Stop Violence Against Women Now

Fifty-three years ago on this day, Patria, Maria, and Antonia Mirabal were beaten to death by henchmen of the dictator Rafael Trujillo, leader of the Dominican Republic at that time. The Mirabal sisters were known dissidents of Trujillo’s tyrannical regime.

Trujillo’s reign over the peninsula was brutal marked by a suspension of civil liberties and extreme violence, particularly against women with his voracious sexual appetite and penchant for rape. The assassination of the Mirabal sisters marked a significant shift in Dominican politics and Trujillo’s supporters took flight. He was assassinated less than a year later.

The United Nations commemorated the Mirabal legacy by establishing November 25th as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Over fifty years later, and the statistics are staggering.

One in three women throughout the world will be a victim of abuse in her lifetime.

In some countries, one-third of women report that their first sexual experience was forced.

Between 500,000 to 2 million people are trafficked annually into situations including prostitution, forced labor, slavery or servitude, according to estimates. Women and girls account for about 80 per cent of the detected victims.

The cost of intimate partner violence in the United States alone exceeds $5.8 billion per year: $4.1 billion is for direct medical and health care services, while productivity losses account for nearly $1.8 billion.

It’s time for change.

Domestic and sexual violence in the United States is difficult to measure on a national level, but the reality is that many women and young girls experiencing violence don’t report it and remain silent. According to NOW, young women, low-income women, and minorities are more likely to be victims of this type of violence.

Envision a world where women aren’t silent, but rather, are invited to the table. Where they’re given a platform to speak and propose their ideas for change. Where they have equal access to resources for their families and their communities. Where they can become leaders with equal representation in our governments.

Building on women’s leadership roles is paramount to any agenda for global change. We have seen women step up and take charge as political representatives of war-torn communities, such as in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

The International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) was introduced in 2010 as a measure to support intervention, health and education services to ensure women can avoid becoming a victim of abuse.  It has yet to pass Congress, although there is a push for it to be reintroduced for a vote in front of the Senate.

This is one small step towards change. But what can you do right now?

Talk about it, for starters. Today is one day. But there are women and children coping with abuse every single day of the year. Consider the way your children or friends and family approach violence. How are women represented in your circles? What language do you use? What images?

We like to think that we’ve come a long way since the women’s movement of the 1960s, but the truth is there is still a tremendous amount of inequality and gender bias in the workplace, media, political representation, and in our conversations and personal relationships. The disproportionate number of women who are victims of abuse is enough of an indicator that we still have a long way to go.

This isn’t just an American issue.

This isn’t just a political issue.

This isn’t just a women’s issue.

This is a human rights issue.

It’s time we all step up to the plate and take the pledge to stop using physical and sexual violence against ANYONE starting now.

If you are a victim of abuse or a  concerned friend or family member who may be experiencing abuse, there are resources for you.

You are not alone. There are people out there who know where you’ve been and can get you help.

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women also marks 16 Days of Activism, culminating in Human Rights Day on December 10th.

What causes or issues matter to you?

How will you be an activist in your homes and communities today?

As always, keep paying it forward and stay healthy! 🙂

I’ll Take a Side of…Salad?: McDonald’s Evolves

Never underestimate the power of profit.

Or at least, that’s what seems to be driving McDonald’s latest venture.

Under pressure to respond to the demand for healthier options in their current menu, McDonald’s announced ” that it would no longer market some of its less nutritional options to children and said it also planned to include offerings of fruits and vegetables in many of its adult menu combinations.”

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The new McCombo.
Photo courtesy of McDonalds

The transition is expected to take at least three years within at least half of its targeted markets. The second half may not see this new menu until 2020.

Change, especially positive change, is slow-going.

McDonald’s global sales have been flat this past year. The failure to successfully capture millenials as loyal patrons has been credited as a major obstacle in the fast food giant’s struggle to both grow and maintain their market share.

By offering fruits, vegetables, and other options that are lower in fat, sugar, and salt, McDonald’s hopes to cash in on the buying power of consumers that are becoming increasingly health-conscious in light of the obesity epidemic. Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative and her work to get Americans on a healthier track, further illustrates the growing attention to what we eat and the impact of those choices on our families and communities.

Given the existing strategy to target children with the Happy Meal and low-income minorities with their cheap meal options, this announcement by McDonald’s is somewhat..dare I say, revolutionary?

Mixed health and diet messages.
Courtesy of http://durangobese.blogspot.com

Okay, revolutionary is a strong word. But it is innovative.

It’s clear the motivation here is strictly bottom-line economics. It would be silly to praise McDonald’s for their concern over the nation’s health as a primary motivator to change their model.

Of course it isn’t. We’re talking about McDonald’s here.

I can’t remember the last time I ate at McDonald’s, let alone stepped into one of their stores to check out their options. I’ve made it a point to avoid almost all fast-food chains because that was my personal choice  (except for you, Pret a Manger; your overpriced salads and sandwiches get me every time!).

Fast food chains have wizened up in the past five years by offering a variety of food options that would have gotten a laugh in the the past. Veggie burger? Burger King has that. Gluten-free pizza? Check out Dominoes. Salad instead of a sandwich? Pretty much everywhere.

Chipotle has made it their mission statement to be as transparent as possible about what goes into their food and what to eat if you’re following a strict vegetarian, vegan, or GMO-free diet. It’s far from a perfect model and Chipotle still has its critics, but I can still applaud their efforts to change a commercial food model that’s been in place for a long time.

Given the popularity of places like Chipotle and Subway ($5 footlong anyone?), the real deal for consumers seems to be choice. By emphasizing the customer’s ability to choose from a variety of toppings and ingredients, these companies have successfully latched onto a powerful trend with the modern individual.

We want choice. We want to see what’s going in that sandwich. Show me how you made that falafel, and I’ll feel more comfortable ordering a pita.

I admit I’m biased. This is definitely how I approach my choices for food on the go and I tend to gravitate to those places offering that sort of information from the jump. But I hear the same thing from friends who are less conscious about their health, but still concerned about the value of their dollar.

McDonald’s is a bit late to this game. The long transition period into these healthier choices will give other fast food companies the opportunity to continue taking pieces of the market share previously guaranteed to McDonald’s. Times have changed and customers are fickle.

I can’t tell you that this will sway me to walk into McDonald’s and order up a Big Mac with a side salad. Never say never of course, but it seems highly unlikely. That said, I have to acknowledge their efforts, in spite of the less than altruistic intentions, as a step towards accepting that we both want and need better food options.

I’m curious to see how this strategy will affect obesity statistics, if at all. I’m also curious to see what this will do to our global food system and how the shift towards vegetables and fruit will affect producers in this country and around the world.

Mostly, I just want to see if this works. It’s all about choice, after all, and half of the work is getting people to change their habits. Healthier options at fast food establishments have been around for awhile and our health continues to decline while our waistlines grow.

Changing the way fast food is marketed is one way to address the issue.  At the very least, companies are beginning to step up to the plate by making the choice for healthier food available. And that’s something.

What do you think about this recent announcement by McDonald’s?

Will this persuade you to start eating at McDonald’s if you aren’t currently?

Are you a fast food patron? Where do you eat regularly and why?

Share your thoughts and comments and below. I’m always looking to hear what you’re thinking!

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

A Win for the Non-GMO Movement and My Ode to Whole Foods

The key to a tipping point in a movement is patience. You can’t force things to happen no matter how badly you want it. Those of us who commit to an agenda with the intent of raising awareness and inciting change to the status quo have to learn to manage expectations and walk a fine line between the conviction of your belief in that movement and the practical realities that keep it from achieving real success. So it is, and has been, for the food movement.

Thankfully, our patience has been rewarded. In a week of major news in the world of food policy and nutrition, our national food movement took a major leap forward by garnering strong support from a major retailer.

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Whole Foods; you’re my hero.

I’m in the middle of long-standing passionate love affair with Whole Foods. Oh, he seduces me each time I see him with the beautiful organic produce laid out neatly near the entrance and the delicious smell of warm bread out of their bakery oven. I wander the aisles forever fascinated with products boasting all kinds of health and wellness benefits, and I make silent vows that I’ll splurge on my next visit and try out that new, exotic ingredient for my upcoming recipe. Why, just the other day I finally splurged on some organic tahini….

I can go on and on describing my feelings for Whole Foods and how I can attribute some of the origin of my healthy eating and recipe creation to the store due to its endless parade of all things “whole.” But I’m here to talk about another reason to love this store beyond its excellent grocery selection (and it’s Tom’s collection!).

I’ve made my stance on GMOs pretty clear. No.

No, I don’t want GMOs in my food. No, I don’t want GMO salmon sold at markets. No, I don’t agree with how the companies that manufacture GMOs are manipulating our food policy by pushing their agenda of keeping the American public blind to what they’re buying so that these businesses can keep the profits rolling.

Supporters for the Yes to Prop 37 in California last fall were dealt a major blow when the vote fell just short of passing into state law. This loss however unfortunate and frustrating helped trigger a conversation on the national stage. Now, more than ever, there’s significant coverage of how mass-produced food is made, along with a number of other causes, may be contributing to our astronomical obesity and diabetes growth rates in the past five years. People are beginning to pay attention one way or another, and that is the start of something.

And this is where Whole Foods decided to step in and boldly draw a line in the sand. By 2018, all products sold at Whole Foods,  must indicate if they contain GMOs on their labels. Meat and dairy products will also fall under this guideline as they must state if the sourced animals were fed GMO grain.

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This means that the consumer will be empowered to make choices, which is really the point, in my opinion. Whether or not GMOs cease to exist, the consumer needs to have the tools to make a decision on what to buy and that requires full disclosure on behalf of the producer. Without a legal requirement to label GMOs on their products, food companies will continue doing same without any pressure to provide that information to their consumers.

In a recent statement, Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, explains:

“The prevalence of GMOs in the U.S. paired with nonexistent mandatory labeling makes it very difficult for retailers to source non-GMO options and for consumers to choose non-GMO products,” added Robb. The only guarantee that you’re getting food free of GMOs is to buy certified-organic foods, which can be cost-prohibitive, or to find products certified by the nonprofit Non-GMO Project, which tests organic and nonorganic foods alike for the presence of GMOs. Though a stringent certification, it isn’t very common. We’re responding to our customers, who have consistently asked us for GMO labeling and we are doing so by focusing on where we have control: in our own stores.”

The supply chain for non-GMO ingredients is limited and could mean a loss of some products currently carried in Whole Foods stores. The benefits outweigh some of those consequences. As the largest organic and natural foods retailer in the country, and 8th largest grocery chain, Whole Foods is uniquely positioned to carry the weight of the fledgling food movement by standing as a powerful leader in the business world taking a clear position against GMOs.

There are always obstacles, and it’s likely that this transition will see some before it’s smoothly run. Cost continues to be a barrier to the food movement, making a more sustainable impact in low-income areas difficult. As much as I love Whole Foods, I also acknowledge that making this grocery store the face of the non-GMO movement will alienate a significant portion of the public who cannot afford to purchase groceries there regularly. I can only hope that this will spread to other, more affordable and accessible retailers who now have an example to follow in their own businesses.

What do you think of this news? Agree or disagree? Do you shop at Whole Foods? How will this affect your grocery-shopping? Do you think this will apply pressure to Obama’s administration to create stricter policies governing safe manufacturing practices of our food? I’m curious! Drop me a line. 🙂

 

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