March 31st, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Numerous public health groups are praising the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry for unanimously approving a bipartisan bill that establishes federal nutrition standards for foods sold on school campuses.
“Nearly 24 million Americans have diabetes, and an additional 57 million—or 1 in 5 Americans—have pre-diabetes,” says Christine T. Tobin, RN, MBA, president of health care and education for the American Diabetes Association. “If current trends continue, one in three children will face a future with diabetes. Sensible nutrition policies like this one, which will provide our students with healthy food choices in their schools, will help us reverse these trends. Starting with strong nutrition standards in our nation’s schools will put us on the path to stop diabetes.”
“Obesity, which results from poor diet and physical inactivity, is a significant and growing American problem that begins in childhood,” says Molly Daniels, interim president of the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network.
“American Cancer Society research clearly shows that obesity correlates with and causes cancer,” she adds. “Adoption of national school nutrition standards will be an important tool for obesity prevention for children.”
“Each school day, parents entrust schools to care for their children all across our nation,” says National PTA President Charles J. Saylors. “Ensuring that salty, fatty junk foods and sugary drinks are no longer an option in our schools truly honors that trust and opens students up to healthier options.”
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children
Read More:Public Health Groups Applaud School Nutrition Guidelines
March 26th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry has unanimously approved the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which reauthorizes the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, while also establishing federal nutrition standards for foods sold on campuses.
In an attempt to address epidemic levels of childhood obesity, the bill requires the Secretary of Agriculture to designate school standards consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
“As a mother of two boys, it’s important to know that healthy, more nutritious foods will be more widely available throughout school campuses,” said Committee Chair Blanche Lincoln (D-AR).
“When it comes to what our kids eat at school, we need to make the healthy choice the easy choice,” added Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA). “That means ensuring that kids have the ability to choose from foods that meet science-based nutrition standards. This agreement provides a commonsense approach to healthy eating, and it starts in a place where our kids spend the majority of their day: their schools. With childhood obesity and diabetes on the rise, it couldn’t have come at a better time.”
“Current nutrition standards haven’t been updated since my children were in school in the 1970s,” said Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA). “Today, my grandchildren are in school and are faced with the same junk food choices that should have been replaced years ago. It’s long past time to bring these school food standards into the 21st century, and I am pleased that, with this agreement, we are one step closer to passing these changes into law.”
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Free for All: Fixing School Food in America
Read More:School Nutrition Guidelines Pass Senate Committee
March 10th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
As noted yesterday in When Costs Rise, Sales of Unhealthful Foods Drop, so-called sin taxes on unhealthful foods may help stem America’s obesity and diabetes epidemics.
Facing critical budget deficits, some city and state legislators are embracing the idea. Earlier this month, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter proposed a tax on soda purchases, while Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter last month signed a bill to tax candy and soda.
“State-level taxes exist on soda sold in grocery stores and vending machines in 34 and 39 states, respectively, and the mean taxes, currently applied for revenue generation, range from 3% to 4%,” write San Francisco Department of Public Health officials Mitchell H. Katz, MD, and Rajiv Bhatia, MD, in an editorial published in Monday’s edition of Archives of Internal Medicine.
But there’s not much evidence to support a link between such modest surcharges and changes in consumer behavior, they note.
“More substantial surcharges may decrease the consumption of sweetened beverages and, equally important, increase the consumption of more healthful alternatives,” write Drs. Katz and Bhatia.
The revenues cities and states collect “could be used to increase awareness about the harm of sugar-sweetened beverages and fund structural interventions, such as creating water stations in schools,” they add. “Copying a successful tactic of anti-tobacco crusaders, the funds also could be used to counter the lavish advertising of soda and junk food or for ‘marketing’ ordinary tap water.
“In the end,” they conclude, “putting our money where our mouth is means aligning our economic incentives so that we always serve up the healthful choice.”
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Suicide by Sugar: A Startling Look at Our #1 National Addiction
Read More:Should Food Prices Reflect Health Priorities?
February 9th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
After President Obama delivered his State of the Union address, the National Wildlife Federation was quick to urge Congress to enact comprehensive energy and climate legislation.
“Last year, the president showed the leadership and determination to help the House pass the energy reform legislation that is overdue for America,” said NWF Senior Vice President Jeremy Symons. “His call for action was clear. He is ready to help the Senate take on Big Oil and move a bipartisan clean energy and climate bill that creates jobs, limits pollution from energy companies and reduces our dependency on oil from hostile nations.”
Big Oil and its beneficiaries “are spending millions of dollars to block progress,” Symons said. “They are standing in the way of clean energy jobs, energy security and clean air. The Senate must deliver this year, and senators will need the president’s help to overcome the obstruction that has stalled past efforts at real energy reform.”
Symons also praised Obama for making environmental education a priority—one that prepares “America’s workforce for a clean energy economy.”
Click here for an update on what’s happening in Washington. We also encourage you to call or write to your elected representatives to express your views on the environment.
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Green: Your Place in the New Energy Revolution
Photo courtesy of the White House
Affordable Health Insurance Information
More and more folks are doing their shopping for cheap health insurance on the Internet, finding affordable policies and the exact coverage they need.
Read More:Supporting Obama’s Energy Agenda
February 1st, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
When President Obama gave his State of the Union address on Wednesday, he highlighted the importance of clean energy and green jobs.
“We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy-efficient, which supports clean energy jobs,” he said. “And to encourage these and other businesses to stay within our borders, it is time to finally slash the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs right here in the United States of America.”
The president also cited the need for U.S. innovation.
“Last year, we made the largest investment in basic research funding in history—an investment that could lead to the world’s cheapest solar cells or treatment that kills cancer cells, but leaves healthy ones untouched,” he said. “And no area is more ripe for such innovation than energy. You can see the results of last year’s investments in clean energy—in the North Carolina company that will create 1,200 jobs nationwide helping to make advanced batteries, or in the California business that will put a thousand people to work making solar panels.”
The president called upon Congress to pass a comprehensive energy and climate bill, “with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.” And while he acknowledged the costs involved in moving forward, Obama said we cannot afford to sit on our hands.
“I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change,” he said. “But here’s the thing: Even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future—because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation.”
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Clean Energy Common Sense: An American Call to Action on Global Climate Change
Official White House photo by Pete Souza
Read More:Obama Pushes for Comprehensive Energy, Climate Legislation
January 3rd, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
In July 2008, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (at podium, right) signed into law a bill that banned the use of trans fats in restaurants, effective Jan. 1, 2010.
Restaurants must now use oils, margarine and shortening that contains less than half a gram of trans fat per serving. Violators will be fined up to $1,000.
The second part of the law, a trans-fat ban for baked goods, takes effect next January. The lag time allows the industry to make the proper conversions.
As reported in the Sacramento Bee, the California Restaurant Association initially balked at the bill, but its spokesperson now says the industry is compliant.
Other opponents represented a wide spectrum of the food industry, from the California Grocers Association and California Retailers Association to the California Chamber of Commerce and California Retailers Association. Business interests resisting a public health-oriented change? Profits over patriotism? Not exactly shocking.
California is the first state to ban trans fats, following the lead of cities like New York, Philadelphia and Boston.
Read More:Trans Fats Gone from California Restaurants
November 9th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) has introduced The Household Product Labeling Act (S. 1697), which would require household cleaning products to carry labels that list all of their ingredients.
“Moms and dads have a right to know whether harmful chemicals are present in their kitchen cupboards,” Franken says. “When my wife, Franni, and I were raising our own kids, we were constantly concerned with what we used to wash their cribs, their pacifiers, the floors and surfaces they played on. This is just a commonsense measure to help parents keep their kids safe and healthy.”
Current law requires product labels to list immediately hazardous ingredients, but there is no labeling requirement for ingredients that may cause harm over time.
Toxic chemicals in household products produce harmful health effects—the main reason we recommend natural and organic options.
The bill would make information readily available to consumers. HR 3057, the House companion bill, was introduced by Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY).
From the Mind of Al Franken
Read More:Franken Introduces Household Product Labeling Act
September 2nd, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
September is National Food Safety Education Month. So, should we don our party hats?
I think not.
Let’s look at some recent news events:
- A woman is fighting for her life in Las Vegas. Linda Rivera was infected with E. coli after eating contaminated Nestle Cookie Dough, which was later recalled.
- Cantaloupes from a Florida distributor tested positive for salmonella on Aug. 21 and have been recalled.
- Jumbo green onions from several distributors were recalled Aug. 12. They, too, tested positive for salmonella.
- The romaine recall we told you about on July 26 continues. Salinas, Calif.-based Tanimura & Antle has expanded it to cover all 50 states.
- Cilantro from a Texas distributor joined the salmonella-infection club on July 28. The product originated in Mexico.
If there was ever a time for a national overhaul of our food-safety systems, it’s now.
True, the House of Representatives has passed the Food Safety Enhancement Act (HR 2749), but there were unresolved issues regarding organic producers and access to local food. OrganicAuthority Publisher Laura Klein has grave concerns about this bill.
Do you worry about the safety of our country’s food supply? Please let us know how recent events have changed your buying habits.
Photo courtesy of the CDC
Read More:Food Safety Takes a Beating
June 1st, 2009 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
My school was so outdated we had encyclopedias in the library that read, “Someday we’ll send a man to the moon.” So I doubt it was all that green.
Hopefully that’ll all change, because The House just passed a $6.4 billion school modernization bill that will devote money to build and update more energy-efficient school buildings.
Not unlike my college dorm room. Advocates of the bill said all students and teachers deserve a safe and healthy learning environment, but too often schools are literally falling apart.
The passage of the bill wasn’t all chocolate and roses. Opponents of the legislation, mostly Republicans, grumbled at the high price tag, but the money will come. Supporters of the bill say green schools save $100,000 a year on operating expenses and the typical school lasts 40 years.
However, the challenge is changing people’s perception. Most people think green schools cost more up front, but eco-friendly builders insist they do not.
Sounds like a sweet deal to me. Finally my old school will get that VCR they’ve been eyeballing!
Read More:Schools Get a $6.4 Billion Green Upgrade
May 26th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Reaction to committee passage of The American Clean Energy and Security Act has been swift.
“The bill represents a crucial step forward in addressing the global climate crisis, the need for millions of new green jobs to end the recession, and the national security threats that have long been linked to our growing dependence on foreign oil and other fossil fuels,” says former Vice President Al Gore, board chairman of the Alliance for Climate Protection. “I encourage Congress to further strengthen this excellent legislation during floor consideration and move to pass this bill in both the House and the Senate this year.”
“Every day, it becomes clearer that we need to create new jobs and industries that will drive the clean-energy future, keeping energy prices low for families and businesses, all while addressing the challenge carbon emissions pose to our climate,” said Reed Hundt, cochair of Coalition for Green Bank, a consortium of leaders in energy development. “This legislation will provide reliable low-cost financing critical to a private-sector–led transition from carbon to clean energy.”
Tom Cochran, CEO and executive director of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, applauds the bill, but he views it through a local lens.
“We’re concerned that the committee agreed on a bill that provides billions of dollars for state governments but excludes direct funding for cities, which is where the majority of climate protection actions have been taking place, as demonstrated by the 950 mayors who have signed The U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement,” he said. “We’re recommending that at least 20% of the direct proceeds from auctions created by this bill that go to states instead go directly to cities to support efforts already under way by nearly 1,000 mayors.”
Ralph Izzo, chairman of PSEG, a publicly traded diversified energy company, acknowledges groups may have specific agendas.
“We cannot let the search for perfection impede real progress,” he said. “Chairmen Waxman, Markey and Boucher listened to their colleagues and worked to produce revised legislation that reflects a balanced and collaborative approach. We’ve seen real leadership in the crafting of this comprehensive bill, and I am hopeful that we’ll see something move through Congress this year.
“This bill marks a turning point in the discussion and is an indication that the country is getting serious about the need to address global warming,” he added. “The threat of climate change requires that we transform the way we produce and consume energy, and the way we live our lives. How we respond will be the defining issue of our time.”
Read More:Experts Laud Energy Bill