Food Aid Reform

Its really funny that every week when I go to write my blog post, the topic Marion Nestle has covered  has something to do with our current topic. Did she steal your syllabus? This time the topic is food aid ( specifically reform of it. She describes the way food aid works like this:

“Since 1954, our system for donating food for emergencies and aid has worked like this:

The government buys U.S. farm commodities.
It requires at least 75% of these commodities to be transported on U.S. ships.
The commodities are given to governments for emergency relief, or
They are given to American charitable organizations to sell so the groups can use the money to finance development projects (this is called “monetization”).”

Doesn’t that sound kind of messed up? I mean, we are supposed to be helping other people here, not just ourselves. But instead this system guarantees that when other nations need our help, our farmers, shippers, government and charities are all benefited as well, perhaps even more than the people meant to be receiving the aid in the first place. This is not only self-serving, but also damages local agricultural and food systems. Nestle mentions that other countries buy food internationally (aka not from their own farmers) so it doesn’t have to be shipped long distances. That makes sense, given that food shipped halfway around the world is not only going to be a lot less fresh, but also it will take a lot more time to get where its going. She describes this method of providing aid as “inefficient and unnecessarily expensive”, and I totally agree. Other people have seen this too, including the Obama administration which plans some reforms:

“The Agency for International Development (USAID) wants the U.S. to:

  • Buy food in local countries (although 55% would still go to U.S. farmers)
  • End “monetization” to U.S. charitable organizations.”\

And of course, this perfectly sensible plan is already being met with lobbying from all of the aforementioned groups that benefit from our current system of aid. Suprise.



I eat a LOT of salad. I was talking about this with my friends at dinner last night, because hey had a fancy chef thing that they’ve been doing each month (which normally features meat), but this time it was a salad. And I was really excited about it. A lot of people find salad really boring (like my friends who like to make fun of me for eating it all the time), but I think there are just about infinite possibilities with salad. Sure, it can be kind of limiting  to eat here at school, but they still offer quite a bit of variety. There can be different bases, such as lettuce, spinach, mixed greens or kale (which sadly they don’t have at school… I’m not a big fan of eating it alone when its raw, but I wouldn’t mind mixing it in with some spinach or lettuce for additional nutrients! And I like to mix on top the veggies of the day, the vegetarian dish (almost always pasta… there could be a little more variety there…) and whatever else they have like perogies or maybe some chicken if I’m feeling it (yep, still not full blown vegetarian). Then theres the hummus and fresh baked bread and sunflower seeds and nuts and quinoa and all of the other things to eat on top or on the side! So many options. And lots of vegetables!Probably the weirdest thing about me eating salad is the fact that I very rarely use dressing. It just feels like empty calories and I don’t really like the messiness or taste of many dressings. Conclusion: I love salad and could definitely write an ode to it.  Instead I wrote a haiku (probably incorrectly).

Salad, I love you

Green and full of nutrition

You’ve been good to me


The next big thing in getting your food product sold to more customers? Claim (in extra big special shiny letters) that it has protein. Ooohh the magic. I hate to sound like a jerk here, but people are kind of stupid if they buy something just because it has protein in it. I mean, practically everything has some form of protein (not just meats and fortified foods). I guess its just something that clicks in people’s minds as being more “healthy” than regular non-protein fortified food. I think labeling has a big impact too; another post on her blog mentioned a study that found people thought food that had green labeling (especially around the calories), were perceived as more healthy simply because of the coloring.


Accepted Student’s Day

Today is accepted students day, so obviously the food in the cafeteria is much better. It got me thinking about how important food is when making your choice of where to go to college. When I was looking at schools, how good their food was ranked highly on my list of determining factors of whether I would go there. So taste really mattered, but I never really factored in the healthiness of their foods. I guess I was more concerned about whether I would be able to eat there for almost 4 years, and not how eating that food would affect my health.  Personally, I got a more realistic view of what the food was like at the schools I visited because I just came randomly during the year, not on special days such as Accepted Students Day. I’m curious about how the healthiness of the food affects people’s choice of what school they go to. I know I was subconsciously inclined to like cafeterias better at schools that had salad bars, but I was also more inclined to like them if they had a soft serve ice cream machine (like we do, yummm!). I also found it interesting, however, that today they had a wide variety of fresh baked breads (which they don’t normally, sometimes just a loaf or two), and they actually *gasp* labeled the vegan and vegetarian foods. If they made these small changes every day, and not just on days when prospective students will be here, maybe some more SU students would realize that there are healthy options available.