What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Tue, June 29, 2010 by Intern
by intern Christine Binder
This Thursday morning, Representative George Miller (D-CA), chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, will be holding a full committee hearing on the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act of 2010 (H.R. 5504). This is the House version of the Child Nutrition Bill that’s waiting to be scheduled for floor debate in the Senate.
It’s important for Congress to pass the bill by the end of the summer so President Obama can sign it into law before current school lunch legislation expires at the end of September. The bill is a step forward for school meal programs, particularly because it creates a grant program for local food and finally kicks junk food out of school vending machines, but it only raises the school lunch by six cents, which isn’t enough to ensure every student has access to a healthy meal. Right now, schools get by with about $1.00 for each meal’s ingredients.
If your House Representative is on the Education and Labor Committee, you can help out right now: please call them before Thursday and ask them to bring the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act up for committee vote quickly and to fully fund the bill with at least an additional $1 billion per year. Even if your Representative is not on the Education and Labor Committee, you can still call them and urge them to ask their colleagues on the committee to quickly pass a fully funded bill.
Click here for a list of members of the House Education and Labor Committee. You can find your Representative’s name and contact information here.
Posted on Mon, June 28, 2010 by Intern
by intern Khalilah Ramdene
A recent study by the Rudd Center at Yale University found that children prefer foods branded with cartoon characters, often citing those foods as better tasting then their unbranded counterparts. Licensed cartoon characters are often used to advertise unhealthy foods to children, suggesting that this direct marketing may be a primary contributor to the child obesity epidemic.
The study sampled 40 children in New Haven, Connecticut between ages four and six. The children were provided with three pairs of identical food, some packaged with a cartoon character (Scooby Doo, Dora, and Shrek) and some without. The study found that children were more likely to choose a food with a familiar branded image, which suggests that advertising and marketing has a strong influence over the food choices children make. Aside from choosing foods branded with recognizable cartoon characters the participants claimed the food tasted better. Cartoon characters are more often used to sell the unhealthy foods (foods high in fat, sugar and/or sodium) that are linked to the child obesity epidemic.
Advertising unhealthy food directly to children has its precedent in the McDonald Happy Meal model. Along with a third of a day’s worth of calories, and two days worth of sugar, children receive a toy in their Happy Meal, usually a character associated with new movie releases or hit television shows. In 2003, the sale of Happy Meals reached $3.4 billion and made up 20 percent of McDonalds sale. Earlier this week, The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) released a statement threatening to sue McDonalds for their “unfair and deceptive marketing” to children. CSPI litigation director Stephen Gardner states, “McDonald’s use of toys undercuts parental authority and exploits young children’s developmental immaturity—all this to induce children to prefer foods that may harm their health. It’s a creepy and predatory practice that warrants an injunction.”
Posted on Fri, June 25, 2010 by Slow Food USA
The third of the Department of Justice/USDA Anti-trust workshops is underway in Madison, WI, as we write this. Last night, as in Ankenny Iowa a few months ago, there was a town hall held the night before the workshop. Here’s a report from the field…-ed.
by Siena Chrisman, WHY Hunger
Appropriately, the evening began with a picnic featuring local cheese and ended with an ice cream social under a yellow moon. In between, dairy farmers, consumer advocates, professors, labor union representatives, faith communities, antihunger advocates, an aspiring cheesemaker, and even a Certified Public Accountant spoke out forcefully about the widespread injustices in the dairy industry.
The main event was a Dairy Town Hall Forum in Madison, Wisconsin, sponsored by Family Farm Defenders, National Family Farm Coalition, and Food and Water Watch, and timed to coincide with Friday’s Department of Justice and USDA workshop examining corporate concentration in the dairy industry. The workshop on Friday is part of the ongoing investigation (which I reported on here) by the two departments to determine whether food and agriculture companies have become too concentrated.
The dairy industry is one of the most concentrated in the country, with just one company controlling 40% of the US milk supply. Prices for farmers have fallen so low in the past three years that many dairy farmers were losing as much as $200 per cow every month in 2009. Meanwhile, even though the price farmers were paid for milk fell by almost 50% from 2007 to 2009, the retail price dropped by less than 25%. Someone’s profiting, but it’s not farmers or consumers.
Posted on Mon, June 21, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Anastacia Marx de Salcedo, Slow Food Boston
This post was going to be upbeat, a scrappy guide to eating the Slow Food way* without a) blowing your entire bi-weekly payroll deposit or b) devoting all your waking hours to foraging, gardening, CSA pick-up, food preservation and early Rombaueresque cookery (double boilers! triple sifting!).
Ain’t gonna happen.It’s not that I haven’t tried. Last winter, I ran a children’s cooking class in which we focused on the über-affordable. Gleefully wielding all sorts of easily weaponized kitchen tools (knives, graters, rolling pins), my posse of babychefs prepared three kidlicious meals: pepperoni pizza ($4.60 per person—ouch!); bean, cheese and veggie burritos ($2.00—better!) and chicken noodle and minestrone soups with biscuits ($1.90). But guess what? Even those humble favorites made with ingredients from Market Basket and Shaw’s are out of range for a family of four earning $44,100 a year, which can spend a whopping $1.25 per person on meals.
Can we agree that, under these circumstances, it’s hard to even think the words local and sustainable?
[to read the rest of this post on Public Radio Kitchen, and an interesting debate in the comments section, click here]
Posted on Sat, June 19, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
Recently, Slow Food USA President Josh Viertel visited with some high school students in California, one of whom shared with him the gory tale of hot Cheetos with melted cheese on top. In a bag. With a fork. Lunch on the go! We asked our mole, Rameen, to send us a picture. Whoahhhhh.
He reported that his school cafeteria sells them—not in the lunch line, but in one of the “competitive foods” lines. He said they appeal to students whose lunch period is too short to wait on a long lunch line. In his words, they’re “very gross…we could use some help. It would be cool not to have to pack bag lunches for the rest of my high school life!” When we asked him to explain a little more how he feels about the school selling this stuff as lunch, he said:
“I really hate seeing this kind of food going around at the school because it probably causes some of the most long term problems in any of the kids at my school. I’m not going to lie, many kids at my school are overweight. One student was so big, he broke his ankle just by trying to run. Fortunately, that problem doesn’t affect me directly, but it affects my friends and people i care about. If this kind of food is the only food a student can get at his school without wasting his whole day waiting in line, well every kid is going to have to pack bag lunches to school for the rest of their high school lives.”
Posted on Thu, June 10, 2010 by Intern
by intern Christine Binder
Outside the Capitol Building earlier today, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act of 2010. Representatives George Miller (D-CA), Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Jim McGovern (D-MA), and Todd Russell Platts (R-PA), joined by celebrity cook Rachael Ray and other child nutrition and anti-hunger advocates, unveiled the details of the new legislation.
At the news conference, Representative Miller stated that “First Lady Michelle Obama has lent her leadership and knowledge to help end childhood obesity with her Lets Move! initiative. This bill answers her call and moves us closer to meeting President Obama’s challenge to end childhood hunger in America.” Click here to watch videos of the conference.
The bill is a step forward for school meal programs. If passed, it will fund $50 million in new Farm to School grants, expand nutrition education, and increase access to meal programs. It will also strengthen nutrition standards for all food served in schools, including vending machines.
Unfortunately, it will only raise the school lunch rate by six cents. Right now, schools have roughly $1 to spend on ingredients. So six cents, while welcome, is not going to transform the quality of school meals.
The House version of the bill is largely similar to a Senate version introduced earlier this year (the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010). The Senate bill, which was approved by the Senate Agriculture Committee and is now waiting to be scheduled for floor debate, adds only $450 million per year to child nutrition programs. The House bill ups it to about $800 million per year, but still falls short of the President’s proposal of $1 billion – and far short of what schools need to serve healthy food.
The big challenges now are time and money. Legislators need to find adequate funding for child nutrition programs, and both the House and the Senate need to pass the bill by the end of the summer so President Obama can sign it into law before current school lunch legislation expires at the end of September.
Posted on Wed, June 09, 2010 by Intern
by intern Christine Binder
Last Friday, nearly 500 chefs from 37 states, all dressed in their whites, convened on the White House lawn for the launch of the “Chefs Move to Schools” program. The new program is part of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign to solve the childhood obesity epidemic within a generation. Here is the video and transcript of the First Lady’s remarks and coverage of the event in the Washington Post.
Mrs. Obama is calling on chefs to get involved in the effort by adopting a local school where they will work with parents, teachers, school nutrition professionals, and administrators to educate kids about food and nutrition and improve school meals. Nearly 1000 chefs and 500 schools have already signed up for Chefs Move to Schools. You can see a map of participating chefs and schools here or sign up to participate on the USDA website.
Earlier in the day, the chefs heard experts speak about school food policy and the upcoming Child Nutrition Reauthorization at a breakfast hosted by Share our Strength. They also toured the White House kitchen garden. Many celebrity chefs and American culinary luminaries were in attendance, bringing their star power to the First Lady’s initiative. By creating healthy dishes that taste good, chefs have a unique ability to show children that cooking and eating healthy foods are both cool and fun.
Some kids have already been inspired by the Let’s Move campaign. Georgia and Michael are nine-year-old twins who love to cook and are collecting 1000 healthy recipes from kids all over the country to send to Mrs. Obama. They want to show kids that they can learn to cook and make healthy choices for themselves. Here’s their YouTube video and their website where you can learn more about their project, Kids Cook USA.
Posted on Thu, June 03, 2010 by Intern
by intern Shauna Nep
You may already be aware that currently, over 70% of USDA’s farm payments go to the wealthiest and largest 10% of the producers of corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton and rice. The smaller farms and the growers of fruits, veggies, and livestock receive little support, if anything.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has been helping us understand these government payments and ensuring that their distribution to farmers is transparent by tracking where the billions in farm subsidies go and releasing this info to the public. The EWG database allows you to search for government subsidies by state, county, congressional district, farm, and also by crop.
Unfortunately, the EWG recently announced that they will not be able to update their subsidy database for 2010. This is because the data that revealed who is receiving the billions paid is no longer available. Congress was able to avoid making this data available by changing the law to say that the USDA could decide whether to release the information and the administration chose not to spend the money to do it.
Well, this is bad news. The EWG introduced this database in order to motivate the public to demand a sensible and fair Food and Farm Bill. However without the data from the USDA, the EWG will not be able to tell the public which farmers (and which crops) are receiving large payments, and which are not. This is especially important since these payments are still a large part of the reason that the food system produces more fast food than healthy food.
This just means we will have to pay extra close attention to the Food and Farm Bill happenings with the hope that we will end up with a bill which encourages government support programs that are responsible, fair, and effective.
For the full article at EWG’s site, click here.
[photo courtesy of flickr creative commons, grantmac]
Posted on Wed, June 02, 2010 by Intern
by intern Christine Binder
Recently, the Slow Food USA network sent over 40,000 letters to Congress asking Senators not to delay action on the Child Nutrition Act. The goal was for legislators to sign a “Dear Colleague” letter asking Senate leaders to schedule time for floor debate and pass the Child Nutrition Act before this session of Congress runs out of time. Here’s an update on what’s happened since then:
On May 27th, Senate leaders received the bipartisan “Dear Colleague” letter, which included the signatures of 53 Senators. (Great job, everyone!) You can click here to see the letter and check if your Senators signed it.
Just last Thursday, the House voted on an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill. The amendment, sponsored by McGovern (D-MA), Emerson (R-MO), Bishop (D-GA), includes a “Sense of Congress” stating that hunger and obesity are impairing military recruitment and must be properly addressed by fully funding child nutrition programs. The Defense bill does not appropriate funding to the Child Nutrition Act, but it stands as a record that Congress feels that child nutrition programs should allocated an additional $10 billion over the next ten years, as requested by President Obama. The result of the vote is encouraging: 341 Representatives voted for the amendment and only 85 voted against it. Here is the list of which House members voted yes and which voted no.
Hopefully the Child Nutrition Act will come to the House and Senate floors within the next several weeks. Until then, it’s up to us to keep telling Congress that school lunch is a priority for their constituents. Congress has the power to fully fund child nutrition programs, so we need to hold them to their promises. Your legislators will be home in their districts this week. If they signed the “Dear Colleague” letter or voted for the McGovern-Emerson-Bishop amendment, give them a call or send them a note to say that you appreciate their support and that you’re counting on them to make a difference for the health of America’s kids.
Posted on Tue, June 01, 2010 by Slow Food USA
For America’s remaining 30,000 poultry growers, the Department of Justice and USDA’s joint workshop on competition in the poultry industry held last Friday in Normal, Alabama has been a long time coming. For some, it arrived too late. As the second of five DOJ/USDA hearings to be held across the country this year, a number of attendees felt this hearing was more balanced than the previous hearing in Iowa, but still left many wondering what the overall impact these hearings would have in such a highly consolidated industry which continues to force so many family farmers out of business.
Of the seven chicken producers that opened the session’s morning Roundtable Discussion on Poultry Grower Issues, four of the farmers were “former producers,“which was a foreshadowing of the theme of the day; that poultry farmers daily face fear, uncertainty and intimidation from those companies they contract with, otherwise known as “integrators.”
In the weeks leading up to the Alabama workshops, many poultry farmers across the country reported threats from the broiler company representatives, warning them that they would face negative consequences if they spoke at the event, or even attended.
Sitting next to Secretary Vilsack, former North Carolina poultry grower Kay Doby told the audience, “The growers that are here today are in jeopardy because of intimidation by company personnel. They’re taking a big risk. Every grower here is taking a big risk.”
One poultry grower I spoke with the day before the event, refused to give the name of the company that he contracted under or even the state he lived in for fear that they would find out he attended the event. This type of intimidation is a clear sign of just how powerful and arrogant these companies have grown; that in the face of a Department of Justice investigation, they feel comfortable enough to make these types of threats to farmers simply trying to air their grievances to their government.
Slow Food International also runs a publishing company, Slow Food Editore, which specializes in tourism, food and wine. The library now contains about 40 titles and houses Slow, the award-winning quarterly herald of taste and culture, available in five languages: Italian, English, French, German and Spanish.