Tag Archives: oreo’s

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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Taking a Vow.

The Los Olivos dining hall at California Polytechnic University at Pomona is fascinating microcosm of the American food system, where in addition to health vegan options you can also find things like this: a bread just labeled "Yellow." Photo by Christopher.

The Los Olivos dining hall at California Polytechnic University at Pomona is fascinating microcosm of the American food system, where in addition to healthy vegan options you can also find things like this: a bread just labeled "Yellow." Photo by Christopher.

I never lived in a dorm. I never had a “meal plan” in college. And as a result I have never experienced or reflected on the daily impact of this process. Until now. In fact, the closest I ever came to eating food in a college dining hall was when I downed a small carton of chocolate soymilk at the University of San Francisco cafeteria nearly a decade ago. However, for the past week I have been lucky enough to eat at Los Olivos, the mess hall at California State Polytechnic University at Pomona.

As a fellow of the Ahimsa Center, which focuses on the practice and study of nonviolence, as a part of the College of Letters, Arts & Social Sciences, I have been well fed three times a day. During this experience I have found that the lessons learned during the dollar diet project, and during our most recent experiments in eating have significantly changed my habits. I find myself asking for smaller portions from the food service staff, making choices based on nutrition guidance from the USDA, and avoiding foods high in fats and sugars.

But in my suite, away from the brightly lit space, and public accountability of the college cafeteria, a package of Oreo cookies occupied a small piece of real estate on our kitchen counter. Yet the space these cookies occupied in my mind was far lager. I avoided them for the first couple of days. I felt that our study of Gandhi was a good reminder about the need for self-restraint. Yet the conversations late into the night gave way to deeper urges, and by one in the morning I was picking the chocolatey goodness from my teeth.

During the following day’s lecture we briefly discussed the notion of “vows.” So today I have decided to take a vow to no longer eat prepackaged cookies. I feel comfortable with this little step, and find that this will keep my sweet tooth on a leash in a simple but practical way. I will limit my sweet eating to specially home baked treats from family and friends, and rare outings at restaurants. It will be like taking my sweet tooth out for a walk every now and again instead of letting it roam the neighborhood.

I will replace this urge with healthier options like strawberries, melon, and grapes in the dining hall while I remain at Cal Poly. These succulent options have been readily available, as have decent vegan options at each meal. According to Dr. Tara Sethia, founder of the Ahimsa Center at the University, this is one of the things she has spent the last few years developing. Her commitment to nonviolence extends beyond the classroom and the study of Gandhi, and into the cafeteria where all students have the option to practice nonviolence (at least in eating).

Every day there has been a delicious nonviolent option, from curry to chili, and yesterday the grilled teriyaki tofu, steamed vegetables, and rice more than satisfied. The salad bars also stand in the center of the dining hall as a testament to student’s interest in leafy greens.

However, the standard fare is far from diverse: corn dogs, burgers, pizza, rows of sugary cereal dispensers, and liquid sugar flowing freely from soda taps. This contrast is a good representation of the current food system in the United States. Where healthier, more sustainable options are available if you make a concerted effort to find them among the faster foods. This is where Gandhian self-restraint comes into play. In my case with the Oreo’s, it may take something like a vow to eat better.

– Christopher

P.S. I am doing a new mini-blog during my stay at the Ahimsa Center. It’s called “Going Gandhi” and will document some of my experiments in truth as related to my study of nonviolence.

PPS. Speaking of sugar…Kerri’s sister has started a cake blog here. Her stuff is artful and tasty, so check it out.

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