Tag: food and food policy

Recommended Seasonal Fruits for Autumn

Posted by – November 9, 2013

I’m a bit late on this one… the holiday season’s crowding in on us, and soon people will consider it winter instead of fall, but I want to cover this anyway since few know there are autumn seasonal fruits.

The source for this, primarily, is the Greatist.com list 19 Seasonal Fruits and Veggies to Eat This Fall.

There are healthy fruits that come from autumn harvests. Persimmons, pears, cranberries, grapes, and two I’ll highlight here:

1. Apple

The mythical apple, poisoner of Snow White, a symbol of temptations that made it into Renaissance paintings of Eden (though the oral tradition often points out Eve and Adam ate grapes, fruit of the vine that still carries power).

Apples are good to eat, and a product of autumn harvest, which is why you see Fall Festivals with candy apples or “bobbing for apples” contests.

But not all apples are created equal.  There are over 7,500 varieties of apples: of these, “Fuji apples have the highest concentration of antioxidants, phenolics, and flavonoids, while Cortland and Empire apples have the lowest” (the Greatist article).  I like Granny Smith apples too…. though I’m guessing they’re somewhere in the middle on flavonoids, I’ve found them to have a mild stomach-calming effect.  I have mitochondrial-related disease of some sort, and when I was at my worst in Fall of 1991, there was a time when I couldn’t keep anything down excepting Granny Smith apples and peach sparkling water.

High-flavonoid, high-antioxidant foods become super important when dealing with mitochondrial involvement in disease, or eating for mitochondrial health just because you find it helpful.   I write with the former in mind.

2. Kiwifruit

“This fuzzy little fruit was brought to California in the 1960s and flourishes there September through December.” (Greatist article)

The kiwi is an unusual fruit.  They’re berries, with tiny edible seeds like a strawberry, but they grow on a vine, but they have an inedible furry exterior like a less ambitious coconut.  Australasia tends to have bizarre animal species, like the kangaroo and duckbill platypus, and the kiwifruit is like the duckbill platypus of the berry family (though it didn’t begin in Australasia).  Originally yang tao or the “Chinese gooseberry,” it spread from Southern China to New Zealand in the early 20th century and became popular with American GIs stationed in New Zealand during World War II.  “Jack Turner of produce exporters Turners and Growers suggested the name kiwifruit in 1959.” (from Wikipedia),  Kiwifruit orchards subsequently spread and got bigger in New Zealand, and by the ’80s their cultivation was thoroughly globalized and they became available in your local produce aisle.

Kiwifruit like growing in Mediterranean climates like New Zealand, California and Italy and Chile. Italy actually has a slight lead over New Zealand in tons of kiwis produced annually and is world #1 in kiwifruit tonnage (source). But I think most Italian kiwifruit likely supplies Europe, and U.S. buyers probably have kiwi from California or Chile, though surprisingly this 2005 world kiwifruit production map shows upstate NY as having North America’s only productive kiwifruit orchards (at least for 2005).
Bees have to pollinate kiwis for good yields, but they prefer pollinating other, less difficult plants, so it’s a beekeeper challenge.  More on our threatened bee population in another post.

Kiwifruit are high in Vitamin C (one kiwi is 1.5 times the daily requirements for C) plus Vitamin E, Vitamin K, flavonoids, has a mild anticoagulant effect, and more. (source)

Warning: kiwifruit may cause allergic reactions in sensitive people.

Personally, I do like them, they just get a bit harshly acidic… so eating a big one at once can burn.  The kiwifruit I’ve eaten in NY are enormous compared to what I remember from the late ’80s.  Size and acidity varies widely by kiwifruit species (there are around 60 species).

I painted a kiwi, hopefully well enough it’ll help you identify one should you encounter one in your daily life.

Kiwifruit, by Nick Dupree, painted November 2nd, 2013, in Corel Painter

Kiwifruit, by Nick Dupree, painted November 2nd, 2013, in Corel Painter

Of course, if you live in a food desert like the scenarios I described in my previous post, it can be difficult to impossible to access healthy seasonal fruits….

Nick

Turning Around America’s “Food Deserts”

Posted by – November 8, 2013

Tackling the problem: two videos about creative solutions

The last time I wrote about food and food policy, it was in the context of the invisible fist… commenting on one of the most Orwellian stories to date, the brutal closure of raw food sellers by SWAT teams enforcing draconian regulations against non-corporate unpasteurized milk and cheese.

As I try to understand the rapidly changing political landscape and evolving socio-economic ecosystem, it’s becoming more and more obvious that food and food policy is a prominent part of the emerging policy struggle.

In the past few decades, we—or rather the emerging uber-aggressive corporatism we’ve been helpless to change—has created food deserts, after grocery store chains have consolidated into mega-corporations that have trans-regional, or even national, reach, and have increasingly abandoned poor communities, shuttered stores, and only opened up new stores in perceived “affluent areas” to maximize profitability.  These changes, plus the big box super chains pushing-out small, family grocers that had local stores, have created serious access problems.  Food deserts are areas where there is low or limited or NO access to real food, either because of long distances from an open grocery store or lack of transportation thereto.  It’s hard to believe it’s gotten to this point, but the economic changes have been so bad and long-lasting we’re now in a situation where broad swaths of the United States have access to nothing but junk: processed fast food that’s intended as a “sometimes food” relied-on on a near-daily basis.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the agency that funds SNAP, food inspectors, and the complex network of farm subsidies, has begun tracking and mapping food deserts.

A map from USDA data:

Areas with no or low car-access and no groceries available within a mile

The food desert situation is serious, and needs our attention.  It should change our attitudes around obesity as well: this map ^ probably correlates strongly, perhaps exactly, with a map of severe obesity.  We should see obesity as symptomatic of the malnutrition that comes from food deserts.  Americans consume, consume, consume, but don’t get the needed nutrients in (a metaphor for the U.S. economy too).

People are trying different, creative solutions to this problem.  The raw dairy people in California who got shut down are examples of approaches to providing more access to healthier food.  Even though the raw food markets in question operate within American capitalism, trading cheese for set prices, something about them offended the corporatist system of big agribusiness, who obviously want to limit competition if regulations provide a pretense.  Yesterday the stock market hit a record high, the Dow is up 120% since the Obama administration came in, in January 2009, thanks to the bailouts the big fish are super-happy and reaping a great bonanza, and there’s every incentive to maintain the status quo at all costs.  This problem, the invisible fist of Orwellian unfreedom utilized to protect the corporatist system, will likely crop up again as more alternatives to big agribusiness become prominent.

But there’s hope: a lot of exciting projects to develop food solutions are emerging now.  I’ll list two: First there’s Archi’s Acres, a project by Colin and Karen Archiplay. Marine Sgt. Colin Archiplay was highly decorated in Iraq and Afghanistan but found himself directionless, disconnected from his fellow marines, until he and his wife Karen innovated an ultra-low water method of sustainable, soilless, zero-pesticide, high-yield, organic hydroponic agriculture in sealed greenhouses on their small farm near San Diego, and created the Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training (VSAT) program to train veterans to grow healthy food, desperately needed healthy food the U.S. market will always pay well to get.

They tell their story in the below TED Talk, explicitly mentioning spreading the greenhouses as solutions to U.S. food deserts, and a future project to deploy mobile greenhouses of this type to “conflict zones” in the Mideast, which are actual deserts, AND, increasingly, food deserts as well.

 

Second, not-for-profit grocery stores are cropping up to turn around the food deserts.

Chester, Pennsylvania had no grocery stores at all until the not-for-profit project described in this Moyers – PBS report opened. 

Corporate capitalism has its own internal logic, and the results in places like Chester, PA have been ugly, removing food access from whole communities, or, in the language of economists, “create negative externalities.”

Here’s a map of the food deserts around Philadelphia and, down-river, Chester is improving—I made this map with the USDA Food Access Atlas.

USDA Food Desert Map: the urban areas lining the Delaware River have serious food access issues.

USDA Food Desert Map: the urban areas lining the Delaware River have serious food access issues.

 

One of the gifts of a Jesuit education I was lucky to receive was the ability to question things, and to turn around America’s food deserts we will need to question and go beyond the internal logic of corporatism that so often binds us.  I don’t think capitalism is the problem.  I think our super-aggressive form of hyper-cut-throat corporate capitalism is the problem, the tyranny of earnings per share being the only goal.  As the manager of the non-profit grocer explained in the above video, being not-for-profit removed the constraints of quarterly profits and the like and made this possible, and they’ve been able to get farmers to give them lower prices and for companies to donate refrigerator equipment, etc.

We need to support these new food solutions, while overturning the cuts in food stamps (SNAP) and other austerity measures that are making food deserts worse.  The best interview I’ve read on the recent SNAP cuts is this Wonkblog interview with Joel Berg, the executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger.  He said: “…the average is about $1.50 per meal, and it’s going to $1.40 per meal after these cuts. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) estimates that it’s equivalent to something like losing 21, 22 meals a month. Many people report to us and food pantries that even before the cuts, it only lasts two-three weeks.”  What isn’t noted is how this will put organic, healthy foods even more out of reach, and how people will double-down on the processed high-calorie foods to extend their calories per dollar, meaning more processed food-only meals to stretch that food stamp another week.

What do you think of food deserts? 

Nick

When Government Won’t Even Let You Choose What’s For Dinner

Posted by – August 4, 2010

Raw Food Police: When Government Won’t Even Let You Choose What’s For Dinner

This is the ultimate unacceptable act by a nanny state+police state gone awry.

Police Begin “Guns Drawn” Raids on Organic Food Stores in California

LA Times: Raw-food raid (features actual surveillance video of the police storming an organic grocery store, pointing guns at unarmed food workers, demanding to confiscate food property)

Raw Milk Controversy: Raids and Regulations

At issue is raw milk and other unprocessed dairy products. This is why members of the FDA, USDA, California Department of Food and Agriculture, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, and the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office invaded the private property of the aforementioned Venice Beach grocery store, Rawesome Foods, and confiscated jugs of raw goat and cow milk, blocks of unpasteurized goat cheese, and yogurt.

Despite the fact that Rawesome Foods has always had a big sign by the front door stating that this is a private membership buyer’s club (ala Sam’s Club) and only members may enter, and states that members take responsibility for their own health choices–all those caveats up front!–the peaceful property was still raided, commando-style. Yelling commands at unarmed citizens while pointing guns at them implies strongly that you’re ready to shoot any uncooperative people! ALL OVER UNPROCESSED MILK!! Unprocessed milk that no one has argued has hurt consumers; they just argue that it lacks government permission.
This has gone way too far into jackboot thug territory for me.

All-organic grocery stores are available here in NYC, so I’m a recent convert to organic eating (though I am not vegetarian by any stretch of the imagination). I’ve become to strongly believe in the power of free enterprise to drastically improve our health (and taste!) choices, plus, through competition, begin to change the awful, immoral and terribly unhealthy practices that are so pervasive in the food industry. The dominant factory farms are chafing from rising competition; their PR hacks have spread dubious “safety concerns” for years (meanwhile their products get repeatedly recalled after hard evidence of salmonella and e. coli). Word has it that the factory farm industry leaned on the FDA and USDA and California Department of Food and Agriculture to begin raiding organic grocery stores. Now they have gotten their wish: the government is taking down competitors FOR THEM.

But my objections go deeper. This is about the ongoing debate over what America IS. Is America supposed to be more and more like a gigantic, continent-sized open air prison? the guards make most of our choices, we have little freedom except to be human batteries (Matrix-style) for the state. Is that what the Founding Fathers wanted for us?

We can’t even choose what’s for dinner anymore? This is so unAmerican. The above articles say it is illegal to buy milk direct from the animal (just like our Founding Fathers did, by the way) in 39 states–ironically, California is one of the 11 states that normally allows it.

People should be free to be put whatever they want into their bodies, from raw eggs and milk, to hard drugs or whatever… even if you argue that certain things cause self-harm and (as do I) advocate strong moral codes, the state still has no sensible reason to interfere with self-harm because self-harm poses no threat to the well-being or freedom of other citizens, and, therefore, the state must be barred from interfering. The role of the police must be to protect us from the interference of others who would diminish our well-being or freedom, and those freedoms include the right to choose. That means that the police should be arresting someone who swipes your beer in public, not doing the swiping themselves (43 states enforce ridiculous open container laws.

How do we end this nanny state+police state tag team that has crushed more of its peoples’ basic civil liberties and human rights than most other developed countries? This IS NOT what the Founding Fathers wanted for us.

Nick