Thursday, July 14, 2011

Everything the California Milk Processing Board Did is Wrong

I preface this post with a disclosure: I take issue with the tactics of the dairy industry in relation to marketing and policy. As a Registered Dietitian working in food systems and public health, I see first hand the National Dairy Council's (NDC)'s methods to ensure that milk and dairy remain an essential component of the American diet. They are given center stage at nutrition, school lunch, obesity and agricultural conferences and not coincidentally-- they pay the big bucks to sponsor such events. In fields where "science based" research is paramount to making policy and public health decisions, the NDC goes far to ensure research is favorable, that representatives are briefed and the audience is primed to ingest their propaganda.

I am frustrated with some nutrition professionals inability to consider the difference between the industry sponsoring research, the manipulation of current research into messages, and all out marketing campaigns. We fail to consider the body of research that is not being conducted, published or marketed to the same extent. My friend Nancy Becker recently sent me the Parachute Study, which perfectly illustrates this point.

I digress. The real point of this post is to criticize the California Milk Processor Board's new marketing scheme aimed at untapped milk buyers: men. I first heard about the sexist "Everything I Do Is Wrong" campaign while listening to the news on public radio (thanks NPR, as if the Cargill ads weren't bad enough?). "Every Thing I Do Is Wrong" gives men "suffering" with a PMS ridden women the answer: milk --and a slew of canned apologies. I think the board room of men that developed this campaign would be smart to start working on their apology.

Women traditionally make household purchases, especially food, but the CMPB "educates" their counterpart to purchase milk by stating that "milk can help reduce the symptoms of PMS." I have a feeling this one might backfire.

The site itself is a futuristic, busy hodgepodge of PMS indicators, an emergency "milk locator" that shows a map of nearby grocery and corner stores that sell milk, and scrolling apologies like " I apologize for letting you misinterpret what I was saying." Hmm CMPB, I'm not so sure I misinterpreted the utter repugnance of this marketing campaign? I assume that most Registered Dietitians (mostly made up of women, many working for the NDC) might also find this offensive. Just a hunch.

In an attempt to find the actual research backing the PMS claims, I came up largely empty handed, at least from the actual website. The "case study" section is "coming soon." The only thing the site does say is that "Milk helps reduce a majority of women's symptoms after 3 months of taking 1,200mg Calcium/day."

Huh? Do I drink milk or take a calcium supplement? Symptoms of what?

When you click around you find one study mentioned. "Calcium carbonate and the premenstrual syndrome: effects on premenstrual and menstrual symptoms. Premenstrual Syndrome Study Group." conducted by endocrinologist Susan Thys-Jacobs at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology in 1998. Women ages 18-45 were randomly assigned to receive 1200 mg of elemental calcium per day in the form of calcium carbonate or placebo for 3 menstrual cycles. (Got milk?) Daily documentation of symptoms, adverse effects, and compliance with medications were monitored.All 4 symptom factors (negative affect, water retention, food cravings, and pain) were significantly reduced by the third treatment cycle.

No mention of milk in this study. I called the CMPB's office to ask some questions. There was no answer. I guess there are probably a bunch of PMS suffering women trying to call them today.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Boston Tree Party: Civic Engagement in Action

I am so inspired by this TEDx Boston talk by Lisa Gross and the work of the Boston community! Lisa was a student of mine in a Community Food Projects course at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts. She is the founder of the Urban Homesteaders League, a community venture dedicated to inspiring and empowering individuals and communities to shift from a lifestyle of passive consumption to one of active participation, creation, and connection. She is obviously embodying that mission with her newest project: The Boston Tree Party.

"The Boston Tree Party is an urban agriculture project, a performative re-imagining of American political expression, and a participatory public art project. At its "core", the Party is a diverse coalition of organizations, institutions, and communities from across the Greater Boston Area coming together in support of Civic Fruit. We call for the planting of fruit trees in civic space and promote the fruits of civic engagement. Each community has committed to planting and caring for a pair of heirloom apple trees. Together, these trees form a decentralized public urban orchard that symbolizes a commitment to the environmental health of our city, the vitality and interconnectedness of our communities, and the wellbeing of the next generation."

Here is the remaining text from Lisa's inspiring, witty and impressive TED Talk:
"As an urban agriculture project, the Boston Tree Party creates vital gathering places and opportunities for learning, exchange, and participation. The project builds community connections, both within and across communities, and improves community and environmental health. As a conceptual art project, the Boston Tree Party catalyzes a deep and playful engagement with the issues of food access; health; environmental stewardship; biodiversity; public space; and civic engagement. The structure and design of the project playfully reimagine patriotic and political language, imagery, and forms of association.

The apple has a long and deep connection to the history of Boston. The first apple orchard in the American Colonies was planted by William Blackstone on Beacon Hill in 1623. The oldest variety of apple in the United States, the Roxbury Russet, was developed in Roxbury in the 1630s. The Boston Tree Party celebrates and recontextualizes this history and envisions Boston as a city of apples once again.

Apple trees must be planted in heterogeneous pairs (two different varieties of apples must be planted together) in order to cross-pollinate and bear fruit. The Boston Tree Party takes these trees as inspiration. We too are interdependent and need to work across divisions to effectively address the pressing social and environmental issues we face. We too must cross-pollinate and seek out and value diversity, not just because we need to, but because that’s how you get the sweetest and juiciest fruit.

The planting campaign launched on April 10th on the Rose Kennedy Greenway with the Boston Tree Party Inauguration–the ceremonial planting of the first pair of apple trees in this city-wide planting campaign. The event also included a celebratory rally featuring Edith Murnane (the Food Tzar of the City of Boston), Michael Phillips and John Bunker (the Official Pomologists), the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center “Let’s Get Moving” Tree Planting Delegation; music by the Second Line Social Aid & Pleasure Society Brass Band; a Wassailing of the trees; free apple cider; Central Asian Barbecue (apples originated in Central Asia); and opportunities to learn more about the project.

During the month of May, participating Tree Planting Delegations each received a Tree Party Kit. The Delegations ranged from schools to assisted living centers, synagogues to churches, and neighborhood groups to hospitals. The Kit allowed each community to design and create its own festive Tree Planting Party tailored to its own needs and interests. All across the city communities planted the seeds of Civic Fruit.

The project will culminate in the fall of 2015, the year of the first full harvest, with the Boston Tree Party Convention—a city wide harvest festival, and an opportunity for participants to celebrate the project, form new connections, and get inspired. Intervening years will feature smaller summits and socials that will bring together this diverse network of organizations and individuals.

The Apple Corps, a Youth Corps developed in partnership with YouthBuild Boston, will be trained in organic fruit tree care and horticulture and will act as an “extension service” for participating Delegations. They will offer support over phone and email, and do site visits when necessary. The Apple Alliance (a partnership between the Boston Natural Areas Network, City Sprouts, Groundwork Somerville, and the Northeast Organic Farming Association/Mass) will offer free and low-cost organic fruit tree workshops all over the city. The Official Pomologists of the Boston Tree Party, Michael Phillips and John Bunker, will guide all horticultural aspects of the project.

238 years ago, a small group of people dumped several tons of tea into Boston Harbor, and with this symbolic, performative act, launched the movement for American Independence. With the symbolic planting of these apple trees, we hope to help catalyze a new movement—a movement that works across boundaries to make healthy, fresh food accessible to all; a movement to green our cities; a movement that plants fruit trees in public spaces all over the country; and a movement that comes together to care for these trees and the well-being of all citizens. We hope to inspire and nurture an ethos of stewardship that starts with these apple trees and radiates outwards to our city, our nation, and our planet."

I am certainly inspire me. Congratulation on these valiant, creative effort Lisa. I see a Food and Community Fellow in the making.

See the TedX Talk here:

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Back with an Epicurean Delight: Raw, Vegan, Garden Pesto

Dear Readers,

Some of you may have noticed I have been on a blogging hiatus. Today, I would like to resurrect my blog, The Epicurean Ideal. In doing so, my post is today's personal epicurean experience making raw, vegan, garden pesto. Before you shudder and click the little "x" button in your browser, humor me and read on. I will be blogging on my typical topics of food and agriculture policy beginning this week. In the mean time, enjoy this fun and easy recipe.

Why "raw" ? Well, mostly because it is summer time and I prefer fresh, live foods.

Why "vegan" ? Those who know me well might guess that this is my way of sticking it to the dairy council again. While that may be partially true, I actually have noticed an increased intolerance to dairy as I have grown older. It has been said that humans stop producing lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose in the intestines) as we age, so it is not surprising as I finish up the Victory Lap of my 30's. For a more detailed description of lactose intolerance see here.

Why "garden" ? Well, uh, why the hell not, but if you must ask, because my neighbor and owner of theNectary, Kasi helped me plant a little garden in my front yard. theNectary helps clients design, build and maintain edible landscapes. Yum! Just make sure your community allows you to grow food. No, seriously! This lady is facing jail time for planting a garden. Anyway, it is scientifically proven that vegetables you grown yourself taste better. And my basil was ready to rock.

So lets get cooking. Today...Pesto. All you need is 3-4 bunches of basil, safflower oil, 2 heads of garlic, lemon juice, pine nuts (or other type of nut), olive oil and sea salt.

Harvest your basil by pinching off the larger leaves and groups of leaves.Wash and trim the leaves.

To make the "vegan" part of this pesto creamy, you will make a garlic paste. Just take your garlic heads and peel and clean the cloves. Put them in a food processor and add safflower oil, lemon juice (of 1/2 a lemon) and sea salt until you get a thick paste.

You can also add nuts. Note: always taste your nuts first. I had to learn the hard way once and it gave my pesto an inedible off-flavor. My pine nuts were rancid, so I used pecans.

Add oil to make a paste. I used safflower for the paste and then olive oil after I add the basil.

Add the basil and olive oil and sea salt until you get a thick consistency. Taste it to see if you need more salt or oil. The garlic will give it a great creamy zing.

Chill in the refrigerator. Eat on bread, crackers, veggies or toss with pasta.