Former Associate editor Margret Aldrich on the hunt for happiness, community, and how humans thrive
Monday, May 23, 2011 11:24 AM
Have you ever gobbled up a smallish bag of chips only to realize that, according to the food label on the side of the package, you’ve just consumed three servings, not the single serving you expected? Do you stop to recalculate the dreaded saturated-fat percentage? Or, wait a minute; is it the trans-fat percentage that’s going to kill you? And are thetwelve grams of protein you just ingested good or bad?
The familiar but perplexing black-and-white Nutrition Facts label is up for redesign. Good magazine and the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism’s News21 program are sponsoring the Rethink the Food Label project. It is a contest that can be entered by anyone who has ideas that would make the label more useful to consumers. “Your design could incorporate the nutrition label’s existing break down of fats, sugars, vitamins, calorie counts and percent daily values. Or, you could re-imagine the label to include geography, food quality, food justice, carbon footprint, or lesser-known chemosensory characteristics,” the sponsors say.
Why does nutritional labeling matter? The program explains:
We all read these food labels, but we’re not always sure what they mean. Is 20 grams of sugar too much? How much is a gram of sugar anyway? How many grams of fat fit in a teaspoon? Should I care about folic acid more than riboflavin? Saturated fat more than cholesterol?
We are confused about what and how to eat and so we’re eating too much of the wrong things. In fact, we’re eating too much of everything. Two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese. The obesity rate among preschoolers has doubled since 1970. Type 2 diabetes has become an epidemic. We want to make it easier to choose healthy food.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration attempts to decode the existing food label on their website, but it’s still confusing. Michelle Obama agrees, saying at last year’s Grocery Manufacturers Association conference, “We need clear, consistent, front-of-the-package labels that give people the information they’ve been asking for, in a format they understand.”
Submissions to Rethink the Food Label are accepted until July 1 and will be judged by Michael Pollan, among others. Watch the promotional video here:
Image by lyzadanger, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, March 02, 2010 5:13 PM
It’s at the root of the familiar phrase breaking bread: Sharing food is one of the most powerful rituals we perform as communities. Which is why the abundance of foods named for President Obama is worthy of a closer look, Mark Morton writes in Gastronomica.
Morton isn’t interested in glib corporate-level promotions—like a German frozen food company’s processed chicken “Obama Fingers”—rather the profusion of small diners, delis, and restaurants that have added Obama dishes to their fare: Obama burgers, sandwiches, fried chicken, cones, and fries. “In Cairo, Egyptian fruit sellers gave the name “President Obama” to their best fresh dates during the month of Ramadan,” he writes. “The honor is not trivial, considering that Muslims believe the Prophet Mohammed ended each day of fasting by eating dates.”
Eating an Obama sandwich—however suspect it might sound to a cycnic—is a form of social communion, Morton argues, not unlike consuming a piece of birthday cake decorated with a name or a slice of wedding cake topped with figurines of the happy couple. These restaurant owners “are trying to . . . reinvent a familiar custom,” he writes, “namely, the gathering of a community around an individual in order to bestow their collective support as he or she begins a new stage in life’s journey, and at the center of this custom is food.”
“If it were somehow possibly for Obama to share a meal for every one of his millions of supporters, there would be, I suspect, no profusion of homespun foods named after the President,” Morton writes. “But in the absence of that kind of personal opportunity to pledge support by breaking bread with their Commander in Chief, eating an Obama Burger might be the next best thing.”
Seeing as last month President Obama established a task force on childhood obesity and Michelle Obama launched her Let’s Move campaign—a conflux we commemorated on Utne.com with a week of Cafeteria Chronicles blogging—perhaps we’ll see a renewed wave of presidential foods. This time, perhaps, instead of meaty, fried, and sugary fare, an Obama salad?
Image by justafoo, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010 4:12 PM
In February, Barack Obama signed a memorandum to establish a Task Force on Childhood Obesity, including the launch of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign to address childhood obesity and nutrition. One day earlier, British chef Jamie Oliver won a 2010 TED award, which will help him to launch a cross-industry initiative to fight obesity by educating families about food. This week we will be looking at childhood nutrition by highlighting books and articles that have passed through our library of late. –The Editors
In its second annual “Intelligent Optimists” issue, Ode Magazine endeavored to find the “not yet famous” who are doing outstanding work in their fields. That’s where we came across the work of Dr. David Ludwig, Director of the Optimal Weight for Life Program at Children’s Hospital, Boston.
Merely “identifying another gene related to obesity wasn’t going to change the health prospects of the children I was seeing,” Ludwig told Ode…
Instead, Ludwig started exploring the dietary, lifestyle, and environmental factors that have pushed obesity to epidemic proportions in the U.S. The prevalence of junk food and junk food advertising directed at children, coupled with few exercise opportunities for low-income children, has created what Ludwig calls a toxic environment. “It’s overwhelming our biology, undermining our behavior, and leading so many people to gain weight.”
…In 1996, Ludwig founded the Optimal Weight for life (OWL) obesity clinic at Children’s Hospital, where more than 500 children a year are treated using dietary, lifestyle, and behavioral counseling. In 2007, he published Ending the Food Fight, drawing on the clinic’s experience to guide parents of overweight children in making wiser food choices. Ludwig also advises governments at the local, state, and national level. He advocates banning soft drinks in schools and advertising directed at kids, as well as restructuring federal farm subsidies to support healthy food rather than corn and soy, prevalent ingredients in packaged foods.
Read all of the
Cafeteria Chronicles posts
Wednesday, December 19, 2007 11:49 AM
Academic success tastes like an all-beef patty nestled between two sesame-seed buns. At least that’s what McDonald’s wants some schoolkids in Florida to believe. Brandweek reports that in exchange for footing the printing bill, a Seminole County McDonald’s put this ad on report cards (made available by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood). The ad entitled tykes with good grades to a free happy meal. Oh, and diabetes.
Photo by Rona Proudfoot licensed under Creative Commons.
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