Saturday, May 31, 2008
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Friday, May 23, 2008
This year many of the beneficiaries of the farm bill (including nutrition programs, farm worker groups, anti-poverty activists, organic growers) needed help more than ever. Extremely high food prices, caused by shortage of basic commodities like wheat and corn (thanks ethanol), have stressed virtually every sector of our economy, and our humanity.
Unfortunately, some of the relief this year is coming in the form of a bill that will also continue to unfairly support huge agribusiness and provide subsidies of comical proportions to megafarms. But it's hard to say "no" when you're truly in need.
The 2006 US Census found that 11.4% of US households are food-insecure while an astonishing 17% of households with children are food insecure. (Food security is defined by the USDA as access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members). According to a 2007 USDA report, about one-third of food insecure households (4.0 percent of all U.S. households) had very low food security—meaning that the food intake of one or more adults was reduced and their eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year because the household lacked money and other resources for food. fn1
Arrives the knight on the white horse: a little more than 66% of the 2007 farm bill will fund domestic nutrition programs and food stamps.
Here is an interesting fact sheet prepared by the House Committee on Agriculture on the nutrition title of the farm bill. The center on Budget on Budget and Policy Priorities has also analyzed the nutrition section of the conferenced bill, and given it a stamp of approval.
It's just hard to swallow the fact that these desperately needed benefits are coming along with commodity subsidies that will continue to make it difficult for people to make good nutritional choices by maintaining the US's status quo love-affair with high fructose corn syrup.
I admit that I'm simplifying the equation a bit. But I wish law makers had the backbone to demand things that their constituents truly need (fresh food, air, soil) rather than be content with cutting the holes out of a rotten apple.
fn1: http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/err49/, Household Food Security in the United States, 2006, by Mark Nord, Margaret Andrews, and Steven Carlson.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
The rain continues! It feels very spongy here... I'm loving it. Good for the garden.
In other news....this week The Washington Post is doing a (much overdue) five-part series on childhood obesity.
Today's installment focused on the fact that both suburban and urban children struggle with obesity, but for different reasons. My first instinct with the epidemic of overweight children is to blame the advent of Big Corn and cheap, fake food.
But it’s obviously so much more complicated than that. I do think at some level, it all roots back to a disconnect from the source of food. However, even that problem is made worse by the fact the kids in urban settings have so few opportunities to be outside and play safely. Hard to develop an appreciation for nature when you are worried about being shot at.
If the issue at hand were adult obesity, I would feel more comfortable delving into the intersection of personal choices and obesity. But we are talking about children, and many of their choices are framed by those older than them.
There are some really great community garden initiatives in my city, but I wish there were more. I think that combined with hands-on nutrition and cooking education in schools would be a revelation.
In the meantime, here are some of the more surprising factoids from the articles in the Washington Post:
- For 32 years, the U.S. Women, Infants and Children program subsidized eggs and cheese for poor children, but no vegetables. In 2007, vegetables, fruits and whole grains were added.
- A quarter of teens drink an average of four colas a day, the equivalent of an extra meal.
- A study of 200 neighborhoods showed that white neighborhoods have four times as many supermarkets as African-American ones.
- McDonald's advertised on report cards in Seminole County, Fla., until the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood objected in December.
- A majority of 1- to 2-year-olds eat a sweet a day; only 1 in 10 eat a dark-green vegetable.
What is your community doing to help prevent childhood obesity?
Friday, May 16, 2008
1/2 lb. spaghetti
juice of 1/4 lemon
To prepare fava beans: Boil large pot of salted water. Prepare ice bath for beans. Remove beans from outer shell. Put fava beans in pot, boil for about a minute. Strain, and place beans in cold bath. Remove hulls. Yield will be about 1.5- 2 cups. Set beans aside.
Add cooked pasta, basil and fava beans to large pan, combine. Add parmesan and cooking liquid until desired consistency is achieved. Season with salt and pepper. Add basil, and drizzle fresh lemon juice on pasta right before serving. Serves 4.