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November 30, 2008

Eating local around the country

I am really interested in eating local as much as possible, mostly because of the environmental benefits. I found this map on Epicurious.com, a cooking website, that lists all in-season produce for each state, during each month. Clicking on Minnesota is a bit disheartening, as December through May is listed as the "dormant season." It's interesting to look at the growing season for other states, too, like Alaska or Hawaii.

November 22, 2008

Job Opportunities

Jobs may be hard to come by in the next few years. If anyone is looking, I found these two job descriptions on the Center for Consumer Freedom website:

Senior Writer

Free-market-oriented Washington D.C. research and communications organization seeks a talented, creative writer with a proven record of published work. Applicant must be able to produce original columns and articles and have a demonstrated ability to utilize wit and humor to illustrate free-market ideas.


You are committed to the free market and individual empowerment, with a healthy skepticism of sacred cows. People think of you as an inquisitive, high-energy individual with a probing mind and a good sense of humor.

We are a fast-paced, non-profit organization that specializes in strategic research, communications and advertising – all in the service of shaping public debates. For more information on our approach to policy debates, you can check out a recent profile on 60 Minutes.

We provide an entrepreneurial atmosphere where responsibility and rewards are the result of talent and judgment, not seniority. Members of our elite team enjoy competitive compensation, a lucrative financial incentive plan, and non-stop adrenaline.

When you are hired, this is the type of work you will expected to produce:
Don't Be a Turkey This Thanksgiving: Insist On The Obesity Liability Waiver
Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Food Cops

The Center for Consumer Freedom is a nonprofit that claims to be "devoted to promoting personal responsibility and protecting consumer choices." According to a commentary recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the center is funded primarily through donations from food companies such a Coca-Cola, Cargill, Tyson, and Wendy's. These companies purport themselves as leaders in promoting health: "We want to help empower people around the world to develop active, healthy lifestyles through our commitments, our actions and our dedication of resources to three guiding principles: Think, Drink and Move"(Coke). Could it be that they're talking out of both sides of their mouth?

November 11, 2008

Hunger: a growing problem

With all the focus on obesity and over-consumption of food, I think we forget sometimes that millions of people in this country are going hungry. This article from today's New York Times reports that 35.5 million Americans are food insecure, which means they sometimes lack enough to eat, and 10.1 million are often hungry.

This figure is only going to continue rising, given the economic trouble the country is experiencing. On top of rising rates of hunger, food banks and soup kitchens, are seeing donations slow.

Undernutrition and overnutrition are both major public health issues in this country, which require concerted effort to combat.

November 8, 2008

KFC $10 Challenge Challenged

KFC has a commercial running right now that shows a family trying to cook a meal for under $10. They shop for the ingredients, tally the total, then give up and go to KFC for the seven piece meal deal. A blogger on Grist.org took the challenge, shopping and cooking the meal for $7.94. You can read his account here.

It seems like everyone is trying to find their angle in regards to the economy. Now, I think it's a little sanctimonious to suggest that people should spend hours preparing a chicken making gravy from the giblets, etc. That's just not reality for many people. However, I do think cheap, unhealthy food from fast food restaurants contributes to obesity and chronic diseases in our country. It will be interesting to see how the economy affects people's food consumption, whether they cook more at home (almost inherently healthier) or eat cheap fast food more.

November 3, 2008

Does the obesity epidemic equal a change in politics?

In the spirit of the obsession on politics our country is consumed with right now, I thought I would post this blog posting from the New York Times. Now, it is important to remember that the blog itself is called "On The Wild Side."

The author, Olivia Judson, wonders if the high rates of obesity in this country can affect our political leanings. She cites a study in Science that found that people who support more conservative platforms such as increased military spending or warrantless wiretapping startle easier, whereas people who support more progressive causes, such as immigration or gun control have milder responses.

She then describes interesting ways that animals differ behaviorally from others of their own kind based on hormones they were subjected to during development. For example, female sparrows who are exposed to greater levels of testosterone are less timid than other females.

She then explains that human fetuses are also exposed to hormones during development. Obese women may be sharing different hormonal levels with their fetuses then normal weight women during pregnancy because fat tissues release hormones, including an estrogen-like compound. Judson wonders if the obesity in the mother will affect her offspring's personality, which will in turn affect their political leanings. With the high rates of obesity, will enough people be influenced by their overweight mother's hormones to affect the policy of this country?

I think this is a huge, gigantic, enormous stretch. It's interesting to ponder for a second, but to do the math: A (people's political leanings) times B (fetal hormone exposure) equals C (influencing the political landscape) does not hold up very well.

I do think this is a good example of being critical about the things you read (most of the people who commented were very critical!). Also, I think it is a good example of reaching too far to make a story out of nothing to appeal to current events or thinking.