Food Deserts

Screen Shot 2013-05-03 at 2.53.23 PMHave you ever heard of such a term? I haven´t and it exists in every country. A Food Desert is defined as urban neighborhoods or rural municipalities with little or no access to groceries stores that sell affordable fresh food needed for a healthy died. Very often such areas have an offer of various fast food restaurants, convenience stores or gas station not offering vital fresh produce. It is a phenomenon that is one of the most important causes of the bad functioning food system.

According to the USDA´s Economic Research Service ¨23.5 million people live in food deserts and more than half of those people (13.5 million) are low-income. A one-mile marker may not be appropriate to use in rural areas where the population is more sparsely distributed and where vehicle ownership is high. To further refine the number of people who may be affected by food deserts, a 10-mile marker is used to consider food access in rural areas. 2.3 million people live in low-income rural areas that are more than 10 miles from a supermarket.¨ In order for an area to be qualified as a Food Desert the community has to have at least a 20% rate of poverty.

As I mentioned it in one of my previous posts, it is all related to the US Government’s agriculture and food policies. In the 50´ there were still many small local farmers that would not only be subsidized by the government to produce food on a national level, but farmers that would also provide fresh food to their local community. Unfortunately with time and the sky-rocketing market these small farmers have disappeared. Instead we have now huge corporation running enormous farms, for which sometimes one needs a plane to ´walk´ around. These businesses provide supply to big supermarket chains, which of course are too big to bother with some little towns in the middle of nowhere. You can take a look at such map of food deserts.

In Europe there are still some little towns in the middle of nowhere, where local farmers provide local markets with fresh produce, but they are also in danger of extinction. The EU Parliament too often favors big corporations when changing some policies. A lot of people say that today we are living in a world of choice, where one can buy whatever he or she wants. Because of the Agriculture and Food policies soon people living in food deserts will have only a couple of food producers to choose from: Coca-Cola, Nestle, Kraft and Kellogg’s.

In that moment it will be already too late or it will be really, really hard to change something in the food system and to restore the ¨healthy¨ life people were living. There is more and more studies that state that today’s generations may live shorter than their parents. In fact, the forecast for diabetes cases are extremely shocking. And the most catastrophic results of the American food system are obesity, diabetes and malnutrition. In a country with so much richness I find this issue a priority to solve!





posted by Piotr Wielezynski

Herbicides and Illness

roundupIn our last post we revealed to you how big corporations are monopolizing our food system. And we also told you that two of its biggest players, Monsanto and DuPont have signed an agreement for close collaboration which includes DuPont getting a license to sell seeds from Monsanto that are resistant to their own herbicide called Roundup.

This means that Monsanto both produces the herbicide that kills weeds and also sells seeds that are resistant to its chemicals. Well, new research shows some worrisome findings. The key ingredient of the very popular herbicide called ‘glyphosate’ has been found in food.

The author of the report, a research scientist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stephanie Seneff, said that this residue of ‘glyphosate’ enhances the negative effect of food-borne chemical residues and other toxins in the environment that induce disease. It means that the negative effects are not easily seen. It takes years for them to build up and show their presence.

Some of the illnesses Roundup may be responsible for inducing are Parkinson’s, infertility and cancers. Currently the EPA is conducting a standard registration review for the chemical ‘glyphosate’, but it won’t announce the findings until 2015, which means it will take two more years before the EPA orders for a decrease of the chemicals’ use.

This might mean two more years of consuming soybeans, corn, canola and sugar beets without knowing if these products are slowly killing us. Many say that with the growing population we need to rely on the new technology to grow more food. A great way Oxfam tried to address this question is through the empowerment of small farmers in their 2009 campaign called ‘GROW’. The campaign aimed to ensure that everyone has enough food to eat by strengthening the small-scale production and urging governments to be more proactive.

But is this enough? One thing is for sure: our governments are not doing enough to protect us from big corporations taking over our food system. If we want it to be fixed then we have to ask more questions and demand more changes. Waiting for change won’t do the planet or us any good.

Food Myths Part 1

Milk_-_olly_claxtonThere are probably as many myths as there are dialecticians. In my opinion specific beliefs on food depend on the beliefs of our mothers who told us from childhood what we should eat and what we shouldn’t. Some say that we are the only species that drink milk as adults; others say that red meat is really bad for us or that we shouldn’t be eating eggs every day. I would like to give you some examples of food myths that in fact are not true according to PhD. Malgorzata Drywien from the SGGW (Warsaw University of Life Sciences).

EGGS People that naturally produce more cholesterol should not be eating eggs. As far as healthy people are concerned there are no limits. There are studies that revealed that by eating one egg a day we become healthier. Eggs have luteine, which is good for the protection of our eyes. Moreover eggs are a good addition to diets, because they release hormones that make us feel full.

RED MEAT There is no actual problem with red meat itself. However, many people eat it in form of steaks or in hamburgers, which is not the healthiest way of preparing red meat. Many people forget that red meat also includes pork, goose or wild meat, which is much healthier than beef. Moreover, people who eat 500 gr of meat every day definitely have to reduce it, because the suggested amount doesn’t pass 200 gr a day. Another fact is that people who actually avoid meat are often those who have already a very balanced diet filled with eggs, fish, cheese and beans.

Another thing is that red meat has a lot of iron, which is an important element for the functioning of our blood system and the meat proteins help iron to get into our blood. This is a big problem for vegetarians that don’t get enough of iron and they are much more likely to get anemia. However, Asians are used to a plant based diet for hundreds of years so their intestines have adapted to their diet.

CHICKEN The nutritious value of chicken is high, because it is low in fat, especially when it is correctly bred. It doesn’t mean that we should eat chicken every day. We should look for animal proteins in other products such as pork, fish, eggs or cheese. Chicken meat doesn’t have vitamin B12, which pork has or omega acids, which fish has.

FISH In fact eating fish every day wouldn’t be such a great idea. Long living fish, such as Tuna, should be avoided because they gather in their body dioxins and heavy metals, e.g. Mercury. Much safer are sweet water fish, which we should eat once or maybe twice a week.

CAFFEINE Drinks that consist of caffeine are of course coffee and among others tea or chocolate (in powder). It is also a rich source of bioflavonoids and antioxidants that protect against cancer. However, they contain oxalic acid, which is a substance known as antinutritious. It is present more in chocolate than tea and in coffee.  After drinking these beverages our level of magnesium will go down, but we can always eat something that will help us to get back to the suggested level of magnesium.

If you are interested in reading more about food myths, please come back to our site in the next few days, as we will keep updating them on a weekly basis.



Lunch time woes

pandoraThere’s another new book out on the shelves that is definitely worth a read. It is called “Pandora’s Lunchbox: Pulling Back the Curtain on How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal” by Melanie Warner. The findings of the book won’t be something mothers would want to hear. Especially those that have started relying on prepared school lunches being sold in supermarkets to keep their children fed throughout the school day, without having to wake up early to prepare the lunch themselves.

However, the findings don’t stop there. They address all the processed foods millions of Americans eat on a daily basis. From cheese, to cereal, to soups, canned goods and about every other thing you can find on the supermarket aisles. One of the  biggest worries, is that every food somehow comes packed with added vitamins. Have you ever wondered why suddenly all the companies want us to get our dosage of vitamins? The answer is less appealing than you may think.

Most cereal, and other foods, that go through processing, lose their natural nutrients and fiber. Hence, manufacturers add  back vitamins, not because they want you to be healthy, but because they took them out in the first place. The added bad news? All the vitamins that are there don’t come from actual fruits and vegetables, such as Vitamin C from oranges, etc. Nope, not at all. In fact, they come from places you would least expect. For example, Vitamin D comes from sheep grease found in sheep wool). And did you know that 50% of vitamins come from China, and are made of chemicals? Want to hear more horror stories? Get your copy of the book here, or check our part 1 of this coverage by Democracy Now in our video section.