Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Use This Food Policy Report Card for Congress to Force Change

Terrific news as Congress returns to work next week after summer break: a report card to grade U.S. Senate and House members on national food policies.  

American voters can use this handy tool to force Congress to change its unhealthy ways on food policy. 

The National Food Policy Scorecard is published by Food Policy Action, a nonprofit group that advocates for...
"...policies that support healthy diets, reduce hunger at home and abroad, improve food access and affordability, uphold the rights and dignity of food and farm workers, increase transparency, improve public health, reduce the risk of food-borne illness, support local and regional food systems, treat farm animals humanely and reduce the environmental impact of farming and food production."
Included on the Board of Food Policy Action, an outgrowth of the respected Environmental Working Group, are:

  • Michael Jacobson, Executive Director, Center for Science in the Public Interest
  • Ray Offenheiser, President, Oxfam America
  • Rev. David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World
  • Robin Schepper, former Executive Director, "Let's Move!"
  • Tom Colicchio, Chef, Restauranteur, Head Judge of Top Chef
  • Ken Cook, President, Environmental Working Group

Click the following links to use the National Food Policy Scorecard to view...

Congressional legislators, by state, each with a percentage rating on their voting records in support of food policies. "Click a state to see whether your legislators voted to keep food safe, healthy and affordable." Senators are rated on 18 votes and House members on 14 votes taken in the 112th Congress. 

Results of U.S. Senate votes on 18 food policy bills in 112th Congress. Also includes brief explanation of each bill. 

Results of U.S. House votes on 14 food policy bill in 112th Congress. Again, includes brief explanation of each bill. 

Pending Food Policy Legislation under consideration by Congress. Use this page to understand the issues, then contact your elected officials with your views.  Congress is considering issues such as...
  • Antibiotics, Drugs - Halts use of antibiotics and other drugs in meat "unless the applicant can show that there is a reasonable certainty of no harm to human health."
  • Arsenic - Requires that the FDA establish limits on the amount of arsenic allowable in rice. 
  • Food Marketing  to Children - Mandates now-voluntary guidelines for industrial food corporations to stress healthy choices
  • Food Safety - Forces Congress to fund and the White House to issue final regulations for the "Food Safety Modernization Act," which was passed into law in 2010. 

Our nation's disastrously unhealthy food policies clearly support industrial fake-food mega-corporations, their powerful lobbyists, and their highly processed products rife with additives, chemicals, fillers, emulsifiers, and artificial flavors and colors.. 

Only American voters can cause Congress to change its unhealthy ways on food policy. The power is in our hands to force political leaders to vote for healthy, real foods, not the fake chemical-laced processed foods sold by their wealthy political donors.  

Use the National Food Policy Scorecard to keep tabs on your elected representatives. Use it today and make your views known! 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Urban Farming Ignites Thanks to Alice Waters: Return to American Roots

Everything old is new again, at least in U.S. urban farming.  A much-needed return to American agriculture roots. 

And that's very good news for tens of millions of city dwellers today, especially school-age children. 

Alice Waters, innovative chef and leading real food activist, is credited with igniting America's return to urban agriculture by founding her Edible Schoolyard Project two decades ago

The White House staff, led by First Lady Michelle Obama, stylishly reinforced the principles of the Edible Schoolyard Project by replanting and publicizing a vegetable garden on White House grounds. 

Before the 20th century, Americans grew much of their family food supply. During both World Wars, U.S. presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt urged Americans to cultivate backyard produce gardens to ameliorate food shortages. At its height, the National Victory Garden movement produced 9 million pounds a year of fruits and vegetables during World War II, about 44% of the nation's produce. 

Urban agriculture largely died after World War II, as U.S. households eagerly bought the new ultra-convenient industrial-made foods filling supermarkets and sold by a rapidly expanding new breed of restaurant, the fast food joint.  The rest is American fake-food history...

In 2013,  a remarkably powerful resurgence of urban farming has been fueled by Alice Waters' pioneering 20-year-old agenda to restore "edible education" to urban school children and their families.  

Per a report released last week by the UCLA School of Public affairs, Los Angeles County, home to 10 million residents, boasts...
"... 1,261 verified urban agriculture sites — categorized as school gardens, community gardens and commercial primary growing sites... School gardens make up the majority of L.A. County's urban agriculture activity, with 761 sites. Commercial agricultural operations (nurseries and farms) total 382 sites, and the researchers documented 118 community gardens."
Los Angeles' tally of localized farming operations hasn't surged this high for nearly one hundred years, when midwest farmers were famously drawn west to California for its fertile land and fair weather. (See ad at right, circa 1929.)

The revitalized push to bring fresh produce to urban dwellers via local agriculture isn't confined to greater Los Angeles, which is uniquely suited in its vastness to accommodate growing crops.    

Similar projects proliferate across the nation, including in...

Seattle, where the city Office of Sustainability and Environment vigorously fosters urban farming, even declaring 2010 the "Year of Urban Agriculture." In 2008, the Seattle City Council passed the Local Food Action Initiative "to improve the local and regional food system."

Detroit, where urban farming has boomed as the sole source of fresh produce for a plethora of residents of the financially battered city. 

Chicago, where city zoning ordinances were elaborately amended to "allow agricultural uses like community gardens and urban farms in many parts of the city." 

Atlanta, where the Urban Agriculture Training Program has met massive statewide response in its program of "cultivating urban farmers and gardeners to build healthy, vibrant local food communities."

New York City, which is "starved for space, but increasingly, residents are filling every last inch they can find with (healthy) things they can grow and eat," notes in an article on New York City's Biggest Urban Farms"When The Design Trust for Public Space released its Five Borough Farm report last year, it found more than 700 food-producing sites within the five boroughs..."

The urban agriculture trend has exploded worldwide, as well. And just in time to partially meet demands of both American and worldwide hunger and healthy-food-shortage crises:
  • 50% of the world's population lives in cities.
  • By 2015, 26 cities in the world are expected to have a population of 10 million-plus.
  • 250 million hungry people in the world live in cities. (Source - Wikipedia)
Thanks to one low-key meeting between Alice Waters and a public middle-school principal in her Berkeley neighborhood two decades ago, one acre of blighted school yard was tilled, seeded, and tended into a glorious vegetable garden that transformed those students' lives... and transformed our national mindset about urban farming.

Or rather, reawakened Americans to the empowerment of growing our own produce, just as our families did before the powerful rise of industrial fake-food mega-corporations. 

Everything old and valuable and healthy is new again in U.S. urban farming. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Carl's Jr, Hardee's: Sex, Lusty Decadence with Salt, Sugar, Fat

Carl's Jr has finally abandoned all pretense of its former image of offering a panoply of heart-healthy (but quite delicious) fast food options.  

Instead, the 1,400-location western-states fast-food purveyor is gleefully appealing to the lustiest cravings of the I-don't-give-a-damn crowd.  (Carl's Jr also owns the 1,900-location Hardee's chain.) 

"Eat Like You Mean It!" crows Carl's newest round of TV ads, featuring gorgeous models seductively downing sloppy burgers the size of a small child's head. Or shaggy, shirtless surfer boy-men gazing at ocean waves while enjoying an oozing sandwich bigger than some beach balls.   

"All of our products are indulgent, decadent," commented Carl's Jr CEO Andy Puzder to the Los Angeles Times. 

Decadent, indeed! Check-out this remarkably lascivious 60-second fantasy commercial by barely clad super-model Kate Upton:

In case sex isn't enough to lure you to sabotage your health with their addictive calorie-and-cholesterol traps, Carl's Jr has upped the sugar, salt, and fat ante with greasier, tangier, sweeter menu offerings that must set new records of culinary extremism, even among industrial fake-food corporate giants. Among Carl's Jr's concoctions in 2013 are their... 

If it's a sugar rush you crave, look no further than Carl's Jr's newest ode to the indulgent, anti-health-food agenda... the Strawberry Pop-Tart Ice Cream Sandwich, which the industrial mega-giant rolled out in commercials invoking sacred deities and featuring majestic classical music. 

With about 13 teaspoons of sugar (51 grams) comprising more than 200 of its supposedly 320 calories, Carl's Jr's Strawberry Pop-Tart Ice Cream Sandwich is truly for the I-don't-give-a-damn-about-diabetes crowd. Be decadent... order two! Live like you mean it!

As if to emphasize the special decadence of this attention-grabbing confection, Carl's Jr introduced it by advertising that "For a limited time, guests can receive a free Strawberry Pop-Tarts Ice Cream Sandwich with the purchase of a Super Bacon Cheeseburger combo at participating Carl's Jr. restaurants."    

The limited-time Super Bacon Cheeseburger features six juicy strips of bacon along with the usual high-calories, high-fat, high-salt fare. What the heck after all that! Why NOT add a Strawberry Pop-Tart Ice Cream Sandwich or two? 

Seriously... does it really matter after a certain decadent, indulgent point? 

I do vaguely remember Carl's Jr, though, when a large portion of their menu... mainly charbroiled chicken sandwiches and generously-stocked salad bars... featured heart-healthy symbols of the American Heart Association. 

Guess those fell by the fast-food wayside years ago, when Carl's Jr stopped giving a hoot about offering a plethora of genuinely healthy options to their customers....rather than only caring about gigantic profits at the expense of American public health. Or caring about you and your family's health. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Farmers Markets, CSAs: A Blow for American Freedom of Choice

Farmers markets and farm coops, such as CSAs, are delicious antidotes to industrial fake food products. 

And both provide a powerful marketplace for people to directly support family farms, gardeners, and local communities. (CSA is an acronym for community supported agriculture.)

 August is the gloriously perfect month to enjoy... or begin to enjoy... fresh produce. Farmers' markets are open across the country in mid-summer, and bursting with freshest goodness... with melons, corn, tomatoes, zucchini and summer squash, peaches and nectarines, bell peppers, blueberries and strawberries, eggplant, and much more, depending on the U.S. region.

This week, my CSA carton will include a watermelon, two varieties of peaches, two lbs of tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, baby broccoli, a bunch of basil, potatoes, bell peppers, and a unique red romaine lettuce. (All for $38!) All was grown, harvested, and distributed by small family farms in Central California. 

To locate a farmers market, call or check the website of your local city government or Chamber of Commerce.   Or search here using the USDA's comprehensive "Farmers Markets Search" database

To find a CSA that serves your community, search here at Local Harvest's database. At Local Harvest's website, you can also learn about the workings of CSAs, and about the advantages for both farmers and consumers.  

One more reason I urge everyone to shop farmers markets and CSAs: freedom. 

Freedom from the unhealthy industrial fake foods that dominate supermarkets. Freedom from supporting major industrial corporations rather than local entrepreneurs.  Freedom from the federal government's funding agenda (via the farm bill) of genetically-modified foods teeming with chemicals, additives, fillers, and artificial flavors and colors... fake foods manufactured by political donors.  

Besides being sunny fun, think of shopping farmers markets and CSAs as striking a blow for American freedom of choice.