Food

On childhood obesity, acting and not acting are both choices

In two prior posts, I’ve agreed with influential blogger Morgan Downey that the proposal in Puerto Rico to fine the parents of obese children is a bad idea, and that the food environment has a great deal to do with the globesity crisis.

But I balked at the implication that parents don’t have primary responsibility for obese children. I wouldn’t have said so before 5 or 10 years ago — because I didn’t get it — but now it’s clear: incorporating fitness and nutrition into children’s worldview is a basic ingredient of child protection.

If fines aren’t the right tack, though, what can be done collectively? I usually fail, but I’ll try to be brief. Clearly, the basic choices are to act or not to act.


Parents must protect against the food environment

In a recent post, I reacted to writer Morgan Downey’s mockery of a ham-handed suggestion in Puerto Rico to fine parents whose children are obese.  I think the suggestion is not helpful, but I objected to Downey’s giving not even a nod to the fact that parents do have a huge role in how kids learn to eat.

Downey focused his prescription on the food environment, and though we agree on its potency, I would put the onus on parents here, too, in part because in this world, a crucial role for parents is to educate their kids about media excesses — which is to say, “media.”


"Nature abhors a monoculture"

I’ve said many times, probably more than a couple of times in this blog, “Who is this guy?” referring to myself. For the first third (?) of my life, I was a sullen, cynical couch animal, whose only blazed trail was the triangle connecting refrigerator, television, and misshapen seat on the sofa.

That guy could never have envisioned this one, the one who glowingly quotes the Georgian farmer featured in a film by Maryn McKenna on The Plate, National Geographic’s food-focused website:

“In my mind, monocultures are the hallmark of what’s wrong in agriculture today. I learned in college physics that nature abhors a vacuum. I learned out here that what nature really abhors is a monoculture. Nature loves the symbiosis of many different species — microbial, plant, animal — all living together, one benefitting from the other.” ~ Farmer Will Harris, White Oak Pastures

Exactly! (Just to be clear, he knew it first, and I’m celebrating his words.)

I would add just a little perspective implied in his comments: Harris implies that what nature “thinks” is important, which is a point I make at the podium. By what evidence? Nature has been sustaining life on earth for 3.8 billion years. Humans arose out of nature, and are a subset of nature, just live all the other lives, and as such, should be trying to fit in, instead of trying to subvert the realm we sprang from.


"The healthcare system doesn’t benefit from our being healthy."

Welcome to another installment of “10 Words or Less,” in which I ask brief questions of interesting people and request brief answers from them in return. Today’s participant is the co-producer, co-director, and writer of “Carb Loaded: A Culture Dying to Eat,”  a film that came out Oct. 1. We spoke on Oct. 3, and you can find a video version of our conversation here. Please remember: “10 words” is an intention, not a limit, so please, no counting. If you think it’s easy, let’s see you do it.

Lathe Poland, co-creator  of "Carb Loaded."Name Lathe Poland
Born when, where Carson City Nev., winter 1973
Where do yo live now? Fairfield County, Conn.
Occupation Filmmaker
Family composition "Married 17 years with amazing wife, just the two of us."
An early formative experience “Learning [in junior high school] that food could trigger migraines for me had a pretty big impact on my view on nutrition.”
Your first paying job “You’re going to love this one. I dotted chocolates at a chocolate factory [pause] which actually connects to the previous answer I gave you."
Wisdom you retain from that experience "Find work that you actually love to do."


AmpleHarvest.org signs up 7000th pantry

This is straight from the press release:

Newfoundland NJ - (October 15, 2014) - AmpleHarvest.org, the nationwide program that enables tens of millions of home and community gardeners to donate excess garden produce to a nearby food pantry announces that more than 7,000 food pantries, food banks, soup kitchens, food closets, food shelves and food cupboards are now "visible" to nearby growers eager to donate their excess harvest.


10 Words or Less with Darin Detwiler, food safety advocate

Darin Detwiler, food safety authority and advocateWelcome to another text installment of “10 Words or Less,” in which I ask brief questions of interesting people and request brief answers in return. (Previously, I posted the video of our chat; this is the edited transcript, for those who prefer text.) Today’s participant is a food-safety advocate and college instructor in regulatory affairs who formerly operated a nuclear reactor. (I can’t count how many of my friends can say that!) Please remember that “10 Words” is an ethic, not a rule, so please, no counting. If you think it’s easy, let’s see you do it.
 
Name Darin Detwiler (right)
Born when, where May 19, 1968, San Francisco
Resides "Salem, Mass., known for the Salem Witch Trials, which are allegedly tied to food-borne illness, as the source of the deliria that was perceived as witchcraft."
Job "I have two jobs: Adjunct professor at Northeastern University, where I teach in regulatory affairs of food and food industry. Also, I’m the senior policy coordinator at Stop Foodborne Illness, a national nonprofit that supports victims and their families."
What you wanted to be when you grew up "Actually, two things. I wanted to be a musician, and I wanted to be a seismologist. I really wanted to shake, rattle, and roll."
Your first paying job "When I was in high school, I played a Santa Claus at a mall. [Pause.] It wasn’t that paying."
Wisdom you retain from that experience "Never say to a kid, or ask a kid, about their parents, Mom or Dad. Always say ‘folks,’ because folks is generic, and can apply to adopted or grandparents or foster parents. We go through life thinking everyone had to fit into a cookie cutter, but there are many children who have different family situations."


10 Words or Less with Lathe Poland of the film "Carb Loaded: A Culture Dying to Eat"

We recorded this interview Friday, Oct. 3, two days after the film's release. Poland and his partner, Eric Carlsen, financed the film, which looks at how America feeds itself and the effects thereof, through Kickstarter. As regular readers know, I'll be following up this post with an edited text version of the interview sometime in the next week. But for now, our conversation just as it happened...


"The death bed is a horrible place to learn about food safety."

Darin Detwiler and I conducted this interview on Thursday. Detwiler is the senior policy coordinator for Stop Foodborne Illness and an instructor on regulatory affairs and food industries at Northeastern University. As I do, he has a deeply personal motivation to be in his line of work: His son was one of four young people who died in the 1993 E. coli outbreak at Jack in the Box restaurants in the Northwest. He tells that heartbreaking story in the interview, while also sharing vital information of use to anyone who eats.


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