Tag Archives: obesity

As seen in Macleans Magazine.

An article about our project, and the book “On a Dollar a Day” was published in this week’s issue of Macleans Magazine (basically the Canadian version of Newsweek)…enjoy!

Additionally, our friends over at Food Democracy Now sent us another message this week:

The evidence is in: America’s food system is broken. Every week we read about record-breaking food safety recalls, a spiraling childhood obesity epidemic, and the continued loss of independent family farmers.

All of these problems can be traced back to one thing: excessive consolidation by Big, corporate food. But change may be on the way. Recently, the Departments of Justice and Agriculture held their first joint workshop here in Iowa to gather evidence of antitrust violations in food and agriculture.1 We were encouraged by the workshop, the first of five to be held this year,2but also concerned that the same companies that have caused these problems were well represented on the panels, while the family farmers most negatively impacted by corporate food monopolies were only given the opportunity to speak after public officials had left the building.

Even though these workshops are an important first step, real family farmers must have a seat at the table. It will take all our voices to ensure that the Justice department holds giant agribusiness accountable.

The aisles of most American grocery stores give an overwhelming illusion of choice when it comes to our food. A closer look, however, quickly reveals that most of the meat, grain, milk — and even the grocery stores themselves — are all owned and controlled by just a few corporations.

The figures are startling:

• A single company (Monsanto) controls the seeds of 93% of soybeans and 80% of the corn grown in the U.S.3

• 4 companies (Tyson, Cargill, Swift & National Beef Packing Co.) control 83% of the beef packing industry4

• 4 companies (Smithfield, Tyson, Swift & Cargill) control 66% of the pork packing industry

For too long now, food and agricultural production has been consolidated into the hands of a few agribusiness giants. These companies dictate to us how our food is produced, how much farmers are paid for their crops and livestock and how much consumers pay for food.

Food Democracy Now! participated in last week’s workshop. We heard Attorney General Eric Holder talk about the “reckless deregulation that has restricted competition in agriculture” and promise that the Department of Justice, under his watch, was committed to “vigorous enforcement” of U.S. antitrust laws.

But given the power of the companies on the other side, we know that the change we need will not come easily. We must stand together and make our voices heard in favor of a fair and democratic food system!

Please support Secretary Vilsack and Attorney General Holder as they move forward. Join them today in pushing for real enforcement of U.S. antitrust laws and an end to America’s food monopolies. It only takes a moment. And after you’ve signed the petition, please ask your friends and family to do the same.

TAKE ACTION.

Thanks!

– Christopher

1. US pledges to probe, bust agribusiness monopolies, Reuters, March 12, 2010 http://fdn.actionkit.com/go/125?akid=112.29943.NbNkYd&t=12
2. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division, Public Workshops, Agriculture and Antitrust Enforcement Issues in Our 21st Century Economy http://fdn.actionkit.com/go/94?akid=112.29943.NbNkYd&t=14
3. Monsanto’s dominance draws antitrust inquiry, Patented seeds are go-to for farmers, who decry their fast-growing price, The Washington Post, November 29, 2009 http://fdn.actionkit.com/go/95?akid=112.29943.NbNkYd&t=16
4. 2007 Concentration of Agricultural Markets report, compiled by Mary Hendrickson and William Heffernan of University of Missouri Department of Rural Sociology.
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Taxing the Children of the Corn?

A report released earlier in the week suggests taxing unhealthy foods to help combat obesity.

A report released earlier in the week suggests taxing unhealthy foods to help combat obesity.

Our time with Kerri’s family at Donner Lake is quickly coming to an end, and as we continue working on the last few chapters of the book, I have found my urges to eat food-like products such as Oreos and Wheat Thins stronger than ever. This week has been a battle. I took a vow two weeks ago to not eat prepackaged cookies anymore, but a week ago, I caved. I returned home from my fellowship at Cal Poly and found a small Ziploc bag containing some Nutter Butters in the cupboard. I inhaled them. My mind shut down, and I could not help myself.

So this week, we have been in an environment flush with processed foods that we would never bring into our home, and the challenge continued. During the dollar diet we could not afford foods like Triscuits or Lay’s Potato Chips. During our last experiment they were not part of the menu, so we didn’t eat them. Our most recent eating endeavor has sidelined these same products as well, but I am struggling now more than ever.

In order to help me understand what is happening in my brain when I see things like packaged cookies, I picked up a copy of Dr. David Kessler’s book “The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite.” Dr. Kessler, who in addition to having been the dean of the Yale medical school, was also the commissioner of the FDA under George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. His writing about why we overeat, the role of food companies, and how we can take control of our urges was both insightful and engaging. However, in addition to personal responsibility, there are several other things that need to be done to help our country drop the extra weight.

A recent blog entry on the Los Angeles Times Web site concerning a report released last week by the Urban Institute titled “Reducing Obesity: Policy Strategies from the Tobacco Wars” created a firestorm of comments from folks saying things like “There isn’t one tax out there that I would support at this point. We Americans are being taxed to death and we’ve had it,” and from another reader, “My govenrment [sic] is too large. It dictates too much. It no longer allows freedom.”

The majority of the comments were of this ilk, and there were 720 of them in the last 24 hours. Now, I do not want any new taxes either, but for those who oppose it, either on grounds of a “no new taxes!” chant, or “no more government!” please give your elected officials some new ideas that will help us figure out how our country is going to have a healthy population and workforce (over 20 serious diseases are related to obesity, including colon cancer), how we are going to stem exponential health care costs (that we are already paying for through current taxes), and how are we going to change the food system so that it will both satisfy and become sustainable?

This report, if you read it, is quite well done. However, I suggest that before we start taxing certain products, we should eliminate subsidies for both corn and soy farmers, thus letting products made from these ingredients (which is basically every processed food) take on their true cost. Costs of these products would inevitably rise, reducing consumption, and the money currently used for subsidies could be redirected to any number of avenues to help us combat obesity: health care, education about eating, etc.

Unless you have a better idea about how to change things, keep thinking, and keep quiet.

– Christopher

PS. If you are curious about our feelings concerning the recent report released about organic food, we align ourselves with Marion Nestle’s most recent post.



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