Friday, July 13, 2012

Food for Thought (July 8 – July 14)

Food and Health

Cutting up food into smaller pieces may help people control their weight more easily because they are more satisfying to eat than one large piece with the same number of calories, according to a new study presented at a conference this week.

Artificial sweeteners, also known as non-nutritive sweeteners, may help people reach their body weight goal, and also maintain a healthy body weight, researchers reported in two journals, Circulation and Diabetes Care. However, users have to make sure they do not "compensate" by eating high-calorie foods. An example of "compensating" might be ordering a diet coke and also a large slice of chocolate cake.
Is a calorie really just a calorie? Do calories from a soda have the same effect on your waistline as an equivalent number from an apple or a piece of chicken? For decades the question has percolated among researchers — not to mention dieters. It gained new momentum with a study published last month in The Journal of the American Medical Association suggesting that after losing weight, people on a high-fat, high-protein diet burned more calories than those eating more carbohydrates.

Food Safety

A small company is trying to bring to market a genetically engineered apple that does not turn brown when sliced or bruised. But it has much of the rest of the apple industry seeing red…the U.S. Apple Association, which represents the American apple industry, opposes introduction of the product, as do some other industry organizations. They say that, while they do not believe that the genetic engineering is dangerous, it could undermine the fruit’s image as a healthy and natural food, the one that keeps the doctor away and is as American as, well, apple pie. 

The three types of bacteria - Salmonella Infantis, Salmonella Newport and Salmonella Lille - have been traced to baby poultry from the Mt. Healthy Hatchery in Ohio, which sells chicks and ducklings through mail orders, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of people sickened in each state is as follows: Alabama (4), Arizona (1), Delaware (1), Georgia (5), Illinois (1), Indiana (3), Kansas (1), Kentucky (5), Louisiana (1), Maine (4), Maryland (1), Massachusetts (2), Michigan (2), Nebraska (1), New Jersey (1), New York (16), North Carolina (14), Ohio (37), Pennsylvania (11), Rhode Island (1), South Carolina (1), Tennessee (11), Texas (2), Vermont (1), Virginia (10) and West Virginia (7).

Food Assistance

As expected, the House version of the 2012 Farm Bill contains deep cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called food stamps). With its $16 billion proposed cut in this critical safety net, the House leadership is about three times as cruel as the Senate, which already approved a $4.5 billion reduction over 10 years. If the House gets its way, 2 to 3 million Americans could go hungry. In addition, 280,000 kids could get kicked off the school meal program because their families' eligibility is tied to SNAP. And speaking of kids, almost half of all SNAP participants are children.

Nearly one in five Alabama residents is getting food stamps, and the number is growing again after declining for a few months. Experts say it's too early to tell if the one-month increase is merely a bump on the road to economic recovery or a trend.

Senate Budget Committee ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) slammed the Department of Agriculture (USDA) Thursday for reportedly conducting an aggressive outreach campaign to increase the number of people on food stamps, and said news of this campaign means Congress needs to look more closely at federal food aid programs.

Congress’s election-year calendar and conflicts over food stamps may make this week’s House Agriculture Committee consideration of a farm-aid and nutrition bill the measure’s last advance before current law expires at the end of September.  House leaders would rather sidestep divisions over food-stamp spending and delay the bill until after the November election, analysts and lobbyists say. Appropriations legislation and possible votes on repealing President Barack Obama’s health-care plan will compete for time. Given the political thorniness of the agriculture bill, a series of short-term extensions is possible, said Harwood Schaffer, an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee.

This week, more than 400 of America's culinary leaders were on Capitol Hill to ask Congress to protect funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps). Today, nearly half of the 46 million Americans relying on SNAP are children.  Chefs and restaurateurs such as Hugh Acheson, Daniel Boulud, Sean Brock, Floyd Cardoz, Jennifer Carroll, Tom Colicchio, Alexandra Guarnaschelli, Stephanie Izard, Food Network President Brooke Johnson, Sandra Lee, Danny Meyer, Mary Sue Milliken, Michael Mina, Marc Murphy, Pat & Gina Neely, Charlie Palmer, Rachael Ray, Marcus Samuelsson and Bryan Voltaggio joined the national anti-hunger nonprofit Share Our Strength in urging lawmakers to protect funding for this nutrition program that helps feed America's children.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Food for Thought (June 17 – June 23)

Food and Health

The average person makes more than 200 decisions about food every day, and most of the time isn’t even aware of it. We may take a stand each morning when it comes to ordering a tall, nonfat, no-foam latte, but for the most part, we tend to consume what’s put in front of us. When we eat out, everything from a restaurant’s lighting to the menu design to the size of the plate or cup influences how much we eat and drink.

Food scientist, Luis Cisneros-Zevallos and team showed that compounds that exist in stone fruits (nectarines, plums, peaches) could be useful in the fight against metabolic syndrome, in which inflammation and obesity eventually lead to serious illnesses and health problems.

Eating disorders and aggressive weight loos strategies are not just problems for young people.  A recent study shows women over fifty wrestling with body issues, with 70% saying they are trying to lose weight, 8% reporting purging (forcing themselves to throw up after eating), and 3.5% confessing to binge eating. Overall, 62% of women in the study said weight negatively impacted their lives.

Food Safety

A bill that would put some teeth into federal organic food law was introduced Tuesday by a bipartisan pair of representatives from opposite sides of the country.  Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA) and Congressman Richard Hanna (R-NY), introduced the legislative to ensure that products carrying the USDA's organic seal comply with the 1990 Organic Foods Production Act.

In a nationwide survey of more than a thousand people, Consumers Union found that 86% of people said they would like to see more antibiotic-free meat on store shelves, and more than 60% said they'd be willing to pay more for it.

Coinciding with the new "Meat Without Drugs" campaign announced this week, tech start up Real Time Farms launched a crowd-sourced map to help consumers locate meat from animals raised without antibiotics. The FixAntibiotics Food Finder allows shoppers to look up retail locations, farmers markets, farms, and restaurants sourcing antibiotic-free meat using their zipcode or by zooming into a geographic area.

The CDC reports a total of 390 persons infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Bareilly (376 persons) or Salmonella Nchanga (14 persons) have been reported from 27 states and the District of Columbia.  Collaborative investigation efforts of state, local, and federal public health agencies indicate that a frozen raw yellowfin tuna product, known as Nakaochi Scrape, from Moon Marine USA Corporation is the likely source of this outbreak.

Food Assistance

The Senate today passed its version of the farm bill, which included $4.5 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the food stamp program). The Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012 (S.3240) could impact 500,000 families and would reduce monthly SNAP benefits by $90. It was passed with 64 yes votes and 35 no votes.
The 1,000-page "farm bill" being debated in the Senate is somewhat of a misnomer. Four of every five dollars in it — roughly $80 billion a year — goes for grocery bills for one of every seven Americans through food stamps.  Republicans say Congress could cut the cost $2 billion a year by just closing a pair of loopholes that some states use to award benefits to people who otherwise might not qualify.
The U.S. Senate Tuesday rejected a farm bill amendment that would have restricted eligibility for food stamps to those already receiving cash assistance.The Senate approved several other amendments to the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act, but eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps -- already a partisan issue in Washington -- has also split Senate Democrats, Politico said.
To abide by a federal mandate that enforces a healthy menu, the price of school lunch is going up 15 cents at the elementary level and 25 cents at the high school in Milford, MA.
The Clover, SC school board Monday approved a 10-cent price increase for school lunches and a 25-cent rise in the cost of breakfast, effective when school opens in the fall. That brings the cost to $1.25 for school breakfast and $2 for lunch at elementary schools and $2.25 for standard lunch at the middle and high schools. The Clover board also increased meal prices last year.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Food for Thought (June 10 – June 16)

Food and Health

Results from a recent study reveal that the most effective way to get back on track from a bad lifestyle is for individuals to change two major factors in their behavior; The first is reducing the time spent watching TV or in front of a computer, and the second is to eat more fruits and vegetables.

A new study that used brain scans of people who had not had enough sleep suggests junk food may be more appealing to tired brains.

After New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his proposed plans to ban the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces in the city, the public immediately started fighting back. This week, not only is Bloomberg still pushing forward with his plans, he and members of his board have also decided to target high calorie foods.

Food Safety

…getting an industry-wide view of the type of challenges food workers face hasn’t been easy. That’s where a new report called “The Hands that Feed Us,” which is based on a comprehensive survey of over 600 workers from around the food industry (and nearly 50 employers), comes into the picture. Conducted by the Food Chain Workers Alliance, the survey puts [worker’s stories] in full context and shines a bright light on the often invisible people behind our food.

Unilever, the maker of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, is recalling it’s pint containers of Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Nougat Crunch Ice Cream, Sweet Cream Ice Cream with Fudge Covered Wafer Cookies & a Chocolate Nougat Swirl. The reason for the recall is a potential undeclared allergen that’s missing from the label.

Korean shellfish shipped to the United States may have been exposed to human feces and potentially contaminated with norovirus, the Food and Drug Administration warned distributors, retailers and other food service operators Thursday.

Food Assistance

While Congress is fussing over the farm bill, Michele Simon’s new report, Food Stamps: Follow the Money, identifies the businesses that most stand to gain from the $72 billion spent last year on SNAP. This program, formerly known as food stamps, gave 46 million Americans an average of $134 per month to spend on food in late 2011.

The Farm Bill debate is currently in full-swing in the U.S. Senate this week. The sprawling legislation covers food stamps, subsidies, international food aid, research grants—it literally dictates what and how we eat. And right now, the Farm Bill gives all the power to the biggest food companies, which they wield with impunity over farmers and consumers. But an amendment to the bill–the Packer Ban, introduced by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Kent Conrad (D-North Dakota)–could begin to address this unfair advantage that giant food companies have over farmers.

As of February, 2012, nearly 1-point-9 million Georgians participated in the food stamp program. The Senate Farm Bill would cut the program nationwide by $4 billion over the next decade, largely by targeting abuses.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Food for Thought (June 3 – June 9)

Food and Health

People who restrict their caloric intake in an effort to live longer have hearts that function more like those in people who are 20 years younger.

Seventy leading chefs, authors, food policy experts, nutritionists, CEOs, and environment and health organizations sent an open letter to Members of Congress today urging lawmakers to reinvest federal farm and crop insurance subsidy dollars into programs that feed the hungry, protect the environment and promote the consumption of local, organic and healthy food.

Food allergies are more common among kids living in cities than among children in less populated areas, a new study finds.  Researchers found that the share of children with any type of food allergy was 9.8 percent in cities, 7.2 percent in suburban areas, and 6.2 percent in rural areas.
Disney's new ban on junk-food advertising during children's programming has been hailed as an important public health step. But what about the company's new initiative to brand "health food" with a Mickey Mouse label?

Food Safety

Fourteen people in six states are sickened with E coli 0145; the same strain killed a New Orleans toddler last week. While no one source has been pinpointed, state officials are working with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to solve the case and epidemiologists suspect food may be the culprit.

Under a new policy that gave school districts the choice, only three states opted to buy ground beef containing the controversial Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB), according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

An Illinois-based firm is recalling approximately 96,408 pounds of meat lasagna products because they contain undeclared allergens.  Windsor Quality Food Co. of Toluca, IL issued a voluntary recall of two types of meat lasagna Wednesday because they contain egg and soy, both known allergens, but these ingredients are not named on product labels.

Food Assistance
An Indianapolis food bank is giving away thousands of portions of organic baby food thanks to a generous donor.People lined up early Friday morning outside the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry in the 3000 block of East 30th Street. St. Vincent de Paul is one of four food banks in the U.S. that each received 25,000 pouches of the baby food this week.
Buying lunch at school next year will cost an extra dime for many Flagler students. The Flagler County School Board voted unanimously during a regular meeting Tuesday to increase lunch prices to $1.60 for elementary students, $1.85 for middle school students and $2.10 for high school students. Those prices will increase by a dime each year for the next three years. The changes won't affect about 64 percent of the district's students because they qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. The price increases are in response to the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which requires some districts to ask families who pay for full-prices lunches to pay a greater share of the tab.

Early Friday morning, a local kitchen was bustling with prep work for the impending lunch rush -- avocados mashed for guacamole, bundles of lettuce being shredded for salads, and fresh summer squash and eggplant roasting for vegetarian wraps. The kitchen wasn't at a downtown restaurant -- it was at Monument Mountain Regional High School. The day's meals were part of a student-led initiative to host an all-locally sourced lunch. Before the lunch periods ended, all 180 veggie wraps were sold, while healthy chip alternatives and dips were quickly gobbled up.
Parents will pay more for school lunches next year, as federal rules expand while budgets shrink.
The Lafourche Parish School Board voted this week to raise the price of each breakfast and lunch by 10 cents. In Terrebonne Parish, the cost of breakfast will stay the same, but the cost of lunch will increase by 15 percent.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Food for Thought (May 27 – June 2)

Food and Health

So more than a few New Yorkers took it especially hard Thursday when they learned that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg wanted to take away their plus-size sodas in restaurants, movie theaters, stadiums, arenas and mobile food carts, as a way, he said, of fighting obesity.

Women in their seventies who exercise and eat healthy amounts of fruits and vegetables have a longer life expectancy, according to research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The nation's food supply may be vulnerable to rapid groundwater depletion from irrigated agriculture, according to a new study by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and elsewhere. The study, which appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, paints the highest resolution picture yet of how groundwater depletion varies across space and time in California's Central Valley and the High Plains of the central U.S.

The Mediterranean diet, which is characterized by the consumption of fruit, vegetables, beans and peas, fish, olive oil and nuts, has been proven to be beneficial to the health in terms of a lesser chance of chronic illness and a lower mortality rate.  A new study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, reveals that those who stick more to the Mediterranean diet score higher on the quality of life questionnaire in terms of physical and mental well-being. This link is even stronger in terms of physical quality of life.

Food Safety

On June 6, in Washington, DC at the Pew Charitable Trusts Conference Center, government leaders and consumer representatives from the United States and the European Union will gather to discuss food safety challenges presented by emerging pathogens. Conferees will discuss approaches to controlling hazards, such as antibiotic-resistant Salmonella and Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, and implications for consumers.

The government is expanding E. coli testing in some raw meat, a move expected to prevent more people from contracting the bacteria that can cause severe illness or death.  Starting Monday, the meat industry will have to test beef trimmings for six new strains of E. coli that have been linked to a growing number of illnesses.

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) cannot be called "corn sugar," the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has determined.  A citizen's petition filed with FDA by the Washington D.C. Corn Refiners Association (CRA) on Sept. 14, 2010 and supplemented on July 29, 2011 requested the name change.  But in a letter Wednesday, FDA's Michael M. Landa, director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, turned down the name change request and rejected all three arguments made by the corn processors in their petition.

Three more leading consumer groups weighed in this week on the debate over a controversial plan to revamp poultry inspection by shifting greater responsibility to companies. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumer Federation of America, and Consumers Union each sharply criticized the proposal in their comments filed before the Tuesday deadline, which had been pushed back a month in response to sharp criticism raised by the Government Accountability Project, Food & Water Watch, and poultry inspectors.
Food Assistance

Arnold Food Pantry and Thrift Store Director Kathy Flanigan, and board members, announced that the non-profit purchased a new building on Thursday, May 31.  The new building, which is under renovation, is about 12,000 square feet which twice the size of the charity's current location. The pantry feeds about 150 families weekly in Arnold, Imperial and the unincorporated area of Fenton. The thrift store, company donations and money donations are the sole sources of financing for the Arnold Food Pantry. The organization is the largest non-denominational food pantry in the St. Louis area.

Iowa is scrambling to develop a plan for spending federal money to expand payment options at farmers markets by allowing shoppers to pull out a benefit card for food assistance to pay for strawberries, fresh greens, home-baked bread and other food.  An appropriations measure approved last year provides $4 million in funding to increase farmers markets participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps.With about 210 farmers markets, Iowa is set to receive about $161,000 for the program, which requires funds be obligated by Sept. 30.
Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan has launched a campaign to raise $13 million -- within a year-- to fund capital projects at its Detroit, Southfield and Pontiac distribution sites, aimed at ramping up the amount of food it can distribute.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

It's Thyme for an update on the Clifton Park Garden Plot

It's hard to believe that it has been six weeks since the last update.  The results of the garden have been amazing.  Since planting the garden, I have had the pleasure of visitors with expertise in gardening.  Alice, who now lives in the area but is from Africa came by to visit.  She was a wealth of knowledge.  It was truly grueling day, but I learned that I had to do a little more tilling and remove the many stones from the garden plot.  After two days of tilling by hand, I had decided to do some new school farming and leave all the stones in.  I am glad that Alice stopped by before I got my plants in the ground.  She is a wealth of experience and was a true mentor.  I am grateful.  We worked very hard that day and I can see that our work has paid off.

The farming story continues.  I planted 3 varieties of lettuce (butter crunch, romaine, and red leaf).  I also planted hot chili peppers, habanero peppers, jalapeno peppers, heirloom tomatoes, collards, cabbage, kale, broccoli, giant dinosaur kale, tatsoi, sage, oregano, basil, mint and pineapple mint.  Although I have been farming in containers for the past 4 years, I have never planted anything from seeds.  I decided to give it a try.  I planted swiss chard, beets, radishes, cherry tomatoes, green beans, carrots, summer squash and onions.  I was a little worried at first, but we had a lot of rain, and I can hardly believe my eyes, everything, with the exception of the carrots, onions and cherry tomatoes have grown very well.  Those should be out in the next month or so.  This past week, I added some new things including cucumbers, Japanese eggplant, zucchini, rosemary, more tomatoes, and I even scored an Abraham Lincoln Heirloom tomato plant from work.

The best part of gardening is giving.  When I harvested my lettuce I was able to give lettuce to 5 neighbors and 5 friends, so that they could enjoy a nice salad from my garden too.  I am really enjoying gardening!  

Visitors to the garden (below) - photo compliments of Harold E. McCray
April 29, 2012 (below)
 May 7, 2012 (below)
 May 25, 2012 (below)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Food for Thought (May 6 – 12)

Food and Health

The national hysteria over obesity has reached a crescendo this week, as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hosts the conference, "Weight of the Nation" in Washington, DC. If you couldn't make it, no worries, more fear-mongering is on the way in a four-part mini-series on HBO to air next week.

According to several different surveys and sources in North America and Western Europe, the following ten foods are generally considered to be the most healthy:  apples, almonds, blueberries, broccoli, oily fish, leafy green vegetables, sweet potatoes, wheat germ, avocadoes, and oatmeal.

It is a common misconception that the majority of our salt intake is due to a heavy handed sprinkling of salt from the table salt shaker. In fact, processed foods and restaurant meals contribute to upwards of 75 percent of our total daily sodium intake.

Five years after California started cracking down on junk food in school cafeterias, a new report shows that high school students there consume fewer calories and less fat and sugar at school than students in other states.

A new study has found that consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, plentiful in fish and nuts, is associated with lower blood levels of beta-amyloid protein. Amyloid plaques and tangles in the brain are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease and are known to increase the risk for mental decline; blood levels of the protein may reflect levels of its deposits in the brain.

Food Safety

The Food and Drug Administration has stopped the shipment of fresh and frozen oysters, clams, mussels and scallops from Korea to the U.S. because many of these molluscan shellfish may be contaminated, according to a news release from the Washington State Department of Health. The ban does not include canned shellfish.

While criticism of genetically modified foods has received widespread media attention in the past few years, consumers remain generally supportive of food biotechnology, according to an industry-funded survey released Thursday. The evaluation - conducted by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) - found that 38 percent of consumers have a somewhat or very favorable opinion towards plant biotechnology, up from 32 percent in 2010. A smaller 26 percent were neither favorable nor unfavorable, and 20 percent were either somewhat or very unfavorable.

Food Assistance

The U.S. House voted to cut food stamps, federal workers’ benefits and other domestic programs to avoid scheduled reductions in defense spending.  The chamber today passed, 218-199, a plan to cut about $310 billion in spending to replace automatic defense-spending reductions that lawmakers in both parties agree shouldn’t be allowed to take effect in January.  Democrats lined up against the measure, H.R. 5652, saying it would put too much of the deficit burden on the needy. The proposal goes to the Democratic-controlled Senate, where it is doomed to failure.

The federal government is spending $4 million to help hook up farmers and low-income customers.  Currently, fewer than a quarter of the nation's roughly 7,100 farmers markets are set up to use the Electronic Benefit Transfer system, or food stamps. But Kathleen Merrigan, deputy secretary of agriculture, said she hopes these grants will bring another 4,000 of those outlets on line with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Farmers markets in Florida will soon be able to begin accepting food assistance cards, even if they lack telephone lines or electricity. The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday announced it was giving the state nearly $79,000 to help farmers markets purchase wireless equipment so they can handle purchases made with the electronic cards that have replaced food stamps.