Food Day + Hospital Food Service

Last week, Monday, October 24, was the “first” annual Food Day.  In case you didn’t hear, Food Day (sponsored by CSPI) is meant for everyone who eats, and the purpose is “to push for healthy, affordable food produced in a sustainable, humane way.”  Institutions across the country changed their menus for the day, and special speakers and events were scheduled in most major cities.

At the hospital I am interning at, there were a few special events – a local CSA had a table in the cafeteria, with a beautiful display of produce and encouraging people to sign up. There were special menu items, featuring more whole foods/meatless options (more than normal Mondays).  This hospital already practices “mostly” Meatless Mondays, meaning that the hot entrees are all vegetarian, and all specials (pizza, grill) are vegetarian.  The “standard” items at the grill/sandwich bar/etc are still present, but there are many more vegetarian options.

But then…on Tuesday, everything went back to “normal.”  How do we make the principles of Food Day a daily change versus an annual (or weekly, if Meatless Monday is observed) event?  In other words, how does a conscientious eating pattern become normalized?  And how does one encourage people to make changes at home?

During the past few months, I have been wondering about the role of hospital food service in promoting long-term healthy eating.  I recognize that many of the patients who are in the hospital are having trouble keeping their weight stable (e.g. they have unintentionally lost 50# in the past 1-2 months due to failure to thrive/cancer/etc) and many times are malnourished. I’m all for pushing the Scandishakes (900 kcal!) and Ensure to these patients, because of the caloric density and improved outcomes for the patient if they don’t keep losing weight.  But…what about the standard meals offered?  The “regular”/standard menu has an average of 4g of sodium/day, which is much higher than the recommended 1.5-2g sodium/day.  How do you balance making sure people eat when they are very ill, and providing the healthiest meals possible?  And how does one do this in mass production?

Patients at this hospital can typically eat a very balanced diet according to the Plate Method (half plate veggies, one-fourth protein source, one-fourth whole grains) if they make the proper menu selections. When I was entering in the menus, however, many of the patients were not doing that – most were not selecting vegetables, and most opted for the cake/pie (in the hospital’s defense, the dessert slice is literally about 3 bites) instead of the fresh fruit for dessert. The MyPlate image is even printed on the paper menus!  And for the pediatrics floors — is it okay to have hamburgers/french fries/hot dogs/chips/soda/etc on the menu, if it ensures that kids (who, remember, are in the hospital because they are very ill) are eating?  Is this making the assumption that kids will not eat healthier alternatives?

What are your thoughts?  Did you do anything to celebrate Food Day?

ADA Corporate Sponsorships

American Dietetic Association

Images from EatRight.org

Anyone attending FNCE, the annual American Dietetic Association (*Update: Apologies, now it’s the Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics) conference, this weekend?

Twitter has been going crazy these past few days with posts about FNCE – expressing excitement about going to beautiful SD, shameless plugs to visit sponsor booths, and anticipation for the knowledge to be gained this weekend.

Which brings me to the topic of corporate sponsorships.  Is it okay for the ADA to receive corporate sponsorships from companies like Coca Cola, Hershey’s, National Dairy Council, and Truvia?  Is it okay for FNCE’s corporate sponsorships to include Campbell’s, ConAgra, Nature Made, and Safeway?

I was at a state ADA conference earlier this year, and the program included a lecture sponsored by the beef council and a lecture sponsored by a watchdog group advocating for a vegan diet.  Can we be certain that the information presented is completely true, and not biased because of sponsorships?  Can we be certain that all of the research is indeed getting published, or is some research possibly getting denied due to conflict of interest?  I don’t know.  But it’s concerning to someone like me, who wants to know the facts about nutrition, not a skewed perspective of how great beef is just because the beef council is writing a check.

I don’t know if you heard, but there was recently a contest — if an ADA member wrote a blog about food safety, he/she would be entered into a contest to win a free iPad from ADA and ConAgra.  One blogger noted that this type of contest is basically saying that food safety needs to be a consumer issue, and that  food corporations (the cause of many food safety problems) like ConAgra are not taking enough responsibility.  As a member of the ADA, is this something that I really want to be encouraged?  Food safety in the home is very important, but so is food regulations at the corporate level.  Is it okay for ADA to turn a blind eye to that, even if just for a raffle competition?

On the other hand, though, what would it mean for the members of ADA if there were no corporate sponsors?  Dues are climbing each year (this year, RDs paid $245!), and that rate would be even higher if there were no corporate sponsors.  Are ADA members willing to pay even more?

I personally disagree with the ADA’s decision to accept corporate sponsorships.  However, I continue to be a member because I appreciate ADA’s efforts to lobby for things like licensure for dietitians, and I have appreciated the networking opportunities available.  It’s frustrating, though, because I also don’t want to be associated with an organization that is accepting sponsorships/therefore perhaps turning a blind eye to important issues.  I feel trapped with no other alternative, really.

What are your thoughts about this?

Summer Reading List + Interesting Links

Here are some interesting videos/links/articles that I have stumbled upon this week:
1. Chipotle ad, courtesy of Dr. Parke Wilde’s blog:

2. Minnesota State Fair ad, courtesy of Dr. David Kessler on twitter:

3. NPR article about SNAP (food stamps), courtesy of Bread for the World twitter.

4. Michele Simon’s post about one company’s lack of desire to limit advertising to kids.

5.  And from the CDC: 25% of US population gets 200 calories/day from soda. Courtesy of Marion Nestle’s twitter.

————-

This summer, I had lofty plans of reading about 10 books.  I haven’t even finished one (still looking at the Four Fish book cover…halfway done!).  Michele and I wanted to include occasional book reviews on here, but that means we need to read the book first!  Do you have any book recommendations for us?  What have you been reading this summer?  Would you be interested in writing a book review for this blog?

Let us know!  Leave a comment or email us at twofoodnerds(at)gmail.com

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?

Gluten-Free Labeling Standards

Has anyone noticed the deluge of products with a “gluten-free” label in the grocery store? Recently we’ve seen such products as Kellogg’s Rice Crispies, Rice Chex, Luna Protein Bars, and Subway sandwiches (?) sporting the gluten-free label. While this may seem to be a blessing for those of us with Celiac disease and gluten intolerance, it can actually make life more difficult.

There are currently no official standards regulating the term “gluten-free” on food packaging. In many European countries and Australia and New Zealand, “gluten-free” can only be used if a food has been tested and contains less than 20 ppm of gluten. In 2007, the FDA began a process to adopt these standards in the United States. But for the past four years, these has been no push to finalize the process.

Until now!

The FDA has reopened the comment period for gluten-free labeling standards. This (hopefully!) means that standards are right around the corner. Even more encouraging is the language from the FDA press release:

“We must take into account the need to protect individuals with celiac disease from adverse health consequences while ensuring that food manufacturers can meet the needs of consumers by producing a wide variety of gluten-free foods.”

http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm265838.htm

There is a 60 day comment period which opened August 3. Let the FDA know how important these standards are for the health and safety of your clients, colleagues, family, and friends! The link above will take you to the official press release, and another link for leaving comments. Let’s make this happen!

“Healthier” Happy Meals

Many apologies for the lack of updates!  Both of our personal lives have been quite crazy lately, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t new food news!

Michele will be blogging about gluten-free labeling laws and the Salmonella tainted-ground turkey incidents in the near future, so please be looking out for those!

I was going to write about McDonald’s (and other fast food chains) decisions to make “healthier” happy meals.  In case you haven’t heard, McDonald’s recently declared that each happy meal will now come with 1/4 cup of apple slices, 1 ounce less fries, the option of low-fat milk (or soda) and the same hamburger/cheeseburger/mc nuggets entree.

At first glance, I was excited for this small change!  But then, after thinking about it some more, and reading articles by Bellatti, Nestle, and Simon, I have different thoughts:

1. 1/4 cup of apple slices is realistically probably just 2-3 small slices.  That’s really not much.  And, the default drink is still soda, not milk.

2. I think Michele Simon said it best: “McDonald’s ultimate goal is to make as little change as possible to get media attention (and praise from the likes of the first lady), while distracting policymakers from doing its job setting the boundaries of corporate behavior.”

3.  Bellatti also reminds us that it’s easy to get caught up in reduction of bad things — like less trans fat or salt, for example — but forget the importance of eating good things like fiber, potassium, etc.

What are your thoughts on McDonald’s new happy meal?  Should we support the small changes, in the hopes that will encourage larger changes in the future?

Food Security/Deserts News

Things have been quite busy around here, to say the least!  I was able to visit Michele on Wednesday, on my way down to SF, and it was so lovely to see the cherry orchards that she works at!  I learned a lot about the cherry growing process, and have an even greater appreciation for those who work on cherry orchards!  It’s so easy to think that food just appears at the store/farmer’s market, and to forget that the food needed to be tended by someone and grown.

I’ll just leave you with a couple articles about food deserts/food insecurity today:

Foundation offers $200 million to help California ‘food deserts:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/07/21/BU6E1KDCQE.DTL

Food security academy for youth in the Lower Ninth Ward by Our School at Blair Grocery:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/riooo/food-security-academy-for-youth-in-the-lower-ninth

Retailers pledge to open stores in ‘food deserts’:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/21/us/21food.html?_r=2&scp=1&sq=Food%20deserts%20&st=cse

What are your thoughts on these articles/news items?

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