Archive for the ‘In the News’ Category

Even better nutrition advice, this time from Harvard

Harvard Healthy Eating Plate smTwo years ago, the USDA issued a nutrition guideline called MyPlate, which I wrote about here with cautious optimism. It was certainly an improvement over the old food pyramid, but according to the folks at Harvard, it still had flaws. Harvard School of Public Health has now issued its own guide to healthy eating, called Healthy Eating Plate. It, too, uses the visual image of a plate with colored quadrants, but a close look reveals some really valuable improvements.

Perhaps the most important is the emphasis on whole grains (as opposed to the refined ones we’ve become used to). Refining removes many important nutrients and fiber and contributes to metabolic disorders and other diseases, including diabetes. (So why did we start doing it, you may ask…..). I found it interesting that potatoes aren’t on the chart at all!

Dairy is mentioned only following the word “limit”:  Limit milk/dairy, limit cheese, limit butter. This certainly coincides with the environmental reasons for reducing or eliminating dairy, which may be second only to beef as an earth-damaging food source.

The Harvard School of Public Health is more courageous than the captive USDA in saying directly: “Avoid sugary drinks. Avoid bacon, cold cuts, and other processed meats.”

And the good stuff? I thought you’d never ask. You are invited to eat copious amounts of fruits and vegetables. And with the wonderful array of these available and tasty, that’s the best advice of all.

For a longer summary, go here. This website is a goldmine of information, definitions, recipes, and other information about nutrition.

We need a new generation of farmers (and here’s where they’ll come from)

Here’s a wonderfully succinct and proactive slogan: AMERICA NEEDS A MILLION NEW FARMERS. VETERANS WANT THE JOB.

This is the appeal of a website that supports a new documentary called Ground Operations: Battlefields to Farmfields.

As you know, the average age of farmers in America is 57 – and we’re going to need more of them in future years as the current generation retires. And who better to fill their shoes than the returning veterans who are looking for work?

As the website says, “The mission of Ground Operations is to strengthen the growing network of combat veterans transitioning into new careers in sustainable farming and ranching. Let’s help them get started and build their resources, so that they can create healthy new lives for themselves and food security for communities across America.”

I’m old enough to remember the Viet Nam war, the protests, the loss of lives, and the strains endured by returning veterans of my generation. Thankfully, we’ve learned our lesson and offer ceremonies of welcome and other support for this generation of young people who were sent overseas to fight in our name. BUT our economy leaves them in the lurch.

Farming – the perfect solution. Swords into plowshares!

Currently scheduled screenings of Ground Operations can be found here. Trailers are also available on the website. You can also make a donation via the crowdsourcing site IndieGoGo

This is the first financial appeal I’ve made from The Green Foodprint in the years I’ve been blogging. I’ve donated. Please consider adding your dollars to this cause.

GMO labeling might be on the way

gmo protest

I thought that last November’s defeat of California’s Proposition 37 (mandatory labeling of Genetically Modified Organisms in our food), which I campaigned for, was a bad sign. I presumed the power of Big Food’s $40+million disinformation campaign signaled that lies and public relations would win for the next generation or more.

But a few weeks ago a New York Times article explained the bright side of this turn of events. Reporter Stephanie Strom wrote, “Instead of quelling the demand for labeling, the defeat of the California measure has spawned a ballot initiative in Washington State and legislative proposals in Connecticut, Vermont, New Mexico and Missouri, and a swelling consumer boycott of some organic or ‘natural’ brands owned by major food companies.”

She went on to quote Charles Benbrook, a professor at Washington State University and a brilliant advocate of sustainable agriculture: “The big food companies found themselves in an uncomfortable position after Prop. 37, and they’re talking among themselves about alternatives to merely replaying that fight over and over again… They spent a lot of money, got a lot of bad press that propelled the issue into the national debate and alienated some of their customer base, as well as raising issues with some trading partners.”

This public reaction against Big Food got the attention of some major food executives, who met in January to discuss what to do. Imagine this: some of them actually favor labeling. I’m not holding my breath that they’ll become virtuous – they are, after all, the people who made terms like “natural” and ”cage-free” almost meaningless.

Still, it may be a start.

Quinoa in the news

quinoa

Surely you’ve discovered quinoa by now –you know to pronounce it keen-wa and that it’s a grain. You may even know that technically it’s not really a grain, but let’s not get caught up in nomenclature. It looks like a grain, it cooks like a grain (only faster), but it does have an advantage: more protein, amino acids, and other nutrients than most actual grains.

Quinoa garnered some headlines last month when an article in Britain’s paper The Guardian claimed that our appetite for it has driven up the price in its home countries of Peru and Bolivia. Junk food is now cheaper there, the author claimed. We’re shocked, shocked, to learn that junk food is cheaper than healthier food – that surely couldn’t happen here, could it?

This article called attention to a real problem (rich countries benefiting from the foodstuffs of poor countries) but the headline was, in my opinion, just a cheap shot at vegans. As Tom Philpott of Mother Jones points out, carnivores eat quinoa, too. And it can be grown in other places, including in the U.S. Check out his article here for the rest of the rebuttal. Let me just add that the production and export of foods from poor countries unfortunately affects a wide range of foods, including meat and seafood.

Amazing, creative idea to save world’s fish

fishswarm2

So you’ve been wondering how to save the world’s sea life from being fished to extinction. And maybe you’ve been wondering where to invest some money, what with interests rates practically underwater.

Do I have an answer for you!

Some investors have launched a contest – with real cash prizes – to encourage people in the global fishing industry (which, by the way, annually amounts to some $390 billion) to create ways to make the industry sustainable. Translation: how not to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

Personally, my contribution to this problem is simply not to eat fish (or any other seafood or landfood animals), but since millions of people do eat fish, I think the story is worth sharing.

The contest is called Fish 2.0 and those who enter get to rub elbows with venture capitalists looking to fund creative ideas at a two-day event this coming November. I’ve been to a similar event held by Slow Money, where creative food entrepreneurs got to pitch their ideas to moneyed folks, and it was inspiring to see ideas that could help the environment develop in front of my eyes.

David Bank, one of the organizers, explains it in more detail in this Huffington Post blog.  Fish 2.0 isn’t the only such initiative: the David and Lucile Packard Foundation offers Future of Fish, which also helps entrepreneurs, such as Robert Terry of Palo Alto, whose startup is developing fishing gear that could reduce bycatch (killing sea creatures –including dolphins and turtles –that the fishers don’t want and throw back into the sea dead or dying).

Dolphins Jumping

It’s encouraging that some people are seeing the danger and making (and investing in) long-term plans to save the sea life of the world.

Sustainable food — on the airwaves

radio microphone

I recently got a chance to speak to the radio audience of Health Podcaster, on eHealthRadio.  The interview is saved, so if you’re interested in hearing an overview of the food and environment issues, go here.

Like you, I feel that promoting sustainable food and agriculture is a mission. If you’re on the busy end of the time spectrum, you support the movement by buying organic when you’re in the grocery story anyway. If you have a bit more time, you frequent farmers’ markets as well. It doesn’t take a lot of time to tend one’s tomato plants, and the really dedicated grow zucchini, lettuce, peas, beans, and more at their residences.

lafayette-garden-posterjpg1

Then there are community gardens. In my town of Lafayette, CA, a new community garden opened up last year. Check it out here!

Fish are disappearing

mbayaq sefood guide

It’s natural to think that there are always more fish in the sea, but our modern fishing methods – which are more like floating industrial packing factories – are scooping up millions of tons of fish. Did you know that trawlers may use heavy nets that reach the ocean bottom to scrape up everything in their path? Such trawlers have left muddy trails so wide and so long that they can be seen from the International Space Station.

As I mentioned in my book, “Fish aren’t the only ones to suffer. Jobs disappear when fisheries go out of business from overfishing; 40,000 jobs were lost when Canada’s Atlantic cod fishery collapsed in the 1990s, and it has yet to recover. Over 72,000 jobs were lost in the Pacific Northwest due to declining stocks. In 2008 and 2009, the fishing season was closed on the West Coast.”

But the problem now faces New England states. According to John Bullard, a member of the New England Fishery Management Council, “We are headed, slowly, seeming inexorably, to oblivion… It’s midnight and getting darker when it comes to how many cod there are,” he said. “There [aren’t] enough cod for people to make a decent living.”  The article describes the anguish of fishers afraid of losing their livelihood, furious that the agency wants to set lower catch limits.

What a dilemma! But should we allow today’s fishers to exterminate the entire stock of fish? I’m reminded of the redwood debate of a decade or so ago, when a wise soul opined: “We’re going to stop cutting down redwoods. The only question is, When shall we do it? Right now, or after they’re all gone?”

What you can do: Go to Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch to see what fish are acceptable to eat, which ones are dubious choices, and which should be strictly off your menu. Better yet: say goodbye to fish altogether.