Humane Society and Egg Producers Deal

We’re a little behind here on Two Food NeRDs. Tina is busy preparing to move from Seattle to San Francisco and start her dietetic internship (hooray!), and I am smack-dab in the middle of cherry harvest here in The Dalles. So, we’re going to play some catch-up.

I have been hearing a lot the past two weeks about the joint agreement between the United Egg Producers and the Humane Society of the United States. Michele Simon at Food Safety News wrote a very informative article about the deal, found here:

http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/07/who-really-benefits-from-the-egg-industry-deal/

The deal is, as far as I can tell, still only a verbal agreement. I think the desire to improve growing conditions for chickens is laudable, and necessary. But what will this agreement actually accomplish? The phase-in period for the new standards is very long. The proposed federal legislation would also be the toughest sanction allowed anywhere in the country. This means that any state, such as California, Oregon, and Washington which were attempting to/have passed stronger legislation could only impose the federal standards, nothing more.

I am suspicious of the motives of the United Egg Producers. They saw a grassroots movement toward better conditions taking place, and are trying to finagle the best deal possible. Any thoughts on this? Is it a good thing for industry and consumer protection groups to strike deals? Who wins and who loses? Will the result be better conditions for chickens and safer food for all of us?

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

Menu Labeling

I recently read this article from the LA Times: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-calorie-rules-20110706,0,3599853.story

Basically, the restaurant association is asking FDA for more flexibility and lenience when they (restaurants) post calorie counts.  (The healthcare overhaul added a requirement for all dining locations with at least 20 sites in a state to post calorie information for their menu).

What are your thoughts?  Things get pretty complicated when dealing with many different options.  What do you think is the clearest, easiest-to-understand method for posting calorie counts?  Are averages best?  Or ranges?

And what about serving sizes?  What do you think pizza places should post: calories for a whole pizza or a slice?

Finally, what do you think about the concept of menu labeling in general?  Is it a good move for public health?

Personally, the last time I was at Chipotle, I noticed that the veggie option had a range of at least 500+ calories posted.  I guess if one just orders veggies, the food is at 130 calories, but if one orders all of the additions (rice, beans, salsas, cheese, sour cream, lettuce, tortilla), it can go over 600 calories (thought it was more, but that’s what the picture above depicts).  I can’t remember the exact numbers, but I was surprised by the huge range.  I didn’t think the posting was particularly helpful for the average consumer, especially one who isn’t familiar with how many calories are in different foods.

I’m also a bit nervous that places, particularly quick-service places, may post the very lowest calorie count — such as counting just the bun of a hamburger, for example — and then showing a huge range of calories, when in actuality, the usual hamburger (without substitutions) may be at the high end of the spectrum posted.

Anyway, enough from me.  What do you think?

30 under 30

There was a recent article published by Splash Life (http://www.splashlife.com/article/30-under-30-futurist-foodies) about 30 Futuristic Foodies under the age of 30.  Pretty inspiring.  Some of the folks highlighted are teenagers!  It just shows anyone can make a positive difference in the food world.  When I used to be a waitress, my supervisor would give a gold star to those who did an exceptionally good job; these guys definitely get a gold star.

cheesy? yes.

It’s nice to hear about people doing really good work; it’s easy for me to get discouraged by all the negatives in the news.

Who would you add to the list?  What are you doing to be a “futuristic foodie”?

Food Ark: Maintaining Biodiversity

In 80 years, look at the change in biodiversity:

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/07/food-ark/food-variety-graphic

What can be done?  What should be done?  What is the impact of less biodiversity?

National Geographic just published a fascinating article (“Food Ark” – http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/07/food-ark/siebert-text) about the topic of biodiversity, particularly the impact science has had for farmers around the world.

The world population keeps growing, and there are millions of hungry people (at least 925 million people are chronically hungry in the world).  That’s a lot of people.  How can we prepare for the future?  How can we make sure that the scientific research and foreign assistance that we (as Americans/other countries) are offering is actually effective and sustainable?  Or are we all just a few bacteria/fungi away from losing our entire food supply?

Fortunately, international aid groups are trying to increase food production in more sustainable ways.

I really liked what Dr. Woerde, who is working in Ethiopia to increase biodiversity, said about this:

“The people planning this are aware that the first green revolution failed over time. There are some intelligent ideas, but they are still placing too much emphasis on a narrow range of varieties. What about the rest? We’ll lose them. Believe me, I’m not against science. Why would I be? I’m a scientist. But contextualize it. Combine science with the local knowledge, the farmer’s science.”

This is all pretty abstract to us here in America.  Most of us reading this are not worried about a drought or storm wiping out our whole livelihood.  Why should we care?

Personally, I think that everyone in the world is our neighbor — and that we need to look out for the well-being of all our neighbors.  This could mean standing up to Monsanto when they abuse small farms, or encouraging community organizations to work with their population instead of at their population.  It can mean lobbying Congress to not cut foreign assistance aid (which, by the way, makes up less than 1% of the federal budget!), or domestic nutrition programs (like SNAP and WIC).

Thoughts?

New 2011 EWG Dirty Dozen List

Wondering which organic produce is worth purchasing? The Environmental Working Group, a non-profit group advocating for health-protective policies (www.ewg.org), publishes a “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce”. More commonly referred to as the “Dirty Dozen List”, the fruits and vegetables listed have the highest amounts of pesticide residue. Here are the top 12, also found at http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/:

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Strawberries
  4. peaches
  5. Spinach
  6. Nectarines (imported)
  7. Grapes (imported)
  8. Sweet bell peppers
  9. Potatoes
  10. Blueberries (domestic)
  11. Lettuce
  12. Kale/collard greens

All of these items have a delicate surface area or particularly nasty predators, making harsh chemicals necessary to maintain the visual appeal required by most consumers. I was pleased to see that cherries are no longer on the list, as cherry harvest is finally in full swing here in The Dalles!

There is also a “Clean Fifteen List”, which ranks the fruits and vegetables with the lowest amounts of pesticide residue. This is also found at: http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/.

Do you purchase organic produce? Why or why not? If you do, do you follow any guidelines, personal or otherwise?

Welcome!

Welcome to Two Food NeRDs, a blog where two dietetic interns will be discussing the latest food and nutrition news!

As classmates in Seattle, we would attend food justice conferences together, discuss the latest updates in public health policy,  work on projects, drink tea, and of course, discuss the intricacies of the food system.

After graduating, we realized that we wouldn’t be able to do any of these things as easily, especially since we were both moving!  Even a couple weeks after graduation, we really missed having the opportunity to discuss current food news.

A bit about us: Michele will be doing her dietetic internship in Portland, OR, and Tina will be interning in San Francisco, CA.

We would love for this blog to be a place of lively civil discussion.  Additionally, we hope that this can be a place for you to wrestle with tough food issues.  We absolutely love feedback, whether through comments or email.

Have an idea for a blog post?  Read any interesting articles?  Want to contact us?
twofoodnerds@gmail.com
twitter: mshrumg
twitter: tinahayashi

Looking forward to discussing food news!
Michele and Tina


Views expressed on this blog are our own, and not necessarily representative of our dietetic internship programs and other affiliations.