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Friday:  August 15, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in Nutrition (4)

Thursday
Sep222011

Nourishing the Future (OPINION) 

By Beverley J. Oda, Jan O'Sullivan T.D. and Dr. Raj Shah

An acutely malnourished child at a community-based treatment centre in northern Nigeria CREDIT: HUMNEWSAbsent from most of today’s headlines is the fact that more than 13 million people are currently threatened by the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. In the Horn of Africa the worst drought in 60 years has devastated farmlands, uprooted thousands of desperate families who are migrating in search of help and led to the outbreak of a massive famine in southern Somalia. 

As the world comes together in response, there is one underlying fact that—as long as it is ignored—could allow crises like these to reoccur. Emergency assistance is not a long-term solution.  In order to mitigate and prevent future tragedies, we must develop long-term, sustainable approaches to food security.

The problem of hunger and undernutrition is not limited to the Horn. In nations and regions throughout the world, one poor growing season can devastate the livelihoods of millions. Even when rains come do come and harvests are strong, too many families are forced to live on the edge, one meal away from hunger or suffering silently from undernutrition. Too many children grow up lacking the nutrients needed to fend off disease or develop their bodies and brains fully.

Globally, 200 million children suffer from undernutrition and each year it contributes to more than three million child deaths. Countries and aid organizations have long attempted to tackle the problem of undernutrition, but as with many of the important problems we face, it cannot not be solved without a unified response.

Fortunately, we now have the knowledge, tools and coordination necessary to institute both short-term emergency responses and long-term preventive strategies.  Critically, we also have the political will.  

In 2009, the leaders of the G8 joined at the L’Aquila summit to call for increased investment in agriculture and rural development to strengthen food security and economic growth. President Obama then launched an international effort called Feed the Future that brought more than 20 countries together to invest in food security throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

And last year, more than 100 organizations and entities joined together to launch Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN): A Framework for Action. Critically, this coalition realized that nutrition is woven into almost every meaningful issue of equity both between and within countries – from health to agriculture to social protection and stability.

No infant or child can have a fair chance at life when they are denied the vitamins and nutrients that are the building blocks for healthy growth. Accordingly, SUN proposed three scientifically backed recommendations: promoting breastfeeding, increasing the intake of vitamins and minerals, and employing therapeutic feeding to prevent moderate and severe malnutrition.

Each recommendation was designed with the potential of every child in mind; it is crucial that a child receives critical nutrients during the “1,000 day” window of opportunity between a mother’s pregnancy and until her child’s second birthday. Children given those nutrients during that window have the best chance to fulfill their intellectual potential and contribute to the economic development of their societies.

In the Horn of Africa, we are seeing the full spectrum of undernutrition’s impact, as children weakened by drought, hunger and disease suffer, while thousands of refugees desperate for their next meal show up every day on regional borders. Undernutrition and hunger exacerbate every major health threat–from birth and pregnancy complications to diarrheal diseases to living with HIV/AIDS to pneumonia. They also threaten economic growth, political stability and invite regional conflict.  

To truly invest in the potential of individuals, the stability of borders and the prevention of future disasters, we must focus on sustainably improving the nutrition of children, societies and the global community.

Beverley J. Oda, Minister of International Cooperation, Canadian International Development Agency

Jan O'Sullivan T.D., Minister of State for Trade and Development, Ireland

Dr. Raj Shah, Administrator, United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

Monday
Jan242011

With Food Prices Rising, People Revolting, Is Wal-Mart Really the Answer to America’s Unhealthy Food Crisis?

- a commentary by Cynthia Thomet

A recent Bloomberg report entitled, “Mexico prices rose more than expected last month [December 2010],” confirms a feeling that I couldn’t quite put my finger on until I read this piece—an increasing and incremental sour pinch on my pocketbook every time I go to the grocery store.

My HUMNews editor suggested I write about lemons for this PeaceMeal story. It is a food that is enjoyed by numerous cultures all around the world, she said. I started to dream about it as the ingredient that could unite us as a people. That is, if we could all afford it this year!

Yes, my friends, food prices are on the rise. So, it seemed only appropriate to write about this other food-related issue that we all share in common: inflation.

Back when I wrote my last PeaceMeal column, there were rumblings about this becoming a serious issue in 2011. Like clockwork, the Guardian  reported in our first week of 2011 that “soaring prices of sugar, grain and oilseed drove world food prices to a record in December, surpassing the levels of 2008 when the cost of food sparked riots around the world, and prompting warnings of prices being in ‘danger territory’.”

January 2011 has not even ended, and we are witnessing protests and riots in Algeria , Tunisia, and Jordan  In northern Nigeria, the prices of onions have more than doubled – ditto for India! And UNICEF reports that the number of mothers bringing their severely malnourished kids to feeding centers in Niger has spiked in recent weeks – due, in part, to higher food prices.

Back here in Atlanta, where I live, I have begun to see prices rising significantly at the local restaurant supplier that sells bulk produce, grains, packaged foods and beverages to area restaurants, bodegas and local merchants. And it’s been making me feel particularly vulnerable to all the forces that are out there: mother earth and weather, political forces here and abroad, economies local and distant.

Rising food prices is what political revolutions are made of. The French revolution was catalyzed by famine and hunger, and now we’re seeing some of the same scathing language from Jordanian protesters: “Unify yourselves because the government wants to eat your flesh.” (It’s enough to make you skip the meat aisle.)

At the same time, I couldn’t help being caught up (and even a little distracted) by the public relations partnership between Wal-mart and Michelle Obama for their healthy foods initiative  Yes, obesity and unhealthful eating are major problems in the United States. Yes, there are many “food deserts” around the country where low income peoples have little access to unprocessed foods. And, yes, Wal-mart is promising to change the quality of processed foods so they are healthier. But it ignores the fact that Wal-mart still wants consumers to purchase processed foods, because, frankly, that’s where the money is made.

My opinion: it’s just a PR initiative designed to secure a consumer body for a billion-dollar big box business that needs tax breaks and a seat at the government dinner table. I have always had the hunch that the very processing of foods is what diminishes the value inherent in any food, and I have recently found that there are scientists who have been researching this phenomenon. (Visit this article  to kick-start any research in the issue. It’s fascinating!)

But in the greater scheme of things, I think the Wal-mart initiative is really missing the mark, as far as true change is concerned. The PR rhetoric sounds almost like, “Why don’t they eat healthier cake?” when some of the major food issues facing the regular American public include:

  • How global food production is run, managed, controlled and directed by a small number of major international food corporations.
  • How food distribution and pricing is controlled by a small number of major international food corporations.
  • How the major food corporations want to create a deeper dependency on processed foods, because of their greater profit margin returns.

It just seems that simplifying and downscaling the food production process could be the better way to go.

So, while President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia freaks out from the cresting wave of protests and flees Tunis (and packs up his gold bars and family , I’m turning a lemon around in my hand wondering whether the First Lady is conscious that even a fresh lemon as a garnish in water is a luxury many Americans could never afford—even if purchased from Wal-mart.

Seriously though, it is hard for me to listen to Wal-mart’s commitment to pass on its best prices to the consumer without thinking that their negotiation strategy doesn’t involve bullying local farmers into bending to the big box’s exclusivity will.

Cynthia Thomet is a humanitarian, a food lover and co owner and doyenne of the award winning downtown Atlanta, Georgia; US restaurant, Lunacy Black Market. http://www.lunacyblackmarket.com/.  You can find Cynthia's own blog here: http://thoughtfulcyn.wordpress.com/.   Her pieces for HUMNEWS search for the intersection between food and humanity, and how meals unite us.

Tuesday
Oct192010

LUNCH: The Film 

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(HN, October 19, 2010) – Wrapping up our look at hunger and malnutrition in honor of World Food Day, HUMNEWS’ presents, “LUNCH: The Film”.  Produced by Filmmaker Avis Richards, Founder of Bird’s Nest Productions and the Bird’s Nest Foundation, LUNCH explores the pervasively unhealthy food which the US school lunch program provides to children in the public school system.  This lack of quality can lead to malnourishment and disease, even if children are stuffed full of empty calories.  Healthy food is the right of all the world’s population. 

About LUNCH

As nation-wide funding for school cafeterias rapidly decreases and high-calorie, low-nutrient meals have become order of the day, our nation's children are being afflicted by a slew of diet-based diseases from high-blood pressure and cholesterol to diabetes and obesity. In LUNCH, a revealing documentary short, director Avis Richards investigates the causes and the consequences of “growing up in a junk-food culture.” Through numerous on-site interviews with food workers, doctors, educators, and students, LUNCH provides a candid, penetrating, and disturbing account of the National School Lunch Program's failure to promote the proper dietary habits to ensure our youth's physical, social, and psychological well-being. The documentary also explores viable alternatives to the hamburger hegemony, talking with farmers and other community leaders about their efforts to put locally-grown, whole foods back on the menu and make diet and nutrition a core part of every school's educational model. LUNCH serves up an eye-opening account of a national crisis and its potential solutions, a film that should interest anyone concerned about the future of our students and our society.

Storyline

LUNCH is a short documentary exploring the effects of the National School Lunch Program on America’s children today in schools and seeks to shed light on the current situation through candid interviews with doctors, teachers, farmers and various specialists.

The National School Lunch Program feeds some 28 Million children who eat 1 and sometimes 2 meals a day at school. Sadly the food that is served to them too often resembles fast food. The effects are far reaching.

Statistics have shown that kids today will have a lower life expectancy than their parents. Many doctors have had no training in diagnosing adult onset diabetes in younger patients. In 2007 the total cost of diabetes treatment was $174 Billion and that is only expected to rise as more and more people are diagnosed everyday.

One of the major problems is that parents, students, and even school administrators do not pay attention to poor food quality. Ironically even fast food chains have to supply information on what they are serving. So why isn’t that the case with our schools?

With a school system underfunded and a school food surplus sold in bulk and “on the cheap”, the results have been the downsizing of proper kitchen in school cafeterias to the point where pre-made fast food style lunches are the only meals available. This is a recipe for disaster and it is having an adverse effect not only on kid’s health, but it is teaching kids to identify food as being fast food and the result goes beyond heath and weight issues but to self-esteem and abilities to function properly in classrooms. From healthcare to national test average scores, everything is tied to what we eat.

The most common argument that children will not eat healthy food however many in the field disagree with this statement and say its simply a matter of making nutritional food available to them. The film explores how some schools, dubbing themselves as “Green Schools” such as Hamstead Hill Academy in Baltimore, have made nutrition a core part of their educational model. From school garden to cooking classes these schools have taught children to make healthy choices by including them in the preparation of their own meals.

The film also targets a broader range of social issues beyond school and healthcare touching on economics where the importance of locally grown produce in the Baltimore school system has lead to a partnership with Great Kids Farm. Not only does this farm supply produce for the school system but it also educates kids on where their food comes from and offers affordable alternatives to the expensive national distribution plan current in existence. Farms like Great Kids Farm not only create jobs locally but studies have shown that small farms, which use their soil to grow a variety of multiple produce are far more effective than their larger monocropping farm counterparts.

There is a national movement in the US to build a real connection to the food we eat starting with local farmers and schools all the way to Michelle Obama’s white House garden all to show that people don’t need a big farm to have a positive impact on each other and on America.

Production Notes

The idea for LUNCH was born when producer and director Avis Richards realized that our country’s National School Lunch Program was not working and decided to do something about it. With Earth Day Network's input, Avis embarked on a year-long research process. Once she analyzed and understood the issue, she decided to share her findings in a film that would not only expose the problem but also recommend solutions.

Traveling from Boston to New York to Washington D.C. to Baltimore, Avis and her team interviewed medical doctors, teachers, chefs, school directors, food producers, volunteers, and others from various walks of life to ensure that documentary would feature various opinions.

As they compiled interviews, their passion for the subject grew stronger and they became motivated to create a piece that would create impact both the general public and policy makers, so that children across the country may have access to healthy meals on a daily basis, and more importantly, that they can learn the importance of a healthy diet, a lesson that will last a lifetime.

SOME STATISTICS:

■  The US Child Nutrition Act, which supplies breakfast and lunch to some 31 million students = $12 billion annually.

■  The US elementary school lunches average 821 calories per lunch.

■  80% of US schools do not meet the USDA standards for fat composition.

■  Children who consume US school lunches are about 2% more likely to be obese than those who brown bag their lunches.

■  Soda vending machines are present in 43% of elementary schools, 74% of middle schools and nearly all of high schools.”

■  Nutrition requirements for school lunches: “Current regulations require schools to meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommend that no more than 30 percent of an individual's calories come from fat, and less than 10 percent from saturated fat. Regulations also establish a standard for school meals to provide one-third of the Recommended Daily Allowances of protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, iron, calcium, and calories.”

■  “The National School Lunch Program gets about 15 to 20 percent of its food from the federal government each year, the paper says, with beef and chicken making up a big portion of the largess. But the meat received from the USDA receives far less testing for contamination than it would be by fast-food outlets that have had past troubles.”

■  “Most public schools offer students a government-subsidized lunch that is supposed to adhere to certain fat, caloric and nutritional standards. 20% of schools also sell branded fast foods such as Pizza Hut and Little Caesars pizza or McDonald's burgers and fries, according to a 2000 study of school health policies and programs by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

■  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 percent of children (over 9 million) 6-19 years old are overweight or obese -- a number that has tripled since 1980.
For children born in the United States in 2000, the lifetime risk of being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at some point in their lives is estimated to be about 30 percent for boys and 40 percent for girls. ("Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance, 2005," Institute of Medicine.)

■  In case reports limited to the 1990s, Type 2 diabetes accounted for 8 to 45 percent of all new pediatric cases of diabetes, in contrast with fewer than 4 percent before the 1990s.  ("Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance, 2005," Institute of Medicine.)

■  By as early as 7 years of age, being obese may raise a child's risk of future heart disease and stroke, even in the absence of other cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, according to a new study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM).

■  “The likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes and hypertension rises steeply with increasing body fatness. Confined to older adults for most of the 20th century, this disease now affects obese children even before puberty. Approximately 85% of people with diabetes are type 2, and of these, 90% are obese or overweight…Raised BMI also increases the risks of cancer of the breast, colon, prostate, endometroium, kidney and gallbladder.” (World Health Organization)

■  The CDC reviewed the discharge records of hospitals nationwide from 1979 to 1999, specifically of children ranging in age from 6 to 17 years and analyzed the results for all obesity-related illnesses. The researchers found that the incidence of:

•  Diabetes had nearly doubled
•  Obesity and gallbladder disease tripled
•  Sleep apnea increased five-fold

■  More than 70% obese adolescents retain their overweight and obese condition even during their adulthood.

■  As the percentages of obese children raises, so does the percentage of those affected with juvenile diabetes at nearly the same rate.

 ---HUMNEWS wishes to thank Avis Richards and her production team for sharing LUNCH with our audience.

Friday
Oct152010

(PERSPECTIVE) “Billions Undernourished: Are You Mad as Hell or Fat and Happy? Maybe It’s Time for a Food Revolution”

--- Commentary by Cynthia Thomet

The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that 925 million (nearly 1 billion) people in the world are undernourished. Following last year’s hunger summit in November, FAO Director General Jacques Diouf was quoted as saying, “with a child dying every six seconds because of undernourishment related problems, hunger remains the world's largest tragedy and scandal” in a press release that called upon people, organizations and states at all levels to do their part in ending world hunger.

 Given that today is World Food Day, you can start by signing this petition http://www.1billionhungry.org/ and joining the ranks of the outraged that are helping create a social media storm to address these tragic statistics. (Webcast to take place here: http://www.fao.org/webcast/.)

I am mad as hell, but I’m also a bit confused. In contrast, the World Health Organization reports that there are more than 1 billion overweight people in the world, of whom at least 300 million are overweight.

Overweight and undernourished.

While world hunger is on the decline and currently hovering at 925 million, it is still “unacceptably high”. In 2009, the number of undernourished people—with little access to food—exceeded 1 billion. Economists and other analysts at a handful of prominent nongovernmental organizations attribute the small decline to lower global food costs and improved economic conditions, but a walk or a drive around Washington D.C. and its Beltway neighborhoods might show a pudgier, less nutritious, reality.

Despite the souring economy in the United States, Americans aren’t getting smaller. And fatter does not necessarily mean happier—unless seriously ill means happy. Recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cite a “dramatic increase in obesity in the United States” and show boldly colored maps highlighting the prevalence of obesity in 33 states, a whopping 72 million Americans. Also frightening are the overlapping reports of diabetes and other health consequences of obesity, including stroke, certain cancers, and heart disease to name a few.

So it’s a little ironic that while about 1 billion people in the world are hungry and undernourished, there’s another billion people who are stuffed and undernourished.

In other words, worldwide undernourishment is a huge and unfed problem. It’s like being at Marie Antoinette’s buffet where there’s only cake to feed the aristocrats and not a thing for the famished. There appears to be an ever-widening “food gap” between the developed nations who appear to be over-exposed to fodder, and those developing countries that do not have enough to go around.

One response is a revolution. A report out of Norway called “Viable Food Future” addresses undernourishment, obesity, poverty, climate change with a sort of food revolution that targets the food production process.

It says, “If the goal is not to follow the path of vanishing empires of the past, then we need to revisit our relation to the earth, our sense of solidarity, and the way we fulfill our basic needs”.  With a view to small-scale food systems coupled with sustainable agricultural processes, the report presents opportunities to eradicate hunger, reduce obesity, cool the planet, and even improve employment for billions of people, and local economies.

A food revolution, indeed.

--- The author is Cynthia Thomet, a humanitarian, and co owner and doyenne of the award winning downtown Atlanta, Georgia; US restaurant, Lunacy Black Market. http://www.lunacyblackmarket.com/.