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Who is pulling the strings at the School Nutrition Association?

As I wrote in June, a bitter fight erupted in Washington, D.C., when the School Nutrition Association (SNA) — representing the nation’s 55,000 school food professionals — decided to oppose nutrition improvements to federally subsidized school meals, claiming that districts face insurmountable challenges from too many changes happening too quickly. Michelle Obama has made the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 one of her top causes and she is pulling no punches defending the new rules, which require schools to serve lower-sodium and lower-fat meals with more whole grains and fruit and vegetable servings. The result is an unfortunate standoff between the White House and the SNA’s current leadership. Read rest at Al Jazeera America ....

Photo Guide to School Lunch – A Walk Through the School Nutrition Association Expo

Dominos Feeding FutureI recently attended the annual meeting of the School Nutrition Association, the trade group that represents the 55,000 food service workers who have the thankless job of feeding millions of schoolchildren every day. While there, I tweeted out a few photos I took on the expo floor and I’ve uploaded all 82 of them to Instagram here.

The images are more or less organized by either food category or company. Several of the event’s official sponsors, including Tyson, PepsiCo, and Domino’s were listed on prominent signs here and here.

First is a series of mascots, including Smuckers, Chester the Cheetah, and the State Fair hotdog. At the National Dairy Council booth, attendees were lined up to have their photo taken with a statue of a cow. Why? Because (I was told) they would get a plush toy cow. The booth was promoting “Fuel up to Play” a nutrition program in schools that emphasizes dairy.

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Have the Feds Made School Food Worse with Government-Approved Junk?

Last week I attended the School Nutrition Association’s annual meeting in Boston, a gathering of the nation’s school food service workers. While most of the controversy lately has focused on the federally-required improvements to nutrition standards for school lunches, getting lost in the shuffle are new standards coming online this fall for school snacks and beverages. Read rest at TIME.com …

The Dirty Secret Behind Dairy Junk Foods

Industry and government work together to promote everything from fast-food pizza to sugary milk in schools

People often ask me, “How does lobbying work?” Last week it was with fat and sugar, when the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) hosted its 32nd annual Capitol Hill Ice Cream Party. Some 6,000 bowls of ice cream were served up to Sen. Tom Harkin, Reps. Pete Sessions, Robert Aderholt, Jeff Denham, John Shimkus, Ron Kind and Lamar Smith, among others, according to Politico. Dairy lobbyists are ever present in Washington, and their efforts usually pay off. For example, last year when the IDFA implored the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to give dairy foods a pass in the new snack food guidelines for schools, the agency capitulated, opening school doors to even more junk food, such as YoCrunch Lowfat Yogurt with M&Ms.

This is just one of many examples I uncovered in a report I published last month, “Whitewashed: How Industry and Government Promote Dairy Junk Foods” (PDF). The dairy industry, propped up by government, has convinced us of the health benefits of milk and other dairy products. The assumption that eating dairy is essential to the diet has obstructed our ability to criticize federal government support for unhealthy dairy products, of which there are many. Read rest at Al Jazeera America …

School Food Lobby Flip-flops on Healthy School Lunches

School Nutrition Association includes such Big Food sponsors as PepsiCo, Domino’s and Muffin Town.

Perhaps the most visible advocate for improving school food, Michelle Obama is now defending what shouldn’t be such a controversial idea: adding fruits and vegetables to public school lunches. Ask any nutrition expert what foods Americans — especially kids — need more of in their diet, and the answer would be the same: fresh produce. But some Republicans, such as Rep. Robert Aderholt of Alabama, never seem to miss an opportunity to turn a no-brainer into a political battle, particularly when it comes to school food. (Who can forget the pizza as a vegetable debacle?) And just in time to give them the necessary cover, they got a gift from an unlikely source. The School Nutrition Association (SNA) has asked Congress to approve waiver requests for schools that are struggling to comply with federal nutrition regulations aimed at improving children’s health.

Read rest at Al Jazeera America …

Media Coverage for Whitewashed: How Industry and Government Promote Dairy Junk Foods

Following is the media coverage so far for my recent report, Whitewashed: How Industry and Government Promote Dairy Junk Foods.

Mother Jones: How the US Government Helps McDonald’s Sell Junk Food

Los Angeles Times: Bad government programs watch: Promoting milk as a health food

Food Navigator: ‘Dairy junk foods’ under fire in report highlighting dramatic shift in dairy consumption patterns

Food Politics: Michele Simon’s latest report: “Whitewashed”

Naturally Savvy: Most Dairy Products Are Junk Foods, Says New Report

One Green Planet: New Report Reveals Shocking Ways Industry and Government Promote Dairy Junk Foods

The Incidental Economist: The continued power of the milk-industrial complex

Care2: Big Dairy Leans on the Government, Sells Us Junk

 

Whitewashed: How Industry and Government Promote Dairy Junk Foods

coverThe United States is in the midst of a public health epidemic due to poor diet. While much of the focus has been on obvious culprits such as sugary soft drinks and fast food, dairy foods often get a pass. The dairy industry, propped up by government, has convinced us of the health benefits of milk and other dairy products. But the context of how people consume dairy matters.

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Every State Counts: Support GMO Labeling in Oregon and Colorado

The East Coast has been getting most of the attention lately on the state by state effort to label genetically-engineered food. Vermont recently passed a bill and New York State’s bill is now moving. But let’s not forget about the western states, which are also critical to this fight. Right to know advocates in Oregon and Colorado are currently gathering signatures to place measures on the November ballot. Both of these states have a good shot at convincing voters to pass GMO labeling.

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How Food Marketers Spin Nutrition Information

I have a feature story in the current issue of Experience Life magazine. Here is how the editors introduce the article:

It’s no wonder that most of us are confused. Combine this with dubious ads from the food industry — and the fact that some media outlets may not want to alienate food companies that advertise with them — and we end up with even more muddled information. Overwhelmed, frustrated, and resigned, many of us throw up our hands and eat whatever we want. The good news, however, is that understanding where biased health information comes from can help us sift through the latest headlines and become more intelligent news consumers and smarter shoppers.

You can read the entire article here and listen to the podcast interview here.

Big Food Freaking Out Over Fed Up Movie

Am thrilled to be featured in a new powerful film by Laurie David and Katie Couric that features an all-star line-up.

If you search for “Fed Up movie” on Google, the first link you see is not the film’s website, but rather a page from the Grocery Manufacturers Association called “Fed Up Facts“. It’s a silly and desperate attempt by Big Food to respond to the star-power that has Katie Couric appearing all over the mainstream media spreading a message that the food industry doesn’t want you to hear. (GMA denies that “the food industry purposely advertises unhealthy foods to children”. It must happen by accident.)

The film really pulls no punches aiming to dispel the junk food industry’s strongest talking points: it’s all a matter of personal responsibility; we can just exercise our way to health; and we don’t need government regulation. Even Let’s Move is criticized for placing too much emphasis on physical activity and industry partnerships. But as I told the filmmakers, the first lady is in the wrong wing of the White House. (That quote didn’t make the final cut, alas. See this review saying the film lacks policy solutions, which I mostly agree with.)

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