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An Eleven-Year-Old Tells Us What’s Wrong With Our Food System

Birke Baehr gave a stunning summation of what’s wrong with our food system last year at a TEDx conference. His address was professional, succinct and delivered with a precision that was inconsistent with what we would expect from someone his age—eleven at that time.

We’re presenting his address here because his points are still as true and important today as they were nearly a year ago.

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USDA Finds Ways to Help Farm-to-School Programs

By Steve Karnowski, via The Huffington Post,

USDA: Farm-To-School Programs Are 'Snowballing' NationwideThe popularity of farm-to-school programs that put locally grown food on cafeteria trays has exploded in recent years—so much so that the federal agency in charge of school lunches is giving them a new stamp of approval.

Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said the programs have become so popular so fast that her agency doesn’t have solid figures on how many schools are serving their students vegetables, fruits and meat grown by local farmers.

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Diet Soda Dangers

by Carrie Wiatt, M.S., via The Huffington Post,

Sneaky liquid caloriesDitching that regular soda and switching to a diet version may not be the perfect fix-it healthy solution. Research shows that both versions may lead to disease. Before consulting with clients and making recommendations, I like to review ongoing food and nutrition research— especially regarding liquid calories.

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First-graders and Big Ag agree: More chocolate milk!

by Ed Bruske, via,

Milk: It does a body sort-of good. Photo: a little tuneD.C. Council Chair Kwame Brown says he’s in possession of “research” conducted by a first-grade pupil that convinces him schools in the nation’s capital should bring back chocolate milk.

Brown made the remarks in an animated exchange last week with Kaya Henderson during hearings to consider her confirmation as schools chancellor. Brown said he was impressed by the nutritional information on flavored milk the first-grader had amassed, but more likely, Brown was tagged by the long arm of the dairy industry, which relentlessly pursues efforts to keep flavored milk in schools to offset decades of decline in sales of plain milk. As one of a few major school districts to ditch chocolate milk, the District of Columbia has become a crown jewel for activists aiming to topple flavored milk’s rule in the nation’s lunch rooms. Brown parroted the dairy industry line that kids won’t drink milk unless it’s tarted up with sugar, and will collapse in a heap of osteoporosis and rickets without it.

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Dieticians Being Educated on Nutrition—by Coca Cola?

via Alliance for Natural Health,

Coca ColaWe wish we could say we are surprised. Registered dietitians are now being given formal education by the Coca-Cola Company on how safe its ingredients are.

The credentialing arm of the American Dietetic Association, the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), has approved a program created by the The Coca-Cola Company Beverage Institute for Health and Wellness. [UPDATE 6/15/11: The linked website is not available as of the morning after this article’s publication. The program can still be viewed on an alternate site here, and in the event that site also disappears we have also mirrored the page on our own server here.] This covers what it calls “urban myths” about the safety of food ingredients. Participating in this program will earn registered dietitians Continuing Professional Education unit credits.

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Mom-and-pop vs. big-box stores in the food desert

by Gary Nabhan, Kelly Watters, via,

A locally owned grocery in Pleasantville, Iowa. Photo: Ashton B Crew, wikimedia commonsA few weeks ago, when the Obama administration released its Food Desert Locator, many of us realized that a once-good idea has spoiled like a bag of old bread. If you go online and find that your family lives in a food desert, don’t worry: You have plenty of company. One of every 10 census tracts in the lower 48 has been awarded that status.

Two years ago, when one of us (Gary) moved to the village of Patagonia, Ariz., he inadvertently chose to reside in what the USDA deems to be on the edge of a food desert. Its maps show that Gary now lives more than 15 miles away from a full-service supermarket or chain grocery store that has 50 or more employees and grosses $2 million or more in food sales each year. Apparently, that’s bad.

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Is McDonald’s Betraying Our Kids?

by John Robbins, via The Huffington Post,

Kids at McDonald'sWe worry so much about the many dangers to our children, like drugs and pedophiles and violence. But we often take for granted what might very well be the largest danger of all to our kids: the hundreds of billions of dollars spent each year on ads designed to get them hooked on junk food.

That’s why I think it’s important that this week more than 550 health professionals and organizations signed an open letter to McDonald’s, imploring the fast food giant to stop marketing junk food to kids. Many major metropolitan newspapers across the country are running full-page ads featuring the letter.

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Environmentally-Induced Childhood Disease Cost Estimated at $76.6 Billion

via Mt Sinai School of Medicine,

Industrial air pollutionIn three new studies published in the May issue of the journal Health Affairs, Mount Sinai School of Medicine researchers reveal the staggering economic impact of toxic chemicals and air pollutants in the environment, and propose new legislation to mandate testing of new chemicals and also those already on the market.

Leonardo Trasande, MD, Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine and Pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, analyzed the costs of conditions–including lead poisoning, childhood cancer, asthma, autism, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)–associated with exposure to toxic chemicals.

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Breakfast is not so gr-r-reat when your only option is Frosted Flakes

by Kristin Wartman, via,

Breakfast cub: Tony the Tiger says start your kid's day with big bowls of sweetened corn. Photo: Jim BarkerOne in four children goes without breakfast each morning, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a tragedy to be sure—but are Kellogg’s breakfast products the solution? Kellogg announced its new project called Share Your Breakfast, part of a national advertising campaign. The project asks Americans to upload their breakfast photos to the website, and Kellogg Company will donate up to $200,000—the equivalent of 1 million school breakfasts to help feed children from food-insecure households.

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How to get your kids to become environmentalists

by Robert Lalasz, via,

LEAF participants enjoy an afternoon at the beach after a morning of work at the Conservancy's Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge in the Delaware Bayshores region. Photo: Erika Nortemann/TNCWant your kids to become ecologically conscious as adults? Get ’em into nature now—that’s the most reliable way to build their love of the outdoors, according to mountains of research.

But in a harried and always-online world (for parents as well as children), what’s it going to take to do that?

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