Remember when the federal government claimed pizza a vegetable because it has tomato sauce?  Whether you do or do not, it doesn’t really matter as every parent knows school lunch is a joke. A really, really sad joke which is why our family packs a lunch everyday; though, in an ironic twist we do let the boys buy lunch when it is pizza day every other week.

To bring more awareness to how sad our Nation’s school lunches are – and they are sad because of big, money hungry companies looking for a place to dump their lowest quality food products, The American Heart Association is looking to re-authorize the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Offerman whose role as the meat eating Ron Swanson in Parks & Recreation and the author of his latest book Gumption brings a subdued outrage to what is happening in our schools.

offermancola

While I hope there is some change in school lunch programs, I’m doubtful lunches will ever be as healthy as the ones we pack at home.  That said, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 is an effort to improve the situation for many families especially those who receive free school lunch.  When I was a kid and my single mom was on public assistance, we would wait in line for free cheese and other food products and also received assistance through free school lunches.  It’s a great program for families in need. Sadly, the free lunches have become some unhealthy and contribute to the childhood obesity issues so prevalent today.

Please take a moment to visit Protect School Meals and let your political representatives know you want to see positive change.

Thank you.

Whole Foods Goes Sustainable in the Seafood Aisle

On April 23, 2012, in Food, by Chris Baccus
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If you love seafood, you might notice this blog isn’t very helpful when it comes to seafood recipes that’s due to my wife not liking seafood and my being quite picky about it.  While I am an infrequent eater of seafood, I was impressed today about Whole Foods decision to ban unsustainable fishing. See this article in today’s New York Times: A Ban on Some Seafood Has Fisherman Fuming.

While it isn’t a very popular decision in the eyes of East coast fisherman, it is the right decision and sorry but as our food decisions become more considerate this kind of trend will stop being a trend and become more mainstream.

My favorite quote in the article is this bit of misconception, “It’s a marketing ploy, that’s all.”

It may be a bit of a ‘marketing ploy’, but it’s mostly about the care of our food sources and the fact that some areas and types of fish are over-fished and this is causing some major ecological damage that more and more consumers care about.  What’s happening here is not a ‘ploy’ it’s education.  Like the old Saturday morning spots called “The More You Know”, knowledge is power and that power is being converted into buying decisions at the grocery store.

Whole Foods implemented a Seafood Sustainability Rating system back in 2010 (see image at top of this article.)  That information gave consumers more choices while making decisions shopping.  I don’t think it is a coincidence that the new decision to stop carrying foods with Red rating is any surprise. This was coming.  Give consumers more information and they will opt for betting choices.

This is a good change and I’m happy to be a Whole Foods customer because they do respond to their most loyal customers and this change of food sourcing is one such change. Now, hopefully we’ll see more meat choices like pork, lamb, chicken and beef come from more sustainable sources.  Whole Foods has a few options for grass fed and no options for truly pasture raised chickens today, but it is a positive step to see changes at the meat and seafood counter, learn more about their 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating on their blog.

Thank you Whole Foods!

Here is the video back from 2010 showcasing the rating system they implemented almost 2 years ago:

Go Vegan for the Sexual Cruelty

On March 2, 2012, in Food, by Chris Baccus
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Is animal cruelty not enough of a reason to convert to Veganism? How about a more powerful sexual drive that will leave your partner in a neck brace and limp?

Believe it or not that’s the latest pitch from PETA in their new ad campaign: BWVAKTBOOM, “Boyfriend Went Vegan and Knocked the Bottom out of Me.

Who knew cutting out an animal product diet would assist with one’s sexual prowess.  The campaign features a younger Steve Colbert looking male with his model girlfriend along with playing it safe tips for your “newfound stamina, desire, and penile strength.”

Personally, I think I’ll stick with a low meat diet. Neck braces just are not that attractive.

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Michael Pollan at SMU

On March 2, 2012, in Food, by Chris Baccus
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Michael Pollan at the afternoon student Q&A

I had the pleasure yesterday of seeing author Michael Pollan twice.  First at a student Q&A session for a hour in the late afternoon and then later that evening when he gave his talk about Food Rules at the Tate Lecture Series.

As always, Pollan was insightful, thought provoking, and funny.  He entered the stage as if he just returned from grocery shopping carrying about 5 plastic bags full of food from the local Tom Thumb market.  We later learned the contents included things like breakfast cereal bars with the milk processed in them, a couple of the new sugar waters, and white whole wheat Wonder Bread with 37 ingredients.

Pollan’s talk was basically clearing the air around the confusion of how we approach eating.  To maintain the Western Diet, we are constantly looking to demonize one ingredient or nutrient like fat, salt, sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, whatever. It always changes.  With this constant shift of “if we only get rid of this one thing the Western Diet we can eat whatever we want.”  Of course, this approach has many flaws and has caused such poor performing situations like the low-fat craze in the 1980s when we made everything low-fat or fat-free, but then replaced the fat with tons of sugar.

Second balcony We also learned about what’s next in the food industry.  Pollan, who reads the food trade publications, found the next opportunity is the addition of more brain foods that are designed to increase our ability to think, remember, sharpen our mental capacity. And the name of the target audience for this new market: “The Cognitive Decline Market.”  So the next time you see someone drinking a food with brain enhancing supplements, just remember to go easy on their ability to reason their food decisions.

He ended with a few learnings from the best nutritional scientist we’ve had in our history. Grandmothers. And our grandmothers are basically culture, showing what we have learned through the ages to inform our society’s decisions.  Culture has taught us many great food rules and you can learn some of them on this video:

I personally disagree with one he shared last night:

“Don’t get your food from where you get your car’s fuel from.”

Obviously, Pollan is not familiar with fine gas station tacos so prevalent here in Texas. Perhaps next time he is in Dallas a stop at Fuel City or The Green Spot will change the rule.

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Pizza Doesn’t Grow on Trees

On November 16, 2011, in Family, Food, by Chris Baccus
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California Candy Kitchen

Oscar and Theo were recently discussing what kind of work they’d like to be doing when they grew older.  One of their more inventive ideas is to open a new dinning establishment built to cater to the dream diet of the 5 year old consumer.  Their favorite place to eat, I’m sad to say, is California Pizza Kitchen.  To better serve their personal tastes, they plan to open California Candy Kitchen.  When I asked what that is, they told me a restaurant that serves a large variety of candy and cheese pizza!

I tell this story because it’s adorable, but I also share it because it’s about as ridiculous as news today announcing the Department of Agriculture has gotten Congress to agree to categorize pizza as a vegetable. Fortunately none of this is finalized to date and hopefully some extensive media coverage, including the NY Times, will impact this absurd recommendation. All of this is a subversive reaction by the food industry lobbyists to impact the trend toward healthier school lunch programs.

Shows like Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution have pushed this conversation into the national agenda and industry is finding ways to re-categorize their products so as not to impact profits.

In our household, pizza is not a vegetable. It is simply a main course we eat when a meal has turned out inedible (aka a bad recipe) or as a special treat for the family.  I’m still working on the boys liking Il Cane Rosso or Dough as a preferred option over California Pizza Kitchen. Until that happens, they will continue to prepare for a legal battle with CPK’s corporate lawyers.

Consumers Defend McDonald’s Vehemently in Comments

On September 23, 2011, in Food, by Chris Baccus
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It’s an interesting phenomena I’m sure we will see more and more of as our nation’s obesity rate climbs from 33% today to 50% by 2030 – the defense of fast food.  Within the past month I’ve read two articles critical of McDonald’s and watched virtually the same public outrage repeat itself in each instance. One would think with increased obesity, increased cases of diabetes in children, and with a gaining movement away from processed foods that criticizing the poster company of crap food would be a noble cause in publications like the New York Times and Salon, but that isn’t the case.

The first article was a piece in the NY Times discussing McDonald’s move to self-regulate itself into better nutritional outcomes in its Happy Meals product: “McDonald’s Trims Its Happy Meal”.

The second article came last week from Salon where Monday’s PopRx Health writer pondered the seemingly obvious hypocrisy: “Why children’s hospitals tolerate McDonald’s”.

Both pieces took question with McDonald’s intentions. For instance the Times article shared the reasoning:

“McDonald’s made it clear that it was changing the composition of Happy Meals in response to parental and consumer pressure. It also pledged to reduce the sodium content in all of its foods by 15 percent, with the exceptions of soda and desserts. It set a deadline of 2015 for limiting salt, and said it would spend the rest of this decade cutting back on sugars, saturated fats and calories and making adjustments to portion sizes.

The Salon article factored down McDonald’s presence in hospitals to simple economics:

“‘Like any business, when the restaurant is in or on the hospital campus, we lease the space and pay rent,’ said Dr. Cindy Goody, McDonald’s senior director of nutrition. Follow the money — the marriage between fast food and children’s hospitals is, at its root, a side effect of competitive market forces in healthcare.”

Though to be fair, the Salon piece did start from the foot in the door McDonald’s gets from their philanthropic angle from the Ronald McDonald’s House program which is a very well respected charity that benefits families going through some serious child health issues. The article really wasn’t critical of the philanthropy itself, but rather shined a spotlight on how the company uses it to gain more access into hospital food offerings.

The Salon piece kind of reminded me of soft drink machines in schools.  Where cola makers do philanthropic activities for the schools and generously pay for placement in school hallways or cafeterias. It’s part philanthropy and part paying for critical product placement. That’s basically what the Salon article was questioning.

Reader Comments Outrage

One would think that the comments from readers would be critical of fast food. Sure there were a few people who shared their disgust with fast food and their dollars buying access to hospitals or doing very little to ward off government intervention.  Instead what happened in both cases was consumer outrage at the authors.  That outrage came in four distinct forms:

  1. Parental Freewill: Don’t criticize fast food marketing or quality; instead, blame parents for not making the right choices for their kids.  It’s not the company’s fault. It’s the parent’s fault.
  2. The How to Order Better Helper: Stop saying everything is bad for you at a fast food restaurant. If you buy x, don’t get y, and ask for z instead of s than you can eat a healthy meal there.
  3. Brand Defenders: Stop using <insert fast food restaurant name> as a scapegoat. There are all kinds of temptations in life leave <insert fast food restaurant name> alone!
  4. Deep Throat Defense: Follow the money. It’s all about money. If you solve the money spigot issue you’ll solve the problem. (for those who don’t know the phrase ‘follow the money’ was coined by the Watergate scandal film ‘All the President’s Men’. more here.)

So next time you’re reading an article critical of fast food changes or where it buys its way into unexpected places, read the online comments and I’m sure you’ll find one of the four “defenses” coming from an outraged reader.

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