The USDA makes data on farm households and the economics of farming readily available. You can even get the numbers you need by state. A handy resource, no?
One of the things that USDA does really, really well is research designed to develop a basis for food assistance policies. Its Economic Research Service is one of the best kept secrets in American government. Here’s what the ERS investigators have done, discovered, and published over the last 10 years. Best of all, you can access their publications from an electronic data base.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundations’s Healthy Eating Research initiative, “Building Evidence to Prevent Childhood Obesity,” has a bunch of grants open for proposals. Have a good research idea? This is the place.
A new study from U. North Carolina measures soft drink consumption in the U.S. population from 1965 to 2002. The increase is 21%–and a whopping 222 calories per day, close to the reported increase in calorie intake from all sources over that time period. The authors count all sweetened drinks: traditional colas, juice drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, and vitamin waters. All of these add calories (unless they are artificially sweetened, of course.
We have this week’s Advertising Age to thank for telling us about McDonald’s new marketing venue: the covers of report cards! And how’s this for an incentive: kids in this school district in Florida who earn all A’s and B’s, have no more than two absences, or (not even and?) exhibit good behavior are entitled to a free happy meal when they present their report card. Next?
Plenty, apparently. See what the New York Times says about all the other food companies that have figured out creative ways to market to school kids.
I can’t help getting caught up in the arguments about school nutrition standards, particularly because I was quoted in an article about them in the New York Times last week. I am very much of two minds on the subject:
On the one hand: My understanding is that Senator Harkin thinks that his plan for school nutrition standards is the best that can be expected in the current administration. Will the next Farm Bill do something better? I have no idea. So from a pragmatic standpoint, Harkin’s bill is worth supporting. It will get the worst foods out of most schools in most places.
On the other hand:
On the other hand:With that said, I personally do not favor setting up nutrient-based criteria for deciding which foods are in or out. I think such standards are a slippery slope. If you set those kinds of standards, food companies will simply formulate products to slip just under the cut points. Does a gram of sugar make that much difference? I don’t think so. My personal view is that schools shouldn’t sell competing foods at all and that vending machines should be removed from schools. Out! Vending machines didn’t used to be in schools and they don’t have to be there now. But, as I like to explain, I have tenure and I get to take principled positions on such matters.
And, if you read Portuguese, you can see further comments on this site.
And here’s what the New York Times editorial writers have to say about this issue.
The journal Pediatrics has a supplement this December on what to do about childhood obesity. Its parent organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics joins with a bunch of other health professional organizations to make suggestions about what doctors and other health practitioners should be doing, basically paying close attention and taking action. The same supplement has articles about prevention and treatment. These are aimed at doctors. The recommendations are just fine, but could any doctor do them? What would it take to put this kind of advice into practice?
The National Center for Health Statistics has just released its annual report on the health of Americans. For people who love data, this is the source. Not only does it have charts and graphs on the leading causes of sickness and death, but you can download them as full color powerpoint slides. My favorites: the proportion of people from age one on who eat in restaurants every week (lots).