Food Policy Roundup from Serious Eats

I am a devout follower of Serious Eats. I love their style, their recipes, their food porn, and their wit. In fact, one of my dream jobs would be to work at the Serious Eats headquarters where I’d engage in taste tests, interview bartenders and chefs, write about food, and play with dogs.  Today I’m sharing their post on recent food policy events:

In Food Policy This Week: 5 News Bites

Posted by Leah Douglas, May 7, 2012 at 6:00 PM

  • Researchers think they have found the cause of hive collapse, which has resulted in a 30 to 90% loss of honeybee colonies in the U.S. since 2006. Imidacloprid, an extremely common pesticide, was implicated as a deadly toxin that resulted in nearly complete population loss in a 23-week experiment. Some bees ingest the pesticide through pollen, while others may be fed with high fructose corn syrup derived from treated corn. The toxin can make the bees more susceptible to disease as well as scramble the complex navigation system that helps them return to their hives. Bees are responsible for the pollination of nearly one third of agricultural crops.
  • The New York Times checks in on some key pieces of food legislation that are currently stalled in Congress. The Food Safety Modernization Act, signed in January 2011, would require more stringent measures from food producers to prevent outbreaks of foodborne illness, but are not yet open for public comment. Last April, an interagency committee drafted a set of nutritional regulations for foods marketed to children under 18, but no action has been taken to implement those regulations. And in 2010, the FDA issued guidelines for food service operations to list the caloric content of food items on menus, but has not followed through. These conversations may be on hold due to the election season, or perhaps due to strong pushback from the food industry.
  • Reuters has a fascinating analysis of the current state of the food and beverage industries’ relationship with Congress and the White House. The industries have doubled their lobbying efforts over the last three years, with almost $50 million spent on lobbying in 2011 alone. The $1.5 trillion food and beverage industry insists it can regulate itself and resists regulatory initiatives from Congress. This resistance has resulted in backpedaling on programs and legislation related to childhood obesity and nutrition. This piece is lengthy but full of fascinating and revealing information about the behind-the-scenes of food policy.
  • The state of New York funded nearly 50 food access programs in this year’s round of FreshConnect grants. The FreshConnect program works to improve healthy food access among low-income or low-access communities. Some funded ventures for this year include subsidized CSA programs, farmers markets looking to accept EBT payment, and youth-led produce stands and businesses. Nearly all of the funded programs also have a food donation component, which doubles their community impact. Almost $300,000 in funding was distributed through the FreshConnect program this year.
  • new study for the journal Pediatrics suggests that children from food-insecure households may develop unhealthy eating habits when they are unsure where their next meal will come from. The study found that mothers of low-income households encouraged children to continue eating even when they were full, or withheld food when the children were still hungry. These inconsistencies could set the stage for obesity later in life, as children haven’t learned to monitor hunger triggers. The study is an interesting perspective on the childhood obesity trend among low-income populations.

About the Author: A student in Providence, Rhode Island, Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her work has also been featured in Rhode Island Monthly Magazine.


Do you look like Julia?

Politically, I’m on the left side of left, I’m so far left, you can’t see me (unless you’re there too). But this post isn’t about whether or not I like or dislike Obama or Romney (I am not a fan of either if you were wondering) but about the ‘Life of Julia’ Campaign that Obama’s team put together. Have you seen it?

Because of my public policy background I have an astute appreciation for what they’re doing with this – it’s important for people to understand how policies will actually affect them on an personal level. Otherwise, public policies exist in a vacuum where Congressional members care about them but the people (for whom they will matter) don’t.

However I have some key issues with both the specifics and style of the campaign.

If you don’t want to go through the slide show I’ll give you a brief synopsis. Julia is shown at various ages throughout her life, engaging in the very standardized “this is what a woman’s life looks like in America” model. Hmm…I didn’t realize that women’s lives in America were so homogenized, orrrr white, or filled with babies, and college.

Anyway! Each slide features a public policy that Obama has created or supported and explains how that policy affects Julia’s life in a positive way (See the slides below).

Pretty effective stuff don’t you agree? (Well it’s effective if YOU can relate to the lady in the slide show).

Now you know I didn’t just put that last slide up there by accident because Student Loans are a BIG ISSUE on this blog. What about Julia’s mom in this scenario – what’s going on to help her with the debt she might still have? What about making tuition prices less outrageous for Julia’s son?

I appreciate the public policy messaging savvy but I’d like the campaign to think about reaching out to those who don’t exactly live Julia’s life.

Dr. Orange Chair Mc Fancy Pants

I can’t believe I’m thinking this, especially after my rant about the cost of graduate school (we can’t deny that Master’s programs can be a University’s bread and butter) and how much I didn’t enjoy my Master’s program BUT I am thinking about pursuing my DrPH (that’s a doctorate in public health for those who may not know).

Boom! I bet you didn’t see that coming (or maybe you did and then you’re more clairvoyant than me).

I’ve come into a unique situation in which I could begin taking classes, join a program, and finish up a program at little to no cost. This whole ‘free degree’ thing is pretty appealing. Well, it’s not really free is it? I mean, financially, maybe. But there’s a whole time and sanity sink that comes with going back to school (papers, classes, teachers you don’t like, more bureaucracy than you can shake a stick at).

I have felt since getting my Master’s that it hasn’t done much for me…and maybe it will, maybe it won’t (maybe it has maybe it hasn’t). It is what it is. So then why am I suddenly enthralled by the thought of getting a Doctorate?

I don’t really have to ask because I know…it’s the academic in me that wants to go ALL THE WAY, the one who wants to be Dr. Orange Chair Mc Fancy Pants. I’d also like to believe that at the doctorate level, education isn’t such a business transaction where I pay a gagillion dollars and get a sheet of paper in return that somehow says I’m awesome. I’d like to believe I could take away a real leadership skill set from this and that it could help propel my career.

But one thing I’ve learned in my job search history is that institutions seem to care a lot more about what you have done and less about where or what you have studied. Would my experience with a doctorate be so different as to make it worth it? Unclear.

If you could pursue higher education for free, would you? To what end? And what do you think it could help you accomplish?

Happy 100th Post To Me

This is my 100th post on My Orange Chair (yay achievement!). I thought that this might be one of the most relevant times to talk a bit about my experience with MOC, the good and the bad (though really mostly good).

My Orange Chair started out as a way to keep my mind active through the slog of the job search. Let me tell you, trolling for jobs is zero fun and more than that, it’s hard, mentally – it’s so easy to feel defeated. This blog really helped me to vent about these challenges and also reach out to some fellow job-searches and share the tips I was finding. Since I first started I have gotten comments from acquaintances of yore and new internet friends. How cool is that? Anyone who tells you that blogging will help you expand your network is RIGHT, like me, because I’m right, especially about this. Also, I used the fact that I’d started and kept with MOC in a cover letter…and actually got called for an interview ! Clearly it was because of the Chair.

What is also so cool is how MOC has transformed, not only in content, but in followers.  Most of my readers now have jobs so job-search posts are far less relevant. But career development, and money – well these are pretty much always relevant. So now I have this great medium to talk about the career challenges (like relating across generations, communicating with co-workers, finding new work, staying sane) and the money challenges (student loans, credit cards, balancing fun with savings) that so many of us face.

There was a brief time (in between job #1 and #2) where I felt I couldn’t or maybe just didn’t want to share what was going on. It was a pretty stressful time and frankly I wasn’t interested in talking about jobs or job searches. My Orange Chair has helped me realize that it can be tricky and dangerous to share too much of yourself online, especially if you’re going to talk about JOBS (because we seem to live in a culture that still isn’t okay talking about $$, professional development for youth, and transitions). But I think, given the new turn of events, that I can say I’m back on the blogging horse for the foreseeable future.

This is an exciting time to say that I have invited a few people to share their own career stories and advice on My Orange Chair. Starting pretty soon, our first guest will share her stories so please be supportive and leave comments and get in touch if you want to write too (ehem…Big Sister, #1 Son …)

Thank you for all of your support and smart alec-y comments.

And may there be 100 more posts on My Orange Chair!


Just One Month

So, I know I said in my last piece that I’d be dedicating more time to My Orange Chair – but clearly that didn’t happen. I’ve been in the hardcore ‘job-hunting’ and enjoying this ‘mini-vacation’ mode. Also, I was feeling a little burned out and over exposed on the blog. There was a lot I wanted to share, or even just write, that I felt I couldn’t for various reasons.

But that’s all about to end (I hope) because I’m starting a new job on Monday! I am very VERY excited about this new opportunity – it aligns beautifully with my interests and it’s close by (that’s right. no more commute. I knew it would happen one day). Aren’t those the two things I said I wanted in my last post? Oh yes, yes they are. What’s more is that I think there’s a lot of opportunity for upward mobility where I’m headed and that’s a huge issue for many young workers – we want to feel like there are ways for us to grow.

I learned a lot in this last job search process because it was so drastically different from the last time. I had very serious networks at work for me this time around and I really made the most of every informational interview. Also, this turnover happened in one month instead of five (or what seemed like a bagillion at the time).  Because I had so many new resources, I knew I could keep that momentum going, finding a new position quickly. Another key difference this time around was that I focused on quality of my applications versus quantity. There wasn’t as much urgency so I really only applied to jobs that I really felt would be a good fit and weren’t far far away.

So I hope I can find my blog-footing again and keep on keeping on with My Orange Chair but for now I’m just going to enjoy my last few days of freedom before getting back into the workforce. Yay new opportunity!

Change of Scenery

As some of you know, I am no longer at my job. As some of you also know, this is OK.

Perhaps the tone of my blog gave it away – there were definitely issues I had that I felt I couldn’t raise given the environment. Regardless, I am now moving on and dedicating myself, full time, to finding (or making) the next opportunity, something that will fit my career goals  and fulfill my desire to do some global good.

This will also mean I get to spend lots more time working on My Orange Chair! (Almost to that 100th post!)

While I know you guys said you didn’t care much about the ‘job search’ stuff, I will feel compelled to talk a bit about it more because it feels a lot different than it did last time. I have a broader range of contacts, more work experience under my belt, and a better sense of what it is I’m after AND it doesn’t hurt that there seem to be a lot more positions opening up nearby (no more commuting! GAAH! that commute was awful). So be prepared for some posts on this process.

Happy Monday!

Power Tripping

Hi internets, I know it’s been a while but life has been going on and it’s been busy so I know you’ll forgive my absence.

I thought I’d come back today with a piece on bullying in the workplace. Some of you may or may not have seen the recent Salon article, When Bullies Go To Work. which I think is a great platform for what I want to talk about here. I could barely get through the comments, many of which called the interviewees whiners, and I was surprised that this didn’t get a bit more play in social media land because I know a lot of you have experiences that relate to workplace bullying, either from colleagues or supervisors. Unfortunately…

“There’s a definite lack of awareness. People are very surprised when they think about these things happening in the workplace.” Yet it’s all around us –  a 2010 workplace bullying study found that 35 percent of workers say they have experienced bullying firsthand, and another 15 percent report witnessing it.

35%!! That’s a lot. That’s too much. That’s one in three of your coworkers.

In the aforementioned study, workplace bullying was defined as “repeated mistreatment: sabotage by others that prevented work from getting done, verbal abuse, threatening conduct, intimidation, & humiliation”. But statistics are hard to come by:

…because targets themselves don’t always connect the dots between their absenteeism-causing migraines and ulcers and their aggressive colleagues, but Dellasega says at least 5 percent of workers say they’ve deliberately not gone in to work because of stress there.

I know I’ve had friends who felt they could not handle going to their workplace either because they knew they were going to get abuse (I mean mental, not physical or sexual) from their boss or they felt so overwhelmed by their negative workplace culture.

The study showed that both men and women bully, but the majority of bullying is same-gender harassment, which is mostly legal according to anti-discrimination laws and workplace policies. Women target women. I’m surprised by this last stat. because my experiences and those of some of my peers suggests that bullying is pretty gender neutral and is primarily influenced and encouraged by office culture, not individuals. Salon seems to agree with me on that one (the culture part, not the gender thing):

Part of what makes workplace bullying so insidious is that it’s so deeply entrenched in the corporate cultures where it flourishes. It’s not just one jerk — it’s a whole department of sycophants and terrorized underlings. As Liza, who works in graphic design, says, “One of my bosses likes to throw paperwork on the floor so we have to get on our knees. I commonly see a reaction of, ‘That’s just how he is,’ or ‘He’s just having a bad day,’ when an incident occurs.” Namie says this is common. “The whole group adopts the practice out of survival and fear, and over time it becomes the norm and the bullying becomes institutionalized. It’s about loyalty,” he says. “Once you start promoting people for that kind of behavior, you’ve sent the message.”

I’d go a step further and say that workplace bullying, like all bullying, is about demonstrating power. If bullying has become the norm in an office culture then management and junior staff alike are trying to flex their muscles and show that they have some sense of power – this may not always be solely related to work, but rather, feeling powerless in other aspects of their lives as well.

One big challenge we have is how to combat this in workplace cultures that seem to promote bullying or ignore it when it’s clearly happening. What do you do if your HR person engages in bullying themselves? Who do you have to go to? If your boss is bullying you, you probably feel stuck! Sure you can complain to your fellow employees but then what!? Office cultures seem to have created systems in which young employees remain powerless (and not just against bullying, but also against all kinds of change). It may be easier to affect change if your bully is a peer but even then, if you’re new, how do you develop allies?

It’s unfortunate to me that the workplace has become, for some people, a war zone, filled with negativity, unnecessary obstacles, and cruelty.

What cultural factors have made this OK and how can young employees stop it from getting worse, or stop it from happening in the first place? You tell me.

*Also, did you know this is my 97th post? I bet you didn’t. 100 is a pretty big hallmark and you’re invited to pat me on the back about it*