$3.00/Day Assignment Reflection

As all of you know, this post will be on my experience completing the $3.00 a day assignment for class. Due to not wanting to be hungry and grumpy during a time when I needed to be able to focus on schoolwork, I completed the assignment over spring break. Although I did not have other schoolwork that needed my attention, I was working my manual labor job over the three days when I conducted this assignment and house sitting for a family. It was amazing how much not eating properly affected my work drive and my ability to focus.

On an average school day I will eat somewhere between 1800 to 2000 calories. On days I work outside for over 8 hours, I will normally end up eating around 2400 calories. Due to this assignment however, I was only able to eat an average of 594 calories per day. As I’m sure all of you felt for yourselves, I felt like I was actually STARVING. This assignment did a good job of placing me in the shoes of people who deal with food insecurity and work manual labor jobs, a very challenging combination.

I did not do the best planning before going shopping for this assignment. Originally I had thought I would buy rolled oats to make oatmeal every morning for breakfast (something I normally eat), a head of lettuce and carrots to make salad for lunch, and lentils, spices, and an onion to make lentil soup for dinner. I housesat for a family who owns chickens over spring break and had planned on killing and cooking their unwanted rooster for this project as well.

When I went shopping I bought the oats and head of lettuce at Town and Country for $1.44. I then bought two bulk carrots at Safeway for $0.27 and got the lentils, bulk curry spice, and a baguette at the Co-op for $5.17. This left me with $2.12 left to spend. I planned on saving the remaining money to see if I needed anything after I had started cooking. I did end up killing and preparing the rooster, hoping to make chicken stock and use the meat in my lentil soup. However, after boiling the carcass for an hour and a half I realized he was way too stinky to eat. After I discovered the rooster was not edible, it was my plan to go back to Safeway to buy some discounted chicken thighs I had seen earlier and use them as my stock. However, the house I was staying at was a little ways out of town so I never ended up going back to the store.

Because of my ill planning and my non-motivation to go back to the store, the food was extremely bland. I believe I would be able to live off of $3.00 if I ever had to again. However, if I ever had to again, I would do a lot better job planning before going shopping for food.

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Causes of Obesity

As we debated about on Thursday, both genetics and the environment a person lives in has an affect on obesity. Inherited genes from family can make a person more predisposed to becoming obese. Although, there has only been a few specific genes found that have direct links to obesity, and those have only been linked to severe, early-onset obesity. Late-onset, or common, obesity seems to stem more from environmental factors rather than from genetics. 

Most of these environmental factors arise from socioeconomic influences or from lack of self control. It has been proven that the highest obesity rates are found among population groups with the highest poverty rates (Drewnowski). This is because healthy food is normally more expensive than highly processed food and is scarce in most communities where obesity is prevalent. Also, people with lower incomes tend to not be as educated, leading them to be unaware of the affects different foods have on the body.

I think there are many ways to combat these issues, however, I think educating people would be the most beneficial. At this point in the obesity epidemic I think most people know they should eat more fruit and vegetables, but many of them don’t think they can afford to. People could be taught to plant gardens so they can grow their own food, at least over the summer. This would not only provide them with fresh, inexpensive produce, it would also get people outside exercising. One hour of gardening burns almost 300 calories. If people live in the city they could learn how to grow vegetables in window boxes or in pots on building roofs. I realize this would not work for everyone, but it would be a great start for getting low income families to eat more fruits and vegetables.

Educating people on proper serving sizes would also be an effective way to combat obesity. Most people today do not know what a healthy portion size is and if more people did, it would help reduce daily calorie intake. This might not help with lack of self control, but it would help for a lot of obesity cases.

These are just some of my ideas, what are some ways you think would best curb the common obesity issue?

 

Sources

Drewnowski, Adam, and S. E. Specter. “Poverty and Obesity: The Role of Energy Density and Energy Costs.” The American Journal of Clinical Nurtition 79.1 (2004): 6-16. The American Journal of Clinical Nurtition. The American Society for Nutrition. Web. 1 Mar. 2014. <http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/79/1/6.short&gt;.

 

2014 Farm Bill

Since we have been talking about policies I really wanted to discuss the newest Farm Bill in this post.  However, after reading articles from CNN, The New York Times, and National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, I’m now feeling rather depressed and uninspired.

I had hoped this newest edition would remove, or at least reduce, the subsidies given to large, corporate ag businesses and be given to small scale, intergraded, family farms/ag businesses instead. I had also hoped there would be incentives for monoculture farmers to be more environmentally aware and to include sustainable practices into their farming techniques. Other aspects I had hoped to see were an increase in funds provided for school lunch and breakfast programs; an increase in funds for the SNAP program; and GMO labeling law.

What I had hoped to see in this new farm bill did not come to pass. However, there were a few small steps taken to improving our food system and now only time will tell if the changes will have the desired effect on the food system.

One benefit of this new farm bill is that direct subsidies have been cut. To compensate for that though, there is now a subsidy for crop insurance. This could be beneficial to a wider range of farmers, not just the big ag businesses, but only time will tell. Another bonus of this farm bill is it has set a series of conservation practices that a farmer must follow in order to receive subsidies (CNN.com). Although, I’m not sure what those practices entail since the bill cut conservation programs overall.

One of the major negatives of this farm bill is the spending cut made to the food stamp program. This change will cut $8 billion from the SNAP program funding over the next five years, reducing household monthly benefits by around $90(NYTimes.com). The bill does include a $200 million increase in funding for food banks, however this probably won’t cover the shift in demand caused from the decreased food stamp funding.

I was unable to find anything that said they made improvements to the school lunch and breakfast program. There was also no mention of GMO labeling. They did make a change that requires the country where an animal was born, slaughtered and processed to be included on the label. What are your thoughts on requiring those locations to be listed on meat labeling? I personally think it is unassay but am interested what you all think.

Overall I’m disappointed with this latest farm bill. Although, since it has been at an impasse for the past two years I’m glad they were able to finally pass something and there were baby steps taken to making it more small scale, local food movement friendly.

 

CNN article:

http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/04/politics/farm-bill/

 

The New York Times article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/30/us/politics/house-approves-farm-bill-ending-2-year-impasse.html?_r=1

 

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition blog:

http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/2014-farm-bill-outcomes/

Getting Kids to Eat Healthier

Child obesity has become a national epidemic. With an increasing chasm between the poor and the rich in our wealth distribution; a disappearing middle class; subsidies provided for the large monoculture crops such as corn and soybeans; and children spending more and more time in front of the television, which is subliminally telling them to eat highly processed foods, it is really no wonder we, as a country, are having this issue.

There are many ways to reverse this epidemic. However, they all call for major reworking of most (or all) of the systems, which our country is dependent upon; such as our employment and wealth distribution, our education system, and our agriculture system. All are highly interdependent systems and impossible to alter individually.

In spite of the challenges of eradicating childhood obesity there are small steps parents and teachers can take to encourage kids to eat healthier, get outside and be more active. One way parents and teachers can get kids to eat healthier is to make eating healthy fun! There are many ideas on the Internet of ways to do this. A few of my favorites are having kids eat five colors of the rainbow each day, making healthy foods into fun shapes to mimic processed foods, and to teach kids that vegetables can be yummy too through fun recipes.

Here are some ideas from Pinterest on ways to make healthy food visually fun:

http://www.pinterest.com/pin/144467100517166629/

http://www.pinterest.com/pin/144467100517766888/

http://www.pinterest.com/pin/144467100518338700/

A website with great ideas:

http://www.todayiatearainbow.com

Some fun, yummy recipes:

Zucchini Bread

  • 6 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
  • 1 1/4 cups whole-wheat (whole-meal) flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed, unsweetened pineapple
  • 1/2 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly coat two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, add the egg whites, canola oil, applesauce, sugar and vanilla. Using an electric mixer, beat the mixture on low speed until thick and foamy.

In a small bowl, stir together the flours. Set 1/2 cup aside. Add the baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon to the small bowl of flour.

Add the flour mixture to the egg white mixture and using the electric mixer on medium speed, beat until well blended. Add the zucchini, walnuts, pineapple and raisins and stir until combined. Adjust consistency of the batter with the remaining 1/2 cup flour, adding 1 tablespoon at a time. The batter should be thick and not runny.

Pour 1/2 of the batter into each prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaves comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Let the bread cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn the loaves out of the pans onto the rack and let cool completely. Cut each loaf into 9 1-inch slices and serve.

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/recipes/zucchini-bread/rcp-20049730

 

Beet Brownies

  • ¾ oat flour (see Note)
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ c. dark chocolate chips
  • 1 (15 oz) can sliced beets, drained and puréed
  • ½ c. brown sugar, packed
  • ¼ c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp soft margarine or shortening
  • 1½ tsp plain nonfat yogurt
  • ¼ c. unsweetened applesauce (or 1½ tsp Ener-G + 2 tbsp water –OR– 1 egg white)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350° and lightly coat an 8” square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the oat flour, baking powder, and salt.

Add the chocolate chips to a separate microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 20-sec intervals, stirring after each, until the chocolate melts (about 1 to 1½ min). Stir in the beet purée and next 6 ingredients (through vanilla), mixing thoroughly. Add in the flour mixture, stirring just until incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake at 350° for 35-40 min or until firm. Cool completely before slicing into squares.

Note: Oat flour is easy to make! For this recipe, just add a heaping ¾ cup of old-fashioned oats into a food processor or blender, and pulse until they turn into a fine powder.

http://foodsforthesoul.net/blog/2013/01/30/sweet-and-sneaky-ways-to-eat-your-veggies-beets/

 

Squash and Broccoli Rabe Lasagna

  • 2 , 2 lb. Butternut squash, peeled, halved, seeded, cut crosswise, into ¼ inch-thick slices
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground pepper
  • 2 lbs. Broccoli rabe (rapini), tough stems removed
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb. Mozzarella, coarsely grated
  • 1 lb. Whole-milk ricotta
  • 1 3/4 Cup Parmesan, finely grated
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh sage
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
  • ¼ Cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ Cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 5 Cups half-and-half
  • 1/8 tsp. fresh nutmeg
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 lb. Lasagna noodles

FILLING

Preheat oven to 400°. Place squash and 3 tablespoons oil in a large bowl; season generously with salt and pepper and toss to evenly coat squash. Transfer to 2 rimmed baking sheets, spreading out in a single layer, overlapping slightly. Roast until tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes. Let cool.

Quickly blanch broccoli rabe in a large pot of boiling salted water just until it wilts, 1–2 minutes. Drain; briefly cool under running water. Squeeze out excess water; coarsely chop and transfer to a large bowl. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes; drizzle with oil and toss to coat.

Mix mozzarella and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD Squash, broccoli rabe, and cheese mixture can be made 1 day ahead. Cover separately and chill.

BÉCHAMEL AND ASSEMBLY

Melt butter in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add flour; stir until slightly thickened (do not allow mixture to turn brown), 2–3 minutes. Increase heat slightly; slowly whisk in 5 cups half-and-half, 1/2-cupful at a time, allowing béchamel to thicken between additions (adding half-and-half gradually will help to prevent lumps from forming). Add 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg and bay leaf.

Reduce heat to low and cook, thinning with more half-and-half if too thick, until sauce is a milk shake–like consistency, about 10 minutes longer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium metal bowl. Set bowl over a large saucepan of gently simmering water. Cover and keep warm.

Cook lasagna noodles in a pot of well-salted boiling water until still quite al dente, 8–9 minutes. Transfer immediately to a large bowl of ice water to cool. Drain; spread out noodles on a kitchen towel or baking sheets lined with parchment paper, placing a kitchen towel or parchment between layers.

Ladle about 1/4 cup béchamel into a 13x9x2-inch baking dish; spread evenly over bottom. Line dish with a single layer of noodles, cutting as needed to fit (use large scraps in subsequent layers). Layer 1/3 of squash over. Scatter 1/3 of broccoli rabe over. Dollop 1/3 of ricotta mixture randomly over greens. Drizzle 1/2 cup béchamel evenly over ricotta mixture. Repeat process 2 more times for a Total of 3 layers, finishing with a layer of noodles. Spread remaining béchamel over; top with Parmesan. DO AHEAD Lasagna can be assembled 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Return to room temperature before continuing.

Preheat oven to 375°. Bake lasagna uncovered until bubbly and starting to brown, about 45 minutes. Turn oven to broil. Cook until browned and golden, 4–7 minutes. Let rest for 20–30 minutes before serving.

http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/squash-and-broccoli-rabe-lasagna

Food Deserts in America

When the term Food Desert is used, what initially comes to your mind? Before I had been exposed to what it actually means in different classes throughout my college career, the image that would come to my mind is a picture of the Sahara Desert with a few bananas, oranges, and apples, or something of the like, scattered throughout the sand dunes. What comes to your mind if you are not educated on the subject, similar to how I was, may not be quite as ridiculous or outrageous as the image that would pop into my mind. But it may still be off from what the actual definition is.

According to the USDA, a food desert is an area were “at least 500 people and/or at least 33 percent of the census tract’s population must reside more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store (for rural census tracts, the distance is more than 10 miles)” (American Nutrition Association). However, if you are like me, this still does not answer the question, what is a food desert? Through my classes and online reading I have found other descriptions such as, “food deserts are defined as parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods” (American Nutrition Association). I think this description does a better job summing the term up.

This still does not give people an idea of how and/or why food deserts occur. Most articles on the subject will say food deserts are mainly found in impoverished areas, but none explain why this is. The best explanation I have found to date comes from the movie, A Place at the Table. First, they say it comes down to where we grow our food and how it is processed and then distributed. If we grow monocultures of crops in specific areas across the country and then ship it to only a few processing plants/distributing companies there are only so many places that food will eventually end up. Especially when it comes to fresh fruit and vegetables that can only shipped so far before spoiling. Most impoverished areas and communities are in rural places or in the middle of cities, both of which are far away from the main trucking highways. Because they are not close to the main trucking lines, it takes longer to deliver food to those areas. Thus making it harder, or more properly less economical, for distribution companies to deliver fresh foods to those areas. This is ultimately what creates food deserts; depending on a food system that relies on monoculture agriculture, high processing of foods, and further and further distances from each step to where the consumers live.

Here is a map of food deserts in the U.S. from the USDA

USDA food deserts map

Here is a map of the top 25 food distributors and the main highway systems in the U.S.

Top 25 Food Distributor Locations

Sources:

“Foodservice.com : Top 50 Foodservice Distributors.” Foodservice.com. Food Service Interactive, n.d. Web. 18 Jan. 2014. <http://www.foodservice.com/foodshow/foodservice_distributors.cfm&gt;.

“USDA Defines Food Deserts.” American Nutrition Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Jan. 2014. <http://americannutritionassociation.org/newsletter/usda-defines-food-deserts&gt;.