Oh, Some of the Things I Have Done

A few years ago, while serving as a resource person for a national food security organization, I responded to an inquiry. It was from a woman doing related work for a small non-profit. Though I was then staying and working out of state, she was from a community very close to my home–so there was a welcomed familiarity in connecting with her.

When I returned home, I made the lovely thirty-five minute drive down beautiful back roads to meet with her. Sitting together in her office–a large warehouse space–she described her programs related to food access, nutrition education, and Produce Prescription Programs. Having done the same work myself, I was impressed with her sophisticated and creative approach, and the success of her efforts. She had been in this job for four years and had accomplished a lot in a rural area with limited resources. And, though her face was largely hidden behind a Covid mask, I realized that she had obtained this professional maturity by, at best, her mid-thirties.

We stayed in touch, and a few months later she informed me she was moving on to pursue an unrelated opportunity, and I wished her well. Having become linked on LinkedIn, I noticed that she identified herself as a Public Health Innovator. This intrigued me. While I did not doubt her right to ascribe that title to herself, I wondered what being such an innovator would entail, and might I, with a few decades on her, have any claim as such. And so, I began an inventory of my own path.

Let me acknowledge that by all measures, and certainly by today’s standards, my efforts were itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, tiny. I have been a very small fish, in a very small pond, with little personal agency to swim out into larger waters. I had no funds, grants, or extra supports. Maybe just some supervisors who let me do some things–or didn’t stop me. I just wanted to help those I was serving. My reach was small, and the sustainability of my projects limited, but I did possess some type of fins and gills, impelled to create something to fill a need that had lacked attention or address in its time.

What turned into my career began in the early 1980s, a period when the government, still in the wake of the ‘War on Poverty’, was crafting its national nutrition programs to bluntly address abject hunger, the effects of a few decades of corporate interests controlling the American diet were seriously taking their toll but had not yet reached full crisis level, and the folks in the natural foods movement were making the connection between diet quality and personal and societal health–but they were quite marginalized.

Margarine was still cool, soda drinks were just starting to supersize, the term ‘wellness’ was not yet coined, and no one knew were were a mere decade away from an obesity and chronic disease red-alert. Likewise, mimeograph machines were just surrendering to Xerox, typewriters to word processors, and print materials knew not of the worldwide web.

Arriving at this cusp of nutritional awakening, I began to work my way through a number of different community and clinical settings, propelled by geographic moves related to early adulthood and marriage. At each stop, I was witness to emerging issues, and being in unchartered waters I had a modicum of freedom to make things up–or should I say, find some innovative solutions.

I first stepped out of the box in 1980, when as a WIC Nutritionist in the federal program that was then only about five years old, I arranged to walk a group of moms down the street from the WIC clinic site to a little whole-grain bakery for a tour–certainly this was not within normal operating procedures. This was before there was any widespread, soon-to-be earth shattering news about the ills of Wonder Bread. But I had gotten the memo, and I guess thought this was an opportunity for an interesting, educational outing. Though my intention seemed rather innocent or naive, I guess something deeper was rising within me that would inform my future endeavors.

And so I swam forth through the next four decades, trying some innovative things largely within various work settings but beyond the requisite duties of my role. Here are just some of them:

The Nineteen Eighties

Presented a paper I had written entitled, The Role of Nutritional Services in Prenatal Care, to the medical team in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at a large, prestigious university medical center. (Yes, young me!). This forwarded the integration of nutritional assessment and counseling into prenatal care within that practice and enabled me to later provide specialized nutrition support to pregnant women in other settings. (1984)

Presented workshops on nutritional approaches to women’s health concerns in various workshop settings. Many of these concerns had not been properly understood until the mid-1900s and were only gaining wider recognition and support around the 1970s due to the visionaries and feminists of that period. (1985-1987)

The Nineteen Nineties

Developed a cooking class for pregnant teenagers while working for another WIC Program and observing the demise of home-prepared meals in a peak period of teen pregnancies. I enjoined the collaboration of a local Cornell Cooperative Extension agency and a community food pantry. Participants received a free bag of groceries at each class. (1994)

Implemented the following at a Community Health Center to provide greater options for well being to a low-resourced community: (1997-2001)

Physician-Nurse Team-led walking program and nutrition classes for staff and patients

Center-based Yoga Class Series taught by certified Yoga Teachers–there was a waiting list for the class

Coupon Program and Cooking Demonstrations with the local food-coop

The Two Thousand Aughts

Invited one of the nation’s first mobile produce vans intended to bring quality, discount-priced produce to underserved neighborhoods to make a weekly stop at a Community Health Center to reinforce the notion of ‘food as medicine’. This popular stop served a wide-range of clients, staff, and medical providers and raised awareness about food insecurity. (2008)

Provided to my clients (on a very small scale) low-cost, non-perishable nutritious food samples boxed in cardboard Chinese Food containers. They included sardines, beans, oatmeal, teas, spices–along with cooking instructions. These were essentially a precursor to healthy meal boxes available today. (Back then I wished I had a way to get funding to expand that idea.) (2010)

Expanded eating disorder services and resources at a college. Also, helped initiate changes to support more sustainable practices and local food sourcing for the college’s Dining Services. (2007)

The Twenty Teens

Developed and administered the clinical component of one of the nation’s earliest Produce Prescription Programs. Conducted a Program Evaluation and the Program’s results were published in a Public Health Journal. (2011-2013)

Designed a Diabetes Education Program that had included a diabetes-friendly meal that was prepared together by some of my patients in the Program who were experienced cooks–mainly elderly black ladies who had each fed countless mouths and who could serve an army or at least a filled church. The program also included a dance segment led by a local Latin Dance teacher. (One of the program attendees became a member of the teacher’s traveling dance troupe.) (2012)

Solicited local businesses to donate breastfeeding supplies to a Community Health Center for nursing mothers in honor of National Breastfeeding Month. (2013)

In the mid-Twenty Teens my work took me out of direct care environments and into more Program Management roles. By this point, innovation was largely being measured by technology-based advances where I was less well-equipped–though I still pushed my grassroots efforts where I could. My inspirations and innovations grew out of having sat with thousands of eaters from around the globe and from all walks of life, a plethora of pregnant moms, a couple of hundred college students eating their way from adolescence to adulthood, and a few dozen elementary-aged school children who knew more about food and life than you might think. I looked for every available resource to support them all as best I could, created partnerships when possible, and came up with new solutions when necessary.

Surreptitiously I removed infant formula promotional materials from the ‘free’ gift bags and magazines targeted to pregnant women and quietly encouraged vending machine vendors to replace the most nefarious offerings with others less harmful to the human organism. I produced lots of nutrition education materials and wrote many newsletter articles. And then, I embarked on documenting in 125+ blog posts ‘the intimate art of eating in response to the personal and cultural milieu’. From my work chairs to my pitter-patterings about, I bore witness to much of the difficulties we are now experiencing in even more extreme ways–demanding a more robust and urgent response. My writings presaged much of what we are confronting and I invite you to to search my site for my insights on any number of nutritional matters including breastfeeding, eating disorders, toxic food systems, child health, obesity, racism, health inequities, nutrition insecurity and food marketing. Gosh, things got a lot more complicated than just whole wheat bread.

Looking back, I acknowledge that I did a lot for a small fish. I used to say that one thing I would not do was to dress up like a fruit or vegetable, but I will don the Public Health Innovator Hat, at least for a moment. I still have a list of things that I would love to see be done, so as I ease out of this work, I’d be glad to share my ideas. Also, feel free to build upon my efforts if you can appreciate their value. Finally, fellow innovators, keep up the good work. If I catch sight of your schemes, I will be glad to celebrate them.

Thank you for listening, sharing, following, and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

Be well. Take care. Stay safe. Let’s heal.

In health, Elyn

P.S. OK. Here is one of my ideas. Let’s implement a program for vulnerable senior citizens similar to the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) Program. Maybe just an add-on program called WICS.

And, here are some other important insights and innovative ideas shared by Food Bank News regarding collaborative efforts working with underserved populations with globally-based examples.

My Plate Haiku

Craving for pickles

And German Chocolate Cake

My friend is pregnant. by Gretchen

Could Not Afford Balanced Meal

I am a little embarrassed to admit this. Here it goes. I came late to the term Food Insecurity. This terms is so ubiquitous now in the light of the tragic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. Everyday, reports about food insecurity are rolling off the presses and plastered everywhere, shocking us into disbelief as we equate it with images of endless lines of cars and people awaiting offerings of food donations. Though the immensity of the problem came on with a vengeance, we seem to have assumed that describing it in this way, long had a place and an understanding of meaning among the general populace. The experience is not new.

I am often, if not always, late to catch on to new trends, including those in our vocabulary. When I do eventually gain awareness, sometimes by use of blunt force, the new words or phrases do not roll easily off my tongue or out through my typing fingers. So, while I may have lagged behind on ‘cancel culture’ or ‘on fleek’–but, food insecurity? C’mon. Really? AYFKM!!!!!?

Percentage of households reporting indicators of adult food insecurity in 2019
Indicators of Adult Food Insecurity–2019 USDA

Just so we are all on the same page here, the definition of food insecurity has many variations. These include the lack of consistent access to sufficient food for an active healthy life; a lack of available financial resources for food at the household level; a lack of access by all household members at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life, which includes as a minimum the ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods; and, assured ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways (without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing, or other coping strategies); and the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of nutritious food. While similar, the nuanced differences may contain some significance.

In an attempt to capture the degree of food insecurity and ideally, but imprecisely, the extent of hunger, the USDA established two sub-categories: Low food security–the reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet with little or no indication of reduced food intake; and, Very low food security–multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake. (See chart.) (Hmm, should ‘Gained weight’ also be listed?) However one wishes to slice it, it is not pretty. In 2018, an estimated 1 in 9 Americans were food insecure, equating to over 37 million Americans, including more than 11 million children.[1] It is a lot worse now. Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger relief organization, tracks this data, with information on current impacts documented here.

As a Nutritionist who has concerned herself with food insecurity issues for almost half a century, not only should I have been hip to the term sooner, I should have been way ahead of the curve–like one of the first to know. Apparently, which means I just learned, the USDA began collecting and measuring data on food insecure households in 1995. That year, I was working for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children or WIC-administered by the USDA. Clearly, I missed the internal memo of what they were up to.

My own ignorance came to stare at me with incredulity when in late 2018 my work found me supporting recipients of FINI Program Grants. I understood the program, and it was easy to casually throw around the acronym, but I would hesitate each time I had to recall what FINI stood for. FINI was shorthand for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program. FINI Grants were established and written into the 2014 Farm Bill to ‘incentivize’ the purchase of fruits and vegetables by Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients.

In 2019, just as I had cemented the name of the program into my prefrontal cortex, it was changed to the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program or GusNIP, in memory of the former Undersecretary of Agriculture. He was instrumental in visioning and implementing early models of expanding produce purchasing power through vouchers for low-income consumers and advancing the legislation that authorized the Farm Bill funding. The new name retained the nutrition incentive part but snipped away the food insecurity part. I appreciate the intention of the program and have championed its cause and those who lovingly administer it, but I actually have an issue with the use of the word ‘incentive’. I prefer ‘support’. And, I think “Nutrition Insecurity’ better informs the matter.

I also came to learn that there was a Food Insecurity Screening Tool. Developed by the USDA’s Economic Research Service when they began measuring such things, the original version contained 18 questions. That has had different iterations through the years with variations of ten, six and even down to the Hunger Vital Sign’s validated two questions which are:

“Within the past 12 months, we worried whether our food would run out before we had money to buy more.”

“Within the past 12 months, the food we bought just didn’t last and we didn’t have money to get more.” 

Yikes, how did I miss that? Though I find the statement phrasings and category listings a bit odd, and wonder what they fully capture, I appreciate the availability and need for such a tool. It is useful for data collection as well as to ascertain in certain settings someone’s vulnerabilities in order to provide resources and solutions. But why had it taken me so long, just a mere year or two before the pandemic flashed Food Insecurity before us all like a neon sign, to find familiarity with these terms? Was insecurity a word I used only in describing myself? What had I been doing with my many hundreds of clients to figure out what I needed to know to help them and had I missed something big?

To make sure I hadn’t just forgotten, I searched all of my 125 blog posts dating from 2010 to check. Before 2018, I used the term twice. I am pretty sure that means that a year ago when I did a big blog cleanup, I inserted it to make it appear that I was appropriately informed back then. But, this has made me really stop to wonder, how I had functioned without the use of the term and the screening tool.

The answer may be relatively simple. With my work in low income communities, there was not usually much to discern in the way of food insecurity–it was the norm. Regarding distinctions between low or very low levels, I definitely saw both–though I rarely encountered abject hunger as one might in other environments. Hunger in its most pure form is sadly more prevalent now in the wake of Covid-19. Most of the folx who had the capacity to find their way to a nutritionist appointment, had some resources. Once there with me, I had the time to sit and have real conversations about the intimate details of their feeding lives. Sometimes, I employed my own screening tools to glean what I needed to know. Any nutrition consult necessitates some calculation of financial means and available food dollars. There is a big chunky space between peanut butter and almond butter.

Using this food insecurity framework, I know that many details of people’s circumstances have slipped through my cracks. I have discussed my limitations here. However, I think my assessments regarding my clients’ food resources were somewhat near the mark, though I still feel badly about the time I did recommend wild rice to a man who expressed to me his dismay. But, that misstep highlights a distinction between nourishment for the still generally well and the oh-not-so-good. This marks how the differences mentioned above in defining food insecurity in relation to ‘nutritious’ may matter. Also, if active lifestyle means caring for families, young children, elders, the ill or disabled–one’s own or other’s–or doing low wage service work or manual labor, then my clients were quite active. Healthy was often not up for debate. Through it all, my office desk drawer was well stocked with referrals to every food and health support resource and program around–including some I created. And, yet my efforts could not surmount the magnitude of the underlying problems.

So then, what terms were I using if not food insecurity? A whole bunch, including: poverty, exhaustion, trauma, nutritional violence, food deserts, malnutrition, restrictive and confusing SNAP regulations and bureaucracy, social services system overload, toxic food culture, exclusions for immigrants, disparities, inequality, high food costs, inadequate wages and a sad story to name a few. I guess I got by.

In closing, I share this telling by Jadon-Maurice Forbes, I Didn’t Drink Water At Dinner as a Poor, Black Kid. Start here. You may then be able to skip all the above.

Thank you for listening, sharing, following, and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

Be well. Take care. Stay safe. Let’s heal.

In health, Elyn

My Plate Haiku

Food bought did not last

Could not afford balanced meal

Food Insecurity

by 37 million Americans

What to Eat in Still Troubled Times

June 2020. This is a revision of a blog I posted on February 9, 2017. Though the struggles don’t seem to cease, this year, our experience during the Covid-19 Pandemic and the fight for Black lives, racial justice and an end to police brutality, demands some extra nutritional fortification and strengthened immunity.

A friend, an indefatigable defender of human rights and environmental causes, writes to me and asks what to eat in troubled times. I reply,

You should eat the foods of the people from around the world who now need your strength of resistance

kim-daniels-yItVmeh1XA8-unsplash

Beans, collard greens,

Tzimmes, hummus, dahl,

Fatteh, dolma, kibbeh,

Chicken soup with tortilla or matzoh ball.

Figs, plantains, chiles, dates,

Guacamole, and holy mole, spooned upon the plates.

Of course, some xocolati, I mean chocolate, dark,
Lots of tea, a handful of nuts 

All strengthening for the heart.

And, don’t forget the grits. (Basic or Savory) You will need them for the soul.

The concurrence of both the Covid-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement has shone a bright light on the social and health disparities in our country, and the dire consequences for black and brown communities of color. As such, the topics of diet, nutrition, food systems, and food access, which I have previously written about, have been reverberating more loudly of late.

An appreciation of the factors which have contributed to this maleficent situation need include an understanding of the history of the African-American diet–from its African continent roots, the insults of slavery and oppression, to the implications of its modern-day corruption. A discussion of this can be found in An Illustrated History of Soul Food, by Adrian Miller.

Along the continuum from past to present, through the generations, are two African-American women notable for their contributions to the food, nutrition, culture, and community narrative. One is chef, teacher, political activist, and author, Edna Lewis, (1916-2006). “Lewis cooked and Picture 1 of 1wrote as a means to explore her memories of childhood on a farm in Freetown, Virginia founded by her grandfather and other black families freed from slavery. Long before the natural-food movement gained popularity, Edna Lewis championed purity of ingredients, regional cuisine and farm-to-table eating.”

“She was a chef when female chefs–let alone African American female chefs working in restaurants–were few and far between. She authored what are considered some of America’s most resonant, lyrical and significant cookbooks” including The Taste of Country Cooking*, The Edna Lewis Cookbook*, and, In Pursuit of Flavor*. Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Make You A Pie*, is a children’s book/cookbook about Ms. Lewis by Robbin Gourley; and, At the Table with an American Original*, is a collection of others’ essays about her life, edited by Sara B. Franklin.

The other is Haile Thomas. At just 19 years of age, this remarkable young woman is a “youth health activist, vegan food and lifestyle influencer, cookbook author, speaker, founder/CEO of the nonprofit organization HAPPY-Healthy Active Positive Purposeful Youth, and a Wellness and Compassion Activist”. A Wellness and Compassion Activist–so needed. I will let her own words speak for her.

Questlove and Haile Thomas Bring Nutrition Activism to All Communities

Haile Thomas: The Happy Organization/Keynote Speaker–FoodTank

Haile Thomas: Living Lively: 80 Plant-Based Recipes to Activate Your Power and Feed Your Potential (due to be released end of July 2020)*

* Please check out these black-owned bookstores for purchase of any of these books: @marcus.books@esowonbooks@peoplegetreadybooks, and @unclebobbies.

Thank you for listening, sharing, following, and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

Be well. Take care. Stay safe. Let’s heal.

In health, Elyn

Related Posts: Morose Meals and Human Bites; Of Poverty and Light; A Cinderella Story; Love Is Love

Living Lively

Haile’s My Plate

My Plate Reflection-The American Stew of Privilege 

Every immigrant group could look down on them. There was always a bottom that you could be hostile to and that was useful in bringing the country together into the melting pot. What was the basis, the cauldron, the pot? Well, Black people were the pot. Everyone else was melted together, and American.

by Toni (Morrison)

Photo Credit: Grits and Collard Greens–Kim Daniels on Upsplash

isle of you

I describe a large part of my career as sitting in small rooms speaking with individuals about the intimate art of eating and self-nourishment. My geography was usually contained within a 10′ x 10′ space. However, the last few years have found me wandering about (albeit mainly, though not entirely, figuratively) in a larger and more vast landscape observing the radical movements taking place concerned also with matters related to eating and nourishment.

These movements are taking what was quiet and personal and are making them loud and public. They are serving to challenge the status quo that served to foster the nutrition and health quandaries and crises that have defined the past few decades. These are movements made up of people passionately determined to decry the depriving of access to real food, the poisoning of plants and people, the hunger of our children and seniors, and the seducing of the vulnerable with manipulative marketing. They assert through their efforts and missions that denying folk of their birthright of health is no longer ok.

Image result for mother teresa feeding the poor

This week I’ve been trying to decide how I might, in a timely manner, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day appropriately honor those whose work I have stumbled upon in my wanderings whose efforts have astounded me. I did so once, many years ago, in Who Do I Love. While flailing about in my decision-making process, one new food hero came to my attention. With that, my dilemma gently placed its hand on my heart. It said, “Just do it. Don’t delay. Just put this out there. Now.”

So here are a few of those Who I Love ‘Two’. There are many more organizations and individuals also doing what I call Random Acts of Crazy Love. This short list includes initiatives addressing food/nutritional insecurity, food injustice or apartheid, hunger, and health either started by just one person taking one huge step, that I have a personal connection to, are perhaps not well-known and/or have struck me with Cupid’s arrow. My brief descriptions do not them justice, therefore, please check them out to really see the deep work being done and where donations would be appreciated.

Keep Slauson FreshOlympia Auset shows up and commits. Frustrated by the lack of healthy food in South LA, and concerned about its inherent consequences, she sets up pop-up produce stands and delivery service for (organic) produce at different locations on different dates throughout the community. This is no small feat. Now in its third year, with more than 25,000 pounds of fresh produce sold, Olympia is working toward establishing a healthy market in the neighborhood.

Chilis on Wheels–In 2014, Michelle Carrera wanted to just do something to help her community. When on Thanksgiving Day she discovered that soup kitchens did not serve vegan meals, she made her own vegan chili and carted it through Union Square in NYC on a wagon. Seeing the response, she committed herself to prepare vegan food to serve those in need. Now, the organization’s chapters continue to do that, and, so much more.

I Love You Restaurant–Jaden Smith started a Vegan Food Truck serving the homeless free meals in Los Angeles.

The Market@25th–This is a full-service grocery store with a mission in a historically-rich but economically-ignored neighborhood in Richmond, Virginia. The community-focused store provides an opportunity for local food entrepreneurs, cultural connection, and nutrition, health, and other empowering educational programming.

First Fruits Farm — Jason Brown was the highest-paid Center in NFL history, but he walked away from a 35 million dollar contract with the St. Louis Rams to become a farmer. Spiritually inspired, he taught himself to farm and now grows and harvests over 100,000 pounds of vegetables in North Carolina to serve communities in need.

Champale Anderson— This St. Louis, Missouri woman prepares and distributes free sandwiches and snacks to hungry children in her neighborhood.

Civil Eats –Founded by Naomi Starkman, Civil Eats serves up daily online news and commentary about the American Food System. The content is quite comprehensive and the stories are compelling. It is where I often learn about these amazing folks and initiatives.

Mazon–A Jewish response to hunger through advocacy, education and strategic partnerships.

Comfort Food Community–Here are good folk doing big things in the small rural communities in Washington County, New York (not far from my home) to eliminate hunger and food insecurity, and building community through the power of food.

LEAP for Local Food, Produce Perks Midwest, Farm Fresh Rhode Island, Community Food and Agriculture Coalition–These are my friends at four state and region-wide organizations committed to improving the health of their communities and the strength of their local agricultural and food systems through policy and advocacy work and the growth of nutrition incentive programs facilitating healthy food access for low-income citizens.

And last but not least,

Feed The Mass–Jacobsen Valentine (yes!), founded this nonprofit cooking school in his hometown of Portland, Oregon providing affordable culinary education to address the culinary and health gap in his community. The low-cost and scholarship supported classes for adults and children focus on meals based on whole foods and made from scratch.

Well, that is it for now, though there are many more to mention. Whose work do you love? Please let me know.

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Isle of you, Elyn

Isle of You was the name of a little store in Ithaca, New York–where once upon a time I found my heart–high on a hill.

Related Posts: Love is Love, Nourish Thyself Well Day, Who Do I Love, Inventive Incentive

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Isle of You Necklace My Plate

My Plate Quote

I alone cannot change the world,

but I can cast a stone across the waters

to create many ripples.

by Mother Teresa

Les prix de l’académie

Yesterday, I ran to the supermarket for a few items.

My friends and always gracious hosts, Janet and Paul had invited me over to watch the Academy Awards. This has been a ritual of ours for the past few years. Together we had watched the debacle when La La Land mistakenly was announced as Best Picture instead of Moonlight. Thankfully, that shocking moment was resolved and had a good ending as we laughingly bid each other goodnight. Unlike another shared TV experience–2016’s Election Night–which ended in tears.

Berries and Cream Crepes - These amazing crepes are filled with a cheesecake like filling, and sweet juicy berries for a decadent breakfast or dessert

This year’s text invite asked the guests if crepes were ok for the evening’s fare. Mais oui, I responded and asked if I could make any fillings. Within seconds, Janet confidently suggested Caramel Sauce or Lemon Curd. I declined on the Caramel Sauce but offered that I would bring Lemon Curd–which I had never made before–and whipped cream.

So mid-afternoon, there I was in the store in search of lemons, heavy cream and a few other things. While I was standing by the nuts, thinking they might be something else I could bring to the fête, I noticed a man near me, also musing on some shelf options. He was holding both a bag of Oreos and a bag of either hot dog buns or sub rolls. I am not sure which. There was something in the juxtaposition and composition that struck me. Maybe it was the way he was carrying them rather than pushing them around in a cart. My mind fleetingly registered some run-of-the-mill judgmental thought, equating him and those exposed milled white floured and sugared products. It then returned to thinking about nuts and chose Salt and Vinegar Almonds.

At the check-out area, I was glad to see that the Academy Awards did not provoke the same food shopping frenzy as the Super Bowl. I picked the “fewer than 14 items” lane for the sake of time. I was starting to feel rushed as there were still lemons to curd and cream to whip. However, after unloading my cart onto the belt, I discerned there was trouble at the register. The older, slightly disheveled man checking out in front of me was having some difficulty with the credit card machine and his pin number. I exhaled and told myself just to be patient. Besides, Janet and Paul would amicably rewind to the Red Carpet segment if I missed it. No longer having a forward-moving agenda, I looked back and saw that the Oreos and buns man was right in line behind me. Inhaling a Zen-like attitude, I acknowledged his presence and didn’t care at all about what he was choosing to buy and eat.

Things remained stuck at the register. That man was trying to insert his credit card in different ways and had tried different pin numbers which then led to the transaction being declined. The cashier called for help. Two managers arrived at the scene. I began to try to see if I could see what the man was doing wrong–thinking that I might prove helpful. The Oreos and bun man then spoke up, and said, “Try this.” I turned and saw that he was holding out his credit card to pay for the no more than fourteen groceries being held hostage in one bag.

I was surprised by the kind gesture and wondered how long I would have stood there without a similar solution. I said to him, “Wow, that is really nice of you.” “How much could it be, $20?”, he replied. It took a moment for the troubled customer to take in the offer but he appreciatively waved it away as he pulled out another credit card from his wallet. The manager affirmed that this card would not require a pin for payment–and the transaction was approved. I did not see the total amount.

In no time, we were all back in the flow. The man who’d had the problem looked at me and said, “These things are complicated sometimes.” I smiled at him and agreed that was so. Next, having paid, in cash, for my own purchases, I turned to the Oreos and buns man and wished some blessing on him in return for his good deed.

Back home, I squeezed, zested and whisked those little lemons into a lovely curd with a nice dose of some white sugar. Tres bon. I spooned the curd into two cute little Oui Yogurt jars to carry over to the gathering. And to hasten my arrival, brought the cream with me and whipped it there–no sugar added, just a touch of vanilla. Janet and Paul served up a light repast of delicious crepes and other goodies.

It was a very nice evening even though I did miss the Red Carpet and lost at the category voting game. I laughed and cried. Animal-rights activist and vegan Joaquin Phoenix won for Best Actor and asked us to be kind, to give second chances, and to not hurt animals which I am sure has sparked some controversy. But largely, all was well at the Academy Awards.

I thought about the guy who had cared to help his fellow shopper. He deserved a little award too. He showed me that good actions speak louder than patient waiting.

Notes to self–Do not judge people by the color of their flour and sugar– nor their proclivity to Oreos; and when life gives you curds, make lemon curd.

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

C’est la vie, Elyn

Related Recipes: Lemon Curd by Sally’s Baking Addiction; Vegan Lemon Curd by Loving It Vegan; Vegan Lemon Curd with Maple Syrup by Minimalist Baker

Related Nutrition Information: Health Benefits of Lemons by LiveScience/World’s Healthiest Foods

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My Plate Plate

My Plate Poem

Out of lemon flowers
loosed
on the moonlight, love’s
lashed and insatiable
essences,
sodden with fragrance,
the lemon tree’s yellow
emerges,
the lemons
move down
from the tree’s planetarium.

by Pablo (Neruda)

Run to the rescue with love, and peace will follow.

by River (Phoenix)

heart beets

The excerpts below are taken from, Our daily lives have to be a satisfaction in themselves; 40 Years of Bloodroot, a collection of essays from the writings of Selma Miriam & Noel Furie, published by Emily Larned.

Bloodroot. Each flower and each leaf of this plant grow separately from the others. But the leaves touch and the roots are interconnected. Individual yet interconnected (p.35). A perennial which dies down to the ground each winter and then returns to life in the spring, the roots being the maintaining force of life (p.91). When cut, the root and stem of this plant, native to eastern North America, seep a bright red substance.

Bloodroot. A feminist, lesbian, collectively-run restaurant and bookstore ‘with a seasonal vegetarian menu’ that sits unassumingly by the Long Island Sound in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport, CT. The name inspired by the qualities of the plant. Has survived…winters (since 1977), sustaining her owners’ feminist vision as well as keeping minds and bodies fed (p.91).

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Bloodroot Restaurant Bridgeport, Connecticut

Bloodroot would have to be vegetarian. Only by refusing to use the flesh of other creatures and therefore economizing on the earth’s riches so that more might eat could we call our food feminist (p.92). It is important to explain once again why we, as feminists, are ethical vegetarians. It is amazing to us that so many human animals don’t want to know that other thinking and feeling creatures (the overwhelming majority of them female–poultry) are tortured and killed so that we may eat meat or consume “safely” tested drugs and cosmetics (p.62).

Our vegetarianism stems from a broader base of reasoning than that of personal health. It comes from a foundation of thoughts based on feminist ethics: a consciousness of our connection with other species and with the survival of the earth. Of course, we know that a diet based on grains and legumes, vegetables and fruits is personally healthy. But regardless of how much is learned about food combining, vitamins, basic food group needs, or about problems with pollution or chemical additives to meat, the fact remains that dependence on a meat and poultry diet is cruel and destructive to creatures more like ourselves than we are willing to admit–whether we mean turkeys and cows or the humans starved by land wasted for animal farming purposes to feed the privileged few (p.65).

Bloodroot. The beautiful red-orange color of my dear friend Jodi’s tresses. Jodi was an ethical vegetarian in the deepest sense. She not only expressed her compassion for animals by not eating them, but by loving them, watching out for them and by advocating for them.

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Jodi was an ardent supporter and defender of all the feathered and furry. Every living thing, the cats in her home, the birds in her yard, all the plants in her garden, or on her table, she so cherished and protected. Profoundly pained by cruelty, she scanned the news to inform others of injustices against wildlife around the globe or of lost dogs in the neighborhood.

Sadly, Jodi passed away this summer. Her last labor of love was holding a large garage sale to benefit her local animal rescue shelter.

Jodi was the caring mother, wife, sister, daughter, and friend; the one who fed everyone with nourishing meals; and provided the safe harbor for lost waifs and little kitties. She was warm-hearted and light-spirited, though she could be fierce in defense of those more vulnerable. Like the women at Bloodroot, Jodi also served in both formal (and informal) collective restaurants for many years of her life–and too, was an insatiable lover of books. A community of hearts has been broken by the loss of this caring, compassionate, wise, witty, unique and elegant woman–with a twinkle in her beautiful eyes.

I wish I could have taken Jodi to eat at Bloodroot. She would have loved it and felt right at home–though perhaps best if she could be in the kitchen. Not to mention the resident cats who comfortably contribute to and partake in the local ecology. One of them took the empty seat at the table I shared there in the beautiful garden with my co-workers just last week.

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Bloodroot Cat

Everything alive changes. It either grows or fades. Perennials spread; sometimes they die out in the center and need to be divided. Sometimes they die and their seeds continue their race. …Those of us who treasure diversity try to keep as many kinds of life going as possible, and that is how we try to live our lives: encouraging growth and life, a spirit and way of living that is perennial life (p.114).       

To have known Jodi, was to be touched by her grace and her gifts. Those of us who did, know we are each a little better because of her, her spirit and her way of living. And, for exemplifying that a vegetarian way of life does not reside in its potential capacity to protect our own lives, but the lives of many others.

For those who may be interested, it is worth learning more about the living her-story and radical feminist foundations of Bloodroot. It is quite fascinating and has been captured by the collective’s various cookbooks and prolific writings. Its papers are archived within Manuscripts & Archives at the Yale University Library. Emily Larned’s beautiful hand-stitched book that I have used for my references is also a great resource. And incidentally, a documentary about its founders, Selma and Noel, has just been newly released.

Lastly, if so inspired, please consider a donation in Jodi’s memory to her local animal shelter, Free to Be Me Animal Rescue.

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

Peace and Blessings, Elyn (Yes, it has been a long while.)

Original sources: Bloodroot: Brewing Visions, Lesbian Ethics Vol. 3 No.1 (Albuquerque, NM, edited by Jeanette Silviera)
The Bloodroot Collective. The Second Seasonal Political Palate. (Bridgeport, CT: Sanguinaria Press, 1984)
The Bloodroot Collective. Perennial Political Palate. (Bridgeport, CT,: Sanguinaria Press, 1993)

Bloodroot

Bloodroot My Plate

My Plate Song                                                                             

Call any vegetable Pick up your phone Think of a vegetable Lonely at home / Call any vegetable And the chances are good / That a vegetable will respond to you.

Call and they’ll come to you Covered with dew / Vegetables dream of responding to you / Standing there shiny and proud by your side / Holding your hand while the neighbors decide / Why is a vegetable something to hide?

by Frank (Zappa)

Love Is Love

The dog days of summer barked outside, but inside was chill at Juices for Life, in the Bronx, where Love is Love.

Yes, it was hot. The day when summer first reminds us what really hot is after initially just gloriously warming us up. But, I was on a mission and was not to be deterred. It had already been a year or more since I learned that two hip-hop musicians had opened some juice bars in low-resourced neighborhoods–in Yonkers, the Bronx, and most recently in Brooklyn.

Music coupled with a healthy eating initiative ignited by love sings to my soul. So when this came to my awareness, I was determined to pay a visit to one of their Juices for Life businesses, and an opportunity had finally presented itself.

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Juices for Life

Styles P with Jada’s Kiss, cool inflammation’s heat with nature’s nectars. 

To start with, I had to know who were these guys, Styles P, and Jadakiss? To find out meant calling my son. Once again, he would need to rescue his unhip mother. Apparently, these two Yonker’s natives were founding bandmembers of The Lox. Their hip-hop careers began back in 1994–who knew–while they were still in their teens. Along the way, Styles P abandoned the smoked salmon with a bagel and cream cheese and ascribed to a vegan lifestyle–including the preparation of vegetable juices. This he credits for a transformative change in his health and mindset. Jada Kiss was thus also inspired.

In this must-see video, the artists explain that they are constantly asked to invest in various ventures and why they chose to bring healthy food to the hood, committing themselves to access and education. In other interviews, Style P’s message is also infused with his concern for families–with an emphasis on children and elders. And, he urges people to begin finding ways to juice and blend at home.

Finally, the time had come. In the video, a man says that if you don’t know who Styles P and Jadakiss are, then you must be living under a rock. So, a few weeks ago I shoved my rock aside and headed down to Manhattan to visit my son. I’d forewarned him that on the agenda was an outing to the juice bar in the Castle Hill neighborhood in the Bronx. While we’d discussed this before, he was a little surprised that I was really serious.

Off we went and headed deep into the subterranean underbelly of the sweltering city to catch the first subway. Whatever air there was down there was thick and heavy, and the wait for the train on the crowded platform was trying. But things got better as we transferred to the Uptown 6, which would carry us to our destination. Miraculously, it was an express train, adequately air-conditioned and without too many passengers. The train streamed along, and at the far reaches of its tentacled line, it emerged from underground and rose to its elevated height. I looked out the windows as we crossed the Bronx River and was afforded wide views of the urban industrial landscape.

Exiting the station, we found ourselves in the glaring light and searing heat of the early afternoon. As we walked the few blocks down a commercial corridor, the streets were pretty deserted either due to the heat, or that it was a Sunday and many of the businesses were closed.

Filling the cracks of lack, helping people to feel good.

However, once we found ourselves inside Juices for Life things were chill and there was some good energy. The set up was simple. A counter, a cooler filled with produce, shelves filled with protein and nutritional powders, and some stool seating. Initially, there were just a handful of customers, so we were able to take our time reviewing the varied menu of juice, smoothie, and shot options and placing our order. The counter person, Akil, was very friendly, and gladly abided my many questions. I was pretty hip to everything on the menu except for its offerings of sea moss and bark.

Our juices came quickly, and we sat to sip. Suddenly the place filled with a wave of people, including a street detective. There were obvious regulars and newbies alike. A woman told us that the place is usually busy and attributed the lull to the heat. I watched as the juicing staff of three plus the veggie prepper who kept the cooler stocked, choreographed their steps, spinning, and dosey-doeing with each other. They moved quickly to fill the orders, loading the whirring juicer and blenders, and gracefully catching and pouring the colorful elixirs. Their Juices for Life company T-shirts reminded that Love Is Love. img_4404.jpg

We stayed for about an hour talking with both staff and customers and sampling some shot concoctions. We learned that both rappers visit the store, but Styles P is there more regularly. A wall plaque honors him for his contribution to the community. The Juices for Life website explains its mission of bringing health to ‘poorer communities’ by ‘letting food be its medicine and medicine be its food’. This is a worthy and deeply profound mission. Freshly prepared juices from a bounty of different vegetables and fruits provide our bodies with an easily assimilated and powerful source of essential nutrients. They are a balm to the nutritional needs of our cells required for optimal health, and a salve to the nutritional abuse and violence these cells have been prey to. It was really beautiful to witness the communal toast of good health that each cup of juice provided to all who were there that day.

Training back, I wondered how viable could such enterprises be. Could juice bars become as ubiquitous as the fast-food joints, liquor stores and bodegas that are known to populate such communities? Is the five to six dollar price per glass–which is cheaper than at many similar places–still too much for many to make for a sustainable habit? Or is that cost actually cheaper than many other commonly purchased unhealthy products?

I believe that such initiatives contribute to sowing the seeds of change. And, that education and empowerment will promote changes in disease prevention and the delivery of healthcare. For now, I would love for there to be the opportunity to allow persons who receive SNAP Benefits to be able to redeem them for juices, similar to their expanded acceptance at Farmer’s Markets. Next, I’d like to see juicing kiosks in more places–such as community markets, health clinics, and hospitals. And, and for more cultural icons to use their celebrity to endorse and support health-promoting activities.

To Styles P, Jadakiss, and all those who are making this happen, I thank you. Just one thing, if I may–it looks like you could use an additional juice machine.

And stay posted, my next trip to the city may include a visit to Brooklyn, to check out Francesca Chaney’s Sol Sips.

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

Love Is Love, Elyn

Related Posts: Nutritional Violins, Dance of Diabetes, Where Has All The Produce Gone?

Related Song: Jadakiss–Why

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M & E’s My Plate

My Plate Rap

The dog days of summer barked outside, But inside was chill at Juices for Life, in the Bronx where Love is Love.

And Styles P with Jada’s Kiss, Cool inflammation’s heat with Nature’s nectars, Filling the cracks of lack, Helping people to feel good.

by Elyn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

so, how did it go?

Way back in the spooky month of October, just prior to Halloween, I presented a My Plate Haiku on Instagram. Not as deep perhaps as a Zen Buddhist koan, a paradoxical anecdote or riddle used to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning in order to provoke enlightenment, but reflective of a puzzlement nonetheless.

Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while may know that in my little anachronistic village, Halloween is serious business. Hundreds and hundreds of little kiddies and big grown-ups dressed in scary–and adorable–costumes descend like zombies and crowd the narrow streets to frighten away any evil spirits–and to collect their sweet rewards. My house is in a prime trick-or-treat location and next door to the village wizards whose annual display attracts a lot of attention.

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And thus, my perennial dilemma. What’s my personal and professional responsibility as concerns contributing to this massive spike in the community’s blood sugar levels? Fun though it may seem, innocuous though one might think–it is not a good thing. There is a lot of sugar going down–way more than Mary Poppin’s prescribed spoonful.

I have stared deep down into pillowcases with more loot than a bank robber’s heist, yet the pirates and ninjas demand more. I have stared deep into the big eyes and darling faces of newly walking toddler princesses and kitty cats, imploring me to fill their plastic pumpkin with some white crystallized sugar drug–I mean treat. Seriously, should there not be some legal age requirement for serving sugar to children? I feel I should be carding these kids, checking ID, asking for a birth certificate or tricycle license.

Every year, Halloween seems to come around quickly, and each time I struggle with the dilemma. Given the havoc I know sugar and sweets wreak on the individual and global level, I do not wish to be a purveyor of this potential gateway substance associated with dental decay, behavioral issues, food addiction, inflammation, obesity, diabetes, and other maladies. To really appreciate the seductive allure of said substance, consider that recently, after a newly levied sugar-tax was imposed in their country, ordinarily level-headed Norwegians have wildly taken to crossing the border into Sweden to procure their candy and soda more cheaply in binge shopping sprees.

But, neither am I ready to leave the party. So, for years my family has stood at the door giving out a combination of edible sweets and non-edible treats in hopes of offering choice and mitigating damage.

But, this last All Hallows’ Eve I decided to go further. In preparation for the nearly four hundred grabbing hands and gaping mouths, I set out to find provisions that would not further the sugar problem at hand. The additional challenge was to try to not substitute it with useless items that would quickly be tossed in the garbage, and to have things that would be suitable for children of all different ages. And, to not spend more than I would on candy.

As usual, I solicited the help of my little witch, Zena, and with broomsticks in hand, off we flew to the nearest Michael’s Arts and Crafts store to fill our cauldron. We scoured about and found some things that were suitable. Also, next door wizard Amy informed me of holiday-themed milkweed seed packets available for sale to help save our important monarch butterflies. Perfect. We ordered one hundred of them.

When ready, we poured everything on the bed and got to work. We filled perky pumpkin-faced and scary skull-headed gift bags with age-appropriate treats. It was all in fun, though I must say a fair amount of dissection was involved in separating parts from wholes. There were all Halloween-themed cool sticker sheets, water-color painting pictures, stamps, little marble maze games, foam cutouts to make masks, erasers–and seed packets. Unfortunately, we did not procure the mechanical pencils which had been a big hit with the older set the previous year.

The only problems were that we ran out of the little bags and took to using business envelopes; and that Zena, being a very good witch, was a bit too generous in filling her bags which left us short of supplies to reach our projected count. But, time was short, so we’d have to make do.

It was then, in anticipation of the big day, I penned and posted to Instagram the koan-tinged haiku:

Treats of a different kind 
No candy for Halloween 
We’ll see how it goes.                                                                                                                       

(We hope they like the Save Our Monarchs Milkweed Seed Packets)

So, how did it go? Pretty well, I’d say. The house was not egged and there were no tricks. There was the one teenager–the kind who doesn’t even have a costume–who did turn and walk away when the cauldron choices were kindly presented to him. A few of the neophyte toddlers did display some cognitive dissonance provoked by being handed something they could not imagine to be the promised candy. And, there was the middle-schooler who when handed a business envelope with indeterminate contents responded by saying she did not like surprises.

But mainly, things were positive. One little girl excitedly told her folks, “We got a card!” There were shrieks of, “It’s the sticker house!” And, the teenagers, were as a whole quite appreciative at receiving something different. I’d say, it was a sign they were actually candied out. It was encouraging to see that they still could like a good, basic pencil–even a non-mechanical one.

The seed packets were mainly tucked in the bags and not really noticed in the dark, but a few who did see them thought they were cool. I hope their value was better appreciated in the light of day–with the help of parents who’d realize what they were for.

The highlight of the evening was once again when Ruth came to the door. Last year, our hearts melted when mid-evening we responded to the doorbell’s beckon to find a little girl and her family waiting. The girl handed us a piece of paper. It was a drawing of–we think–a little bat and a little pumpkin. It was hard to tell, but not bad for a four-year-old. On the back, it was signed, Ruth.

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This year, Ruth came to the door with her little sister who was now old enough to stand. Their costumes were beautifully made by their grandmother. Once more, we received a personal drawing–this time of three large carved pumpkins. Ruth’s artistic abilities had increased exponentially. And, now it was signed, Ruth and Grace. This evolved soul, did not seem to expect anything in return. We told them how touched we had been last year and how excited we were to see them again.

As usual, and as we had feared, we did not have enough to make it through the night. As supplies were running low, we frantically tore sticker sheets into individual stickers and repurposed whatever we could.

At the final ring, we had only a few stray bat and pumpkin erasers left. Apologetically we held the basket out to the lone teenager who stood before us. “I’m good with erasers”, he said and graciously accepted the offering.

I tell this story now, not only because it is already less than six months until the next Halloween and time to think ahead. But, because it exposes our complicated relationship with and messaging about food. Please understand I do not maintain a staunch anti-sugar stand. I appreciate how and why we are wired to enjoy it and recognize that it is a source of joy. In my repertoire, I carry a story I once read. When the author was a young girl, her well-meaning parents presented her with an apple with a candle stuck in it, in lieu of a cake for her birthday. She cried. It is also well documented how the denial of any sugar seems to breed an uncontrollable urge for it.

But, given the state of our health and what we know about the detriments of sugar and the foods it is cloaked in, and their ubiquitous presence, can we continue to abide the excess that this holiday ritual depends on? Especially as it so strongly impacts children. Who is really benefiting from this candy deluge? The excuses that it is just for one day, and that we can use it as a way of teaching our kids about moderation, may now be too feeble.

I think it may be time for the expansion of creative alternatives. I remember as a child Trick or Treating for UNICEF, carrying a little orange box door to door to collect money for children in dire need–in faraway places. Apparently, that campaign was started in 1950 and is still around. Maybe that idea can be flipped by households choosing a cause of their choice and telling the children soliciting treats that a donation will be made on their behalf to that cause. Just thinking out loud. Honestly, I am not sure I can sustain the full no-sweets effort. However, if little Ruth can draw all those pictures for everyone–I will certainly try.

Let me know what alternative Halloween ideas you have tried.

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

Most sincerely yours, Elyn

Related Posts: Eye of the Newt, The Nightmare Before Halloween, Post Halloween Post

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Bees’ My Plate

 

My Plate Haiku

Treats of a different kind
No candy for Halloween
We’ll see how it goes.

by Elyn

 

 

 

 

 

nutritional violins

Forgive me the ruse of exchanging the word violence for violins, as did Emily Litella (Gilda Radner) on Saturday Night Live years ago. In the skit, Miss Litella gives an impassioned editorial response to a story about parents objecting to violins on television. Chevy Chase eventually interrupts and informs her the story was actually about the “violence” on television. “Never mind”, she replies. Well, I wish this was about violins–it would sound much nicer–and we wouldn’t have to mind.

Three years ago, I came upon an article that referenced the term nutritional violence. I had never heard this term before, but it gave a label to what I had considered the glaring basis for what was gravely compromising the health of our populace. I made a mental note to further explore that issue and bookmarked the link so that I could reference it when ready.

When I recently revisited the link, it was no longer active, and I cannot locate it again. I had long hoped to credit the author and her article–so if you may be familiar with this, please let me know. Instead, I poked around for other references and found some articles on nutrition’s impact on violent behavior which I have been musing on as well, given the recent stream of extreme acts of terror perpetrated by assault guns. This past fall, after the tragedy in Las Vegas, in a rare Instagram, I posted the MyPlate Haiku question, “I often wonder, What did they eat for breakfast? Those who go and kill.” 

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Paiute Indian Harvest Exhibit                        Cannonville, Utah

Actually, the following is the only dietary information I have on those who have pulled the trigger: in limited media details on the Parkland shooter, I heard he was apprehended after the shooting having a soda at a local mall; the YouTube shooter was a vegan; and Dan White, who killed Harvey Milk, invoked his diet change from healthy foods to Twinkies and other sugary foods as part of his defense, claiming their consumption was symptomatic of his depression.

While my own data is thus limited, and yes, I was shocked and chagrined to learn of the vegan’s destructive rage, there is other evidence of the association between the composition and constituents of one’s diet (or lack thereof) and behavioral impacts–including violence. Studies have demonstrated the decrease of violent behaviors through dietary and nutritional manipulations in prisons and in schools.

Interestingly, schools were the first institutional settings where large scale attention to nutritional improvements was made–though those efforts continue to be challenged and there is still much work to be done. I was reminded this week of the disconnect between our institutions and communal well-being in an article in The New Food Economy on “lunch shaming” whereby students whose families cannot afford to pay for school lunches are stigmatized and either denied food or offered an inferior meal. The article quotes Christine Tran, a school nutrition equity advocate, who states, “School food is often not seen as a school issue, which is a problem philosophically within our country.” One might broaden that statement to reflect many other environments.

While I have witnessed school lunchrooms and have written about this previously, I have not been privy to a prison chow hall. However, I have engaged in enough conversations with those who were previously incarcerated, and those in drug treatment programs to have a pretty good sense of what is going down. It is sad to see how seriously overlooked nutrition is as an adjunct to healing.

I bring your attention to two papers (here and here) that describe how poor diets and nutritional deficiencies may be risk factors for aggressive behavior and solutions to address this grave problem. The usual, along with the not so recognized, culprits are to be found on the list of troublemakers.

By addressing nutrition as it relates to the promotion or provocation of behavioral violence, I may have strayed here from my intention to discuss nutritional violence–nutrition that violates individuals and communities, but the two could be conflated. If we have been able, with only short hindsight, to witness the profound impacts of our modern adulterated foodstuffs on physical health, it should not be a huge leap to consider the mental health consequences as well. An increasing understanding of that which affects the brain–and the brain’s relationship with the human gut microbiota–provides insight not only into our physiology and metabolism but into our moods, emotions, cravings and other behaviors as well.

The nutritional violence I was initially thinking about is not perpetrated by guns, but by our food system and the purveyors of its policies and products. It does not kill its victims point blank, but, it robs. It robs people of access to basic food required for physical, emotional and social health and well-being–and disproportionately it does so to the poor.

We might credit that our food system does not starve its citizenry, leaving it victim to gross nutritional deficiencies causing widespread blindness, stunted growth and kwashiorkor as in other parts of this world. But, it is certainly acknowledged that it has inflicted harm in its own and profound way.

I don’t think I have to describe what our food landscape looks like here. Many of us may have some basic ideas of the food deserts; fast-food swamps; adulterated, processed, sugar-laden foods commandeering our grocery stores (pharmacies, schools, and hospitals); seductive and targeted advertising; pesticide-laden, large-scale government subsidized supported agricultural practices; caffeine and sugar-riddled beverages; and corporate-controlled food policy. Allow me to add in marginalized breastfeeding promotion and support; native lands devoid of access to water and cultural foods; food insecurity and hunger; and pharmaceutical food additives. (My, that was a fun paragraph. What did I miss?)

I hope I do not have to try too hard to convince that there is some essence of violence in the above, nor that such suggestion is considered hyperbole. One may have to close their eyes for a moment to imagine and appreciate more deeply the collective impact. But, then also, to go one step further, and to consider how our food system more deeply affects communities already burdened by injustice.

Quite coincidentally, after I started this piece, I saw that my old friend Mark Hyman, powerfully addressed this very topic, in a talk titled, Our Food System: An Invisible Form of Oppression, that he gave last week on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination. He gets to my point better than I could, outlines the profound consequences of this oppression, and reaches a  much broader audience. I thank him for his attention to this matter and for sparing me my final paragraphs.

There are many others who also address similar concepts in various ways and with different names, such as food and race; community safety and nutrition; oppression through poor nutrition; gender, nutrition and the human right to adequate food and nutrition; food justice; and food sovereignty. There is much serious content packed in here, but all worthy of review and consideration if this is of interest to you.

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

In health, Elyn

Related Posts: Serenity Now, Of Poverty and LightKyuushoku, Reporting from the Rim of the Sink Hole

P.S. Take a peek at Emily Litella’s funny tirade on Busting School Children — which may be sadly relevant.

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Broken My Plate

My Plate Haiku

I often wonder

What did they eat for breakfast

Those who go and kill?

by Elyn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continue reading

is that an experience you’re drinking?

My dilemma and I were minding our own business at home, when suddenly an image of a Coca-Cola bottle, or what I thought was a Coca-Cola bottle appeared in the sidebar on my computer.

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Coca-Cola global campaign executives

However, the accompanying words said, “This is not a Coca-Cola. It is an experience.” Really? It certainly looked like a Coca-Cola. While still confused, I was also informed that for Coca-Cola, experience goes far beyond the first sip and that I should make ‘experience’ my business.

With a little click, I found myself face-to-face with Coca-Cola’s VP of Global Design. He told me that they sell almost two billion, (2,000,000,000) servings, excuse me, ‘experiences’ a day. And thus, on a digital platform, he would like to have two billion conversations a day, because brands need to listen to their consumers who are all apparently craving choice and innovation.

If so, I hope he is fluent in Twi, one of the Kwa sub-groups of Niger-Congo languages, spoken in Ghana. In 2016, Coca-Cola launched a major initiative in Accra, called Taste the Feeling. It seems they were feeling bad for the millions there who had maybe not been privileged to enjoy the ‘experience’. Interestingly, a group of public health researchers has already done a little study accessing the marketing of non-alcoholic beverages in outdoor ads (visible signs) in a small section of Accra. Of seventy-seven ads, sixty percent featured sugar-sweetened Coca-Cola products–some fraction of which are near schools and feature children–I mean consumers, or soon to be ones–begging for conversation.

My dilemma caught my eye, knowing that this Mr. James Sommerville, would most likely not wish to hear from me. Given that it has been about forty-something years since my last sip, I could certainly not claim to be a consumer, thus depriving the company of that 2,000,000,001 serving. Ah, but he had certainly provoked my ire with this seductive, manipulative, alluring message about the right friends, the right time, the right glass–and the tingle.

Might I suggest that he is high fructose corn syrup coating the ‘experience’ or seeing it through caramel colored glasses–with a blast of phosphoric acid and caffeine. Or, that he has drunk too much of the figurative Koolaid– aka the company’s addictive secret syrupy recipe.

While it is certainly possible he may have already seen my anti-Sugar Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) rants, it is not likely. If not, maybe, because like me, he’s recently been watching the 9-Part Docuseries, iThrive, Rising from the Depths of Diabetes and Obesity. But, I don’t think so.

If anything, back when I was writing more about this topic, he may have been concerned with the efforts of the Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN), a Coca-Cola funded non-profit, engaging scientists in the promotion of energy balance and exercise as the solution to obesity, thus underplaying the evidence on the impact of SSB’s. While founded in 2014, the GEBN was disbanded by the end of 2015, after a New York Times article brought attention to public health authorities’ concerns about its corporate influence. A recently published essay provides some greater insight into the company’s intentions by shedding light on some of its internal documents.

Or, I don’t know. Maybe lately he’s just been busy globally designing alcopop drinks in Japan. (My dilemma, just gave me its ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’ look. No, I am not kidding.) But, whatever, he is up to something–and I don’t get it. Even though he was looking right at me, he lost me at “physical analog world” and “push work out to the market”. I know this is nothing new, but call me naive. What’s up here? Does Coca-Cola have to weasel its way into every mouth on the planet–ruining perfectly good teeth, or worsening not so great ones? Not to mention incurring potentially more harm. Why such deliberate cunning? Is this not loca?

A few years ago, I wrote about my dismay regarding Coca-Cola’s marketing ploy of placing common names on their labels. Interestingly, as I was delving into the Ghana campaign, I came upon a story that there was a proposed boycott of the brand in the country. I had a touch of health promotion optimism upon seeing the headline. But, apparently, the boycott was due to the fact that the names that the company had placed on the labels in Ghana, were names more predominantly found in the southern part of the country, and did not include the more common (and Muslim) names of its northern reaches. Oh, dear lord.

Well, here is my solution to that problem. Why not put only the names of the executives, such as James, on the labels? This way, consumers will know whom to contact directly should they need any assistance with their health or dental issues or geopolitical concerns.

It may be tempting to say, for god’s sake, it is just a soda! Let us just ‘experience’ that feeling of happiness, let us ‘taste the feeling’ if nothing else–is a soft drink in hard times asking too much? But unfortunately, it is far from that simple. I ponder these matters about profound insults to population health and where lies responsibility. Coca-Cola and its products are certainly not only to blame, but considering their tactics, neither are they blameless. To say they are a big player is a big understatement. (I am linking to one more article of interest here about the relationship between Coca-Cola and the Ghana health system. I invite you to take a look and let me know what’s going on.)

It is most obvious to look at the rapid increases in the prevalence of obesity and diabetes around the globe as indicators of our health crises influenced by our dietary behaviors. And, yes, according to the latest survey data (published just last week), here in the US, we are still getting fatter, while the food industry giants continue to fight hard against public health measures.

But, there are also other implications of the manipulations of our dietary environment by corporate interests. In recognition of this weekend’s global marches against gun violence in our society, I had wanted to explore the topic of nutritional violence, but this guy cut into the front of the line. Bully. But, I will get to that next. They may be related.

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

Most sincerely yours, Elyn

Update July 2018: In Town with Little Water, Coca-Cola is Everywhere

Related Posts: Reporting from the Rim of the Sinkhole; So-duh; Brought to Tears; Nutritional Violence

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The Lives Taken Broken My Plates

 

My Plate Haiku

In school, I should be concerned

About my Health Class topics

Serving life not death.

by Elyn