Saturday, December 5, 2009

NYC Food and Climate Summit

In case you haven't heard yet, next Saturday, Dec. 12, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Just Food, and NYU will be hosting the NYC Food and Climate Summit. We are even lucky enough to be having HEN as a co-sponsor of the event, since HEN agreed to be a main contributor to making video messages possible from Vandana Shiva and Wangari Mathaai which will be shown at the plenary session and uploaded to websites afterward. The Food and Climate Summit will be happening smack in the middle of the Copenhagen (or "Hopenhagen") climate talks. It will even be held the day after 350 holds candlelit "Vigils for Survival" all across the world (these are on Dec. 11 - find one near you). In NYC, there will be one in Washington Square Park from 5-6 pm and one at Chelsea Piers from 6-8pm.

The Summit's registration was full within 36 hours of opening, which shows that it is guaranteed to be a successful event. Fortunately, as much information as possible from the conference will be posted to the conference website.

It is so important that NYC is making the connection between food and climate change, because food and climate change are so inextricably connected and it is not receiving enough attention on the global or even national scales in terms of climate change talk. Yes, Oxfam, tcktcktck, and 350, among other organizations, have been doing a great job of promoting the urgency of demanding action from our world leaders (such as limiting CO2 emissions to 350 ppm) - but as far as I can see there is not much talk here about agriculture. There are several main reasons to connect food and climate change. First of all, climate change is devastating developing countries' ability to produce crops on their own, leading to there being over a billion hungry people in the world. Climate change hits developing countries far greater than it impacts countries like the US (see some of my previous posts on Oxfam).

Second of all, producing "food" is a big contributor to climate change. If you've read Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma, seen Food, Inc., FRESH, King Corn, or know anything else about the sustainable, local, organic, and/or slow food movements - then you might have an idea about the gravity of unsustainable agriculture and how it is contributing to health problems, economic problems, climate change, etc. The fact that it takes 1,500 gallons of water to make one pound of beef...that is not good for the environment or our health. Monocultures are sprayed with pesticides and chemicals that make it really easy for resistant strains of bacteria to develop. Subsidies for corn and soy given to farmers are used to feed cattle and pigs with ground meat and corn. ...These are the things that contribute to the artificially low cost of unhealthy food (artificially because we do pay - later on, that is, in the form of healthcare costs).

All that stuff is unsustainable. As Michael Pollan & Joel Salatin put it, we are taking a solution - grass-fed cattle - and turning it into 2 problems: 1) unsustainable CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations, where animals standing in their own manure only leads to bacterial infections and other diseases), and 2) nutrient-deprived farmland that needs to be sprayed with chemicals and harmful fertilizers (because it doesn't have the beneficial nutrients from manure).

Sign the NYC Food Pledge & Charter

Below are the session topics for the Summit next week. Visit here for more details. (And don't forget to check out the wonderful Partnering Organizations!) Be sure to help spread the word using facebook and twitter (@nycfoodclimate) Please use the hashtags #nycfoodclimate, #cop15, and #tcktcktck on twitter. Thanks!

Session 1: Introduction to Food and Climate Issues

Skills Building
Session 2: Faith-Rooted Climate and Food Justice Organizing
Session 3: Best Practices in Institutional Purchasing
Session 4: Tackle Hunger, Health and Environment in Your Community
Session 5: Grow Food in the Big Apple
Session 6: Cool Food on a Budget: Good Diet for People, Pocketbooks and Planet.
Session 7: Cool Food Demonstration: Preservation Without Refrigeration
Session 8: Composting Your Food Waste
Session 9: What’s at Steak: Tips for Talking about Animal Food and Climate Change Connections
Session 10: How to Mobilize around Food and Climate Change Issues

Public Policy
Session 11: Urban Agriculture: Community Gardens, Urban Farms, and More
Session 12: The Food Shed: Promoting Sustainable Local Agriculture
Session 13: Greening Food Infrastructure
Session 14: Setting an Agenda for Child Nutrition, School Food and Food Education
Session 15: From Farm to Landfill: Reducing Food Waste in New York City

Session 16: Understanding Your Foodprint

Skills Builder

Session 17: Cooking Up Climate-Friendly Change: Youth Lead the Good Food Movement
Session 18: Tackle Hunger, Health and Environment in Your Community
Session 19: Grow Food in the Big Apple
Session 20: Cool Food on a Budget: Good Diet for People, Pocketbooks and Planet
Session 21: Cool Food Demonstration: Preservation Without Refrigeration
Session 22: Composting Your Food Waste
Session 23: What’s at Steak: Tips for Talking about Animal Food and Climate Change Connections
Session 24: How to Mobilize around Food and Climate Change Issues

Public Policy
Session 25: Urban Agriculture: Roofs, Walls, and Other Under-Utilized Spaces
Session 26: The Food Shed: Harnessing New Yorkers’ Buying Power
Session 27: Institutional Procurement: Buy Local and Sustainable
Session 28: The Food-Collar Economy
Session 29: Structural Discrimination Related to Food and Climate Change

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hello, world

Apologies for not posting in quite a while, this semester hasn't allowed much time for blogging due to the time constraints of a dietetic internship and classes at NYU. I have, however, continued to post interesting links and events on my twitter page,

Aside from everyday clinical dietetics, other activities I am currently undertaking:
-Working on a green foodservice project for the national VA - we are surveying foodservice directors and providing resources for them to green their foodservice production systems
-Learning about the awesome cultural transformation program of the VA
-Attempting to write a paper on the commodity system as an independent study with Marion Nestle (corn and soy subsidies lead to increased production of unhealthy foods by the food industry which leads to obesity)
-Taking an International Nutrition course
-Taking a course on Assessing Community Health Needs. Our group is looking at the issue of tobacco smoking within the Mexican immigrant community of Jackson Heights, Queens
-Trying to stay updated on all the other sustainability and food happenings of NYC (including with Oxfam Action Corps NYC, the NYC Foodprint Alliance, etc)
-Planning the beginnings of a student group of the DIFM DPG (Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine Dietetic Practice Group of the American Dietetic Association) (twitter: @adadifm) (facebook: ADA Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine (DIFM))
-Trying to keep up with emails including the HEN DPG list-serve
-Co-chairing a task force on the issue of ADA sponsorship with the HEN DPG (should've seen that one coming)
-Attempting to plan an event with charity:water at NYU for the spring through the NYU Steinhardt Public Health Student Group

So, sorry I have not had time to post more often. Just wanted to update this blog during the month of October :)

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Yes Men Have Done it Again!

As ~1,000 "Earthlings" participated in Oxfam's Human Countdown event yesterday (guided by "tcktcktck" sounds being made by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan), the New York Post was getting ready to release an entire issue on climate change.

Or was it? This morning, The Yes Men and 2,000 volunteers distributed a New York Post look-alike newspaper about climate change entitled "We're Screwed". The paper contains all true facts - except for one: that released a report about climate change. Actually, all the facts in this report are true, too - but didn't write the it. The Yes Men wrote both the New York Post and the pdf report. They're geniuses!

This type of stunt isn't new to The Yes Men. In fact, they've pulled similar stunts on big corporations many times before - and lived to tell about it. You may have seen or heard about their previous move called The Yes Men, but they've recently made a new movie, called The Yes Men Fix the World. Its US release date is October 7. I encourage you to go see it - it's thought-provoking and hilarious! (I saw a pre-screening of it.)

All of this is part of a giant campaign to raise awareness about climate change, occurring in hundreds of cities across the globe from Sept. 20-26, 2009. You can see Climate Week NYC events here.

More about the Human Countdown:
In the Human Countdown, we formed a gigantic Earth inside an hourglass and fell through it like grains of sand, to tell President Obama and the UN that time is running out for us to save our precious Earth from catastrophic climate change. The people in green who represented the land funneled down to form the words "tck tck tck" while those of us in blue (the ocean) became panels on the sides in the bottom of the hourglass. At the end of the 1 min. 11 sec. video made exclusively for this event, we all became clocks counting down from 12:07 to 12:18, to represent the climate change talks in Copenhagen that will occur from December 7 through 18, 2009.

Here's a video by the producers of the Human Countdown describing the purpose of the event.

Here's a cut version of the filming, with interviews

Here's a photo of what it looked like from above.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Be part of history: Stand up for the principles of No Impact Man, and join the Human Countdown!

On Sunday, September 20, 2009, thousands of people will gather in Central Park to make a statement about climate change. The Human Countdown, as it is called, is a campaign being run by Oxfam America in collaboration with tck tck tck as a way to wake up humanity to the devastating effects that climate change is having on the world. In particular, climate change is seriously hurting many people in developing countries (even though developed countries such as the US do most of the damaging). From raising awareness, to on-the-ground fieldwork, to lobbying Congress for increased funding, international adaptation to climate change is one of the main issues Oxfam has decided to focus on. This means that "the US must invest now in adaptation projects, like elevated flood-proof houses and drought-resistant seeds, to help women and families build their resilience to these new and heightened risks." In case you don't know anything about Oxfam - Oxfam America is a part of Oxfam International, which is a "confederation of 13 like-minded organizations working together, and with partners and allies around the world, to bring about lasting change" and combat poverty and injustice. There is a climate change bill being worked on in Congress, and you can bet that Oxfam America is right there doing its lobbying. The US House of Representatives already has its version of the climate change bill written - which has some positive aspects - but we want the Senate to up it a notch when it comes to creating their version of the bill. Oxfam America and its partners are currently working to try and convince the Senate to include these goals in their version:
  • the House bill (HR 2454) has 1% of money allotted for international adaptation funding; we are asking for the Senate bill to include 3%.
  • 1% in HR 2454 is dedicated to Clean Tech Transfer; we want the Senate bill to dedicate 2%.
  • We are also asking for the amounts of money for deforestation prevention (5%), domestic adaptation (1%), and CO2 reductions (17% by 2020 and 83% by 2050) to be maintained in the Senate bill.
This may not seem like a lot of money, but in the scheme of things they are reasonable "asks" - not so much that Congress will just laugh at us. So, tell your Senators you want to see these provisions in the climate change bill. And tell them to become a Sisters on the Planet Ambassador. Because once women like Shorbanu know that the devastation they are facing is man-made, they want us to do something about it.

To learn more about the NYC volunteer arm of Oxfam America and sign up, go to the Oxfam Action Corps NYC blog. (or find an Oxfam Action Corps in your city). Or if you're still in school, start an Oxfam America Club.

To participate in the Human Countdown, sign up here. You can also see the event on Facebook. And if you have access to bell-ringing in a church or other facility, ask for the bells to be rung on September 21 at 12:18 p.m. And if you're around NYC the morning of September 21, join The Yes Men for a stunt they plan on pulling. It's critical that we wake up the world to the effects of climate change, because already, results from the G-20 summit have not been satisfactory. Let's hope they are more satisfactory at the G-20 summit in Pittsburg September 24-25, 2009. It's a shame the United States never signed the Kyoto protocol; let's at least assure we contribute in substantial manner to the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen Dec. 7-18, 2009.

We can make a big difference on an international scale when it comes to climate change by lobbying politicians to make changes that affect everyone. But we can also make an impact by decreasing our own individual carbon footprints. One family that has realized the importance of (and benefits of) decreasing their carbon footprint is the Beavans. Colin Beavan, aka "No Impact Man," spent a year of his life undergoing an experiment making as small an environmental impact as humanly possible while still living in mainstream society. Colin wrote a book about his experience and made a movie about it (using low impact filmmaking, of course) called No Impact Man. He successfully recruited his wife and daughter for the experiment and made it a family event, which will prove to make for an entertaining movie, I'm sure! I've only seen the trailer so far but essentially, they learned to eat locally grown food which helped him lose 20 pounds without going to the gym once and reversed his wife's pre-diabetic condition, did not use transportation that requires fossil fuels, and stopped using electricity (and therefore television), which helped strengthen family ties. It looks like a really good movie, and Colin Beavan is making an entire campaign around it, called the No Impact Project. I encourage everyone to check it out & see the movie, spread the word, and then apply as many principles to your own life as possible! I get upset when I see things in individually wrapped plastic, too.

Oh yeah and don't forget to contribute to Oxfam's international climate change awareness campaign by going out to Central Park next Sunday for the Human Countdown (that is, if you're already in the area! We wouldn't want you taking a plane to get here and waste all that fossil fuel in the process, now would we?).

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Obama's speech - guest post by Abe Young

Hey folks,

Here's a guest post by my friend Abe regarding Obama's speech last night. You can check out his blog here.

Obama did a good job in his speech making clear why we--as individuals & as a country--must succeed on health reform now. But since most people already understood that urgent need... even more importantly, his speech succeeded in eliciting exactly what this reform means for 3 categories of people--which together include all Americans:

  1. people already w/ health insurance (majority),
  2. Americans without health insurance (~30 million folks), and
  3. (the following category overlaps onto category #1) those who currently pay the rising bills for the uninsured when they get sick.
Take a look at the speech yourself:
[jump ahead 5:00 min to skip the monotonous clapping]

As I was watched the speech together with a friend--and noticed that in one after another of Obama's statements, precisely 1/2 the chamber stood up and clapped, while the other 1/2 sat stoically across the aisle--she said, "OH that's why I hate politics!"

Agreed. It's as if these Representatives and Senators whom we all elected to act as leaders during this crucial time can't even think with their own brains once in awhile, instead they stick to "party lines" as if those lines were the only hardwired neuronal pathways they owned in their cortex.

Here is 1 suggestion I have to every single person in the health care profession, including myself as a student. The simple fact of our profession not only gives us & those we will serve a bigger stake, personally, in the outcome of health reform; but it also truly bestows upon us an added credence when we have something to say (I've seen the special attention paid by politicians to a doctor or nurse at a phone banking or rally for health care; also, see the YouTube below of the ER doc in the audience at a recent town hall). And what we can say, what we all can absolutely agree upon--but this still is in danger, not because of merit but merely because of political games--is that WE STAND BY THE NEED TO PASS HEALTH REFORM NOW, THIS YEAR. (Click here if you are willing to make this simple statement to your representatives, it will convince hesitant politicians that the will is there, and it will only take you 1 minute)

Aside from the 1 Senator who wants to block health reform because "it will break" Obama, every single leader and expert of all persuasions knows that achieving health reform is crucial for America's health, economy, and sustainability in the very near future. We are on an exponential downward path if we keep our current system and don't act now. And this is another thing Obama got right in emphasizing tonight: that 80% of the components within Health Reform already has bipartisan support (and these include drastic positive reforms such as outlawing insurance companies from denying care based on "pre-existing conditions"--see the last 2 paragraphs of my letter on "Where'd all the fear come from?" below). However, this crucial national effort is still on the verge of being sabatoged by people like that shameless Senator who wants to "break" Obama by breaking health reform.

What I respect about some of Obama's big speeches to date is that he (or his speechwriter) gets the precision to tweak out at the exact point of confusion, of our paralysis, the truer narrative of what has really been happening on a national landscape (he did this in his "Reverend Wright/Race" speech, and he did this to some extent here on health reform): "I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it's better politics to kill this plan than improve it."

Agreed. Whatever your political persuasions, whichever your thoughts on the remaining 20% of health reform still in debate, or even if you don't have opinions on either, let's get ALL OF OUR political leaders to work on improving the health care plan and get it passed, rather than kill it.

Click here it'll take you 1 min.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

No more of this sick-care system; we need a public option plan

The healthcare debates have gotten more intense since my last post. It seems as though most of the politicians want to pass a healthcare bill that doesn't have a public option; but as I've heard multiple times, if it doesn't include a public option, it's not healthcare reform.

Why do we need a public option in healthcare reform? Well, there are many issues with our healthcare system as it now stands. We spend more on healthcare than any other country yet don't rank nearly as high in terms of life expectancy and overall quality of life as some other countries which have more of a public option plan in their healthcare system. Maggie Mahar, author of the book Money-Driven Medicine that got made into a documentary, explains that three decades of research at Dartmouth University show that this is due to the fact that there is a great amount of waste in the system - nearly one third of the more than $2 trillion spent on healthcare is spent on "ineffective, often unproven procedures, overpriced drugs and devices, that are no better than the drugs and devices they are replacing... unnecessary hospitalizations, unnecessary tests." There is no limit on spending for healthcare in the US, and it has gotten out of control. Another point made in the documentary is that our system is based on physicians "doing" things (tests, procedures, appointments) instead of being focused on improving the health of the patient. We don't have a patient-centered model anymore, even though medical students take the Hippocratic Oath to put the patients first. Why is this? Because medicine and healthcare have become intertwined with the free market economy of the US. Hospitals took a corporate model when they began to hire MBA professionals as CEOs of hospitals instead of MDs. Doctors are influenced by the pharmaceutical industry and product makers who are trying to sell items to them, and the patient-centered model takes the back burner because doctors are getting paid based on the most expensive tests they can conduct, not on the most efficient way they can instill positive healthy change in their patients. This corporate model has its foundations in being legally bound to put its shareholders first (i.e. in front of the patients). Maggie Mahar says that in healthcare, this is akin to the Swahili saying that "'when the elephants fight, the grass is trampled'; - the patients are essentially the grass."

Concerned citizens and patients are not the only ones who have an issue with our sick-care system (as that's what it really is). Many physicians have expressed frustration with not having enough time to spend with patients, and feeling that they are being told what to do although that may not necessarily be the right thing to do. They fear that the quality of care they are providing for their patients is diminishing. There's not just one blameworthy party here - the failing system is a product of the clash between the free market economy and the need to provide healthcare. It's a shame we let it get this far, with nutrition-related healthcare issues spiraling out of control and doctors not even being taught sufficiently about nutrition during medical school. I often wonder why med students take the Hippocratic Oath to help their patients, and yet don't follow Hippocrates' mantra "let food by thy medicine and let thy medicine be thy food." At least physicians are starting to band together for Physicians for a National Health Program and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Given the incredible debt most medical students find themselves in due to med school tuition and malpractice insurance costs, in addition to an institutional emphasis on "more, more, more" tests and procedures, many med students are taking the more lucrative path of specialties, instead of the much more needed, much less respected and underpaid primary care physicians - but not all of them. One medical student at SUNY Downstate Medical College who has not yet been discouraged from primary care has started a blog and Primary Healthcare Discussion Group. He understands that doctors need to focus more on preventive strategies such as nutritional interventions. In regards to our healthcare system, he says we must hope that "US health care gets some form of huge overhaul for the better in the next year(s), otherwise Healthcare itself may become the cause of morbidity and mortality not only on the growing uninsured, but also on all other sectors of American society." According to the Money-Driven Medicine documentary, the corporate healthcare model cannot be sustained because eventually, only the extremely well-to-do patients will have access to it.

We also need a more patient-centered model - and I believe we should use the model that Dr. Neil Calman, the President of the Institute for Family Health, has been using since 2002. He uses EPIC, a Health Information Technology (HIT) system that involves the patient in every step of treatment, from the physician going over charts with a patient and determining a present state of illness, to deciding what the plan of treatment will be and ensuring the information is easily understandable and accessible for the patient to take home after the appointment is over. Dr. Calman explains that the HIT he is such a proponent of (he's on President Obama's HIT advisory board) is that of a "myChart" system where the patient records are available to the patient, and the patient is able to access their medical records online from home as well as send secure emais to their provider. HIT does not refer to a network of information to be shared in between different healthcare institutions for the case of patients who move from one hospital to another - that he refers to as Health Information Exchange (HIE).

I had the opportunity to attend the healthcare rally in Times Square on Saturday Aug. 29, where three thousand people showed up to express their desire for a public option in healthcare reform. There's a lot of confusion as to what a single-payer healthcare system or public option would entail, and if it would cut benefits etc etc. But as discussed in my last post, there's no need to worry about what would happen if (God willing) we can pass a public option plan. There are several really good resources you can check out for more information - "Reality Check" put out by the White House, Tim Foley's healthcare blog, and the House Committee on Education and Labor's website on America's Affordable Health Choices Act.

It doesn't end here, though. Corporations such as the pharmaceutical industry and medical product makers aren't the only ones influencing the healthcare industry. Corporate sponsorship is a huge issue for many organizations, and one I have struggled with as a member of the American Dietetic Association. ADA corporate sponsorship has led to many dubious nutrition recommendations and there are many people who do not respect dietitians and the ADA because of this influence. The ADA supports the use of the USDA's food guide pyramid recommendations, which is influenced to a large extent by lobbying from the dairy and beef industries, according to Marion Nestle's book Food Politics. This understandably has led to a lot of confusion among the general public as to what should be regarded as a healthy diet, which logically is a partial contributor to the upsurge of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease epidemics. (There are other issues, of course - such as corporate advertising of unhealthy food, as well as unsanitary and dangerous chemical treatment of foods - but you can read about these elsewhere on this blog.)

Fortunately, there is a progressive group of dietitians that belong to a subgroup called the Hunger and Environmental Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group, which has some pretty strong advocates who are on the verge of making a taskforce to take on the corporate sponsorship issue within the ADA. The importance of changing to sponsors who are more concerned about public health should not be underestimated. It's embarrassing that I have a bag from an ADA conference that has a logo proudly announcing its sponsorship by PepsiCo.

Sunday, July 26, 2009!

Congress is abuzz with legislation for a healthcare reform bill right now, that would ideally provide a public option plan in addition to the traditional option of private health insurance. This would help ensure many more Americans would have access to healthcare than currently --namely the poor and people of color, who are already subject to institutional racism within the healthcare system. And as I've written before, healthcare is -- and should be -- a universal right.

This bill may not be perfect, but it's better than what we have now. And about the cost? As Tim Foley, healthcare blogger for notes, "if we fix health care, it won’t bust the deficit; if we don’t, it will." For those worried about their own taxes going up to pay for this bill... if you make less than $350,000 per year you don't have anything to worry about. According to Tim, "if you make less than $350,000 a year, your taxes won't go up, and you can keep your employer health care as long as your employer decides to keep the plan (which is totally up to the employer, as it is now)". For more detailed information as to the cost of the bill he recommends this website.

To help this bill get passed, please sign this petition from Credo Action and help NYC for Change tell others to contact their representatives by helping out with their phonebanking work this week.

Reforming healthcare right now is very important. And it's also important to keep in mind that as Robert Kenner, Director of Food, Inc. said on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart [start at 15 min], "We're not going to be able to fix the healthcare system until we fix the food system."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Health Disparities (or "Medical Apartheid") and Bronx Health REACH

I just read an article in the NY Times about Obama's comments regarding the arrest of the Harvard director of African American studies. It seems as though people are angry that Obama is speaking out about racism, because this may mean he is not speaking on behalf of all American people - just about his own people. But this is untrue. President Obama is speaking out about this instance of racism (even though he may not have known all of the facts about the situation) because he knows about the issue of institutional racism. Just because this episode happened with the arrest of a perfectly innocent man doesn't mean it's just a one-time occurrance. It just happened to gain publicity because Mr. Gates is the Harvard director of African American studies. Mr. Gates was mistaken for another "black man" breaking into his own house, and was not even shown the police officer's badge when Mr. Gates asked to see it.

No - I think this is what Peggy McIntosh was talking about when she wrote White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack 20 years ago. There is indeed institutional racism, and Blacks, Latinos, and other "minorities" suffer because of it. As a matter of fact, Bronx Health REACH filed a complaint with the Attorney General last year regarding the issue of separate but unequal care among teaching hospitals in NYC. CNN recently got wind of this story and decided to feature the issue on Anderson Cooper 360. Here is the clip.

Bronx Health REACH is a CDC-funded organization which functions under the auspices of the Institute for Family Health. I've been interning with Bronx Health REACH since February, working on the formative research for a social marketing campaign, in order to understand children's attitudes towards eating vegetables and fruits and change these attitudes to improve consumption of these healthy foods. The goal of the social marketing campaign is for children to be involved in developing a "brand" for vegetables and fruits that can be more easily "advertised" and promoted among peers, in order to change the culture of unhealthy eating habits in the South Bronx. It came about because our Nutrition & Fitness Workgroup realized traditional strategies for improving eating habits among children weren't working. I started a blog for Bronx Health REACH with many food and nutrition resources that I've come across and been using during my work with REACH.

Another thing - Bronx Health REACH is actually a nationally recognized Center of Excellence in the Elimination of Disparities, and has the opportunity to fund other Coalitions that want to do similar work as us. The Request for Proposals for new Coalitions is now out, and can be found at the bottom of the page on the Bronx Health REACH website ("Legacy Project Funding Opportunity").

Monday, July 20, 2009

Foodprint NYC - Please help now!! Call your City Council member!

Hi Friends,

It’s with great excitement for our possibility of addressing the current state of the environment and our food system that I’d like to tell you about the NYC Foodprint Resolution and ask for your help. The "FoodprintNYC" initiative, which was introduced to the City Council on June 30, 2009, would create greater access to local, fresh, healthy food, especially in low-income communities as well as city-run institutions. By increasing the availability of local, just and sustainably-produced food, New York City can decrease its ecological "Foodprint" - our food system's contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and global climate change through the production, processing, packaging, shipping, storage and disposal of food. The resolution could help the city meet its goals of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, while increasing access to local, healthy food to NYC, particularly underserved communities.

The resolution was pushed for by the NYC Foodprint Alliance, which is made up of dozens of non-profit organizations such as Just Food, Oxfam Action Corps NYC, Slow Food USA and World Hunger Year. It proposes “FoodprintNYC,” a citywide initiative designed to lessen the impact the City’s food choices and production systems have on climate change through the launch of a public awareness campaign, greater access to local, fresh, healthy food, and the mobilization of the financial and technical support needed to sustain these efforts, especially in low-income communities as well as city-run institutions. It is meant to build on PlaNYC, which aims to reduce global warming and encourage environmental awareness, yet does not address food and farming as it stands now. The resolution also builds upon the environmentally-friendly policies and programs recommended in the Manhattan Borough President’s 2009 report “Food in the Public Interest.”

If you’ve seen movies like Food, Inc. or What’s On Your Plate?, or read books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma, then you understand the impact that decreasing food miles and supporting local, sustainable food can have on our health and the future of our planet.

I’m proud to have been involved with the NYC Foodprint Alliance and am glad our City is one of the first to take initiative at beginning a movement that I believe should occur in every city. However, in order for this resolution to become law, we need your help! So far, 16 Councilmembers have signed on as co-sponsors; the resolution needs 26 co-sponsors to even be considered for a vote. If you don’t currently live in NYC but know someone that does, please pass this message along to them. NYC residents: we need you to reach out to your City Council members and ask them to co-sponsor this resolution, which Councilmember Bill DeBlasio has been kind enough to enthusiastically introduce, with the support of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

Here is a video introducing FoodprintNYC and a message from Bill DeBlasio.

Here’s what you can do:

The NYC Foodprint Alliance is asking you to call your City Council member and ask them to support FoodprintNYC. Calling your representative is fast, easy and effective. Every call that you make in support of or against a policy issue gets recorded. Calls are usually short and you are rarely asked questions, as staffers are busy and want to take down your position and get you off the phone! To find your representative and voice your support for the FoodprintNYC resolution, follow these easy steps:

1. First, find your city council member and the phone number for his or her legislative office (not the district office).

2. Next, find out if your council member has already supported this resolution.

3. If your city council member has not yet signed on as a co-sponsor of the resolution, please call and urge him or her to support the resolution. Feel free to use the following simple script:
  • Hello, my name is ______________ and I am a constituent.
  • I live at/in ___________ (give street address or neighborhood so they know you are a constituent).
  • I'm calling to urge Council Member _______ to support Resolution 2049 calling for FoodprintNYC.
  • At this time you’ll likely get thanked for calling, and then the purpose of your call will be recorded. If they do ask for more detailed information, here are the key points:
• The resolution was introduced in the City Council by Bill de Blasio on June 30, 2009.
• It is the first NYC resolution to exclusively address climate change through our food system.
• It calls for a citywide initiative to create greater access to local, fresh, healthy plant-based food, especially in low-income communities as well as city-run institutions.
• Increasing availability and use of local, healthy food decreases significant pollution caused by the packing, preparing and shipping of food.

If your city council member has already signed on as a co-sponsor of the resolution, please call and thank him or her for their support. Feel free to use the following simple script:
  • Hello, my name is ______________ and I am a constituent.
  • I live at/in ___________ (give street address or neighborhood so they know you are a constituent).
  • I'm calling to thank Council Member _______ for their support of Resolution 2049 calling for FoodprintNYC! I am so glad to see the connection between food and climate change being taken seriously.

On behalf of the NYC Foodprint Alliance, thank you for your time! :) Kelly

The NYC Foodprint Alliance is a collaborative network of food justice, environmental, anti-hunger and human and animal rights organizations working for a more healthy, just and sustainable food system for New York City. To join the Alliance or for more information, contact Nadia Johnson at Just Food,

Sunday, July 12, 2009

charity:water in NY Times!

I am very happy to see international traveler and global health writer Nicholas Kristof has written an article about charity:water in the Sunday edition of the NY Times! I first heard about charity:water last year right before my birthday, when the Facebook Causes application asked me to fundraise by having family and friends donate $22 for my 22nd birthday, as charity:water's founder Scott Harrison had donors give $33 for his 33rd birthday. This organization is partnering with non-profits in developing countries to build wells with hand-pumps for thousands of communities in Haiti, Honduras, India, and many African countries. You can get involved with volunteering for charity:water by emailing

You can learn a lot more about Kristof's topics by reading the comments people post about his articles on his blog. In reading the comments on his charity:water article, I found articles and research on whether or not water projects in developing countries are sustainable, by the International Institute for Environment and Development and the World Bank (Comment 7) (lesson: don't abandon the wells after building them!). I also found people from other countries who would like to partner with charity:water (Comments 10, 15, 18) and information about a dangerous plan in place regarding the NYS Watershed and the Delaware River Basin Commission (Comment 13).

I really liked Comment 14, about how Mr. Kristof breezes right over the fact that it was the spiritual crisis Scott Harrison underwent and how he became a follower of Christ after his time volunteering with Mercy Ships. Also Comment 11, criticizing Nick Kristof for paying too much attention to the act of giving, and not highlighting the fact that self-sacrifice is what's important. Sacrificing one's time for others, and building community, so that the people you are helping are actually being empowered to make changes for themselves, not simply enabled by being given handouts.

Or put another way, having the moral courage to stand up for what's right, every day of your life. I've posted three comments on Irshad Manji's Moral Courage Project webpage so far, explaining how to stand up for our fellow global citizens and how to get others motivated, too. We can't expect to partake in activities once and that solve all the problems in the world. We need to keep at it, and dedicate our entire lives to the causes, making sure to follow up with those we help and not abandon them. There are plenty of people already taking up this cross, as Shane Claiborne shows with his movie "The Ordinary Radicals." We can do it too, and social media can help. Scott Harrison's successful marketing campaign demonstrates the power of social networking; I think this can be taken a step further if teachers would think outside the box, and incorporate blogs, twitter, and Facebook into everyday homework assignments. More and more non-profit organizations are creating these social networking accounts, and the sky's the limit with the charitable organizations one can find out about and get involved in, merely by spending some time on the Internet. Let's wake up and use the tools God has given us to use here in the 21st century.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

What's On Your Plate?

I just had the chance to watch What's On Your Plate? ("the documentary film about kids and food politics..."), a film narrated by 2 middle schoolers in NYC that puts the issue of our un-sustainable food system into simple language.

This movie takes you through the thought process of the two girls in their investigation of where their food comes from. They are befuddled by the fact that New York grows many, many varieties of food - yet much of the food that we eat is shipped here from the ends of the earth. Some of us call this our "foodprint" - the carbon footprint resulting from the process of getting food from where it grows, to the plates we eat it on. In a sustainable food system, this foodprint could be quite small - such as when you buy your produce from local farmers markets and the only energy that's used is the truck that brought it on a 2-hour drive. But much of the food that people eat comes by way of a long process of food manufacturing. The food gets shipped from far-away lands and goes to a processing facility, where it is sliced and diced (if grains, they oftentimes get refined, whereby all the good nutrients are taken out), and added into a complex of other food extracts. This new concoction has preservatives added to it, stored in individually wrapped disposable containers, and shipped yet again to warehouses and grocery stores. Think you're doing better by buying that apple from the neighborhood grocery store? But wait, my gut feeling is that it is either an organic apple shipped from the other side of the country, or it's one of those genetically modified versions and has also been doused in chemicals (in which case you should wash it with Veggie Wash).

Fortunately, the NYC Foodprint Alliance (spearheaded by a friend of mine at Just Food) is working hard to get the City Council to adopt a resolution for FoodprintNYC, which would incorporate the issue of sustainable food into the City's PlaNYC (which aims to reduce the City's greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2030). (The original PlaNYC left out the topic of food! Even though livestock operations emit 18% of total greenhouse gases, but plant-based foods contribute significantly less to global warming.) Councilmember DeBlasio introduced the Resolution at a press conference outside City Hall, supported by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

And of course, the issue of place mattering - the existence of food deserts and redlining of neighborhoods so that fast food chains are incentivized to open up in low income neighborhoods - is addressed. Why is unhealthy food so much more accessible and so cheap? And why are people bombarded with advertisements for these unhealthy foods - sometimes even trying to market them as actually being healthy?? For the food industry to make money, of course. They don't care about your health. If they did, they would tell you to buy local, whole foods from your neighborhood farmers markets. That's the farthest thing from their agenda. And the public health community gets a measley 5% of all healthcare dollars to spend on advertising vegetables and fruits - a fraction of a fraction of what one food industry player spends on marketing its chips.

Going back to the social determinants of health - bodegas are a primary source of food for many people in low-income neighborhoods. But bodegas don't have the capacity to sell many vegetables and fruits. They don't have the right refrigeration - nor enough money to get it - and far too often are drawn by the monetary incentives offered by the junk food and cigarette industries to put unhealthy ads in the windows.

Fortunately, NYC is beginning to provide loans to people to open up supermarkets in underserved neighborhoods.
The girls in the film learned about it all, though. They even took a trip to go visit Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, a champion of healthy food in NYC (I've reposted some of the things he's done under the "Documents" section of the Bronx Health REACH blog). They also mapped out and visited farmers markets (such as Greenmarkets sponsored by the Council on the Environment of New York City, and Harvest Home Farmers Markets) and learned about CSA's or Community Supported Agriculture (such as one through East New York Farms).

In the process of learning about and trying all these healthy foods - derived straight from the ground - the girls' health improved! Something we can all learn a little more about...

What a wonderful story, you say, great. But no, this isn't enough. We need to get every child in the NYC school system to see this movie and start to think about where their food comes from. We need to get parents to see it, so they can support their children's desires for healthy eating habits. But most importantly, we need to get legislators to see it, if it means the possibility of allotting more money to school food so better school food can be served. Because right now, many kids aren't eating the hot lunch that's served at school. It's not as good as it can be, and as a result, kids wind up throwing it out, or buying junk from vending machines that shouldn't even be allowed on during the school day, or bringing junk in from their corner bodegas.

But in the meantime, parents can urge their school principals to partake in the in-class breakfast program, which is one way to ensure all children in a school get at least one healthy meal of the day. Eating breakfast has been shown to improve academic achievement and reduce nurse visits and absenteeism, too. Here is a note from the NYC Nutrition Education Network:

No one should start the day without a healthy breakfast. During these difficult economic times, it’s hard to serve your family 3 balanced meals a day. There is a NYC program to provide in NYC schools that can help. The school breakfast program is available to all students and a new component of the program even delivers meals to students right in their classrooms before they begin their day. It has been shown that children perform better academically and make fewer visits to the school nurse when they have breakfast. The NYC Department of Education and city officials, including City Council and borough presidents, fully support the “breakfast in the classroom” program and are urging more schools to participate in the program.. If you are a parent of a school-aged child, encourage the principal of your child’s school to start this program in September 2009. We are the New York City Nutrition Education Network, an organization of nutrition education professionals - Believe us; it will make a difference for your child!

Another thing you could do is support the NYC Alliance for Child Nutrition Reauthorization (HR 1324/S. 934). Congress will be voting on this legislation within the next few months, which is an opportunity that comes around once every five years. The last time this bill was voted on, money was allotted for the program, but it was never mandated and therefore never distributed. We ask now that you contact your legislators and let them know how important it is to make this a priority. Below are some facts compiled by the NYC Alliance for Child Nutrition Reauthorization:

The Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) is important to New York City

What is this Bill?
Later this year the federal government will reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act (CNA). This legislation sets rules and funding levels for the major school-based nutrition programs, including the School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, and Summer Food Service Program, and other important federal food programs such as the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for women, infants and children (WIC).

Why is this bill important?
This is a once in five year opportunity. The 2009 Reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act can help us accomplish the following goals: achieve the Obama Administration’s goal of ending child hunger and food insecurity; ensure a generation of healthy, productive, nutritionally-aware children; reduce energy use and pollution; create jobs; and stimulate economic activity.

What are we doing to influence this bill?
Groups in New York City representing varying interests have formed an alliance to advocate for changes to the 2009 Child Nutrition Reauthorization. We’ve established a consensus statement of priorities for NYC in CNR, and a cohesive strategy to deliver our shared message reflected in this statement to policy makers, the public, and other relevant parties identified. This alliance brings together various groups that haven’t historically come together to advocate for changes and improvements to CNR.

Nationwide, groups such as anti-hunger, nutrition and public health, food service and industry, community food security groups and others are advocating for specific priorities in the 2009 Child Nutrition Reauthorization. These groups have long recognized the importance of this legislation to their constituencies and have a history of advocacy in this arena. Today, as we recognize the systemic nature of our social problems and realize that they can better be addressed working together, groups are coalescing across boundaries of interest to shape how this legislation will affect us all. Diverse groups in other cities – including Seattle, Boston, Chicago, and LA – are organizing now to develop their collective priorities for CNR. With the largest school district in the nation and large number WIC and CACFP participants, NYC can be a very strong and influential voice for positive change within the Child Nutrition Reauthorization. Especially in this time of fiscal crisis, increased hunger, and concern for children’s health, we must take this opportunity to ask for increased federal funding and improvements to programs that benefit New Yorkers.

NYC Alliance for CNR: Priorities for the 2009 Child Nutrition Reauthorization
Specific goals
Overall, the Reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act must:
1) Make significant progress towards the goal of ending child hunger and food insecurity in America by 2015;
2) Ensure that all children have access to high quality, nutritious foods, local whenever possible, in their schools and through other child nutrition programs;
3) Reduce obesity and diet-related diseases and ensure productive, healthy generations; and
4) Support and expand regional farm and food economies, increasing jobs, enhancing infrastructure, and reducing unsustainable environmental impact .

Summary of the Three Key Strategies to Achieve Those Goals
1. Make federal child nutrition programs universal and more nutritious while reducing their administrative paperwork and bureaucracy.
2. Give programs more resources and technical assistance to serve all children with nutritious food, local whenever possible, produced in an environmentally and economically sustainable manner.
3. Make nutrition education available to all children and caregivers through child nutrition programs.

You can sign on to this bill as a supporter here. (Please only sign if you're a New York or NYC resident.)

I know that was a lot to swallow - I'll stop now. But please do what you can - tell your schools you want to see a healthy school environment, get involved in your school's Wellness Council (or start one if there isn't one!), make sure to give your kids healthy meals and teach them the importance of healthy foods. Talk to your principals and tell them to show "What's On Your Plate?" and implement the curriculum that's being put together in conjunction with the movie. Talk to your legislators to tell them how important it is to invest in school meals and vote for Child Nutrition Reauthorization. Another thing you could do is host an Eat-In through Slow Food USA's Time for Lunch campaign, and invite your legislators. Oh, and read The Jungle Effect by Daphne Miller, MD (here's a great article about it in Today's Dietitian).

This goes for everyone else that's not in NYC, too. Just adapt my suggestions to your own town or city. And visit FoodprintUSA to get your city involved.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Kelly Moltzen has invited you to join Kiva!


I just made a loan to someone in Nigeria using a revolutionary new website called Kiva (

You can go to Kiva's website and lend to someone across the globe who needs a loan for their business - like raising goats, selling vegetables at market or making bricks. Each loan has a picture of the entrepreneur, a description of their business and how they plan to use the loan so you know exactly how your money is being spent - and you get updates letting you know how the entrepreneur is going.

The best part is, when the entrepreneur pays back their loan you get your money back - and Kiva's loans are managed by microfinance institutions on the ground who have a lot of experience doing this, so you can trust that your money is being handled responsibly.

I just made a loan to an entrepreneur named Ogbonna Edith in Nigeria. They still need another $625.00 to complete their loan request of $975.00 (you can loan as little as $25.00!). Help me get this entrepreneur off the ground by clicking on the link below to make a loan to Ogbonna Edith too:

It's finally easy to actually do something about poverty - using Kiva I know exactly who my money is loaned to and what they're using it for. And most of all, I know that I'm helping them build a sustainable business that will provide income to feed, clothe, house and educate their family long after my loan is paid back.

Join me in changing the world - one loan at a time.



What others are saying about

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-- BBC

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'Smaller investors can make loans of as little as $25 to specific individual entrepreneurs through a service launched last fall by'
-- The Wall Street Journal

'An inexpensive feel-good investment opportunity...All loaned funds go directly to the applicants, and most loans are repaid in full.'
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Check it out!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The state of the US Healthcare system

Today I went to a town hall meeting at the Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club with Northwest Bronx for Change, where there was a forum on health care reform. The key speaker was none other than Tim Foley, the healthcare blogger for His speech was practically clearer than my entire Health and Medical Care class last semester. Here's what he said:

There are two Senate committees that work on healthcare reform: the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee (HELP) (that Ted Kennedy and Chris Dodd are on), and the Senate Finance Committee (chaired by Max Baucus, and Chuck Schumer is on this committee). In the House, there is the “tri” committee, which Rep. Rengel is on. The bills are making their way through Congress right now and they will be voting on healthcare reform in the next four weeks. Rep. Eliot Engel is on the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee on the Foreign Affairs Committee, and is also on the Energy & Commerce Committee, Healthcare Subcommittee. He is the senior one out of only two New Yorkers on the committee.

The US spends more than any other country in the world on healthcare – $2.4 trillion – which works out to $800,000/person. Yet our healthcare system is only ranked 37th in the world according to the World Health Organization (2002 report)! This is in comparison to the next highest spender on healthcare – Switzerland – which spends a mere $4500/person. Mind you, they cover all their citizens. People say the US shouldn’t ration its healthcare the way many more socially minded Europeans do, because they don’t want to wait on a line. But at least their citizens are on the line! In the US, healthcare is rationed too – people just don’t talk about it. There are people who unfairly aren’t even allowed onto the line, the way our system is now. The uninsured, the underinsured without jobs, the homeless. Those that have minimum wage jobs that cannot afford better healthcare, and the ones who get laid off from work and subsequently can't afford insurance anymore. They should at least be given the option to “get on the line,” right? If the ability to take care of your health is a universal right.

There are 50 million people without insurance in the US. This does not count the underinsured, which is another 25-30 million people. And 62% of personal bankruptcies involve personal debt. In many of these situations, the people had insurance at the time they spent the last of their life savings on medical costs.

Back in the fall, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton advocated for giving us a choice in healthcare insurance: if you like your current private insurance, you could keep it, but if you want to, you should be able to have an option for public insurance. The public plan would be better at controlling costs. Private insurance spends 20-30% of its money on administrative costs, while Medicare only spends 3%. This is because Medicare, being a public option, only wants to make people healthier and doesn’t get a profit. Medicare Advantage, on the other hand, uses 12-15% of its money on these costs, because it is privatized.

Private insurance is tied to your job. Therefore, private insurance companies don’t have a financial incentive to make sure you’re getting the care you need, because you could only be at that job for five years, and then the insurance company won’t care about you anymore. Meanwhile, the public plan presumes you’re a customer for life, so has more of a stake in making sure you stay healthy, because it knows it’ll have to pay for you later on down the road if you get sick. This new National Health Exchange would give a number of plans to choose from, all of which would have the same minimum standard of benefits. There would also be a subsidy based on income. Unfortunately, all of this is unlikely to be enough of an incentive for private insurance to change their business model, and they will still be competing with themselves. 94% of insurance companies in this country have been deemed noncompetitive.

The hope is that this whole plan will be able to compete with private insurance companies.

Hillary Clinton proposed a very good healthcare plan years ago, when she was the First Lady. However, this plan got shot down during the Clinton administration. Obama is still for giving us this option of keeping what we have or switching over to this National Health Exchange plan, but he is worried that there won’t be enough support for it when it gets voted on, and doesn’t want to turn healthcare over to the Republicans again. So, while we are asking for a single-payer system, public plan option, he may compromise on it, just to make sure we get some change and not be back to square one with no change.

Rep. Engel is all for adding coverage for people with HIV before they develop full-blown AIDS. He’s also for providing treatment at home (as I wrote about in my paper from last semester), and providing coverage for pre-existing conditions. He personally knows the perils of insurance companies not covering pre-existing conditions, as his daughter was almost denied insurance based on her childhood diagnosis of pulmonary stenosis. Ted Kennedy is advocating for the inclusion of immigrants, children, and pregnant women. Senator Gillibrand has signed onto the 10 principles of Health Care for America Now!, which is the organization fighting tirelessly for the public option plan.

At this town hall meeting, there were postcards available for us to sign to send to Senators Schumer and Gillibrand. This is what they said:

I want our country to be a place where everyone has access to quality health care, and I would prefer a single-payer approach to health care reform.
However, I also want President Obama to achieve his goal of healthcare reform this year, as a necessary step in his administration’s movement towards pro-people change.
Therefore, I strongly urge you to work for the inclusion of a public plan option at a minimum in the final health care legislation.

There were also postcards that on the front, read: “The citizens of NY demand comprehensive, affordable healthcare for all.” On the postcard, I wrote in some of the information I learned from Tim Foley, and some I already knew from my work on advocating for reform in coverage for nutrition services. It read:

The US has a “sick-care” system.
The US is ranked 37th in health, even though it spends $2.4 trillion on healthcare, more than any other country, by far. We need a choice, an option of a public plan. Private insurance companies have already proven they can’t solve the problem themselves. We need a single-payer approach, and significant dedication to prevention, including medical nutrition therapy and pre-diabetes coverage. Thank you. Kelly Moltzen,

They need to hear from you too, because you can bet on the insurance companies being on their backs as well - and don't forget those companies have a lot of bargaining money. The National Healthcare Act in the House is HR676, which you can read more about on THOMAS and MedPAC. The bill would:
  • Provide $56 billion in uncompensated care for the uninsured
  • Preserve patient choice in healthcare and doctors
  • Allot $19.22 billion for Health Information Technology
  • Emphasize prevention and wellness

Call or write to your Congressmen today.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Home Project

This is by far the most clear, comprehensive, and easily accessible video on the state of our world and the impact that human beings are having on it. It's an hour and a half long; please watch it, and share it with everyone you know - not for my sake, but for your sake, everyone else's that lives on Planet Earth, and future generations. Oh yeah, and the sake of our Planet.

The Home Project

P.S. It's on YouTube, so it's free!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Safe water bottles

Here are some non-BPA refillable water bottles - a good alternative to buying plastic water bottles. Positives: they are safe, you don't have to pay for each time, and you don't have to think about if your recyclables are actually being recycled or are going to fill up landfills...

Klean Kanteen
Sigg (though get the BPA-free kind)

As an alternative to the options listed above you can purchase a Thermos and help support charity:water build wells in Africa.

Wait, why shouldn't you use plastic water bottles again?? Here's why. And here's a short video on plastic in the Pacific (including inside the stomachs of birds and fish) by Captain Charles Moore who discovered it.

Thanks to the HEN list-serve for these (and for this article from Enviroblog).

Thoughts on "Eat This, Not That!"

A friend of mine recently mentioned the book “Eat This Not That!” that Ellen Degeneres talked about on her show, and that appeared in "Men's Health" magazine. I read a book review on the kid version, “Eat This Not That! For Kids” in my American Dietetic Association – ADA Times magazine. This is what it said:

"While most of the nutrition information in this book is solid and science-based, what's less clear is how some foods made it onto the ‘Eat This’ list, while others are on the ‘Not That’ list. For example, the authors recommend a package of vanilla crème sandwich cookies (170 calories, 7 grams fat), but not a package of mini chocolate chip cookies (170 calories, 8 g fat). Other ‘Eat This’ items include a kid's fried shrimp and fries meal or a candy bar, while some puzzling ‘Not This’ items include canned corn (no salt added) or white rice. While this fun, photo-filled book could be a great tool to pique a kid's interest in nutrition or start a dialogue about food, it does little to educate readers about maintaining an overall balanced diet and it is certainly not the "complete nutrition and fitness guide for kids it claims to be.”

After speaking with Marion Nestle at NYU today, I can’t agree more. Marion is very much anti- food industry marketing its products, and for good reason. I do believe that it’s important to educate people on what a healthy diet consists of and the nutritional benefits of eating healthy foods (and why I created the blog, but when the food industry does it solely to make their product look like a better choice than the next product, it’s gone too far. Better to stick with the whole foods – whole grains, fruits, vegetables – than to figure out the minute differences between the multitudes of processed foods on the market.

Read "Food Politics" by Marion Nestle and "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan…then you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

You were blessed with a voice, so use it!

For all the revolutionary things I come across in my experiences, I don’t blog nearly enough – which just makes the posts I do get around to writing that many times more heavy and laden with lots of information. Sorry about that.

It bothers me that all the really fascinating things I learn about – moral courage and social entrepreneurship, Paul Farmer and liberation theology, taking the core of your “religious” beliefs seriously and public service – I learn about outside the classroom, church, and mainstream media. That some of the best public health measures could actually be things like what Scott Harrison is doing with charity:water – gathering support and raising money to install wells in Africa so that people can have easily accessible, clean water. Development in Gardening, which helps people in developing countries start their own gardens so they can improve nutrition for AIDS patients and community members in general. Or Oxfam America, which not only works on international development projects, but also advocates for Congress to put money towards helping women in developing countries adapt to climate change. And the hospital and public health infrastructure Paul Farmer has built in Cange, Haiti, that I am reading about in the book Mountains Beyond Mountains. And then Irshad Manji, professor in the NYU Wagner School of Public Service and Director of the Moral Courage Project, who invited me to a private viewing of The Stoning of Soraya M.

The last time I cried as much as I did while watching The Stoning of Soraya M. was when I watched The Passion of the Christ. Except, it was worse this time, and not because my hands were tied with rope. The Passion…well, most people have heard about the story of Jesus…He died for our sins on a cross, He was ridiculed for calling Himself God. He was a great person. But Soraya was also a great person, and yet she was killed too, for no good reason. Not just by her community, but some of her own family members, as well. Leading up to the event, people in Soraya's community had uneasy feelings about the accusations and following through with the stoning. They knew that there was something wrong with the situation, and yet…the stoning still happened.

This story is about more than “stoning.” It’s not saying that the stoners should be punished, or the Islam faith rejected. Firstoff, the takeaway from tonight’s film screening and discussion is that we need to stand up for things that we find wrong in society, as Zahra did. She is the reason the book was written, and the reason this film exists. She used her moral courage to take advantage of a journalist in town to bring to light a horrible situation, that of suppressed women’s rights and an unconscionable practice that still exists today called stoning. Two thousand years ago, Jesus said “let him who is without sin throw the first stone.” Nobody could throw the stone because nobody was without sin. Too bad people still haven't learned this lesson.

Yet there is a moral fiber that runs through virtually every religion, and Islam is no exception. Irshad Manji has made that clear with her book The Trouble with Islam Today. What happened here (and that I believe has happened with many Catholics and other Christians) is that people strayed from the fundamental truths of their religion. Religion fosters groupthink, which is bad. Belief in God and spirituality should be a personal endeavor. Just as Muslims should know the truth about the Quran, Christians should know that the Nag Hammadi texts exist, and that there are gospels which may be just as valid as the four gospels that made it into the Bible (which only cover the Outer Mysteries).

In Mountains Beyond Mountains (a book that describes the work of Dr. Paul Farmer, who started the non-profit Partners in Health in Haiti and potentially may be in charge of USAID's Foreign Assistance Efforts), there are many memorable quotes by Farmer but one of my favorites is, “You want to talk crucifixion? I’ll show you crucifixion, you bastards.” The way I understand this is, we shouldn’t merely be worshiping Jesus for dying for us. Yeah, that’s great, we can give all our selfish thoughts over to him and know that we don’t have to be damned for eternity. But the main point we should get from Jesus’s life is how to treat others. The stories in the Bible aren’t one-time deals that we should just read over and over again. They are really happening, today and every day of our lives. The destitute – the people of Cange, Haiti, living in poverty and misery – that Paul Farmer found to be of great faith, they are the people we should be looking to help. Women all over the world who are considered to be of lesser importance than men, and innocent, righteous, loving women who are stoned to death for no reason – they are the ones we should be paying attention to. Not just living here in our comfortable lives, going to church every weekend and having fun with friends. How can you live with yourself in good conscience, knowing awful, horrible things are happening to people in this world because people have a skewed view of who God is?

I'd like to leave you with these lyrics, from a Follower-of-Christ perspective:

But if we are the body
Why aren't His arms reaching?
Why aren't His hands healing?
Why aren't His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren't His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way?
There is a way
-Casting Crowns

"The single greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyles. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable." -DC Talk

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sustainability in the School System

In an email reply to @MCiscart re: bringing composting into the school system, I suggested these resources:

That's great you're planning on bringing composting into the school! Definitely check out what Brooklyn Academy of Science & the Environment has done - they have an entire high school class on sustainable agriculture, and even grow their own crops, pick them, and prepare them in meals. Their website is They have a really excellent program, I encourage you to contact someone from that school and ask about their sustainable ag class, maybe you can get some ideas from them. Also you can get info on composting from East New York Farms (

And not to advertise or anything, but just to put it out there...Another thing you could do is look into The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education ( - they work with schools to integrate sustainability into the curriculum. They even have a workshop coming up for teachers, curriculum designers, administrators, grade level teams - Monday July 20 to Friday July 24 (9am-4pm), with Sunday July 19th being a pre-req introduction to sustainability (9am-3pm) at the Cloud Institute, 307 7th Ave, Suite 1201, NY NY 10001. The M-F fee is $750 and Sunday is $100. Questions can be directed to Program Manager, Marie-Claire Munnelly at or (212) 645-9931 ext. 822.

I'd love to hear your ideas; if you need more help contacting anyone let me know; I'm pretty well connected in NYC ;)


FYI - One other thought: there is a petition to bring back composting to NYC - yes, they have stopped funding for it! :( The petition is here.

Message from MCiscart:
I maybe looking for some help on bringing composting program to public schools and am looking for science teachers or any teacher who believe in going green and educating our future adults not to go green but to make informed decisions. Currently working with a head start program in Jersey that's going green with composting. If you like to hear more on my plans and thoughts let me know. I can use any and all constructive criticism.


Since this is a post on "sustainability in the food system" I thought I'd add some information I learned recently regarding the NYC Department of Education's Office of SchoolFood, in relation to farm-to-school initiatives. I spoke with Bill Doherty,, 718-707-4478, and he said he is the go-to person if there are any schools interested in pursuing farm-to-school programs within the NYC school system, as all of the food has to come through SchoolFood. If any schools are interested, just let him know and he will find farms to partner with etc. and set it up.