Together, let’s put an end to deteriorating health

The Eradication of Hunger

Dear Friends,

Can you name this Beautiful Creature?

I feel like the Mafioso character in the Godfather movies, whose comment, as he was trying to extract himself from being a part of the Mafia, was something like this, “Just when I thought I was out, I am back in.”

The last two emails have focused on hunger, and this week I thought that I’d rap it up, and move on to some new developments in the world of the microbiome (and, I promise I will—soon). But, just when I thought I would be finishing with the topic of hunger this week, I am back in stronger that ever. Let me explain:

It is becoming clearer and clearer that hunger and its eradication in America is the single most powerful point of action we can take to heal many of the ills of modern society. It is of obvious import to our medical community that hunger be stopped, as it will dramatically reduce many chronic diseases that are overwhelming our health care system. Imagine what can happen with this single focused attack against hunger (food insecurity) in America, and the world! What if the majority of the medical community becomes activists—a herd of charging (intelligent) rhinoceri, deeply committed and involved in the eradication of hunger? How would that change things?

I am writing this email to you from New York City, where we will be all week. Remember last week I introduced you to Joel Berg and his book, “How Hungry Is America?” (2008). A book I have found to be the most practical and realistic in dealing with hunger. You may also remember that Joel heads up the group, New York City Coalition Against Hunger (NYCCAH). In my travels today I met with Mr. Berg at his New York City office. I asked him what group, in my home area of the Pacific Northwest, is doing good work for hunger, and he told me to get in touch with the Food Life Line in my city of Seatte, which I will do, when we get back there next week. I also asked him what is the one thing that I should tune-in regarding his work here in New York City on hunger—and he directed me to their website (which I linked above for you). Click on the tab End Child Hunger—and see my reason for this email, and my focus on the eradication of hunger in the city of New York. A great example for the rest of America.

In New York City there are 1.3 million people who are food insecure (hungry). That is one in six. Of that number, 417,000 are children. Within this tab Joel is informing us that over the next four months, Congress will have the opportunity to make seious improvements to programs that feed millions of children each day, and that by passing a strong Child Nutrition and WIC Reathorization Act, Congress can take steps towards ending child hunger and to significantly improve nutritional health and awarenes of our children—this year! I quote the following about what the bill should accomplish:

  1. Set a goal of cutting food insecurity among U.S. children in half by 2012 and ending it by 2014.
  2. Provide the funding and the guidance necessary to enable most elementary and secondary school in American to provide every student with free school breakfasts (regardless of their family income) in the first class period.
  3. Provide the funding to enable every school in America to provide free lunches to all their students, regardless of family income. (By making school meals universal in this way, the country can decease government funding on paperwork now used to make income eligibility determinations and instead use that money improve the nutrition of children.)
  4. Increase reimbursements to school districts that provide healthier foods, particularly for districts buying from small local farmers.
  5. Make the Women Infants and Children (WIC) nutritional assistance program an entitlement available to any low-income parent or child who needs it and fund nutritional improvements in the WIC package.
  6. Increase reimbursements for both government and non-profit agencies that sponsor after-school and summer meals for children.

What a wonderful set of goals to end hunger in America by 2014! I ended my meeting with Joel by buying three signed copies of his book for our friends. One of the books I will give you—that is to say, the first one of you who correctly identifies the amazing creature above. So, what is the name of this beautiful creature?

I also received a nice follow up email from the Coalition which I share in part:

This past year as we saw the economy worsen and the demand for emergency food increase by over 28%, donations from supporters and friends like you are vital to our work in fighting for those who struggle to provide food for their families. We truly appreciate your contribution towards fighting poverty, and your support of our programs. Your contribution will be used to help hungry men, women and children move beyond the soup kitchen towards greater economic self-sufficiency.

Finally, in this mailing I want to share with you some important facts from Berg’s book “How Hungry in America?”, so read on:

Focusing on the high-poverty neighborhoods of the South Bronx, Central Harlem, and Brownville, Brooklyn, we found that fresh produce and other nutritious foods are often more difficult to access than more fattening junk foods and restaurant foods. As an example, Community Board District One in the South Bronx has about 90.000 residents, 45% of whom are below the poverty line. The district runs about 1.3 miles north to south and 1.5 miles east to west, very long distances if you travel by foot or by public transportation, as most people do. In 2007 there was not a single supermarket of 2,500 square feet (a common minimal square footage to consider a store a “supermarket”) or more in the entire district. Yet convenience stores, bodegas, fast food restaurants, and low-cost sit-down restaurants with limited, mostly unhealthy, menus were plentiful. In just one part of the district, in zip code 10451, there were three McDonald’s outlets.

We know that obesity has a detrimental impact upon human health, increasing the risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and many other serious ailments. Residents of neighborhoods where diabetes was most prevalent—among them East Harlem, the South Bronx and Brooklyn’s Williamsburg and Bushwick—all of which are low-income neighborhoods—died of diabetes at seven time the rate of those in the least affected parts of the city. They also were hospitalized ten times more than those on the Upper East Side, a wealthy neighborhood.

Of the hundreds of courses at the Harvard Medical School in 2007, only four dealt with nutrition; out of those, three concerned nutrition in Latin America and one was about pediatric nutrition in the United States. Not one was about the nutrition of adult Americans. Yet the school has three courses on plastic surgery and four on sports medicine. It has twenty-one courses on oncology and twenty-seven on cardiology and vascular diseases.

Hunger, Obesity and Chronic Disease are intimately related in our world. A giant step towards addressing spreading hunger-obesity-chronic disease would be to create a success story in our country’s most glamorized and famous city—New York City. Making sure that every person in New York has access to more affordable, nutritious foods. Secondly, that we educate not only the poorest of our citizens in the critical importance of good nutrition, and what constitutes good nutrition; but also the up and coming students in our medical schools. Here we are in 2009, and our most elite of medical schools teach about disease, yet forget what creates disease in the first place. It is a travesty. We need to get to work.

Sincerely yours,

Seann Bardell

Clinical Note: When we talk about food for the poor our own USDA is talking about Real Food. They are now promoting for all Americans—nine servings of fresh fruits and vegetables a day. Who is eating that many servings? We have a long way to go don’t we?

The Last Quiz Answer: This gorgeous is quite obviously of the canine family. However I capture its picture but missed on its identification. So I need your help. Anyone?

Well, here we are in mid September and our condo garden has been a beginner’s success, not from a productive harvest point of view, but we have learned what we need to do to create next season’s abundant harvest. Gladly, we did get some vegies and they were throughly appreciated by our community. Most importantly, we have a collective vision for our community garden for next year.

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