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School Lunch: What’s the Cost of Noncompliance?

Today, the House of Representatives Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing on the costs of improved nutrition standards for school meals introduced under the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA). This bipartisan Act put more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and less salt and fat, on student’s lunch trays. Some say the law’s price tag has been too high, but the way I read the research, the price tag for not providing healthier lunches is much higher. Read More

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FDA Bans Trans Fats: What Does This Mean for Palm Oil Consumption in the US?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today moved to ban the use of partially hydrogenated oils, the main dietary source of artificial trans fats, after determining they are not safe to use in food. This move is hardly surprising, given that in November of 2013, the FDA made this preliminary determination. The announcement by the FDA likely means an increased amount of palm oil (a trans fat-free vegetable oil) in the diet of Americans and an opportunity for companies to source only palm oil that is deforestation and peat-free. Read More

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Land-Sector Actions in U.S. Climate Policy—and at the UNFCCC

In early April I wrote a blog post on the U.S. INDC (“Intended Nationally Determined Contribution”) which was submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). I focused on how it treated the land sector (agriculture and forests). In mid-April this analysis, along with similar consideration of the INDCs of Mexico and the European Union, was written up in a White Paper, and a few days ago we presented the results of this White Paper at a UNFCCC side event in Bonn.

Later in April, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Senior Presidential Advisor Brian Deese announced the Department of Agriculture’s Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry. In this blog post I’ll describe those building blocks, as well as the elements of the President’s Climate Action Plan (released in June 2013) that relate to the land sector.

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School Lunch: Just Say “No” to the Opt-out Cop-out

School’s out for summer! And while the kids are away, Congress will play—this time with their food. This month, the House Appropriations subcommittee on Agriculture may begin debate on the bill to fund the U.S. Department of Agriculture and related agencies and programs, including child nutrition programs like school meals.  Read More

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Crop Diversity in Danger (If You Carrot All about the Future of Food and Farms, Read This)

One of my favorite things about a trip to a farmers market is the possibility for surprise, the huge variety of tasty treats—perhaps a juicier plum, sweeter watermelon, perfectly tart apple, or new shade of cauliflower. Such discoveries are surely signs of an abundant and increasing diversity in fruits and vegetables… right? Do not be fooled! Read More

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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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