Tag Archive | Michelle Obama

The Kids Aren’t Alright …

… with Michelle Obama’s school lunches.

There were three big problems with the well intentioned overhaul of the nutrition standards of the federal school lunch program. Inadequate funding, insufficient planning for implementation and a boneheaded decision to put caps on total calories.

You can see all three on display as kids tweet their displeasure and disgust at their school lunches at the First Lady.

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The biggest problem of the three is poor implementation. This is a program that is going to take years to get right. Rolling out a reform like this is just plain hard, which I wrote about here.

More at Business Insider.

Sources
Students Are Tweeting Awful Photos Of School Lunches To Blame Michelle Obama For New ‘Healthier’ Meals | Peter Jacobs | Business Insider | 8 April 2014
Feedback Loops, Institutional Reform and the Pitfalls of a Second Best World | Marc Brazeau | REALFOOD.ORG | 22 October 2013

Americans in Cars, Eating Badly: Scale and Scope

Just on the heels of a post on the potential for better convenience and grab and go foods to improve health outcomes for Americans, comes news via Marion Nestle that Subway is prioritizing moving more vegetables out the door. They are specifically targeting the campaign at kids.

This morning, Subway is announcing that as part of its commitment to Let’s Move!’s efforts to reverse childhood obesity, the chain will put $41 million into encouraging kids to “pile on the veggies.”

Subway says it will:

+ Run a fun campaign to get kids to eat more fruits and vegetables.
+ Set nutrition standards for marketing to kids.
+ Strengthen its “already nutritious” children’s menu.
+ Put signs on doors that say “Playtime powered by veggies.”
+ Do a video collaboration with Disney’s Muppets to encourage piling on the veggies.
+ Provide kids’ meals with lowfat or nonfat milk or water as the default.

I could, but won’t, nitpick over the nutrition standards. Let’s just say they are a start.

But I love it that Subway is focusing on foods—veggies, apples, and no sodas unless parents specifically order them.

And I think “pile on the veggies” is one terrific slogan.

This is especially heartening because:
A. Low vegetable consumption is the number one problem in the American diet. (or tied for number one with high sugar consumption)
B. In terms of marginal improvement to convenience foods, increasing whole grains and decreasing sugar are fairly easy. Increasing vegetables is much harder.

This is exactly what I was getting at in that previous post:

Convenience and fast foods are a less than ideal vehicle for increasing vegetable consumption. Frozen dinners aren’t so hard, but the central issue is grab and go foods. What I would love to see are whole grain, veggie packed ploughman’s pies; chickpea flour, veggie samosas; multigrain grilled vegetable burritos; and footlong grilled veggie sandwiches on hearty rolls. It’s not that hard to pile vegetables on a whole grain pizza and garnish it with a healthy dusting of chopped herbs and arugula.

Marginal improvements don’t get a lot of love in the food movement. Tom Philpott stopped by to comment:

. . . But this—”Philpott’s agreement with the central premise was buried at the end and only briefly mentioned”—doesn’t quite get at my critique, which was that a kinder, gentler junk food industry is a necessary, but probably not sufficient, response to our dirt-related health problems. Maybe I’m wrong—maybe hyper-processed food can be tweaked in a way such that it keeps people healthy. I doubt it, because i don’t think we have figured out precisely how such a diversity of whole-food diets—ie, Mediterranean, traditional Japanese, Inuit, etc—keep people healthy. Precisely engineering effective nutrition into hyper-processed diet would seem to require knowledge we don’t have. So sure, stop packing so much sugar into drinks and remove known health ruiners like partially hydrogenated fat. But I’m not sure engineers for McDonalds or Kraft really know how to keep people healthy.

I agree with this but also think it has three problems. It ignores my reframing from junk food to convenience/grab and go food. It under emphasizes the important of a both/and approach. I agree that “a kinder, gentler junk food industry” is not sufficient. It doesn’t need to be. There huge numbers of people who will only be only be reached through these kinds of small marginal changes. But in public health those can add up to significant effects. Some smaller group of people will see larger improvements in health by increasing the number of home cooked meals and shifting to proven traditional diets. That’s important too. But don’t underestimate how the resources required to nudge big changes among smaller groups of people versus small changes among big groups of people.

I’ve been an instructor for Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters program and for The North Hartford Community Kitchen. I’ve also been the executive chef at a retirement community, which I’ve talked about before. As an instructor I worked intensively for a few hours a week with a handful of people, hoping to help improve their eating habits. With Share Our Strength we worked with six students two hours a week for six weeks. With planning and transportation I invested three hours per student. With The North Portland Community Kitchen, I believe we did sixteen students for sixteen weeks, so the math worked out about the same, except that I think we helped more people make bigger changes over that longer period of time. In a few instances I know we helped a few individuals make some big changes.

At the retirment community, I simply made a decision to improve the eating habits of 200 people. I had to do a little selling of the program to the community and a little work to retrain my staff, but at the end of the day, I changed the eating habits of 200 people and I barely lifted a finger. They were suddenly eating mixed greens instead ice berg lettuce. They were eating fish twice a week instead of once. Potatoes twice a week instead of five times, replaced by wild rice, yams, and barley pilaf. All the flour in their baked goods was suddenly whole wheat. 10 grain hot cereal instead of Cream of Wheat. More fruit in their desserts, yogurt with live active cultures in the snack room. Small and not so small changes multiplied by 200.

Being an instructor was more rewarding, but I believe I achieved bigger results through those institutional changes. It’s a question of scale and scope. As a cooking and nutrition instructor I was better positioned to address the scale of the issues that people faced. As an institutional chef, I could address the scope of the problem. In my little corner of the world I was making small, significant changes at the population level.

Scale and scope. Consider. In 2010, Subway had 23,850 locations doing $452,000 per location for a total of $10 billion in sales. Meanwhile, in 2013 there were 8,144 farmer’s markets in the US with total sales estimated at $1 billion. Subway alone has triple the locations doing ten times the sales as farmer’s markets. And don’t forget that those 23,850 locations are open all year, seven days a week, day and night. Those 8,144 farmer’s markets are only open a few hours a week, a few months a year. Not only will an increase in Subway’s fruit and vegetable sales impact more people, it will impact those people who are less likely to actively make the changes on their own. The changes that get the food movement’s motor running like more farmer’s markets are more likely to reach the most motivated people.

Focusing on scale or scope is how a lot of people end up talking past each other. I believe the Freedman was addressing questions of scale, while Philpott was focused on scope. The food movement does a good job thinking about scope. Their weakness is in thinking about scale.

I know that comparing farmer’s markets to Subway is unfair and I’m all for seeing more farmer’s markets in low income neighborhoods. But let’s face it, when Michelle Obama moved to pressing Big Food for incremental changes, she was just using Willie Sutton’s logic. When it bears fruit (yes, pun) it’s hard to argue with that logic.

Sources

Let’s Move!’s latest move: Subway will “Pile on the Veggies”

Marion Nestle | Food Politics | 23 January 2014

American’s in Cars, Eating Badly
Marc Brazeau | REALFOOD.ORG | 16 January 2014

Feedback Loops, Institutional Reform and the Pitfalls of a Second Best World
Marc Brazeau | REALFOOD.ORG | 22 October 2013


The QSR Top 50

Sam Ochs | QSR Magazine | August 2011


Farmer’s Markets

The Agricultural Resource Marketing Center

DAILY ESSENTIALS | SUNDAY | 22 SEPTEMBER 2013

1.WHITEHOUSE CONVENING ON MARKETING TO CHILDREN
Eddie Gehman Kohan | Obamafoodorama

“I’m here today with one simple request– and that is to do even more and move even faster to market responsibly to our kids,” Mrs. Obama said.

Speaking from beneath the historic portrait of Lincoln in the packed State Dining Room, Mrs. Obama laid out her vision for continuing the “cultural shift” toward healthier eating she said is already underway thanks to her Let’s Move! campaign.

More than 100 guests attended the event, billed by the White House as the first of its kind at 1600 Penn. They included representatives from food, beverage and media giants, as well as academic experts, parent leaders and public health advocates.

2. MICHAELS FINGERS
Paul Bennett | Medium

I am sitting talking to Sean, a 17-year-old working-class kid from Handsworth, a notoriously tough area of Birmingham in the UK’s Midlands. His speech is strangely inarticulate and slurred, his accent heavy and laced with slang—original Jamaican patois mixed with English street. I have family from Birmingham and know the nasal dialect,but even I am struggling to understand and keep up.

What I do understand is that Sean is hiding something. He has a condition known as Phenylketonuria, a serious metabolic disorder that we are studying for a client of ours. They manufacture a food supplement which helps moderate the effects. PKU, as it is known, is an inability for the human body to process any form of complex protein, meaning that the sufferer is resigned to a life of bland, low-protein food: no red meat, chicken, cheese, nuts, or legumes. Staples such as bread, pasta and rice have to be carefully monitored. Most are simply impossible to digest.

3. TED TALK: MARIA SPIVAK – WHY THE BEES ARE DISAPPEARING

4. USDA PILOT PROGRAM FAILS TO STOP CONTAMINATED MEAT
Kimberly Kindy | The Washington Post | 8 September 2013

A meat inspection program that the Agriculture Department plans to roll out in pork plants nationwide has repeatedly failed to stop the production of contaminated meat at American and foreign plants that have already adopted the approach, documents and interviews show.

The program allows meat producers to increase the speed of processing lines by as much as 20 percent and cuts the number of USDA safety inspectors at each plant in half, replacing them with private inspectors employed by meat companies. The approach has been used for more than a decade by five American hog plants under a pilot program.

But three of these plants were among the 10 worst offenders in the country for health and safety violations, with serious lapses that included failing to remove fecal matter from meat, according to a report this spring by the USDA inspector general. The plant with the worst record by far was one of the five in the pilot program.

5. MAKING FOOD FROM FLIES (IT’S NOT THAT ICKY)
Dan Charles | The Salt | NPR

n the quirky little college town of Yellow Springs, Ohio, home to many unconventional ideas over the years, there’s now a small insect factory.

It’s an unassuming operation, a generic boxy building in a small industrial park. It took me a while even to find a sign with the company’s name: . But its goal is grand: The people at EnviroFlight are hoping that their insects will help our planet grow more food while conserving land and water.

They don’t expect you to eat insects. (Sure, Asians and Africans do it, but Americans are finicky.) The idea is, farmed insects will become food for fish or pigs.

6. US DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE GUTS ORGANIC LAW
Consumers Union

In a move decried by consumer and environmental groups as severely weakening the meaning of the organic label, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced this week that the agency had changed the process for exempting otherwise prohibited substances (such as synthetics) in food that carries the “organic” or “made with organic” label. No public comment period was provided for the changes to this policy, which had been in place since 2005.

Under the federal organic law[1] and prior to Friday’s announcement, there was a controlled process for allowing the use of substances not normally permitted in organic production because of extenuating circumstances. These exemptions were supposed to be made for a five-year period, in order to encourage the development of natural (or organic) alternatives. The exemptions were required by law to expire, known as “sunset,” unless they were reinstated by a two-thirds “decisive” majority vote of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and include a public review. This is no longer the case.

7. MISGIVINGS ABOUT HOW A WEED KILLER AFFECTS THE SOIL
Stephanie Strom | The New York Times

Dirt in two fields around Alton where biotech corn was being grown was hard and compact. Prying corn stalks from the soil with a shovel was difficult, and when the plants finally came up, their roots were trapped in a chunk of dirt. Once freed, the roots spread out flat like a fan and were studded with only a few nodules, which are critical to the exchange of nutrients.

In comparison, conventional corn in adjacent fields could be tugged from the ground by hand, and dirt with the consistency of wet coffee grounds fell off the corn plants’ knobby roots.

“Because glyphosate moves into the soil from the plant, it seems to affect the rhizosphere, the ecology around the root zone, which in turn can affect plant health,” said Robert Kremer, a scientist at the United States Agriculture Department, who has studied the impact of glyphosate on soybeans for more than a decade and has warned of the herbicide’s impact on soil health.

8. TRADER JOE’S EX-PRESIDENT TO TURN EXPIRED FOOD INTO CHEAP MEALS
NPR

Here’s some food for thought: One-third of the world’s food goes to waste every year. In the U.S., about 40 percent of our food gets thrown out. It’s happening on the farm, at the grocery store and in our own homes.

Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about what to do about it — from that’s past its prime to getting restaurants to .

, the former president of Trader Joe’s, is determined to repurpose the perfectly edible produce slightly past its sell-by date that ends up in the trash. (That happens in part because people misinterpret the labels, according to a out this week from Harvard and the National Resources Defense Council.) To tackle the problem, Rauch is opening a new market early next year in Dorchester, Mass., that will prepare and repackage the food at deeply discounted prices.