October 22, 2015

CLF Week in Links: Farm to School, Subway, Bittman

Robert Lawrence, MD

Robert Lawrence, MD

Director Emeritus

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

Louisiana_banner-squareSubway 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.

Local school food. This NPR story addresses the recent USDA statistics on public schools that serve local food. According to the latest data, culled from the 2013-14 Census, the trend is on the rise—almost 50 percent in the last year. But the good news on top of good news here is that the schools reported that when they serve local food, less food gets thrown away. Is that because portion sizes are more reasonable? Because the food tastes better? Because there’s less spoilage? Or because the students feel more connected to food? It’s hard to say. But we know with certainty that there’s still a lot of room for improvement. Currently only about 20 percent of school food budgets go to local sources. CLF colleague Jim Slama has shown in Chicago that a Farm-to-School program can make a huge difference in the quality of food served to children in a large, metropolitan school system.

Climate change corporations. The White House has an initiative to curb greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change, and so far 81 corporations have taken the pledge to support it. Some of the supporters, like Apple, Google, IKEA and Starbucks, come as no surprise, while the lack of support from oil and coal companies is also not surprising. But what are we to make of pledges from companies like Walmart and McDonalds, which supply so many of the calories consumed in the U.S? From the Fortune story: “McDonald’s says it will eliminate food and products that lead to deforestation from its global supply chain, as well as use sustainably-grown beef, palm oil, fiber and coffee.” It will be interesting to see how this all pans out.

The antibiotics-agriculture link. A New York Times story this week echoes what we’ve been saying and hearing for years: there is a catastrophe on hand with regard to antibiotics. What’s interesting about this particular article is that it squarely addresses the role of livestock production in this crisis. From the story: “Agriculture is driving about half of the resistance increase globally, and could be responsible for as much as 80 percent of the problem in the United States, where the large-scale, intensive approach to food production originated.” It’s high time the world realizes that not only do we need to create new drugs, we need to preserve the effectiveness of the current ones. The article does a good job of pointing out alternative livestock production methods in Denmark and of chronicling the resistance to the problem from Big Ag lobbies. There are also some terrific quotes from colleague Ellen Silbergeld, among them this: “I was born at the dawn of the antibiotic era, and probably before I die the antibiotic era will be over.”

Onboarding Bittman. When Mark Bittman announced his retirement from The New York Times earlier this fall, we were all saddened to see him go—but also eager to see what he would do next. Last week he wrote in this blogpost that he’d be focusing more on activism and action by joining forces with the Union of Concerned Scientists. For the next year he’ll be working as a Fellow with long-time food justice champion Ricardo Salvador, whom we’ve been fortunate enough to work with over the years and who gave our CLF Dodge Lecture last year. We’re looking forward to seeing the fruits of this partnership and wish Mark well in his new role.

Farm to School Action. Today, Thursday, October 22, is the deadline for Congress to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act (CNR). Two organization we respect, the National Farm to School Network and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition are participating in a Big Day of Farm to School Action. You can join them by sharing a photo of your kids in the school garden, tweeting at your legislators, and telling the world why farm to school is important to your community and why it needs increased support in the Child Nutrition Act reauthorization (CNR) happening this fall. Learn more and pledge your support today at farmtoschool.org/dayofaction.

Food Day. Food Day is this Saturday, October 24, and thousands of people will be celebrating with thousands of events around the country for enjoying real food and pushing for better food policies. Check them out on foodday.org and find out how to join the celebration.

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