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Entries in 2012 (4)


Top 12 Must-Bake Holiday Treats for 2012 


Part I: A Breakdown of the Food and Farm Bill

The Food and Farm Bill. I had heard it mentioned loosely in conversation, read about it briefly in the newspaper and zoned out when NPR discussed components of it on my morning drive. It wasn't until I went to the Just Food conference and sat through a workshop on the Food and Farm Bill, that I realized this piece of legislation mattered. It mattered to me, as a consumer, a purchaser of food, and a citizen of the United States. We hear the word "farm" and think of farmers, tractors, corn fields, the mid-west. We don't think about the farms that are local to almost all of us, regardless of where you live. We don't think about the fact that farms produce the food which inevitably ends up on our tables, in our bodies. The Food and Farm bill encompasses all of this and so much more. Which is exactly why it should matter to you.

So what is the Farm Bill? The federal Farm Bill is a piece of legislation that governs food and farm policy in the United States. This includes U.S. agriculture, nutrition programs (Food Stamps and Emergency Food Assistance), economic development programs, organic food, agricultural research and more. The bill is split into "Titles" that cover specific program areas and is up for re-authorization every five years. That means that this year, in 2012, it is up for re-authorization, though it is possible the re-authorization may not occur until 2013 due to the election.

The Farm Bill dates back to the 1930's when President FDR initiated a variety of New Deal programs to balance the market fluctuations and provide a safety net for previous low farm prices. The New Deal established grain reserves and a program where farmers cold receive a fair price for their goods, such as corn and wheat. The Farm Bill continued over the next 70 years, during which time a shift in policy occurred. In the 1970's, farmers were encouraged to plant "fencerow-to-fencerow" in order to export their goods to the Soviet Union. At the same time, and following a grain shortage in Russia, prices farmers could receive for U.S. farm products went up. Farmers throughout the United States transitioned from diversified agriculture to monocropping one or two commodity crops which could then be exported for high prices in bulk. By the early 1980's, the agricultural boom of the 70s was reversed and segued into a farm crisis. Crop prices fell, farm income fell, and farmland value fell. US farmers continued to push their crops on the foreign market, selling for far lower prices than the local cost of production. The result: US farmers continued to produce more in order to make up for their already low prices, which inevitably drove prices even lower. In 1996, we saw the "Freedom to Farm" bill change the face of the Farm bill. The '96 farm bill eliminated the requirement that farmers keep some land idle (a requirement of the New Deal farm bill). This new found land allowed farmers to plant as much as they could, but instead of great success, farmers became vulnerable to weather and market fluctuations. To compensate, farmers planted more. Grain prices collapsed, as did the price for corn and soybeans. The common theme? Overproduction; an issue that was not addressed in the 2002 or 2008 Farm bill. Which brings us to the 2008 Farm Bill.

In 2008, the mandatory spending laid out was projected to be $284 billion. Nutrition, commodity support, conservation, and crop insurance made up the bulk of the Farm Bill's total spending. Approximately 2/3 of the spending, $188 billion for the 2008 bill, went to the nutrition title. This title establishes government programs that provide assistance, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) and The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). The commodity title, Title I, deals with the crops that the government subsidizes, specifically corn, wheat, soybeans, sorghum, barley, oats, rice, cotton and other major grains. While there are 13 additional titles in the 2008 Farm Bill, none receive as much money or are as controversial as Title I and Title IV.

These two titles deserve separate and unique attention. and will get just that in later posts. For now, it is critical to understand that the Food and Farm Bill touches all of us. It does not just regulate farmers and crops. It is seen in the food that gets put on our tables (and the food that does not). It exists in the assistance that millions of Americans receive each day. It is the food that shows up on our children's lunch trays in school.  As food journalist Michael Pollan said, "It isn't really a bill just for farmers. It really should be called the food bill because it is the rules for the food system we all eat by."

With the impending re-authorization of the Farm Bill, ignorance on this piece of legislation is not acceptable. Take a moment to read about where your Congress person stands on the 2012/2013 Farm Bill and write to them if you don't agree. Stay tuned for two additional posts on the Nutrition and Commodity Titles of the Farm Bill.

For additional information:

The Food and Water Watch provides a variety of surface level and in depth resources on the Farm Bill.

Search "Farm Bill" on www.house.gov or www.senate.gov


Simple Food Healthy Life 52 Challenge

I have been thinking a lot about resolutions over the past few weeks. We close every year, and subsequently start the new year questioning, “what can I change about myself this year?” We proceed in a frenzied manner, rushing around to fix the broken things, right the wrongs, and transform ourselves into newer, better people. The first week of the new year starts with people pledging to eat better, get healthy, workout more. And each year, people one-by-one fall off the resolution bandwagon. Some make it a week, others months and the few-and-far between make it the full year. The next new year happens upon us, bringing with it the same resolution filled chatter. And so the cycle continues.

We aren’t getting any younger and our bodies are not magically taking care of themselves. Pushing the “get healthy, eat better” mantra aside does nothing to make our daily lives better. It is like saying, the things I have filled my life with – work, hobbies, family, pets, volunteer work – they are all more pressing than taking care of myself; than living a healthy, fulfilling life. By no means am I downplaying those things, because there isn’t anything more important to me than my family and friends. But take a step back and think about it. You cannot be a good spouse, a loving parent or an engaging friend if you are not present- if you are too sick to be by a loved one’s side, too out of shape to play with your child, or too busy to feed yourself and your family a healthy meal. At some point, we need to take a step back and put healthy food and living at the forefront of our lives. Not just as a resolution, but as a way of life.

Let 2012 be the year of change for you and your family. Instead of trying to become healthier in one, all encompassing, resolution, take the Simple Food Healthy Life challenge for 2012. We have broken down the year into monthly themes, followed by weekly challenges. Instead of focusing on the big picture, look at the weekly one. Focus on changing small dietary and fitness goals each week., then incorporate those weekly changes into your daily life. The result should be a happier, healthier you by December 31, 2012.

Each week Simple Food Healthy Life will talk about the challenge, share recipes, and provide tips and advice from experts for successfully achieving the weekly challenge. Every Monday, we will post a roundup of links, recipes, and blog posts from those involved in the challenge. There will be also be giveaways for those involved.

So how does it work? Each week runs from Sunday to Sunday. Sign up to take the challenge by filling out the form below or on the Simple Food Healthy Life 52 Challenge tab at the top of the page. If you stumble across us late in the game, don’t worry! You can join the challenge at any time. Remember to follow us on Facebook, Twitter (using #SFHL52) and Pinterest for the latest recipes, tips and inspiration.

Join the Simple Food Healthy Life 52 Challenge and make 2012 the YEAR for a healthier, happier you.



Happy 2012 & Healthy Every Week Challenge

Happy 2012 to everyone! 2011 was a year of a lot of change for me. I spent the first 5 months of it alone, with J out to sea. He returned home just in time for me to graduate from law school and move to Baltimore. I studied for, and passed the bar exam. Our wedding took place in the Outer Banks and it was a fabulous week long celebration. After 6 months in Maryland, we picked up and moved to Connecticut. Which brings me to 2012. In the midst of all that changed in 2011, my eating and exercise habits also greatly changed. I ran my first half marathon in Chicago. I became what I like to call an "almost-vegetarian," meaning I still eat meat but only once or twice a month. I increased my vegetable intake ten-fold and learned that I like beans. All types of beans. I decreased the amount of unhealthy grains and fats I was eating, though I continue to eat desserts on a regular basis! I cut down the size of my meals and increased the amount of snacks I was eating, mastering the concept of "eat only when hungry" and "stop when full." All of this, combined with my exercise habits, has made 2011 the healthiest year yet.

I'm looking forward to 2012 being a year of even greater change and a continuation of the good habits I have already formed. Just a few of my 2012 committments:

  • Run another half marathon, this one hopefully with my mom at Disney.
  • Continue to expand my cooking
  • Grow my vegetarian recipe base
  • Expand my blog by connecting with other bloggers and readers in unique ways

2012 has so much to offer and what better way to start than with Food Network's January Healthy Every Week Challenge. For the next five weeks, Food Network has created weekly themes by which to live by. They are simple challenges that can be carried through all of 2012. Each Tuesday Food Network will put out a weekly roundup post, to include healthy tips and recipes, as well as a blogroll that includes linkes with participating bloggers. Check back here every Tuesday for my update and at least one unique recipe to meet that week's challenge. I'd love to hear from you too, with ideas, successess, and challenges you are having meeting each week's goal.

The Challenge:

Week 1: Eat breakfast daily
Week 2: Eat more whole grains
Week 3: Cook at home
Week 4: Eat more fruits and vegetables
Week 5: Stay on track

Week 1 begins NOW. All you need to do is eat breakfast every day this week. It doesn't have to be a large prepared meal. Just have a bagel thin, some fruit, a smoothie, an egg wrap, or some greek yogurt. Eating breakfast will help boost your metabolism and get your day started on the right foot. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

What are your 2012 committments? What did you do great in 2011 that you want to continue into 2012 and what do you want to change?