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GoGreenNation News: Extreme winter spells trouble for food insecure
GoGreenNation News: Extreme winter spells trouble for food insecure

A hunger crisis is deepening for food insecure U.S. households, as they face the fallout of a recent severe winter storm and extreme cold weather conditions likely in the weeks to come. Driving the news: Food insecurity is already a critical problem affecting millions of Americans. Multiple experts tell Axios the escalating burden of extreme winter weather, compounding with higher food prices, is cause for concern. The big picture: People of color, those with disabilities and unhoused populations are most impacted by food insecurity in the U.S., according to Zia Mehrabi, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Studies at UC Boulder. Mehrabi, who researches food security and climate change, tells Axios in an email that extreme events exacerbated by the warming world will continue to stress food prices — which have surged in the past year — and deepen existing burdens for these groups in particular. "Food insecurity is really a problem of poverty [and] limited access. And those who are most poor are also those who have the least resources to respond and recover from these storms when they hit," says Mehrabi. Details: Last year, more than 33 million Americans lived in food insecure households, according to the USDA's ERS. The share of households with children experiencing food insecurity rose during 2020 before dropping in 2021, which the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation largely credits to pandemic relief programs.The federal government increased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, or SNAP, by 12.5% this fall, adjusted to the rate of inflation. But the child tax credit expansion, which helped reduce child poverty between 2020 and 2021 by 46%, expired at the end of last year.What they're saying: Melissa Spiesman, COO at the nonprofit Food Rescue US, tells Axios that many agencies that serve the food insecure were closed during the pandemic and have not reopened since. "So, a lot of the resources that were in place before the pandemic, never really reemerged afterwards," says Spiesman.The organization has locations in 21 states that transfer food surpluses from local businesses to agencies serving the food insecure. It expects to see a demand in need due to the winter storm and impending colder-than-average temperatures, which will compound with higher food prices and holiday stressors. Spiesman also expects the extreme weather impacts will financially strain already food insecure families, while pushing low-income households on the brink into becoming food insecure. "When you're just on the verge of it, everything is fragile and everything has an impact." Meanwhile: A blast of Arctic air straight from Siberia is poised to spread across the continental U.S. around Christmas, shattering records and potentially spinning up major storms forecast to hit the Great Plains, Central U.S. and the East, Axios' Andrew Freedman reports.Data from the USDA's ERS finds that the states with the highest average rates of food insecurity between 2019 and 2021 include Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, South Carolina and Kentucky. Some of those states are likely to see impacts from the Arctic outbreak. The intrigue: Conditions brought on by the winter storm and looming cold snap could mean subsequent impacts in the winter wheat zone, according to Felippe Reis, a crop analyst at EarthDaily Analytics. Winter is the fastest-warming season for much of the U.S., with episodes of weather whiplash occurring more frequently as unusually mild conditions are quickly followed by cold snaps. If an area experiences extreme cold temperatures but less intense snow, which Reis predicts could be the case for parts of states like Montana — where one in seven children face hunger — the likelihood for possible damage to winter wheat crops increases. State of play: This is just one of the climate impacts to agricultural production that the U.S. is seeing as the world continues to warm, according to Corey Lesk, a climate scientist and research associate at Dartmouth College."A lot of climate extremes in the major producing parts of the country that regularly affect the crop output have been getting worse," Lesk tells Axios.Yes, but: Poverty, unemployment, a lack of affordable housing and lack of access to health care, as well as systemic racial inequities, are all mechanisms driving the food insecurity that affects around 10% of U.S. households, according to the nonprofit Feeding America.The bottom line: "You can produce a great crop. That doesn't mean people are going to be food secure," says Lesk. "In the United States, the food security problem is more of a social problem."

GoGreenNation News: New food diets aim to reduce climate impact
GoGreenNation News: New food diets aim to reduce climate impact

Move over, locavores: A slew of new labels — from "climavore" to "reducetarian" — reflect the trend of people eating with sustainability in mind to reduce their climate "foodprint."Why it matters: Food manufacturers, restaurants, and supermarkets are racing to cater to the zeal for lower-carbon eating choices, which has people eschewing plastic packaging, ingredients flown in from afar, and foods that are environmentally damaging to produce.While there's plenty of disagreement about what to avoid, top villains include faves like red meat, chocolate, avocados, sugar, and — gasp — coffee.The "eat local" mantra is being replaced by the notion that what you eat is more important — since transportation is sometimes just a small part of your meal's carbon footprint.Driving the news: Terms like "climatarian" are getting newfound attention from corporate America as young consumers gravitate toward what they perceive as "green" diets."By 2030, our routine food choices will be climate-directed," advises a report from consulting firm Kearney. "The companies that mobilize now will win the future of food."Restaurant chains like Just Salad, Chipotle, and Panera Bread are putting "carbon labels" on their foods — and, in the case of Just Salad, adding a "climatarian" filter on its app.Supermarket chain Fresh Market is among the many food prognosticators that declared "climatarian eating" a top trend for 2023.What they're saying: "If you walk into your local Stop & Shop in the middle of January, those blueberries have been traveling for 10 days and probably started out in Ecuador," says Paco Underhill, an environmental psychologist and author of the forthcoming book "How We Eat.""There's a nascent movement, particularly anchored in younger people, that is recognizing that," he tells Axios.How it works: Climavores' rules "are not hard and fast," instead allowing "a level of flexibility, based on the preferences of those who partake," per Fresh Market's report."Participation can include everything from eating pasture-raised to buying more local and organic ingredients, to reduce carbon emissions from transport to eating a plant-based diet with crops that are good for soil."Climatarianism is "less defined by ingredients," and more by "food choices based on climate impacts, practicing climate-conscious eating based on a series of dietary trade-offs intended to benefit the planet."There's a dizzying nomenclature affiliated with climate-conscious eating, with meaningful yet hard-to-parse differences."Sustainatarians" eat some meat but filter their diet through an environmental lens.So do "climatarians" and "climavores," who tend to be concerned — as one manifesto put it — "not only about the origin of ingredients, but also about the agency that those ingredients have in providing responses to human-induced climatic events." "Reducetarians" try to eat less meat for reasons ranging from animal welfare to their health or the environment. "They might be concerned about biodiversity loss, fresh water availability, or food justice — or trying to save money," Brian Kateman, president and co-founder of the Reducetarian Foundation, tells Axios.What's trending: "Regenivore" is the latest and hottest eating label, the New York Times recently reported."A new generation wants food from companies that are actively healing the planet through carbon-reducing agriculture, more rigorous animal welfare policies, and equitable treatment of the people who grow and process food," per Times ace food writer Kim Severson.Yes, but: Eyebrows must be raised about the amount of greenwashing involved in corporate efforts to embrace climatarianism. "All food products suffer from greenwashing, including pet food," asserts Earth.org, an environmental news and data platform. The most common examples: Promoting a product as "organic" or "made from real ingredients" when it's actually from a factory farm or uses genetically modified ingredients.Class-action lawsuits have been mounting against the labeling and claims made by food companies.The European Union is cracking down on "misleading climate claims on packaging and in advertisements," focusing on phrases such as "climate neutral" and “100% CO2 compensated,” Bloomberg reported last week.Reality check: Despite the mushrooming number of calculators that help people gauge their carbon footprints, truly adhering to a climate-conscious diet takes work and restraint.While "Meatless Monday" and other such efforts have their adherents, it's unclear how big a sacrifice most people are really willing to make — like steering clear of mozzarella from factory-farmed cows or shunning almonds because they're water-intensive.The big picture: There are all kinds of vertigo in the food world over best practices — as encapsulated by the epic news of the closing of Noma, a Copenhagen restaurant sometimes considered the best in the world.On one hand, Noma fetishizes local ingredients and foraging, serving "grilled reindeer heart on a bed of fresh pine, and saffron ice cream in a beeswax bowl," per the Times, which broke the news of the closing.On the other hand, Noma was accused of exploiting workers and using less-than-humane tactics in the pursuit of fine dining.What's next: Climate-based eating "might be in its infancy" but will gain steam as younger consumers "increase their concern for the planet," Fresh Market's report predicts.The bottom line: The opacity of farming and food manufacturing procedures can make it hard to determine the provenance of one's meal or its true carbon footprint, but it may be true that every little bit helps.Jennifer's thought bubble: Throwing a dinner party has never been more of a minefield, with everyone's diet to consider (Noom? Vegevore? Ketogenic?). Best to check with your guests in advance.

GoGreenNation News: Obesogens: Chemicals that cause weight gain
GoGreenNation News: Obesogens: Chemicals that cause weight gain

Obesity is an increasingly common disease in the United States. The most recent statistics gathered from 2017 to 2020 identify 41.9% of Americans as obese, with the prevalence of severe obesity nearly doubling to 9.2% over the last two decades. Obesity is a serious condition, increasing the likelihood of health problems like heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes — some of the leading causes of premature death. We’ve all heard the standard solutions: eat less, exercise more. But there’s more to it: chemicals in our daily lives make it easier to unintentionally gain weight and may even make it more difficult to lose it.These insidious chemicals are called “obesogens” and some doctors are incorporating this research into their practices and recommendations.What are obesogens?Obesogens are a type of endocrine-disrupting chemical.Quick reminder: your endocrine system is made up of glands that make hormones. To put it simply, those hormones serve as your body’s “chemical messengers” that control many important parts and functions of the body. Obesogens, as endocrine-disrupting chemicals, hijack that messenger system and can wreak havoc on your health in a variety of ways.Obesogens are generally defined as chemicals that can cause the human (and animal) body to produce more fat than it normally would. Obesogens can include substances we often think of as fattening, like sugars, but also include an array of chemicals used in all sorts of products, such as BPA, phthalates and more.How do obesogens work?Obesogens work in many ways. The way they impact your body depends on the type of obesogen, and can include: Disrupting your metabolism, causing your body to produce new or larger fat cellsBlocking fat cells from releasing stored fat to use as energyAltering your eating habitsImpacting your gastrointestinal tract, which affects how food is digested. Exposure to obesogens can occur as early as prenatal development. Obesogens can act across one’s lifespan - but prenatal exposures are most sensitive to their effects and can cause obesity later in life.Where am I being exposed to obesogens?Unfortunately, all over the place. Many everyday products contain obesogens, including:Plastic food storage containersPlastic toysNonstick cookwarePersonal care productsCleaning suppliesMedical devicesFlame retardantsPesticidesProcessed food additives: preservatives, emulsifiers, flavor enhancers, high fructose corn syrupAnd more Chemicals that are obesogens are added to products such as these because they serve a purpose — various obesogens can make plastics harder or more flexible, make textiles stain or water resistant, packaging grease resistant, etc. Scientists, researchers and doctors are now pushing for those chemicals to be removed as unintentional health impacts are being discovered.What are the most common obesogens?Many pesticides: for example, DDT. Though it was banned in the U.S. in 1972 due to environmental impacts, DDT persists for a long time in the environment and in animal tissues and can cause health effects generations after exposureAir pollution: studies have shown that early exposure to air pollution increases the risk of childhood obesityPhthalates: often added to plastics to increase their flexibility and found in cosmetic products, hair and skin care products, feminine care products, fast food wrappers, sunscreens, children’s toys, food storage containers and moreBisphenol-A (BPA): while it may be more common to find BPA-free products these days, BPA is only officially banned in baby bottles. You may still find BPA in water bottles, canned food linings, receipts, food containers, toys and more. Keep in mind, too: just because a plastic product is BPA-free does not mean the alternative chemical used in the product is any saferPFAS: called “forever chemicals” for their inability to break down in our bodies and in the environment, PFAS chemicals are found in a vast number of consumer products. Read our full guide on PFAS here — and check out our investigation into PFAS in consumer products here.How can I avoid exposure to obesogens?Avoiding obesogens is difficult. However, any step to limit your exposure can make a difference. Here are some ideas:Avoid storing or purchasing food in plastic. Especially avoid heating foods in plastic — this includes frozen dinners and vegetable steamer bags! Heating plastic makes it much more likely that chemicals like obesogens will leak into foodUse glass or stainless steel containers and bottles instead of plasticUse cast iron, stainless steel or enameled cookware. Nonstick coatings are known to contain toxic chemicals like obesogensCheck your personal care products against databases like the EWG’s Skindeep Cosmetics database or the Clearya mobile app. A general rule of thumb for your personal products: look for organic ingredients, and “less is more” - the fewer ingredients, the betterOpt for fragrance-free products unless the fragrances are explicitly disclosed and safeFilter your water! There are a number of options (for a variety of budgets): filter pitchers you can keep in your fridge, under-sink filters and moreSkip the flame-resistant and water-repellent carpets, furniture, tablecloths, etc. — the chemicals that make those properties possible are usually obesogens.Learn more about obesogens and your healthCheck out some of our other reporting on obesogens:Chemicals in everyday products are spurring obesity, warns a new reviewDoctors advocate for treating obesity as an environmental problemOp-Ed: The medical community is missing a major piece of the obesity puzzleSubscribe to our Above the Fold newsletter to send important news about the environment and your health to your inbox.Want to get into the nitty-gritty science? Check out EHS program HEEDS - Healthy Environment and Endocrine Disruptor Strategies - for a more technical exploration of obesogens research. For example, check out their comprehensive review articles on obesogens coauthored by dozens of experts in the field.

GoGreenNation News: Researchers call for action on lead-contaminated meat due to EHN reporting
GoGreenNation News: Researchers call for action on lead-contaminated meat due to EHN reporting

Scientists from the U.S. and Europe are calling for inspections of donated hunted meat at U.S. food banks to prevent toxic lead exposure for children and families. The paper, published last month in the American Journal of Public Health, cites an EHN.org investigation that found lead fragments are a known danger in hunted meat, but most states do not inspect for possible contamination. The reporting showed this lack of oversight could result in potentially hundreds of thousands of lead-contaminated meals each year, with fetuses, children and pregnant people most at risk. There is no safe level of lead in people’s blood. Exposure causes a range of health impacts including attention problems, decreased IQ, increased problem behaviors, kidney disease, preeclampsia and cardiovascular issues. A majority of hunters still use lead ammunition — though alternatives exist — and animals killed with lead bullets can contain fragments of the metal. The amount of contamination depends on the type of gun and bullet, whether the bullet hit the animal’s bones, and whether or not the meat is ground. (In Minnesota, where state officials actually test donated hunted meat for lead, most lead contamination has been found in ground venison). Reporter and University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health doctorial student and researcher Sam Totoni conducted the original investigation for EHN.org and also led the new call-to-action paper. Totoni and coauthors also pointed to the environmental injustice implications of this lack of testing. Lacking food safety standards The authors acknowledge the benefits of donated hunted meat, but point out that there is nearly no oversight to ensure the safety of this type of meat at food banks across the U.S. Most states have adopted the FDA Food Code, which doesn’t address donated food. As a result, people who shop in grocery stores are protected from adulterated food that contains tiny pieces of metal, while people who receive donated food are not. “An underlying lack of food safety standards for adulterated donated food increases risks to low-income recipients, who are already disproportionately affected by elevated blood lead levels,” Totoni and colleagues wrote in their new report.  Industry pushbackThe overwhelming scientific consensus is that hunters should not use lead bullets. A 2016 review found that of 570 scientific articles on lead ammunition, 99% raised concerns about its toxic impacts on health and the environment.However, there is a concerted effort by the firearm industry and affiliated groups to push back against regulation and promote the continued use of lead ammunition. Totoni outlined the extensive science denial and misleading tactics by these groups in follow-up reporting last year.“Despite the well-established scientific basis for regulation of lead ammunition for hunting, the topic has been politicized by misinformation campaigns portraying concerns about ingesting lead ammunition as a product of antihunting agendas,” the authors wrote in the new report. A model for testing hunted meat Despite the lack of national food safety regulations for donated food, Minnesota provides a model to protect recipients of donated hunted meat: The state’s Department of Agriculture has an annual inspection program of hunted meat, which is financed by tacking an extra dollar on the sales of some hunting permits. Between 2014 and 2019, the state discarded about 9% of hunted meat packages annually because they found evidence of lead contamination via x-ray.While such state programs could prevent people — which largely are low-income consumers — from eating lead, “the most reliable form of primary prevention from lead-adulterated meat is the consistent use of nonlead ammunition for hunting,” the authors wrote. “This public health issue extends beyond donated meat to millions of Americans in the hunting community, who regularly consume meat from game harvested with lead ammunition. We call for primary prevention actions to address this neglected environmental justice problem.” See the full paper at the American Journal of Public Health. And check out the EHN.org investigations the spurred the paper: Lead in hunted meat: Who’s telling hunters and their families? Exempt from inspection: States ignore lead-contaminated meat in food banks Hunting, fishing, and science denial Pushing back on lead ammo and fishing tackle misinformation Guns, money, and power: The firearm industry and wildlife conservation

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