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How General Mills is Getting It Right

November 14, 2011 •  no comments.

 •  Blog, News

Written by Robyn O’Brien

Every once in a while, something just blows you away. That happened today, when I read the General Mills blog. Not only because the information that they shared was so jaw-dropping, but also because of the candor with which they shared it, the complete transparency with which they wrote, and the dedication they showed to fixing the problem they’d highlighted.

It gave me hope that together, we can fix our broken food system.

Because while some may argue that we need biotechnology in order to produce more food to feed our growing global population (an argument frequently postured by the biotech and agricultural chemical industry who stands to financially benefit from the licensing, trait and technology fees they earn off of foods that have been genetically engineered to contain their patented technologies), others, like General Mills, are focusing on the fact that we appear to already have a viable solution and that our problem may in part be solved by focusing on food waste and its reduction and redistribution.

As Bob Branham at General Mills shares:

For the last several months, I have been on an educational journey to understand the impact of food waste, and I continue to work within General Mills and with the food industry to reduce the amount of food discarded in landfills.

The impact of food waste is staggering, particularly when you consider:

  • Each year 70 to 80 billion pounds of food is thrown away in the U.S. – equating to almost 250 pounds per person.
  • 20 to 30 percent of all food grown, processed and transported is never consumed.
  • Only a very small portion of food waste (approximately 2.5 percent) is recycled – primarily as compost.

Americans now throw away more food than any other material disposed of in landfills and incinerators, according to Jean Schwab, who leads the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Food Recovery Initiative. And that’s one reason why the EPA has identified food waste as an agency priority.

With 1 in 4 American children now suffering from “food insecurity” as agricultural commodity producers continue to ship their products overseas, the AllergyKids Foundation is extremely grateful for the work of Bob and his General Mills team and are inspired that together, we can create the changes we want to see in the health of our families, our food system and our country.

To read the blog entry at General Mills in its entirety, please click here http://www.blog.generalmills.com/2011/11/the-impact-of-food-waste/

Free Webinar: How You Can Protect Your Families From Hidden Allergens in Food

 •  3 comments.

 •  Blog, News

Anyone who knows the story behind the AllergyKids Foundation knows that our very reason for existing is to help inform and inspire families about ways that they can protect the health of their loved ones.

So this week, AllergyKids is proud to announce that we are working with Annie’s Naturals to bring you up to speed on the growing concern over genetically engineered ingredients in our food supply.

Because fifteen years ago, scientists wielding gene guns got ahold of our basic food crops like corn and soy and started injecting them with agrichemical ingredients never before used in corn and soy. Countries around the world said either “No way!” or “Label them” while here in the US, these new ingredients, allergens and proteins, collectively known as “GMOs” or “genetically modified organisms” were introduced without our knowing it.

On Tuesday, November 15th, in a free live chat Robyn O’Brien, founder of the AllergyKids Foundation and author of The Unhealthy Truth and Chuck Benbrook, Chief Scientist at the Organic Center, you’ll have the chance to hear and talk about:

• What is biotechnology and genetically engineered foods?

• Why you’ve never heard of them and where to watch for them

• The connection between GMOs and health, including new information about allergies

• Where you can find more information and resources

• How to take action on labeling

To attend this free live chat, register here: http://healthandgmos.eventbrite.com/ or you can head over to annies.com/livechaton Tuesday, 11/15 at 11:00am (PST).

And a big, fully transparent “thank you” goes out to Annie’s Natural for their help in bringing this potentially life-saving information to light.

Social Justice for Children & A Call to Shine On

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 •  Blog, News

Written by Robyn O’Brien

As the country watches in horrified disbelief as the allegations unfold around Penn State’s football program, it is all too easy to become incredibly disillusioned as it appears that one institution after another continues to fail our children, placing their reputation, brands and shareholder value over the welfare of our youth.

For some of us, our first awareness of this type of exploitation came in the form of tobacco companies promoting their products to young people. For others, we have learned of it as these same tactics are used by the food companies to drive demand for their artificial and processed foods. For others, it is the awareness that the agricultural chemical companies are now engineering their products into our foods in order to drive profitability for their product lines without having conducted any longitudinal studies. And still for others, it is the realization that some of our youth who have joined the military, often selected from and the rural and rust-belt areas that are struggling, return home, after giving themselves in service to our country, to face unemployment numbers between 30 and 48 percent.

Learning this information is not something anyone wants to know. But it is also something that we can not unlearn, especially as these abuses of power continue to occur. We can not shake the horrific image of that child standing in the shower as he was abused. Nor can we erase the death of young girls who were electrocuted while working in cornfields for agricultural chemical companies or those of balding children whose bodies are riddled with cancer. The images are terrifying, but equally so are the realizations that for some companies, for some institutions, “It is better to protect “the brand” than it is to protect free speech, the right to privacy, or even to protect children.”

But these abuses are also a call to action. And if ever there were a time for this call to protect the health of our children, that time is now. There are entire institutions and systems that are failing our youth, and an ever-growing need to create new systems based on transparency and accountability in order to manifest the change we want to see in the world. The opportunity before us is enormous.

And while none of us can do everything, all of us can do something. And parents have the remarkable power to affect extraordinary change in any and all of these systems because we are motivated by love. That love can serve as a rocket fuel, as it is more powerful than even the strongest greed.

So with that in mind, consider the following words from Clarissa Pinkola Estes:

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unamended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency too to fall into being weakened by persevering on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind, without raising the sails.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times.

And as these stories continue to unfold, we should keep these words close at hand, so that we will, for the sake of our children, shine on.


Do American Families Have a Right to Know What’s In Their Food?

November 13, 2011 •  3 comments.

 •  Blog, News

Recently, Facebook has come under fire by the Federal Trade Commission for introducing changes to their products without alerting consumers. As Facebook and the FTC look to reach a settlement, it should be noted that at the same time, agricultural chemical companies are doing the same thing to some of our food products – introducing new characteristics and traits without alerting consumers.

And while the FTC has not yet investigated the recent manipulation of our food supply, a wide-ranging coalition of consumer, public health and environmental organizations, food companies, and individuals are working at the state level to inform consumers.

Last week, the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act was submitted to the State Attorney General. The initiative, one that will be duplicated around the nation, requires genetically engineered foods (also known as Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs) and foods containing GMO ingredients to be clearly labeled, similar to current labels with other nutritional information.

Introduced into the United States food supply in the 1990s by agricultural chemical corporations without consumers’ informed consent, these genetically engineered ingredients are pervasive in processed foods and infant formulas, without labels, and yet no studies longer than 90 days have been done on these ingredients.

A genetically engineered food is usually a plant or animal that has had its DNA altered at the molecular level in a lab to include genes that produce foreign compounds from other plants, animals, viruses, or bacteria. This genetic alteration is not found in nature and cannot occur naturally. Americans currently unknowingly are eating many different genetically engineered foods, because these foods are not required to be labeled.

Fifty countries including the European Union and Japan have laws mandating that genetically engineered foods be labeled, but the United States does not have such a requirement. Public opinion polls indicate that over 90 percent of voters support the labeling of genetically engineered foods.

Efforts to enact labeling laws in Congress and the California legislature have been blocked by big food and chemical company lobbyists. This measure will take the issue directly to the people to decide whether genetically engineered foods should be labeled.

The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act was carefully and specifically written to avoid any unnecessary burden or cost to consumers or producers. California voters are expected to have the chance to vote on the initiative in November 2012. To learn more, please visit http://labelgmos.org/

If you are interested in introducing similar legislation in your state, please contact the team at AllergyKids by leaving a comment below or through our contact form.

To learn more, please visit http://labelgmos.org/ or http://www.justlabelit.org

One Mom Manifests a Vision: An Allergy-Free Preschool

November 11, 2011 •  one comment.

 •  Blog, News

At AllergyKids, we are constantly inspired by the work of the food allergic community and the creative solutions that parents develop to help address this growing epidemic that not only benefit their own children but also countless others. As the debate in schools continues over how best to address this growing epidemic and the all-too-real, life-threatening condition that it can be to too many children, we recently learned how one mom took this issue into her own hands, and inspired by the love she had for her own children and others with food allergies, built a school that an entire community now enjoys.

Her story is inspiring and shared by Michael Cowl from St. Stephen ECD and Preschool at http://allergyfreepreschool.org/

Founded in 2002, St. Stephen ECD & Preschool is the only school in the St. Louis area designed specifically for children with asthma and allergy related health issues. Free from trigger foods known to cause allergic reactions, St. Stephen ECD & Preschool is a product of, director, Laura Schulte’s desire to help her community and family.

Schulte’s oldest son Ben had a food allergy to dairy and casein products. In addition, less than two years later after their second son Joe spent extensive time in and out of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit it became known, Schulte’s son, Joe, suffered from multiple food allergies, asthma and eczema. The Schulte family learned their lifestyle would have to change drastically in order to keep Joe healthy. Countless foods had to be eliminated from the house, ingredient labels became matters of life-or-death and common family outings – such as restaurant visits – would no longer be an option. Upon beginning the elimination diet recommended by doctors, Joe’s health improvements were almost immediate. By the time Joe reached age three some normalcy had returned to the household. Unfortunately, Joe’s conditions and sensitivity to his environment put him at risk for deathly allergic reactions to even minor traces of offending allergens. While searching for an early childhood center with knowledge of these common chronic conditions, in addition to a carefully controlled environment, came the discovery that there was much work to be done in order to make St. Louis a better place for children like Joe. Ultimately, from the struggle in all of this, both a child and now a wonderful idea had been brought into existence and, today, both continue to thrive and grow.

Opening in 2002, with the help of volunteers from neighborhood churches and forming a nonprofit foundation in 2006, St. Stephen ECD & Preschool has served well over 600 students and continues to maintain a zero percent reaction rate among its students. While most schools anticipate a ten to 25 percent rate of anaphylaxis or allergy reaction among students during a school year, St. Stephen ECD & Preschool attributes its success to a strict food policy. In order to maintain an allergy free environment, lunch and all snacks are provided, and are allergy free, as outside food is not allowed into the school. There are no foods with nuts, fish, dairy, soy, egg and, if necessary, wheat allowed inside the building.

Furthermore, to help educate families, program information is available at the building about the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network as well as the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Also, parent and family information and support is available with Gateway FEAST, a local parent run group of members exchanging ideas and information.

Additionally, if any child has an allergy or asthma medication, parents are allowed to leave that medication in a secure container at school. Staff also goes over pediatric instructions directly with parents. By eliminating these risk factors from the school premises, St. Stephen ECD & Preschool is able to offer a safe and secure place for these children.

To learn more about this allergy-free preschool, please visit http://allergyfreepreschool.org/