Friday, September 25, 2015

The Truth About Poor People's Eating Habits Will Surprise You Main RSS Feed
Yet more anti-poor propaganda.

In a country where it is a national pastime to find new ways to blame poor people for the crime of being poor, even food choice becomes a site of class warfare. Consider the popularized image of the low-income family who subsists on a steady diet of fast food; each burger, fry and milkshake they consume regarded as yet more evidence of bad decision-making. It’s one of those ideas now deeply embedded in our poverty-pathologizing culture, the kind of untested “fact” politicians reference to ensure we remain “them” and “us,” even at the dinner table. The trouble is, it simply isn’t true.

A recent Centers for Disease Control survey of 5,000 American children and adolescents age 2 to 19 offers proof that poor people not only don't consume more fast food than those with higher incomes, they actually consume slightly less. The study, which looked at figures from 2011-'12, found that “no significant difference was seen by poverty status in the average daily percentage of calories consumed from fast food among children and adolescents aged 2 to 19.” In fact, the poorest children surveyed got the least amount of their daily calorie intake from fast food, at just 11.5 percent. That number rose to 13 percent for their more affluent peers.

If anything, the takeaway from the study is that American kids across the board are eating way too much fast food, with “34.3 percent of all children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 consum[ing] fast food on a given day.”

As the Atlantic notes, this isn’t the first study to indicate that the much cited link between poverty and fast food consumption doesn’t really exist. At least, not in numbers any more glaring or worrisome than for other socioeconomic groups. In 2011, researchers from UC Davis noted that people with lower-middle-class incomes — not the poor — ate the most McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Domino’s and the like. “Fast-food restaurant visits rose along with annual household income up to $60,000,” researchers wrote. And a Gallup poll from 2013 found “[t]hose earning the least actually are the least likely to eat fast food weekly — 39% of Americans earning less than $20,000 a year do so.” Conversely, more affluent Americans — “those earning $75,000 a year or more — are more likely to eat [fast food] at least weekly (51%) than are lower-income groups.”

Still, the mythical relationship between poverty and fast-food is used and manipulated, time and time again. In 2014, the Daily Caller — Tucker Carlson’s website — stoked anti-poverty sentiments among its conservative readership with a list of “questionable” items which food stamps can be used, including two fast food restaurants. (“Taco Bell is one of many fast food restaurants that accept EBT cards. Guacamole is extra? Who cares? It’s on the taxpayer.”) Fox’s Boston affiliate, in a piece on its website titled “Should Welfare Recipients be Blocked from Buying Fast Food?” opens with this fine bit of scaremongering: “Massachusetts State welfare recipients have spent a whopping $44,000 worth of Big Macs, Happy Meals and Chicken McNuggets last year in a debit card spending spree.”

But perhaps most troubling is the way this fallacious idea is trotted out when it comes to policy for the poor. Earlier this year, Arizona Senate Republican Kelly Townsend submitted a bill to prohibit the use of food stamps at fast food restaurants. Maine’s Republican governor Paul LePage has been pushing legislation that would keep food stamp recipients from buying “unhealthy” food, whatever that means. In Wisconsin, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, state Rep. Robert Brooks has put forth a bill that would keep food stamp recipients from buying “crab, lobster or other shellfish” — none of which, last I checked, falls under the banner of “junk food.” And Republicans in Missouri are trying to pass a law that would make food stamps invalid for buying “cookies, chips, energy drinks, soft drinks” — and unbelievably, “seafood or steak."

“I have seen people purchasing filet mignons and crab legs with their EBT cards," Missouri state Rep. Rick Brattin, who introduced the bill, told the Washington Post. "When I can't afford it on my pay, I don't want people on the taxpayer's dime to afford those kinds of foods either."

I don’t for one nanosecond believe Rick Brattin when he says he saw, with his own eyes, EBT card users buying fancy steaks and seafood. I also can hardly believe that Brattin, whose salary is paid with tax revenue, doesn’t see the irony in complaining about anyone doing anything on the “taxpayer’s dime.” However, the one thing I appreciate about Brattin’s words is how they cut to the chase on all this pretend handwringing and faux outrage about how poor people use their food stamps, or what they buy for dinner, or the kind of cellphones they own, or cars they drive, or any of the other nonsense reasons used as justification for taking punitive action. Because let's just admit that this constant restricting of rights and tightening of resources is absolutely punishment against the poor.

Fundamental to this way of thinking is the idea that being poor is a crime for which one must be humiliated and stigmatized at every possible turn, an offense for which people should be constantly reminded that they both deserve and inherently are less. It perpetuates the dumb and simple idea that the poor are poor because they simply refuse to stop being poor: that they spend their money frivolously and foolishly, and so must be told what to buy and what to eat. It’s an idea that, followed to its logical end, suggests that the poor deserve to be poor. Which is absurd for endless reasons, mainly that it’s straight-up wrong about how poor people use their money.

Talking Points Memo notes “[t]he poor spend nearly double the share that the rich spend on food they cook at home, while the rich spend more on eating out” according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. And a recent Mother Jones article points out that food stamp recipients are more mindful about food than the aforementioned lawmakers would have us know:

[D]ictating what you can buy with food stamps is the kind of thing that only sounds good to people who don't actually have to survive on a poverty income. No one denies me the occasional candy bar or Coke; why would I feel entitled to exert that kind of control over poor people? And guess what: SNAP recipients already eat more virtuously than the rest of us. A 2008 USDA report found that they are less likely than those with higher incomes to consume at least one serving of sweets or salty snacks per day. More recently, a 2015 USDA study concluded that, adjusting for demographic differences, people who take SNAP benefits don't consume any more sugary drinks than their low-income peers who aren't in the program.

There are questions worth investigating based on the CDC study findings. For example, researchers are still trying to understand why the poorest Americans, despite consuming less fast food, are disproportionately obese. (The Food Research and Action Center offers up a number of ideas, from food deserts to unsafe playgrounds that make exercise difficult.) But what it does clear up is the false idea that poverty is somehow uniquely synonymous with fast food. Or that being poor is a simple problem of poor people's own making.


Related Stories


Thursday, September 24, 2015

'Snowden Treaty' Aims To Protect Privacy, Whistleblowers — And End Mass Surveillance

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, journalist Glenn Greenwald, and activist David Miranda previewed the treaty at a New York event, which they hope might prevent the type of mass spying they exposed.


U.S. Government Nutrition Advice Is Stuck in 1980s Full Feed
The Uncle Sam Diet mantra: Don't eat anything your ancestors wouldn't have while watching Cheers on network television.


Obama blocks brilliant teen critic on twitter, then lies about it

Pamela Geller
How small and petty can the narcissist-in-chief get? Who’s the child? Conservative YouTube sensation CJ Pearson, a 13-year-old black middle schooler from Georgia, revealed today that he’s been blocked from following President Obama on Twitter. He’s also unable to view the president’s tweets. So much for freedom of speech — and this kid didn’t even […]


New Data Reveals Stark Gaps in Graduation Rates Between Poor and Wealthy Students

ProPublica: Articles and Investigations

by Annie Waldman

A new report released Thursday provides a detailed look at the graduation rates of low-income college students. At many colleges, low-income students graduate at much lower rates than their high-income peers.

At the University of Missouri-Kansas City, only 35 percent of Pell Grant recipients graduate college, a rate that is more than 20 percentage points lower than that of their wealthier peers. And at St. Andrews, a liberal arts college in Laurinburg, North Carolina, only 13 percent of Pell Grant recipients graduate, more than 50 percentage points less than students who don’t receive the grants.

The study found 51 percent of Pell students graduate nationwide, compared to 65 percent of non-Pell students. The average gap between wealthy and poor students at the same schools is much smaller: an average of 5.7 percentage points. That’s because many Pell students attend schools with low graduation rates. (You can now look up whether poor students are graduating at the same rate as their classmates in our newly updated interactive database, Debt by Degrees.)

Ben Miller, the senior director for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress, said that schools with large graduation gaps deserve greater scrutiny.

“Colleges have responsibility to ensure that the students they enroll are well served,” said Miller. “If you’re going to enroll someone, you should do the absolute best you can to graduate them, or else don’t take their money.”

The new report comes on the heels of recently released federal education data that has brought new focus on how low-income students fare at college, including how much federal debt they take on and how much they earn after graduation. The graduation rates of low-income students were not included in that data.

The group behind the new report, the Education Trust, collected the graduation rates of Pell Grant recipients — typically students whose families make less than $30,000 a year — for a selection of more than 1,000 colleges across the country.

A spokesman for University of Missouri-Kansas City said many of their students are low-income and that the school is working to do better. “We are not satisfied with that gap,” said John Martellaro. “We are investing more resources in our student success programs in an effort to narrow that gap.” (Read their full statement.)

St. Andrews did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

At more than a third of the colleges studied, schools were able to serve their Pell students almost as well as non-Pell students, with a gap of less than 3 percentage points.

Other schools have managed to graduate Pell students at an even higher rate than their non-Pell peers. According to the new data, nearly 90 percent of Pell recipients are able to graduate Smith College, compared with an 85 percent graduation rate of non-Pell students. And at Western Oregon University, Pell recipients have a graduation rate of 50 percent — nearly 10 percentage points better than their peers.

Both schools worked hard to ensure high graduation rates, including improving admissions policies and bolstering financial aid, as well as increasing advising and support services for students at school, says the new report.

The Pell Grant program is the nation’s largest need-based student grant program, giving out billions of dollars annually. Yet for years, the data on Pell recipient graduation rates was mostly hidden from the public eye.

Although colleges are required to give the government graduation-rate data that's broken down by gender and race, the data is not required to be reported by income or Pell Grant status. Since 2008, schools are required to disclose Pell graduation rate data if it’s requested by prospective students.

“It’s kind of astounding when you think about how much money is spent on the Pell Grant program,” said Andrew Kelly, the director of the Center on Higher Education Reform at the American Enterprise Institute. “We don’t have any idea about how much of that money goes to producing degrees. We don’t know what happens to Pell recipients after they enroll.”

In order to collect Pell graduation rates, the Education Trust filed requests for data through state higher education systems as well as with the schools themselves. Some of the data was purchased from U.S. News and World Report. However, only around 1,150 schools were included in the report, out of the more than 7,000 institutions in the country. The survey also did not include data from for-profit colleges, where many Pell-recipients attend school.

Sisi Wei contributed to this report.


How Scientific Are the US Dietary Guidelines?

MoJo Blogs and Articles | Mother Jones

Later this year, the US government is set to unveil its new dietary guidelines—advice on what Americans should eat to stay healthy. The guidelines, once known as the Food Pyramid, are updated every five years and are hugely influential: They affect everything from food labeling and doctors' advice to school lunch menus, aid programs for low-income families, and research priorities at the National Institutes of Health. They also have some clout globally, with governments in other Western countries often adopting similar nutrition policies.

So how exactly does the US government come up with these guidelines? The process might be less scientific than you'd expect, according to a new investigation in a major British medical journal that suggests Big Food is playing too big of a role in the government's dietary recommendations.

The guidelines, writes journalist Nina Teicholz in the BMJ journal, are based on a report by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a panel of experts tasked with reviewing scientific studies on nutrition. For years, the advisory committee faced criticism about its review process, so in 2010 the US Department of Agriculture created the Nutrition Evidence Library, which set up a system to methodically evaluate scientific research based on a hierarchy of evidence and a transparent grading process.

But in the 2015 report for the new guidelines, the advisory committee said it did not use NEL reviews for more than 70 percent of topics it covered; instead, Teicholz found, the committee used studies by outside professional organizations, including some with backing from Big Food, like the American Heart Association (which she says received 20 percent of its revenue from industry in 2014) and the American College of Cardiology (which she says received 38 percent of its revenue from industry in 2012).

In her investigation, Teicholz also examined the industry ties of specific members of the advisory committee, finding that they received support from groups like the California Walnut Commission, the International Tree Nut Council, Unilever, and Lluminari, a health media company that works with General Mills, PepsiCo, and Stonyfield Farm. "While there is no evidence that these potential conflicts of interest influenced the committee members, the [2015 dietary guidelines] report recommends a high consumption of vegetable oils and nuts," Teicholz writes, while noting that most scientists in the field of nutrition receive some support from industry due to a shortage of public research funding.

Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise, a book about the politics behind dietary fat recommendations, takes particular issue with the advisory committee's push to restrict saturated fats, which it describes as a form of "empty calories." She writes, "Unlike sugar, saturated fats are mostly consumed as an inherent part of foods such as eggs, meat, and dairy, which together contain nearly all the vitamins and minerals needed for good health." She says the committee also did not sufficiently consider studies showing that low-carbohydrate diets are effective for promoting weight loss and improving heart disease risk factors.

Barbara Millen, the chair of the advisory committee, rejects allegations that the committee's dietary recommendations are not supported by science. "The evidence base has never been stronger to guide solutions," she was quoted as saying in the BMJ. "You don't simply answer these questions on the basis of the NEL [Nutrition Evidence Library]. Where we didn't feel we needed to, we didn't do them. On topics where there were existing comprehensive guidelines, we didn't do them."

Millen defended the recommendations on saturated fat and said there had been insufficient evidence to consider low-carbohydrate diets, while adding that committee members were vetted by counsel to the federal government. But Teicholz isn't convinced: "It may be time to ask our authorities to convene an unbiased and balanced panel of scientists to undertake a comprehensive review, in order to ensure that selection of the dietary guidelines committee becomes more transparent, with better disclosure of the conflicts of interest, and that the most rigorous scientific evidence is reliably used to produce the best possible nutrition policy," she writes.


What Coca-Cola Is Doing With Its Money Right Now Is Actually Kind of Genius

MoJo Blogs and Articles | Mother Jones

Coca-Cola has had a bad summer. Last month, the New York Times revealed that the soda giant funded scientific research suggesting that people who want to lose weight and improve their health should focus on exercise instead of cutting out high-calorie items—like soda—from their diets.

Oxford University Press

Consumers were outraged, so in the wake of the investigation, Coca-Cola CEO Muthar Kent vowed in a piece in the Wall Street Journal's opinion section to publish a complete list of people and organizations that the company has funded. Earlier this week, Coca-Cola did just that.

The list—which includes a breakdown of the $118.6 million in donations that the company has doled out over the last five years—is sprawling. To make sense of it, I spoke to Marion Nestle, a professor in New York University's Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health. Nestle's new book, Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning), uncovers how soda companies like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo became some of the most powerful corporations in the United States. Their success, Nestle argues in the book, comes in no small part from their strategic alliances with a diverse range of communities—from minority groups to doctors to physical fitness organizations.

Sure enough, those very groups are well represented in Coca-Cola's list. Here's a quick guide to the main kinds of organizations that Nestle noticed—and the strategy behind Coke's decision to give to them:

Professors and university research centers, including the University of South Carolina's South Carolina Research Foundation (more than $1 million), the University of Alabama Birmingham Educational Foundation (more than $1 million), and the University of Colorado ($1.25 million): "This is a big part of what Coke does, funding university research centers to incentivize them to do work that makes soda look not quite so bad," says Nestle. "I was particularly interested in the list of health professionals and scientific experts. The soda industry is very interested in these people, who tell people in hospitals what to drink."

Minority group organizations, including 100 Black Men of America Inc. ($350,000), the NAACP ($550,000), and the National Association of Hispanic Nurses ($671,000): "The soda industry deliberately markets to African American and Hispanic communities," says Nestle. "They're sending the message, 'You're part of mainstream America. You're like this sports figure.'" Interestingly, Coca-Cola has a troubled history with the African American community. In her book, Nestle chronicles how, from the time of the civil rights movement through the early 1980s, Coca-Cola faced criticism for hiring few black employees in its Atlanta headquarters. The company has spent decades repairing its relationship with black Americans.

Sports and fitness groups, including the National Foundation for Governors' Council on Physical Fitness ($4 million), and the National Recreation and Park Association ($2 million): "That's part of this concerted effort to make people think that if they're physically active, they don't have to think about what they're drinking," says Nestle.

Youth organizations, including Boys & Girls Clubs (more than $6 million), the American Academy of Pediatrics (nearly $3 million) and Girl Scouts of the USA ($1 million): Nestle explains that soda companies have pledged not to advertise to children under the age of 12 on TV—and they have largely kept their promise. But "there are lots of other ways in which they can market to children," she says—and donating to charitable groups that support kids is one of them. That strategy "gets these children's organizations not to make drinking less soda a priority. And if they're using sodas around their place, it keeps the brand visible. It buys silence." Nestle sites the example of when, in 2013, the soda industry trade group American Beverage Association spent millions to defeat a proposed soda tax in Philadelphia—and, at the same time, gave a $10 million grant to the city's children's hospital.

Medical professionals groups, including the American Academy of Family Physicians (more than $3.5 million), the American College of Cardiology ($3.1 million), the American Dietetic Association (more than $1 million), the American College of Sports Medicine ($865,000), and the Preventative Cardiovascular Nurses Association ($383,500): "The soda companies have a very big presence at medical professional meetings," says Nestle. "They sponsor specific sessions, as well as the meetings in general. They choose the lecturers, or they appoint people to choose the lecturers. You can bet that these people are not going to be saying very much about the need to drink less soda, even though the evidence suggests that's the best advice."

Disaster relief funds, including Mercy Corps ($150,000), and the Global Disaster Response Fund ($150,000): "This one is a no brainer, because these groups bring bottled water in," says Nestle. (Coca-Cola owns leading bottled water brand Dasani.)

Food banks, including Atlanta Community Food Bank, Inc. ($570,000) and the San Antonio Food Bank ($300,000): Nestle explains that one metric by which food pantries are often evaluated is the overall weight of the food they provide. "Sodas are very heavy, so food banks love sodas," she says.

Parks, including the National Park Foundation (more than $2 million) and Chicago's Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance ($3 million): Some public park groups—including the National Park Foundation—are trying to cut down on plastic litter by banning the sale of bottled water on park premises. "So it makes sense that Coke is supporting parks to keep bottled water in," says Nestle.

Really tiny organizations, including many local chapters of the YMCA, the Boys & Girls Club, and Police Athletic Leagues: Coca-Cola's list includes some donations in the millions, but most of the contributions that the company has made are smaller—$50,000 or less. "It doesn't take very much to form a good impression," says Nestle. "I bet the Portland After-School Tennis & Education at St. Johns Racquet Center was very happy with their $25,000. You can bet that small groups that get any donation at all are not going to be really motivated to get Coke out of their offices."


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Vancouver Aquarium’s Radioactive Cover-Up

SGTreport - The Corporate Propaganda Antidote - Silver, Gold, Truth, Liberty, & Freedom

by Richard Wilcox, Ph.D., Activist Post:

An Open Letter To The Vancouver Aquarium: Jay Cullen’s Blatant Lack Of Transparency

From: Richard Wilcox September 23, 2015

I just watched the video now on YouTube featuring presentations by Ken Buessler and Jay Cullen regarding ocean radiation pollution from the Fukushima nuclear disaster:

In his [...]


What did Hillary Clinton do wrong?

Sharyl Attkisson
That’s how Hillary Clinton summed up her email controversy in an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on September 4. Indeed, those who haven’t closely followed developments may be confused as to what, exactly, Clinton did—and what, if anything, she allegedly did wrong. Here’s an attempt to sort it out in simple terms. Clinton may have […]


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Russia Completely Bans GMOs in Food Production

Global Research
Russia has just announced a game-changing move in the fight against Monsanto’s GMOs, completely banning the use of genetically modified ingredients in any and all food production. In other words, Russia just blazed way past the issue of GMO labeling…