at the end of the day, a tax is about raising revenue and the New York soda tax will do that. The tax could raise up to $1 billion annually to fund health care programs across the state. State Health Commissioner Richard Daines told the NY Daily News, It’s a triple play. We would reduce obesity, earn revenue to support health care and, in the long run, cut health care costs.”
President Obama has said that soda taxes are “an idea worth exploring,” but since the failure of Governor Paterson’s first attempt to tax soda in 2009 and ongoing health care reform woes, the administration has not proposed a similar tax on the national level. A success story in New York would be one step towards changing that.
Bottom line I think the soda tax could be an important way to reduce obesity and diabetes and fund health care programs overburdened with the high costs of chronic disease.
If you live in New York and want to contact your legislators about the soda tax, click here!
Posted on Mon, March 15, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Robin Kerber, CIA Student and volunteer with Slow Food Hudson Valley
As I sat in the car, waiting for my friends, I was thinking about a recipe for winter barley vegetable soup: butternut squash, roasted beets, celeriac, and barley. After spending all day making pastries in class, nothing sounded more satisfying than a bowl of warm soup made with fresh, local ingredients. But I wasnt making the soup for me. I was about to travel to the Mount Kisco Child Care Center to help with a friendly Iron Chef whole grains themed competition.
The first time that wesix students from the Culinary Institute of Americahad traveled to Mount Kisco to plan our meal with the kids, I had had no idea what to expect. What do children know about cooking let alone designing a dish? It turns out they know a lot. At least the children of The Mount Kisco Child Care Center do. They have their own edible schoolyard, which produces a huge variety of fresh fruits and veggies.
My friends and I arrived with our knives sharpened and our whisks in hand. My team came up with a recipe that sounded delicious and hearty, with flavors like thyme and parsley. Im fairly certain I didnt know what thyme was until I was much older than these kids but the experience made me realize that something remarkable was spreading slowly but surely across the nation: initiatives to teach children how to live sustainably. The children were gathered around a table, carefully cutting vegetables into chunks. We immediately got to work in the kitchen, helping the excited children prepare a tasty meal. And, as dinner - time rolled around, the Center was packed with friends, family, and local purveyors.
Many of the courses featured wheat, oats, and cornmeal that were grown and milled in the Hudson Valley. Local honey sweetened whole wheat bread and polenta with I&Me Farm pea shoots setting the stage for a fantastic meal. My teams vegetable barley soup and an entrée of quinoa pilaf with local apples helped make the meal a celebration of winter flavors. By the time apple crumble was served, the consensus was clear: local food is simply great. But it wasnt just the food that made the night unforgettable. It was the feeling that we were working as a unified group, rather than as individuals. By the end of the evening, most would have to agree that life feels more meaningful when you understand the connection between land, food, and community.
Final words from the Mt. Kisco Child Care Center kids-Stephanie, Paulina, Sabrina, Vincent, Benji, Emily, Sam, Nitza, Jocelyn, Emma, Clara and Zachery aged 5-11:
“Everyone got to practice their knife skills. We ran back and forth from harvesting fresh pea shoots to the busy kitchen. Yummy taste of peas.”
“This was our second iron chef competition and it was fun. All we ask is: When can we do it again? Growing and cooking are the best. It makes everyone so happy.”
“Maybe well go to school to become chefs one day, but even if we dont, well be healthy eaters.”
Posted on Sat, March 13, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Julia Landau
The study, entitled Farm-to-School Programs: Perspectives of School Food Service Professionals, also found that there is a direct relationship between sourcing locally and students fruit/vegetable consumption. School food service professionals suggested that having met or learned about the farmers providing these foods made the act of eating the produce more personal for students.
That being said, what happens when food comes from a local food distributor rather than directly from the farmer? For many schools, sourcing from a distributor provides a more feasible option than from multiple individual farmers. In that case, education about the origins of the food can provide a key link to healthier school eating habits.
On the farmers side of the equation, interviews with school food service professionals suggested that schools are attractive markets for local farms. Oftentimes schools can make use of outsize and imperfect items, such as smaller apples and twisted carrots. As opposed to the retail market, schools may have more flexibility in regard to product appearance and size.
This study contributes to a growing body of research supporting local food sourcing for schools. Food service professionals are proud to serve it, students feel encouraged to eat it, and farmers have another market to sell it.
“Farm-to-School Programs: Perspectives of School Food Service Professionals” by Betty T. Izumi, PhD, MPH, RD; Katherine Alaimo, PhD; Michael W. Hamm, PhD can be found in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Volume 42, Issue 2, (March/April 2010) published by Elsevier.
Posted on Fri, March 12, 2010 by Gordon Jenkins
On March 3, Senator Blanche Lincoln told a conference of school meal providers that she plans to start marking up the Child Nutrition Act before March 26, when Congress goes on Easter recess. If the Senator is true to her word, this will be the first progress on the bill since Congress passed a one-year extension last fall.
Lincoln also said that shes seeking the biggest increase ever in funding for child nutrition programs, citing President Obamas proposal to add $1 billion per year. While that amount isnt enough to transform school lunch, it is an important step forward and we encourage everyone to let Congress know its a priority.
Our other policy goals strengthening nutrition standards for all the food at school, and linking schools to local farms have strong support from the USDA and will likely be included if Congress supports the funding increase. We’re already seeing progress: two bills to support Farm to School programs have recently been introduced in the House and Senate. A quick way to help these bills get included in the Child Nutrition Act is to call your legislators and ask for their support.
The other important news is that legislators will be home in your district for Easter recess from March 26 to April 11. This is a great opportunity to get their attention. Some easy things you can do are:
Submit a Letter to the Editor or Op-Ed to your local paper. One fantastic story would be to gather a group of parents to eat school lunch, and then write about it in an Op-Ed.
Schedule a meeting with your legislator or his/her staff. Bring kids, parents, teachers and school meal providers, and let them do the talking.
Invite your legislator or his/her staff to eat school lunch.
Posted on Fri, March 12, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Siena Chrisman, WhyHunger
Last night in Ankeny, Iowa, just north of Des Moines, a standing-room-only crowd of over 250 people called on the Justice Department and USDA to bust up big ag! and put the needs of people before corporations. Today is the official listening session where the government agencies will hear from all interested parties on the issue of corporate concentration in the food systemparticularly, this round addresses Issues of Concern to Farmers”but the scheduled panels today are heavy on business and light on actual farmers. Several local groups organized Thursdays town hall as a venue for farmers to voice their real concerns.
The evening began with a panel of independent farmers from Iowa, Wisconsin, and Missouri addressing concentration in seeds, dairy, and livestock; a representative from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union; and good food advocates talking about consumer issues (I had the great privilege to be one of those last speakers).
And then the floor was open to public comments. About 50 people spoke, almost all of them farmers. They told heartbreaking stories: The 29th anniversary of one mans parents was a farm foreclosure. The American Dream has turned into the American nightmare for a southern Iowa dairy farmer, whose milk prices have been so low he cant afford his feed costs. The 15-year-old son of a fifth generation dairy farmer wants to become the sixth generation, but if things dont change in the next six months, theyre not going to have a farm.
Things are dire for farmersas they are for so many of people who dont have control over their foodbut theyre ready to fight. They made powerful demands of the Department of Justice and Congress to enforce antitrust laws and break up the hugely concentrated ag industries. But government isnt quite the last hope; people are. A family farmer from near Des Moines wanted to talk about power: Industry cannot turn one wheel unless people make those machines work, he said. We have the power here, and we need to understand what that power means.
Posted on Thu, March 11, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Gary Nabhan
You’ve heard the hackneyed phrase “as American as apple pie.” But America is not taking care of the apples—or the orchard-keepers—that have nourished us for centuries. In 1900, 20 million apple trees were growing in the U.S.; now, not even a fourth remain in our orchards and gardens. Today, much of the apple juice consumed in the U.S. is produced overseas. Of the apples still grown in America, just one variety—Red Delicious—comprises 41 percent of the country’s entire crop, and 11 varieties account for 90 percent of all apples sold in stores.
To read the rest of this post, on Grist.org, click here.
Posted on Wed, March 10, 2010 by Gordon Jenkins
On Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice will hold the first of five workshops to determine whether a handful of food and farming companies are exercising monopoly control over the industry. This is a big deal. If the Dept. finds that companies like Monsanto are violating antitrust law, regulators could move to break up the companies in order to protect farmers and consumers from further harm.
Fridays workshop takes place in Ankeny, IA, near Des Moines. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and Assistant Attorney General Christine Varney will speak on a panel, as will a selection of crop and livestock farmers from around the country. (The farmers were added at the last-minute amidst outcries that a workshop about agriculture didnt feature any actual farmers.) Other panels will feature a Monsanto Vice President, a former President of the Iowa Soybean Association and a representative from the organization Food & Water Watch.
Farmer and consumer groups who are concerned that the Justice Dept. workshop is bent towards corporate special interests are organizing a Peoples Antitrust Hearing in Ankeny on the evening prior. At the event, Iowa farmers and community leaders will share their perspective on how food company monopolies lead to higher food prices and lower farmer profits.
In December, Slow Food USA joined other groups in asking the public to submit comments to the Justice Dept. The DoJ reported receiving over 15,000 comments, and has begun posting them online.
Posted on Tue, March 09, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Emily Dagostino, Slow Food Chicago volunteer
Wee toddlers scribbling in crayon, kids and teenagers tuned into the trouble with today’s school lunches, and parents advocating for the well-being of their children were among dozens of Windy City denizens who penned letters at a recent event asking Congress for increased funding for school lunches.
It was great, says Slow Food Chicago board member Ryan Kimura. We received about 40 letters, but I felt the impact was stronger than that. Sara Gasbarra, Green City Market Sprouts Program Chair, agreed: I think the event was a total success!
Green City Market and Slow Food Chicago teamed up to sponsor the Kids Write to Eat event on February 27 as part of a ramping up of outreach efforts for the Time for Lunch Campaign that began with Slow Food Chicagos annual meeting in January. Since then, dozens of volunteers have emerged ready and excited to help spread the word. Teachers have approached Green City Market and Slow Food Chicago about bringing the letter-writing campaign back to their classrooms, and volunteers have redoubled efforts to reach out to like-minded organizations in the Chicago area to find new ways to tell our collective story.
In the next week or so, representatives from Slow Food Chicago, Green City Market and Common Threads plan to hand-deliver the kids (and parents) letters to the Chicago office of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill. They hope to use the meeting to discuss with the senators staff why childhood nutrition and healthy lunches are a priority and to request the senators support.
In the letters, 6-year-old Alyssa, 7-year-old Quinton and 13-year-old Taisha asked Congress to please serve healthy food in their schools. Not only would it help them concentrate but it gets you going at recess, Quinton wrote.
Posted on Tue, March 09, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Valerie Scott
In his 2011 budget President Obama proposed to make cuts in farm subsidies and the crop insurance program that would save almost 11 billion dollars over 10 years. This proposal Obamas second attempt to cut farm subsidies - was rejected last Wednesday by the House Agriculture Committee .
Since the passage of the 2008 Farm Bill, farmers eligible to participate in the subsidy program must make no more than $500,000 in adjusted gross income (AGI) from off-farm sources and no more than $750,000 on-farm AGI. The newest Obama farm cuts would have lowered these eligibility caps to $250,000 off-farm AGI and $500,000 on-farm AGI. Direct payment caps were targeted for cuts of 25%, from $40,000 to $30,000 annually. A cut of $8 billion from the Federal Crop Insurance Program was also proposed.
The Obama administrations first unsuccessful attempt to cut farm subsidies in 2009 focused on phasing out direct payments to farmers with annual sales of more than $500,000. Direct payments are a highly controversial subsidy given to farmers based on the size of their farm and the commodity they grow - regardless of crop prices or production levels. In 2007, a year of high crop prices and record net income for farmers, taxpayers paid out $5 billion in direct payment subsidies. Despite the current deficit crisis, cuts in even the most controversial subsidies to wealthy farmers clearly remain an uphill political battle.
Farm subsidies primarily benefit growers of just five crops corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton and rice. With Congress currently giving school lunch programs just $1 per meal for a generation of children afflicted with epidemic levels of obesity and diabetes can we really afford not to put those 11 billion dollars towards better nutrition programs?