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Thinking Beyond the Clown

When Bozo the Clown went off air in 1963, no one would have guessed the small-town television character would soon become the most famous clown in the world. But McDonald’s turned Bozo into Ronald McDonald, and today he’s recognized by more than 90 percent of schoolchildren in the United States. Read more

Mr. Zee’s Apple Factory: A Children’s Story about Processed Food

Back in the spring of 2011, Slate magazine decided to “crowd-source” the problem of childhood obesity by asking readers to submit their own solutions to this difficult problem. I blog daily about children and food on The Lunch Tray and over the years I’ve written literally thousands of words about childhood obesity and poor nutrition. But until I sat down to write my own entry for the Slate contest, I’d never really asked myself what I personally would do to improve the status quo. Read more

Time for Action: Moms and Marketing to Kids Don’t Mix

On February 10, 2012, Ronald McDonald held court in a packed elementary school auditorium. Ronald was visiting the Lexington, Kentucky elementary school as part of his sweep of that state. The visits are meant to teach “the value of leadership and community involvement,” says Ronald, and kick off fundraising drives for Ronald McDonald Houses. According to WheresRonald.com, he’s planning to visit at least 117 more schools there this year.  Read more

The Obesity Paradox: Overfed But Undernourished

There was a time when corpulence was a sign of wealth and luxury. But in modern day Western countries, quite the opposite is true. In fact, a recent study found that fully one third of homeless people living in Boston are obese. “This study suggests that obesity may be the new malnutrition of the homeless in the United States,” wrote the researchers, led by Harvard Medical School student Katherine Koh, whose study is forthcoming in the  Journal of Urban Health.

And it’s not just the U.S. that is reporting these kinds of findings, a New Zealand study of preschoolers found that 82 percent did not get enough dietary fiber and 68 percent did not have enough long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are found in fish and nuts. Despite these nutritional deficiencies, the researchers also found that fully one-third of preschoolers are overweight or obese.

These findings highlight an interesting contradiction—obesity correlates with malnourishment. Read more

Why Tobacco Lawsuits Loom Large for Obesity Prevention

Nutrition and child advocates are pushing for government policies to counteract the onslaught of junk food marketing targeted at our children.

But there’s something many don’t know: an array of lawsuits currently making their way through the courts could derail our ability to pursue these kinds of regulations.

Right now, judges are preparing to rule on cases that carry major implications for how products like candy, fast food, and soda are marketed to kids. These cases will decide whether the government can prohibit companies from giving free samples of harmful products to children. Whether the government can require stores to post warnings about a product’s dangerous health consequences. Whether the government can require effective disclosures so consumers know what’s in the products they are buying.

These issues and more are currently in play in federal courts around the country. So how could nutrition advocates not know about them?

Because the cases are all about tobacco.  Read more

Mother Takes on Monsanto, Wins Global Prize

Hats off to this mother of three who got fed up and took charge. Thirteen years ago, Sofía Gatica’s newborn died of kidney failure after being exposed to pesticides in the womb. After the despair came anger, then a fierce determination to protect the children in her community and beyond.

Today, she’s one of six grassroots leaders from around the world receiving the Goldman Environmental Prize, in recognition of her courageous—and successful—efforts. Read more

Study Links Autism with Industrial Food, Environment

The epidemic of autism in children in the United States may be linked to the typical American diet according to a new study published online in Clinical Epigenetics by Renee Dufault, et. al. The study explores how mineral deficiencies—affected by dietary factors like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)—could impact how the human body rids itself of common toxic chemicals like mercury and pesticides.

The release comes on the heels of a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that estimates the average rate of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) among eight year olds is now 1 in 88, representing a 78 percent increase between 2002 and 2008. Among boys, the rate is nearly five times the prevalence found in girls.

“To better address the explosion of autism, it’s critical we consider how unhealthy diets interfere with the body’s ability to eliminate toxic chemicals, and ultimately our risk for developing long-term health problems like autism,” said Dr. David Wallinga, a study co-author and physician at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP). Read more

Cooking the Common Core: Bringing Educational Standards to Life in the School Garden

When San Francisco voters passed the three phases of the Proposition A facilities upgrade bond in 2003, 2006, and 2011, they approved money to cover the design and construction of green schoolyards for at least 83 San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) elementary, middle, and high schools. SFUSD is the first urban school district to embrace outdoor learning opportunities in this fashion. It is also one of the first large districts in the state to implement the Common Core State Standards, a new set of English language arts and mathematics standards focused on real-world college and career readiness.

Seizing on this opportunity, I met with Rosie Branson Gill last fall to discuss how our organizations (San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance and 18 Reasons, respectively) could work together to provide more opportunities for San Francisco students to engage both in school gardens and with the craft of cooking. On February 17 of this year, 13 elementary classroom teachers, garden coordinators, and parents gathered for the launch of Cooking the Common Core: Bringing Educational Standards to Life in the School Garden, a new training series designed to do just that. Read more