50 Years Ago, Sugar Industry Quietly Paid Scientists To Point Blame At Fat
Camila Domonoske, NPR
The debate about sugars, fats, and human health has been long running, but NPR presents the information now at a public level. This article points to the immense sway that data and expertise have in policymaking – whether that data is truthful or not. As a research-based investment group, CFFP must clearly think through the implications of both approaches that surfaced from our research: enterprise success and systems change. As we see here, such implications can reach microscopic levels that determine human health outcomes.
As Americans, we have come to known fat as the enemy of good health. Overconsumption can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and more – what many in academic circles refer to as the “slow death” of poor nutrition. However, evidence has surfaced that shows our understanding of nutrition has been shaped by corporations, who influenced the nutritional research publication in the 1960’s. While the original scientific results emphasized the potential links between sugar consumption and nutritional diseases, the industry-funded Sugar Research Institute shaped research to emphasize the harmful effects of fat in its place. Many scientists are now calling for a re-evaluation of sugar and its health effects.
Seed: The Untold Story
This documentary, scheduled to release in fall of 2016, tells the story of struggles for food sovereignty around the globe. Indigenous farmers in the American Southwest fight to preserve heritage foods, women in rural India lose their breadwinning roles to industrial agriculture, and communities in Hawaii are sickened by nearby Agribusiness testing grounds; in all these scenarios, control over seeds is the central issue. The film explores the nature of these conflicts and activism to preserve seed diversity in the face of powerful obstacles. Watch the trailer here.
Harnessing the Generosity of Farmers
Hannah Wallace, Civil Eats
The farm to food bank system in Oregon hits many paying points for CFFP: improved nutrition and health outcomes for low income people, reducing food waste, bridging infrastructure gaps, and more. Within this system, OFB plays a key role in intermediary steps between farm and food bank, providing packaging and transportation that would be otherwise impossible for farmers themselves to provide. Philanthropic or financial involvement in crucial roles like OFB’s would truly be a “systems change” type of investment.
The Oregon Food Bank (OFB) has taken incredible steps towards filling local food banks with local food. What was once one of the most food insecure states in the country now has a food bank system in place that provides access to diverse, nutritious, and fresh products. OFB has achieved this by working with farmers of all sizes across the state. The farmers donate bulk produce, which is transported to food hubs, packaged, and delivered to local food banks – all by OFB volunteers. As highlighted in this article, clients of food banks like SnowCap in Portland can exercise preference, creativity, and personality in their shopping experience that is usually reserved for retail outlets. Similar efforts are occurring in Washington through Farm to Food Pantry.
Organic Economics In A World of Industrial Agriculture: Applying the Power of Nature
Harn Soper, Green Money
Not all of us at CFFP consider food to be our primary world of work, but we have a hunger to learn more. For many members, the Market Research process revealed the benefits of diving deep on certain topics and exploring “how things work”. In this article, author and founder of Sustainable Farm Partners Harn Soper gives a rapid-fire history of America’s journey to Industrial Agriculture, essentially answering the question: “How did we get here?” As we seek to change the inequities of that system, it is important to understand the history behind it.
From pre-WWII local food systems, to wartime rations and high-volume production, to post-war agriculture policies, the industrial agricultural system we see today was created intentionally – with unintentional side effects. Namely, deterioration of soil and potential human health threats continue to erode our faith in the current system. The author proposes a return to organic family farms, and not without justification. From his own farming experience, Soper even shows the economic benefits of sticking out the transition to organic and works to help others do the same.
Edible Food Packaging Made From Milk Proteins
American Chemical Society, EurekAlert
Casein-based packaging is an example of how CFFP principles can be incorporated into any step of the value chain. This intervention reduces both environmental and food waste by better protecting food through a biodegradable and regenerative materials.
The American Chemical Society has collaborated with USDA to create a sustainable, biodegradable, and even edible food packaging made from casein, a milk protein. The protein-based packaging is less porous than petroleum-based plastics, preventing spoilage and thus reducing food waste. Other applications of the casein-based material include laminate for paper products or a protective coating for foods that need to stay crisp.
"Taxing Sugar to Fund a City"
Mark Bittman, New York Times
CFFP has described itself as a group that is “driving as far as the headlights show us” which requires significant patience, flexibility, and innovation. Cities like Berkley, which precedes Philadelphia in enacting a sugar tax, have demonstrated the benefits of such innovation. Philadelphia attempts to blaze the trail a bit further, leveraging sugar & junk food taxes for anti-poverty efforts. Similar to “farmraising” above, this is an example of how innovation in food systems work can often address several challenges at once – in this case, high burdens of nutritional disease in low-income communities and lack of public services in those same communities.
Philadelphia is proposing a sugar tax that will be leveraged for anti-poverty initiatives. A tax as high as three cents per-ounce on soda, sweet teas, energy drinks, and sugar-added juices could provide substantial revenue for the city. These funds would be used to service low-income communities in Philadelphia, which is the nation’s poorest big city. Proposed services include universal preschool, recreation centers, libraries, and parks. Mayor Kennedy aims to address structural inequalities, saying “[major soda companies] sell more of their product in poor communities than elsewhere, and for generations none of that profit was passed on to those communities. There is no downside to this other than that the three major soda companies may make a little less money.”
“A Burgeoning Effort to Restore Native Foods in an Unlikely Food Desert”
Alix Wall, Civil Eats
The Klamath Basin Tribal Food Security Project perfectly illustrates the aforementioned Nature article: health equity is deeply tied to sociocultural equity. In this instance, the Karuk, Yurok, and Klamath tribes reclaimed space to practice traditional food ways, which will translate to restoration of traditional (read: healthy) diets and improved health outcomes.
Article Summary: The Karuk, Yurok, and Klamath tribes have called the Klamath river basin in Northern California and Southern Oregon home for thousands of years. Colonization and subsequent mining, logging, and other forces have degraded the environment that sustains the tribe’s primary food source. Tribes shifted from their no longer reliable traditional diets to to widely available industrialized foods and as a result, the tribes experience disproportionate rates of nutritionally related diseases – type 2 diabetes rates are twice the national average.
The Klamath Basin Tribal Food Security Project is working to combat these trends by restoring traditional food ways through a revival of tribal knowledge in foraging, cultivating, stewarding, and processing. Thus far, some 4,000 tribe members have collaborated with UC Berkeley staff in a wide variety of projects including community garden workshops surveys, focus groups, policy discussions, food production workshops, native food camps, and after-school programs to pursue their goals.
“Origins of the obesity pandemic can be analysed”
Steven Parry Donald, Nature
The connection between food culture and obesity makes an argument for food systems investment that supports First Foods, traditional farming, and other cultural resilience efforts taking place in our communities.
Article Summary: Strong culinary identity and strong food culture may foster resilience against the obesity epidemic. While measurable causes of caloric intake and physical activity have long been cornerstones of obesity analyses, University of Toronto Public Health professor John Frank argues that these factors are secondary to history and culture.
By looking at obesity trends over time between countries, Frank identified countries in which the obesity epidemic began later, grew slower, and ultimately plateaued at lower levels than leading countries such as the United States and Australia. These countries include Italy, France, and South Korea among others. Their apparent resilience to the obesity epidemic, Frank argues, is a strong sense of traditional cuisines. Having developed over centuries to sustain societies, traditional cuisines are arguably healthier than modern ones. Societies such as the United States which had a rather shallow sense of culinary identity are more likely to transition to industrialized, processed foods that are so closely associated with increased obesity.
"FDA to Start Testing for Glyphosate in Food"
Carey Gilliam, Civil Eats
As we pursue environmental and health equity in our local food system, the narratives presented by national research and political bodies hold weighty implications. Relevant to CFFP is the fact that glyphosate is sometimes used to spot treat weeds in no-till grain production. While we should not let perfection be the enemy of the good in working with non-organic farms, a glance down the road reveals momentum for transition.
Under pressure from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the FDA will now start reevaluating the presence of glyphosate, the active ingredient of Round Up, in food products. Referred to as “the most widely used pesticide in the world,” glyphosate use in the United States increased 20-fold over the last decade, to 1.65 billion pounds in 2014. Private and academic research has linked the chemical to various cancers, birth defects, and kidney and liver problems, but federal research has yet to pursue an investigation of this nature. The analysis of glyphosate in food products is a small but important first step.
For an additional perspective, read more here.
New Book Challenges “Magic Carrot Approach” to Food Justice
Joanna Mercuri, Fordham News
In his new book, Garret M. Broad, PhD, argues that with the advancement of food systems work comes the advancement of a food gap in which wealthier groups experience unprecedented choice while marginalized groups continue to struggle. As we move forward with research and towards fund development, we must seek partnerships with producers that understand the complexities and nuances of our food system, particularly for the marginalized consumer as described below.
Garret M. Broad’s new book, More Than Just Food: Food Justice and Community Change (University of California Press, 2016) unpacks the complexities of our food system as it relates to social and health equity. Our mainstream impression of food justice is often limited to access and availability. As a result, interventionists are often stumped: if healthy food is made available to a community, why don’t community health outcomes change? Why aren’t community members making the “carrot over cheeto” choice, now that they have it? Broad reveals a whole network of forces that influence that choice for the consumer, combating narratives of behavioral blame. These forces include local culture, historical marginalization, socioeconomic status, education, and more.
As part of its own research, CFFP regularly illuminates educative research, media, and resources related to our work. This page contains public versions of our synopses.