WBEZ | obesity http://www.wbez.org/tags/obesity Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Morning Shift: Has obesity in Illinois gotten out of control? http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-09-08/morning-shift-has-obesity-illinois-gotten-out-control <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Yogma.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We take a look at obesity rates in America and why Illinois ranks 25th in the nation. We also talk about the medical marijuana registration process for the state. Plus, we get a unique take on bluegrass music from three Aussies.</p><div class="storify"><iframe src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-obesity-in-illinois/embed?header=false&border=false" width="100%" height=750 frameborder=no allowtransparency=true></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-obesity-in-illinois.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-obesity-in-illinois" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Has obesity in Illinois gotten out of control? " on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Mon, 08 Sep 2014 08:07:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-09-08/morning-shift-has-obesity-illinois-gotten-out-control 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 CPS doesn’t know how much sugar is in kids’ meals http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-doesn%E2%80%99t-know-how-much-sugar-kids%E2%80%99-meals-110079 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/132244825_dbf0e21d9f_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>UPDATE TO UPDATE: May 2: Early Friday afternoon Aramark told WBEZ it had supplied CPS with the sugar data. Late Friday afternoon CPS sent it to WBEZ. An initial glance shows that a single CPS breakfast of French toast, syrup and orange juice can deliver 34.5 grams of sugar. &nbsp;This far exceeds the sugar limits set by the American Heart Association for grown women over an entire day. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>UPDATE: May 2: Tim O&#39;Brien of the Illinois Attorney General&#39;s office tells WBEZ that he is contacting Chicago Public Schools about the district&#39;s failure to complete our Freedom of Information Act request --particularly when it comes to revealing how much sugar is in CPS food. &nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>When it comes to pinpointing the source of our childhood obesity epidemic, factors like fat and calories are receding slowly into the background while sugar is emerging as a major factor.</p><p>In fact, the Harvard School of Public Health says that &ldquo;Rising consumption of sugary drinks has been a major contributor to the obesity epidemic.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Strange, then, that in the most recent revamp of school food rules, sugar was untouched and remains completely unregulated. Sugar (which often arrives in the form of corn syrup)&nbsp; is such a non-issue to school food authorities that Chicago Public Schools don&rsquo;t even bother to keep track of how much they put in CPS food--food fed to some of the most obese children in the nation.</p><p>Seven weeks ago WBEZ sent in a Freedom of Information Act asking CPS for its Top 5 entrees and their ingredients, as well as the district&rsquo;s 50 most served foods and their nutrients. When the FOIA was finally answered, many things, including sugar levels, were missing.</p><p>Today, seven weeks after filing the FOIA request, WBEZ learned that the district doesn&rsquo;t &ldquo;collect&rdquo; and subsequently doesn&rsquo;t know how much sugar it&rsquo;s serving up to Chicago children.</p><p>WBEZ has put in a request to CPS caterer Aramark for this information. Representatives at the Pennsylvania-based company say that CPS never asked them for the data and this is the first they&rsquo;d heard of it.</p><p>It&rsquo;s unknown how much sugar is in the CPS &ldquo;syrup pancake cup&rdquo; or strawberry pancakes or French toast sticks, but it is known that Danimals yogurt cups contain 13 grams of sugar per serving. That&rsquo;s more than half of what the American Heart Association recommends for a grown woman&rsquo;s daily diet.</p><p>We&rsquo;ll keep you updated on our quest for data on Chicago Public School food here.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2Fmonicaeng&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGoYzy7NkmnMSoIdG75anzNVCJ90A">@monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Fri, 25 Apr 2014 16:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-doesn%E2%80%99t-know-how-much-sugar-kids%E2%80%99-meals-110079 Can you persuade kids to ditch soda for water? http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/can-you-persuade-kids-ditch-soda-water-109677 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Water Tasting Photo.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>February is &ldquo;<a href="http://www.rethinkyourdrinknow.com/ryd/Home">Rethink Your Drink</a>&rdquo; month in Illinois, by proclamation of Gov. Pat Quinn. And the drinks that consumers are being asked to rethink are the high-cal beverages that many Illinoisans and other Americans polish off by the liter.</p><p>The campaign to raise awareness about the health effects of sugary beverages coincides with a<a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-02-03/excess-sugar-may-double-heart-disease-risk-researchers-say.html"> new study</a> linking excess sugar consumption to increased risk of heart disease.</p><p>Schools, churches, and state agencies are holding programs as part of the campaign aimed at improving Illinois residents&rsquo; soft drink habits.</p><p>One novel approach was launched last week at Brooks Middle School in the west Chicago suburb of Oak Park, which focused on quenching thirst with water rather than pop.</p><p>Sandy Noel, a retired teacher and co-chairwoman of the Governor&rsquo;s Council on Health and Fitness, told students, &ldquo;When you&rsquo;re dehydrated, your brain kind of goes from a grape to a raisin. It actually shrinks a little bit and you feel a little wilted.&rdquo;</p><p>The 7th and 8th graders then lined up for a taste-off pitting two flavors of infused water, one strawberry-lemon and the other cucumber-lime.</p><p>As the kids filed through the tasting lines, their votes seemed to lean toward the strawberry-infused water. But the tasting process also left them with some new opinions on beverages in general.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I know our body doesn&rsquo;t really need sugar all the time,&rdquo; said Tate Ferguson, &ldquo;and so if you want something that tastes good and is better for your body, you should drink this.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I like the cucumber-lime water,&rdquo; said Max Walton. &ldquo;I think I would definitely drink it during sports because it gets you more hydrated than soda.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Like their male classmates, many of the girls said they were open to swapping their usual drinks for water in the future.</p><p>&ldquo;Usually before I do martial arts, I am really tired, so I just have an energy drink,&rdquo; said Zoharia Drizin. &ldquo;So if I start drinking this instead, I think I will be energized in a healthier way.&rdquo;</p><p>Her classmate Claire Cooke agreed. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I would totally choose this over soda because it&rsquo;s much better for you,&rdquo; Cooke said. &ldquo;Soda makes you more thirsty, but water keeps you energized for a long period of time. I&rsquo;m in a lot of musical theater and when I&rsquo;m dancing I need lots of water.&rdquo;</p><p>For Abby Nichol, the contest was a little closer.</p><p>&ldquo;I love soda,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;but this is very, very close to it. So it&rsquo;s actually a very tough choice. Personally, I like this a little bit more than soda.&rdquo;</p><p>In the case of one student, the presentation -- which included displays of the amounts of sugar in soda and sports drinks -- made her rethink her lunchtime drink.</p><p>&ldquo;I usually have a Gatorade in my lunch,&rdquo; said Cait Egan, a 7th grader. &ldquo;But now I am starting to double guess that, because I saw how much sugar is in a Gatorade. And I think this water tastes better to me.&rdquo;</p><p>Still not all of the students agreed. Alec Fragos was especially outspoken in his opposition.</p><p>&ldquo;It was like drinking out of a faucet,&rdquo; Fragos said. &ldquo;It didn&rsquo;t have any taste. I wouldnt choose it over soda because I don&rsquo;t feel it would help me feel more hydrated &hellip; It&rsquo;s got no pop in the mouth. It&rsquo;s kind of flat.&rdquo;</p><p>Rethink Your Drink organizers say Fragos and other holdouts will have more opportunities for conversion in the future. The Oak Park Middle Schools plan to repeat the tasting monthly with new flavor combinations each time. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the&nbsp;</em><em><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/content/chewing-fat-podcast-louisa-chu-and-monica-eng">Chewing the Fat</a></strong></em><em>&nbsp;podcast. Follow her at&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a> or write to her at&nbsp;</em><em><a href="mailto:meng@wbez.org">meng@wbez.org</a></em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 10 Feb 2014 12:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/can-you-persuade-kids-ditch-soda-water-109677 Bill would push breastfeeding in Illinois hospitals http://www.wbez.org/news/bill-would-push-breastfeeding-illinois-hospitals-98730 <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/Gabel.JPG" style="margin: 6px 0px 0px 15px; float: right; width: 265px; height: 372px;" title="The measure’s author, Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston, predicts an impact on mothers who envisioned using formula. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)"></div><p>A bill heading toward a final vote in Springfield would make Illinois one of the first states to require hospitals to adopt an infant feeding policy that promotes breast milk.</p><p>Under the measure, which passed a state Senate committee Tuesday, any hospital in Illinois that provides birthing services would develop its policy with guidance from the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, a pro-breastfeeding effort of the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund, better known as UNICEF. Hospitals would post the policy “in a conspicuous place” and “routinely communicate” it to all obstetric and neonatal staffers, beginning with their orientation, according to the bill.</p><p>The legislation, HB4968, would allow hospitals to help mothers use formula if medically necessary or if the women preferred it. But the bill’s author, Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston, predicts her measure would have an impact on mothers who had never envisioned breastfeeding.</p><p>“Once the nurses talk to them and explain the benefits to the children — how it prevents obesity, many acute chronic diseases, [sudden infant death syndrome], asthma and allergies — mothers may be much more likely to breastfeed than they were before,” said Gabel, who modeled the legislation on a California law that will take effect in 2014.</p><p>The Illinois Hospital Association helped craft the bill and supports its passage, according to Nichole Magalis, the group’s senior director of government relations.</p><p>The House approved the measure in a 107-0 vote March 21. Sponsored in the Senate by Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, the bill passed the Senate Public Health Committee in a 9-0 vote Tuesday. The timing of a Senate floor vote is unclear.</p><p>Gov. Pat Quinn has not taken a position on the bill, according to a spokeswoman. It would take effect January 1, 2013.</p></p> Tue, 01 May 2012 15:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/bill-would-push-breastfeeding-illinois-hospitals-98730 Women’s hospital aims for ‘baby friendly’ status http://www.wbez.org/story/women%E2%80%99s-hospital-aims-%E2%80%98baby-friendly%E2%80%99-status-96224 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-February/2012-02-09/breast feeding_Flickr_thekmancom.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="Northwestern Memorial’s Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago. (AP/File)" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-08/Prentice.jpg" style="margin: 9px 18px 6px 1px; float: left; width: 254px; height: 380px;" title="The facility, part of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, delivers about 12,000 babies a year. (AP/File)">A hospital that delivers more than a quarter of babies born in Chicago is entering an international program that aims to improve the health of both newborns and their mothers. The program focuses on breastfeeding.</p><p>Prentice Women’s Hospital, part of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, is planning to follow 10 guidelines set by the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, a program sponsored by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund, also known as UNICEF.</p><p>The guidelines include helping mothers begin breastfeeding within an hour of birth, providing infants no food or drink other than breast milk unless medically necessary, giving no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding babies and allowing mothers and newborns to room together around the clock.</p><p>Prentice, one of eight Chicago hospitals to apply for the baby-friendly status so far, delivers about 12,000 infants a year, more than any other facility in the city. The path toward the designation includes extensive staff training and new hospital policies. The process could last years.</p><p>“All the staff in the hospital will get some exposure to what it means to be a baby-friendly hospital,” said Adam Becker, executive director of the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children, a federally funded group that works with the city to help hospitals enter the international program. “Then there are many categories of staff that do more hands-on training.”</p><p>“If Prentice takes all these steps,” Becker added, “roughly 27 percent of babies born in Chicago and their mothers will have access to the most supportive environment possible to encourage breastfeeding from birth.”</p><p>But the program has a downside, according to Dr. Maura Quinlan, vice chairwoman of the Illinois section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “The main issue is time, especially documenting the whole process and the 10 steps,” she said. “I don’t think many smaller hospitals have the resources to go through the application.”</p><p>“The designation is something the hospital can show on its website but it doesn’t mean that other hospitals don’t provide the same services,” said Quinlan, who delivers babies at MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn.</p><p>Prentice’s quest for baby-friendly status marks a turnaround of sorts. Years ago the hospital eliminated many of its lactation-specialist positions.</p><p>Illinois birth-certificate data for the six months ending last July 31 suggest that about 80 percent of Prentice newborns breastfed there. By that measure, the hospital ranked sixth among 19 facilities that deliver babies in the city.</p><p>The first hospital in Chicago to apply for the baby-friendly status was Holy Cross last summer. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/after-wbez-report-hospital-steps-breastfeeding-efforts-90006">A top official there said a WBEZ report</a> about the hospital’s breastfeeding performance made improvement a priority.</p><p>The other Chicago applicants include Mount Sinai Hospital, St. Anthony Hospital, the University of Illinois Medical Center, St. Joseph Hospital, Resurrection Medical Center and Roseland Community Hospital.</p><p>More than 15,000 facilities in 134 countries have earned the baby-friendly status since the program’s 1991 launch, according to UNICEF. In the United States, just 125 hospitals had received the designation by December, according to New York-based Baby-Friendly USA Inc., a chapter of the international program. The only two in Illinois are Pekin Hospital in downstate Pekin and St. John’s Hospital, further south in Springfield.</p><p>U.S. health officials say breastfeeding helps newborns avoid infections, obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes and asthma. For mothers, they say it reduces risks of breast and ovarian cancer. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies get no solids or liquids other than breast milk for the first six months of life.</p></p> Thu, 09 Feb 2012 11:12:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/women%E2%80%99s-hospital-aims-%E2%80%98baby-friendly%E2%80%99-status-96224 Lunch staffers to CPS: We want to cook http://www.wbez.org/story/lunch-ladies-school-officials-dump-frozen-food-95793 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-January/2012-01-24/cityroom_20100407_llutton_1648854_Chic_large.png.crop_display.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago schools are serving more healthy food than they were a couple years ago, but many kitchen workers seem to think the district still has a long way to go.</p><p>For the 2010-11 school year, Chicago Public Schools switched to menus with more whole grains, a wider array of vegetables, and less sodium, starch, sugar and fat. For the current school year, the district made its breakfast offerings more nutritious. The district says it’s also adding more salad bars.</p><p>A union that represents about 3,200 CPS food workers on Tuesday released survey findings suggesting that many students and even school principals are not eating the chow. UNITE HERE Local 1 criticized the district’s use of frozen food prepared off site, and called on the Board of Education to “ensure that all new school construction proj­ects are planned with full-size kitchen facilities capable of real cooking.”</p><p>Linda Green, a 22-year CPS employee who works in the Southwest Side’s Grimes Elementary kitchen, said students are eating less of what she serves than they once did. “There is a lot of waste because it’s just unappetizing,” said Green, who helped conduct the survey. “If it’s cooked on site you can use more seasoning and make it more flavorful.”</p><p>Local 1 said 436 CPS food employees completed the survey in December. According to the union, 42 percent felt that students were eating the new food, 50 percent reported they rarely or never had observed their principals eating their cafeteria’s lunch offerings, 75 percent indicated they had not had a chance to provide input about the new menu and recipes, 62 percent wanted more training on healthy food and 39 percent felt they could report food quality or safety concerns to parents or students without facing discipline.</p><p>A CPS statement says about a quarter of the district’s schools now serve food prepared mostly off site. The statement says that “all new elementary schools are being built with a warming kitchen” and that “all new middle and high schools are being built with cooking kitchens.”</p><p>“The food that is brought into the warming kitchen meets the same nutritional guidelines as the food in the cooking school model,” the statement adds. “We are committed to providing healthy and nutritious meals for all students at all schools. Delivery of this meal may depend on a variety of factors including kitchen capacity, facility size and condition as well as cost. However, nutritional standards are consistent across all schools. Vendors, regardless of delivery system, are expected to meet the same nutritional standards.”</p><p>The survey findings came as the U.S. Department of Agriculture planned a Wednesday unveiling of the first major changes in school meal standards in more than 15 years. The department says the new rules aim to reduce childhood obesity by “ensuring kids are offered fruits and vegetables every day of the week, substantially increasing offerings of whole grain-rich foods, offering only fat-free or low-fat milk varieties and making sure kids are getting proper portion sizes.”</p><p>A version of the guidelines the department proposed more than a year ago would also have cut down on potatoes, made it harder for schools to report pizza tomato paste as a vegetable, and halved the amount of sodium in school meals. In November, lawmakers blocked the department from carrying out those rules.</p></p> Wed, 25 Jan 2012 00:43:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/lunch-ladies-school-officials-dump-frozen-food-95793 Leaving poor neighborhoods brings health benefits http://www.wbez.org/story/leaving-poor-neighborhoods-brings-health-benefits-93302 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-October/2011-10-19/Cabrini.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Moving from public housing to a better-off neighborhood might come with health benefits, according to a unique study led by Chicago researchers.</p><p>During the 1990s, the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development paid for 1,788 women with children to move out of public housing and into low-poverty neighborhoods as part of the Moving to Opportunity program. A comparable group remained in public housing. That set up a perfect experimental situation for researchers, who could now examine how the group who moved fared compared with the control group.</p><p>In a batch of data <a href="http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsa1103216">published in the New England Journal of Medicine, </a>they found that women who moved had much better rates – about 20 percent lower – of obesity and diabetes than women who stayed in public housing.</p><p>“I was actually surprised by the size of the effects,” said Jens Ludwig, professor of law and public policy at the University of Chicago. “Having the opportunity to move from a high-poverty to a lower-poverty neighborhood had about the same size impact on diabetes as what you see from things like lifestyle interventions or medication.”</p><p>The study didn’t examine why that’s the case, but Ludwig said previous research suggests some possible explanations. It could be that poor neighborhoods have worse food options, fewer opportunities for exercise, and higher levels of stress. The study included residents of Chicago’s Robert Taylor Homes, as well as women from four other cities.</p></p> Wed, 19 Oct 2011 21:34:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/leaving-poor-neighborhoods-brings-health-benefits-93302 Is U.S. farm policy feeding the obesity epidemic? http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-08-10/us-farm-policy-feeding-obesity-epidemic-90390 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-10/corn-harvest-joe-raben_wide.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>These days, U.S. farm policy is blamed for a lot of things — even the nation's obesity epidemic. The idea is that the roughly $20 billion in subsidies that the federal government gives to farmers encourages them to grow too much grain. As a result, the theory goes, prices drop, food gets cheaper and we end up eating too much.</p><p>It seems like a simple equation. But the truth is rarely simple. So what's really going on?</p><p><strong>Americans Eat Cheap</strong></p><p>Americans, on average, spend less than 10 percent of our money on food. A lot of people buy too much fast food — but from an <em>economic</em> standpoint, it is a good decision. <strong></strong></p><p>"The smartest, most rational decision is to eat the crappiest food, because everywhere you turn it's more accessible, more affordable and more convenient," says David Wallinga, a senior adviser in science, food and health at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in Minneapolis. He is one of the people who say federal farm subsidies lead directly to overeating.</p><p>"What we've had is a cheap feed grain policy, or a cheap calorie policy, and that's been pretty consistent from farm bill to farm bill over the last 30-odd years," he says, referring to the bundle of legislation that includes agricultural subsidies.</p><p>So the farm bill helps make us fat, right?</p><p>Maybe not. Let's take a closer look at this whole picture.</p><p><strong>Technology Has Made Farmers More Productive</strong></p><p>Ken McCauley, a farmer from White Cloud, Kan., says he is indeed growing more corn — but <em>not </em>because of subsidies.</p><p>"The expansion that you're hearing about in agriculture today, or for the past several years, is all about the machinery and the easy of work," McCauley says. "Your work is easier because of machinery and technology."</p><p>On McCauley's farm, his son Brad charges back and forth over the land in a self-propelled sprayer. The machine, which looks like a monster bug – a green tractor on stilts with booms stretching 90 feet like enormous wings – is trailing a finely calibrated mist of herbicide.</p><p>"It steers itself, shuts itself on and off, so I basically just turn around and make sure everything's running right," Brad says.</p><p>The spray kills everything but the corn, because the corn has been genetically engineered to withstand the herbicide. And for good measure, the corn has also been designed to produce its own insecticide.</p><p>So now the corn plants grow much closer together than they used to and, weather permitting, produce twice as much grain per acre.</p><p>"Food productivity is more than doubled, so the real cost is less than half what it was 40 to 50 years ago," says Julian Alston, an agricultural economist at the University of California at Davis. "That's the big story. And that wasn't caused by subsidies. That was caused by improvements in productivity on the farm."</p><p>Farmers are proud of all that productivity, and it has driven crop prices <em>down</em>.<br /> But shouldn't farm subsidies themselves make food cheaper? When the government picks up part of the cost of something, shouldn't the price go down?</p><p>Alston says not necessarily. "What's wrong with that line of thinking is that it doesn't pay attention to how farm subsidies actually do work."</p><p><strong>Some Government Policies Actually <em>Raise</em> Food Prices</strong></p><p>Subsidies are not the only way the government influences farmers. Some federal programs do make crops cheaper: Subsidized crop insurance and other traditional price supports make food more abundant and reduce prices. But some policies actually<em> increase</em> prices.</p><p>In that category would be "getting paid not to plant": some farmers get federal money to let land lay fallow. That cuts production and raises prices. Same goes for tariffs – if there's a tariff on imported sugar, it tends to boost the price of all sweeteners, including corn syrup. And ethanol production, which is supported by a federal mandate, now buys up about 40 percent of the corn crop — again raising prices.</p><p>"The net effect of the whole set of farm supports is to make food more expensive and actually to discourage obesity," Alston says.</p><p>Robert Paarlberg, who teaches political science at Wellesley and Harvard, has tried pointing this out. "Farm subsidies have nothing to do with it," he says. "You almost never get any interest in trying to make the counter-argument. People assume that you're a crank if you dare to challenge what everyone knows to be true."</p><p>There are some obesity experts who agree with Paarlberg and Alston, including Margo Wootan, the director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.</p><p>"I'm very concerned about how hard it is to eat well in America today," she says. "Our food environment has evolved in a way that it's almost perfectly engineered to promote or cause obesity."</p><p>Wootan says that environment isn't shaped by farm policy nearly as much as it is by food processors and marketers. Even when corn prices doubled, the price of corn flakes barely moved. That's because food ingredient costs are miniscule compared to other expenses.</p><p>On average, less than one in five dollars consumers spend on food actually goes to farmers and ranchers. Shipping, packaging, processing and marketing and selling make up the rest of your grocery bill.</p><p>"Companies are really competing very aggressively to sell their food and not somebody else's food," Wooten says. "And that's creating more and more food that Americans are eating, and as a result, we're gaining a lot of weight."</p><p>And as a Wooten's group, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, regularly points out, processed foods are often loaded with salt, sugar and fat. <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 KCUR-FM. </p> Wed, 10 Aug 2011 16:41:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-08-10/us-farm-policy-feeding-obesity-epidemic-90390 Report: Illinois is the fattest it's ever been http://www.wbez.org/story/report-illinois-fattest-its-ever-been-88857 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-July/2011-07-08/obesity_AP_Toby Talbot.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The results are in: Illinois is tipping the scale, and it out-weights almost half of the country.</p><p>A new report from the Trust for America's Health states that Illinois is the fattest it's ever been. According to the study, the state's obesity rate has increased more than 80 percent over the last 15 years.</p><p>Melaney Arnold, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health, said one of the main factors for this increase is the vast number of food deserts in Illinois. Food deserts are areas where residents have little or no access to grocery stores or fresh produce, and are forced to buy groceries from convenience stores or gas stations.</p><p>"There have been different studies and so forth that show the cost for soda is cheaper than a gallon of milk, so if that being the case then you know you're having that sugary beverage which has the empty calories, doesn't give you the nutrition, and can lead to obesity," Arnold said.</p><p>Assistant Professor Margarita Tarin-Garcia, of the University of Illinois, said the solution to the obesity problem is education -- and starting it as early as possible. She said parents need to educate their children right away, and are better off not having any junk food snacks within their children's reach.</p><p>"If the parents have the choice to buy popcorn without butter or with low amounts of sodium, and there is nothing else to snack on in the house, what will the kid do? He will have to eat what's there," Tarin-Garcia said.</p><p>This study, called <em>F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future in 2011, </em>ranks the obesity rates by state. Illinois weighed in at the 23rd spot, while Mississippi took first place. The least obese state was Colorado, with an obesity rate of 19.8 percent.</p></p> Thu, 07 Jul 2011 21:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/report-illinois-fattest-its-ever-been-88857