Archive for the ‘food activism’ Category

We did manage to do something right….

June 14, 2011

If you're ready for a zombie apocalypse, then you're ready for any emergency.

A new campaign from the CDC

If you’re on the front lines of public health initiatives, as members of the Staten Island Hunger Task Force, Take Care Staten Island, and the Staten Island Smoke-Free Partnership are, the idea that you’re going to be able to make a dent in obesity, alcohol or drug abuse, or smoking seems ludicrous.

However, on May 20, the Center for Disease Control reported the 10 biggest public health changes in the last ten years. The U.S. as a whole has:

  • Reduced smoking from 23.5% of adults and 34.8% of youths in 1999 to 20.6% of adults and 19.5% of youths in 2009.
  • Reduced traffic accidents, injuries, and fatalities: While the number of miles traveled went up 8.5%, the death rate declined from 14.9 to 11.0 per 100,000 people, and the injury rate declined from 1,130 to 722. Among children, the number of pedestrian deaths declined by 49%, from 475 to 244, and the number of bicyclist deaths declined by 58%, from 178 to 74 (with the possible exception of New York City—see Watch biker prove futility of NYC bike laws by crashing over-and-over again and New York City traffic goes three ways).
  • Reduced coronary heart disease rates from 195 to 126 per 100,000 population and reduced stroke deaths from 61.6 to 42.2 per 100,000 population.
  • Significantly reduced lead poisoning. In 2000, childhood lead poisoning was a major environmental public health problem. Black children and those living in poverty and in old, poorly maintained homes were affected the most. Because of state and federal lead poisoning prevention laws, lead poisoning dropped from 88.2% to 0.9% among children aged 1-5 years between 1976 and 2008.

So maybe it takes 10 years to see results. Or possibly longer: At least 15 years ago, Henry Spira and other animal activists started a campaign to reduce pain and suffering among laying hens. Last night, I noticed a band of type around the Hellmann’s Mayonnaise jar: “Contains Cage-Free Eggs.” Wow. Can’t be more mainstream than that.


Mind the Gap!

June 7, 2011

First, let’s start with the poverty line.  As of 2011, for the 48 contiguous states, the Dept. of Health and Human Services poverty lines are:

For a single-person household: $10,890
For a two-person household:  $14,710
Three persons: $18,530
Four persons: $22,350

The list goes up to eight, but let’s stop here. On Staten Island, 11.2% of people are at or below the poverty line. (Try to imagine living on $10,890 a year.)

Poverty line or up to 130% of the poverty line

If you make less than 130% of the poverty line, you’re eligible for food stamps (called SNAP or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program everywhere except New York State) and other programs such as WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP).

130% of the poverty line

If your annual income is higher than 130%–in other words, $10,890 x 1.3 or $14,147 for an individual or $29,055 for a family of four–you’re no longer eligible for food stamps but your children are still eligible for free school lunch. (more…)

Secede from the Union over Farm Food? Maine Town Passes Landmark Local Food Ordinance

April 25, 2011

In March, Sedgwick, a small town on the coast of Maine, passed a “Local Food and Self-Governance Ordinance” that says that farmers selling directly from their farms to customers don’t need to be licensed or inspected by state and federal governments. The ordinance also exempts foods made in home kitchens from licensing and inspection.

Sedgwick farmer Bob St. George points out that “until the last couple generations, we didn’t need a special license or new facility each time we wanted to sell something to our neighbors. Small farmers and producers have been getting squeezed out in the name of food safety, yet it’s the industrial food that is causing food borne illness, not us.”

The ordinance is online ( to make it easy for other towns to follow Sedgwick’s example. However, one of the ordinance’s most interesting aspects is the declaration of (possible) independence:

The foundation for making and adoption of this law is the peoples’ fundamental and inalienable right to govern themselves, and thereby secure their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Any attempt to use other units and levels of government to preempt, amend, alter or overturn this Ordinance or parts of this Ordinance shall require the Town to hold public meetings that explore the adoption of other measures that expand local control and the ability of citizens to protect their fundamental and inalienable right to self-government. It is declared that those other measures may legitimately include the partial or complete separation of the Town from the other units and levels of government that attempt to preempt, amend, alter, or overturn this Ordinance.

Is selling food at a farm stand an inalienable right? It made me laugh at first, but here on Staten Island, it seems that neighbors aren’t allowed to sell, swap, or even give away their backyard produce except under of cover of night, over the back fence. That can’t be right. Bushels of figs, apples, and persimmons rot on the ground every fall while folks in the housing projects can’t afford an old peach in the local bodega.