Soda Ban Denied

Have you read this article from the NY Times yet?  “US Rejects Mayor’s Plan to Ban Use of Food Stamps to Buy Soda” — http://nyti.ms/pG4X22

NYC Mayor Bloomberg had proposed not allowing soda/sugary drinks to be purchased with SNAP (food stamp) money due to obesity concerns for a two-year experiment.  The USDA, however, said that this would be too complex, and denied the proposal.

What do you think about this decision?  It’s definitely a very complex issue.  I think everyone can agree that the obesity epidemic is getting way out of hand — but now it’s a matter of how to best proceed.

I (Tina) have consistently sided with Joel Berg’s argument (in article) that “Instead of restricting the dietary choices of low-income residents, he said, city officials should reconsider how to increase the purchasing power of low-income residents so that they can buy food that is more nutritious.”  But how can this be done?  Is it realistic?  (Farm Bill 2012!)

At the same time, though, I don’t know how ethical it is on the part of the nation to use government dollars to support the purchase of soda/sugary drinks/other foods that contribute to obesity.  The USDA is really in a tough spot, because even if they did choose to limit the purchases of soda with SNAP dollars, the food industry would start fighting over the definition of “sugary drinks” (no 100% orange juice?).  Is this realistic?

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Community Kitchens

I have had the wonderful opportunity to participate in the new Community Kitchen at SPU (if you’d like more information: visit our Facebook page).  One of the *many* reasons why I’m sad to leave Seattle is that I can’t stay to watch it grow and develop even further!

In case you haven’t heard about community kitchens, they are basically a place where people gather to cook, build friendships, and eat!  This concept started in Peru, during a time of political unrest and extreme poverty, about 40 years ago.  The women began to start community kitchens, where they could buy in bulk and cook meals together for their families.  As time went on, the women were even were able to start mini take-out places, to sell the leftover food and supplement their income.   Those running for political office in Peru would even come to community kitchens, to get to know the people in their district.

The movement has since come to Canada, and is slowly spreading through the US (primarily Pacific Northwest – but hopefully will spread further soon!).  There is usually a coordinator (or two), who is in charge of creating the menu and doing the grocery shopping.  Then, all of the participants pitch in money (usually $10-25, depending on amount of food prepared/if there is grant support), time, and cooking skills (or willingness to learn!).

What I love about community kitchens is how everyone is on the same playing field.  Very rarely can one have such a diverse group of people, all with such unique experiences with food, come together to make delicious food and enjoy each other’s company.  It doesn’t matter the individual’s education level, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, or any other thing that usually divides people.  Everyone needs to eat, and everyone at the kitchen is there to cook and make new friends.  We all learn from each other, whether about a new cooking technique, social services available, or about each other’s lives.

For more information: Community Kitchens NW coalition