Fracking & Farming Don't Mix:
Isn't it time we exhibited some precaution?— link to story @ treehugger.com
The Baum Forum Investigates Fracking, Farmland, and the Halliburton Loophole — link to story @ ediblemanhattan.com
> "Who'll Cure Our Kids, Big Pharma or Small Farmers?" — The Huffington Post
NBC News Channel 4:
First Lady Michelle Paterson Speaks at Baum Forum
New York's First Lady Michelle Paterson addresses Baum Forum's "Schools Food and Community" Conference, segment aired April 12, 2008
From The Huffington Post
May 15, 2008
Who'll Cure Our Kids, Big Pharma Or Small Farmers?
by Kerry Truman
Isn't it kind of odd for a culture that trumpets its 'family values' to treat its children like cattle, fattening them up on corn and soy by-products? We love our kids so much we've let Big Food turn them into cash cows for Big Pharma. A just-released study estimates that "about 1.2 million American children now are taking pills for Type 2 diabetes, sleeping troubles and gastrointestinal problems such as heartburn."
Of course, they're just aping their elders; as the study shows, we're the most medicated people on the planet. Apparently, our blessed way of life is a risk factor for depression, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, erectile dysfunction, and any other malady for which Madison Avenue can find a market. Are parents counting on pills to compensate for their children's lousy diet and lack of exercise? As Dr. Daniel W. Jones, president of the American Heart Association, told the AP:
"Unless we do things to change the way we're managing health in this country...things will get worse instead of getting better." Jones noted that "body weights are so much higher in children in general, and so we're going to have larger numbers of adults who develop high blood pressure or abnormal cholesterol or diabetes at an earlier age."
Conservatives and liberals can't agree on how to tackle this impending catastrophe. Remember Hillary Clinton's book It Takes A Village? Its premise--that we have a collective stake in the well-being of every child--raised the hackles of the Let 'Em Eat TastyKakes contingent and inspired a rebuttal from Republican Senator Rick Santorum entitled It Takes A Family.
What it really takes, though, is a family farmer to provide us with fresh, healthy produce. The more fresh fruits and vegetables we pile on our plates, the less pills we need from the medicine cabinet, as the New York Times noted on Tuesday in an article entitled Eating Your Way To A Sturdy Heart. And a study released last month by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy confirmed that people who lack access to fresh produce face "a significantly higher prevalence of obesity and diabetes regardless of individual or community income."
But we haven't got enough family farmers to keep our fridges filled, as chef Dan Barber noted in a Sunday New York Times op-ed:
As demand for fresh, local food rises, we cannot continue to rely entirely on farmers' markets. Asking every farmer to plant, harvest, drive his pickup truck to a market and sell his goods there is like asking me to cook, take reservations, serve and wash the dishes.
We now need to support a system of well-coordinated regional farm networks, each suited to the food it can best grow...
But regional systems will work only if there is enough small-scale farming going on to make them viable.
Sadly, support for family farmers hasn't exactly been a cornerstone of any of our presidential candidates' campaigns.
But there's another Hilary who's made it her mission to champion local agriculture--Hilary Baum. Hilary's the president of Public Market Partners, a non-profit whose goals include putting real food back in our school cafeterias and supporting the small family farmers who grow that food.
Unlike the other Hillary--who's banking on bigotry to prop up her presidential prospects--my Hilary's a community builder, not a coalition crusher. Admittedly, she does belong to a dynasty, and one with ties to the CIA. The Culinary Institute of America inducted her father, Joe Baum, the legendary restaurateur who founded The Four Seasons and Windows on the World, and restored The Rainbow Room, into its Hall of Fame.
He could have rested on his laurels, but to borrow a Clinton theme song, Joe Baum never stopped thinking about tomorrow. So he founded the Joe Baum Forum of the Future, a seminar series that focused on the future of the food industry.
When he died in 1998, Hilary continued his legacy, organizing a series of historic conferences now known simply as the Baum Forum. These conferences bring together nutritionists, farmers, educators, public health advocates, chefs, community gardeners, greenmarket leaders, activists, and high-profile folks devoted to revitalizing our local food systems and feeding our children well, including Michael Pollan, Frances and Anna Lappé, Dr. Marion Nestle, Dr. Andrew Weil, and Alice Waters.
But the good food movement's got a tough row to hoe when the food industry spends some $15 billion annually to market unhealthy foods to kids. And the latest version of that $300 billion bit of legislation we bucolically call the Farm Bill--which the House just passed Wednesday afternoon with enough votes to override President Bush's threatened veto--continues to favor industrial agriculture while doing little to help small farmers.
This year's Baum Forum, entitled Schools, Food & Community, was held last month at Columbia College and kicked off with a discussion of the need to teach our children media literacy. As one of the speakers, Melinda Hemmelgarn, a nutrition and communications consultant, noted, the food industry has a positively predatory relationship to our kids, using every trick under the sun to make kids crave their crappy products. We need to teach our kids how to dissect these messages instead of swallowing them whole.
Hilary Baum's prescription for our sedentary, overstuffed little spuds is to get 'em while they're young--put the garden back in kindergarden and instill a lifelong appreciation of fresh fruits and vegetables and the gardeners and farmers who grow them.
At last year's Baum Forum, I heard several stories about kids who were utterly disconnected from nature; one community gardener talked about instructing a child to locate a tomato plant where it would get full sun, only to discover that the kid had never realized that the light changes depending on the time of day. Another urban ag advocate talked about how he had to provide kids with plastic bags to protect their precious sneakers before they'd deign to set foot in the garden.
At this year's Baum Forum, Jane S. Park, a curriculum specialist with Sesame Street, announced that the venerable kids' show is devoting its next two seasons to reconnecting kids with nature. I'm not sure how powerful Big Bird is compared to Big Ag, but I'm glad to see someone in the mainstream media--even if it's only the Muppets--doing something to save a generation of kids who don't know how food is grown and think that dirt is, well, dirty. Because that's a really unnatural state of affairs. Almost as unnatural as putting your kids on drugs in the name of making them healthy.
From Food Sleuth, ColumbiaTrubune.com
April 23, 2008
Planting Seeds of Hope and Good Health
by Melinda Hemmelgarn
Stephen Ritz says he’s “moved kids from crack to cucumbers” by teaching them “the power of nature.” Wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with “Green the Ghetto,” the Bronx-based environmental educator joined teachers and the youths they mentor on a panel at the School Food and Community Forum in New York City last weekend.
Conference organizer Hilary Baum brought together hundreds of educators, health professionals, politicians, parents and students to fuel the city’s school food revolution. If New York City can green up school food, anyone can.
Ritz made an impassioned plea to help create policies and communities that care for children and the environment. He described the rough areas in which his students live. Called “food deserts,” their mostly asphalt-covered neighborhoods lack grocery stores and healthful, wholesome foods. Instead, fast-food outlets and “bodegas,” or convenience shops, sell mostly processed and packaged foods. There’s no shortage of chips, candy, snack cakes, soft drinks, beer and cigarettes. But you’d be hard-pressed to find fresh — let alone organic — fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, lean meats and whole grains.
In fact, if you take the bus from New York’s LaGuardia airport to Columbia University’s predominantly white, upscale neighborhood, you’ll pass through the heart of Harlem — a food desert — where dark faces predominate. You’ll get a glimpse of one of the city’s poorest districts, with unemployment rates hovering near 30 percent. These communities of color, poverty and injustice breed disproportionately high levels of violence, despair and preventable diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma.
“The stakes have never been higher,” Ritz said. “These kids think Little Debbie and 99-cent menu items make up two of the major food groups. But they can’t identify garden vegetables. We’ve got to teach kids about healthy food, healthy reasoning and how to make effective change.”
As an environmental educator, Ritz turns lives around with rooftop, vacant-lot and Earth-box gardens. He and his students have grown “thousands upon thousands of pounds of vegetables” for hungry New York City residents. They’ve restored parks and community spaces, but Ritz recognizes that’s not enough.
“We have to move to embrace triple-bottom-line economics,” he explained. In other words, create sustainable policies that are economically viable, environmentally sound and socially just. When we single-mindedly focus on profits for a few, our entire society pays the price.
Creating time, space and funding for school and community garden projects makes a difference. For one, home-grown vegetables cost a fraction of those sold in traditional markets, if you can find them.
Second, gardening provides a quiet, spiritual connection with nature. Third, garden programs that include a market component, where youths learn how to sell their produce, empower students with entrepreneurial skills. Teaching youths how to grow and cook their own food teaches self-sufficiency.
As for the larger issues of community safety and security, Ritz says, “No one’s ever shot anyone over a cucumber.”
To grow food, and a whole new generation of leaders, plant a garden. Teachers and parents will love “Growing Food,” a curriculum and guide published by Columbia University’s Teachers College to help students ask the right questions to understand the link between their food and the environment.
Order through the National Gardening Association: www.kidsgardeningstore.com/11-3300.html.
To learn more about health disparities and why solutions lie far beyond personal choice, watch the documentary “Unnatural Causes.” Executive producer Larry Adelman says he produced the film “to draw attention to the root causes of health and illness and to help reframe the debate about health in America.”
He wants viewers to understand how wages and benefits, tax policies and our educational system are as critical to health as diet, smoking and exercise.
To watch clips online or download a teacher’s curriculum, policy guide and more, go to: www.unnaturalcauses.org.
To learn more about the Baum Forum: www.baumforum.org.
From The Columbia Spectator Online Edition
April 25, 2007
Trading Grease for Greens
by Ashley Pandolfi
Forget the mystery meat. Efforts to help teach public school children to eat better in, and outside of, the school cafeteria have taken root all over the city in recent years. A fair and conference held this weekend at Teachers College looked to explore ways to promote children's nutritional health.
The conference, "Schools, Food and Gardening: Cultivating a Healthy Future," focused on helping children develop healthy food attitudes and behaviors through changing what ingredients go into the Monday special, teaching children how to garden and cook, and fostering relationships between farms and schools.
Food is available for children at public schools: nationally, over 90 percent of all public schools have lunch programs, and over 80 percent have breakfast programs, said Kate MacKenzie, director of food and nutrition at FoodChange, an agency involved in New York City food policies.
But Lynn Parker, director of Child Nutrition Programs and Nutrition Policy for the Food Research and Action Center, said there is a lack of participation in these programs system-wide, despite the obvious benefits. "Research has shown children who eat a breakfast do better in school, have less behavioral problems in class, and are less likely to be tardy or absent," she said.
Yet as more and more children do take advantage of food programs at schools, panelists at the conference noted, there should be increased attention to what goes into the meals, including the proximal origins of the food.
"We are trying to, for once and for all, to get it clear that schools should buy food from the state or region," MacKenzie said.
Current nutritional standards prevent New York City schools from using artificial ingredients, trans-fat cooking oil, MSG, and meat mechanically removed from the bone, said Jorge Collazo, executive chef of the NYC Department of Education. New York has not banned frozen foods since they are easier to store than fresh foods, and not allowing them would require changing cafeteria infrastructure.
Other ideas the academics, chefs, teachers, and physicians suggested included urging children to look beyond Cheetos to carrots, expanding gardening programs, providing cooking classes for teens, and designing curricula to link food to environmental studies. Some panelists suggested introducing salad and burrito bars in cafeterias.
The conference was hosted by the Nutrition Program of Teachers College and the Baum Forum, a not-for-profit program of conferences and seminars held periodically to focus public attention on food and farming issues. It was designed as a follow-up to a conference held last year that also discussed schools, food, and wellness.