Author Archives: givingtable

Permalink to Paula Deen’s Missed Opportunity

Paula Deen’s Missed Opportunity

By now you may have heard the news that Paula Deen, reigning queen of Southern cuisine, has Type 2 Diabetes. Actually, she’s had the disease for the past three years, and chose to make the news public only recently after closing a deal with Novo Nordisk to be the spokeswoman for their drug, Victoza.

Articles have flooded the internet, and the backlash has been extreme. Paula claims she didn’t want to make this public until she had something to offer others in the same situation. But I have to wonder, is pushing a drug that only masks the problem the best use of her celebrity? Also, why hasn’t she been working to reverse the disease these past three years? It would have been far more powerful for her to announce that she privately beat the disease by changing her eating habits and lifestyle, and then emerged to show America how to do it by filming a healthy cooking show. Instead, she’s been hanging on by popping pills.  This is a huge missed opportunity.

One of her “healthy” recipes was floating around the internet this week, and I have to say, I’m actually pretty disappointed.  Paula Deen’s Healthy Chicken Recipe (via People)

Yes, when compared to her original recipe, I’m sure there is less sodium and fat, but it’s unfortunate that Paula still relies on processed foods like cream of mushroom soup and jarred mayonnaise. Albeit the “low sodium” soup and “light” mayonnaise, it’s still not as healthy as it could be. Processed foods are a large contributor to the health problems of this country, and the sooner people start removing them from their diets the better. I don’t always side with Anthony Bourdain’s snide remarks about people, but It turns out he was right when he called her “the most dangerous person in America” on Twitter last year.

Resources around the web:

Paula Deen: From Big Food to Big Pharma (Kristin Wartman)

Paula Deen: From Market to Pharmacy (Civil Eats)

Chef Has Diabetes and Some Say, ‘I Told You So‘ (New York Times)

Of Mouselike Bites and Marathons (Frank Bruni, New York Times)

Permalink to 2012 Food Resolutions

2012 Food Resolutions

What are you planning to do differently in 2012 that will help make an impact on our food system?

Since it’s the season of cleansing, organizing and setting some goals, it’s a good time to think about what some of your food resolutions might be for 2012. Hopefully you’ve taken a peek around the site, browsed through the blog, and learned more about the food system. To do some food good in the world, here are a few resolutions you might consider making:

  • Read at least two books about the food system. Knowledge is power, so kick off your shoes and snuggle up with a book that will help you learn more about our broken food system and the people who are trying to change it. Need a little inspiration? Check out our Reading Room! Need even more inspiration? Check back later this year to join The Giving Table Book Club (launch TBD)!
  • Participate in Meatless Monday. The factory farm industry isn’t treating the animals we eat with care. Supporting local farmers with grass fed beef is one way to help reduce demand for industrialized products. If everyone went meatless just one day per week, it would save 1.4 billion animals per year from life on a factory farm. Learn more in my recent blog post on the subject
  • Prepare more meals at home. Cooking at home with organic produce is a great way to limit your intake of processed foods, sodium and trans-fats. Your body will thank you. 
  • Shop at the Farmers’ Market at least once per month. Think of this as a leisure activity. With busy schedules, it might not be realistic to go every week, so pack up your family at least once per month and spend a couple of hours browsing stalls of fresh produce. Maybe pick up a vegetable you haven’t tried before! You can also join a CSA or farm fresh delivery service.
  • Stay informed. Sign up for a newsletter that will keep you informed about happenings in the food industry, such as Food Democracy Now or Civil Eats
  • Designate funding to organizations fighting hunger. It doesn’t have to be a lot (just $1 can help connect a child to up to 10 nutritious meals through Share Our Strength), and every little bit helps. If you have the capacity, consider a small monthly gift to an organization helping to alleviate hunger and poverty in the US or abroad. Visit our Giving page to find an organization that suits your needs.


Permalink to News Plate 1.6.12

News Plate 1.6.12

Your weekly roundup of food news is back for 2012! | Here are a few stories you may have missed over the holidays.

Mark Bittman reminds us that “no one is born craving Froot Loops,” and how food marketing is taking its toll on America’s children (12.11.11)
More undercover investigative work, this time at Butterball Turkey farms
The CDC was very busy in 2011. A roundup of the year’s biggest food outbreak reports.
Action Against Hunger reports that without mitigation strategies, the number of undernourished is estimated to rise by 24 million by 2050. (11.29.11)
Some tips on how to reduce your food waste during the holiday season via Civil Eats (12.9.11)
Farm Bill Hackathon winners visualize broad set of food and agricultural issues (12.5.11)
The UN reports that food prices will likely decline in 2012. (1.4.12)
Harvard dispels the myth that milk is our only source of calcium (1.3.12)

Permalink to Farm Bill Hackathon

Farm Bill Hackathon

Earlier this month, Food & Tech Connect brought together 120 people in-person and virtually to participate in a “hackathon” for the Farm Bill. During a 12-hour period, teams brainstormed new tools and visual aids to educate the public about the farm bill and related food issues.

First prize went to “FARM BILL of Health.” You can view the presentation below. It simplifies Farm Bill spending by showing how the government disproportionately subsidizes the foods it recommends to the public in its new MyPlate food pyramid.

Facts shared from the presentation:
  • $72 billions dollars is spent every year on food-related illnesses (e.g. diabetes, obesity, cancer)
  • $33.1 billion spent on commodity crops (e.g. corn, soy, wheat)
  • 4.3 billion spent on specialty crops (e.g. fruits, vegetables, nuts)

Permalink to Coupons for Hunger

Coupons for Hunger

When it comes to shopping at grocery stores, there’s the path that most of us tread, and then there are couponers. And I don’t mean just bringing one or two coupons from the weeks mailer. I mean extreme couponers. People who treat couponing like a part or full-time job, spend hours in the grocery store at a time, and reduce hundreds of dollars into pocket change at the cash register.  Maybe you’ve seen the TLC show that chronicles this experience.

I usually balk at most extreme couponing because it seems somewhat unnecessary. I don’t have problems with coupons for items I would actually use, like dried pasta, beans or certain canned vegetables, but who needs 300 deodorant sticks or 150 bottles of ketchup? I don’t care if they’re free or close to free, it’s just excess.

Just as I was about to stop recording the show on my DVR, a recent episode profiled two couponers doing good with their purchases. One woman enlisted her entire community by setting up a coupon station at the front of the store. Her and her family handed out coupons to shoppers for them to pick up one or two items at a time. Because of her diligence and organization, these items were free at the register and didn’t cost the shopper any additional money. All items were collected at shoppers exited and were donated to the local food bank.

You may not have to be an extreme couponer to utilize this system, either. The next time you’re sifting through the Sunday paper, clip a couple of coupons for items that you can donate to your local food bank. Depending on the coupon, the item you buy may be free or very close to it. Even if you spend a little out-of-pocket, using coupons to help others is an easy way to give back this season.

Permalink to News Plate 12.10.11

News Plate 12.10.11

Your weekly roundup of food news.

New York Times: Surge in free lunches reflects economic crisis (11/30/11)
15 benefits of shopping at your local farmer’s market
According to Forbes, 93% of Americans want GMO foods labeled (12/1/11)
Humane Society | Smithfield Foods recommits to phase-out of gestation crates by 2017

Permalink to Food, Politics and Wendell Berry

Food, Politics and Wendell Berry

Politics is one of those contentious topics most people don’t like arguing about. But regardless of party affiliation, the food we eat is becoming increases singly political topic. A recent blog post by Slow Food USA puts this issue front and center:

“Changing food and farming is political (not to be confused with partisan)—and by that we mean it has to do with issues of power and inequality. It raises questions about who controls our infrastructure and who has limited choices because of it, who defines the dominant culture (fast food vs. slow food, diverse or not?), who stays well-nourished and who is hungry or suffering from a diet-related disease.

The reality is that industrial agribusiness and government policies have more control over what farmers grow and what we eat than we do! Basta ya! Over the past decade, we’ve started to take back the power one meal, one non-GMO crop, one Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program at a time. But we’re fighting a continuous uphill battle—and it isn’t right. This is our moment to level the field, to change the food system from our plates to our policies.”

While digesting this concept, I also simultaneously read some of Wendell Berry’s beautiful essay, “The Pleasures of Eating.”

“I begin with the proposition that eating is an agricultural act. Eating ends the annual drama of the food economy that begins with planting and birth. Most eaters, however, are no longer aware that this is true. They think of food as an agricultural product, perhaps, but they do not think of themselves as participants in agriculture. They think of themselves as “consumers.” If they think beyond that, they recognize that they are passive consumers. They buy what they want — or what they have been persuaded to want — within the limits of what they can get. They pay, mostly without protest, what they are charged. And they mostly ignore certain critical questions about the quality and the cost of what they are sold: How fresh is it? How pure or clean is it, how free of dangerous chemicals? How far was it transported, and what did transportation add to the cost? How much did manufacturing or packaging or advertising add to the cost? When the food product has been manufactured or “processed” or “precooked,” how has that affected its quality or price or nutritional value?”

If eating is an agricultural act and the government controls most agricultural policies in this country, then there’s no getting around the fact that food is political. We can no longer be the “passive consumers” Berry writes of. Instead, we must pay attention, engage and make choices that support the the food future we want. Sometimes the phrase “vote with your fork” can seem meaningless. Does it really matter which eggs I buy or if the spinach is local? It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your small actions don’t matter, but they do.

Permalink to The Price of a Tomato

The Price of a Tomato

How much does a tomato cost? $1.29 a pound? More? Less? What if the true cost of a tomato weren’t measured in change at the check-out counter but in the health of a farm worker who lives in deplorable conditions in order to ensure that tomatoes are stocked in your local grocery store year-round?

In many parts of the United States, we have access to fruits and vegetables year-round, regardless of seasonality. This means that many Americans will add a rubber band-wrapped bunch of green stems to their cart well into November or December (the growing season for asparagus peaks in April and May).

Ask any chef, foodie, blogger or competent home cook and they’ll likely tell you that the best tomatoes are found in August and September, period. But something disturbing has happened to America’s tomato industry that until recently, was not often in media stories or minds of the modern consumer. Besides, who really wants to know that the modern tomato contains 14 times more sodium than its 1960s counterpart?

read more »

Permalink to Gratitude and Giving Back

Gratitude and Giving Back


This is the season for giving. And while I believe that our generosity should extend throughout the year, this is the time when we all band together and do the most good in the shortest amount of time. It’s a season of reflection, of taking stock of the year, setting new goals and relishing in time spent with friends and family. I have much to be thankful for this year.

I am incredibly grateful for your support of The Giving Table during its debut these past two months. You have sent me kind emails, you are enthusiastically joining the conversation on the blog and your participation only confirms in my soul the need for this website. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.


I have a little giving project to share with you this month. You may be aware that I’ve run a food blog for almost four years. This past September, I launched The Meal Planner, a weekly menu-planning journal to make your life in the kitchen a little easier. The genesis of this product began with my own needs. I used a blank notebook for years and realized that nothing on the market existed to fulfill this purpose in my life. So, The Meal Planner was born.

I use it almost daily, so I believe in the product. I designed it for myself first, and many of my readers have recognized its value. For this, I am quite grateful and remain passionate about what meal planning can accomplish in our busy lives.

In the spirit of giving this season, I will donate $1 of each Meal Planner sold in the month of December to Share our Strength. I feel that a collaboration between my blog and The Giving Table is well-timed. The Meal Planner would make an excellent gift this time of year and sits at the ready to help you keep a resolution of meal planning, eating well and giving yourself some time back in 2012. Share our Strength is doing important work to eliminate childhood hunger, and it would be an honor for me to share my modest proceeds from The Meal Planner with such a worthy organization.

I’ll be making follow-up announcements on Twitter and Facebook, but please consider giving yourself, friends and family the gift of kitchen organization this year, and know that you will be helping a great cause in the process.

To learn more about The Meal Planner and review FAQs, visit my blog.

To purchase The Meal Planner, visit my bookshelf on Blurb.

Permalink to Animal Welfare and the Revolution of Meatless Mondays

Animal Welfare and the Revolution of Meatless Mondays

“Our generation should be able to look back and say we took the side of the vulnerable.”

-Paul Shapiro, Humane Society

On November 12th I attended “Ethics and Your Plate,” an inspiring seminar at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History sponsored by Go Vegan Santa Barbara and the National Museum of Animals and Society. The speakers brought a range of expertise on matters of animal welfare, factory farms and sustainable agriculture. Fresh off feeling somewhat melancholy that all we seem to be doing is preach to the choir, I left feeling newly inspired about what we can accomplish together to change the food system.

Paul Shapiro from the Humane Society spoke about animal welfare and gave an overview of animal rights in this country. Pets in the U.S. have a certain amount of legal protection, with several states making abuse of animals a punishable crime. Farm animals, on the other hand, have almost no legal protection whatsoever. This makes them vulnerable to a host of unacceptable abuses.

Interestingly, he cited a survey conducted by the American Farm Bureau in Oklahoma where results showed that Americans care deeply about the way the animals they eat are treated during their lives (e.g. 95% said it is important that animals are well cared for; 75% would vote for laws requiring better treatment). Unfortunately, there is a disconnect between the way we feel and how we shop for our meat. The reason? Consumers simply don’t know what they’re eating and what takes place at factory farms.

Paul, a committed vegan, is interested in “common ground campaigns,” or issues that vegans, vegetarians and omnivores alike can come together and agree on. He cited 1) banning factory farm practices and 2) reducing the number of animals raised and killed as the two campaigns to pursue to do the most good.

Progress has already been made on many states, but he spent some time recalling the 2008 Prop 2 campaign in California which required animals to have basic human rights including the ability to lie down, turn around and extend their legs. People from all walks of life came together that year to support animal rights. Religious leaders, public health workers, vegans and meat eaters, all believed that our animals deserved better. The proposition passed by a 63% vote, the largest majority than any other state initiative to date.

I was able to speak with Paul after his presentation and he told me that he felt the Meatless Monday campaign is one of the best ways to promote change in our food system. But it can’t only be in our individual homes. Meatless Monday needs to take hold at an institutional level, so that means corporate cafeterias, school lunch rooms and restaurants should collectively promote this effort which would ensure that millions of Americans have at least one meat-free day per week, saving approximately 1.4 billion animals per year from a life on factory farms.

I appreciated his optimism and practical application to an overwhelming topic. I immediately felt more confident not only in my own food choices, but in the possibility to significantly reduce the practice of factory farming in this country. Following are a few more facts from the day you may find interesting

  • North Carolina is the second largest pig producer in the country, but you could drive through the entire state without seeing a pig due to factory farm practices.
  • 1 million animals are slaughtered every hour in the United States; 10 billion are slaughtered each year
  • Due to feed and waste automation, the average amount of time a pig experiences human contact per day is 8 seconds
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Food for Thought

"To care about food but not food production is clearly absurd." // Wendell Berry

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