Food Politics

GMO & HFCS | School Food | Hungry Kids | Health Care | US Health Crisis

SNL's HFCS "Commercial"

Picture This is too sweet. We have to share! Thanks SNL!

Should we segregate Culinary Art & Food Science?

Picture Alton Brown Still Has Issues With Molecular Gastronomy Thursday, August 18, 2011, by Paula Forbes

Food nerd Alton Brown is quickly making his way into Andy Rooney territory with his beef against molecular gastronomy. In what appears to be a response to Grant Achatz's tweet of "Alton....really?", yesterday Alton Brown hit up his blog to clarify further:

Although there is indeed value in learning the ways of the white powders (xanthan gum makes it in to most of my dressings), so much emphasis has been put into and on it in the last few years that many young cooks are attempting to jump over the basics and go straight to methyl cellulose, sodium alginate, various polysaccharides, gums, and even transglutaminase, which can make some very interesting sausage when properly applied. But ask them to sauté a mushroom or bake a meringue and many turn up their noses or simply lose interest.

He also takes issue with the idea that molecular gastronomy is more science-y than regular food, since "all food is molecular." Which is, in fact, the reason many chefs argue against using the term.

It's not all negative: Brown does credit molecular gastronomy with allowing "several of these craftsmen and artists to express themselves in new and flat out amazing ways." But, in the end, he says "I just want my food to taste, smell, and feel like food."

Kids today.

Soaring gas prices affect your grocery cart!

Picture According to DailyFinance: Using the Backyard Grill This Summer Just Got More Expensive by Charles Wallace

Just when it seemed like it couldn't get much worse on the price front - how can you top $4 a gallon gasoline? - comes news the cherished summer barbecue is about to get more expensive.

Contracts for future deliveries of corn, soybeans and wheat prices surged to the most permitted by the Chicago Board of Trade in a single day. Corn was up 4.5%, soybeans were up 3.25% and wheat was up 5%. So far in the past year, corn prices have risen by 87%, soybeans have jumped 41% and wheat has climbed 54% -- thanks in part to bad weather in Russia and Australia, two major wheat producers. The surge in prices on the futures exchanges was in reaction to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that stockpiles of corn measured at the beginning of March had fallen 15% from their levels a year ago.

From Bonita: What does this mean for you & me? Now is a great time to support your local farmers! If times are hard on the big guys, you can only imagine what it means for the small & independent farmers. Besides, shopping at your local farmers market or buying through a farm coop will save a ton of gas versus buying food that has been shipped from across our country or around the world. In the DC area we have some wonderful environmentally aware food options:

Check out Green America (formerly Live Green). You can also check with your local government center (or search online) to see if you have a local farm coop you can join. They often meet at a business parking lot during non-business hours. It is such fun to divide the mystery produce and a wonderful way to meet new friends!

Consider this gas crisis a great opportunity to become creative with your relationship to food and farms. (Quick segue - when I was a kid we had to shop locally & seasonally. Believe me, my mom made some great dinners with what we had. Our meals were creative, interesting, always a taste & flavor adventure! I honestly believe that people ate not just healthier or better, but "funner" when we didn't have the insane product availability of today.)

Also, remember that grass fed cows are much healthier & happier than grain fed cattle. Since the cost of shipping grain is going up, along with the cost of transporting beef & milk across country, you may find the locally farmed products closer in price than before. Remember, organic and naturally farmed products have up to 6 times the nutritional value of conventional. So shop smart! Save gas, promote your local small farms & treat your body by investing in your local food providing community!

Let President Obama know how you feel about GMO Alfalfa!

Picture Food Democracy Now! wants you to sign their petition to President Obama. Click here to read it and share with your friends.

This just in from The Huffington Post:

On Thursday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) had approved the unrestricted planting of genetically modified alfalfa sold by Monsanto Co. and Forge Genetics, despite protests from organic groups and public health advocates and comments from nearly 250,000 citizens asking the department to keep this GMO genie in its bottle.

From Bonita: Why is this an issue? Read below to better understand how this will effect your and your children's health! Think about this: Cows can't easily digest alfalfa, so it makes them sick to their stomachs and gives them gas. They are given antibiotics to keep their health while living a malnourished life. Then they are pumped with steroids to bulk up before they are processed for meat. Since I grew up on farms, I am not squeamish about raising and butchering my meal. But I do think animals should not suffer just so I can eat a cheap burger.

How does this impact our society? Read on...

Why I won't feed GMO modified alfalfa to my son... or to any cows that come to visit!

Recently my son went to the movies with friends. It is no real surprise that, right around bed time, Zander developed a mammoth tummy ache. He regaled me with the litany of snacks he had consumed during the film, including popcorn with "a LOT of butter!"

As we cuddled and Zander held his belly, we talked about the digestive process and the nutritional value of different foods... also about what popcorn "butter" is really made from... Think about it this way: Tummy aches are our digestive tract's way of communicating with us, saying "You know that stuff you put in me? Well, I don't process it well. Please don't eat it again!" This is what happens when people with Celiac Disease eat wheat or gluten. It happens when people with corn allergies drink HFCS laden sodas or taste shelf stable bread.

Let's take a quick look at cows, alfalfa, the depletion of the ozone layer, the speed of human evolution and how drug infused, poor quality food affects our health. It is an explosive hierarchy of a Rube Goldberg-esque chain of food reaction.

Think about yourself for a moment, what you look and smell like when you are healthy and well nourished. You are energetic, your muscles are functional and developed, your eyes are bright; you can think clearly, your body odor is fairly inoffensive. Now think about yourself when you are ill with a flu or bad cold. Compare the two visions and tell me: If you were a cannibal, which version of "you" would you rather eat?

As you can imagine, milk and meat from free range, pasture fed cows will be superior to that from cows kept in closed, poorly ventilated barns. Some barn raised cows never leave their stable or even see the sun. Ever! This is well documented. Check it out! I have visited many of these farms and can tell you what they look and smell like. But what does this have to do with GMO alfalfa?

  1. Cows like to eat grass, herbs and hay. They do not naturally eat alfalfa. Their digestive tract is not evolved to process it. Alfalfa gives cows bloat and gas. You ever wonder why cows produce so much methane gas? This is not Darwin's theory of evolution in action. Nature is smarter than that! It's caused by alfalfa, which puts cows in a state similar to Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Unfortunately for cows, alfalfa is way cheaper than grass or hay.
  2. Why genetically engineer alfalfa? To make it more easily digestible for cows (and cut down on the gas). This does not make it more nutritionally rich. Pretty much, the scientists are breaking down the alfalfa fibers so the cows process it quicker - sort of like instant mashed potatoes or oatmeal... Cattle junk food!
  3. Farmers who use cheap alfalfa usually want to sell the milk and beef cheaply, so they pinch their pennies where they can. Do a little research on your own to see what kind of care they give their cattle. When cows breathe self-polluted air, eat inappropriate food, are deprived of sunlight and exercise and mentally stagnate; they become unhealthy and depressed.
  4. Cows in this state also become scrawny and ill. That is why farmers give them antibiotics. It is often automatically given in the "feed". The steroids and hormones are to fatten up the sick cows and increase milk production. Look at the bloated "fat cow on steroids" photo with this article. This is about as natural looking as an anorexic starlet with implants...
  5. Yes, GMOing food is a quick way to hybrid and "super evolve" it. But is it too quick for our digestive systems to keep up with? Sometimes it also involves splicing animal genes with produce to get a plumper tomato or crunchier apple. Are our bodies able to properly digest this stuff? Or meat and milk from the animals that eat only GMO food? The increase in food sensitivities can be charted alongside the increase with shelf stabilizing perishable foods.
  6. Finally, who is buying the cheap milk and beef? School cafeterias, fast food chains and low cost grocery stores. This directly impacts the same people that Mrs. Obama is most concerned about: our children! Stop a moment and think about this. If our children grow up eating hormone, steroid and antibiotic filled food every day, what will happen to them? Sadly, we are finding out.

We have become so used to modifying our food to meet our convenience, we forget to fully analyze it. What happens to those who eat food that has been altered down to its molecular structure? And what happens to those that eat that modified food after it has also been artificially fortified and medicated? Most importantly, do we really want to test these practices on our children?

Kids Help Kids!

If you see a food donation box bearing the sign "Kids Help Kids!", please donate any of the following: peanut butter (or peanut free alternative), jelly, cookies or snack food. We will deliver it to your local food bank for you!

Think of it like this: Every kid should be able to have an after school snack; even when their parents need our help to nurture and nourish their family. It is a dignity issue for the parents to be able to provide healthful & kid friendly treats for their children. More importantly, it is a happy-yummy issue for the kids!

Why is this program called "Kids Help Kids!"? Because my son and his friends came up with the idea and put the plan into action. If you want to set up a "Kids Help Kids!" program in your town, please contact us and we will show you how.

Are children with ADHD more likely to become overweight?

Picture This article is very interesting. If you have time, please take a glance at it! According to a recent study at NIH, children with ADHD are more likely to become overweight..???

(in photo: my awesome son Zander, the poster child for ADHD)

What? Being hyperactive makes you fat? No, of course not. But kids with ADHD often have poor impulse control. It is also common for them to have a secondary diagnosis for OCD, which can make it difficult for them to stop an action in process... like eating. Additionally, many ADHD kids crave comfort food to soothe the constant adrenaline rushing into their tummies. Put these byproducts of ADHD together and you can end up with a weight problem. From my experience, the best way to combat this is with education and behavioral therapy. The more that children learn about the outcome of their choices, the easier for them to choose with their mind instead of from cravings, compulsions and habit.

This is further supported by the groundbreaking research at Brown Medical School, as reported by Reuters several years ago. The researchers analyzed data from 62,887 children and adolescents included in the 2003-2004 National Survey of Children's Health. The results of this study are the basis for much of our current understanding about the connection between ADHD and poor impulse control.

Cafeteria Food Can Be Good!

At Chesterbrook, every choice was a healthful one. I have spent the past few years cooking in cafeterias, proving that the food there can also be healthful, yummy and made within the normal financial budget. Institutional cooking has a horrible reputation: Mushy, salty, starchy food. Fatty meat with no flavor. Pies with fake whipped cream. But I am here to tell you, food can taste good and be good for you... Even in a cafeteria. That is what I set up at Sidwell Friends School, The Gables of Mount Vernon and Chesterbrook Residences for every meal, every day. That is what I want to talk to you about. That is what I want you to think about. Feel welcome to email me if you have any questions.

Where I live (in Falls Church City, VA), the school food service is pretty good! They do their best to keep food fresh and natural. They offer healthful versions of popular snack food. They purchase ingredients from local food vendors and make the food the same way I do - from scratch. They really listen to student and parental feedback. So here is my challenge to other school districts: If we can do it, you can too! Our kids are healthier & happier for it. You know that it has a positive effect on their behavior and grades.

BUT... What do you do when the choices are less "choice"? When you are looking at a starchy, meaty substance covered with thick, goopy gravy... The options suddenly seem to dim and fade.

Here are a few easy tricks to remember:

  1. Eat the rawest food they offer. Salads with a minimal dressing are usually a good choice. Or a deli meat sandwich with a lot of lettuce and tomato on a multi-grain bread. Or fruit & yogurt.
  2. Ask what is made from scratch. Winter soups can be a satisfying solution - especially if teamed with your salad! If there is a cream soup, see if it is made with 2% milk and chicken broth.
  3. Eat a granola bar before going to the cafeteria. It will lower your impulse purchase potential.
  4. Don't forget the old standard: Deli meat sandwich or PB&J, an apple & a yogurt with some non-soda beverage.

The important thing is to avoid the hypnotic call of the "comfort food" and find the food that will give you sustaining energy. If you feel lethargic or bloated after you eat, choose more naturally the next time. Then compare the 2 days and see what you think.

High Fructose Corn Syrup wants a make-over!

I am amazed about the Corn Refiners Association's chutzpah! They want to change the name of High Fructose Corn Syrup to Corn Sugar... like the American public will be fooled for long... What did Shakespeare say? "A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet..." Well, HFCS by any other name still causes abdominal fat and is linked with pancreatic cancer! What next? Cigarettes will be called Tobacco Sugar Smoke?

The makers of high fructose corn syrup want to sweeten its image with a new name: corn sugar. The Corn Refiners Association applied Tuesday to the federal government for permission to use the name on food labels. The group hopes a new name will ease confusion about the sweetener, which is used in soft drinks, bread, cereal and other products.

Consumers already need to be on the alert with this tricky sweetener & public labeling. CSPI has lambasted 7-UP for claiming to be "all natural". You need to look further when a product claims "other natural sweeteners" on the ingredients label. HFCS is a stabilizing ingredient. It is one reason a loaf of bread can sit on the grocery shelf for 2 weeks then in your refrigerator for a month before starting to go stale or turn moldy.

To make a long explanation tolerably short, you should known that HFCS loves to cling to your abdomen and gather as many fat molecules around it as it can. It was recently (finally!) scientifically linked with pancreatic cancer. Now that modern research has noticed HFCS as an untapped turf for research, you can bet this will become a burgeoning field for future grad students and health oriented researchers. Wish them good luck & loads of supportive grants!