The last talk I want to share with you from the TEDx Manhattan conference is by Josh Viertel, President of Slow Food USA. In this inspirational oration, Josh tells the story of how he got involved in the food movement and sounds a call to action for a shift from a "movement of enlightened eaters to a movement of people engaged as citizens".
Another of my favorite talks from the TEDx Manhattan conference was by Dr. Melony Samuels. Dr. Samuels is the founder and director of the Bed-Study Campaign Against Hunger. This organization runs a food pantry and community garden. In her talk Dr. Samuels tells the story of how this innovative food pantry, which allows people to pick from their stock whatever items they choose, found itself stocking fresh produce that people weren't taking. So, they started teaching people how to cook with the vegetables they were unfamiliar with. Lo and behold, after the clients learned how to use these vegetables they started to "buy" them. Next the pantry took their backyard and turned it into a garden that the local community cared for and used the vegetables they grew to stock the pantry. Here Dr. Samuels tell this story and more in her own words below.
This past weekend was the food focused TEDx conference in Manhattan. The title of the conference was "Changing the way we eat" and brought together over 20 speakers to give their takes on the US Food System. The speakers ranged from farmers to chefs to academics to film makers and were all great. Over the next few days I will highlight a few of my favorites.
First up is Dr. Scott Kahan. Scott is a preventive medicine physician who graduated from the program I am currently in, he is on the faculty at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, George Washington School of Public Health, and the Co-director of the George Washington University Weight Management Center. In his talk, Scott describes why the defaults in society make it easy for people to eat unhealthy
Mark Bittman has a good column with recipes in the NYT this week that raises a number of excellent points about healthy eating. While we mostly focus on access to cheap healthy food as the main barrier to healthy eating, there are a number of others challenges. Certainly not all, but most Americans do have access to healthy food, however, many may not feel they have the time or knowledge to cook it. Bittman points out that the average American spends 35 hours per week watching TV, which I would say is at least 2 to 4 times as much time, as is needed to shop for and cook a well-prepared meal, for every day of the week. So an important first step to healthier eating, is for people to re-prioritize their time and allocate more of it for cooking. But of course, its important for people to know how to cook and to cook food that taste good. In the article Bittman argues that acquiring the simple skills of chopping, stir-frying, and boiling are all that you need to get going. I agree--healthy delicious food is usually quire straight forward and easy to cook, as long as you learn these basic skills. Fortunately, Bittman also provides a number of recipes and variations to help people get started.
The article by Michael Moss, who has written great articles some about beef safety in the past, discusses the dual responsibilities of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). On one hand the USDA is charged with providing nutritional guidelines to the public and on the other it is also charged with promoting agricultural products to improve sales. Moss discusses how the Dairy Management Organization, started by the USDA, recently advised Domino’s to add more cheese to their pizza in order to increase sales. The writes that the new pizza has 40% more cheese and that ¼ of a pie contains ¾ of the daily-recommended allowance of saturated fat. He contrasts this with recommendations from the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, who advise eating a diet low in saturated fat. A diet low in saturated fat should involve eating less cheese and meat.
This name change is probably a good ideas, because HFCS is indeed nutritionally similar to "real sugar" (sucrose). In reality, HFCS is probably not anyworse for health than sucrose. The real problem with HFCS is that it is ubiquitous. Because it is cheaper than sucrose and a good preservative, it is used in countless numbers of processed foods, thereby exposing millions of American's to many extra sugar calories. The other important issue is that its cheap price is articifical, as the true costs of production are externalized by government subsidies for corn and petroleum and damage to the environement and climate.
So is avoiding HFCS a good idea? Yes, definetly, but also is limiting intake of "real sugar", because nutritionally neither one is good for you and both contribute to the development of obesity.
There was an article in the NY Times yesterday titled "U.S. Meat Farmers Brace For Limits on Antibiotics." When I saw the article in the dining section, I was both excited and surprised. Excited, because I consider the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in farm animals, to be a very significant public threat that needs to be dealt with and surprised, because I follow this issue rather closely and wasn't aware of any new developments.
The problem with the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics is that it accelerates the growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria. These resistant bacteria can cause bacterial infections that are very hard to treat, because they are not effected by many of the antibiotics that doctors currently have available. An infection with an antibiotic resistant bacteria can lengthen hospital stays, increase suffering, be very expensive, and even increase the risk of death.
growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria is to some degree inevitable, but it is
greatly accelerated by the indiscriminate or sub therapeutic use of antibiotics. By using antibiotics more judiciously,
however, we can slow this development and extend the usefulness of these important
medications, which take years and millions of dollars to develop. And thankfully the Public Health and physicians
communities are keenly aware of this problem and have focused great amounts of
energy on using antibiotics more carefully.
Unfortunately though, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists about 70% of the antibiotics used in the United States are
not prescribed by physicians, but are used indiscriminately in healthy farm
animals on factory farms. On these
factory farms animals are kept in crowded conditions and antibiotics
are added to animal feed in order to make them grow faster and prevent the
illnesses that result from their poor living conditions.
Slow Food NYC started a new program this summer in Brooklyn, in areas where fresh fruit and vegetables are not readily available. The organization has adopted 3 neighborhood gardens and turned them into farm camps for the local kids. The participating children spend a half a day 4 days a week working in the garden and learning about where food comes from and how to cook with it. The goal of the program is to introduce children to good, clean, and fair food and hopefully they will teach their families and friends. This report by NY1 will give you a glimpse at the great work they are doing!
It seems that serving responsibly raised food was a priority at the Clinton wedding that took place in Rhinebeck last weekend. Its hard to find beef raised in a better way than from Grazin' Angus Acres and that what they served. Read more about it on the AWA site.
In this Bill introduced to the NY State Assembly on March 5, the sponsors Assemblyman Ortiz and Assemblywoman Markey propose a law that would prohibit restaurant workers from using any salt while cooking. Under the law, salt would still be available in restaurants, but only for customers to apply at their own discretion. The justification for this law is that it would give customers more control over the amount of salt in their food and that reduced salt in food would translate into less heart attacks.
This Bill seems quite extreme. Certainly fast food and packaged foods have too much salt in them, but salt is an important part of cooking from scratch as well. The proper seasoning of food with salt make it taste better. It is often helpful to add salt throughout the cooking process and not just at the end. The fact that this bill targets all restaurants seems inappropriate. I doubt this would pass into law--perhaps it is to be used as a tool to draw more attention to the issue and to get food producers to voluntarily reduce the salt content of their prepared foods.