The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2009

This article provided a very informative perspective on food security across the world.  This article was written by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 2009 in order to show the progress of increasing food security.  While this article seemed outdated, many of the statistics were surprising regarding the world’s food security.  For example, in 2009, it was estimated that one billion people were considered to be undernourished.  Also, approximately 98% of undernourishment occurred in developing countries.  This statistic was surprising because it showed that the World Food Summit of 1996 had not created proper methods of increasing food security.

In addition, this article described common methods of helping areas struggling with food security.  The article stated that many aid programs do not properly help struggling areas because they struggle to see the bigger picture behind the problem at hand.  Often times, aid programs seek to provide support for food security, rather than for solving a country’s needs.  The proper way to support these areas is to create systems that are designed to help areas that could undergo unexpected events.  Because of this, country protection plans should be developed in isolation as each country presents a new and unique conflict that needs to be addressed.  This would be the most beneficial way to help a country because it would support the country for the long-term rather than short-term.


Updated Nutrition Labels


In this article, the author discussed how the FDA has proposed a revision of nutrition labels on the back of food packages.  This label would be a requirement for all packages by 2019 and the main difference would be that it would designate a line for “sugar added.”  This fact is very important because current nutrition labels do not account for the natural sugar that most foods contain.  With this in mind, the added sugar is what really sets bad sugar apart from good sugar.

I feel that the implementation of this fact would be very beneficial for consumers.  Not only would it be a step in modernizing food labels, but also it would take into account the new things that people have learned about nutrition.  As new information is learned, it is important that all people have access to it, especially in something as important as nutrition.  This new food label would be very beneficial for consumers.

EXO Cricket Flour Protein Bars

All the talk of insects reminded me of a brand of protein bars from a company called Exo.  Created by two students at Brown, they use cricket flour as a source of protein and they’re soy, grain, dairy, and gluten free.  I tried a couple of them last year, and while I think that the concept is intriguing, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. The bars have a strange texture and despite names like Blueberry Vanilla and Banana Bread, I was unable to discern any difference in taste between the flavors. While I was disappointed in the product itself, I think that crickets and other insects could play an integral part in solving some of the food supply and environmental issues we’re facing.  More than 80% of the world’s population already eat insects regularly, and when looking at the environmental impact and the efficiency of crickets compared to our typical protein sources, I feel that this is not a solution we can brush aside because some consider it “gross”.

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Bugs, especially caterpillars, might be the only animal protein we can sustainably eat

Caterpillar farms: Growing the food of the future?

In all my research for my final creative project, I have concluded that eating meat, especially beef, is pretty much the worst thing we can do for the environment. As we heard in class, lowering meat consumption can have a hugely positive impact on the environment, and can improve world hunger. However, meat eating is so deeply rooted in our culture, routine, and understanding of health, that people have happily ignored the messages about its toll on the environment and continue to enjoy huge portions of animal protein.

This article explains how caterpillar farming might be a sustainable and cheap way to fight malnutrition in West Africa. The article cites the protein and micronutrients, like zinc and iron, as evidence of caterpillars’ usefulness as a sustainable alternative to other animal proteins. Insects take up less space to breed and grow than other animal proteins, and they emit far less waste. Once processed, caterpillars remain edible for up to 18 months. Clearly, this is a great alternative to the environmental degradation caused by animal protein, and the malnutrition caused by an overall lack of nutrients in parts of the world.

Although insects are eaten regularly in much of the world, westerners generally have a hard time getting over the “yuck factor” with bugs. Although there is objectively nothing less appealing about caterpillars than a juicy, bloody steak, we haven’t grown up with bugs around as food. Unfortunately, we are, as a nation and as part of the western world, not a very adventurous group. If we cannot even convince people to try quinoa instead of chicken, it might be a long time before we can normalize bugs as a healthy source of animal protein. However, if our meat consumption continues in the manner it has thus far, this will likely be our only option due to a lack of arable land.

School Lunches Contributing to Childhood Obesity

I came across a research paper analyzing whether or not America’s public school lunch program is contributing to childhood obesity. The study was conducted at Northwestern University in Chicago.

America is currently facing a national health crisis that is only worsening with time: childhood obesity. In order to address this pressing issue, it’s necessary to determine key-contributing factors that predispose adolescents, and determine what can be done on a policy level and a personal level to fix this. Economist and public policy professor at the University of Chicago, Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, addresses this issue and writes an in-depth research paper titled: Do School Lunches Contribute to Childhood Obesity? Schanzenbach explores the detrimental public policy and institutionalized discrimination that is worsening childhood obesity.

Logically, children and teenagers are expected to consume the majority of their calories at school, considering they spend most of their time per week at their respective elementary, middle and high schools. Economists believe that obesity rates have doubled since 2003 due to an increase in calorie intake by consuming more snacks and meals throughout the day rather than through large meals. Data shows that children who eat breakfast and lunch at school rather are more likely to become obese than those who bring their meals from home. In 1995, Congress was urged to pass the “School Meals Initiative for Healthy Children.” This was one of the first active government interventions regarding children’s nutrition after research proved that most school lunches were not meeting nutrition requirements set by the FDA. Public schools began restricting foods and beverages deemed “unhealthy” while some even decreased the number of vending machines around schools.

Schanzenbach reiterates how important it is to consider all factors such as a child’s race, location of his/her home, family income level, and family background characteristics. For example, she notes that children coming from low-income African American families and poor communities are likely to eat school lunch as public schools typically provide meals for free. This saves low-income families from having to spend on their children’s breakfasts and/or lunches. Parents that provide “brown bag lunches” for their children are typically more involved in their children and cautious about their health. One sample showed that parents who provide their children with lunch are college-educated and are of higher socioeconomic status than those who urge their children to eat school lunches. Approximately 82 percent of students who eat school lunches come from low-income families. When taking exercise into account, there is little evidence relating brown baggers and physical activity. However, it is estimated that those whose parents brown bag their lunches are typically involved in more aerobic exercises ranging from dance classes to school sports programs. This plays a role in reducing obesity and heart problems.
The government plays such an instrumental role in all of this because there are laws in place enabling those under or just above the federal poverty line to eat school meals for free, whereas children who aren’t income-eligible for the lunch subsidy are likelier to eat their own lunches and thus have better health outcomes. Those who are income-eligible are also likelier to take part in the School Breakfast Program thus consuming even more calories at school than at home.

With the abundance of data that proves school lunches substantially increase the probability that a child becomes obese, what can be done on a policy level to combat this? The overall finding is that children consume about 40 more calories per day by eating school meals; because these 40 calories are in fact significant, would decreasing the caloric intake at schools help? The issue is that the purpose of these school lunch programs are to combat hunger, yet providing quality nutritious food for public schools nation-wide is very costly. The best solution is policy intervention that vouches for school meals that meet nutrition requirements and that provide healthier options that those currently offered. However, Schanzenbach believes it’s important to target higher-income families regarding policy intervention for healthier lunches, because they can afford it more than low-income families and are less likely to have children suffering from hunger.

Finally, school lunches only explain part of the general obesity rate and are not the sole cause of this national health crisis. “The results should be interpreted with caution, as they are estimated based on a group of young elementary school students who likely have less autonomy over their food choices than older students and might not be easily generalized to an older population,” Schanzenbach says. It’s important that this country addresses this issue and urges interventions that combat obesity starting at a young age.

Schazenbach, D. W. (2009). Do school lunches contribute to childhood obesity? The Journal of Human Resources, 44(3), 684-709.

German Environment Minister Bans Meat At Official Functions

German Environment Minister Bans Meat At Official Functions

It was interesting to learn about how Germany’s environment minister, Barbara Hendricks announced that her ministry would no longer be serving meat, fish or meat-derived products at official functions. She said her ministry must serve as a “role model” on environmental and sustainability issues.


The U.S. Can’t Really Know If Farmers Are Cutting Back On Antibiotics, GAO Says

The U.S. Can’t Really Know If Farmers Are Cutting Back On Antibiotics, GAO Says

This article talked about the follow up to the recent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) control on the regulation of antibiotics farmers give to livestock as scientists were concerned about antibiotic resistance. This was a great victory for animal welfare advocates and would change the way meat animals were raised.

However, the FDA’s plan to minimize selection of resistant microorganisms was proven ineffective by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) as they state that the FDA is not collecting usage data and ultimately it is the data that would allow the FDA to know if its effort has been successful.

The article states that the FDA and USDA have not negotiated access to farms so they do not have the details about which drugs are actually used and thus, they can’t even monitor the antibiotics being given or the monitor outbreaks of drug-resistant foodbourne illnesses. GAO found that the FDA hasn’t taken into account the effect of livestock producers switching to “preventive” use of antibiotics which is still allowed and can be used to stimulate antibiotic resistance and may reduce the effectiveness of the growth-promoter ban.