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Listening to SNAP Voices: What to Know Before Cutting Program Budgets

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), still referred to by some as “food stamps”, is a federal food assistance program that offers benefits usable as cash for the purchase of food by lower-income families and individuals. First piloted in 1961 by President Kennedy and later signed into law by President Johnson, SNAP is a vital federal program addressing food insecurity in our nation. In 2014, more than 46 million lower-income individuals received SNAP benefits. Approximately 70% of these recipients were families with children. Read More

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School Lunch: The Half Truth about Whole Grains

As the debate over school lunch nutrition standards continues in Congress, I’ve heard a number of claims that don’t ring true. Today I’ll look at an argument I’ve been hearing about the challenge of incorporating more whole grains into children’s lunches. Read More

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Added Sugar on the Nutrition Facts Label: Public Comments to the FDA Show Big Food Is Sour on Science

In new research UCS released this week, an analysis of comments submitted to the FDA on its proposed rule to label added sugar shows a stark difference between supporters and opponents. Comments supporting the proposed rule—a majority of the total comments—came from public health experts and public interest advocates. Comments opposing the proposed rule overwhelmingly came from the food industry. Read More

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From Baltimore Protests to Food: The Importance of Community Voices

Two months ago I was in Baltimore for a conference focusing on healthy food access. Before the opening reception I squeezed in a run. With temperatures well below freezing, I ran down to the Harbor where the water was frozen and the cargo ships were still. There was hardly anyone in sight. I was amazed at the quietness blanketing the city. Read More

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The Causes and Complexity of Obesity

Unfortunately, there is no straightforward and easy way to explain what causes obesity. The Socio-Ecological Model (SEM) of Health attempts to address the question of how people become obese. The basic premise of SEM is that becoming overweight or obese is very complex and combines a number of factors that can impact health outcomes. Read More

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School Lunch Costs: What the Kiwi Are They Talking About?

Last week, Congress hosted the first of several hearings about the upcoming Child Nutrition Reauthorization act. This act includes the National School Lunch Program, which is reauthorized every five years. In 2010, a bipartisan Congress passed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA)—which brought nutrition standards for schools into accord with federal dietary guidelines. As implemented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the law also requires students to take at least 1/2 cup of fruits and vegetables. Read More

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Forests, Agriculture, and Climate Change: Why the U.S. Needs Action, Not Just Accounting, in its INDC

The United States has now told the world what it intends to do about climate change in the 2020s, by submitting its INDC (“Intended Nationally Determined Contribution”) to the United Nations. As we found in our report Halfway There? in January, the U.S.’ land sector – agriculture and forests – could be a big deal for the climate negotiations in Paris next December. Of course, our actions to reduce fossil fuels will be critical, but land use is important both as a source of global warming pollution and a way to take it back out of the atmosphere. Read More

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Pizza Hut, KFC, and Taco Bell’s New Relationship with Palm Oil: It’s Complicated

Every time I visit my hometown in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I go out for pizza with my parents. You’d think I’d be jonesing for a local pizza joint, but the truth is I want Pizza Hut. I grew up on their pan crust cheese pizza and it will always have a special place in my heart (and stomach!).  So when I heard that Yum! Brands, Inc (Yum!), owner of Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell and America’s second largest fast food chain had come out with a new palm oil commitment, I was pretty happy. Read More

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The School Nutrition Association—Opposing Better Nutrition in Schools Since 2013

It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. An organization representing tens of thousands of “lunch ladies” nationwide is leading the charge in Congress to roll back key healthy school lunch rules—including requirements for less sodium, more whole grains, and more fruits and vegetables on kids’ school lunch trays. Read More

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A Lunchroom Lesson: Repackaging Tobacco for a Food Fight, Part 2

In Part 1 on repackaging tobacco for a food fight, I focused on the tobacco industry’s arguments to misguide the public and influence policymakers. This week, I focus on public health’s arguments to counter tobacco and how we might extend this to the debate on the National School Lunch Program, which Congress is set to reauthorize this year. During the tobacco debate, the public health community focused on the individual rights of non-smokers, being the underdog in a fight against Big Tobacco (think “David versus Goliath”), and misinformation from the tobacco industry about the health consequences of smoking. Read More

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