The Boorito (and Jamie Oliver!)


I can think of quite a few "horrifying processed food products" (src)

Man, I love Jamie Oliver. Dude is funny, smart, and always makes some good waves when it comes to his Food Revolution. I wish he pushed more veggie/vegan stuff, but whatever.

He’s partnering with Chipotle this Halloween as part of their “Boorito 2010” campaign, which is getting people to dress up as highly processed food and go into Chipotle. Your reward? A $2 burrito, with all the proceeds going to Jamie’s Food Revolution (up to $1,000,000, at least). With the tag line “Dress to kill this Halloween,” they make a strong case:

When foods are heavily processed, many of the vital nutrients are removed or destroyed, leaving little left to nourish the body. In their place, a selection of more than 5,000 additives—like artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners—are used to make food cheaper and longer lasting and to ensure consistency. But even though these foods sometimes look and taste good, eating them can take a toll on your body. Many heavily processed foods fail to provide key nutrients that are important to overall nutrition and, along with excessive portion sizes, are often related to the increased incidence of obesity and diabetes in America.

Spooky stuff. Chipotle has been on board for awhile with healthy foods as well as sustainability, eschewing factory farms, conventional produce (i.e. using organic when possible), and working toward sourcing more and more local items. Their “Food with Integrity” page highlights the efforts.

You can watch a video featuring Jamie and the founder of Chipotle Steve Ellis here or see the details of costume contest here.

The Crazy World of Fundamentalism (Part 2)

id is neither

Pretty much sums it up (src)

In Part 1 of The Crazy World of Fundamentalism I discussed a southern baptist’s agenda to make Christians aware of the inconsistency between their religion and practicing Yoga. If that just made you do a double take – go read the article! Here, in Part 2, we discuss creationism. Creationism, intelligent design (ID), or whatever you want to call it, has a long history with Christian (and occasionally some Muslim) fundamentalists, often because of its somewhat blurry lines between trying to get into science class rooms while also promoting religion or theism.

Michael Zimmerman, Ph.D., wrote the excellent piece “Creationists Destroy Creationism with Their Own Words” in the Huffington Post last week. In it, he describes new documents coming from two sources: The Centre for Intelligent Design based out of the UK (as if “centre” didn’t give it away), and Answers in Genesis, founders of the crazed website and the Creation Museum (to which I’ve been…and it’s just as crazy).

The Centre hid a gem in their website under a section about how ID is science (it’s not) which Zimmerman uncovers and discusses. The quote, from the Centre, is:

In one sense, research work that supports ID is not the central issue. ID is essentially an interpretation of the data that already exists. There is not much point in gathering more information if you already have enough on which to base your hypothesis. [source, just in case]

Think about that for a second – there’s already enough evidence for intelligent design – meaning, hey, let’s just look at the data in this certain way….bam! ID reveals itself. No more work needed.

That’s not how science works. As Zimmerman eloquently points out:

Since every scientist understands that science proceeds by disproof rather than proof, that any future study might provide compelling data that will demand a reinterpretation of existing scientific ideas, you won’t find them saying, “There is not much point in gathering more information” about anything other than concepts that have been conclusively disproven.

Evolution is fact, but scientists are still busy learning more and more new things about it every day. That will never stop, and every new piece of data can be interpolated to check whether it lines up with the old.

So what if science doesn’t cut it? Some creationists or IDers think that another source is needed, namely, the Bible. Depending on your beliefs you may think the bible is inerrant, historically accurate but morally questionable, an interesting piece of literature, or violent work about sex, war, and the end times. Regardless, it’s probably not the best source for information on biology, chemistry, or physics. But Answers in Genesis would disagree. In fact, they say it’s the ONLY standard for evaluating “physical” evidence:

Evolutionists and creationists have a different ultimate standard by which they evaluate and interpret physical evidence such as stars, fossils, and DNA.

The biblical creationist takes the Bible as the ultimate standard — an approach which the Bible itself endorses (Proverbs 1:7, Hebrews 6:13). The evolutionist embraces a competing philosophy instead such as naturalism (the belief that natural causes and laws can explain all phenomena) or empiricism (the belief that experience, especially the senses, is the source of all knowledge).

Zimmerman quotes the above and concludes by saying little rebuttal is needed. The creationists have been done in by their own word. They have, as Zimmerman says, ” removed all forms of creationism from the scientific enterprise.” As for me, I’ll stick with empiricism.

Students Love Choices

I loved watching the short season of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. While still a reality TV show, it did seem to make a change, and one of his big campaigns was removing chocolate and flavored milk in the cafeterias of the schools of Huntington, WV (America’s “unhealthiest city” as the show often reminded us). The New York Times has dropped a new piece on a continuing effort to do away with chocolate milk: “A School Fight Over Chocolate Milk“:

People trying to make school lunch more nutritious say it’s outrageous to serve an eight-ounce drink that can contain more than five teaspoons of sugar — almost as much as a cup of soda or apple juice — and call it healthy.

I agree. And what about the kids who are lactose intolerant? In schools where Asians or blacks are predominant, lactose intolerance is extremely common (90 and 75 percent, respectively). What are they going to drink? I agree with Oliver’s point on the TV show, that teaching kids that milk comes in brown and pink (strawberry flavored milk was huge in West Virgina) and is naturally that sweet conditions them for a big let down later in life. Not only a let down, but possible avoidance of “real food” all together.

"A Fresh Perspective"

"A Fresh Perspective" src

The counter-argument is that the nutrients in milk are so important that however we can disguise it is good. This falls apart right away: “Saying we need to add sugar and flavoring to milk to get kids to drink it is like saying we need to feed kids apple pie if they don’t like apples,” says Boulder, Co. “Chef Ann” who is trying to reform lunch programs. There are many other ways to get those nutrients, even in a school lunch program. Besides ignorance, why are schools still doing it then?

The government started providing subsidized milk to schools in the 1940s to help nourish needy children. The dairy industry helped finance this and other school nutrition efforts. Recently, it helped pay to promote school breakfast and summer food programs.

In the end, it’s just a business. The dairy industry doesn’t seem to care about promoting a “natural” idea of food, which is what Oliver’s campaign was all about. Real food. In their own words:

Flavors make milk hip and exciting. Offer a minimum of three flavors in schools – students love choices. And mix or rotate in new flavors—like root beer, mocha, or dulce del leche—regularly to increase excitement and consumption.

Root beer-flavored milk? Wow. For information on how to get your school back on track, check out the PCRM’s Healthy School Lunches website, or Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution petition.

The Goal of Education

Attending a public, four year state school for college was an incredible experience, but I often found myself secretly admitting to my friends later, “really, I felt like I learned how to get good grades.” To this day I have lost much of the academic knowledge I learned in school, be it high school, college, or post-grad, but I do not regret any of the choices I made in that area due to a wealth of extra-curricular knowledge I gained instead. Still, there is most likely room for improvement. One valedictorian took the system to task this year:

Between these cinderblock walls, we are all expected to be the same. We are trained to ace every standardized test, and those who deviate and see light through a different lens are worthless to the scheme of public education, and therefore viewed with contempt.

The student, Erica Goldson, graduated from a New York public high school in June and delivered a scathing, yet mildly optimistic valedictory speech to her fellow class mates and teachers (see Swift Kick’s “Valedictorian Speaks Out Against Schooling in Graduation Speech“). She slams the idea of mindless memorization, the motivation of money, and the this-will-be-on-the-test attitude that she believes her curriculum took.

In general, I agree, and kudos to Goldson for having the courage and eloquence to present her ideas at probably the perfect time (a valedictory speech about the problems of the educational system seems very “cool,” no?). During high school I do remember speaking up about what I felt was an inherent “know this or else” mentality, especially about subjects I had little interest in. At the time, I was told “well, that’s fine, but if you can’t even manage it on a test, then how can you know it in general?” which I took as the final rebuttal. I was the young naive student and needed to learn things, and this was the only way to do it. Goldson would most likely disagree and argue for a more creative approach:

While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost? I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning.

Her point with this is that she was taught to seek a goal, and did so exceedingly well. This is why I say I learned how to get good grades – that was the goal. But I learned quite a bit about myself in college, and even in high school (though the self-discovery in high school is a bumpy, bumpy road). I fostered my interests in music, friendship, computers, all indirectly while trying to attain “good grades” in mathematics (my major of choice). I agree with Goldson that the system is probably too goal-oriented, but what if we made the “goal” turning students into “thinkers, dreamers, explorers, artists, writers, engineers” as she describes us, instead of good test-takers? I’m sure many teachers would orient themselves with that position.

Her speech is well thought-out and I recommend a quick read, but I don’t think it is 100% accurate. The educational system has its flaws, but every day I am reminded of the positive things I took away from it, and I do cherish many of the memories gained while spending 18+ years immersed. If you, your friends, and your parents approach it with the right mindset, creative, unique children can still arise; Goldson’s beautiful statement is a sure testament to that.