by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Sustainability

Oct 23 2015

100 Mayors Sign Milan Urban Food Policy Pact

This morning, I received this press release from Franca Roiatti in Milan, announcing that on October 15 the mayors of more than 100 cities signed the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact and Framework for Action.  This pact commits these cities—New York among them—to work for more equitable and sustainable urban food systems.

The mayors made 7 commitments, among them working to

  • Develop sustainable food systems that are inclusive, resilient, safe and diverse, that provide healthy and affordable food to all people in a human rights-based framework, that minimise waste and conserve biodiversity while adapting to and mitigating impacts of climate change;
  • Engage all sectors within the food system (including neighbouring authorities, technical and academic organizations, civil society, small scale producers, and the private sector) in the formulation, implementation and assessment of all food-related policies, programmes and initiatives;
  • Use the Framework for Action as a starting point for each city to address the development of their own urban food system and we will share developments with participating cities and our national governments and international agencies when appropriate;

The Framework recommends 37 actions, among them

  • Identify, map and evaluate local initiatives
  • Develop or revise urban food policies and plans
  • Address non-communicable diseases associated with poor diets and obesity, giving specific attention where appropriate to reducing intake of sugar, salt, transfats, meat and dairy products and increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables and non-processed foods
  • Develop sustainable dietary guidelines to inform consumers, city planners (in particular for public food procurement), food service providers, retailers, producers and processors, and promote communication and training campaigns.
  • Explore regulatory and voluntary instruments to promote sustainable diets involving private and public companies as appropriate, using marketing, publicity and labelling policies; and economic incentives or disincentives; streamline regulations regarding the marketing of food and non-alcoholic beverages to children in accordance with WHO recommendations.
  • Those aimed at social and economic equity (cash transfers, school feeding programs, employment, education, training, research).
  • And those aimed at improving food production and reducing waste.

Finally, it comes with an e-book that collects 49 selected good practices from 28 signatory cities.

The point?  Even though everything about this pact and framework is voluntary, these findings and recommendations ought to be enough to give any city mayor a mandate to start working on sustainability issues.

I am looking forward to seeing how New York City uses the report and framework.

Additional documents

Oct 9 2015

Weekend reading: Sustainable farmers

Forrest Pritchard.  Growing tomorrow: A Farm-to-Table Journey in Photos and Recipes.  The Experiment, 2015.

I did a blurb for this book:

Who says that nobody is going into farming these days or that you can’t make a living growing foods organically and sustainably?  Certainly not the 18 pioneers described in this lovely, inspiring book.  Forrest Pritchard chose farmers of diverse crops—mushrooms, honey, lobsters, avocados, grain, beef, and more—and tells the personal stories of how they created lives of deep productivity and satisfaction.  Any aspiring farmer or consumer of freshly farmed products will get great pleasure from reading this book and admiring its photos.

Oct 7 2015

The bizarre saga of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines: Continued

Two events yesterday:

#1.  USDA and HHS announce that sustainability will not be part of the Dietary Guidelines.

This year, we will release the 2015 edition, and though the guidelines have yet to be finalized, we know they will be similar in many key respects to those of past years. Fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains and lean meats and other proteins, and limited amounts of saturated fats, added sugars and sodium remain the building blocks of a healthy lifestyle.

…In terms of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs), we will remain within the scope of our mandate in the 1990 National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act (NNMRRA), which is to provide “nutritional and dietary information and guidelines”… “based on the preponderance of the scientific and medical knowledge.”  The final 2015 Guidelines are still being drafted, but because this is a matter of scope, we do not believe that the 2015 DGAs are the appropriate vehicle for this important policy conversation about sustainability.

OK, but see Michele Simon’s analysis of the legal issues related to sustainability in the guidelines, and My Plate My Planet’s analysis of the comments filed on the sustainability question.

As my analysis shows, the USDA and HHS would be well within its legal authority to include sustainability. In summary:

    • A plain reading of the statute does not preclude sustainability;
    • The Congressional intent was to further a broad agenda on health;
    • Previous DGA versions included issues beyond “nutrition and diet”.

And also see Kathleen Merrigan et al’s argument in favor of sustainable dietary guidelines in Science Magazine.

So this is about politics, not science.

#2.  A coalition of critics of the Dietary Guidelines is attempting to block their release.

Yesterday’s Hagstrom Report and, later, Politico (both behind paywalls) reported that this group is calling on  USDA and HHS to turn over the guidelines to a committee of the National Academy of Sciences Food and Nutrition Board for reexamination before releasing them to the public.

The issues?  The meat and beverage recommendations.

The group is funded by philanthropists Laura and John D. Arnold, who fund Nina Teicholz’s work.

Teicholz is on the board of the group as is Cheryl Achterberg, dean of the Ohio State University College of Education, and John Billings, who directs the Wagner School’s Health Policy and Management Program at NYU (why they agreed to do this is beyond me).

Hagstrom notes that coordinating support is coming from Beth Johnson, a former undersecretary for food safety at USDA who has her own consulting firm with clients apparently including the National Restaurant Association and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

Other members of the advisory board include several scientists who do research funded by food companies.

The Coalition’s website is here.

This morning’s Politico Pro Agriculture has a long piece on the funding behind the coalition.

In the lead up to congressional hearings on the proposed 2015 dietary guidelines, the Arnolds are spending an initial $200,000 to communicate that critique and to advocate for changes that they say would improve the process. They have funded the new political action group, called The Nutrition Coalition, whose well-placed lobbyists have helped Teicholz score face-to-face meetings with top officials in Congress and the White House to push for an independent review of the guideline process. The team helped persuade lawmakers to insert language in the fiscal 2016 House agriculture spending bill to direct the National Academy of Medicine to conduct such a review.

Really? Eating fruits and vegetables and not overeating calories requires this level of lobbying?

This too is about politics.

The mind boggles.


The Hagstrom Report is keeping track of the testimony at today’s congressional hearing on the guidelines.

May 4 2015

The Milan Food Expo: food politics in action

The slogan of the Milan Food Expo, May 1-October 31, is “Feeding The Planet, Energy for Life.”

The U.S. has a gorgeous pavilion framed by an undulating wall of vertical vegetables.

2015-05-02 13.07.19

A video featuring President Obama greets guests.  Check out what he says:

ObamaEven more, he adds:


Good, safe, healthy food for all!

Creating sustainable food systems!


More to come…

Jul 11 2014

Weekend reading: Grass (the green kind)

Courtney White, Grass, Soil, Hope: A Journey through Carbon Country.  Chelsea Green, 2014.

New Picture


Courtney White, whom I do not know but would like to, describes himself as a former archaeologist and Sierra Club activist who became a producer of grass-fed beef, thereby catching on to the importance of grass for restoring nutrients to soil, reducing climate change, and feeding the planet.  Carbon, he says, is key and we can achieve all this with low-tech methods.

He visits a bunch of “new agrarians” who are managing carbon-conserving agriculture, from farms to rooftops.

We’re all carbon.  We live in a carbon universe.  We breathe carbon, eat carbon, use carbon products, profit from the carbon cycle, and suffer from the carbon poisoning taking place in our atmosphere…We could, for example, find ways to support the 2 percent of Americans who actively manage the soil portion of the carbon cycle.  There are a million ways to help them, starting with the power of the purchasing dollar.  Seek out the new agrarians and buy their products.  Better yet, get involved yourself.

He writes well, and convincingly.