📺 Food Waste: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

Food Waste: Last Week Tonight by John Oliver from HBO
Producers, sellers, and consumers waste tons of food. John Oliver discusses the shocking amount of food we don’t eat.

This episode dispels a lot of common misconceptions about food and food donations in the United States.

Some of the potential legislation discussed here could be tremendously helpful not only to a lot of Americans, but to other countries as well. I find it difficult to believe that legislators work on a bunch of knucklehead things when “simple” things like this are left to fester away. Not only could it help out millions of people, but could create jobs, and drastically effect world efficiency as well as improve the economy.

If Jeremy Cherfas, hasn’t seen this, I highly recommend it. Perhaps a more in-dept episode of Eat This Podcast on the numbers, policy decisions and science?

Syndicated copies to:

🎧 Potatoes are (almost) perfect | Eat This Podcast

Potatoes are (almost) perfect by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast, May 13, 2013
The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service runs a program for Women, Infants and Children that subsidises specific foods for eligible women and their children. Back when it started, the WIC program excluded potatoes, on the grounds that “Americans already eat enough potatoes”. Potato growers – and their representatives – don’t like that. For one, they think it sends the wrong message about the nutritional value of potatoes. And so, in 2010, the Executive Director of the Washington State Potato Commission, Chris Voigt, launched a protest. He decided to eat nothing but potatoes for 60 days, gaining massive amounts of publicity but not – yet – a change in the WIC list of approved foods.[1] However, while the world marvelled at Voigt’s dedication to the people who pay his salary, one grower in neighbouring Oregon said “Hey, what’s so hard about that? Last winter, I ate pretty nearly all potatoes for about six months. It was a feast all winter!”

Carol Deppe – author of Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties and The Resilient Gardener – ate almost nothing but potatoes because that’s what she had, and because she really understands the nutritional value of potatoes. She points out that potatoes contain more than 2% protein, which doesn’t sound like much when you compare it to the 9% in rice or the 12% and more in wheat. But those are dry-weight values. On that basis, potato comes in at better than 10% protein, and that protein is both more balanced and better absorbed that wheat protein. This isn’t exactly news. It’s been known since the late 19th century that if you’re getting all your calories from potatoes, then you’re probably getting all the protein you need too. But that knowledge seems to have been forgotten, and Deppe thinks she knows why:
When the USDA denies WIC-program women, infants, and children their potatoes, in spite of the potato’s known excellence as a food, in spite of how much we all like it, I think I detect a subtly Euro-centric as well as classist message: “The right way to eat is like upper-class Europeans, not like New Worlders or peasants.” The problem is bigger than failing to recognize that Americans are not all Europeans, that even most European-Americans now embrace food traditions from many lands and cultures, and that most of us are closer to being peasants than to being medieval European royalty. To reject the potato is to be several hundred years out of date. Rejecting the potato represents a failure to learn some of the most important climate-change lessons of the Little Ice Age. I think the USDA should revisit its potato policy.

So do lots of other people, including potato growers, and although potatoes are again up for consideration, it isn’t clear whether this time they will make it onto the hallowed WIC list. In the meantime, they remain an excellent and nutritious food.

Notes
  • The Effect of Food Restriction During War on Mortality in Copenhagen is Dr Mikkel Hindhede’s account, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, of the impact of the World War I blockade on deaths in Denmark. By encouraging Danes to switch to a more vegetarian diet, Hindhede effectively saved 6300 lives. Mortaility was actually lower during the blockade than before or after. By contrast Germany, also affected by the blockade, saw widespread famine.
  • There’s an online account of Chris Voigt’s 60-day 20-a-day potato marathon. It’s pretty broken.
  • I hope to have more from Carol Deppe in a future podcast.
  • Image from Colorado Potatoes.
  • Intro music by Dan-O at DanoSongs.com.
  • It is even possible that Potato Pride is a genuine North Korean folk song?

I remember hearing about the USDA potato controversy at the time, but never dug into the details. Jeremy Cherfas kindly lays out lots of interesting potato information in his interview here.

Syndicated copies to:

Bush’s Baked Beans: The Vegetable Kids Love!??!

Beans and peas are the mature forms of legumes. Is it really any surprise that Americans' diets are so wildly off base and obesity and diabetes are on the rise?

This afternoon on the Food Network, I saw this surprising and shocking commercial:

I was so surprised that I actually had to rewind and rewatch it to make sure I’d actually heard it correctly.

Given the casting and the bright cinematography reminiscent of a Saturday Night Live skit (particularly with the talented and heavily underrated Evan Arnold), I was hoping to have a nice little laugh, but I was stunned by the tag line at the end. And no, I’m not talking about the advertising agency’s designated tagline “Booyah!”, which cleverly buries the lede; I’m talking about the tagline they designed to be remembered and the one which threw me: “Bush’s Baked Beans: The Vegetable Kids Love.”

While technically correct in so many of the wrong ways based on the USDA’s definition of vegetables, this commercial and its definition of vegetable belies the spirit in which the vast majority of American viewers are going to view and understand it. (And I’ll freely admit that at any given time, I’ve got up to two quarts of cooked beans in my refrigerator and a massive 25 pound bag of dried beans in the larder.)

I’ll at least give them credit that the dish served in the commercial did feature chicken as the protein, which by the USDA guidelines then pushes the beans into the “vegetable” column rather than the protein column in this meal. And I’ll further credit them that the serving sizes are almost reasonable for children of this age, though I suspect that from a commercial production standpoint, the small servings were more a function of trying to better feature the beans on the plate. However, if this is a balanced dinner, I’m guessing that the children aren’t getting their USDA RDA for “true” vegetables and fruit and are drastically overdosing on protein.

Fortunately, this commercial isn’t as egregious as Cheetos suggesting that they’re part of the vegetable food group because they’re made out of corn byproduct (incidentally, they have a pitiful Overall Nutritional Quality Index of 4!), but it does leave us on the terribly slippery slope that probably isn’t helping the overall American diet.

Beans and peas are the mature forms of legumes. They include kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), split peas and lentils. They are available in dry, canned, and frozen forms. These foods are excellent sources of plant protein, and also provide other nutrients such as iron and zinc. They are similar to meats, poultry, and fish in their contribution of these nutrients. Therefore, they are considered part of the Protein Foods Group. Many people consider beans and peas as vegetarian alternatives for meat. However, they are also considered part of the Vegetable Group because they are excellent sources of dietary fiber and nutrients such as folate and potassium. These nutrients, which are often low in the diet of many Americans, are also found in other vegetables.

 

Because of their high nutrient content, consuming beans and peas is recommended for everyone, including people who also eat meat, poultry, and fish regularly. The USDA Food Patterns classify beans and peas as a subgroup of the Vegetable Group. The USDA Food Patterns also indicate that beans and peas may be counted as part of the Protein Foods Group. Individuals can count beans and peas as either a vegetable or a protein food.

–Source Beans and peas are unique foods | USDA ChooseMyPlate.gov

For more information on beans, I’ll recommend the following more reliable resources:

Syndicated copies to: