3 Dollars a Day Assignment

 

If you have not heard the statistic that about half of the world’s population lives on just 3 dollars per day for food then you will probably be surprised when reading this but it is true. And if you are not surprised you are probably thinking, “well that’s not a lot but I could do that just fine if I needed to” like I did when I first heard that fact. Well let me just say that it is not so easy and it is an even bigger deal than it sounds.

 

I embarked on this assignment thinking that it would not greatly affect my daily life, but I was wrong. After living off of just 9 dollars for a three-day period I found my energy level much lower than normal, my focus harder to maintain, my attitude not exactly positive and my emotions and outlook regarding food extremely disheartened.

 

After the first day I was sick of the food I was eating and I never felt completely satisfied. I did not buy any meat since it was way out of my budget range so I found myself striving to get the protein I needed to stay full long enough to function throughout the day. Instead, I ate mostly beans and rice and salad, and drank only water (of course). I bought a couple stray vegetables, and tried to find ones on sale to stretch my dollar even further. I had absolutely no room in my budget for things like salt and pepper, so my meals tended to feel a little bland overall.

 

The biggest problem I found with this assignment was the fact that we had to buy all of our food at once, and we could not for instance buy a bag of flour but only use 1 cup of it and split the price up that way. This “all or nothing” rule was extremely limiting because we could not buy things to make other things like spices, baking goods etc. BUT I also realize that in a lot of ways that was the purpose of this assignment: for us to see what it is like for people who truly only have 3 dollars a day to spend and how limiting that can be both nutritionally and emotionally. If I found myself fatigued, grumpy, and unexcited about existing on 3 dollars a day after only three days total, I can’t imagine how people feel when that is their life on a daily basis. This assignment just gives me a million more reasons to want to become a Dietician and try to help with food insecurity.

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Blog 6: 1000 New Gardens – A Local Gem

I was not sure what to discuss in my blog this past week since we just had our exam and service learning stuff. I already blogged about composting (our service learning topic) so I decided on something else!

While preparing for our composting “lesson” and doing the curriculum template, etcetera, when we came to the part in the curriculum where it requires a local story of someone that has to do with your topic, I learned some very interesting information! There is an organization here in Bozeman called 1000 New Gardens. It was started in Missoula a few years ago by a student in the University of Montana’s equivalent to SFBS program, named Max Smith, and their objective is exactly what it sounds like: to help start 1000 new gardens. This organization has more to it than meets the eye however. They do everything from give tips on what to plant and when, to helping someone till some earth for a whole new garden, to giving people compost to plant with, simply labor or to hosting “dig days” where everyone in the organization comes out and helps those who need a hand with gardening in any form. I just recently moved to an apartment that actually has a small backyard, and having just heard about them (and also since I’m a Dietetics major of course), I contacted them right away with inquiries about what would be the best way to have a garden in a small space like mine. They got back to me immediately with great advice on where to start and what to do, but also offered to help in any way they could once I have a plan set out. I went from one day not knowing anything like this existed in Bozeman, to the next having spoken with these very nice individuals and being so excited for Summer to come so I can start planting my garden!

This great organization is an example of an awesome, local resource that is available to anyone who has a little space to plant some seeds. Granted, I am all too familiar with how hard it is to garden as a college student/ renter, so don’t feel guilty if you don’t have your own plot of land yet. But my point is that everyone can be a gardener, everyone can be in charge of their own food future by growing their own healthy, safe, sustainable food and the people at 1000 New Gardens are waiting anxiously to help.

Week 5: Annual BMI Screening of Children in Schools

Since the topic of our policy debate ended up as GMO labeling, I figured I would blog about my second choice of topics since it will not be debated on Tuesday: BMI screening of children from Kindergarten age onward.

 

I literally had never heard of this concept before it was mentioned in class on Thursday, and I can say that it shocked me at first thought! Just the principle of doing something as invasive as screening our country’s children from the age of 5 onward, and tracking their numbers throughout their life sounds a little crazy to me. It sounds much too personal; and honestly the words BMI and school screenings don’t sound like two things that should go in the same sentence.

 

However it is too bad that it “shocked” my sensibilities to hear that this idea is actually in practice, because that is simply the predicament we as Americans have gotten ourselves into. The time for keeping your child’s BMI to themselves and preserving a little bit of privacy is gone. The time for honesty and truth is now. When 1/3 of our population is obese, and our childhood obesity rate is climbing at a rapid pace, it’s time to take a little more of a drastic approach. So even though it was shocking to hear that BMI screenings are something that is actually happening in schools, I found that the more I thought about it the more sense it made. Why not have a better grasp of what the BMI’s of the children in this country actually are? Why not be able to specifically track not only individual kids’ BMI but also the rates of the group as a whole? Wouldn’t this practice give the nutrition/health care professionals of this country the best possible idea of where the obesity epidemic is at and where it is going? And what about the kids themselves? I feel like this idea would be met with a lot of apprehension at first, but if enacted into public policy I think people would get used to it and even use it as motivation. I think if kids and parents knew that they would be subject to having their BMI reported they may work on living just a little bit more of a healthier lifestyle. I think that even though children are so young, having yearly BMI screenings is just a harsh reality that we have come to in this country. And even though it sounds drastic, it could help bring a little more accountability to everyone and hopefully help the obesity epidemic lose some ground.

Actual Week 4: Guest Speakers

I didn’t realize we did not have to post last week, so this is my official week 4 post.

I really enjoyed the two women who came in to speak to us about the various topics and research! I especially found interesting the second presentation by Dr. Pinard regarding food policy and dietary guidelines. First off, her statement that soda is a non-food item and should therefore be taxed like other non-food items such as tobacco was brilliant. I have heard this argument before but her point of view just really struck me for some reason. I totally agree that because soda is hazardous to your health and also poses no nutritional value, it should be considered a “non food” item. Once placed in that category officially, lengths should be taken to essentially deter people from consuming it (just like with cigarettes) such as taxation or limits on serving size nationally. Some people might say, “People will do what they want and, regardless of tax drink it anyway”. Well that might be true, but like Dr. Pinard said, if nothing else a taxation on soda could provide tons of funding towards things like nutrition education or government nutritional aid like SNAP benefits. So regardless of whether treating soda like a non-food item would change people’s behaviors, at the very least it could provide some money to much-needed areas that are a positive influence in the fight against obesity and hunger.

The second part of her presentation that really struck me was her talk about the new National School Lunch Program (NSLP) guidelines and the controversy surrounding them. I, like many other people have heard of the backlash from the new guidelines and how kids hate them and are now spending the school day hungry because they aren’t getting enough to eat. I think there is a lot of misinformation out there causing a lot of people to be against this new policy! Not many people know the whole story, they just hear “kids are hungry” and are suddenly up in arms about the new guidelines being wrong (and even cruel) for our children. I’m sure many people don’t know some of the facts that Dr. Pinard presented; such as being able to get unlimited seconds on fruits and vegetables, or that kids are now throwing away twice as much as before the new policy. I think some people expect that the obesity epidemic will just fix itself, without them having to really change their behavior too drastically. I’m sorry but news flash: in order to change the obesity epidemic, BIG things need to change with what we eat, and how much we eat of it! This policy is in accordance with what this country needs right now, just as Dr. Pinard said. We are no longer a country in the great depression with scarce food availability, so why would we still have a system in place that was made for that situation? We are a country with astounding food availability, low activity levels and huge portions, therefore we need to change our policies to fit those needs, and that is was the new NSLP guidelines are doing. I loved Dr. Pinard’s presentation and loved her point of view on food policy in this country.

Week 4: COMPOST!

This week, since we had our test there was not too much going on to talk about in class. As a result I would like to discuss composting and why it rocks, because that is the topic of my service learning group.

 

I am not a Sustainable Foods and Bioscience major, therefore I don’t know nearly as much about composting than my fellow group members, however I did grow up with a “compost pile” in my back yard (shout out to my mom for being ahead of the times!) and know a little about the benefits they offer any home.

 

The first question is, what is compostable anyways? ANY food scraps, like peels, seeds, cores, pits, you name it. If it comes off of a fruit or vegetable, you can compost it. There are also a lot of compostable materials that you wouldn’t naturally think of, such as tea bags, coffee filters and grounds, egg shells, leaves or grass trimmings are a great one too. The possibilities are basically endless as long as it is not any type of meat or synthetic material.

 

Your next question is probably how do composts help? Or basically what’s in it for me?  First of all, composts provide any biodegradable material with a place to go other than the landfill (where they are NOT reaching their full potential). This helps you by giving you a double use for these things, as well as helps keep as much material out of the already crowded disposal sites in this world. Second and probably most important, composting (if done right) give you  fresh, FERTILE material to work with. There isn’t really anything fresher than mother nature, and if given the proper means to biodegrade, your food scraps with give you the absolute best soil to plant your garden or grass in.

 

This is just the tip of the ice berg. Since I’m sure the majority of the people who read this are going to be college students, I would imagine that a lot of you don’t get the privilege of having a back yard at all, let alone one you can compost and garden in. So all I’m saying is, think about all the organic material that you throw away every day. From the stuff you cut off of food in order to cook it, to the leftover that you don’t end up eating. Think about how you could be throwing that into a pile rather than a garbage can and then poof!! It magically turns in to the best fertilizer you could never buy.

 

Research Seminar: What OTC Weight Loss Products Aren’t Telling You

For those of you who went to the research presentation today, it was both interesting and thought provoking. Even though this wasn’t a class discussion this is what I wanted to talk about today since it has so much to do with Nutrition and Society.

Dr. Rosemary Avery led a seminar discussing the affects of advertising, focusing on deceptive advertising, on the consumption of over-the-counter weight loss supplements.  Basically she was talking about a bunch of research she and her peers have conducted on all of the OTC weight loss supplements out there, how much people are consuming, what the public thinks about how they work and how affective they actually are. All of those points were wrapped around the topic of where and how much advertising of these products was going on; specifically focusing on TV and magazines.

A whole lot of fancy research was conducted and I thought some of her findings were extremely interesting and eye opening!

First of all I learned that public knowledge on this subject is extremely low, and people basically do not know the truth about these products. 62.9% of those who had used one of these supplements and 42.8% of those who hadn’t rated their effectiveness as “very effective” or “somewhat effective”. Also, half of people were found to believe that these supplements are approved for safety and efficacy before being sold to the public – well they are not! The regulations on these products are extremely loose. Since they are classified as a “food” they are not required to show any benefit from the product, or prove the safety of the product. The surprising part was, Dr. Avery stated that 37% of physicians, (yes those are educated doctors) were unaware that these OTC’s do not require FDA approval before sale.

Second of all, a LOT of the “recent active ingredients” in these OTC’s are proven to be harmful to consume and/or banned by the FDA and also proven to not work that well. The top two on her list were Phenylpropanolamine (PPA) and Ephedra (I’m sure some of you have heard of that second one). Both of those ingredients have been proven to increase risk of stroke and even death; the first was banned in 2000 and the second in 2004. PPA showed no statistically significant weight loss relative to placebo, and Ephedra only 0.9 kg/mo more than placebo. That sure is a lot of results in exchange for putting something in your body that is virtually unregulated by the FDA and is proven to increase your risk of heart problems and death!

The moral of the story is, if you want to lose weight do not get caught up by these OTC weight loss supplements for their advertised effectiveness and quick results. They don’t work, and in fact may endanger your health while you’re at it. Diet and exercise are the way to go.

Week 2: The Smoke Screen of Advertising

Whoops I spaced this post on Friday, but something that struck me from this week’s classes was of course the Coke campaign ads that we watched.

Regarding the first commercial, I found several things particularly alarming. As we talked a little bit about, Coke makes it sound like all calories are the “same”. As most people who are educated a little on the subject know, all calories are NOT created equal and that empty calories, as those that are in soda, are the worst kind. Also, all of the statistics that they list about how their low-cal alternatives have helped reduce the calories-per-serving over the years? That seems counter intuitive to the fact that serving sizes have only gotten bigger over the years, so I feel like they cannot claim to have “reduced” calorie consumption per serving at all. How can they know that they have reduced calorie consumption in schools by 90% since 2004? Most of the changes made in that area are mandated by the schools or by law, not a choice on Coca-Cola’s part. The entire ad (of course) makes Coke look like the good guy, when in reality sugar-sweetened beverages are a very large contributor to the obesity epidemic. They seem to be taking the high road and admitting their part in the decline of health in the United States, but in reality they are presenting “facts” that are misconstrued to make them look good and basically sending people all the wrong messages about soda.

Speaking of sending the wrong messages, in the second commercial we saw all the ways to burn the 140 “happy” calories in a can of Coke. The first time I saw the commercial; I thought Coke was suggesting that each of the activities it names (75 seconds of laughter, 1 victory dance, 10 minutes of dancing, etc.) was a way to burn 140 calories. Of course, any one of those activities burning that many calories is nonsense. It took me watching it a second time to realize that it is all of them combined to burn the 140 calories, which I still am not too sure if that would suffice… But nevertheless, is it a coincidence that I saw each one of them as a way to burn 140 calories? I don’t think so. I think it is an attempt to once again make themselves look better, make it seem easier to excuse drinking soda, and possibly even fool people who don’t know better into thinking they can laugh for 75 seconds and burn off the energy they consumed with a can of coke. It is disappointing to know that these ads will probably fool a lot of people into having a positive attitude towards soda in terms of healthy eating.

Week 1: In Case You Didn’t Know, Here Are All the Great Things About Farmer’s Markets

Everyone knows that “buying local” is a good thing, but why? I find that this question is very often left unanswered because people assume that the answer is obvious. Well in case there are any people who (like I once was) are a little hazy on the pro’s of buying local or going to a Farmer’s Market, do not worry – I will elaborate on the topic.

There are many benefits to a local Farmer’s Market, both to the community and to the Farmers. First of all, in my opinion it provides a fun, festive atmosphere to spend a summer afternoon and enjoy being outside. Usually accompanying the fresh, locally grown food are things like local art, music, arts and crafts etc. The market itself is just fun to go to, even if you aren’t interested in buying anything. Also, the Farmers gain the opportunity to connect with their community because in a lot of cases the person selling you that head of lettuce is the person you planted and harvested it.

Aside from the social atmosphere, these markets have huge benefits financially and ecologically. The fact that Farmers bring their product straight to an outlet to sell to the community saves them money by cutting out the “middle man”. By not having to pay a company to truck their fruits and vegetables to a grocery store, they allow for a higher profit, and the consumer gets to enjoy a cheaper price. Also, they save  tons of money on all that gas they would be using to drive their food across the state. This is where the ecological benefits come in. By localizing consumption, it decreases the area’s ecological footprint. Not to mention the fact that Farmer’s Markets use less packaging than grocery stores, therefore decreasing waste while they’re at it.

And to top it all off, I will state the obvious: The food you are buying at a Farmer’s Market is most often HEALTHIER food.  These markets are where you are going to find organically-grown, local foods. They are not the sort of environments that foster the use of GMO’s, pesticides, antibiotics, or other less-than-desirable aspects of the growing process. And yes, you can find organic food at the grocery store, but why not get it at a place that features a great price, where you can enjoy the sunshine, bring your dog, maybe buy some arts and crafts, chat with friends, chat with your farmer about what they put into their fertilizer, and listen to music? That sounds a lot more fun to me.

About

Hi, my name is Caroline Rowe and I am a Dietetics major at Montana State University. The purpose of this blog is to display my work in the class Nutrition and Society; which involves community nutrition, popular nutrition issues and nutrition education in general. I hope to eventually graduate with a degree in Dietetics and become a Registered Dietitian. I plan to then continue my education and receive a Master’s Degree – in what yet i am not sure. I am interested in women’s health and obesity prevention. Hopefully one day i can become a helping hand in the betterment of those issues.

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