Friday, December 29, 2006

Cloning Okay'd? Where is a Conversation about Technology When You Need It?

For a 2007 New Year's resolution, our friends at WorldChanging asked me to join the collective fray with my two cents about "What's Next" in 2007 in 500 words or less. How to choose? I took a stab at it here, little did I know that the FDA would make my point for me the day after I wrote it. With their thumbs up of cloned meat for consumption, the FDA has bypassed yet again public engagement in making a decision that will affect us all. Read this take from the BBC: "US food authorities say food from cloned animals is safe to eat, paving the way for its eventual sale in shops." Andrew Pollack at The New York Times writes about it here: "F.D.A. Says Food From Cloned Animals Is Safe." --Anna

Image from NYT: Bob Schauf, with two of his cloned cows in Barron, Wis. Mr. Schauf said his family has been drinking the milk from cloned animals.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Converging for Media Reform

As many of you reading this blog know, the cause of media reform is close to my heart. I believe it's as important to be critical consumers of the food we eat as it is to be critical consumers of the media we consume. And the trends in the food industry -- the concentration of power in fewer in fewer hands -- is mirrored in the trends of a media industry in which just six corporations control most of what we see, hear, and read. Want to learn more about what people around the world are doing to infuse democracy back into the media? Head to Bryant's hometown of Memphis this January to attend the National Conference for Media Reform. (This week, get a special $75 rate for the conference if you're a MoveOn member). Wish I could be there myself... --Anna

Revolutionizing the Lunchroom!

Throughout 2006, I've been meeting amazing folks that are part of the growing national effort to totally transform school lunches from the dismal, dubiously healthful fare that's unfortunately become commonplace to something that looks more and more like food kids would want to eat -- and would be good for them. Check out this great new resource for transforming school lunch: The School Community Food Assessment School Wellness support tool available for free here. To get inspired, read Chef Ann Cooper's latest Lunch Lessons and my interview with her for The Nation here. --Anna

Environmental Commons Releases Fact Sheets on Local Food

I wanted to let everyone know about a great new resource from Environmental Commons> Educational fact sheets about why local control of our food is so important. Produced by family friend and colleague Britt Bailey, these fact sheets help explain why it's so vital to protect local control over our food system. In the face of recent attempts to preempt local GMO bans, federal subsidies that support agribusiness over farmer wellbeing and local food access, and trade agreements that
threaten to take away country's ability to protect its citizens, these fact sheets are particularly important. Download them for free! --Anna

Monday, December 18, 2006


Thanks to everyone who helped make our fifth anniversary of the Small Planet Fund such a great success. You can see images from the party here and on flickr, too. We will post news about the final amount we raised shortly. In the meantime, there is still time to make a tax-deductible donation before the end of the year! --Anna

Vandana Shiva and Frances Moore Lappe at the Fifth Annual Small Planet Fund party.

Who Owns What? Organic Industry Charts Updated

If you've gotten your hands on a copy of Grub, you'll be familiar with the graphic we included based on Phil Howard's research on who owns what in organics. Well, the gobbling up of companies continues and you can find the latest here. --Anna

Friday, December 15, 2006

Gates Foundation Announces New Green Revolution in Africa -- and Appoints a Former Monsanto Exec to Its Ag Program Area

We've been following with interest the Gates Foundation's recent announcements about launching a new "green revolution" in Africa in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation. For background about the history of American philanthropy and the original "green revolution" see Mark Dowie's excellent (but boring-ly titled) American Foundations. For a comprehensive critique of the "green revolution" see backgrounder papers at Food First and at Vandana Shiva's Navdanya Foundation. See also response by Peter Rossett in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "Gateses' approach to African hunger is bound to fail." In other Gates Foundation news, former Monsanto VP Rob Horsch has been hired as a senior program officer working on agricultural developments in Africa. --Anna

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Bid Now for Small Planet Fund Auction - Next 24 Hours

You still have time to bid on great auction items online at Lots of great holiday gifts are still available, so check it out! You'll be supporting a great cause.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Small Planet Fund Party!

We had an enchanted evening last night at our fifth annual Small Planet Fund gala with many, many wonderful friends and our very special guest (and Small Planet Fund grantee) Dr. Vandana Shiva. We're still counting the contributions (and you can still bid online at, but we've definitely surpassed the $50,000 mark! Thanks to all of the volunteers who helped pull off SPF5 (and, of course, to yummy caterer Mary Cleaver who wowed everyone again with her tasty treats and even made these special SPF 5 cupcakes for us). --Anna

Monday, December 11, 2006

Bryant in Satya

Check out this awesome interview by our friend Mia MacDonald with Bryant in Satya Magazine where you'll learn about Bryant's New Year's resolution and get some of his tips for bringing Grub into your life. --Anna

It's the Hard Knock Life 4 Us

me and a cool brother who just moved back to the bay from nyc

Last Saturday was hella fun. KPFA had their annual “Crafts and Music Fair” in San Francisco where I signed books and pressed the flesh with people who came from different parts of Northern California.

The whole building was bustling with shoppers buying holiday gifts. But the place to be was the “Hard Knock Radio Booth.” Put together by my good friend Weyland Southon, the Hard Knock Booth had the hottest items provided by local authors, musicians, visual artists, clothing designers, jewelry makers, and the like. Because I had made an appearance on Hard Knock Radio the Thursday before the fair, there were dozens of people who showed up to ask me questions about everything Grub.

You can check out Hard Knock Radio everyday on the world wide web. It's my favorite radio show.


Joining the Community Food Security Team

I'm excited to announce that I'll be taking on a one-year post on the board of directors of the Community Food Security Coalition. I'll be serving on the board with some of my all-time heroes and very much look forward to working with the team to help strengthen this important organization. I'll keep you posted on news! --Anna

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Grub Love: Village Voice Interview

Q&A with Village Voice writer, Rachel Kramer Bussel.
Check it out here.

Chelsea Market with Panela Divas and Abhaya

Had a great time today at Chelsea Market, selling Grub, hanging out with good friends Abhaya (programs manager for all things Grub) and Phebe and Latham (the minds behind Panela Productions). Our soundtrack was provided by the School of Rock kids jamming nearby and the tasty treats that enticed visitors to check out Grub and Hope's Edge were provided by the wonderful Cleaver Co.
Our favorite line of the day.
Abhaya to passing man: "Have you heard of Grub?"
Man: "No, but then again, I've been living under a rock for the past couple of months..."
His friend: "Hey, at least it was an organic rock."
Favorite small world moment of the day: The father of Lynn happened to stop by to read about Grub without realizing that she'd recently written this about us.
(Street Grub: Putting our new Grub poster to use before ducking into the subway). --Anna

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved

So last night I went to hear Sandor Katz talk about his new book The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved: Inside America’s Underground Food Movement (that’s a mouthful) at Modern Times Book Store in San Francisco. Although I was familiar with his work (love his first book Wild Fermentation) I had not heard him speak before. I was impressed.

His talk was really informal. He just kinda went with the flow. And it worked. He’s pretty knowledgeable about everything food, waxing poetically about a range of topics—from fermentation to factory farms. In addition to presenting the hard facts he peppered his talk with personal stories of being on the road and visiting food co-ops, farmer’s markets, community spaces, and farms.

In the spirit of Grub, he includes recipes in the book. He even brought a mixture of kimchi and sauerkraut for us to sample. We were lucky to try it, as it almost got confiscated at the airport! Damn terrorist microorganisms.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Hey everyone - I'm excited to announce our first ever (and very cool, if I may say so myself) live auction in support of the Small Planet Fund. Please go check it out and BID for great gifts for yourself and for your family. (If you have questions email Carter - who is the brilliant mind behind the auction and event this year - at event[at]

As you probably know, if you're reading this, my mom and I started the Fund as a volunteer-led effort to give back to the amazing groups we discovered in writing Hope's Edge. With the help of a dedicated group of supporters, we've thrown a big bash every year in New York City and received additional donations to help us raise (and give away) more than $300,000! Since its founding in 2002, two of the Fund’s grantees have been awarded the honor of the Nobel Peace Prize: Dr. Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement in Kenya and Professor Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. Not a bad record, eh?

If you're in NYC on December 12th, join us for the fete with our very special guest Vandana Shiva. --Anna

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

New York City Health Board Bans Trans Fats Today

Read the hot-off-the-press news about the Board of Health decision to, yup, ban transfats. You can read the AP's take here: City Health Board Bans Trans Fats. --Anna

This is what I wrote the day after I participated in the public testimony and public rally in support of the decision:


BROOKLYN, NY -- If it passes, the resolution discussed by a broad swath of New Yorkers in testimony to the Board of Health today would be only the second in the nation to ban trans fats in city restaurants. Tiburon on San Francisco Bay – a slightly smaller metropolis – beat the Big Apple to it in 2004. (The other NYC Board of Health proposal on the table would require chain restaurants to post calorie content.)

While a snaking line of more than seventy-five passed through the Health Department’s security on their way to the hearing, I overhead a woman explaining: “You can find trans fats in Parkay, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, in most cookies...” Her list went on and on. Trans fats—as the woman, who later testified as a prominent public health advocate, was trying to convey—are everywhere.

It didn’t used to be this way. Trans fats were developed in the 1940s, in a process through which vegetable oil is hydrogenated, converting unsaturated fatty acids into saturated ones. (See “partially hydrogenated” on an ingredients list? That’s trans fats). In processed foods, trans fats replace naturally occurring solid fats like butter and liquid oils.

Trans fats became instantly popular with industry because with them products could sit on shelves longer. The other winning element? They can be less expensive than other fats traditionally used in baking. By the 1960s trans fats had become ubiquitous in baked products and fast foods. They’ve been with us ever since.

Today, most of our dietary trans fats intake comes in the form of cakes, cookies, crackers, and bread as well as French fries, potato chips and popcorn.
So what’s the problem? For several decades the evidence has been accumulating. The results are pretty damning.
Testifying at the public hearing, Dr. Walter Willett, whose team at the Harvard School of Public Health has been at the leading edge of this research, reminded the council members, the TV news crews, and the hundreds gathered that trans fats are known to increase coronary heart disease. As even the FDA acknowledges, consumption of trans fat raises low-density lipoprotein, or "bad cholesterol," levels, which increases the risk of the disease. Based on more than two decades in a study with more than 200,000 participants, Willett and his colleagues estimate that trans fat consumption is responsible for tens of thousands of premature deaths annually from coronary heart disease.
In a recent report from The Netherlands, researchers suggest that eliminating trans fats in the U.S. could avert between 72,000 and 228,000 coronary heart “events” – as they call them – each year.

In his testimony, Willett’s colleague Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian added that trans fats increase inflammation--a risk factor for diabetes, among other ailments--and are linked to weight gain. Even more troubling are findings that even very low levels of consumption can lead to higher risk: consuming just 5 grams of trans fat – that’s roughly 2 percent of your daily calories – can increase your risk of heart disease by 25 percent.[1] (It is precisely these health concerns that led Denmark in 2004 to ban trans fats use in the country).

As these studies show, the trouble with trans fats is now well-documented. There is no longer cause for debate, but this isn’t to say there’s no debate. Industry is still working overtime to confuse the public. Consider this claim on one industry-backed website, Trans Fat Facts: “Trans fats have been a staple in the American diet for decades. And during that time, American life expectancy has seen dramatic increases. In fact, it recently reached a record high.” It seems the authors missed the statistics lesson on causal relationships.

With all the sound science, maybe we should be asking why not ban trans fats? Today’s presenters and the hundreds who turned out for the hearing and the public rally organized by the volunteer-run Trans Fat Free NYC are asking just that.

At the hearing, seventy people were officially registered to speak, from a steely-voiced octogenarian, Florence Rice, president of the Harlem Consumer Education Council to a six year-old who asked the Board to please help her “stay healthy,” and “out of the hospital.” Of the 43 people I heard, the only ones opposed to the resolution were two representatives from restaurant associations and one woman, a founder of the anti-smoking ban organization C.L.A.S.H.

Their chorus? In part, the ban will be bad for business. They said that it would be impossible for businesses to comply; there’s simply not enough supply. They also warned that mom and pops would be hurt worst.

Brooklyn-born Ina “Breakfast Queen of Chicago” Pinkney and the “mom” of her Chicago-based restaurant, Ina’s, begs to differ. She voluntarily pulled trans fats with enthusiastic response from her customers, she explained in her testimony. Pinkney added that as a small business owner this kind of policy is exactly what she wants.

“We welcome these regulations,” she said. “It levels the playing field.”

The other complaint? It’s “Big Brother” all over again, just one more inch down the “slippery slope” toward a “food nanny” police state, at least that’s how Audrey Silk from C.L.A.S.H. put it. A FoxNews opinion piece about the ban posed the question this way: “Should the government regulate what we eat?”

But that’s actually not the question that the resolution really raises. Sure, the government shouldn’t dictate whether or not we can devour a Krispy Kreme donut. But the government most certainly should protect its citizens from unnecessary artificial added ingredients in our food--which are invisible to us, which are undetectable to our tongues, and which harm us. The government also must certainly protect children who are even less equipped to make informed choices about the food they eat.

Indeed, that is precisely what we expect our government to do. When we find out about contaminants in food that cause harm – take e. coli O157:H7 for instance – we expect the government to step in, and step in fast on the side of public health.

In a similar way, the proposed ban on trans fats isn’t regulating what we can or can’t eat; it is simply rids our food system of an ingredient that has been shown to cause thousands of premature deaths each year.

The proposed resolution is not a draconian Big Brother move. It’s government taking leadership to protect the public health. The question isn’t “Should the government regulate what we eat?” But, “Shouldn’t the government protect us from harm?” And the answer is, yes.

A corollary to the Big Brother grumble is that these bans limit “choice;” they are an affront on “freedom.” Wrote one commentator about these bans: they’re a “push to legally prevent individuals from having a French fry ‘their way.’”

But how many New Yorkers, or anyone else in the country for that matter, asked for trans fats? Or, even knows when they’re eating them? We, the consumer, didn’t demand trans fats. They were invented to increase shelf life of food products in order to increase profitability for the food industry.

Real choice and real food freedom means being able to eat out without worrying that the choice will be harmful to our health. This policy will help all New Yorkers do just that. And, if passed, the rest of the country might just take New York City’s lead.

* * *
During and after the public hearing, a crowd gathered in Thomas Paine Park across the street from the Health Department. Organized by the ad hoc, volunteer-led group, Trans Fat Free NYC, the rally featured speakers, including council member Peter F. Vallone, Jr., Dr. Walter Willett from the Harvard School of Public Health, Michael Jacobson from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and yours truly. Restaurateurs also spoke about their decision to go trans fat free and Whole Harvest oils presented about their affordable, healthy non-trans fat products.

As people mingled among trans fat free fried treats and a gaggle of news video cameras, a man was giving away bumper stickers that started appearing stuck on arms, backs, strollers, and bags and which stated in simple black lettering: “Don’t Partially Hydrogenate Me.” Well said.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Dirty Sugar Cookie Swap

Had a lovely time at Bluestockings tonight with the hysterically funny Ayun Halliday. She read from her book Dirty Sugar Cookies and shared tales of woe attempting to craft gingerbread cookies for her kid's school's holiday party.

We asked friends to bring baked treats for a cookie swap--and were delightfully deluged with sugar cookies (of course), lemon bars, brownies and more. My currant scones were slightly prematurely extracted from oven and smooshed in the bag on the F line into the city, but apparently they tasted just fine. --Anna