As I sat around the dinner table with my family recently, my son went into great detail about this food he had at school. He couldn’t remember the name, but he said it was kind of like a raw potato and also similar to an apple. He explained how they were given fresh lime to squeeze on it as a flavor enhancer. Totally perplexed, I got up to get the calendar from school to learn he had been sampling jicama. Jicama is just one of the many fruits and vegetables he and his peers are eating as part of the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.
The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) began through the Farm and Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. The purpose was to determine the best ways to get more fruit and vegetables consumed in the schools. The program was authorized as a pilot in only 4 states, but the popularity of the program added new states almost every year and today all 50 states are participating. The FFVP is provided to select schools through grants administered through the State Departments of Education. My son’s school, College Hill Elementary in Wichita, KS was fortunate enough to receive the grant this year. They have been seeing fantastic results.
It’s no secret that a strong battle is being fought in order to increase the quality of our school lunches and to teach our children what healthy eating looks like. As the elementary students at College Hill have been introduced to these fruits and vegetables, good results have been shown.
“I think most of the staff has been pleasantly surprised at how willingly the kids have at least tasted everything. I’m sure that we are giving quite a few of these kids an experience with some types of foods that they would never have in their lifetime,” said Karla Stenzel, physical education teacher and the facilitator of the FFVP.
Five new members of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) will be taking office this January, having won approval from the USDA earlier this month. The 15-member board is responsible for setting and upholding the national organic standards, in addition to determining what substances may be used in USDA-certified organic products.
The NOSB is comprised of four farmers, three environmentalists, three consumer interest advocates, two handlers, one retailer, one scientist and one USDA certifying agent, in order to properly represent the different interests of the organic farming community.
The new members will be:
Harold V. Austin (Handler)
Austin current is the director of Orchard Administration at Zirkle Fruit Company, an organic fruit tree grower and shipper. He is also a board member of two organic advisories, the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s Organic Advisory Board and the Northwest Horticultural Council’s Science Advisory Board.
Carmela Beck (Farmer)
Beck is the National Organic Program Supervisor and Organic Certification Grower Liaison for Driscoll’s, one of the largest organic berry producers in the country. She previously worked for a an organic certification agency, and for the American Indian Resource Center.
If you’ve ever visited another country or even enjoy a foreign cuisine chances are your eyes have been opened to many different ways of doing things. One of the major eye openers I’ve experienced as a traveler is how different the food is in other cultures. As my family dined on a Dim Sum meal in Boston’s Chinatown, my little boy was served chicken feet. He bravely accepted the feet and began chowing down. And as a good guest, so did I. I had to separate myself from what I was doing, and try to enjoy what those around me were calling a delicacy.
Chicken feet aren’t the typical American fare, however, they don’t stray too far from a familiar food. But what about bugs? Rats? Or even horses? These meats are very popular in many cultures around the world. However they seem to make us squirm. Should they?
Americans may be serving horse meat to humans in the near future. Are you ready? (more…)
The National Organic Standards Board will be holding their biannual meeting at the Hilton Savannah DeSoto in Savannah, Georgia, November 29 – December 2, 2011. “We think this meeting may well decide the fate of organic food and agriculture in this country,” said Mark A. Kastel, Codirector of The Cornucopia Institute. The mission of the Cornucopia Institute states that they are “dedicated to the fight for economic justice for the family-scale farming community. Through research, advocacy and economic development [their] goal is to empower farmers both politically and through marketplace initiatives.”
During this NOSB meeting, the Cornucopia Institute will be presenting formal testimony on several subjects including genetically modified and synthetic additives that have been petitioned for use in organic foods and drinks, including baby foods and formula. Part of their testimony will include findings from a consumer survey done by PCC Natural Markets, the largest member-owned food cooperative in the United States, that shows more than three fourths of consumers are opposed to such synthetic additives in their food.
The Cornucopia Institute is also concerned about a petition to the NOSB to allow the use of the synthetic preservative sulfur dioxide (sulfites) in wine. “Approving sulfites, not only a synthetic preservative but a common allergen, would represent another blow to consumer confidence in the organic label, which has always signified the absence of artificial preservatives,” Kastel noted.
When it comes to eating healthy, it’s never to early to start. Although nutrition can seem like a difficult topic to discuss with a young child, keeping it simple can set them up for a lifetime of healthy choices.
With the recent unveiling of the new USDA food icon MyPlate, starting up nutrition conversations with individuals of any age has become much more simple. In fact, the new icon is so recognizable that even young children can begin to identify what a healthy plate should look like. Educators and parents alike should use this symbol to not only help their children build healthy plates, but to start conversations with them about what eating healthy is and the importance behind it.
To help educators and parents out, many lesson plans exist to incorporate the MyPlate icon into the classroom and the home. To add to this ever-growing list of fabulous resources, please find two additional lesson plans ready for use below. The idea behind these is to make talking about nutrition fun and help children identify how their food choices fit into a well-balanced meal plan.
The demand for chicken in the US is down, and we can only speculate as to why. Many argue that tough economic conditions have caused Americans to decrease their meat consumption and opt for lower-cost foods. Chicken inventories are 13.1 percent higher than they were a year ago, according to a Wall Street Journal article.
In response to the gap between product and demand, the U.S. government is making a special purchase of 40 million dollars worth of chicken products, which will be distributed to school lunch programs and soup kitchens.
“Thanks to prevailing price trends, the government is getting a bargain on high-quality food to help meet the nutritional needs of the clients of these programs, while the industry is getting some relief from excessive inventories,” said National Chicken Council President Mike Brown. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack also praised the deal, saying “it will also provide support to the broiler industry and the many small independent poultry growers that depend on the industry for their livelihood.”
UPDATE [7/27/11]: This recall has been expanded to include Starbucks salami and cheese Bistro Box and the chipotle chicken wrap. There has also been a separate recall of Pilgrim’s Pride chicken nuggets.
Those that frequent Starbucks coffee shops in Georgia and Alabama will want to be on the lookout for chicken products that have been recalled recently. Flying Food Group is the company that produces the Starbucks Chipotle Chicken Wrap Bistro Box and the Starbucks Chicken and Hummus Bistro Box. They have recently recalled both of these products due to Listeria monocytogene contamination.
Roughly 204 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken wraps and plates are being recalled in total. The products that are recalled have “Enjoy by 071511” on the bottom left corner of the package. They also have an establishment number of P-34373 within the USDA mark of inspection.
This problem was discovered through microbiological testing conducted by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service or FSIS. There were no reports of illness with these products, but the FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks, which is how the contamination was found.
The food pyramid, long an iconic part of an American education, was retired by the USDA in favor of MyPlate, a simplified icon to help us eat better at every meal. Coinciding with the announcement, The Foundation for the National Archives has curated an exhibit called “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” which takes an in-depth look at how the U.S. government has worked to guide the way its citizens eat.
The National Archive’s exhibit uncovered a fascinating poster from World War II (shown left). Perhaps the most surprising thing about this image that butter is its own food group, but it also gives a glimpse into a moment in American history when rationing threatened to leave those on the home front potentially underfed and malnourished.
Less than seventy years later, the country faces an epidemic of obesity, particularly among its children. MyPlate is offered to U.S. citizens as a tool to reduce calories, eat more fruits and vegetables and understand portion sizes.
Cheryl Forberg, RD is a James Beard Award-winning chef, New York Times best-selling author, and nutritionist for NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.” Her latest book is “Flavor First,” which can find out more about at Flavorfirst.com. You can follow her on Twitter @cherylforbergrd.
Why were nutritionists so happy when the USDA announced the food pyramid was dead?
When the USDA in 1992 released the food pyramid we’ve all become familiar with, many nutritionists voiced concerns with the diagram. The large base of bread, cereal and grains just gave the impression that you were supposed to eat so much more from that group. Encouraging people to eat so many grains and carbs, nutritionists argued, paved the road to an obesity epidemic.
The original pyramid had long been unpopular and in 2005 it was replaced with a new logo called MyPyramid, a nearly impenetrable glyph depicting a stick figure running up steps on the side of a vertical striped pyramid. Sensitive to fears that the hierarchy of the original could lead to an improper balance, the USDA abstracted the image and turned the breakdowns on their side. The running figure was meant to to remind people that exercise was an important component of proper diet and nutrition. Too bad nobody paid much attention to the essentially meaningless graphic.
Thursday, First Lady Michelle Obama, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Surgeon General Regina Benjamin unveiled the USDA’s new food icon, replacing the confusing pyramid with MyPlate. (more…)
Among the many products clamoring to get attention for their “green” credentials, real or purported, it can be difficult to tell which items are genuinely eco-friendly from the green-washed impostors. To help discerning consumers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s BioPreferred program announced yesterday that they will be offering a new, voluntary seal for bio-based products.
Similar to the USDA Organic label and the Energy Star seal, the new “USDA Certified Biobased Product” seal aims to steer consumers towards products that are made from renewable resources. “Today’s consumers are increasingly interested in making educated purchasing choices for their families,” said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan in a press release. “This label will make those decisions easier by identifying products as biobased. These products have enormous potential to create green jobs in rural communities, add value to agricultural commodities, decrease environmental impacts, and reduce our dependence on imported oil.”