Shoku-iku: How Food Policy Works in Japan

Shoku-iku is the Japanese word  for “eating education” or food education. Since 2005, the Basic Law of Shoku-iku has been Japan’s national food policy. It serves as a “blueprint for conscious eating.” Starting in kindergarten, students learn to connect health, nutrition, food, and the environment. More than 4,000 diet and nutrition teachers teach in public schools. The result: 3.7% of Japan’s adult population is obese (around 2.8M people out of the total adult population of 86M). This is striking because 38.2% of the US adult population is obese (around 73M people in the total adult population of 219M). We’re talking obese, not overweight. How is Japan reducing obesity in adults, while obesity continues to rise in the US? What can we learn from Shoku-iku?

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Food Swamps: A New Urban Reality

This week, I learned about a new trend in food policy. A study by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity identified the presence of another source for obesity in adult populations: food swamps. Unlike food deserts (communities with limited access to healthy and affordable food), food swamps reveal the imbalance between excess fast food restaurants over healthy food choices. These neighborhoods have more drive-up restaurants and easy access to unhealthy foods compared to grocery stores and farmer’s markets. Food swamps are a better predictor of obesity rates than food deserts. And they are another tool to find ways to reverse the tide of obesity in adults.

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Why Scholars Need a Clue About Good Writing: Part II

Writing is hard work. Any form of writing is a process and if you want to be a good writer, it takes practice. But many academics pontificate when they speak and write. Writing is a powerful communication tool to clearly express ideas. Bad writing is when people have to read your sentence more than once, for example: “Shop prices did not stabilise until 1877, after inflation had begun to be defeated by laws that had been passed by the government in the autumn of 1875.” Bad writing sounds off for a reason.  Why do scholars write poorly? Can we cut the blather and get to the point? How can you help people understand your ideas? Continue reading “Why Scholars Need a Clue About Good Writing: Part II”

How to Feed More People: Think Small and Local

The world is not getting smaller. Around 350,000 babies are born each day, and by 2050, the world’s population can reach over 9 billion people. Today we rely on “green revolution” technologies to grow more food –  these technologies (pesticides, genetic modified plants, fertilizers) are used to grow high yield crops (corn, soybeans, wheat) or monocrops. But the green revolution is also a process with huge environmental costs. And the human costs include more diet-related diseases, malnutrition (hunger and obesity) and wasted food. How can we reverse the harm from industrial or conventional agriculture? What are solutions to grow food differently?

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Alt-Ac Toolkit: Freelancing at Academic Conferences

Academic conferences can seem like a strange place for those of us in the alt-ac world. Conferences may not feel like a good fit for freelance academics – as freelancers, we’re not affiliated with mainstream higher education. But academic conferences offer a place to meet and pitch your book to editors, offer a workshop, and present a research paper. Even as a freelance academic, you have a voice as a scholar and expert.

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Willie Nelson and Urban-Rural Ag

Poverty is a worldwide problem. Urban and rural communities in every country struggle to survive. Poverty means food insecurity or economic and social conditions where people have little or uncertain access to enough food. Food insecurity hits people in urban, rural, and peri-urban areas (communities located around cities). While it’s easy to think that food insecurity is just an urban problem, clearly it is not. Hunger is not in a vacuum. Even if food is abundant, many people don’t have enough food on a regular basis. How can we feed more people? What are the connections between urban-rural agriculture?

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Academic Redux: Is a PhD Still Worth It?

The holiday season is here! I enjoyed some downtime over the long Thanksgiving weekend. Now that 2018 is on the horizon, it’s time to look back on my projects for 2017. I’m reviewing my career transition plans since I earned my doctorate in 2015. Yes, I’ve wondered if my PhD was worth it. Was it really worth all the time, money, blood, sweat, tears, uncertainty, fear, worry, headaches, anxiety, and excitement?

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