Tag Archives: McDonald’s

Rather Be Dead…

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Student-led protest outside of McDonald's to help raise awareness about the suffering of animals coming from the fast food giant's suppliers.

One of the joys of being a teacher is seeing where students end up after they graduate from high school. In some cases, we’re lucky to have the teacher-student relationship evolve into one where former students start to get comfortable with the idea of teacher as friend, peer, or in a few instances, colleague. Today I was pleased to see that some of my former Social Justice students have continued to get active for others, in this instance, for animals within in the food system.

It is no secret that concentrated animal feeding operations are torture for animals, and while McDonald’s has led the way in the past with animal welfare reform issues, when you start calculating the overall good vs. harm of the fast food giant it is hard to see how anyone could defend them. They provide jobs, they operate more playgrounds than most cities, and give people a delicious convienent meal option, but they are also responsible for more environmental degradation, animal suffering (and human rights abuses if you consider slaughterhouse workers), and hefty waistlines than most other businesses.

In addition, I’m sure there are several children (and probably some adults) who are terrified by that deranged looking clown and his cohort of hamburger patch friends. Anyone who as seen or read “IT” by Stephen King knows what I’m talking about.

As today is Halloween, there’s reason to give people a good scare. We’ll be spending the evening watching slasher movies with friends, but there’s nothing more scary than the reality of the slaughterhouse, or the terror that slave children feel harvesting cocoa for those little chocolate bars being passed out across the nation. While many people will be applying some fake blood for theatrical purposes today, 2.7 million land animals will be killed for food,  and close to 15,000 young boys will continue to endure forced labor, many who will be beaten and whipped on one of the 600k cocoa plantations in west Africa. That blood is real, and covers the hands of all who take part in these industries. Which is why one man even tried to prosecute himself for being involved.

Luckily, one of the other benefits of being a teacher is that I have the opportunity to help students explore these issues in the classroom. I feel hopeful knowing that tonight several of my students will be participating in reverse trick-or-treating in order to educate the community about slave chocolate, and others will be trick-or-treating for UNICEF in order to help children around the world.

However, if all of this serious stuff is too scary for you, at the very least you can enjoy these recipes for your left over pumpkins.

Happy Hallows!

– Christopher

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“Smart Choices” Reconsidered.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the food labeling program where certain food products were being marked as Smart Choices to encourage people to make better decisions about the foods they were purchasing. The problem I wrote about was that the labels were going on foods like Froot Loops and  Pops cereals. This week the program suspended its operations and many of the participants will be phasing out the labels on their products.  State and Federal authorities believed that the program would mislead consumers about the nutritional value of the foods that carried the label.

The FDA sent a letter to the program in August that expressed its concern that the program would encourage people to purchase the packaged foods over fresh fruits and vegetables. Additionally, the FDA put out a letter to the food industry this week that called for the industry to move to a voluntary “common set of mandatory nutritional criteria that consumers can rely on when they view FOP [Front of Packaging] labels.” One of the concerns of the FDA is the way that consumers respond to front of package labeling which they worry may be “confusing” or “counter-productive.”  The letter states that people are less likely to read the nutrition facts panel  if there is a front of package claim. The ultimate goal is to help consumers make informed decisions and  “build better diets and improve their health.” Smart Choices voluntarily suspended the program citing that they had the same goals as the FDA.

While the companies who had used the Smart Choices labels were interested in luring adults to their products, often times food marketing is geared at children. Corporate Accountability International is launching a campaign to demonstrate how Ronald McDonald  is used as a marketing tool focused on children. They cite Jim Skinner, the CEO of McDonald’s statement that “Ronald has never sold food to kids in the history of his existence,” and they are asking people to help document when and where the clown shows up.

– Kerri

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Stephanie Smith, Differences in Aid, and Paul Farmer.

The conversation about food has been both lively and varied this week. Last weekend the New York Times released a feature about Stephanie Smith, a 22-year-old dance teacher whose life has been ruined as a result of eating a hamburger tainted with E. Coli 0157. This moving and educational account of the horror that results from willy-nilly food safety protocols, is a powerful reminder of how far we have to go in order to protect our food supply and our citizens. When asked to comment about meat companies like Cargill, where the meat was traced back to, Smith recounts in the video feature that accompanies the article, “I don’t know how these people sleep at night.”

While Kerri and I are vegan, and don’t eat meat, both of us were moved to sorrow and anger over what happened to this young woman. At the same time, we also, as always, understand the pain and suffering endured by the animal that was served to her. This situation was a double loss, both for the cow, and for Smith as well. As a result of reading this story, it was hard to feel sympathy for the “pain” of those who see the possibility of McDonald’s moving into the Louvre. At the same time, I totally understand their fury about the fact that fast food chain could move into the home of the Mona Lisa.

Yet, towards the end of the week, there was reason to rejoice as the House of Representatives approved an agriculture bill that increased funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamps) by $4.3 billion dollars, as well adding $400 million dollars to the Women, Infant, Children feeding program (WIC), and to school aid and child care nutrition programs, who saw an increase of $1.9 billion dollars. We talk about the importance of programs like SNAP in our forthcoming book, and the challenges facing those in poverty within our country. There are those who exploit these federal assistance programs, like an extraordinary example this week where booze, porn, and viagra were being purchased, but the actual fraud rate is minimal (between 2 and 4 percent).

However, while there are 36 million people in the United States who are in need of assistance (12 percent of the population), there are billions of people around the world who have it much worse. Wealthy countries like the U.S., who give the most food aid to poorer nations, have slashed the amount they’re giving to the World Food Programme, leaving the United Nations feeding program about $2 billion dollars short. This means that 40 million people will be directly affected in the coming weeks. Josette Sheeran, head of the WFP at the UN told The Observer, that this could be the “loss of a generation” of children to malnutrition, food riots and political destabilisation. “We are facing a silent tsunami,” Sheeran said. One that she says we haven’t seen since the 1970s.

While this reality is hard to comprehend, Kerri and I were reminded on Thursday that there is hope. We had the chance to hear humanitarian and physician Paul Farmer speak on Thursday, and his level of commitment to those living in poverty across the world over the last 27 years was nothing short of inspiring. For those who have the chance to read “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” Tracy Kidder’s account of Dr. Farmer’s work in Haiti, Peru, and Russia, it is a fascinating and engaging reminder that the most important question that we can ask ourselves is this: How can I use my life to improve the world around me?

– Christopher

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“Food, Inc.” & the Cornivore’s Dilemma

Movie theater employees at the Nuart in Santa Monica had a playful understanding of the irony concerning the sale of corn-based concessions to movie-goers of whom more would be expected. Also for sale was the companion book for the film, which includes essays by Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle, Muhammad Yunus and others. Photo by Christopher.

Movie theater employees at the Nuart in Santa Monica had a playful understanding of the irony concerning the sale of corn-based concessions to movie-goers of whom more would be expected. Also for sale was the companion book for the film, which includes essays by Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle, Muhammad Yunus and others. Photo by Christopher.

School is out! Friday was the last day, my grades are turned in and I am looking forward to a summer of relaxation and playing in my garden.  We started off our vacation with a trip to the movies today; a movie about food.

And when I say we took a trip, I mean it. “Food, Inc.” opened yesterday in select locations only, so we took a two hour car ride up to Los Angeles to see it.  The irony of watching a movie about food, including the ubiquity of corn, while eating popcorn, was not lost on the movie theater. They offered a special “Cornivore’s Dilemma” that included a large popcorn and a large soda. We thought this was funny, but did not take the bait.

On the whole, “Food, Inc.” further opens the discussion on what has happened to the food industry over the past fifty years. There are interviews with Michael Pollan, who wrote “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”; Eric Schossler, who wrote “Fast Food Nation”; Joel Salatin, the owner of Polyface Farms and several  other farmers and workers in the food industry.

The film takes a look at the way farms have moved from the storybook image of a red barn and happy animals wandering leisurely, to the factory model of  large-scale production.  The film also explores the conditions of workers in these operations, particularly the slaughterhouses, an issue that Human Rights Watch investigated in 2005 and presented in a 185 page report titled “Blood, Sweat, & Fear”.

Already there is a website offering rebuttals of the claims made in the film. A few of their answers offer links to videos on Youtube.com to support their claims, such as a video about where McDonald’s meat comes from that shows a production plant, but the only live animals we see are about five cows grazing in an open pasture at the start of the video; only underlining the film’s claim.

Of course this link led me to the distraction of Youtube where I watched several others videos, including one of a cheeseburger and french fries from McDonald’s that a person claimed to be almost three years old.

At the end of  “Food, Inc.” the filmmakers offer suggestions for the audience on how to address some of what is happening to the food industry. Among others, they ask viewers to shop for organic and local foods, remind people that everyone deserves healthy food, suggest talking to school boards about creating healthy lunches, and recommend planting your own garden. Even if it is a small one. However, these suggestions alone may not be enough to solve the problems created by the industrial food system.

The website for the film offers a list of when the movie is playing and in which cities. If you can find one near you, definitely check it out.

Happy viewing,

Kerri

P.S. Good luck to the South Central Farmers who are holding a press conference this evening to kick off their “Take Back the Farm” campaign.

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