On the Horizon: The Future of Biofuels

For the eleventh entry in our series “Corn-Fed Cars: On the Road with Ethanol,” we asked biofuels expert Donna Perla, MPH, senior advisor with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Research and Development, for her thoughts on the future of the biofuels industry.

Patti TruantWhat’s new in the world of biofuels right now?  What do you think are the greatest opportunities and challenges right now in moving toward a more bio-based economy?

Donna Perla: I think there are several. One is that the industry has really evolved.  Certainly it started with corn ethanol, but there still is this push for cellulosic ethanol.  Read More >

Healthy Farms, Healthy People: You Can’t Have One Without the Other

This November, the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future joined with fellow members of the Healthy Farms, Healthy People coalition steering committee to officially launch the Healthy Farms, Healthy People coalition—“a broad-based collaboration of organizations committed to achieving a healthier nation in tandem with a strong farm economy through policy reform at the local, state and national level.”

The Coalition will work on short-term targeted policy efforts, as well as long-term goals centered on policy change and information-sharing across sectors. The Coalition brings together stakeholders from the health, agricultural, anti-hunger, environmental and economic development communities, whose diverse expertise is necessary to make such reforms to the food system a reality. Read More >

Oprah Enthusiastically Throws Her Support Behind Meatless Monday


Oprah celebrates Meatless Monday

Oprah celebrates Meatless Monday

Talk show host Oprah Winfrey may have just encouraged a large segment of her 30 million viewers to join the Meatless Monday movement following her latest show which gave us a rare glimpse into where some of our meat comes from.

The Meatless Monday campaign’s national awareness has more than doubled in the last 2 years. An FGI Research survey found that 30 percent of Americans are aware of the public health campaign. My guess is that following Oprah’s very public backing and the announcement last month that the food service company Sodexo implemented Meatless Monday national and global awareness is going to sky rocket!

The episode, entitled “Oprah and 378 Staffers Go Vegan: The One Week Challenge” featured celebrated “veganist” Kathy Freston and journalist Michael Pollan, best known for his book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” A large chunk of the show followed Freston encouraging sometimes belligerent but mostly willing Oprah Show staff members to eat a vegan diet for one week and their testimonials on how they did. A few employees said the experience helped them lose weight and become healthier. Following her experience, Oprah decided, quite enthusiastically, that her studio’s café would do Meatless Monday every week.

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Center for a Livable Future helped launch the national Meatless Monday campaign back in 2003. The campaign’s primary focus is to reduce America’s saturated fat consumption by 15%, following the recommendations of the Healthy People 2010 report issued by then U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher in 2000. Key recommendations from the recently released Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 reiterate the message that we need to reduce our consumption of solid and saturated fats.

Read More >

Protein 101: Dispelling the Myth Surrounding Meatless Meals

It is disappointing to see members of the media spread misinformation due to their own ignorance, gullibility, or, worse, disinterest in digging for the truth — especially when it has to do with the health of children. Case in point, a reporter from a South Dakota talk radio show apparently believes that Baltimore City Public Schools’ Meatless Monday meals are lacking in protein. Last Friday, Tom Riter asked U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack a rather leading question (notice how many times he said “bother”) during a USDA news conference to preview the Obama administration’s priorities for the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization:

“Mr. Secretary, I was wondering if it bothered you… that… you were talking about the importance of the nutrition for the school children… and I was wondering if it bothered you that school districts like Baltimore, Maryland institute Meatless Mondays… not letting the children have protein in the diet by doing that. Does that bother you?”

Seriously? He thinks Baltimore City Schools are denying kids their recommended daily allowance of protein? I hate to break it to you Mr. Riter, but meat isn’t the only food that contains protein. Read More >

Teach a man to fish…

This week, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced plans to drastically change the nation’s food aid policy.  As Reuters reported, he said the U.S. will focus more resources on helping developing countries increase their agricultural capacity, as opposed to relying on emergency food aid grown on U.S. soil.

 “‘It is a more comprehensive, holistic view of food security that focuses on the notion that we want to make food more available, we want to make it accessible and we want to make sure that it is properly used,”  Vilsack said in a speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.  “‘If we can help countries become more productive themselves then they will be in a better position to feed their own people,’ he said.”

According to the Reuters article:

The United States is the world’s largest donor of emergency food aid — mainly crops grown by American farmers — but spends 20 times as much on food aid to Africa as it spends on programs that could boost African food production, according to research by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. U.S. annual spending on African farming projects topped $400 million in the 1980s, but by 2006 had dwindled to just $60 million, the council has said.

Vilsack said the United States wants to invest in roads and other infrastructure projects in foreign countries to ensure that food is accessible to everyone who needs it.  Developing nations may also be able to produce more food for trade, helping to improve the global economy, he said.

President Barack Obama has said his administration will ask Congress to double funding for agricultural development aid to $1 billion by 2010.

Specific details on how food aid funding might change are not available at this time, however this policy shift seems to fall in line with a pilot program authorized under the 2008 farm bill.   The Local and Regional Procurement Project, is a USDA-led effort to increase local responses to food emergencies in developing countries, and complement food aid programs.