Now that the holidays are in full swing, many will gather together with food, family, and friends to celebrate the season as 2017 closes with a bounty of uncertainty. We can be thankful that many American leaders on state and local levels pledged to do their part for the environment, even as federal support for the Paris Climate Accords has waned. Citizens at home can also play a role in acting for the greater good of the world while celebrating the best of what nature has to offer: plant-based foods. It wouldn’t be the first time Americans came together at their tables for a good cause.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Meatless Monday movement. Before it became a hashtag on social media it was a World War I-era food rationing program that asked Americans to express their patriotism by giving up meat one day a week to help feed soldiers and citizens abroad. While its goals have evolved in the last century, the core idea remains as powerful as ever: individual actions can have a broad impact when practiced on a large scale. Read More >
Bob Lawrence at the helm on the Chesapeake Bay, June 2014.
As the year winds down, so does my tenure at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. It’s been an amazing 19 years for me, and I look forward to watching my successor, Anthony So, lead the Center even further in its mission over the next 19 years. We have an extraordinary staff who are deeply knowledgeable about the food system and passionate in their efforts to make our food system healthier, more sustainable, and more just. I am honored to have worked with all of them and step down from my post with gratitude and affection for a marvelous team.
It’s been a busy year—here are some highlights from the intersection of public health and food system thinking.
The Baltimore uprising and reflections on food environments. Perhaps the most profound event in Baltimore this year was the uprising that took place this spring Read More >
Are corner stores carrying healthier food?
Calorie counts on menus. This week I’m pleased to report that our CLF-Lerner Fellows are making us look good. Julia Wolfson is one of the authors on a study that appeared this week in Health Affairs and was cited in a CNN report about the law going into effect in December 2016, requiring national chain restaurants to list calorie counts on their menus. There are a few studies examining whether calorie counts on menus inspire customers to eat less or more healthily, but this is still an open question. It will be interesting to see what we learn once the law goes into effect.
Corner stores and healthy food. Another CLF-Lerner Fellow, Laura Cobb, co-authored a paper in this week’s Health Affairs Read More >
Last week there was good news and bad news linking health risks to meat consumption. The good news is that the media want to tell people about which foods might cause cancer, and some reporters are skilled at communicating the data. The bad news is that the International Agency of Research into Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organization, does a poor job of putting data into context, and that, in turn, leads to alarmist reporting by less responsible members of the media.
Early last week the IARC published a report about the risks of consuming meat Read More >
Subway takes the pledge. This week the restaurant chain Subway announced that starting next year it will serve poultry products raised without antibiotics. They’re yet another restaurant chain to follow suit with the likes of McDonalds, Panera, Chipotle, and more. The company estimates that it will take another six years to do the same with pork and beef. Check out the story on Food Safety News. This is an important development given the reach of Subway and the volume of meat served by the chain. By restricting sourcing of meats to producers raising animals without antibiotics Subway and the others will exert market pressure on industrial food animal producers to clean up their act. Read More >
Saying “no” to caramel coloring.
Good news for school lunches. I’ll start off this week’s update with some good news, coming from Marin County, California. Starting this month, the Sausalito Marin City School District will be serving 100 percent organic, GMO-free meals in two schools in Marin City and Sausalito. These schools serve about 500 students. All meals will be prepared on-site by The Conscious Kitchen, which rethinks school food based on five foundational terms: Fresh, Local, Organic, Seasonal and Non-GMO. This is the first school district in the nation to deliver food with this model. An important message to Big Ag is that transparency in labeling is essential for long-term monitoring of health and ecosystem effects of GMOs, and until we can have post-release surveillance and epidemiologic studies of possible health effects, the public will be attracted to approaches such as this one in Marin. Read More >
Bird flu H5N2 and USDA. The bird flu epidemic that has killed about 48 million turkeys and egg-laying hens is severe enough that the USDA has formed a special task force to prepare for the worsening of the flu in the fall. Part of the work of the task force involves strategizing how to dispose of the carcasses so that landfills are not overwhelmed or unnecessarily contaminated. The flu, known as H5N2, has poultry producers in the Midwest concerned and suffering economic loss; the price of eggs has risen as a result of the flu. On Wednesday, the AP reported Read More >
Food labels. In their Ask Well blog, The New York Times addressed an issue that our own researcher Roni Neff has been tackling for some time: the confusion that surrounds food labels. All those “best by” and “sell by” dates may be contributing to unnecessary food waste, and misleading consumers. The Times story is here. For more on Roni’s research, read this story, published by Johns Hopkins Public Health magazine.
Good news for the Bay. This week, the U.S. Third Court of Appeals upheld a Chesapeake Read More >
School lunch law. On Tuesday, the House Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing about the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. This law, passed in 2010 and championed by the First Lady, has successfully brought more healthy food into public schools. But the “pizza is a vegetable” members of Congress want to chip away at it. They say that the law makes it too difficult for schools to comply—but 95 percent of school districts are already complying with the standards. Here’s a petition launched by the American Heart Association in support of keeping the laws intact. I hope every public health professional signs on. Read More >
Free food for Baltimore students. I’ll start off this post with some nice news: as of one week ago, June 1, all Baltimore City students may eat breakfast and lunch for free. While the majority of City students are already enrolled in the free-and-reduced-meals program, and breakfast is already provided free for all, this move by the school system is important for a couple of reasons: (1) it reduces stigma and bureaucracy by no longer requiring that students enter a PIN number when they want a free lunch, and (2) it reduces the burden on low-income families to provide the paperwork necessary to be declared eligible for free or reduced meals. Read More >