WBEZ | Food http://www.wbez.org/sections/food Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Global Activism: Meal Sharing on Thanksgiving http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-meal-sharing-thanksgiving-111135 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/mealsharing.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Thanksgiving is almost here. And as many prepare to hit the roads and skies to see family and friends,&nbsp; you may be traveling with no place to go or you might be home alone.&nbsp; Jason Savsani says he has a solution for you. He&rsquo;s founder of Meal Sharing. It&rsquo;s a website and app that promotes cultural diplomacy by connecting meal providers to meal seekers, around the globe. For Global Activism, Savsani will tell us how to connect you with a meal and friends for the Holidays.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/177864474&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 11:06:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-meal-sharing-thanksgiving-111135 Global Activism: Bhuvana Foundation aids children in India's Tamil Nadu State http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-bhuvana-foundation-aids-children-indias-tamil-nadu-state <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/GA-Vidya Vanam.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><span id="docs-internal-guid-94ea7097-81b5-8895-dc12-376c8631483d">Statistics show that India&rsquo;s school drop-out rate is very high. Children and their families, marginalized by society and culture, include people from the tribal, lower social strata in the hill regions of India. <a href="http://www.bhuvanafoundation.org/">Bhuvana Foundation</a> was created &ldquo;to provide three nutritious meals, timely and regular primary care and a well rounded education&rdquo; for children in India, especially in Tamil Nadu State. For Global Activism, we speak with neurologist Subramaniam Sriram, founder/president of Bhuvana Foundation and Mridu Sekhar, a </span>Bhuvana trustee, about their work that began with Sriram&rsquo;s vision - &ldquo;to create a fear-free environment of learning so people are nurtured and cherished.&rdquo;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/175679848&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Mridu Sekhar feels Bhuvana Foundation&rsquo;s work with Vidya Vanam is a calling:</p><p style="margin-left:76.5pt;">I am on the board and just as passionate to give these kids the choices my grandchildren have at Lab School! I feel that we have all lost our way in educating our young. We are not trying to educate them to be good human beings and good citizens capable of thoughtful relationships with a dynamic and fast paced society! Vidya Vanam is sister schools with Pershing East here on the south side. I feel that mostly all the kids of Vidya Vanam will &quot;make it&quot;, &nbsp;while I can&#39;t say the same with confidence for the kids at Pershing East! Vidya Vanam also has about 30 kids to a class and the live in mud huts with parents who are very violent and alcoholic and can&#39;t read or write and often not enough to eat except in school! Catching them at preschool age ( 3-4) and giving them this nurturing environment for 7-9 hours a day is the key to changing the paradigm.</p></p> Thu, 06 Nov 2014 09:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-bhuvana-foundation-aids-children-indias-tamil-nadu-state What's the key to better school food? http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/whats-key-better-school-food-111051 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/BETTER SCHOOL FOOD.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In the last decade, school districts around the nation have tried different formulas to reform student lunches. Some think the answer lies in salad bars. Others have tried all organic programs. Still others have put their bets on school gardens.</p><p>But one little known program out of Minnesota starts by simply removing seven unwanted ingredients.</p><p>&ldquo;We have no artificial colors, no artificial sweeteners, no artificial preservatives, no trans fats or hydrogenated oils, no antibiotics or hormones in meats and no bleached flour,&rdquo; Jason Thunstrom said as he stood in the Jeans Elementary School lunchroom in West Suburban Willowbrook.</p><p>Thunstrom is President of the Life Time Fitness Foundation, which has provided 90 schools in four states with money to buy foods without the seven ingredients. The lunches end up looking a lot like what you&rsquo;d see in any other low income schools, just sourced from manufacturers who don&rsquo;t use artificial colors, sweeteners or preservatives or trans fats and meat raised with antibiotics.&nbsp;</p><p>One of those food manufacturers is Bill Kurtis. Yes, the legendary anchorman. He has been selling grass-fed beef under his Tallgrass brand for years, but just recently got into the hot dog game. He was also at Jeans Elementary on a recent afternoon watching the debut of his hot dogs in a school cafeteria.</p><p>&ldquo;We put grassfed beef in and we took out nitrates ... and preservatives that you&rsquo;ll find in regular hot dogs,&quot; Kurtis said. &rdquo;And it&rsquo;s why your mother is a little afraid for you to have a regular diet of hot dogs.&quot;</p><p>Kurtis was speaking to a room of low-income third graders, who seemed unfamiliar with his work as a newscaster but highly appreciative of hot dog-making skills.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;They taste really good,&rdquo; third-grader Renaya said.</p><p>Some of her classmates even appreciated the meal on its nutritional merits.</p><p>&ldquo;It was really good because I put ketchup on the hot dog and a bun is [whole] grain,&rdquo; third-grader Malcolm said.</p><p>Thunstrom says one of the students eating this hot dog, corn, carrot, apple and milk lunch was eating the millionth meal served in the Life Time funded program.&nbsp;</p><p>The whole idea was spawned, he says, by concern the company&rsquo;s CEO had over his own child entering school. When he heard about what was served in most American lunchrooms, he initially considered buying up the lunch program.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;But then reality set in, and he realized it would be an expensive proposition,&rdquo; Thunstrom remembered.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>So instead of buying the whole program, Life Time decided to do an experiment&mdash;to see what it would take to get those seven ingredients out of school food.</p><p>&ldquo;We started with one school in Minnesota just as a test to see if we could go in and look at their lunch and remove those seven items what might that cost,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We were surprised to find it was about 35 cents [per student meal] on average.&rdquo;</p><p>This first phase of the program involves serving better versions of lunchrooms standards like hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken nuggets and pizza. But Thunstrom says the longer term goal is to upgrade kitchens and support more cooking from scratch.&nbsp;</p><p>To this end, Life Time presented the school with a $10,000 check to upgrade its kitchen for more scratch cooking.</p><p>Still, the endgame isn&rsquo;t to keep writing unlimited checks. Thunstrom says that the ultimate goal is to get other funders, administrators, and eventually, the federal government to recognize the value of such a program and make it the norm.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;d like this model to become known to government officials and school administrators,&rdquo; Thunstrom said. &ldquo;You know, to say &lsquo;it&rsquo;s America, enough&rsquo;s enough.&rsquo; We think it&rsquo;s worth investing in our kids an incremental 35 cents to at least get them on a healthy way of life journey at school. Then can we also [create] lesson planning and take-home material to help that bleed over into the home.&rdquo;</p><p>And he doesn&rsquo;t just mean the homes of corporate CEOs.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the <a href="http://wbez.org/podcasts">Chewing The Fat</a>&nbsp;podcast. Follow her at <a href="http://twitter.com/monicaeng" target="_blank">@monicaeng </a>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Mon, 03 Nov 2014 12:34:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/whats-key-better-school-food-111051 Longtime Rogers Park butcher hangs up his apron http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/longtime-rogers-park-butcher-hangs-his-apron-111043 <p><p dir="ltr">At first glance, Ed &amp; Erv&rsquo;s Centrella Food Mart on Touhy Avenue looks like any other small neighborhood grocer. Step inside and the first thing you notice is the smell of mothballs. On the shelves are the usual dry goods: cereal, canned beans and rice. Milk and dairy are in a refrigerator at the rear, and in a corner next to the cash register is a small area for fresh vegetables and fruits.</p><p dir="ltr">But all the way in the back is the store&rsquo;s real hidden gem: a butcher&rsquo;s counter. Denny Mondl, the owner, stands behind a case of his special ground chuck, homemade Italian sausage, bratwurst and skinless hot dogs.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Obviously my specialty is the butcher. Probably two-thirds of my sales are in the back,&rdquo; he said.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Rogers%20Park%20grocer%202.JPG" style="float: right; height: 208px; width: 310px;" title="Mondl’s father, Erv Mondl, co-founded the neighborhood grocery 47 years ago on Touhy Ave. in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood. (WBEZ/Odette Yousef)" /></div><p dir="ltr">Mondl&rsquo;s father, the &lsquo;Erv&rsquo; in the store name, opened the store with his business partner in 1947. For nearly seven decades, the small shop served generations of Rogers Park residents who were in the know about the high-quality meats they stocked, and who came to regard the Mondl family as a part of an extended family.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Denny really exemplified what is so good about this neighborhood,&rdquo; said longtime Rogers Park resident Kathy Kirn.</p><p dir="ltr">Kirn&rsquo;s son, now 18 years old and attending college in Boston, once worked as a cashier in Mondl&rsquo;s store. Kirn said as soon as her son found out Mondl planned to close, he bought an airplane ticket to Chicago to visit his old boss.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Denny would make him sandwiches,&rdquo; Kirn said of her son, when he was in grade school. Like many regulars, Kirn&rsquo;s family kept a running tab, paid off regularly, at the store. Mondl never hassled them for payment on the spot.</p><p dir="ltr">Kirn recalled one time that Mondl saved a large family dinner from going awry. She had ordered brisket for a large Rosh Hashanah dinner, but her husband forgot to pick it up. &ldquo;We got home and the babysitter with our kid said someone came and delivered something,&rdquo; Kirn said.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;And Denny had it delivered to my house. He said &lsquo;I knew it was important, so I just had someone deliver it.&rsquo; Who does that? No one does that.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">But Mondl said business really slowed down in the last decade.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I used to do six deliveries a day, and I probably do about six a week now,&rdquo; Mondl said.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Rogers%20Park%20grocer%203.JPG" style="float: left; height: 208px; width: 310px;" title="Customers have been signing a guestbook in recent weeks, filled with their memories of Mondl and how the store played a role in their lives. (WBEZ/Odette Yousef)" /></div><p dir="ltr">Many of his older customers have passed away, and he thinks younger customers are too tired to go home and cook a meal after work.</p><p dir="ltr">Ironically, once people knew it was his last week, Mondl found himself just as busy as he was in the store&rsquo;s heyday.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been making a ton of stuffed chicken breast and stuffed pork chops for people,&rdquo; said Mondl. &ldquo;And when I say a ton, I usually get a 40-lb box of chicken breast. I&rsquo;ve already gotten 120 lbs of chicken breast this week alone to bone out the breast to put the stuffing in it. And pork loins, the same thing.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Hollye Kroger, a Rogers Park resident who only discovered Mondl&rsquo;s store last year, said she&rsquo;s very sad to see him retire. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m getting all kinds of food, tons of food to take home,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;and stuffed chicken to stick in my freezer so I can pretend that it&rsquo;s still open for another couple of months.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Mondl said that at 65 years old, he&rsquo;s the only one among his grade-school and high-school buddies who still works full-time, so he&rsquo;s ready to hang up his butcher apron.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I&rsquo;m going to miss talking to people and the camaraderie with everybody,&rdquo; he said. But he&rsquo;s ready to take it easy. &ldquo;I have projects at home to finish that I&rsquo;ve only started,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;because I&rsquo;ve only been off one day a week.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Sat, 01 Nov 2014 17:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/longtime-rogers-park-butcher-hangs-his-apron-111043 Whom do you trust when it comes to nutrition advice? http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/whom-do-you-trust-when-it-comes-nutrition-advice-111003 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/FOOD SCORES_picmonkeyed.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Whom do you trust when it comes to food and health advice?</p><p>This is the fundamental question underlying the latest food skirmish between health activists The Environmental Working Group and &ldquo;big food&rdquo; represented by the Grocery Manufacturers Association.&nbsp;</p><p>Last week, the EWG released its<a href="http://www.ewg.org/foodscores" target="_blank"> Food Scores</a> database rating 80,000 foods on a variety of criteria that encompass nutrition, ingredients and processing. Foods like <a href="http://www.ewg.org/foodscores/products?search=organic+kale" target="_blank">organic kale</a> score 1 (the best) while <a href="http://www.ewg.org/foodscores/products?search=flamin+hot+cheetos" target="_blank">Flamin&rsquo; Hot Cheeto Puffs</a> get a 10 (the worst).</p><p>But today, the <a href="http://www.gmaonline.org/news-events/newsroom/grocery-manufacturers-association-statement-on-environmental-working-group/" target="_blank">GMA responded</a> by calling the Food Score database &ldquo;severely flawed&rdquo; and predicting it will &ldquo;only provide consumers with misinformation about the food and beverage products they trust and enjoy.&rdquo;</p><p>The GMA, which represents some of the biggest food manufacturers in the world, accused EWG of using &ldquo;isolated studies&rdquo; to penalize foods containing artificial sweeteners and added sugar. It further questioned the group&rsquo;s algorithm for weighing certain factors too heavily in its final scores.</p><p>The Association said that the best advice for health and nutrition comes from the Nutrition Facts Panel and the U.S. Department of Agriculture&#39;s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Critics, however, argue that it is those very guidelines--which, for decades, have emphasized fat reduction over sugar and carbohydrate restrictions--that have led to a in tripling in American obesity over the past 40 years.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Additionally, EWG says information on packaging is limited.</p><p>&ldquo;When you think about healthy food, you have to think beyond the Nutrition Facts panel,&rdquo; said Renee Sharp, EWG&rsquo;s director of research. &ldquo;It doesn&rsquo;t always tell the whole story. EWG&rsquo;s Food Scores shows that certain foods that we think are good for us may actually be much less so because they contain questionable food additives or toxic contaminants.&rdquo;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Tuesday, the Alliance for Food and Farming, a produce industry group, <a href="http://safefruitsandveggies.com/blog/ewg-gives-top-scores-produce" target="_blank">trumpeted the high ratings</a> the EWG gave to produce. It also noted that the EWG encourages consumers to eat plenty of fresh produce.</p><p>But the AFF, which represents both conventional and organic produce growers, once again called on EWG to stop its &ldquo;Dirty Dozen&rdquo; and &ldquo;Clean Fifteen&rdquo; lists. These popular lists rate produce based on pesticide residues as measured by the USDA, but the AFF finds them misleading.</p><p>&ldquo;If EWG doesn&rsquo;t stop, the AFF will happily remind consumers about the &lsquo;1&rsquo; scores and EWG&rsquo;s new consumption message every single time the &lsquo;dirty dozen&rsquo; list receives attention. Every single time.&rdquo;</p><p>So which organizations or agencies do you trust to provide balanced nutrition information? Tell us in the comments.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng" target="_blank">@monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Tue, 28 Oct 2014 15:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/whom-do-you-trust-when-it-comes-nutrition-advice-111003 Nutrition programs ditch whole milk http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/nutrition-programs-ditch-whole-milk-110929 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/school lunch (1).jpeg" alt="" /><p><p>Last school year, lunchrooms across the nation got a dietary makeover. New rules banished 2 percent and whole milk from the National School Lunch Program. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>This month, Illinois&rsquo; Women Infant and Children feeding program followed suit by now offering skim and 1 percent almost exclusively.</p><p>&ldquo;This was a decision by the United States&rsquo; Department of Agriculture, who funds our program,&rdquo; says Stephanie Bess program director for Illinois WIC. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s designed to align our food packages with the messages that we provide to our participants. Since 1995, the dietary guidelines for Americans have recommended low-fat milk.&rdquo;</p><p>But critics say, 1995 was a long time ago, and that these guidelines have almost no scientific evidence to back them up.</p><p>Dr. David Ludwig directs the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children&rsquo;s Hospital. He wants to see better science behind the program decisions.</p><p>&ldquo;It seems to make sense that if we just got rid of the saturated fat in milk there could be health benefits and there would be weight loss and lower cardiovascular disease risk factors,&rdquo; Ludwig says. &ldquo;Unfortunately, there is virtually no evidence that reducing fat in milk will have any health benefits at all.&rdquo;</p><p>Last year, <a href="http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1704826">Ludwig wrote an editorial</a> with Harvard&rsquo;s Public Health chief Walter Willett warning officials against low-fat school milk. They represent a growing group of scientists and doctors who say the low-fat dietary guidelines run counter to public health.</p><p>USDA representatives declined to be interviewed for this story, but offered a written statement saying the recommendations came from &ldquo;experts in health, nutrition, school food service, and economics.&rdquo;</p><p>Bess of Illinois WIC tried to explain the agency&rsquo;s rationale.</p><p>&ldquo;As a registered dietician, I am looking at the diet as a whole, which is what we do at WIC,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;Milk is one component of that and this is more than a calorie issue. This is about saturated fat.&rdquo;</p><p>Still, as many point out, <a href="http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/03/17/study-questions-fat-and-heart-disease-link/?_php=true&amp;_type=blogs&amp;_r=0">analyses</a> from Harvard and Cambridge University researchers now suggest that saturated fat is not to blame for heart disease. Instead, it&rsquo;s carbohydrates that appear to be the villain. In fact, new <a href="http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/videos/news/Low_Fat_090214-1.html">government</a> research suggests a high-fat, low-carb diet is much more effective for weight loss than a low-fat diet.</p><p>Last year, researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine looked at 10,700 children and<a href="http://news.virginia.edu/content/uva-study-children-drinking-low-fat-milk-gain-similar-amount-weight-those-drinking-whole"> found that those who drank skim and one percent milk </a>were much more likely to be overweight and obese than those who drank 2 percent or whole milk. In fact, children who started at normal weight and drank low-fat milks were 57 percent more likely to become overweight than those who drank higher fat milks.</p><p>Nina Tiecholz wrote <a href="http://www.thebigfatsurprise.com/">&ldquo;The Big Fat Surprise.&rdquo;</a> It charts the rise of obesity in the US as citizens followed government advice to cut fat, especially saturated fat, in their diet. She said she was heartbroken by the news on WIC.</p><p>&ldquo;To me it&rsquo;s devastating because without the fat in milk you cannot digest the fat soluble vitamins A and D,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;They are essential and without them you can&rsquo;t absorb the minerals in milk. So milk is much less nutritious when you take out the fat.&rdquo;</p><p>Ludwig notes that these low-fat milks lose flavor along with those calories.</p><p>&ldquo;And there&rsquo;s the tendency to replace those calories with sugar like chocolate milk and that trade off is not good for children&rsquo;s health,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Indeed, today skim chocolate milk is the No. 1 beverage served in the federal lunch program. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Milk that&rsquo;s high in sugar and low in fat is the worst possible kind of beverage you could be serving them,&rdquo; Teicholz says, noting the lower nutrition absorption and adding, &ldquo;Sugar triggers the release of insulin, which is the king of all hormones for making you fat.&rdquo;</p><p>USDA officials, however, disagree. They say the added sugar is worth it if it gets kids to drink the milk.</p><p>&ldquo;Studies have shown consistently over the country that if you take out that option [for chocolate milk] even though it&rsquo;s non-fat, the milk consumption goes down,&rdquo; says USDA undersecretary Concannon.</p><p>And while the American Heart Association doesn&rsquo;t support sugary school milk, it does support the the switch to low-fat white milk in WIC. Still, the heart association&rsquo;s Mark Peysakhovich says they&rsquo;re also open to considering any new data the move might bring. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to study the effects of low fat milk on this population,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;And that&rsquo;s part of what&rsquo;s so exciting about this move.&rdquo;</p><p>To find out if the USDA will also considered the new data, you won&#39;t have to wait long. New dietary guidelines are due out in 2015.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ food and health reporter, and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at<a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> @monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Mon, 13 Oct 2014 11:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/nutrition-programs-ditch-whole-milk-110929 Rabbit hops back onto the American table http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/rabbit-hops-back-american-table-110834 <p><p>As Americans become more discriminating about the provenance, treatment and sustainability of the animals they eat, the market has brought them pastured pork, heritage chicken and grass-fed beef.</p><p>But one of the most sustainable meats of all may still prove too cute for many consumers.</p><p>It&rsquo;s rabbit--and Kankakee County farmer Kim Snyder has recently joined the ranks of the more than 27,000 American farmers who raise them (up from just 4,300 in 2002).</p><p>But unlike most rabbit farmers, Snyder (who also raises pastured Berkshire hogs and Belted Galloway cows) is raising these lagomorphs on free range.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been training them to range outdoors and it&rsquo;s been fairly successful,&rdquo; said Snyder who owns Faith&rsquo;s Farm. &ldquo;I have 32 acres and I&rsquo;ve seen them range off my acreage but they still tend to home in on my pond because I am their only continuous water source.&rdquo;</p><p>Snyder&rsquo;s target breed is the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.livestockconservancy.org/index.php/heritage/internal/silver-fox">heritage Silver Fox</a> a rabbit on the critically endangered list, which is why she chose them. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;If people taste this meat, which I think is superior to hybrid animals, then farmers will raise it,&rdquo; she explained. &ldquo;So it&rsquo;s truly conservation through consumption. You can see some breeds go from critically endangered ... to threatened ... to not being on the list at all.&quot;</p><p>So what does it taste like? Snyder invited a bunch of Midwest chefs out to her farm to help process them, cook them and taste for themselves.</p><p>&ldquo;I would say the meat is milder [than standard rabbit meat which tastes like slightly gamey chicken meat] because it&rsquo;s not been raised on pellets,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;These rabbits eat hay and grass.&rdquo;</p><p>Letting rabbits roam around 32 acres and then trapping them when it&rsquo;s time to go to the butcher is not the most efficient way to produce meat. Some rabbits will inevitably be picked off by coyotes, minks and other predators. And others may avoid the traps. But Snyder--whom I&rsquo;ve known for five years and (full disclosure) now consider a friend--says she&rsquo;s committed to letting the animals lead normal lives for as long as possible.</p><p>As she prepares to start offering them to Midwest chefs, the farmer says she plans to charge about $10 a pound for her rabbits. And they&rsquo;ll arrive on a restaurant scene that&rsquo;s already hopping with rabbit dishes.</p><p>At Chicago&rsquo;s six-month-old <a href="http://www.osterialanghe.com/">Osteria Langhe</a>, in Logan Square, braised rabbit or &ldquo;coniglio&rdquo; has emerged as one of chef Cameron Grant&rsquo;s signature dishes. He says customers order about 100 servings of it a week.</p><p>&ldquo;They love it,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We wrap it in pancetta and then slow cook it for about four hours and it just becomes incredibly moist. Then we sear it off to order and then cut it and put it on the plate with a sauce of sweet red and yellow peppers.&rdquo;</p><p>Grant lived and cooked in the Piedmont region of Italy, which is the inspiration for the menu at Langhe. There, he says &ldquo;they don&rsquo;t use chicken. So rabbit really is the chicken of Piemonte.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rabbit-1.jpg" style="height: 250px; width: 250px; float: left;" title="Chefs learned how to process, skin and cook rabbits during a recent event at Faith’s Farm in Kankakee County. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" />Rabbit has also leapt on to the menu at <a href="http://tabledonkeystick.com/">Table, Donkey and Stick</a> in Logan Square. There, chef Scott Manley offers rabbit liver mousseline with sweetbreads but also a popular whole deboned rabbit cooked sous vide and then quick roasted to order.</p><p>&ldquo;So it comes out and it&rsquo;s sort of like a rabbit steak almost,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>The meat shows up in three dishes at Mercat A La Planxa downtown and even barbecued at Frontier in West Town. And at Glasserie in Brooklyn, a $76 rabbit entree has become one of the hottest meals in New York.</p><p>As more consumers seek out sustainable meat this fast growing lagomorph--no, rabbits are not rodents--fills the bill quite nicely. In fact, according to the<a href="http://www.fao.org/docrep/t1690e/t1690e03.htm"> United Nation&rsquo;s food organization</a> you can produce more than four pounds of rabbit meat with the same amount of feed it takes to produce just one pound of beef. Additionally, rabbits can start reproducing at just 6 months old.</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s<a href="http://publicanqualitymeats.com/"> Publican Quality Meats </a>already sells pastured Berkshire pork from Faith&rsquo;s Farm. But general manager Darin Latimer says he expects Snyder&rsquo;s pastured rabbit to join the selection soon.</p><p>&ldquo;I think our customers will be OK with it,&rdquo; says Latimer. &ldquo;But I think the mass market will be harder to crack--mostly because of the adorability problem.&rdquo;</p><p>Indeed, the adorability problem remains a hurdle--even for some who don&rsquo;t mind eating other animals. Whole Foods Market learned this last month when rabbit lovers protested the store&rsquo;s pilot program to introduce rabbit to its meat counters. They argued that rabbits are pets, not meat.</p><p>Ironically, before introducing rabbit to select stores, Whole Foods spent years developing better <a href="http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/department/article/rabbit">animal welfare standards </a>for farms that raised rabbits. But, for many in the US, the meat is still too closely connected with pets, the Easter Bunny and even Bugs Bunny whose cartoons--<a href="http://www.ebaumsworld.com/video/watch/82297211/">think the Hasenfeffer episode</a>-- didn&rsquo;t do much for the image of rabbit eaters.</p><p>Even if American rabbit consumption never reaches World War II levels (when rabbits were considered a patriotic meat animal to raise in homes) or even to European levels, Grant and others think acceptance will only continue to grow.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it will,&rdquo; he says, &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a great, versatile protein that offers intrigue and excitement.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at</em><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> <em>@monicaeng</em></a> <em>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Tue, 23 Sep 2014 09:48:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/rabbit-hops-back-american-table-110834 Do new FDA actions endanger your favorite cheese? http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/do-new-fda-actions-endanger-your-favorite-cheese-110802 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/rush-creek.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago cheese lovers looking for some traditional French cheeses may be out of luck this year.</p><p>&ldquo;There are certain cheeses we simply aren&#39;t seeing at all at the moment, like Morbier,&rdquo; says Greg O&rsquo;Neil co-owner of Pastoral Cheese Bread &amp; Wine in Lakeview and the Loop. &ldquo;This is unfortunate, because it is a classic and a mover.&rdquo;</p><p>Newly enforced federal guidelines have <a href="http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/CMS_IA/importalert_9.html">stopped many types of imported </a>raw milk cheeses--including Morbier and Roquefort-- at the border in the last six months due to levels of non-toxigenic E. coli.</p><p>So what&rsquo;s wrong with non-toxigenic E. coli?</p><p>WBEZ asked the Food and Drug Administration and a representative sent this:</p><p>&ldquo;While these bacteria don&rsquo;t cause illness, their presence suggests that the cheese was produced in unsanitary conditions.&rdquo;</p><p>This statement runs contrary to 2009 draft guidance by the FDA stating:</p><p>&ldquo;Because of the close association of raw milk with the animal environment, low levels of <em>Escherichia coli </em>may be present in raw milk or products made from raw milk, even when properly produced using GMPs. However, the presence of <em>Escherichia coli </em>in a cheese and cheese product made from raw milk at a level greater than 100 MPN/g (Most Probable Number per gram) indicates insanitary conditions&hellip;&rdquo;</p><p>And so if, according to this 2009 FDA draft, &nbsp;non toxigenic E. coli numbers under 100 MPN can occur in raw milk cheeses under GMP (good manufacturing practices), why did the FDA move in 2010 to lower that number by 90 percent for all dairy? &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>That&rsquo;s a question the American Cheese Society posed to the FDA last week.</p><p>&ldquo;We want to know if there is research data, linkages to foodborne illnesses or a public health risk,&rdquo; said ACS executive director Nora Weiser. &ldquo;Because it&rsquo;s important for us to know if that exists and if that is why they have lowered this standard.&rdquo;</p><p>But, as of press time, the agency said it was still working on an explanation for its 2010 guideline.</p><p>The American Cheese Society is not the only entity cheesed off by the recent enforcement of the guidelines. Chicagoist writer Erika Kubick detailed her concern <a href="http://chicagoist.com/2014/09/11/the_war_on_raw_cheese_continues.php">here.</a>&nbsp;And the Cheese Importers Association of America is gearing up to confront the FDA soon.</p><p>&ldquo;The CIAA would like to reinforce our concern that the FDA is taking regulatory action without recognizing the historic safety of imported cheeses like Roquefort,&quot; the organization said in a statement. &quot;We completely agree that food safety is at the forefront of this decision. However, as was have done with the <a href="http://www.fda.gov/Food/NewsEvents/ConstituentUpdates/ucm400808.htm">wood board aging issue</a>, the FDA is promoting regulation without taking all factors into consideration. This action was discussed at the recent CIAA board meeting, and our concerns will be communicated to the FDA shortly.&rdquo;</p><p>If the presence of non-toxigenic E. coli in raw milk cheese posed a threat to American health, certainly the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would know about it, right? Well, not really.</p><p>The CDC had nothing on its website about the bacteria so WBEZ contacted CDC press officer Christine Pearson. She said she would try to get some information on non-toxigenic E. coli but didn&rsquo;t have an easy time of it.</p><p>She wrote back saying: &ldquo;I heard back from one of my experts that nontoxigenic is not a term that we use.&rdquo; Follow up questions last Friday remained unanswered.</p><p>This lack of clarity and explanation isn&rsquo;t just affecting cheese imports. It also prompted award-winning Uplands Wisconsin cheesemaker Andy Hatch to skip making his famous Rush Creek Reserve raw milk cheese this fall.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m intimidated by the lack of consensus or clarity,&rdquo; Hatch told WBEZ&rsquo;s Chewing the Fat food podcast. &ldquo;I think most cheesemakers are saying the same thing. We&rsquo;re not exactly sure how they&rsquo;re approaching these cheeses...And it&rsquo;s also so perishable so that if anything should hold up shipment, the window for sale is really tight, and so one little hiccup and you&rsquo;ve spoiled months of work.&rdquo;</p><p>International cheesemakers whose products have been &ldquo;Red Listed&rdquo; by the non-toxigenic E. coli guidelines have already been hurt by this hiccup. The questions remains, why?</p><p>Consumers who want to comment on the FDA rules can still do so <a href="http://http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FDA-2009-D-0466-0008.">here</a>.</p><p><em>WBEZ will stay on this story and update it when the FDA responds to the American Cheese Society on the problems posed by exceeding 10 MPN per gram of non-toxigenic E. coli in raw milk cheese.</em></p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at</em><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> <em>@monicaeng</em></a> <em>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 15:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/do-new-fda-actions-endanger-your-favorite-cheese-110802 Illinois regulators put squeeze on raw milk rules http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/illinois-regulators-put-squeeze-raw-milk-rules-110769 <p><p>On a warm summer night on Chicago&rsquo;s northwest side, the dusk brings out a chorus of loud cicadas. &nbsp;</p><p>It also brings out out a flock of enthusiastic raw milk drinkers. One by one, they pull up to a large corner house. They schlep their coolers on to the wooden porch and pack them with the ice cold jars of snow white liquid.</p><p>Based on national percentages, an estimated 400,000 Illinoisians--and I count myself among them --pay up to $18 a gallon for this stuff. Many drive more than a hour to get it from farms and pick up points like this one. And most believe it strengthens their immune system and improves their health.</p><p>But some public health officials believe just the opposite. Nationally, raw milk (or raw milk products) have been linked to more than 100 foodborne illness outbreaks over the last 17 years. And so this week, the Illinois Department of Public Health proposed new rules that could greatly restrict the distribution of unpasteurized milk produced in the state.</p><p>Raw milk supporters, however, object to proposed regulations that would require farmers to invest in costly new equipment, hand over customer lists to the government upon request and abide by the same rules whether they had one cow or 1,000.</p><p>This doesn&rsquo;t make sense to one dad who was picking up several jars of milk for his family. He says that his children&rsquo;s ear infections disappeared when his family started drinking the milk a few years ago. And he&rsquo;s opposed to any new measures to restrict his access.</p><p>&ldquo;Raw milk is a food that&rsquo;s vital for many people,&rdquo; said the customer who chose not to give his name. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s also healthy and it&rsquo;s our right to choose what we want to eat.&rdquo;</p><p>But others are not so sure that buying raw milk should be a right in Illinois. Dr. Terry Mason is Chief Operating Officer of the Cook County Department of Public Health. That group&rsquo;s initial position, he says was &ldquo;not to have the sale of raw milk at all.&rdquo;</p><p>To that end, the department enlisted Illinois Representative Dan Burke (D-23) to sponsor a bill to ban raw milk sales in Illinois earlier this year.</p><p>&ldquo;I was convinced they had a legitimate issue,&quot; Burke recalls. &quot;[So]I presented the bill and then the floodgates opened.&quot;</p><p>Those floodgates were thousands of phone calls to Burke and his colleagues from raw milk supporters all over the state.</p><p>&ldquo;They insisted that there are very significant health benefits from the consumption of raw milk,&rdquo; he remembers. &ldquo;I mean individuals who have children with epilepsy, with Down Syndrome, you name it, there was someone who called to insist that their child, family member, friend whoever benefitted from the consumption of raw milk.&rdquo;</p><p>Burke said that in two-plus decades of politics he&rsquo;d never seen an issue galvanize the public like this. And so last April, even after the bill had survived committee, he did a 180 and dropped support for his own legislation.</p><p>This sudden change of heart didn&rsquo;t thrill Mason and his colleagues at the Northern Illinois Public Health Consortium, which Mason leads.</p><p>&ldquo;We were obviously taken aback by that position, that reposition,&rdquo; Mason recalls. &ldquo;But we understand and respect the Representative&rsquo;s right to do that sort of thing. And want to be consistent with what the Centers for Disease Control have already published and they do not support the sale of raw milk.&rdquo;</p><p>Indeed, federal health authorities and the American Academy of Pediatrics &nbsp;largely oppose the sale and distribution of raw milk--a drink that can harbor many bacteria that would be killed through pasteurization.</p><p>But proponents of the drink argue that no food is risk-free and that many of bacteria in raw milk can be beneficial.</p><p>In response, public health officials like Mason point to outbreaks.</p><p>&ldquo;There have been 104 between 1998 to 2011 that we&rsquo;ve been able to keep track of and 82 percent of those have involved people under 20 years old,&rdquo; he notes.</p><p>These figures are accurate on a national level. But those who oppose the regulations point out that there hasn&rsquo;t been a single illness outbreak connected to Illinois-produced raw milk--the milk affected by these new rules--since 1998.</p><p>And for this reason, Wes King of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance calls the proposed regulations, &ldquo;A solution in search of a problem. We see no recent history of foodborne illness related to raw milk here in Illinois.&rdquo;</p><p>This lack of illness leads some to question why a cash-strapped state like Illinois would spend so much time and money on a product that is boosting the local small farm economy and hasn&rsquo;t caused a problem for more than 15 years.</p><p>Mason&rsquo;s department says that it&rsquo;s a preventive measure to avoid potential future outbreaks.</p><p>&ldquo;We wanted to make sure that those rules did as much as they could do to adequately control the sale of raw milk and make it easier for us to identify where there may be breaches and or diseases related to the sale of raw milk,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RAW MILK COW.jpg" style="height: 188px; width: 250px; float: left; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="Most of the raw milk sold in the Midwest comes from cows that graze on pasture. Milk from pastured cows has been linked to better metabolic outcomes in animal studies. (WBEZ/MONICA ENG)" />But Illinois raw milk farmer Donna O&#39;Shaughnessy believes that the agency is acting on behalf of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration which paid for some of the rulemaking process. She also believes big industrial dairy is worried by the growing popularity of raw milk as its own product sales decline.</p><p>&ldquo;The sales of pasteurized milk have gone down by 25 percent,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;So rather than improving their own product it becomes easier to disparage farmers who produce raw milk.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Raw milk is currently legal for retail sale in 11 states but illegal in 17 others. The rest fall in between with policies that limit its distribution.</p><p>Similar battles are erupting across the country as authorities threaten to clamp down on foods ranging from raw dairy and wild boar to cheese aged on wooden boards. Journalist and author David Gumpert chronicled these trends in his recent book &ldquo;Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights: The Escalating Battle Over Who Decides What We Eat.&rdquo;</p><p>Upon reading the proposed legislation Gumpert wrote to WBEZ in an email:</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s an exaggeration for IDPH to suggest, as it does in IL Register that, without some kind of law of this kind, raw milk sales are illegal under federal law. Raw milk sales/distribution are regulated by the states (and interstate sale/shipment is prohibited under federal law). Some states that allow raw milk sales do it via laws, others (like Michigan) do it via policy understandings.&rdquo;</p><p>So who are these hundreds of thousands of raw milk drinkers in Illinois?</p><p>O&#39;Shaugnessy says her customers are young mothers, body builders and Europeans who enjoy easy access to raw milk (even in vending machines) in their own country. Finally, she says, she gets a lot of business from seniors who &ldquo;remember how great they felt when they drank it as a child. And the one thing that unites all of them is that they drink it for health.&rdquo;</p><p>So what do officials say to Illinois&#39; thousands of drinkers who claim it has improved their health and chronic conditions?</p><p>&quot;Anecdote is not something we follow,&quot; says Dr Mason of the Cook County Department of Public Health. &quot;We like to look at the science and the science is overwhelmingly in favor of the fact that patsteurized milk is something that saves lives.&quot;</p><p>While many health claims for raw milk do remain anecdotal, at least <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21875744">one 2011 study</a> of 8,334 rural children in Austria, Germany and Switzerland links raw milk consumption to lower levels of asthma and allergies. The children in the same environment who drank boiled versions of the same milk did not enjoy the protective effects.</p><p>O&#39;Shaugnessy agrees that raw milk comes with risks. But the Central Illinois farmer says that she doesn&rsquo;t know of any customers who make the long drive to her farm or pay the exorbitant prices ($7-$18 a gallon) without reading up on what they are buying.</p><p>She served as a member of the Illinois Dairy Working Group that helped draft the proposed rules last year. But she says the input of small farmers like her were largely ignored in the final process.</p><p>The proposed rules don&#39;t ban or criminalize raw milk in the state, but O&#39;Shaugnessy says, &ldquo;They are very clearly trying to make raw milk sales and consumption in Illinois impossible.&rdquo;</p><p>O&#39;Shaughnessy and King of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance say that they know many farmers who say that they simply won&rsquo;t comply with the rules if they are passed.</p><p>&ldquo;Then it will just go underground and people won&rsquo;t be any safer,&rdquo; she predicts. &ldquo;People are not going to stop. And then what are they going to do? Are they going to start posting people at the end of the driveway? &nbsp;Are they going to start video taping our customers as they come up the drive? Are they going to start checking people&rsquo;s trunks as they leave our farm? The public is not going to stand for this.&rdquo;</p><p>Indeed, Burke says that he expects the same flood of raw milk supporters who deluged him last spring to oppose these new regulations. But this time, he may be among them.</p><p>&ldquo;After that number of calls,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m convinced that the product is beneficial to this community and should be available...In fact, I drank some myself and it was pretty good.&rdquo;</p><p>Back on the porch in Chicago, another customer is picking up his bottles of raw milk. I ask him what he&rsquo;ll do if the new rules effectively dry up supplies to the city. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I wouldn&rsquo;t drink milk anymore,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s the simplest answer I can say. &nbsp;I just wouldn&rsquo;t drink the other stuff.&rdquo;</p><p>The Illinois Department of Public Health will take <a href="http://www.idph.state.il.us/rulesregs/proposedrules.htm#FirstNotice">comments on the proposed rules </a>for the next 45 days. After that, the fate of Illinois&rsquo; raw milk will pour into the hands of Joint Committee on Administrative Rulemaking which will also take 45 days of comments.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at</em><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> <em>@monicaeng</em></a> <em>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Tue, 09 Sep 2014 07:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/illinois-regulators-put-squeeze-raw-milk-rules-110769 Is it time for the 'Immigrant Diet'? http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/it-time-immigrant-diet-110723 <p><p>At a little Asian grocery store on Chicago&rsquo;s north side, Douglas Cheok studies the produce as he shuffles down the aisles. The Malaysian-born communications consultant, carefully selects small amounts of ginger, garlic, leafy greens, and soba noodles.</p><p>Then he stops at a shelf lined with fermented bean curd.</p><p>&ldquo;This salted bean curd soaked in vinegar and oil adds a more solid taste to the noodle soup or whatever you cook,&rdquo; he says sharing an Asian secret to inexpensive flavor. &nbsp;</p><p>Cheok adds the pungent curd to his cart, grabs a few fresh shrimp and heads to the check out line to buy groceries. It all costs less than $15 but he says it will last well over a week.</p><p>Once back in the kitchen, Cheok chops, minces, boils and stir fries his ingredients into a large feast of soup, greens and noodles. In the process, he demonstrates what might hold the key to affordable nutrition for all.</p><p>At least that&rsquo;s the working hunch of public health professor Adam Drewnowski, who is researching folks who upend conventional wisdom by achieving high levels of nutrition on tiny budgets.</p><p>Drewnowski stumbled upon the phenomenon last year when he was examining data on nutrient dense foods. Much of it is fairly expensive, but there were a few exceptions. Among a small group of Mexican American adults Drewnowski found consumers who were achieving high levels of nutrition at a low cost.</p><p>&ldquo;So maybe the secret is being able to transform those real foods, the raw ingredients which can be obtained cheaply at ethnic markets, into tasty meals&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Maybe, if you know how to cook them and transform then you&rsquo;re going to be OK.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Douglas Cheok show how he cooks healthy on a budget</strong></p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/XKVFUFgUWUM" width="560"></iframe></p><p>Drewnowski is the Director of the Center for Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington and he&rsquo;ll be looking at a different sample of data later this year from Seattle. There he also expects to find Asian immigrants like Cheok.</p><p>So what is it about these immigrants that allows them to pull off this feat? &nbsp;</p><p>The folks at Oldways believe it&rsquo;s about sticking to traditional diets. OldWays is a nutrition non-profit aimed at improving health through heritage. And it urges folks to adopt many of the healthful tenets of Mediterranean, Latin American and Asian diets. This month they are launching classes on the African Heritage diet as well. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Traditional diets are not expensive diets,&rdquo; says Oldways president Sara Baer-Sinnott. &ldquo;The longer that immigrants are here in the US and become acculturated, the less likely they are to continue their traditional way of eating and therefore their health statistics decline. They become more obese. They have more hypertension. They are overweight. And by following traditional diets, it&rsquo;s not a very expensive way to eat and it&rsquo;s a healthier way to eat.&rdquo;</p><p>These diets can be especially affordable in cities like Chicago with abundant, low-cost ethnic grocers. While limes can cost 50 cents apiece at mainstream stores, they can often be 12 for a dollar at ethnic grocers.</p><p>Kenny Moore is a produce buyer for Pete&rsquo;s Fresh Market which serves heavily ethnic communities. He says that he&rsquo;s able to offer bargain prices because he sells such a large volume.</p><p>&ldquo;On a whole Hispanics and Asians do buy a lot of produce and so it helps our volume and our buying,&rdquo; Moore says. &ldquo;They like cooking and use a lot of herbs and vegetables to do so.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ethnic%20grocer%202.jpg" title="Ethnic grocery stores can offer incredible deals on produce because they sell so much of it, store reps say. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" /></div><p>The situation in these ethnic neighborhoods would appear to be a public health professional&rsquo;s dream: affordable, accessible produce and lots of folks who know how to cook it. So does that automatically equal great health? Not always. &nbsp;</p><p>While Asian-Americans suffer less obesity than the general population, Latinos check in with more. In fact, 6th grade Latino boys suffer from the highest childhood obesity levels in the nation, despite generally robust access to fresh produce. &nbsp;</p><p>Public health researchers are still trying to sort it out why this happens.</p><p><strong>&ldquo;</strong>There are plenty of grocery stores in the neighborhood but buying healthy food. It gets tricky,&rdquo; says Erica Rangel a coordinator for <a href="http://enlacechicago.org/">Enlace, a health and education non-profit</a> in the Little Village neighborhood.</p><p>She recently gathered a group of women enrolled in an Enlace healthy gardening program to talk to about what&rsquo;s contributing to poor health in their community.</p><p>Graciela Contreras is a school lunch lady, gardener and grandmother who suffers from diabetes. Ironically, she blames some of the health problems in her community on traditional Mexican foods.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re used to the way we were taught to eat by our parents in Mexico &mdash; to eat tacos and enchiladas all that,&rdquo; she says in Spanish. &ldquo;That comes with more fat. So we are teaching our children and grandchildren to be healthier by eating vegetables. I steam the vegetables now.&rdquo;</p><p>Rangel believes the health issues have more to do with genetic factors, assimilation and little time for scratch cooking.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s easier when you&rsquo;re trying to feed a family and you feel that pressure to just buy in bulk things with higher sodium that are processed foods,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;You find it everywhere.&rdquo;</p><p>The other ladies offered similar sentiments. But I also chatted with local 6th grader Victor Marquez. While he doesn&rsquo;t have a weight problem, he says he know a lot of boys who do.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think they&rsquo;d have a problem if they ate good food but they eat bad foods,&rdquo; Marquez says. <strong>&ldquo;</strong>They eat junk like frozen stuff, chips, pizza, candy chocolates, lollipops, whatever.&rdquo;</p><p>But what about the fresh fruit stands that operate on nearly every block in Little Village? Don&rsquo;t his pals buy their fresh cups of mangoes, corn, melon and pineapple?</p><p>&ldquo;I always see kids get the chicharrones and the raspados and those aren&rsquo;t good because they&rsquo;re like ink,&rdquo; he says &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p>Those chicharrones are deep fried artificial pork rinds and the raspados are snow cones drenched in inky sugar syrup. One vendor told me they&rsquo;re her No. 1 seller with kids.</p><p>But there may be hope for these kids off the street and back in the home. Drewnowski has some new research coming out that suggests the longer folks spend cooking, the better they eat. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>That certainly seems to be true for Douglas Cheok.</p><p>Back in his kitchen, he&rsquo;s chopping vegetables and boiling water for his stir fried greens and shrimp noodle soup. In less than an hour he&rsquo;s turned out enough dishes to last him all week. &nbsp;</p><p>As Cheok finally sits down to his his meal of shrimp soup and tofu with greens, he shares a startling secret.</p><p>&ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t know how to cook before I came to the States,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;In Malaysia eating out was cheap so I didn&rsquo;t have to cook.&rdquo;</p><p>Still, the retiree says that if he can learn to cook, &ldquo;Anyone can learn. You don&rsquo;t need a college degree to know how to cook. But it is always good to know how to cook.&rdquo;</p><p>And it might not hurt to live near an ethnic grocery store.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at</em><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> <em>@monicaeng</em></a> <em>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/48706770&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 13:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/it-time-immigrant-diet-110723