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food, nutrition, and health news

That moment when…

…you’re watching Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food on PBS and suddenly you recognize yourself in the crowd! Watch the discussion of soda politics here.

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Food Policy News: Friday April 1, 2016

Nellie Bowles tweet
Food tweet of the week
  • Lawmakers in California introduced a statewide sugary drink tax to generate revenue for diabetes and obesity prevention programs, known as the Healthy California Fund (AB 2782). Similar to Berkeley’s existing soda tax, the fee would be assessed on distributors of sugary drinks at a rate of $0.02 per fluid ounce. Read the bill text here.
  • Big Food is voluntarily labeling GMOs, largely due to Vermont’s passage of a mandatory labeling law in 2014. “Since food companies can’t create different packaging just for Vermont, it appears that the tiniest of states has created a labeling standard that will go into effect nationwide.” General Mills, Mars, and Kellogg will begin labeling GMOs on a national scale before the July 1 deadline. [How Little Vermont Got Big Food Companies To Label GMOs, NPR]
  • Soda warning labels, similar to those on cigarettes, are the clearest way to inform consumers that sugary drinks are harmful to health. Of course, the beverage industry would prefer that consumers continue to be baffled by the Nutrition Facts Label. An opinion article in the New York Times makes the case for labeling sugary drinks. [Labeling the Danger in Soda, NYT]
  • Just when you thought the juicing craze couldn’t get any worse…For a mere $700, you can buy a kitchen appliance that produces 8oz of organic cold-pressed juice at once. Cue the eyerolls – this is not an April Fools’ joke. [A $700 Juice Box for the Kitchen That Caught Silicon Valley’s Eye, NYT]

2015 Food Resolutions

Here’s to 2015!

1. Enjoy more meatless meals. We’ve been gradually eating less and less meat over the past year, and I’m always looking for healthy, meatless meal ideas (i.e., not ones that replace meat with cheese).

2. Waste less food. This means grocery shopping more often during the week, not letting our farmers’ market produce wilt before we can eat it, and finishing our leftovers.

3. Continue advocating for healthy food in my community. I’m attending my first Berkeley Food Policy Council meeting next week and hope to be involved in implementation of the city’s soda tax.

4. Use my cookbooks more often. I read so many food blogs that I get overwhelmed with the sheer number of potential recipes, stick to tried-and-true meals, and forget that I have a bunch of inspiring cookbooks on hand. I’m starting to cook my way through the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook and would love to get Dana Cowin’s new book, Mastering My Mistakes In the Kitchen, and Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty.

5. Listen to more food podcasts. I just discovered Radio Cherry Bombe (download on iTunes), which features interviews with women in the food world – recent ones included Ruth Reichl and Ina Garten, who are both delightful. Any other recommendations?

Berkeley’s Soda Tax: Turning the Tides on Big Soda

victory yes on d cover photoIn case you missed it last week (and in the Bay Area, you would have to be living under a rock to miss it), Berkeley’s soda tax passed (Measure D) with a whopping 75% of the vote. A HUGE victory for the public health world, and helping the City of Berkeley continue to pursue a healthier community. Thanks to the Berkeley vs. Big Soda team for being an amazing group of colleagues to work with.

I wrote two blog posts – a before and after, if you will – for JSI’s blog, The Pump. Read them at the links below:

“In California, a tax on sugary drinks is the first step in the fight against obesity” (11/3/14)

“Berkeley Passes the Nation’s First Soda Tax” (11/5/14)

Thanks for reading!

Upcoming Event: Berkeley Soda Series

sodaseriesIn an effort to raise awareness about the health and environmental impacts of soda and other sugary drinks, the Berkeley Healthy Child Coalition and several other local organizations are hosting Soda: The Series from September 4th through October 9th. The series of community events will include Berkeley leaders alongside speakers such as Dr. Robert Lustig (a renowned UCSF researcher on sugar), Raj Patel (award-winning writer, activist, and academic), and Anna Lappé (author and director of Small Planet Institute) discussing the science of sugary drinks, tactics of the soda industry, and disease prevention efforts. These events take place in the run-up to the November election, when Berkeley will vote on Measure D, a tax on sugary drinks.

Visit for more information and to download the flyer!


Fighting Big Soda in Berkeley

My blogging always falls off the radar when I’m busy. But, this time, I have a good reason – I’m volunteering with the Berkeley vs. Big Soda campaign to pass a tax on sugary drinks in the city of Berkeley, California.


Sugary drinks – like soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, and even juices with added sugar – have repeatedly been linked to increase risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, and tooth decay. Yet, the beverage industry (aka Big Soda) relentlessly markets these unhealthy drinks despite their harmful health effects. Deceptive marketing most often targets kids and communities of color. As a public health advocate, I truly believe that we need strong policy approaches to address the chronic diseases caused by sugary drinks – educational campaigns on the topic just aren’t sufficient to reduce soda consumption when people are inundated with Big Soda’s targeted marketing.

Berkeley is proposing a tax on distributors of sugary drinks to tell Big Soda that we won’t let them profit at the expense of our community’s health any longer. Revenue from the tax could be used to fund community- and school-based obesity prevention programs. We also hope that by raising awareness of the issue of soda-related diseases, Berkeley’s families and residents will rethink their beverage choices and sugary drink consumption will decline over time.

I encourage you to visit our website and follow us on social media to learn what we’re all about:

If you happen to be a local reader, please volunteer and donate. The decision on the ballot measure will be finalized at the Berkeley City Council meeting on June 24th. Let’s make Berkeley the first city in the U.S. to pass a tax on sugary drinks!

UPDATE: As of July 1st, the Berkeley soda tax (now known as Measure D) is officially on the November ballot!

July 1 tweet

Upcoming APHA Webinar Series on Food, Justice, and Health Equity

As part of National Public Health Week, the American Public Health Association is hosting a 4-part webinar series on food, justice, and health equity. The first in the series is this Thursday, April 10th on “Food justice, Obesity & the Social Determinants of Health.” Speakers include Shiriki Kumanyika, PhD, MPH APHA President-Elect and Cecilia Martinez, PhD, Center for Earth, Energy & Democracy.

Here’s the description of this week’s webinar from APHA: Healthy communities depend on food environments that allow for access to healthy food. Where you live should not dictate how well you eat, or how that food is grown, but it often does. APHA President Elect, Shiriki Kumanyika, PhD, discusses food environments as drivers of obesity and related diseases, as well as critical elements in achieving health equity. Respondent Dr. Cecelia Martinez of the Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy (CEED) will discuss community indicators for food justice.

Register here for the 4-part webinar series. Be sure to check out the other events on the NPHW website!


Food Policy News: Week of March 27

  • The USDA recently conducted a study of SNAP-based incentive programs, those which increase the value of SNAP benefits at farmers’ markets through matching funds or another mechanism. The goal of the Farmers Market Incentive Provider Study was to explore who is funding, operating, and supporting these programs in communities across the US. Wholesome Wave provided a nice summary of the findings, largely from a series of interviews, demonstrating that these programs rely heavily on steady funding streams and partnerships with community organizations to sustain them. [USDA Economic Research Service]
  • Early evidence suggests that Mexicans are drinking less sugary drinks in the wake of the country’s recent soda tax, which took effect in January. In response to the peso-per-liter tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, beverage companies like Coca-Cola have passed the tax burden down to consumers by raising prices. Beverage sales are predicted to fall by 6-7 percent as a result. [Bloomberg]
  • A recent community poll in Berkeley, CA demonstrated community support for a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages – 66% of voters surveyed would support a penny-per-ounce tax if revenue went into the city’s general fund, and 64% would support a tax if the funding were devoted to nutrition and other community programs. The UC Berkeley student government also recently passed a tax on sugary drinks on campus to raise revenue for the student health center. [Berkeleyside]
  • The country of Denmark was able to eliminate salmonella in raw chicken by taking an upstream approach to food safety and adopting a “zero tolerance” policy. Human illness from salmonella is a huge problem in the United States, but taking a similar approach to Denmark isn’t feasible given the sheer size of our poultry industry (we processed 8.5 billion chickens in 2013), and the fractured nature of our food safety and inspection systems. A food safety overhaul in the U.S. is long overdue – but, in the meantime, I’d steer clear of chicken. [Food Safety News, Food Politics]

Upcoming Event: Michael Pollan Lecture in SF

ImageMichael Pollan will be speaking in San Francisco on May 1st in a lecture entitled, “The Omnivore’s Solution: In Defense of Food.” 

Here’s the event description from City Arts:

For the past twenty years, Michael Pollan has been writing books and articles about the places where the human and natural worlds intersect: food, agriculture, gardens, drugs and architecture.  An “ethical-eating guru” and fierce advocate of sustainable agriculture and living, Pollan is one of the most compelling voices on subjects ranging from environment to business to health.  He is the author of In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, and Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation.  Pollan teaches at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. This program is a lecture titled The Omnivore’s Solution: In Defense of Food.

Buy tickets here soon!

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