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Want to Know Your Food? Friend A Farmer

June 28, 2011 •  no comments.

 •  Blog, News

Written by Robyn O’Brien and Brian Scott

“There exist limitless opportunities in every industry. Where there is an open mind, there will always be a frontier.” ~Charles F. Kettering, American inventor of the electric starter.

With the Internet and social media, the sky is the limit when it comes to meeting interesting people and learning new things.

And with the landscape of food and farming changing so quickly, at AllergyKids, we believe that it is absolutely vital to engage in a vibrant dialogue with all stakeholders in the food supply, and especially with farmers. Farmers whose families have been feeding our country for four and five generations. Their wisdom is hard-earned and their insight invaluable.

So when we recently pushed out a New York Times article on Twitter called “The Great Corn Con” that addressed the fact that 4 out of every 10 ears of corn grown in the United States are being turned into ethanol, converting food crops to fuel, we immediately heard from one of our farming friends.

According to the New York Times, “Corn is hardly some minor agricultural product for breakfast cereal. It’s America’s largest crop, dwarfing wheat and soybeans. A small portion of production goes for human consumption; about 40 percent feeds cows, pigs, turkeys and chickens. Diverting 40 percent to ethanol has disagreeable consequences for food. In just a year, the price of bacon has soared by 24 percent.”

And the price of corn has doubled in less than a year to a record $7.87 per bushel in early June.

So when this friend and farmer reached out informing us that the byproducts of the corn used for ethanol finds its way back into our food, we listened.

His family farms 2300 acres of mostly corn and soybeans, but they also grow about 150 of popcorn a year, and 80-120 acres of winter wheat which we will double crop with beans after harvest. In his words, “My dad and grandpa are still working on the farm and we have one hired hand. Grandpa is 84 years old.”

In other words, he’s got some hard-earned wisdom. And as he shed light on ethanol production and how the corn used for it is repurposed back into the food supply, we felt compelled to share his insight because since this corn is unlabeled as to whether it has been genetically modified to contain insecticidal toxins, there is no way of knowing what is in the corn byproducts that we are feeding our families.

So at AllergyKids, we are proud to highlight the following article which is written by Brian Scott. Follow him on Twitter @thefarmerslife and join the #agchat. Because it’s important that, as stakeholders in the food supply, we work together to create a food system that we can all believe in.

High commodity prices have reignited the food versus fuel debate. Not that it ever really went away, but with farmers reaping high prices for several months now you can see how it’s easy for those who don’t have the right information to make the connection that high commodity prices directly lead to high food prices. Makes sense right? If the price of ingredients go up, then the price of food must go up too? Well, it’s not that simple.

Let’s talk about corn because it’s the one crop that is at the heart of this debate. If you follow any discussion about the price of corn it won’t take long before you find talk of the price of oil. Corn prices follow the same trends as oil, and at the same time corn will do the opposite of what the value of the American dollar is doing. Those are two of the biggest reasons corn prices are so high right now. Another problem is we’ve have a couple years of tough weather robbing some yield which puts in a situation today where we have tight carry over stocks of corn. The Middle East, source of much of the world’s oil supply, is going through some significant political shifts in many countries and it’s affecting the flow of oil out of those countries. At the same time the value of the dollar is dropping.

Now that we have a very basic understanding of why commodity prices are soaring let’s get back to the food versus fuel deal. Proponents and opponents of ethanol often agree that 40% of US grown corn goes to ethanol production. I was at a marketing meeting a while back and the speaker put it another way. Four out of every ten rows of the corn we grow is taken to an ethanol plant. That statement allowed me to visualize that statistic in a very real way. Four out of every ten? That sounds like a lot!

OK, you probably think that sounds like a lot too, and I won’t argue with you, because I think it does too, at least on the surface. Critics of biofuels will often stop their argument right here. 40% of the crop going to ethanol, no wonder food prices are rising! Once again it’s not that easy. Ever heard of dried distiller’s grains or DDGs? This is the by-product of corn ethanol production. It’s a concentrated feed stock that is sold to the livestock industry. When you take into account the amount of DDGs going to livestock, therefore putting that corn back into the food market you bring that 40% of corn going to fuel down to 23%. So we’ve cut that usage number nearly in half, and we’re just talking about the United States.

If we look at grain use on a global scale, only 3% of grain is going to ethanol production. And don’t forget, we export corn in this country, which means we’ve got product left over after we get what we want out of it to sell to countries all over the world.

To continue this important and respectful dialogue around modern-day farming from friends and farmers like Brian Scott since conditions like autism, cancer and allergies are also affecting our farmers’ families, please visit The Farmer’s Life because in the words of Charles F. Kettering, an American engineer who invented the electric starter:

“There exist limitless opportunities in every industry. Where there is an open mind, there will always be a frontier.”


Meatless Monday’s Dino-Mash

June 27, 2011 •  2 comments.

 •  Blog, Getting Started, News, Recipes

Going entirely meat-free may be the choice of some, but at AllergyKids, we recognize that diet, like religion, is not a one-size-fits-all approach. So in an effort to inform and inspire (and for those who want to eat a little less meat), we recently introduced Meatless Mondays.

As consumers are learning, our meat is often injected with all kinds of growth hormones and antibiotics, fed livestock feed that has been laced with genetically modified organisms, insecticides and antibiotics (as recently highlighted in the New York Times), and often industrially grown and produced. That knowledge can lead to some pretty jaw-dropping reactions (think, Food Inc.).

And in our efforts to afford more fresh produce in our diets, what we have learned is that for those on a budget, opting out of meat once a week can help us to afford those fruits and veggies.

So this week, we turn to our friend, Kim O’Donnel, who authored The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook, in search of a meatless recipe. And since we’re all about kids here, we thought we’d share her Dino Mash.

DINO-MASH

This pretty mash is completely dairy free yet manages to be creamy and full-flavored, with the help of starchy cooking water and a head of roasted garlic.

INGREDIENTS

1 head garlic
Olive oil for slathering, plus 1/4 cup
2 pounds Yukon Gold, Yellow Finn, or red-skinned potatoes (4 or 5 medium-size), scrubbed, trimmed, and peeled as necessary
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups kale, stemmed and chopped finely
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Trim the top of garlic and pull away the outermost skin. With your hands, lightly rub the garlic with oil and place in a small roasting dish. Cover with foil.

Roast the garlic until the cloves are fork tender (but not burned), about 50 minutes. Check for doneness at 40 minutes. (A kitchen timer is helpful.)

Meanwhile, prepare the potatoes: Quarter and place in a medium-size saucepan with 4 cups of water. The water should just barely cover the potatoes. This is important.

Add the salt. Cover the saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium. Cook for 25 minutes, place the kale on top of the potatoes, replace the lid, and allow the kale to steam for 5 minutes. Test the potatoes with a fork for doneness. Remove from the heat.

Squeeze the garlic flesh from the cloves into a large mixing bowl. With tongs or a strainer, transfer the potatoes and kale to the mixing bowl, reserving the cooking liquid.

With a hand masher, mash the potatoes and kale, focusing on the potatoes at first, ensuring that they’re smooth, ladling in their cooking liquid as necessary (you’ll use some, but likely not all). Use a wooden spoon to combine all of the ingredients. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of oil and black pepper, stir, then taste for salt, adding more as needed.

Eat hot.

Makes 4 servings

For more meatless cooking ideas, please visit Kim’s site at www.kimodonnel.com

Fighting for Food Allergies

June 25, 2011 •  no comments.

 •  Blog, News

Suzanne Boothby probably never expected to be writing a book about food allergies, diet and cancer, but as a chef who has a dad that is a cancer physician, she felt compelled to do just that. Suzanne also writes for EmpowerHER, a website that helps inspire women and her recent article on that site caught our attention. You can see the full piece here, but we share Suzanne’s insights in part below.

The largest study of food allergies in U.S. children released on June 20, 2011 demonstrated that the medical community is catching up to advocates by assessing the issue. Researchers found that allergies may be more common and more dangerous than previously recognized.

The study surveyed almost 40,000 parents across the country about whether their child had been either diagnosed with a food allergy or had experienced symptoms of food allergies. From the surveys, researchers at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine now estimate that about 8 percent, or 6 million children, now have a food allergy and many children have more than one allergy.

This research also offers new estimates on the severity of food allergies, showing that almost 40 percent of kids with food allergiesexperience severe reactions like wheezing, difficulty breathing and even sudden drops in blood pressure. Less severe reactions include lip swelling and hives.

“I don’t think people quite understand food allergy,” said study researcher Ruchi S. Gupta, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago in a WebMD article.

“It could be something that’s life-threatening. It could cause death.”

Food allergies were highest in preschoolers aged 3 to 5 years old. The top three allergens were peanuts, milk and shellfish, according to the study.

A food allergy is typically defined as any abnormal response to food triggered by the body’s immune system. But the medical literature is still slow to agree on a universal definition, making estimates of food allergies lower until now.

Suzanne Boothby is a Brooklyn-based wellness writer, certified health coach and co-founder of New York Family Wellness. Visitwww.suzanneboothby.com to learn more.

Why the Increase in Food Allergies? A TEDx Talk Sheds Light

June 20, 2011 •  9 comments.

 •  Blog, News

With a new report in the journal Pediatrics stating that the number of children with food allergies is on the rise, the media is rightfully asking the questions: Why? And why now?

Because the fact of the matter is that twenty years ago, food allergies seemed rare. Most of us didn’t know a peanut-allergic kid when we were little. And back in those days, a PB&J and a carton of milk weren’t considered loaded weapons on a lunchroom table.

So what has changed? Are parents increasingly diagnosing food allergies?

Not according to the Centers for Disease Control who reported in October 2008 that there had been a 265% increase in the rate of hospitalizations related to food allergic reactions. That was doctors checking people into the emergency room, not mothers self-diagnosing. And the boom in the sales of allergy medications like epinephrine injectors also speaks to the growing prevalence of this condition as these medical devices represent increasing revenue opportunities.

So what has changed?

At AllergyKids, we’re glad you asked. But first, we’re going to elaborate on what exactly a food allergy is.

A food allergy is when your body sees food proteins as foreign and launches an inflammatory response to drive out those foreign invader. At to us, that begged the question: Is there something foreign in the food supply that wasn’t there when we were kids?

And as a matter of fact, there is. And while correlation is not causation, at AllergyKids, we believe that the introduction of foreign proteins into our food supply just over fifteen years ago, foreign proteins that were either never allowed into the food supply in other countries or were introduced with warning labels so that consumers could make an informed choice, has a lot to do with the increasing rates of food allergies in the United States and in our loved ones.

So we invite you to watch our founder, Robyn O’Brien, in this TEDx talk, in which she elaborates on information that eaters in countries around the world have already been told about the allergenicity of these new, foreign proteins, and then let us know what you think. Because we believe that together, we can restore the health of our children, and that for the sake of our country, we have to.

A Meat Lover’s Guide to Going Meatless

 •  8 comments.

 •  Blog, News

Picture Courtesy of The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook Author, Kim O’Donnel

Written by Robyn O’Brien

I’m not good with recipes. In fact, I’m so inept at cooking that when I met Martha Stewart several years ago, I passed on having her sign the cookbooks she was handing out and had her sign the financial statements for her company instead. I simply couldn’t cook.

But as life would have it, when our youngest was diagnosed with food allergies, I suddenly realized that the processed food diet that I was feeding my family was loaded with all kinds of foreign proteins, artificial dyes and things that our grandmothers would never have recognized. And I had to take a crash course in cooking.

Gone were the days of nuking nuggets and pouring artificial colors onto noodles, and born were days filled with failed attempts in the kitchen, including burnt noodles and blackened pancakes. But I couldn’t turn back. I’d learned too much. And thankfully, things started to look up.

And in a constant effort to save money in order to buy more fruits and veggies (which are annoyingly priced so much higher than processed foods because of the way that we’ve structured agriculture in this country), I also had to learn how to reallocate the family budget.

So instead of buying meat for dinner one night a week, we decided to go meatless. It felt kind of radical in the beginning, after all, I’d been born and raised on meat at every meal. And like so many others, I’d been led to believe that if we didn’t have some piece of an animal on the dinner table that we were going to starve (or get fat, as The Zone Diet had made its impact on my food-thinking, too).

But one night a week, who could argue with that? It was perfectly in line with my 80/20 Rule: four out of five nights, we’d keep it business as usual, and on that fifth night, we were going to go meat-free. And in order to make it happen, we did it on Mondays so that we wouldn’t forget.

And as the years have rolled by, we’ve actually learned quite a lot about the role that our decision had on more than our family budget, as we learned how crops are mass-produced and genetically engineered primarily to feed livestock, and we found Meatless Mondays a great way to afford more fruits and vegetables.

So when a friend named Kim reached out after authoring a cookbook called The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook, I was ready to pay attention. And as Kim shared her story about family members lost to heart disease, her own foody-isms and the pork chops she knawed on as a kid, I took note because she was speaking my language.

And as I flipped through her cookbook that includes recipes for things like “Egg in the Hole” and “Reliable Stovetop Rice That Even My Husband Can Make,” I realized that I’d finally found a cookbook that I’d keep.

So today, in honor of those of us who were raised on sausages and to Kim for her great work, we’re going to kick off Meatless Monday’s on the AllergyKids Recipe blog, recognizing that diet, like religion, isn’t a “one size fits all” kind of thing.

But since we are all trying to get our kids to eat just a little bit better, I asked Kim if we could start with one of her kid-friendly recipes, Dino Mash. And thankfully, she said “yes.” So circle back next week to learn more.

And if you are one of the first to tell us what you think, by sharing your story, we will send you a copy of Kim’s cookbook. Because just like those little ones whose health we are working so hard to protect, Kim’s book is a keeper.

You can learn more about Kim’s book, The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook, at http://kimodonnel.com and www.dacapopresscookbooks.com