Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How to Prepare Pickled Beets


Beets are traditional vegetables that are found throughout much of North America. These brightly colored root crops are easy to grow in home gardens. Fresh beets are also available seasonally in local farmer's markets or organic food stores.

Known for their color, flavor, and nutritional value, they are a favorite dish at mealtime. After pickling, they can be served cold with no special preparation, making them an extremely versatile meal choice.

Beets are one of the few garden vegetables that are easy to store. They can be refrigerated or stored in a cool root cellar prior to use. Beets can be cooked fresh, blanched and frozen, or pickled and canned for long term storage.

The pickling process includes cooking, peeling and chopping fresh beets, and immersing them in a mixture of vinegar, sugar, and spices. Pickled beets can be served fresh or canned for later use.

Pickled beet recipes vary by local tradition, availability of ingredients, and personal preference. Simple beet pickling mixes consist of vinegar and sugar. To enhance the flavor of beets, cooks often include one or several spices or other flavorings.

To pickle beets, they must first be cooked. Start by washing fresh beets thoroughly and boiling them until they soften. Cooking times vary, depending on the size and condition of beets as well as the amount of crispness that is desired. Beets of similar sizes should be cooked together whenever possible, otherwise the firmness of cooked beets will be inconsistent.

After cooking, the beets should be peeled and rinsed. At this point, beets should be sliced, quartered, or left whole if small. The next step is to combine and simmer the pickling mixture. Most recipes call for about 1 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup sugar per pint of beets. Add the cooked beets to the pickle and continue simmering for 5-10 minutes. If the beets are to be served fresh or frozen for later use, at this point they need only be drained and chilled.

If pickled beets are to be canned, canning jars, lids and canning equipment may be required. Most home canning setups include specific instructions for canning vegetables. Home canning information is also available from a wide range of cookbooks, government agencies, and other sources.

Pickled beets are usually served chilled. Their brilliant deep purple color and tangy-sweet flavor goes well with poultry, lean pork, fish or other meats. Pickled beets are also delicious in summer salads or as a garnish.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

FFA Enrollment Up Sharply

Future Farmers of America (FFA) reports that in the past year, more than 17,000 new students joined, setting a new all-time high in the organization’s membership.

During the 2010-11 school year, FFA membership grew to a record 540,379 students, up 17,070 students from 523,309 members in the 2009-10 school year.

The number of FFA chapters in the U.S., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands also grew with the creation of 106 new, chartered FFA chapters.

FFA was founded in 1928. The organization helps students learn about food science, agriculture, aquaculture, forestry, research and other subjects.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

FDA Food Traceability Projects

In September, 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced two new pilot projects that, according to the agency, will improve the ability to trace products responsible for foodborne illness outbreaks.

The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), a nonprofit scientific society consisting of professionals engaged in food science, food technology, and related professions, will carry out the pilots at the direction of FDA, under an existing FDA contract.

The Food Safety Modernization Act requires the FDA to establish at least two pilot projects: one involving produce and one involving processed foods. Signed into law in January, the act also directs the FDA to establish recordkeeping requirements for high-risk foods to help in tracing products.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Organic Fish Based Fertilizer for Gardens

Bell Aquaculture recently announced the launch of a new product, Fish Rich Organic Fertilizer 2-3-2. Fish have been used as soil fertilizer since the Native Americans first began farming our nearby land centuries ago. Bell Aquaculture's new natural plant fertilizer, Fish Rich, is made from the remains of the Bell Perch processed at its aquaculture facility in Albany, Indiana.

Fish Rich is made from toxin and mercury-free fish, has a very mild fish odor and is good for any soil. Fish Rich contains these three major nutrients: nitrogen, which promotes green leaves, and quicker growth response; phosphorous, which is good for root growth, disease resistance, promoting seed and fruit growth, and for blooming and flowering; and potassium, which increases root growth, and offers disease and drought resistance.

Further, Fish Rich is also a good source of calcium. Calcium is essential for all plants and their maturity. Plants need calcium for cell wall development and growth. Pathogens attack weak cell walls to invade a plant, and a stronger cell wall structure will play a big part in avoiding this potential problem.

For more information, visit: http://www.bellaquaculture.com/our-products/fish-rich

Sunday, July 17, 2011

American Regional Food Festivals


Across America, communities celebrate local foods, cuisine and crop harvests with a variety of small festivals. Some of these are annual events and are highly promoted whiles others simply involve putting up a few tents, passing out fliers and counting on word of mouth throughout the community.

Most festivals are held during summer, when foods are abundant and the climate is suitable for outdoor venues. Meats are often served, especially beef, pork, chicken, fish and shellfish.

Other local festivals showcase harvests of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts or other local foods. At many festivals, locally harvested foods are available unprocessed, in bulk as well as being offered in ready-to-eat forms.

Aside from food, there are almost always food-themed arts, crafts, and collectibles for sale at local food festivals. Among the most popular items are t-shirts, hats, stickers, jewelry, prints, and other artwork.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Things To Do With Excess Fruits and Vegetables

fresh garden tomatoes
Summer is a time of plenty for home gardeners. By mid-season, many homeowners are overwhelmed with vegetables such as sweet corn, string beans, lima beans, squash, cucumbers, melons, tomatoes, bell peppers, jalepenos, okra, potatoes, and other fresh vegetables.

For fruit growers, there are apples, peaches, pears, cherries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and other treats.

Canning is a traditional method for storing fruits and vegetables for the off season. Home canners often "put up" jars of tomatoes, corn, beans, pears, peaches, relish, jams, jellies, and other foods.

Canning vegetables is hard work and takes not only equipment, but considerable knowledge, time and effort. Despite the hassles associated with canning, the end result can be high-quality products which can be stored all winter without requiring refrigeration.

Some vegetables, such as squash, corn, tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, and okra can be blanched and frozen in vacuum bags or other containers. Freezing foods is not as energy efficient as canning, but simplicity of this method makes it a viable option for most home gardeners.

Dehydration is another option for gardeners. Dehydrators are expensive and use energy, but yield high quality dried fruits and vegetables.

In rural areas, a few home gardeners and micro-farmers still keep chickens, ducks, geese, guinea birds or other fowl. These birds all have insatiable appetites for fruits and vegetables.

When all uses at home are exhausted, producers still have a variety of options. Non-gardening friends, family and neighbors are usually happy to accept when offered fresh produce. These arrangements become even better when fruits or vegetables can be exchanged or bartered for other goods.

Excess fruits and vegetables can also be sold at local flea markets or farmer's markets. This can be a challenge when markets are flooded with produce, but some areas seem to have a strong demand for locally sourced foods.

Not to be forgotten are local shelters, soup kitchens, food banks or other facilities where food is always in demand. By providing fresh fruits and vegetables to these facilities, gardeners can provide a valuable service to their community.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

FDA Report: Pathway to Global Product Safety and Quality

In June, 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released their new strategy to meet the challenges posed by rapidly rising imports of FDA-regulated products and a complex global supply chain.

Details of the plan are contained in a report called the "Pathway to Global Product Safety and Quality."

The FDA report calls for the agency to transform the way it conducts business and to act globally in order to promote and protect the health of U.S. consumers.

The report identifies four key elements needed to make the change:

1. The FDA will partner with its counterparts worldwide to create global coalitions of regulators focused on ensuring and improving global product safety and quality.

2. The coalitions of regulators will develop international data information systems and networks and increase the regular and proactive sharing of data and regulatory resources across world markets.

3. The FDA will build in additional information gathering and analysis capabilities with an increased focus on risk analytics and information technology.

4. The FDA increasingly will leverage the efforts of public and private third parties and industry and allocate FDA resources based on risk.

source: FDA

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wild Blueberries of North America

wild high bush blueberries (huckleberries)
Harvesting wild berries has become a lost art in much of North America. Many regions have naturally growing berries in vast numbers. Among the most sought after of these foods are wild blueberries.

Also known as huckleberries, these delicious treats are found in woodlands and swamps of North America. There are several species, with berry pickers generally focusing on high bush or low bush varieties.

Property owners often nuture wild blueberry plants, either for consumption, to attract wildlife, or simply for their beauty.

Wild blueberries can be eaten fresh or added to cobblers, muffins, breads or other dishes.

Friday, June 3, 2011

MyPlate Icon


MyPlate is a new USDA food icon which is intended to help remind consumers about healthier food choices. The new MyPlate icon emphasizes the fruit, vegetable, grains, protein and dairy food groups.

MyPlate will replace the MyPyramid image as the government’s primary food group symbol as an easy-to-understand visual cue to help consumers adopt healthy eating habits consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

MyPyramid will remain available to interested health professionals and nutrition educators in a special section of the new website.

For more information, visit: ChooseMyPlate.gov

source: USDA press release

Thursday, June 2, 2011

UNIDO Calls for World Changes in Production and Consumption

The head of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) issued a statement on 17 May 2011, calling for the world to radically change the way it processes and consumes materials. If sustainable development is to take place, the world must change the current production practices.

UNIDO is promoting a Green Industry concept that asks industries to improve their environmental performances by removing toxic substances, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and strengthening health and safety within the company. UNIDO would like to see businesses adopt this plan regardless of their industry or location.

source: Fishlink Sublegals

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

American Strawberry Festivals

Across much of the USA, May is strawberry festival time. These local events celebrate American strawberry harvests with a variety of products and exhibits.

Strawberries are a good example of a locally sourced food that is nutritious, sustainable and widely available. Strawberries have a short season and an extremely short shelf life after picking. Excess strawberries can be shared with friends, frozen or made into jams, jellies and preserves.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Food Labels: Local - Organic - Healthy - Sustainable

Consumers are bombarded with ads, labels, brands, logos and other food-related information. Some labels are accurate and others are simply a new twist on traditional snake oil sales techniques.

Across North America, Federal, Provincial, State and local governments are starting to address food labeling by drafting laws meant to protect consumers.

In the USA, no term is more vague than "organic". Decades after the term became popular, Federal agencies have failed to define the term or regulate its use.

When it comes to food labeling, several states have drafted regulations that pertain to use of food terms. In Maryland,  regulations related to the term "local" have been drafted by the state's Department of Agriculture (MDA). The policy seeks to clarify the definition of "local" for the state's consumers. After reviewing initial comments, MDA redrafted the regulations for 2011.

According to Secretary Hance: "With the increased interest in buying local and the current lack of agreement on defining local, we feel it is paramount that consumers have the information they need to make informed decisions about their food purchases..."

The law authorizes the Secretary to regulate the use of the terms "local" or "locally grown" when used to advertise agricultural and seafood products. The new regulations will affect labeling for raw meat, eggs, fish, fruits, vegetables, shellfish and processed dairy products.

source: MDA

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

2011 Home Farming Day

On April 12, 2011, Home Farming Day was held to kick off the beginning of the home gardening season. The event was orchestrated by Triscuit Crackers, non-profit Urban Farming and cities across the country including Denver, Washington, DC and Minneapolis.

As part of the project, a "Plant-a-thon" was held in New York City's Madison Square Park where people were invited to "plant and learn" and join the "Home Farming" movement.

At the event, Triscuit and non-profit Urban Farming unveiled plans for 65 community-based home farms in 20 U.S. cities in 2011, including five home farms to be grown at low-income housing subsidiaries. These farms, located in urban areas, will provide local residents with greater access to more nutritious and healthier foods, consistent with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) mission of creating more sustainable and diverse communities.

The "Home Farming" movement celebrates delicious, fresh and simple foods. However, people in some areas lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables for to a number of reasons.  These areas are often referred to as 'food deserts.'

Triscuit and Urban Farming will be working with The Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) and the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) to develop five community-based home farms at low-income housing facilities to help alleviate this problem and provide residents with more food options.

Community leaders also plan to use the farms as teaching tools to broaden education about healthier eating. This topic is aligned with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) work to help underserved communities, where there is little or no access to the food needed to maintain a healthy diet.

About Urban Farming

Urban Farming's mission is to create an abundance of food for people in need by planting, supporting and encouraging the establishment of gardens on unused land and space while increasing diversity, raising awareness for health and wellness, inspiring and educating 4 youth, adults and seniors to create an economically sustainable system to uplift communities around the globe. For more information, visit www.urbanfarming.org

source: PR Newswire

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Gulf of Maine Responsibly Harvested Seafood

The Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) recently announced its new Gulf of Maine Responsibly Harvested program. The Responsibly Harvested logo was created to help consumers recognize seafood from the Gulf of Maine region that meet criteria for responsible harvesting.

According to GMRI, the logo will initially be seen on cod, haddock, lobster, and northern shrimp products from the Gulf of Maine region at Hannaford and other retail stores.

Additional fisheries are under assessment and more seafood products are expected to be included in the program in the coming year.

source: GMRI

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Where to Buy Locally Sourced Foods

In the USA, finding high quality, locally sourced food is no easy task. Consumers often have to rely on word of mouth as small providers lack the resources to promote their products.

Complicating the issue are a host of trade factors, such as supply and demand cycles. Most locally sourced foods become available seasonally and often involve a period of high supply which can lead to gluts in the market and dropping prices.

For consumers, this can mean excellent opportunities to buy high quality foods in bulk. Taking advantage of these periods involves being ready when a window of opportunity opens and knowing how to transport, process and store food.

At the community level, this often means a high level of networking, information sharing, collective purchasing and old fashioned cooperative efforts.

Small, locally owned farms and orchards are sometimes good sources for high quality fruits and vegetables. Other businesses may offer niche products such as organic produce, honey, cheeses, wines, grass fed beef, free range poultry or other foods.

In many states, local fisheries exist. These are most abundant along the coasts although some freshwater fisheries exist. In addition to wild caught seafood, some areas have local harvests of farm raised fish or shellfish.

Festivals are sometimes held which coincide with local harvests. Most events offer a wide range of products as well as gifts and other items which relate to the main source of celebration.

Farmer's markets, flea markets and swap meets are sometimes good sources of local foods. Getting to knowing vendors can be especially rewarding as many vendors are also the primary producer. Often small farm owners or food specialists are eager to explain their products and offer advice on when to find the best prices and highest quality goods.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Federal Budget Cuts Threaten American Food Safety

Heated debate continues in American politics, as lawmakers seek to cut the budget while maintaining critical programs. Throughout the process, watchdog NGOs have been on the hunt, lobbying for issues that relate to their cause.

Among the most well known and spirited food safety advocates is Food and Water Watch (F&WW). The organization works to insure the availability of clean drinking water and safe food and has a reputation for blowing the whistle on government corruption.

According to F&WW, these are some of the cuts that could endanger American food and water supplies:

 - Major cuts in funding for water infrastructure repair. This money is necessary to keep clean, safe and affordable water flowing to American homes. Rural and small communities could be among the hardest hit as they are more dependent on these funds.

 - Cuts to the Meat Inspection Program in 2011 and 2012 could result in less meat inspections and more imported meat in our supermarkets.

 - Underfunding of the FDA's food safety program may result in less inspection of imported food, and less frequent inspection of domestic facilities.

F&WW is also among the many organizations that are currently speaking out against funding for federal fishing "catch share" programs. These programs are known to reduce fleet size, put fishermen out of business and create "fishing corporations".

While some catch share programs can have benefits for fishermen, dismantling fishing fleets and destroying local communities and replacing them with mega-fishing companies is not in the best interest in American consumers.

Perhaps if more organizations bring these issues into the public eye, consumers will vote out those that are behind these costly and damaging campaigns.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Food Prices Continue Climbing in the USA

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Food indexes continued to rise in February 2011, with sharp increases in the indexes for fresh vegetables and meats contributing to a 0.8 percent increase in the food at home index, the largest since July 2008.

With fuel prices fluctuating wildly and the Japan Crisis looming, consumers may be in for more high food prices this spring. Now is the perfect time to plant a garden or scout out local farmers markets for the upcoming season.

Japan's Food Crisis

The world watches as each day brings new problems to Japan. Following a magnitude 9 quake and killer tsunami, the loss of life and property has been unthinkable.

Adding to the crisis, the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant has had a series of radiation leaks. Across Japan, radiation has been detected in vegetables, raw milk, the water supply, and seawater.

Most recently, Broccoli was added to a list of tainted vegetables, and U.S. officials announced a block on Japanese dairy and other produce from the region.

Meanwhile in Tokyo, officials have warned mothers not to allow small children to drink from the city's water supply.

The issue of food safety is something every nation must address. Here in the USA, government regulations are wiping out small farmers, commercial fishermen and other small businesses.

Meanwhile the American food supply is rapidly moving towards dependence on imported, processed foods which are controlled by mega corporations.

Although the tragedy in Japan is a horrible event, perhaps it will inspire political leaders to re-think food policies.

One solution might be for the USA and other nations to nurture providers of locally sourced foods. While global suppliers are an important component of the world's food supply, local resources should be recognized for their importance.

Friday, March 11, 2011

2010-11 FAO State of Food and Agriculture Report

According to the FAO in its 2010-11 edition of The State of Food and Agriculture report, if women in rural areas had the same access to land, technology, financial services, education and markets as men, agricultural production could be increased and the number of hungry people reduced by 100-150 million.

The report found that yields on plots managed by women are lower than those managed by men. The study found that women simply do not have the same access to inputs. If they did, their yields would go up, they would produce more and overall agricultural production would increase, the report said.

Women make up on average 43 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries, ranging from 20% in Latin America to almost 50% in East and Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The share is higher in some countries and varies greatly within countries.

Where rural women are employed, they tend to be segregated into lower paid occupations and are more likely to be in less secure forms of employment, such as seasonal, part-time or low-wage jobs.

One positive finding concerns new jobs; high-value export-oriented agro-industries offer better opportunities for women than traditional agriculture, according to the report.

FAO To Hold Seminars on High Food Prices

On 8 March 2011, the The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) announced that it will, in partnership with stakeholders, run a series of seminars in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Central Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Near East to help governments to make informed decisions on how to respond to high food prices.

Global food prices increased for the eighth consecutive month in February. Prices of all commodity groups monitored rose again, except for sugar, according to the FAO Food Price Index. A tightening of the global cereal supply and demand balance in 2010/11 is likely.

With fuel prices on the rise, it would seem that 2011 will be a record breaking year for food costs. In the USA, farmers markets, organic food stores and other small businesses will all be affected.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

USA National Ag Day 2011

Americans will celebrate National Ag Day on Tuesday, March 15, 2011.

American agriculture provides food, fiber, clothing, and even fuel. As the world population soars, an even greater demand for renewable resources exists in the United States and abroad.

The nation's agriculture industry is very diverse. Small scale farms provide pick-your-own fruits and farmer's market produce. Larger operations produce grain, beef, pork, poultry, farm raised catfish and other products. American agriculture also supplies the nation with ethanol, oils and other bioproducts.

Programs associated with National Ag Day help to:

 * Educate Americans about how these products are produced

 * Promote the role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy

 * Note the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products

 * Make citizens aware of career opportunities in the agriculture industries.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Local Food Connection: Eugene Oregon Conference

A group called “Local Food Connection” is hosting a conference in Eugene, OR, on February, 7th, 2011 to help connect local food producers and commercial fishermen to local customers and food buyers.

The Agenda will include workshops on marketing to and directly contacting local consumers and restaurants, and marketing to other food outlets.

Admission for the whole day workshop is $25, including tours. Trade show booths are also available for $50.  The event will be held at the Lane Community College, in Eugene, OR, at the Center for Meeting & Learning, Building 19.

For more information, for the agenda or to register, contact Local Food Connection via the Internet at:  www.localfoodconnection.org or call Willow Cordain, Event Coordinator, at (541)821-1332.

source: Fishlink Sublegals

Thursday, January 27, 2011

USDA 2011 Consumer Price Index

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service has released its 2011 Consumer
Price Index analysis for projections on food prices.

According to the index, overall food prices are expected to increase 2% to 3% this year.

Food purchased from grocery stores as well as food-away-from-home (restaurant) prices are forecasted to increase 2 to 3 percent.

Although food price inflation was relatively weak for most of 2009 and 2010, higher food commodity and energy prices have recently exerted pressure on wholesale and retail food prices.

As a result, higher prices are projected to push inflation toward the historical average inflation rate of 2 to 3 percent in 2011.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Food Riots Becoming Common

Riots have broken out across the world over high food prices. This year, prices for food have reached an all-time high since 1990. In Tunisia and Algeria, hundreds have been injured while some have even been killed due to uprisings over the unjust price of food. Countries that have yet to experience demonstrations have been stocking up on groceries in efforts to keep their citizens calm.

Climate change is one of many causes explaining the recent excessive food prices. Across the planet, weather has been unpredictable and damaging to crops. Farming often provides less available food than anticipated and costs therefore increase.

For example, crops in Pakistan suffered from massive flooding, and Russian crops were hit by record heat in 2010. In Laos and Cambodia, unpredictable rainfall foiled many crops.  Climate change experts predict that this sort of unreliable weather will only become more common in the future as global warming accelerates.

As a result of unruly weather, cereal prices rose nearly fifty percent, and meat and sugar costs have been at their highest in the past twenty years. In efforts to address the prices, Nicholas Sarkozy, France’s President and the new Chairman of the G20, has put the issue on this week’s G20 economic reform agenda in Washington, D.C.

"The reality is that the same speculators that caused the global economic meltdown through their illustrious trade in sub-prime mortgages, are betting on our food system now too," says Deborah Doane, from the World Development Movement. Speculators play a big role in this situation as they have been pouring investment dollars into indexes of food prices, causing much talk over the subject.

source: Fishlink Sublegals

Friday, January 21, 2011

Emory University School of Medicine Study Links Fried Fish Consumption to Strokes

Research from Emory University’s School of Medicine seems to suggest that fried fish may contribute to strokes in Americans living in the Southeastern part of the United States.

A study published in the Dec. 22 online issue of the journal Neurology found that people living in the "stroke belt" eat more fried fish than people living in the rest of the country.

The stroke belt includes Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Previous studies have shown people living in this region are more likely to die from a stroke than people living in other parts of the United States. Blacks are more affected than whites.

The study’s author, an Emory neurologist, says the type of fish is just as important as the preference to eating the fish when cooked fried.

“While all fish contain healthy omega-3 acids, the amount of these essential nutrients varies depending on the type of fish and the cooking methods,” says Fadi Nahab, MD, an assistant professor of neurology in Emory University School of Medicine and medical director of the stroke program at Emory University Hospital.

Previous studies have shown that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish, especially fatty fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel, may reduce the risk of stroke, and the American Heart Association recommends that people eat fish at least two times per week with an emphasis on fatty fish.

The new study from Emory University seems to imply that while eating fish is healthy, it may be better to limit frying and instead use healthier cooking methods such as baking, broiling, grilling or poaching. 




source: Emory University press release

Monday, January 17, 2011

New Nutritional Standards for School Meals Proposed

On January 13, 2010, The U.S. Department of Agriculture published a proposed rule to update the nutrition standards for meals served through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, signed into law by President Barack Obama on December 13, 2010.

The new proposed meal requirements will raise standards for the first time in fifteen years and will make critical changes to school meals and help improve the health and nutrition of nearly 32 million kids that participate in school meal programs every school day, an important component of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative to solve the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation.

The proposed changes to school meal standards, which would add more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat milk to school meals, are based on recommendations released in October 2009 by the National Academies' Institute of Medicine (IOM) and presented in their report, School Meals: Building Blocks for Healthy Children. Schools would also be required to limit the levels of saturated fat, sodium, calories, and trans fats in meals. A comparison of the proposed nutrition standards can be viewed here.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act gives schools and communities new tools to meet the challenge of providing more nutritious food including increasing school lunch reimbursements by 6 cents per meal, and increasing technical assistance. School meal programs are a partnership between USDA, State agencies and local schools, and USDA will work with schools and communities to help improve meals so that they are consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

According to government data, almost 32 percent of children 6 to 19 years of age are overweight or obese; the number of obese children in this age range has trebled in the last few decades. These children are more likely to have risk factors associated with chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes. Updated school meal standards are a central part of the strategy developed by President Obama's Childhood Obesity Task Force to provide healthier food at schools, and in turn, work toward resolving childhood obesity.

USDA is seeking input on the proposed rule from the public through April 13, 2011. Those interested in reviewing the proposal and offering comments are encouraged to do so at www.regulations.gov

According to USDA, comments will be considered carefully in finalizing the rule before it is implemented.

source: USDA press release

Congress Pours Money Down the Drain

According to Food & Water Watch, bottled water costs for Congress were a staggering $190,000 in the first quarter of 2010.

The watchdog group is suggesting that members of Congress should support investment in the nation's drinking water infrastructure, rather than spending public dollars on drinking water served in plastic containers.

The issue of clean water becomes more important each year as communities find themselves struggling to obtain enough of the resource to fill their needs.

Legislators must choose between environmental issues and constituent needs. Obviously, big business does its part to influence Congress. In a perfect world, our officials would do the right thing when water-related issues came to the table.