Teacher Kinga Kelly extolled the virtues of eating colorful foods–like bright red strawberries and deep purple blueberries–to the group. “What is the benefit of eating the rainbow?” she called out. “We get nutrients,” they called back. “Iron! Vitamin C for your immune system! Vitamin E for your skin! Vitamin A! Vitamin D for your bones!” Meanwhile, the thud of dribbled basketballs echoed from a gymnasium down the hall.
When Congress talks food and farming, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) is there. From 2011 to 2014, she was chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and she remains a ranking member with enormous influence over what our nation eats.
Stabenow shepherded the latest farm bill, which was signed into law in February 2014, after a long, contentious slog over cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or “food stamps” and farm subsidies.
International trade agreements may seem like a long way from what you’re making for dinner. But the two agreements on the table this spring–the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)—could have a profound impact on the food we eat.
The agreements have been negotiated behind closed doors and could be submitted to Congress soon. In the case of the TPP, it could even happen this week. If Congress approves what’s called “fast-track” authority, the agreements would have to be voted on as is–without any changes. And just this morning, Reuters reported that the U.S. lost its appeal to the WTO for repeal of country of origin labeling (COOL) requirements for meat.
An average dairy operation produces about 80 pounds of manure a day, per cow. On a moderate scale, this pile of poop can provide farmers with valuable nutrients to fertilize their pastures. But on a factory scale, this waste gets collected in large containment pools or “poo lagoons.” From there, it can seep into the soil, leak into waterways, and eventually end up in drinking water.
When it comes to marketing to children, the food industry has long argued that it should regulate itself. In fact, 12 of the largest food companies in the world–including Coca-Cola, Kraft, Mars, McDonalds, and Nestlé—belong to a coalition that years ago established the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI), a voluntary effort by the leading food and beverage companies to rein in their marketing of unhealthy foods and drinks to kids.
Just before this past Earth Day, dozens of volunteers worked with longtime members of the Hattie Carthan Community Garden in central Brooklyn to clean beds, spread mulch, and pour concrete. The garden has been a fixture in the area for decades, but just six years ago, the abandoned half-acre lot next to it was overgrown with trees and filled with trash. Today that lot is home to a children’s garden, two chicken coops, and the Hattie Carthan Community Market in the summer. There’s also educational programming for all ages and the Hattie Carthan Urban Agriculture Corps, a paid summer apprentice program for local teenagers.
The next time you sit down to eat, consider the fact that children may have harvested or helped produce the food on your plate. In fact, hundreds of thousands of children under the age of 16 work on U.S. farms every year. In 2012, it was nearly 260,000, a number some experts believe to be an undercount.
Quietly, Vermont has become a cultural, economic, and political force. Its public education system is consistently among the nation’s best. Vermonters weathered the Great Recession better than their counterparts in other states; the state’s unemployment rate is currently around 4 percent and dropping. Then there’s the catch-all distinction of being one of the top places in the country to live for overall quality of life.
In 2009, José Obeth Santiz Cruz, a 20 year-old farmworker from Chiapas, Mexico, had a fatal accident on a small dairy farm in Vermont. Cruz was working on his knees near a gutter scraper–a conveyor belt that pushes manure into a pit–when his clothing got caught, and he was strangled.
Food Industry Has Achieved Only Baby Steps to Improve Nutritional Quality of Foods Advertised to Children on TV (American Journal of Preventive Medicine)
Back in the wilds of 2006, a number of the world’s most influential food and beverage companies got together and promised to shift their kiddy TV advertising to include healthier food. Now, a group of social scientists has evaluated the changes they made only to find that this self-regulatory program hasn’t had a noticeable effect on the nutritional value of foods marketed to children. According to a study released today in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 80 percent of foods advertised to kids under 12 are classified in the poorest nutritional category, as specified by U.S. Department of Health and Human services guidelines (think highly processed and full of sugar and salt).