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Summer Fund Appeal
By Porus Mistry, CFJC Intern
The recent growth in the use of mobile devices and computers has created an environment where social networking services thrive. Social networks provide a platform where everyone can share content with people who matter to them. From elementary school students to grandparents, people are able to find friends and organize their lives in an increasingly relevant and meaningful way.
Social networks, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google +, are able to recognize people’s interests and suggest various companies, groups, or friends to connect with. These networks have the ability to target content, both organic and promotional in nature, based on each individual’s unique interests, as indicated in their profile and from past internet usage. This is why it is crucial for companies and organizations to become a part of this social trend and integrate themselves into all these various networks. It gives organizations such as CFJC the ability to directly reach their constituencies and educate them about their ongoing work.
The newest social network that is on the rise is Google +. As with many of Google’s products, this project has seen widespread adoption in the weeks after launch. Google+ is unique in that it gives users more control over filtering what content they want to share with others. Google+ organizes your social network using a “circles” concept. You create circles based on your real world connections such as “immediate family” or “skiing buddies” and you can select which circles have access to any content you choose to share. This can be very influential for CFJC because the concept for food related issues is very diverse. Google+ allows CFJC to target information to only their relevant circles.
Google+ also has the option to video chat with up to 10 individuals at one time using a feature known as Hangouts. I think that it would prove beneficial for organizations and companies if other individuals could watch the hangouts, even if they did not participate in the video chats. This would allow various policy makers or board members to hold a more public discussion allowing other individuals to participate. Currently at CFJC, we hold monthly Policy Calls via webinar comprised of various organizations and community members. Hangouts could be an interesting platform to conduct these meetings because it would permit more active participation.
Social networks are crucial to keeping CFJC connected with individuals outside the immediate organization. Since CFJC is already up to date with Facebook and Twitter, becoming a part of the Google+ network will be an important next step in expanding our social networking presence.
by Lotta Chan, CFJC Research Associate
As re-authorization of the Farm Bill is swiftly approaching, the contents of your dinner plate are beginning to take center stage in a national debate surrounding food sovereignty and national security.
A few congressional members, including Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), have argued that large government subsidies to crops are necessary to protect the national security of our country, because subsidies ensure domestic production and decrease dependency on food imported from other countries. This logical argument, however, falls apart when taking a closer look at our current food system.
The most highly subsidized commodities in the U.S. are corn, wheat, soy, cotton, rice, and sorghum, accounting for roughly $8.3 billion of paid subsidies in 2010 alone. But this is probably not what’s on your dinner plate each night. I for one had never even heard of sorghum, much less eaten it. The truth behind U.S. sorghum is that half of it gets directly exported, and another 12% gets turned into ethanol. Furthermore, only 12% of U.S. corn goes to food products, including the notorious high-fructose corn syrup; the rest goes to feed domestic animals to supply cheap meats high in saturated fats. None of this is to say that subsidies are inherently bad; the problem is the broken food system that these subsidies are a part of. These subsidies do not go to support healthy fruits and vegetables, and the U.S. has actually been increasing its imports of produce. Additionally, the bulk of these grain subsidies go to large, industrial farms pushing smaller family farms out of business. Among the subsidy recipients are Congresswomen Kristi Noem (partial owner of a ranch that received $3 million over 15 years) and Vicky Hartzler (whose farm received more than $774,000 over 15 years).
Meanwhile, tax payers are fronting the bill for these commodity subsidies to large, industrial grain farms, which in return produce nutritionally-deficient, high caloric foods at a low cost. This is why for one dollar you can get 600 calories of Doritos corn chips, but only about 50 calories of broccoli. The prevalence of unhealthy foods is leading to a national epidemic of obesity that costs the country in the way of decreased work productivity and an increasing number of sick days and worker compensation claims. According to a study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, lost worker productivity in the U.S. translates to an estimated loss of $73.1 billion per year. And in a report released last year by retired military leaders, many Americans are now “Too Fat to Fight” for their country. So what is a larger threat to national security: a loss of sorghum, corn, and cotton subsidies, or the loss of a productive, healthy American workforce and military?
Written by Victoria Endsley, CFJC Intern
It is indisputable that fruit and vegetables are good for us, but that doesn’t mean that they are priority foods in our diet any longer. As industrial farmers grow subsidized corn, wheat and soy and not fruit and vegetables, our diets have naturally shifted to consume more of these products. The appeal or importance of these crops is in the revenue they make worldwide, yet within the US, as their demand grew, small to mid-size farmers were bought out by corporations who stepped in to run our farmlands. The biggest blow-back of this system is the unforeseeable health problems these foods cause and the market for lobbies and special interests that have emerged to control food production.
Among the health problems created by a change in our diet, obesity or excessive weight gain is the most financially burdensome. According to a study developed by RTI International, Centers for Disease Control and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, obesity-related diseases cost us $147 billion yearly. As obesity has proven to be directly connected to poverty issues, I believe that the federal government should be responsible for financing programs that provide healthy, affordable food options for these communities in addition to directly financing poverty-relief programs.
The United States Department of Agriculture and the Food and Nutrition Service are closely monitoring a program called the Healthy Incentives Pilot (HIP) that will provide Hampden, Massachusetts residents enrolled in the SNAP program with a 30% discount for fruit and vegetable purchases. The program will begin the operations phase in November 2011, after over a year of planning, testing and training for the program. It will provide the individual with the opportunity to put their health first when they shop, because their money will go further buying fruits and vegetables than anything else.
I am really excited about this program because it is truly the first step in empowering individuals to take back control of their health. I think that it’s clear that education can only go so far, therefore financial incentives and structured programs are needed to pave the way for a better food system. Next, we must emphasize programs that encourage exercise!
For more information on the study, please visit: http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/07/27/us-obesity-cost-idUSTRE56Q36020090727.
For more information about the Healthy Incentives Pilot program, please visit: http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/hip/default.htm.