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Hunger in America, By the Numbers

November 26, 2011 •  no comments.

 •  Blog, News

At AllergyKids, we believe that clean and safe food is a human right, especially for children. And we are well-aware that it is not always an option, as recently demonstrated in this article written by Travis Waldron and Pat Garofalo for ThinkProgress on 24 November 2011. And recognizing that these are challenging economic times, with the S&P 500 seeing its worst Thanksgiving week since 1932, we want to encourage you to do what you can with what you have and consider donating something, a can or a box of cereal, to a local food bank so that together, we can create the change we want to see in the heath of America’s children.

Last year, 17.2 million households in the United States were food insecure, the highest level on record, as the Great Recession continued to wreak havoc on families across the country. Of those 17.2 million households, 3.9 million included children. On Thanksgiving weekend, here’s a look at hunger in America, as millions of Americans struggle to get enough to eat in the wake of the economic crisis.

17.2 million: The number of households that were food insecure in 2010, the highest number on record. They make up 14.5 percent of households, or approximately one in seven.

48.8 million: People who lived in food insecure households last year.

3.9 million: The number of households with children that were food insecure last year. In 1 percent of households with children, “one or more of the children experienced the most severe food-insecure condition measured by USDA, very low food security, in which meals were irregular and food intake was below levels considered adequate by caregivers.”

6.4 million: Households that experienced very low food security last year, meaning “normal eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted and food intake was reduced at times during the year because they had insufficient money or other resources for food.”

55: The percentage of food-insecure households that participated in one or more of the three largest Federal food and nutrition assistance programs (SNAP, WIC, School lunch program).

19.4: The percentage of food insecure households in Mississippi, which had thehighest rate in the nation last year.

3.6 percent: The amount by which food prices increased last year.

30 percent: The amount by which food insecurity grew during the Great Recession.

44: The percentage increase in households using food pantries between 2007 and 2009.

20 million: The number of children who benefit from free and reduced lunchper day.

10.5 million: The number of eligible children who don’t receive their free and reduced lunch benefits.

$167.5 billion: The amount that the U.S. lost in 2010 due to hunger (lost educational attainment + avoidable illness + charitable giving to fight hunger). This doesn’t take into account the $94 billion cost of SNAP and other food programs.

8: The number of states (FL, TX, CA, IL, NY, OH, PA, GA) where the annual cost of hunger exceeds $6 billion.

Last year, “nearly half of the households seeking emergency food assistance reported having to choose between paying for utilities or heating fuel and food. Nearly 40 percent said they had to choose between paying for rent or a mortgage and food.” This Thanksgiving, as you sit down to enjoy a meal with family and friends, please spare a thought for those who, due to the country’s continuing economic woes, may not have enough to eat.

This holiday season, please consider donating to a local food bank. You can find one nearby ordonate online through the Feeding America website. You can also give to Operation Homefront, a group that provides assistance to military families.

A Heart Full of Gratitude for Hardship, Hope & Health

November 23, 2011 •  one comment.

 •  Blog, News

Written by Robyn O’Brien

Who really wants to have to a child with life-threatening food allergies? Or watch one of her children temporarily lose his ability to walk? And what about families who have a child with autism, cancer or diabetes? Did they really say “Sign me up!”?

Not at all.

Yet reality has thrown our family and countless others life-changing curve balls that knocked us to the ground when the health of our children came under attack. And we had two choices: to either lay there or to get up.

And as we got up, we took a stand, and now so many of us realize that these curve balls were blessings in disguise, waking us up to the realities of our food supply. And while the wisdom has been hard-earned, heart-achingly so at times, we have learned that the knowledge is a gift, because it helps you to protect the health of those that you love.

With 1 in 3 children in the United States now dealing with allergies, autism, ADHD or asthma, our family isn’t alone. This generation of children is not healthy. Any parent can tell you that. With obesity, diabetes and other conditions impacting our families, parents are on the frontlines, fighting to defend the health of our children who have earned the title of “Generation Rx”. And we’re doing everything that we can to make things better.

And while none of us can do everything, all of us can do something. And that ‘something’ will obviously differ from home to home and family to family. But the inspiring part is that we’re getting down to the business of making things right, of reducing our children’s exposure to chemicals in our food supply and environments, in the hopes that exercising precaution will help prevent disease down the road.

And as we head into Thanksgiving, I find myself flooded with gratitude for those that are working so tirelessly to restore the health of our children. Their work is heroic. Their efforts will have lasting impact. Because, though we may forget it at times when sitting in countless carpool lines or on the sidelines of soccer fields or at a desk at work, the truth is that the children are our future. 100 percent of it.

So this Thanksgiving, I give thanks for those defending the health of our children. For those defending it as if the future of our country depends on it. Because…it does.

With a heart full of gratitude for:

http://www.fearlessrev0lution.com on Twitter @fearlessforce
http://www.ewg.org on Twitter @ewgtoxics
http://www.healthychild.org on Twitter @healthy_child
http://www.thefamilydinnerbook.com on Twitter @familydinner
http://www.chefann.com on Twitter @chefannc
http://robertkennerfilms.com on Twitter @robertkenner
http://www.jamieoliver.com on Twitter @jamieoliver
http://www.justlabelit.org on Twitter @justlabelit.org

And the countless other organizations, companies, individuals and friends working to restore the health of our children. Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving.

“To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.” ~Anatole France

Seven Steps You Can Take to Reduce Cooking with Genetically Engineered Ingredients at Thanksgiving

November 22, 2011 •  no comments.

 •  Blog, News

Written by Robyn O’Brien

It’s Thanksgiving week and as families across the nation come together, the soaring rates of allergies, diabetes, obesity and cancer continue to impact the lives of our families, making it even more of a challenge to get a Thanksgiving meal on the table. But with Thanksgiving being one of the most significant meals of the year, there is so much that you can do to protect the health of your loved ones.

Because so many popular Thanksgiving dishes may use ingredients for which no long-term human trials have ever been conducted – ingredients that have been genetically engineered to withstand increasing doses of toxic weed killer or to create their own insecticidal toxins – a few simple ideas may be all that is needed to avoid these uninvited ingredients in your Thanksgiving meal until the FDA labels them, which is what a recent ABC poll indicated that 93% of the American public wanted.

So if you are looking for ways to avoid these ingredients in your Thanksgiving meal, here are a few suggestions. But remember, don’t make “the perfect” the enemy of “the good”. Since we’re already juggling so many dietary needs this holiday season, from allergies, to diabetes, to gluten-free, do what you can, with what you have, where you are, and focus on progress not perfection.

  1. When you can, choose organic eggs, as they are not from chickens fed corn or soy that has been genetically engineered
  2. Cook with olive oil instead of conventional butter, margarine or vegetable oil which most likely contain genetically engineered ingredients
  3. Look for dairy products (milk, cream, butter) labeled “rbGH-free” or “USDA Organic” as they do not contain artificial growth hormones created from a genetically engineered e.coli bacteria
  4. Avoid products that contain conventional soy and corn (soy lecithin, high fructose corn syrup) since most are likely to contain genetically engineered ingredients
  5. Look for products labeled “non-GMO” or “USDA Organic” because by law they are not allowed to contain these genetically engineered ingredients.
  6. Cook without the can (since canned foods often contain a lot of corn and soy derivatives, click here for some No-Can Recipes)
  7. Eat like your grandmother did and steer clear of processed foods

Or try a few of the tips below:

Cranberry Sauce: Because most fresh fruits are not genetically engineered, you can use fresh cranberries and 100 percent sugar from sugar cane to make a cranberry sauce without any genetically engineered ingredients. This is an easy and delicious way to avoid canned cranberry sauces, which may contain ingredients like high fructose corn syrup which could contain genetically engineered corn. And it’s a great way to get family members involved!

Oven Roasted Vegetables: Chop up and cube some sweet potatoes, green beans, carrots, broccoli and potatoes and throw them into a casserole dish. Drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle them with salt and pepper before roasting in the oven on 400 for about 30 minutes.

Green Bean with Carmelized Onions: Slice and sautee some red onions in a little bit of olive oil while boiling green beans for about 6 or 7 minutes. Add some water or vegetable broth to the onions and mix in some sugar before adding in the green beans. Quick and easy without any genetically engineered ingredients.

And while none of us can do everything, all of us can do something. So until the FDA labels genetically engineered food for Americans as these foods have been labeled for eaters in over fifty countries around the world, pick one thing that you can do to get started either at home or online to protect the health of our families. Use the True Food Shopper’s Guide from the Center for Food Safety to find products that don’t contain genetically engineered ingredients, purchase “USDA Organic” products when you can (since by law they’re not allowed to contain these ingredients) and let the FDA know, as over 300,000 other Americans already have along with hundreds of organizations, just how much this issue means to you and the health of your family.

Because together, we can create the changes we want to see in the health of our families, our country and our food system.

A Thanksgiving Meal Without Allergies

November 19, 2011 •  no comments.

 •  Blog, News

Written by Elaine Hirsch, proud mom

Thanksgiving dinner should be a time when families can get together and enjoy good food, fun times, and be thankful for what they have. However, for families with food allergies Thanksgiving can also be a time of worry. One of many concerns is how to make a traditional Thanksgiving meal for children with gluten intolerance or celiac disease, lactose intolerance, or other food allergies. Fortunately, it doesn’t take a master’s degree to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving meal without gluten, milk, or other common allergens with a little creative cooking.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, and sometimes in contaminated oat products. It can cause discomfort in digestion for those with gluten intolerance and more serious effects in cases of celiac disease. Any product that contains wheat, with the exception of distilled products, will contain gluten. This includes wheat flour.

Therefore, when making your green bean casserole, consider using rice flour or brown rice flour to fry up your onions instead. Also, be sure to check the label on canned foods and cooking soups to make sure they don’t contain gluten or wheat flour. Sometimes preservatives in canned vegetables contain gluten, so do your research to make sure your ingredients are gluten-free. A good idea for dessert for the gluten intolerant is pecan pie with rice flour crust.

Milk is also a product that tends to be taken for granted in cooking, but for lactose intolerant children even a small amount could cause problems. There are alternatives to milk such as soy, rice, almond, or oat milk. It’s also good to keep in mind butter is real dairy, so be sure to find butter substitutes without milk. Seasoned roasted potatoes make a good alternative for normal mashed potatoes. For dessert, pumpkin pie with the substitution of coconut milk is classic and a favorite.

Other common food allergies include eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish. While seafood isn’t typical Thanksgiving fare, many traditional Thanksgiving desserts are made with eggs and nuts. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act requires companies to show on the label if allergens are contained within the product, so be sure to check labels before purchasing anything for a Thanksgiving meal if someone in your family is allergic to certain foods. Fortunately the range of common Thanksgiving desserts allows for relatively easy substitution: pumpkin pie is safe for someone with a nut allergy, and banana pudding can be made without eggs.

Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be a time of worry for those with allergic family members. Thanksgiving favorites such as turkey, dressing, turkey, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and gravy can easily be prepared to be allergen-free, and if all else fails there are also many alternative dishes as well.

Elaine Hirsch is self-described as a kind of a jack-of-all-interests, from education and history to medicine and video games, making it difficult to choose just one life path, so she is currently working as a writer for various education-related sites and writing about all these things instead.

Why You Should Care About the Farm Bill

November 18, 2011 •  no comments.

 •  Blog, News

Written by Robyn O’Brien

When people first started talking to me about the Farm Bill, I honestly thought they were just a bunch of foodie-types that had too much time on their hands. I mean, really, the Farm Bill?

But when I humbly learned that the Farm Bill impacts everything that we eat, I realized that this piece of legislation matters. Big time.

The Farm Bill matters if you care at all about what you feed your family, how much that food costs, whether or not clean and safe food is available to all Americans and not just those in certain zip codes, and even things like how clean your drinking water is.

Its three most important sections deal with:

  • Support programs for farmers who grow grains.
  • Provide money and technical help to farmers to protect soil, water and wildlife.
  • Fund the all-important nutrition and feeding programs for low-income Americans, especially women, children and infants.

It’s a huge piece of legislation that drives federal spending and policies on agriculture, nutrition and conservation programs, and it’s usually debated and passed every five years. It was due to come up for renewal in 2012, but industrial agriculture interests and their powerful allies in Congress are trying to circumvent open debate and get the bill they want passed as part of the “Super Committee” plan for cutting the federal deficit.

And right now, lawmakers on the House and Senate Agriculture committees are trying to write a new five-year farm bill through the supercommittee process. In other words, this enormously important piece of legislation that impacts, food, hunger and nutrition policy for 310 million Americans for the next five years is being decided upon by four Congressmen.

As we learned with Big Tobacco, industry has a powerful way of getting what they want for as long as they want as long as the public is kept in the dark. But unlike smoking, eating is not optional. And this piece of legislation affects not only our food, but also our hunger and nutrition policies and our environment and health.

With the President’s Cancer Panel report addressing the role that agricultural chemicals play in the rates of diseases like cancer, it’s no wonder that agricultural interests want to keep this information locked up behind closed doors . But with 41% of Americans expected to get cancer in their lifetimes, and the Centers for Disease Control now stating that cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children under the age of 15, lock-outs simply aren’t an option.

This is our food supply and these are our taxpayer dollars hard at work. We have a right to know how these dollars are being allocated, because clean and safe food is a human right that should be afforded to all Americans, not just those making the rules.

To learn more about the Farm Bill, please click here

To take action and let Congress know how much you care about this issue, please click here