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School food fight: Mission Readiness vs. the School Nutrition Association

Food Politics - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 6:54am

Mission: Readiness, the organization of former high-ranking military officials concerned about obesity and other health problems in military recruits and personnel, has just released “Retreat Is Not An Option: Healthier School Meals Protect our Children and our Country.

  • Currently, 12 percent of active duty service members are obese based on height and weight—an increase of 61 percent since 2002—which is resulting in serious problems with injuries and dismissals.
  • The obese service members in the brigade in Afghanistan were 40 percent more likely to experience an injury than those with a healthy weight, and slower runners were 49 percent more likely to be injured.
  • The military spends more than $1.5 billion annually treating obesity-related health conditions and replacing those discharged because they are unfit.
  • 70% of young Americans are ineligible for military service because of overweight, lack of education, or criminal records.  The ineligibility percentages range from a low of 62% in Hawaii to 78% in Mississippi.

The report concludes:

We understand that some schools need additional support to help meet the updated standards, such as better equipment and more staff training, and that support should be provided. At the same time, moving forward with implementation of the standards for all schools is paramount. Students depend on schools to reinforce efforts by parents and communities to put them on track for healthy and productive lives. Healthy school meals and snacks are a vital part of that effort. When it comes to children’s health and our national security, retreat is not an option.

This is a direct criticism of the School Nutrition Association (SNA), which has called for such a retreat.  In response, SNA said:

Recent reports by Mission: Readiness and other organizations have mischaracterized both the impact of the new standards on school meal programs and the scope of the regulatory relief requested by School Nutrition Association and other groups. SNA’s Myth vs Fact sheet on the new standards addresses how the new rules have contributed to a decline in student lunch participation, increases in food waste and financial instability in many school meal programs.

USDA’s data, however, argue otherwise.

The SNA, which receives nearly half its income from companies that sell food products to schools, now finds itself in opposition to the military as well as to USDA and consumer school food advocates.

If anything needs to retreat, it’s SNA.

As for why the military is concerned, take a look at this photo taken at the Las Vegas airport, sent to me yesterday by Andy Bellatti.

Michelle Long Welcomes the 2014 BALLE Local Economy Fellows

BALLE Living Economy Blog - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 4:27pm
Wed, 09/17/2014 - 07:00 Wed, 09/17/2014 - 07:00 Show In:  Newsroom

"Every time I visit one of these leaders and see their communities through their eyes, I fall in love. I believe in these people – all the way."

“There is almost a sensual longing for communion with others who have a large vision. The immense fulfillment of the friendship between those engaged in furthering the evolution of consciousness has a quality impossible to describe.” ― Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Today BALLE introduces 17 new Local Economy Fellows, but I already know these leaders. I know, for instance, that they can’t help but to do what they do. They see something wrong and can’t help but innovate to fix it. “Why not?” they say. They are, each of them, creators and conveners and the midwives of what’s next. They all love something – someone(s) – someplace. They imagine things that others can’t yet see. They see the very best in others and invite people to be their very best selves. And every time I visit one of them and see their communities through their eyes, I fall in love too. I believe in these people – all the way.

I’m not the only one. In fact most of these people lead thousands of community entrepreneurs to collaborate and innovate for health and equity. Many of them have been asked to run for mayor (or will be soon), are the ‘community choice’ winner for the nonprofit best-of awards, and are selected as one of their city’s 40 under 40 (or 50 over 50). And sometimes they get asked to advise the governor on a whole new strategy for a ‘sustainable and equitable economy,’ and then… they need help.

They may feel unsure – because they have been making it up as they went; building a path by walking on it. It can be hard, seeing the way forward before others do. And whether they lead by pushing boulders up hills, or playing a pied piper’s flute, there are times when they feel all alone. And tired.

There are times when they can see a world where we’re all okay, but sometimes no one else can see or even sense it with them. There are times when whole communities dare to dream alongside them, but call this leader to stand at the front as soon as those dreams are attacked. Change can be hard and inertia is strong. Resources flow where they are used to flowing. And even bright lights can feel dim when they feel alone.

I know all of this – who they are and how they struggle. And because of that, nothing could make me happier than to take them in and nourish them for a while through this fellowship. To connect them to a group of their peers who know just what it’s like, too. I know because we’ve done this a few times now. I know that community gives you courage. That being nourished helps you to continue to nourish others. That bringing a team of innovators together means that ideas are much more rapidly advanced.

Programs and initiatives that work leapfrog across communities. New resources come in. Putting a ring around a field makes it visible – to the White House, to Harvard, to Forbes. Einstein said, “no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”  So, supporting leaders to become more vulnerable or bolder – to feel more deeply and to become more whole – brings new insights. And when leaders – from Oakland to Minneapolis to Appalachia – who dream of an economy that serves us rather than us serving it, join together, great power arises.
                                                                                                    
Through this Fellowship program we are supporting and strengthening leaders who act from a place of love for the wellbeing of all. And we are weaving this collection of bright individual lights into a luminous tapestry of coordinated national action. What could be more important than that?

I have deep appreciation for these leaders for caring so much, for using their sharp minds and creativity and courage for real prosperity for all, and for saying yes to this fellowship.

Infinite gratitude to Jennifer and Peter Buffett and team at the NoVo Foundation, to Shawn Escoffery and team at the Surdna Foundation, to Barbara and Tom Sargent and team at the Kalliopeia Foundation, to Sallie Calhoun of the Globetrotter Foundation, to Kimberly Ostroski and team at the Prudential Foundation, to Grant Abert and team at the Kailo Fund, and to some other very important friends and visionaries, including our program partners at Ventana – thank you.

And with all my love for every other one of you who reads this, and cares, and does something with that caring, I am so delighted we are on this earth together right now.

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Photo Essay: Open House at Lamont-Doherty

Earth Institute -- Columbia University - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 9:55am
Bend a rock. Channel your historic 'birthquake.' Check out rocks, fossils, sediment cores and more at Lamont's Open House on Saturday, October 11.
Categories: Non-Profits

The food industry’s trillion calorie reduction challenge, evaluated

Food Politics - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 9:15am

Remember the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF)—16 big food companies that account for about one-third of calories in the marketplace—and the companies’ pledge in 2010 to reduce the total number of calories they sold by 1.5 trillion by 2015?

As I wrote in my post on the pledge,

What are we to make of all this?  Is this a great step forward or a crass food industry publicity stunt?*  History suggests the latter possibility.  Food companies have gotten great press from announcing changes to their products without doing anything, and every promise helps stave off regulation.

On the other hand, the RWJF [Robert Wood Johnson Foundation] evaluation sounds plenty serious, and top-notch people are involved in it.  If the companies fail to do as promised, this will be evident and evidence for the need for regulation.

So now we have the RWJF-funded evaluation.

The study examining HWCF’s pledge shows that the largest calorie cuts came from sweets and snacks; cereals, granolas and other grain products; fats, oils and dressings; and carbonated soft drinks.  The companies participating in the pledge sold 60.4 trillion calories in 2007, the year defined as the baseline measurement for the pledge. In 2012, they sold 54 trillion calories. This 6.4 trillion calorie decline translates into a reduction of 78 calories per person in the United States per day.

Barry Popkin and his colleagues in North Carolina report this evaluation in two parts.  The first says:

The 16 HWCF companies collectively sold approximately 6.4 trillion fewer calories (–10.6%) in 2012 than in the baseline year of 2007. Taking
into account population changes over the 5-year period of 2007–2012, CPG [Consumer Package Goods]caloric sales from brands included in the HWCF pledge declined by an average of 78 kcal/capita/day. CPG caloric sales from non-HWCF national brands during the same period declined by 11 kcal/capita/day, and there were similar declines in calories from private label products. Thus, the total reduction in CPG caloric sales between 2007 and 2012 was 99 kcal/capita/day.

The second paper looked at sales data for households.  It concludes that although sales of calories declined, they were already declining before the pledge.

Post-pledge reductions in calories purchased from HWCF brands were less than expected, and reductions in calories purchased from non-HWCF name brands and PLs [Private Labels] were greater than expected after economic, sociodemographic, and secular factors were accounted for.  If the 16 HWCF companies had been able to maintain their pre-pledge trajectory, there should have been an additional 42 kcal/capita/day reduction in calories purchased from HWCF products in 2012 among households with children.

Mary MacVean’s account in the Los Angeles Times quotes any number of experts calling this an impressive achievement that will not, however, “reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity, especially among poor people and some minority groups.”

She quotes Popkin:

The calories purchased has really gone down. And most of the decline is in the kind of food you and I would call junk food or junk beverages.. But not all the news is positive…What we don’t have is an increase in beans, whole grains, produce.

Much publicity will be made of this small step in the right direction.  But what does it mean?

Is the reduction in calories due to lower sales of packaged foods in general—the secular trend—or to food companies’ taking the pledge seriously.  I vote for secular trends—fewer sugary soft drinks and sugary cereals.

The lack of evidence for increased purchases of healthier foods also is troubling.

Big retailers still show no evidence of promoting healthier foods.

Overall, this pledge is about selling packaged food products, not foods.

And what counts is what’s actually eaten.

The bottom line: Eat your veggies.

If you do—and manage to keep packaged, highly processed foods to a minimum—you don’t need to worry about any of this.

Addition, September 19:  I learned about these papers from a reporter, who sent me the two reports and an accompanying commentary by officials of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  I learned later that the journal also published another commentary on the papers, this one by Dariush Mozaffarian, now dean of the Friedman School at Tufts.  His analysis makes clear that the reduction in calories is fully explained by secular trends, of which food companies were well aware:

In this setting, the pledge appears to have been a stroke of marketing genius, turning their steadily declining calorie sales into a novel opportunity for self-promotion, an easily publicized but deceptive “sham” pledge that merely reflected ongoing trends…Although the food industry is a necessary partner for effective future solutions to address suboptimal diet, now the leading modifiable cause of U.S. deaths, we must remain vigilant and cautious about their intentions and objectively assess the evidence for real change—especially for promises that appear too good to be true.

 

What Everyone Should Know About Climate Change

Earth Institute -- Columbia University - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 8:34am
Climate scientist William D’Andrea of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory asked young scientists attending a symposium last October, "What do you wish everyone knew about climate change?" He turned the responses into this video, which covers the topic pretty well.
Categories: Non-Profits

Is the Highest Climb Sustainable, and Who Pays the Price?

Earth Institute -- Columbia University - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 10:52am
The Khumbu Icefall on Mount Everest is perhaps the most well-known and notoriously dangerous glacial feature on the planet. In a fresh post on the Glacier Hub blog, the Earth Institute’s Ben Orlove, writing with anthropologist Pasang Yangjee Sherpa of Penn State, recounts a recent workshop held in Kathmandu to address the issues raised by the tragic deaths last spring of 16 Nepalese guides who were preparing the trail for this year’s climbing expeditions.
Categories: Non-Profits

MPA ESP Alumni Discuss Success After Graduation

Earth Institute -- Columbia University - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 9:36am
As the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy Class of 2015 starts their second semester of courses, we invite you to learn more about the 682 alumni of the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy program.
Categories: Non-Profits

From the Community: Sustainability Alumni Publish New Book

On-Sustainability Blog - Fri, 09/05/2014 - 8:28am

Tim Delaney and Tim Madigan, Alumni of the Sustainability Conference, have recently released a new book titled “Beyond Sustainbility: A Thriving Environment,” which is based upon their 2011 Presentation at the Seventh International Sustainability Conference in New Zealand.

About the Authors:

Tim Delaney is an associate professor and department chair of sociology at the State University of New York at Oswego. Twice president of the New York State Sociological Association, he lives in Auburn, New York.

Tim Madigan is an associate professor of philosophy at St. John Fisher College. The former editorial director of the University of Rochester Press, he is on the editorial board of Philosophy Now magazine and lives in Rochester, New York.

About the Book:


This book approaches the study of the environment from two academic disciplines: both sociologists and philosophers have concerns about our environment’s ability not only to sustain itself but to thrive. The book examines the differences between “sustainability” and “thrivability.” Such topics as the sixth mass extinction (now underway), fracking, plastics, food waste and deforestation are explored. The book also considers the skepticism about humans’ being the cause of a deteriorating environment and details nature’s adverse role in harming the environment. Finally, the text gives reasons why choosing a thrivability approach is not only (obviously) beneficial but quite possible, and discusses practical ways in which thrivability can be taught.

For more information about the book please visit: http://www.oswego.edu/news/index.php/campusupdate/story/thrivability_promoted

This is what Tesla owners are doing while you sleep

On-Sustainability Blog - Wed, 08/27/2014 - 11:53am

blog.opower.com | Article Link | by Barry Fischer and Ben Harack

By day…electric vehicles are taking the world by storm: their sales are doubling every year, their fuel efficiency is off the charts, and some of them can even accelerate from 0-60 mph about as fast as you can say Elon Musk.

By night…the electric vehicle (EV) community continues to make waves. While you are in bed dreaming about how some day you too might own an electric car, many EV owners are doing something dramatic; something unusual; something that is reshaping the energy landscape.

They are using gobs of electricity.

Today we once again crack open Opower’s energy data storehouse (the world’s largest, spanning more than 50 million households worldwide) – this time to examine the energy usage behavior of an increasingly important segment of utility customers: electric car owners who charge their car in the wee hours of the night.

To fuel our analysis, we evaluated anonymous data from about 2,000 night-charging EV owners in the western US (see Methodology) — a region where Teslas, Nissan Leafs, and other plug-in electric cars abound.

Our statistical findings suggest how vastly EV owners’ energy profiles can deviate from normal; why the timing of EV charging is so important; how solar panels fit into the picture; and what it all means for utilities, their customers, and the future of the electric grid.

Read more...

Image Courtesey of Wikimedia Commons / Mariordo 

What's In A Name? Naming Your Farm Or Ranch.

PlacerGrown Blog - Thu, 11/21/2013 - 6:40pm
Arguably the most important marketing decision that you will make is to come up with a name for your farm or ranch. The name of your business will set the tone for every future communication and will have to be written or printed on everything associated with your business. EVERYTHING. There is no getting around it. It is like naming a child: you can’t change it once you choose and you are going to have to say it and write it A LOT. I would suggest choosing a name that you like A...
Categories: PlacerGrown Blog

Chasing the Zeitgeist: Behind the Conference Program

Bioneers Blog - Fri, 07/27/2012 - 12:02am
When people ask me what the Bioneers Conference is, I say it’s a natural anti-depressant. As someone all too well informed about the magnitude of the destruction and intractable predicaments our world uniquely faces today, I’m grateful I also have the privilege of a job that amounts to a kind of “star search” for the greatest social and scientific innovators of our time. When you’re immersed in the inspiration of BioneersWorld and constantly learning about breakthrough solutions for people and planet, it’s simply impossible not to have hope.
Categories: Non-Profits

Mapping the 2012 Beaming Bioneers Local Community Conferences

Bioneers Blog - Thu, 07/26/2012 - 11:57pm
Can’t make it to the national Bioneers conference, or want to go local? Our Beaming Bioneers local partners bring home the inspiring Bioneers plenaries plus a treasure trove of live local solutions and leaders to build community resilience and restoration nationwide. Join local allies to activate your region for transformation.
Categories: Non-Profits

Working Like An Ecosystem

Bioneers Blog - Thu, 07/26/2012 - 11:50pm
How do we train 100,000 new farmers and instill a larger land ethic modeled on nature’s wisdom? How can each of us apply these ecological design principles and practices in our own backyards and communities? Don’t miss the brilliant design science full-day Permaculture intensive at Bioneers 2012 with leading masters.
Categories: Non-Profits

In Praise of Mentoring - An Essay by Carolyn North

Bioneers Blog - Thu, 07/26/2012 - 11:47pm
Several years ago I had the opportunity to help a 21-year-old gardener realize her dream of creating a mandala garden on land I was stewarding. She was bright, visionary and strong, and could hardly believe her luck at being given the go-ahead to use one acre of a beautiful meadow for her project. And what a garden it was! Two weeks later on the other side of the country in a completely unrelated incident, my 21-year-old musician daughter was approached by a woman about my age who asked her to join the string quartet of her dreams. Unsolicited. She could hardly believe her luck.
Categories: Non-Profits

Inside Moonrise Cultivating Women’s Leadership Intensive Trainings

Bioneers Blog - Thu, 07/26/2012 - 11:36pm
Each Cultivating Women’s Leadership Training blows my heart wide open, as I am struck by the vision, dynamism and beauty of strong women stepping more fully into their wholeness on behalf of our ailing world. As we take stands on behalf of what we love, in alliance with women from all walks of life, ages, disciplines and ethnicities, it seems the world bends to meet us. As research reveals, as women’s equity improves, so too does the health of all the human and ecological communities around them.
Categories: Non-Profits

Education for Action in Action at the Bioneers Conference

Bioneers Blog - Thu, 07/26/2012 - 11:34pm
There’s no “summer break” for Bioneers’ Education for Action Program, where budding initiatives are in fast-paced development to serve our expanding educational community in deeper, more extensive capacities than ever before.
Categories: Non-Profits

Indigeneity 2012 | Traditional Ecological Knowledge: The Story of Salmon

Bioneers Blog - Thu, 07/26/2012 - 11:33pm
I am a member of the Chemehuevi Indian Tribe of California, raised in the heart of the Mojave Desert on our Indian Reservation along the shores of Havasu Lake, CA. My commitment and dedication to my people has afforded me tremendous opportunity to receive degrees in cultural anthropology and photography from Oklahoma State University and the Institute of American Indian Arts, and soon after serve as both a Chemehuevi Tribal Council member and Executive Director of the Chemehuevi Cultural Center. My path and purpose have led me to a life dedicated to the preservation and revitalization of indigenous culture, language, lifeways and landscapes.
Categories: Non-Profits

Building Resilience From the Ground Up

Bioneers Blog - Thu, 07/26/2012 - 11:31pm
Nature does not favor centralization. As climate change escalates and too-big-not-to-fail systems unravel, brilliant effective models of building local and regional resilience and economies are mushrooming. It’s time to create a national and globalocal network of resilient communities to build collective knowledge, transfer leading-edge models and tools, and catalyze collaborations.
Categories: Non-Profits
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