Earth Day 2018: Food Can Save the Planet

Earth Day 2018 is a celebration of 48 years of global ecological awareness. During the 1970s, pollution caused developmental deficits in children. Biodiversity was threatened by pesticides. People worldwide were beginning to grasp the health and environmental danger of 150 years of industrial development. And the government established the Environmental Protection Agency. The Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act became law. Where are we today? Has Earth Day made a difference? Can food help conserve natural resources and promote biodiversity?

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PhD Toolkit: The Sound of Silence

“Silence calms my soul.” “Silence. The most beautiful voice.” “Silence is sometimes the best answer.” I found an interesting read about silence. It’s one thing missing in our lives because we tend to block out silence. Noise is everywhere – in our heads, ears, bodies, and our souls. But silence is another tool for your PhD survival kit. Quiet time is good time. It’s your silent space.

As you know, a dissertation won’t write itself. You have to get in your head, think up an idea for your study, design your experiment, collect data, analyze it, and then explain it. You will need a series of silent spaces. Can we still learn with our headphones glues to our heads? Is multitasking a tool for better productivity? What’s wrong with turning up the music to block out noise pollution?

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Rural Food Insecurity: Myths & Realities

There are 3,142 counties in the US, with 2,323 counties are rural areas. About 60 million people (19.3% of the US population) live on 97% of the land. Many people in rural communities are food insecure – they don’t have enough food to eat. There is a myth that  people in rural America have easy access to good food. What’s the most food insecure state? Mississippi, and Jefferson County, MS (pop. 7,297) has the highest food insecurity (38%) in the country in 2017: 2,870 people are hungry.

I started my column Tomorrow’s Food – Today’s Policies to stay engaged in food policy studies. My dissertation explored urban agriculture, but it’s time to look at food policy beyond the city: rural America. My Food Disparities in Rural Missouri  blog peaked my interest to keep exploring. This year, I gathered a team for a presentation for a food conference. We’ll talk about food policy, food education and nutritional health in rural America. What are the food challenge in rural America? How are they different from urban food problems? What solutions can best service rural communities?

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Smart Writing: Faith, Fear & Confidence

The world of academic writing is a strange one. In graduate school, you’re expected to “know” how to write. But your writing habits may be stuck in undergraduate mode when you wrote essays or research papers. College taught you the basics of  five standard essays that 1) tell a story (narrative), 2) analyze (expository), 3) compare and contrast (comparison), 4) convince the reader (persuasion) and 5) related events/conditions (cause and effect).

Your dissertation is a book: it’s five chapters of your research idea, explained and supported by data that justify your conclusions and recommendations. It’s one of the hardest books I’ve ever written, but there’s a weird logic to it all. But what is it? Is there a simple way to write your dissertation? What are the smart tips to ease your writing experience? 

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Obesity in America: 100 Million Strong

Americans are fat and getting fatter. A 2018 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) study in JAMA revealed that nearly 100 million American adults are more obese than 10 years ago.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defined obese or overweight as weight “higher than what is considered as a healthy weight for a given height.” Overweight is a BMI (body fat based on height and weight) between 25 and 30, and obese is a BMI of 30 or more. Adult obesity is now at 39.6% – this increase is alarming to health experts. Why? More adults are more obese than ever before.

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Alt-Ac/Post-Ac: Sound Career Choice

In 2017, college student enrollment fell to 901,000 – down by about 69,000 students from 2018. Why? Adult students and veterans are finding jobs rather than going back to school. Today, there is stiff competition between for-profit and nonprofit schools. Why? More schools offer online degree programs. There is a “listening gap” between the public and what higher education (HE) thinks is important.

Why? Complaints about anti-intellectualism and both parents and students questioning the value of a college education. Clearly, HE is in transition. Yet, graduate students continue their elusive search for tenured-track jobs. Is a realistic career track? Is it time to look past the ivy walls? How bad is the academic job market?

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Farmer Suicide, STRESS and Mental Health

Last October, I introduced my blog series Tomorrow’s Food – Today’s Policies . I write about new solutions for our challenging food system. So the topic of farmer suicide was never on my mind – but I can’t ignore this disturbing trend. A 2016 study by the CDC revealed some alarming news about the American farmer: Suicides are on the rise. In the agriculture sector (farmers, ranchers, farm workers) more farmers commit suicide than other groups.

About 1% of America’s population are farmers but the suicide rate is 90.5 per 100,000. What does it mean? It means that the suicide rate for agricultural workers in 17 states was nearly five times higher than the general population. Farming life has its unique challenges (financial) and health issues (physical, mental). What’s causing the rising suicide rate among farmers? How can we stop this trend? Is farmer suicide a global problem?

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