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Date: Wednesday, 17 Sep 2014 17:39
An independent evaluation reported today that the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation succeeded in removing more than a trillion calories from the U.S. food supply, as originally pledged.

Through this pledge, leading food and beverage manufacturers had promised to reduce total food energy sold by 1 trillion calories, from a 2007 baseline through 2012.

Using Nielsen scanner data from supermarket electronic cash registers and from a random sample of consumer households, Shu Wen Ng, Meghan M. Slining, and Barry M. Popkin estimated calorie trends and reported the results today in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

To some extent, the accomplishment simply reflects downward trends in the packaged food and beverage sector, which is losing market share over time -- mostly to the restaurant industry but perhaps partly to healthier food options. In an accompanying editorial in the same journal, Dariush Mozaffarian asks whether the pledge is a "marketing ploy."

As a rule, nutritional targets -- and other quantitative information intended for general audiences -- should be stated in easily explained per-capita terms. Who knows what a trillion calories in aggregate even means?

It reminds me of silly infographics that take a common-sense concept and convert it to some obscure immense quantity. For example, in my in-box this month, I have an infographic from Guiding Stars, which aims to report the amount of running required to burn off the average American's sugar consumption. Sugar is estimated at 3 pounds per week (a sensible way of explaining the quantity), while the amount of running is stated as 2.7 times around the globe over a lifetime (an irrelevant quantity designed merely to appear large to easily-impressed readers).

Today's study by Ng, Slining, and Popkin nicely goes beyond its assessment of the original trillion calorie pledge and also reports the modest but non-negligible resulting calorie changes on a per-capita basis. To the extent that the results reflect improvements in particular categories, such as sugar sweetened beverages, the findings are still reasonably upbeat.

The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation -- and the companies that made pledges -- will be delighted by today's coverage in major media outlets such as U.S. News and World Report, which states the good news broadly: "Obesity continues to plague the country, but it appears as though food companies are beginning to take strides in helping alleviate the problem."
Author: "Parke Wilde (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "dietary guidelines, food industry"
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Date: Tuesday, 16 Sep 2014 18:52
In my school's latest Wednesday seminar, the epidemiologist and cardiologist Dariush Mozaffarian methodically builds the scientific case for amending our traditional obsession with total fat (as a culprit in obesity) and saturated fat (as a culprit in heart disease).

Then, from about minute 47:30 to 50:30 in the video, he drops the hammer. Summarizing this large body of research, he argues that federal dietary guidance to address chronic disease should focus on food patterns rather than nutrients. In sharp criticism of the "Go, Slow, Whoa" guidance that still appears on the website of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Mozaffarian concludes, "This is insane!."

The speech implies big changes afoot. And I don't just mean for federal dietary guidance. This summer, Mozaffarian took the helm as the fourth dean of my school, the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.

Dean Dariush Mozaffarian, MD DrPH-Global Dietary Priorities and Policies to Improve Cardiometabolic Health from Tufts Friedman School on Vimeo.
Author: "Parke Wilde (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "dietary guidelines, Tufts"
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Date: Sunday, 14 Sep 2014 09:54
In an astonishing turn of events this week, prosecutors dropped criminal charges against two climate change activists who in 2013 used their boat -- the Henry David T. -- to block a large coal shipment to New England.

Instead of proceeding to trial on September 8, Bristol District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter announced that he agreed with the activists that addressing climate change is a critical public concern. Taking the microphones afterwards, the prosecutor said he now planned to attend the People's Climate March in New York City next week, September 21.

What persuaded Mr. Sutter? What makes a person in authority decide to support strong action to address an environmental challenge?

I met one of the activists, Jay O'Hara, last year at a local meeting of church environmentalists. O'Hara is a Quaker, who speaks with calm conviction and common sense about the logic of his direct action. As you can hear in this morning's terrific Living On Earth interview, he is polite and respectful to people in authority, including police, even while quietly explaining the seemingly illegal action he has just taken. If it were not for the prosecutor's change of heart, the activists would have mounted a "necessity defense," saying their action was needed to prevent a greater public harm (as when somebody jaywalks in order to help an injured person out of a roadway).

Reflecting on this week's events, which still amaze me days later, I see two key ingredients: (a) direct action, not just talk, without waiting for permission and (b) speaking calmly and reasonably, always believing that your opponents are capable of thinking clearly and being persuaded.

For years, my family has been focusing on personal lifestyle changes to reduce our environmental impact. One of our key goals is to practice ways of living richly, while using fewer resources.

Inspired by the news this week, my wife and I (and perhaps one or both kids) are now arranging our complex schedules for next weekend so that we, too, may be able to attend the People's Climate March in New York City, September 21.

Source: Living On Earth website. (Photo: Kate Toomey; CC BY 2.0)

Author: "Parke Wilde (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "environment"
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Date: Friday, 12 Sep 2014 14:32
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said this week that he shares farmers' frustrations and will use his authority to make necessary changes to the beef checkoff program, according to a report in Beef this week.

The program, known formally as the Cattlemen's Beef Board (CBB), uses the federal government's powers of taxation to collect a mandatory assessment (a tax, essentially) from beef producers. The program is overseen by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). Most of the money is funneled to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA).

Vilsack made the statement at a meeting of the National Farmers Union (NFU). The farm organization listed the following changes that should be made to the checkoff program:
  • The CBB must have the authority to carry out checkoff projects on its own, similar to other checkoff oversight boards.
  • The CBB must be allowed to enter into checkoff contracts with non-policy organizations and private companies, such as ad agencies and public relations firms, in order to prevent policy-driven organizations from using checkoff dollars to fund overhead for political activity.
  • The beef checkoff must be completely refundable.
  • A referendum on the continuation of the beef checkoff must occur every five years, and NFU’s board recommended that USDA “consider rewriting the beef checkoff program” under the generic Commodity, Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996.
I think USDA should adopt NFU's recommendations as soon as possible, seeking Congressional authorization if needed. It is ridiculous that such mild and obvious recommendations are even controversial.
Author: "Parke Wilde (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "beef, checkoff"
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Date: Friday, 12 Sep 2014 11:47
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) yesterday shared inspection documents for Foster Farms, the company at the center of a recent Salmonella outbreak that now appears contained.

From a blog post yesterday by Jonathan Kaplan, who is NRDC's director for food and agriculture (and by coincidence a childhood friend who grew up on the same block in Washington, DC, as I did):
Today NRDC posted hundreds of noncompliance reports written by USDA food safety inspectors at Foster Farms plants around the country between September 2013 and March of this year. Most of the violations found were incredibly unsavory and include more than 200 from two California plants linked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to an antibiotic resistant Salmonella outbreak. Although the outbreak now appears to be over, the pattern of violations at Foster Farms plants doesn’t leave us feeling warm and fuzzy about the company’s commitment to protecting public health. And we still have not received any response to our questions about antibiotic use at Foster Farms.
Food safety problems are fundamentally about lack of public information. If consumers had magic sunglasses that displayed the presence of Salmonella on chicken in the grocery store, there would be no need for government regulation. Immediately, faced with market consequences for distributing chicken with Salmonella, the companies would clean up their product.

The Foster Farms case shows how much better off we would be if the public had access to more of the information that appears routinely in inspection reports. Ironically, even companies might benefit from market incentives to reduce problems at the inspection stage rather than waiting for an outbreak (which can cause many more millions of dollars in loss of sales and reputation).

Thanks, NRDC, for helping to make such information available.
Author: "Parke Wilde (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "food safety"
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Date: Thursday, 11 Sep 2014 11:45
The AGree agricultural policy initiative today released five point-of-view papers related to productivity, profitability, and environmental outcomes.

The papers represent the diverse views of the authors, but one general theme is to encourage decentralized decision-making through which farmers and ranchers can address key environmental constraints, such as stewarding limited water quantity and protecting water quality.

For example, Kristin Weeks Duncanson, Jim Moseley, and Fred Yoder (.pdf) propose using local boards "to cooperatively establish and advance long-term productivity and conservation goals for their watersheds through engagement and support of producers and landowners and guided by sound science."

At their best, decentralized responses to environmental problems can have major advantages. Elinor Ostrom won a Nobel prize in economics for analyzing the ways that community-based decisions can in some cases address problems of the commons. At their weakest, decentralized responses may be insufficiently bold and comprehensive.

In AGree's press release this morning, Gary Hirshberg, an AGree Co-Chair and Chairman of Stonyfield Farm, describes the papers as a product of long discussion and a foundation perhaps for greater accomplishments in the future: “These papers reflect the intense deliberation that has gone into developing consensus recommendations and strategies,” he said. “To keep up with a changing climate, shrinking water supplies, shifting dietary preferences, and growing populations it is clear that we need system-wide change. AGree has focused on how new partnerships, innovative ways of working together, and targeted policy change can build trust and lay the foundation for a more sustainable future.”

Because the emphasis on decentralized approaches may not be matched yet with broader regulatory or tax-based responses to problems such as pollution, or property rights reforms to address water quantity, environmentalist readers of the five new papers may ask whether AGree fully acknowledges the determined national-level response that leading environmental challenges may require. I will be interested to hear which aspects of these five papers environmentalist readers find most daring, and which ones seem likely just to forestall or delay more vigorous initiatives.

In the paper by Duncanson, Mosely, and Yoder, I didn't yet get a strong sense of whether the local committees' work would add up in the end to quantifiable aggregate improvements, such as reduced total nutrient flow to the Gulf of Mexico, Lake Erie, and the Chesapeake. Perhaps one thing that could be added to their admirable decentralized vision is some mechanism for setting ambitious higher-level targets and getting buy-in from each local and regional board to do its part.

[I have been serving on AGree's research committee, where I've volunteered principally not on conservation but on a parallel discussion about nutrition policy. Of course, AGree is not responsible for my views here, nor vice versa.]
Author: "Parke Wilde (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "advocacy, environment"
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Date: Monday, 08 Sep 2014 18:11
USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has requested public comment on the question: Should store-level redemptions data for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) be shared with the public?

This blog has long encouraged making public such information, which is useful to low-income communities seeking to improve access to healthy food.

In 2010, I covered the efforts of the MuckRock website to make public similar information. More recently, the Argus Leader pressed USDA to release store-level SNAP redemptions data. Tracie McMillan summarized the controversy in an article for the Food and Environment Reporting Network (FERN) and Mother Jones in April.

The public comment period is open through today. Act now if you would like your voice heard. Here is an excerpt from my comment, submitted just now.
Thank you for requesting public comment on the question: should USDA/FNS release store-level redemptions data for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)?
The answer is “yes.”
This public information is useful
SNAP represents an increasingly large fraction of the U.S. food retail economy, now accounting for more than 10% of all food retail sales (Wilde, 2012). SNAP is the nation’s most important anti-hunger program, of course, and in recent years the program also has become a critical and central part of the food retail economy overall. To administer this responsibility transparently, in circumstances such as this one where information release is legal and ethical, USDA/FNS should make the information available.
With growing public interest in encouraging access to sufficient healthy food retail in low-income communities, these communities require good information about store-level SNAP redemptions. In a newsmagazine article this year by Tracie McMillan, James Johnson Piett explained the need: “We’re working kind of blind when it comes to empirical data” (McMillan, 2014).
It is legal and ethical to make this information public
The most important point is that SNAP redemptions data are not private confidential business information.

Section 9(c) of 7 U.S.C. 2018(c) prevents USDA/FNS from sharing information that is “received from applicant and participating SNAP retailers.” Similarly, Exemption 4 of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) allows FNS to hold back “trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential.” In both cases the confidential information is obtained by the government from a private party or firm.
Store-level SNAP redemptions data are not private information acquired from a private party or firm in this manner. The redemptions data show what is being paid out by USDA/FNS and the federal government, on behalf of the American taxpayers, who have committed great resources at large expense to this important public purpose. Public expenditures in contracts with businesses that provide goods and services are usually rightly public information. Think about subsidies to farmers, or the value of military contracts to arms manufacturers, or municipal expenditures on roads, all of which are public information. No roads contactor can say, “please keep the amount of this contract private, because that is valuable confidential business information.”
In the comments to FNS that have already been posted to the Federal Register docket, many retailers have expressed concern over the release of their private business information. It is good for FNS to reassure them that private information they have provided will not be released. But -- despite the repetition in the submitted comments -- the basic store-level redemptions data are not private confidential information of this type. These redemptions data should be shared.
In the comments from retailers on the Federal Register docket, retailers express concern about the feared difficulty and cost of new data collection mechanisms to provide these data. These fears are unfounded. If there were any new data collection cost or difficulty, FNS would be entirely correct to decline to collect or release these data. FOIA is about public release of existing data that FNS already collects. Certainly, the state SNAP agencies that administer the program already know the redemption amounts.
Author: "Parke Wilde (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Food Stamp Program, SNAP, Supplemental N..."
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Date: Friday, 05 Sep 2014 10:05
Recently, the Real Food Real Talk site asked several other writers and myself to answer briefly, "What does food justice mean to you?"

Much harder hitting than our answers, though, is this fierce reflection from the medieval poet Deschamps, written in the 14th century at a time when a popular working-class uprising had just been cruelly suppressed by the nobility.
"Therefore the innocent must die of hunger with whom these great wolves daily fill their maw," wrote Deschamps. "This grain, this corn, what is it but the blood and bones of the poor folk who have plowed the land? Wherefore their spirit crieth on God for vengeance. Woe to the lords, the councillors and all who steer us thus, and woe to all who are of their party, for no man careth now but to fill his bags." 
From In a Distant Mirror, by Barbara Tuchman.
Author: "Parke Wilde (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "farmworkers, food security, hunger"
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Date: Wednesday, 03 Sep 2014 18:37
The prevalence of household food insecurity in the United States remained above 14% in 2013, according to new data released today by USDA's Economic Research Service.

Here is the abstract to today's report:
An estimated 14.3 percent of American households were food insecure at least some time during the year in 2013, meaning they lacked access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. The change from 14.5 percent in 2012 was not statistically significant.The prevalence of very low food security was essentially unchanged at 5.6 percent.
Household food insecurity means that some household members at some times of the year experienced food-related hardships (the household respondent gave 3 or more "yes" answers to a set of 18 survey questions about experiences of hardship).

The high rate of household food insecurity represents a major disappointment for U.S. anti-poverty policy. Rates of household food insecurity fell during the economic expansion of the 1990s, stagnated in the early 2000s, and rose dramatically during the financial crisis of the late 2000s. Despite hopes for renewed economic growth and reduced unemployment, these remain very difficult times for low-income Americans.

In previous years, the United States solemnly adopted targets for reducing the prevalence of food insecurity from 12% (the level observed in the mid-1990s) to 6%. As my chart (based on USDA data) shows, this effort to improve U.S. food security has failed. Yet, neither Democrats nor Republicans talk much any more about any substantial realistic strategy for poverty reduction -- with serious objectives, quantitative targets, and implementation steps. Though food assistance is of course important, poverty reduction is the most promising approach to improving household food security in the United States.


Author: "Parke Wilde (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "food assistance, food security, hunger"
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Date: Tuesday, 02 Sep 2014 13:23
The federal government last December allowed a patent (U.S. patent 8,609,158) for "Diane's Manna," a supplement that is ...
so potent that it removes or alleviates depression, mood disorders, Attention Disorder symptoms, thought disorder, mental illness, pain, right lip retardation symptoms, physical problems, Lymph Node cancer and many other illness symptoms. 
Yes, that's quite a trick, but there's more:
It is extremely strong or potent and can be made weak to make your little Attention deficit child normal. It is an incredible mood stabilizer and reduces psychosis. Use it for cancer patient and for people with pain issues. It works.
According to the patent, the supplement is "made from distinctly and uniquely combined and processed interchangeable seed and seed derivatives."

The inventor, Diane Elizabeth Brooks of Sandy, Oregon, has an unusual background, as the patent explains:
I am a minister who has prayed my way through this medicine. 
The inventor provides extensive evidence of effectiveness based on her own personal experience.
I have used all of the ingredients listed. These all are used for the claims. Please know that these are continual medicines and are very good if you take them and make sure your body is filled with these before you ever stop or halt using them. 
This drug is to be used by all people who hate going to the Pharmaceutical companies or going to doctors who have a great problem in diagnosing our illnesses. It is for the people to judge. I am very ill. When I get sick, it is imperative to make myself a large dose of this recipe and take a large dose for many days. It causes a mild psychosis in me during this phase. I have to endure that to get to the right dose. I always lower the dose to my needs, but only after I have flooded my body with enough of the medicine to create this continuum. 
The primary examiner at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) was Michael Meller.

This patent was recognized this week by the Electronic Frontier Foundation as the "Stupid Patent of the Month." I heard about it on BoingBoing. The EFF points out that the patent should have been rejected on any number of grounds, "including enablement, indefiniteness, and utility."

I think awarding such a foolish patent undermines the government's credibility as an authority that can help consumers sort through conflicting evidence on diet and health claims.
Author: "Parke Wilde (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "dietary guidelines, dietary supplements"
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Date: Monday, 25 Aug 2014 12:44
Here's another one. This is a Google Trends report of online interest in "sodium" and "gluten", 2004 to the present. High sodium intake in the U.S. population increases the prevalence of high blood pressure and heart disease, which are leading killers in the United States. Yet, this topic is ovewhelmed by the growing American obsession with gluten (an obsession that has become fully detached from any serious concern about celiac disease).
Author: "Parke Wilde (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "dietary guidelines"
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Date: Monday, 25 Aug 2014 10:58
Many important debates in U.S. Food Policy turn on competing views about the global food prospect, especially the food situation in developing countries. For those who want to study this topic seriously, Routledge has just published the new third edition of the comprehensive textbook, The Economics of Agricultural Development: World Food Systems and Resource Use, by George W. Norton, Jeffrey Alwang, and my Friedman School colleague William A. Masters. From the link:
Our third edition is out in August 2014, and the Japanese edition appeared in January 2013. Click here to read a review of the first edition (in ERAE), find it at your local bookstore or any online bookseller, request a review copy from Routledge, or visit our instructors’ website for lecture slides, extra photos and example quizzes.
Author: "Parke Wilde (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "agricultural economics, international tr..."
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Date: Friday, 15 Aug 2014 15:56
As fizzy soda sales decline, top beverage manufacturers seek to convince children and parents that kids need sugary sports drinks to enhance athletic performance.

In truth, water is the best source of hydration for kids doing sports. Based on the balance of scientific evidence, the MyPlate text (.pdf) says it well: "Drink water instead of sugary drinks when you're thirsty." Plus, choosing bottled drinks instead of tap water is bad for the environment.

Early this year, Gatorade, which is owned by PepsiCo, got a pile of bad press -- including a hard-hitting Civil Eats article -- for a marketing campaign featuring Usain Bolt, which used kid-friendly games to insinuate athletic performance claims and disparage water (see below).

While reading up on that story, I came across this strange article in Snopes, which purports to fact-check a true rumor on the origins of Gatorade as a University of Florida Gators team drink, but which reads like advertising copy for the drink. The Snopes response reports as fact several marketing claims unrelated to the actual rumor at issue: "Other athletes who tried the drink soon swore by it, claiming it helped them go longer and finish stronger" and "Gatorade has since become an integral part of a number of sports."

I am writing Snopes to suggest that the site revise its article. I'll update this post if Snopes responds.
 

Author: "Parke Wilde (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "marketing"
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Date: Wednesday, 13 Aug 2014 09:51
The Kellogg Company today unveiled new commitments to address actions by itself and its suppliers that affect climate change. General Mills on July 28 had announced similar initiatives.

From Kellogg's statement (.pdf) today:
As stated in our Kellogg Global Supplier Code of Conduct, we expect suppliers to support our corporate responsibility commitments by implementing sustainable operating and farming practices, and agricultural production systems. Suppliers must strive to reduce or optimize agricultural inputs; reduce greenhouse gas emissions, energy and water use; and minimize water pollution and waste, including food waste and landfill usage.
The anti-hunger organization Oxfam International had been encouraging leading food manufacturers to make such commitments. Oxfam's recent report, Standing on the Sidelines, had argued that food and beverage companies need to do more. Today, Oxfam praised Kellogg's announcement:
“We welcome Kellogg’s efforts to become an industry leader in the fight against climate change and the damage it is causing to people everywhere,” said Monique van Zijl, campaign manager for Oxfam’s Behind the Brands campaign. “Kellogg’s new commitments add momentum to calls on governments and the wider food and agriculture industry to recognize that climate change is real, it’s happening now, and we need to tackle it.”
In the announcement today, Kellogg says it will set targets for greenhouse gas reductions, produce a climate change adaptation strategy, take steps to limit deforestation impacts in its supply chains, and commit to disclosure of key climate change information. Oxfam said Kellogg plans to participate in the Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP) group and sign the Climate Declaration.
Author: "Parke Wilde (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "environment, food industry, internationa..."
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Date: Monday, 11 Aug 2014 12:35
Choices Magazine -- the outreach magazine of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA) -- this spring and early summer published a special series summarizing the Agricultural Act of 2014 (also known as the Farm Bill).

Jody Campiche organized the series and presented the theme overview:
After more than three years of debate on the next farm bill, the Agricultural Act of 2014 was signed into law on February 7, 2014. Overall, total spending under the new bill will be reduced by $23 billion as compared to the baseline over the next 10 years. The Agricultural Act of 2014 reforms the dairy program, includes major changes to commodity programs, adds new supplemental crop insurance programs, consolidates conservation programs, expands programs for specialty crops, reauthorizes important livestock disaster assistance programs, and reduces spending under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). However, despite large cuts in total program spending, the Act continues to provide important programs to ensure a safe and adequate food supply and to protect our natural resources. The articles in this theme discuss new or revised provisions relating to commodities, crop insurance, dairy, conservation, nutrition, and specialty crops as included in the Agricultural Act of 2014.
The series includes articles on commodity payments, conservation programs, dairy programs, crop insurance, specialty crops, and my contribution on nutrition assistance programs.
Author: "Parke Wilde (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "agricultural economics, agricultural pol..."
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Date: Monday, 11 Aug 2014 11:56
In its 2014 awards program, the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA) has given honorable mention to my book, Food Policy in the United States, in the category "Quality of Communication."

As publisher of the American Journal of Agricultural Economics and other top-ranked periodicals, AAEA is the leading scholarly and professional association in U.S. agricultural and applied economics. Though my book is highly multi-disciplinary -- designed to engage non-traditional audiences interested in food policy debates -- AAEA's recognition shows that the book also meets the exacting standards of the mainstream of my home profession.

My department chair, Will Masters, wrote the nomination letter to AAEA:
Prof. Wilde’s book distills the instructional content of his 13-week graduate course on U.S. Food Policy into a very readable 200 pages, enlivened with anecdotes from 10 years of experience blogging on the topic at http://usfoodpolicy.blogspot.com. The quality of writing is extraordinary, making economic insights accessible by clear use of plain language, amply illustrated with well-designed charts and tables, plus sidebars with more academic material to add depth without interfering with the story line. The book is particularly innovative in its scope, spanning agricultural production and international trade, food manufacturing, grocery stores and restaurants, food safety and labeling, advertising and health claims, and nutrition assistance programs....
In summary, Prof. Parke Wilde’s Food Policy in the United States offers a big step forward in fulfillment of the AAEA’s vision and mission. This book exemplifies the highest standard of scientific communication needed by our profession, first to help students in classrooms all across the country, and then to help graduates improve food and agricultural policy in Washington and elsewhere.
I hope the AAEA's honorable mention encourages faculty to consider using this book for courses that address -- in a lively but rigorous way -- the immense student interest in food movements and food policy. Faculty members who are considering adoption may acquire a copy from the publisher.
Author: "Parke Wilde (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "agricultural economics, agricultural pol..."
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Date: Thursday, 07 Aug 2014 15:45
Here is a Google Trends report of online interest in "dietary guidelines" and "paleo diet", United States, 2004 to the present. Notice the two peaks for interest in "dietary guidelines," corresponding to the release of new Dietary Guidelines for Americans once every five years.
Author: "Parke Wilde (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "dietary guidelines"
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Date: Friday, 13 Jun 2014 18:30
The Menus of Change -- a project of the Harvard School of Public Health and the Culinary Institute of America -- brings together industry folks, chefs, academics, and advocates to discuss private-sector and public-sector action regarding both nutrition and the environment.

The new annual report summarizes recent trends, progress, and lack of progress, topic by topic.
At the end of the day, what we as chefs and operators choose to offer as a plate of food has enormous consequences, for the health of our customers and our planet. And yet just as we embrace evidence-based guidance from the scientific community as a key reference point in decision-making, we also know that we need—nationally—something akin to a new “moonshot” program to better and more fully realize the possibilities of bringing together deliciousness with healthy, sustainable food choices. This is an issue for all of us: our families, our schools, our employees, our troops. And it needs to start with a renewed commitment to the fundamentals: what we might call “farming for flavor.”
Restaurant News published a good summary of the project's lively and engaging second annual summit, which was held this week in Boston. The article noted that three leading themes from the summit were coping with climate change, finding better ways to source protein, and increasing fruit and vegetables on menus.
The conference’s presenters tied the three topics together, presenting evidence that excessive consumption of red meat is a leading cause of heart disease and a contributor to diabetes, and that red meat — particularly beef — is a key contributor to global warming. They said foodservice operators should try to introduce other sources of protein and also replace much of that protein with vegetables and fruit, particularly since most Americans eat more protein than they need.
Menus of Change is just one of several initiatives that seem to combine sustainability and nutrition issues in higher profile ways. I am on the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee for this project. Other such efforts include the AGree agricultural policy initiative, some of the work last year of the Food Forum at the Institute of Medicine, and the current round of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (for example, see the recent presentation by Kate Clancy).

Author: "Parke Wilde (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "environment, restaurants"
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Date: Wednesday, 11 Jun 2014 19:28
For a child, eating a piece of fruit is not some big challenge like climbing Mount Everest.

It is realistic for us to expect school meals programs to meet the modest sensible new standards. All over the world, children are capable of eating the basic amounts of fruits and vegetables that are served under the new standards. Throughout longer-term U.S. history, I imagine children have eaten meals with these amounts. It is the recent history of fast food meals in school that are the aberration.

In a transitional year, it is not surprising to see some reports of increased plate waste. Everybody recognizes that plate waste may go up for new menu items, and then come down again as children become accustomed to them.

In this week's Congressional struggle over child nutrition programs, some folks describe the new rules in terms of a food police state run amok. This is not fair. In contrast with government restrictions on, say, advertising practices targeting adults, what we serve in schools has nothing to do with police power. Taxpayers and parents are entrusting schools with several billion dollars each year, in return for feeding our children. Surely the adults who receive these funds for this task can serve reasonably healthy meals.

I had the chance to discuss these issues with Alan Bjerga at Bloomberg, whose article was published today. He quotes both critics and supporters of the new rules. I pointed out that the new standards themselves are probably not the problem. I strongly suspect that the school food service operations would be better sports about this change if only Congress had offered them more than a measly six additional cents per meal to compensate for the potential cost increases that might result.

Other recent coverage comes from National Public Radio. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation offers this infographic (which I saw on the Food Politics blog).


Author: "Parke Wilde (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "children"
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Date: Wednesday, 11 Jun 2014 18:42
Food industry critic and reform advocate Michele Simon this week released a new report sharply critical of marketing practices for certain dairy foods including pizza and sugar sweetened dairy drinks. Most of this marketing effort originates with the federal government's fluid milk and dairy checkoff boards, which are semi-public government-endorsed programs that are funded through a tax or mandatory assessment on dairy producers.


My view of this issue is not anti-dairy, nor do I favor government restrictions on private-sector advertising for dairy products. Yet, surely reasonable people can agree on this: any federal government-sponsored producer boards, and any marketing funded using the federal government's power of taxation, ought to be consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The checkoff marketing should not be for Pizza Hut or for sugar-sweetened drinks. In these times of major health crisis and rising public sector health costs, we should expect the foods and beverages marketed in the government's own voice to be healthy.

For readers following up on this story, here are some related links from a diversity of official and non-official sources.
  • The U.S. Food Policy blog post on this topic in February.
  • The annual report to Congress from USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), describing the fluid milk and dairy checkoff programs. Although the report is annual, the most recent report online appears to be 2011.
  • A report from USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) earlier this year about pizza consumption in the United States.
  • The dairy checkoff program's website describing its partnerships with Domino's, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and McDonald's, with an online video titled "McDonald's thanks America's dairy farmers."
  • A 2010 article by Kim Severson in the New York Times about sugar-sweetened milk in school meal programs.
Author: "Parke Wilde (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "checkoff, dairy"
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