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so, how did it go?

Way back in the spooky month of October, just prior to Halloween, I presented a MyPlate 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.

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 crystalized 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 potentially 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 IMG_0921pumpkin-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 separating parts from wholes. There were all Halloween-themed cool sticker sheets, water-color painting pictures, stamps, little marble maze games, foam cut outs 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. IMG_1251

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 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 overseas. 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.

As always, please say hi, leave a comment, subscribe to and share my blog, and let me know what Halloween ideas you have tried.

Most sincerely yours, Elyn

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

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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 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 were 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, 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) which 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 trouble makers.

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 effects 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 to convince too hard that there is some essence of violence in the above, nor that such suggestion be 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.

Others too 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.

As always, drop by, say hi, subscribe and please share below any experience of nutritional violence you may have encountered.

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

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

Most sincerely yours, Elyn

my plate

MyPlate Plate

MyPlate Haiku                                                                                                                                       I often wonder                                                                                                                                        What did they eat for breakfast?                                                                                                        Those who go and kill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Peepin’ Out Again

This is a mildly revised and updated version of Peepin’ Out, originally posted in May, 2014.

Recently, somehow, word got through to me, that Peeps, those brightly colored marshmallow bunnies and chicks, would now be sold year round. I can’t say if I even knew that those little cuties only peeped out on the market for a relatively short period of time each year in order to celebrate the Resurrection, but apparently this change was newsworthy.

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The Usual Suspects                        Photo by Terri Cnudde

Truth be told, I am really naive and poorly informed on certain things, like candy and religion. I have been confused for decades between Cabbage Patch Dolls and Sour Patch candies–I think that is what they are called. During nutritional consults, I confess that I have uttered the words, “Do you eat like Cabbage Patch Doll candies?”  Not just randomly of course, but in the context of an assessment when I am trying to professionally interpret someone’s intake while sounding like I know what I am talking about.

Somewhere halfway between childhood and deciding to become a nutritionist, I managed to wean myself off of my predilection for sugar woven into various seductive forms. Maybe the end of my relationship with Peeps coincided with my commitment to a vegetarian diet. Eating anything with a face became more distasteful, including these adorable balls of gelatin congealed fluff. I have managed to avoid them for a long while now, except for a time where a co-worker enjoyed flaunting her love of them in front of me like the Adoration.

But, upon hearing the news that Peeps would be popping up in stores on a daily basis, I reacted like Puxatawny Phil seeing his shadow on that fateful Groundhog’s Day. Down into the burrow I hastily fled. Just when I thought that maybe things were getting a little better regarding our capacity to ameliorate incoming incarnations of sugar, this information startled me. To soften the blinding light of  neon-colored commercialism, I had no choice but to go into the dark place below.

By candlelight, I read the small print. Peeps are stewarded by the Just Born Company in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. According to the website, the wonderful combination of sweet colored sugar and fluffy marshmallow creates an unforgettable taste experience. And, furthermore, it states a great candy isn’t made, it’s just born. Jesus! Don’t these guys realize how bunnies multiply and that chicks are no slackers either when it comes to population growth? I guess they do. Apparently, 5.5 million Peeps are born each day!

This pronouncement of a seemingly immaculate conception in Bethlehem, rather than some sticky mess, presented a whole new ball of carnauba wax–one of the ingredients in Peeps along with sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, potassium sorbate, natural flavors and red 3, blue 1, yellow 6, or yellow 5 depending on the color. With 6.8 grams of sugar, each Peep is endowed with 1.5 (rounding down) teaspoons of essentially pure sugar–the kind that sends our bodies into metabolic-altering, insulin-demanding, fat-storing sugar shock.

In my quest to find out more about this situation, I was forced back above ground. Donning sunglasses, my research led me to my local national chain drug store where I made a few laps around the multi-aisle candy section disguised as a normal sugar craving person. I was forced to blow my cover by asking the clerk where the Peeps were. She reacted as if I must be from another planet. I did not bother to defend my citizenship as an earthling and neither did I explain the whole groundhog thing. But I did say my query had scientific purpose–or something like that. Obviously, Peeps were not to be found after Easter. I was six weeks too late.

But, I said, I thought they were available all year now, in a widening array of flavors. She had not gotten that memo. However, she instructed me to go to the company website if I wanted more information. I thought that was funny. But, it was actually a good idea. (This year I got to see how the little sweeties are born.)

She did add though that she had somewhat recently gotten her little daughter some watermelon ones, so maybe I was right. I stiffened like a stale Peep. Like Catcher in the Rye’s Holden Caulfield who deemed himself the protector of childhood innocence, perhaps I take my influence as a nutritionist of the people and for the people a bit too seriously. In my head, I am charged on a daily basis to personally obliterate obesity, or on a larger scale to clean up this whole nutritional mess and its adherent ills.

I liked the care and assistance the drug store clerk had given me despite her initial recoil, and now by association, I cared about her daughter. Could I not issue a global recall of these wolves in chicks’ clothing candies due to salmonella poisoning, avian flu or something to save the children? My usual quandary about how to reconcile the business of capitalist markets and the public health smacked me in the face along with another more subtle underlying dilemma–who am I to take sugar from a baby? Don’t they need some sweetness in this cruel harsh world?

Well, I figured it was time to move back up. As by now, spring had finally arrived in these parts after the long, extended rodent-predicted winter, I decided it should be safe to step back into the sunlight.

Oh well. Send word. Let me know what you think or just say hi. I miss you. And, if you are needing a healthy, bunny-approved, Easter treat, look no further than Naked Food Magazine’s 5-minute Carrot Truffles.

In health, Elyn

P.P.S.  For the winners of the 2018 Peeps diorama contest, check this out. And, oh my goodness, it looks like just this week there is some trouble down on the peeps farm regarding the company’s employee pension plan.

MyPlate Plate

MyPlate Haiku

Lagoon watercress                                                                        Peppers my tongue                                                                        With spring joy.  by Roxanne

 

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 badly 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 drank 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 under playing 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. Please stay posted. Send word, subscribe and be well.

Most sincerely yours, Elyn

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

my plate

MyPlate    Our Lost Students’ Empty Plate

MyPlate Haiku                                                                                                                                      I should be concerned                                                                                                                            About my health class topics                                                                                                                Serving life not death

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

what to eat in troubled times

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.

Rice and 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. You will need them for the soul.

Please click on the links in the captions of each food photo. These will lead you to the amazing food blogs of three incredible women who are not only very talented cooks with fascinating (and mouth-watering) recipes, but also writers, photographers, educators and cultivators of cultural cuisines and relationships. Also, explore some of the other foods mentioned here if you are not familiar with them. This will take you to both far off lands and perhaps kitchens right in your own neighborhood!

Stay strong. Say hi.

In health, Elyn

MyPlate Song

The world’s spinning madly, it drifts in the dark, Swings through a hollow of haze               A race around the stars, a journey through the universe, ablaze with changes.                 by Phil (Ochs)       

MyPlate Plates

let them eat styrofoam

Not even two weeks in, it might seem a little early to consider the nutritional impacts of the new administration. However, while maybe lost among the more pressing issues, there among the flotsam and jetsam of the post-inaugural news was a story that caught my eye. A story that might begin to inform. But first, let me back up a little.

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Michelle Obama’s White House Organic Garden. Photo by John Shinkle.

My antenna is usually positioned to pick up the bits of information associated with food and nutrition as it relates to the personal or the political–and it beeps especially loudly when there is an atmospheric collision of the two.

As regards presidential matters, examples from prior administrations–beginning with my own nascent awareness of such things–include the following:

  • Ronald Reagan’s affection for Jelly Beans. And, his administration’s declaration of ketchup as vegetable in an attempt to allow flexibility in school lunch planning. This was a nutritionally-depleted response to maintaining nutritional requirements in the face of budget cuts to the Federal School Lunch Program. (It was actually pickle relish that was used as an example in the original regulations.)
  • George H. W. Bush’s anti-broccoli proclamation–and while broccoli took the whipping, apparently his distaste of vegetables was non-discriminatory. It was during his time in office that the USDA Food Guide Pyramid took to the streets, so to speak, a cavalcade of refined carbohydrates–bagels, baguettes, rolls, and pasta–marching in stride.
  • Bill Clinton’s propensity for Big Macs and Philly Cheese Steaks with onions and Cheez Whiz, his post-presidency quadruple heart bypass surgery, and the subsequent radical changes to his lifestyle and diet. In the wake of his own health epiphany, his Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association founded the The Alliance for a Healthier Generation. However, while in office, Clinton’s 1996 welfare reforms resulted in deep cuts to the Food Stamp Program, thus limiting the ability for working families to obtain benefits.
  • George W. Bush’s eating habits were healthier than those of his father. Better, after experiencing a pretzel-induced near fatal choking incident in the White House, he acknowledged his mother’s advice to chew one’s food carefully. While he attended to his physical activity by jogging his way through many a national crisis, it was during his years in office that the nation’s health and obesity crisis could no longer be ignored. Bush did support some well-meaning nutrition legislation, but during his second term, the USDA Food Pyramid morphed into the MyPyramid. This chaotic appearing icon further fueled confusion concerning governmental nutritional recommendations, leaving everyone to just throw up their hands to reach for the closest bag of Doritos. Oh, and then there was the recession.
  • Barack Obama’s nutritional legacy is really attributable to First Lady Michelle’s devoted efforts. Along with appointing a White House chef dedicated to healthy menus and growing an organic garden on the South Lawn, she promoted the Let’s Move initiative. Attendant legislation included the signing of the The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. Despite this presidency’s strong commitment to our nutritional well being, it faced resistance from its own Congress–which passed a bill allowing pizza with two tablespoons of tomato paste to qualify as a vegetable in the USDA School Lunch Program. Sound familiar? And, it was downright thwarted by Big Food. Also, while the president’s support for the cause was irrefutable, his own dietary habits were less than aligned, as I previously detailed during his bid for re-election.

And so, that brings us up to the present. I have gleaned a tiny bit about the dietary and culinary inclinations of the new commander-in-chief. For now, let’s just say I am not surprised. I am also remembering the ridiculousness of his pizza parlor outing in NYC with Sarah Palin. And, I have now found this–his alternative facts explanation.

While for now I can ignore the personal, I am still quite worried about the political. I am concerned about the fate of Michelle’s beautiful organic garden at the White House. And, the myriad initiatives that germinated under her tender care, yielding amazing gardening programs and healthier food systems in schools and preschools as well. Not to mention the attention given to facilitate women’s ability to breastfeed their babies, optimizing children’s health from birth. What is going to happen to all of that?

Well, the details are still scant, but here’s what I have so far that may give us a clue. It comes from that one story I mentioned above. It was the story about the Inaugural Cake. Here are the basics of what happened, in case you missed it. The setting was the Inauguration’s Armed Services Ball. The cake was a nine-tiered tower whose design was blatantly plagiarized from one made for Obama’s Commander in Chief Ball in 2013. The baker, merely following orders, was not aware of the plagiarism until after the fact. At the Ball, the cake’s bottom layer was sliced by means of a military saber wielded jointly by Trump and Pence. And the real kicker? Apparently, only that lowly layer was actually real cake–the rest of it was made out of styrofoam. It was a styrofoam cake!?

Oh, dear fellow plebeians–and members of the military–prepare to heed the call of the new administration’s both obesity prevention and anti-hunger programs. It may in fact be, “Let them eat styrofoam!”

Well, that is it for now. Please take care and make sure to eat your greens. Drop in, say hi, and for those of you who have been marching around in the cold of winter, let’s share a virtual cup of tea or some hot Golden Milk to warm us up. Thank you.

In health, Elyn

My Plate Haiku by Gretchen: Smooth peanut butter/Spread on a peeled banana/Snack time perfection.

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My Plate Cup

There are lots of links in this post. Please take a moment to check them out.

By the way, have you heard of the Styrofoam Ban?

Far from Home

Well here I am. Right now I am on retreat in beautiful California, far from home. While my orientation to space is altered due to this coastal exchange from east to west, my orientation to date and time has been altered as well. I have experienced a profound loss.  image

As I search for some renewed serenity and some solid ground-albeit in this land of shaky earth-I do try to stay somewhat aware of the prevailing events of these times that still swirl around me. Likewise, as I reconnect with the calendar structure that patterns the days before me, I turn the page onto August just in time to remember to honor the annual celebration of World Breastfeeding Week.

In that I consider the support of breastfeeding babes, moms and families an essential component of improving the collective health of communities around the globe, I do always try to write something about World Breastfeeding Week and its annually appointed theme.

Forgive me this year, that as my tears still flow more readily than my words, in lieu of my own thoughts I share this interesting article by journalist Ellen Wulfhorst who I am grateful to call my dear friend. Ellen provides a look at the very real consequences of compromised attention to the timely initiation of breastfeeding. This highlights how powerful are the immunoprotective properties of breast milk and how greatly breastfeeding serves as an antidote to infant mortality.

Thank you to all of you who continue to support me, my blog and my work. Gratitude to those who have nourished me so wonderfully on this visit–Julie, Gordon, Debbie, Michael, Ben, Lois and Richard. (Check out Lois and Richard’s creative and funny political satire webisode series Medicare Mermaids at http://www.medicaremermaids.com)

To healthy birth and rebirth, Elyn

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Julie’s MyPlate

MyPlate Food for Thought. Breastfeeding is not only the cornerstone of a child’s healthy development; it is also the foundation of a country’s development. UNICEF and World Health Organization’s World Breastfeeding Week Message