Non-GMO Picnic

I am a huge fan of the picnic. And by picnic I just mean eating out of coolers on the go, whether you are at the beach, a park, the pool, a sports event or just going about your business avoiding fast food.

Here’s a list from GMO Insider on finding non-gmo alternatives

Losing Prop 37 Might Be the Best Thing That Could Have Happened to the Food Movement

Photo via Food Babe

I did everything I could, even from as far as North Carolina, to support the Yes on 37 Campaign to label genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) in foods. I posted links, I wrote blog posts, I talked to friends and family and I even volunteered for the campaign to cold call 10 people in California to talk about the issue and let them know how they can get involved. I’m as frustrated as anyone that we’ve had these ingredients in our food for so long without adequate research on their health effects. In my opinion, they are unnatural, foreign products and deserve safety testing. There is nothing I’d like more than to have them out of our food system. But I also know that sometimes small victories create a false sense of achievement that results in a cause stalling out before it truly matures. For this reason, I think the best thing that could have happened after the successful and far reaching campaign, was for it not to pass.

Before you get mad, keep reading. I will put this in perspective. I’m a goal focused person by nature. But I have also learned that sometimes the goal I set is not the best — or even the main — goal in the end. And I’ve also had enough experience falling short of goals to be able to appreciate the successes along the way.

What was the goal of Prop 37? To get food companies to label products that contained GMOs.

That was the immediate goal of the campaign, but the goal of the crusade is bigger: To raise awareness that a great deal of what we eat looks like food, tastes like food, but isn’t food. And might actually be poison. We don’t know.

This is an important crusade for many reasons. Obesity, cancer, diabetes, immune disorders are all on the rise. These diseases are largely preventable but diet and exercise are not working. People aren’t just giving up and ignoring their health. People are actually trying their damnedest to lose weight, subjecting themselves to dangerous surgeries, crash diets, fad diets, etc. While some are losing weight, there are a lot more who are trying their best and still not losing weight– maybe the are even gaining more! On top of that, people are getting very sick at younger and younger ages, with no reason behind it. Something is going on and we don’t know what it is.

Why? Why all these health problems?

1. We have lost an understanding of what our bodies need to function properly.

2. We have lost the knowledge of how to feed ourselves for our health vs. for our enjoyment.

3. We are eating, breathing and absorbing a grotesque amount of chemicals every day.

Companies are taking advantage of our trust and using ingredients that have not been researched for safety. If we want to make choices for ourselves, we need to know what we are really choosing between.

As far as I’m concerned, the campaign made great strides at raising awareness of these issues. The conversation about food, food politics, the real food movement, Big Food, GMO’s, and sustainable agriculture hit the big time with stories in big news outlets including Michael Pollan’s article in the New York Times Magazine.

The campaign also helped propel some real food leaders, like Michael Pollan, Robyn O’Brien and the Food Babe to celebrity status. Celebrity cred is worth more than street cred, and the non-GMO movement has earned plenty of both by now.

Additionally, new organizations like Food Democracy Now, Just Label It, and the Non-GMO project have built strong foundations of supporters and are positioned to build on the momentum of the campaign.

The campaign itself was a massive success. It was executed brilliantly, using social media, grassroots efforts and individual volunteers to spread the word to others. This aspect of the campaign is the most exciting to me as it inspired thousands of people to step out and volunteer for something they believed in. These people became advocates and humanitarians, volunteering for the cause — and not the check– at a time when interests with big money were trying simply buy people’s minds.

The simple fact is that food-industry groups wouldn’t have spent as much as they did if there weren’t so much at stake. For them. For us. The amount they spent bought them another 5 years at least. But it buys us a kind of credibility we never could’ve bought ourselves — RESISTANCE. Think about it: every time one of their paid-for ads told people to “Vote No on 37!” someone, somewhere asked “so… what’s proposition 37 all about?”

And there’s more good news. Our opposition spent ALL THAT money just to fight a little bit of labeling. And a little bit of labeling is only the beginning of the solution. Real change doesn’t come from words — either here or on a little label — it comes from awareness. I wonder how expensive it will be for them to resist the whole shift in consciousness we’re ushering in!

Of course, the conversation needs to continue, and I believe it will, with or without food labeling. First of all, the companies that are responding to the consumer demand for non-GMO foods are already submitting their products for certification with the Non-GMO Project. And the consumers who desire clean food are buying it. Voting with our ballots happens annually, voting with our forks happens three times a day. And we are voting. We are doing the daily work.

The failure of Prop 37 illustrates that when people come together to fight for the common good, there is no such thing as failure. Prop 37 missed a target… that target was a label. But it succeeded in reaching several important goals, those of raising awareness, inspiring people to get involved, creating passion and energy around an issue and taking it onstage in a national debate. People who did not even know that food was genetically modified are now changing their behaviors, eating organic, and cooking at home.

So all those things are good, but why do I contend that it is great for the movement that GMO’s were not, in the end, labeled?

Here’s why:

Reaching the goal of food labeling would have created a false sense of accomplishment because food labels have little to no impact. Food labels do not protect human health. Food labels will not require food companies to be honest about how those ingredients affect the body. Food labels will not require Big Food to assure us the products are safe, nutritious or sustainable.

Labeling is simply, and obviously, the right thing to do, but it is such a small part of the picture. Food labels won’t protect anyone.

There is already a long list of approved additives, preservatives, fillers and other ingredients that are questionably safe in our food. Many of these are plainly labeled on the box. Most to all of these are completely ignored by the majority of people.

Simply labeling doesn’t ward off the dangers. It doesn’t make it easier for companies to study the health effects of the foods. It doesn’t do anything to change behaviors. It simply adds a label, a piece of fine print, that won’t get a second glance by your average consumer.

The real heart of the non-GMO movement is in educating others about how to kick the dependence on processed foods. How can we start cooking at home? How can we eat more whole foods? What do we use to substitute the ingredients we’ve been using for years and decades so that we can still eat the foods we like? How can we introduce new foods into our routines? How can we support more sustainable practices and habits?

These goals can only be achieved by the individuals who are excited and motivated to share this information from the goodness of their hearts, with others. These are the volunteers, friends, family members and acquaintances who have a whole food lifestyle and are willing to help those around them who are beginning on the journey.

Avoiding GMO’s isn’t easily achieved. It’s not like avoiding the sun by staying indoors, or like avoiding caffeine by buying caffeine free soda. Avoiding GMO’s requires an education in a new lifestyle. People must research, plan, prepare foods from home. They need to study labels, not just read them, to find out what the contents are in different products. They need to learn how to prepare foods from scratch. They need to open up time and space in their schedule for the extra learning, shopping and cooking they will need to do. Avoiding GMO’s is a process in changing the way we eat, one meal at a time.

Thankfully, those of us who are concerned about GMO’s have all been on the same journey. There are very few of us who were raised on organic farms with no processed foods. Most of us, even some of the most “healthy” of us probably ate a lot more processed foods than we’d like to think about. We’ve probably consumed far more GMO’s than we’d like to think about. And we probably had someone along the way to help steer us in the right direction.

The Prop 37 campaign created a huge force of individuals who are passionate about food and willing to stick their necks out for something they believe in. They are modeling the behavior and eager to help teach the habits that can change lives and health outcomes. They are devoting their spare time, spare energy, and if they have it, spare money for something they believe in. In addition to the health rewards, they are likely reaping tremendous spiritual rewards as well. There is really no greater satisfaction than in extending a hand to help others. And now we have a huge movement where we can pass it on. We have our momentum. And we may be defining new goals to take the movement further. But the burn of losing the campaign is going to do more to activate and accelerate it than a win ever would have.

The Oatmeal that Nearly Killed Them and the Cow that Saved the Day

The weather started to get crisp and cool in the morning so last week I boiled water in the tea kettle and poured it over wholesome oats.  To make it fun, I put almond milk in the moo moo cow and put sliced bananas and raisins in little bowls so the kids could garnish their oatmeal with all the enthusiasm they muster up when garnishing their own pizzas.

They lumbered out of bed with their blankets and animals, climbed onto the couch and reached for the remote.  I had to remind them it was a school day, even though I knew they knew that, because if it weren’t they would have hopped out of bed an hour earlier and bounced around the house making noise and clanking things together.

They dragged their feet coming to the table, sat down, stared at their bowls of creamy oatmeal and declared that not on their life would they eat that.

“I’d rather starve.” Said my oldest, while my youngest made hacking sounds.

“It’s oatmeal,” I said. “You need to try it.”

“No no no no no!” Heads shaking back and forth.  They were adamant.
I wasn’t going to back down.  I would bring in reinforcements.  I went to the cabinet and got the brown sugar and maple syrup.

They looked at me like I was crazy.  Brown is one of their least favorite food colors. In fact, they would prefer to avoid eating anything that is not white, yellow or orange.

“Just eat it,” I said.

“It’s going to make us sick!”  said my youngest, with a look on his face as if he were looking at a pile of trash.

At this point it went through my head what a huge battle we have against the food companies marketing to our kids.  When oatmeal, a food that is natural, wholesome and incredibly good for you is flatly denied and labeled as nearly poisonous by kids who would prefer on any day to scarf down a bowl of lucky charms or fruit loop believing that those artificially colored, overly sweetened food like substances that rodents and insects won’t even touch because they have been sold an image of happiness, we are in trouble.

Finally, my daughter, who can sometimes be reasoned with, and who can’t resist the pull of the moo moo cow agreed to take a bite.  One bite.

I watched her, and as the spoon hit her tongue she winced.  I stared her down and she put the spoon in her mouth.  A couple seconds later, I asked her to take another bite while her brother started to cry.

“I already had one!” She protested.

“One more.”

She had another one.  Her younger brother was watching carefully in between big elephant tears.

I poured my coffee and took a deep breath.  When I turned around, she was scooping another spoon into her mouth.  Her brother had his arms crossed.  She looked at him. “Try it,” she said. “It’s like, with every bite, I like it more.”

He did try it, but he is stubborn so he only had two bites and he fought them like he was eating fire ants, while my daughter finished them.  Three days later in the car, my son was complaining that his stomach hurt on the way to school after he’d eaten an organic pop tart and my daughter said, “You should really have oatmeal.  It tastes good and fills your belly without hurting it.  Really.  You should just try it.”

I will try again this week.  According to the Mayo Clinic, kids often need to be exposed to a food 12 times before they will try it.  This is probably even true for my daughter as I’ve been trying oatmeal on her for years and this was my first success, but I hope my son will be easier to win over.

Baby steps, kid steps, grown up steps.  This is all a process for all of us.  Slow and steady and we will get there.

But I really want them to like my oranges

In two weeks, I am bringing the snack to my son’s Tball practice.  So far for snacks, we have had Kool-Aid, Capri Sun, cookies, rice crispy treats and cupcakes smothered in icing.  I’m going to bring orange slices.  You know, the kind that you can suck the juice out of and get all sticky and hold in front of your teeth like a big orange toothed, sweaty kid?  You know, food?

Aren’t oranges the preferred snack of kids sports? I mean, if you don’t go home covered in dirt and dust and sunscreen and sweat and orange juice, then maybe you aren’t a kid anymore? And maybe oranges are too old fashioned.  I can appreciate the need for some variety, but cupcakes?  God bless these kids who run their hearts out, sweating under their caps and in their synthetic ball uniforms and who are then served pure sugar as a snack.  How is that nourishing, hydrating, fulfilling?  How is that not going to give the kid a sugar high, then a low, then a tantrum, then a headache.  Or is the cupcake meant to be a prize?  A prize for what? For playing?

My daughter got a Nestle Crunch bar today for taking a quiz at school. WHAT!?  That’s what you do in school, you take quizzes.  No one is supposed to bribe or reward you?  Aren’t there things we just DO anymore? And since when is playing on a Tball team with all your friends and sponsored uniforms and sunny days not a prize in itself?

So, the point is, I’m pretty sure the kids are going to hate my oranges.  And the parents are going to be mad at me too.  And then I’m going to get all depressed because I get so sad for these kids.  I also do not want to offend the parents. I know so many of them are just doing the best they can.  I get it.  But I just can’t participate in the fattening of Generation Rx.

Last month, I went to my daughter’s school to celebrate her birthday with her class.  I struggled over what to bring.  The school has a rule that all food must be store-bought, but that meant for anything “Birthday” related, it would likely have Propylene Glycol in it.  According to the CDC, “Propylene glycol is used to absorb extra water and maintain moisture in certain medicines, cosmetics, or food products. It is a solvent for food colors and flavors, and in the paint and plastics industries. Propylene glycol is also used to create artificial smoke or fog used in fire-fighting training and in theatrical productions.” Users are warned to avoid skin contact with as it is a strong skin irritant that can cause liver abnormalities and kidney damage.  It’s a big no-no on my food list and it is in every cake, cupcake, cookie cake in every store in the town I live in.  I’ve searched. So I did the best I could and the kids were less than excited.  Read more

But as I learned that day, there may not be much I can do to change the way kids eat (other than my own) but I can control whether I contribute to the epidemic or not and I choose to promote health and prevention through good nutrition.  So, I will be bringing oranges to Tball.  And I will be bringing vegetable platters to class parties.  And I will be serving humus and pita chips instead of Little Caesars pizza at parties.  And I will probably become known as the lady who took candy out of their classrooms and ruined EVERYTHING.  The Mommy Grinch.   I’m trying to be okay with that.  I’m trying to get comfortable in this role of the lady who brought oranges to Tball.  Kind of like the family who gave out bibles on Halloween.  True story! And 30 years later, guess who remembers that? ME! And all my friends.

Unfortunately, I can think of no alternative. I can think of no ways to meet in the middle.  No compromises.  I just can’t bring myself to participate in the Junk Food Nation. So, I’m just going to pack up my orange slices and water and hope all those little T-ball players don’t chase after me pitching oranges at me like Fozzy and the tomatoes!