Month: August 2018

Fancy a “sidewalk” talk?

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In the Autumn of 2014, two San Francisco therapists shared a vision: to help heal that which divides us through the fine art of skilled listening. They gathered 26 of their colleagues, practiced listening skills and came up with a curriculum and model for listening on the sidewalks together.

On May 7th 2015, for 2 hours in 12 locations throughout San Francisco, listeners set up chairs and signs, offering to listen to any passer-by who wanted to be seen and heard.  The result was amazing.  And soon after a group from Los Angeles asked if they could reproduce it.  There was never an intention for this thing to grow.  Every person met at Sidewalk Talk is just like you, someone who believes that human connection is the way to create healthy humans, healthy politics, and a healthy world.

Today Sidewalk Talk has 1700 volunteers world-wide. They have groups in 40 cities around the globe. They have grown but remain grassroots by design.  The focus is creating an active, engaged community of volunteers who commit to a regular listening practice and who connect with each other, not just the people they listen to.

Is this a way to gather not only people’s thoughts and opinions, but also raise the important of what the man on the “sidewalk” has to say? Would this work in our communities? Worth a thought!

A Ticking Timebomb?

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China was the Global Nutrition Report’s star performer. It was one of only two countries (the other being South Korea) that posted levels of stunting, women’s anaemia and overweight adults that were all below indications of a very serious public health risk.

China’s numbers are staggering. In the past 10 years GDP per capita has tripled, mortality rates for the under-fives have declined from 37 per 1,000 to 14, and the percentage of the under-fives who are short for their age has declined from 22% to 9%.

But how long will China remain the star performer?

Of great concern in the future are the rapid increases in overweight and obesity in China. While the rates of overweight adults in China are less than half the rates of the UK (and the rates of obesity are about a fifth of the UK’s), the rates for children less than 20 years of age are much closer.

It is this body-mass time bomb that is the most worrying aspect of China’s nutrition status. High body-mass is a risk factor for a range of diseases such as diabetes and some forms of heart disease.

Will we see UK–level rates of obesity in these adults in China in 15 years’ time?

But it is not too late. China has the opportunity and the means to show the rest of the world how to slow and reverse the apparent tsunami of obesity. It has the opportunity because the problem is not yet unmanageable and its economy is strong. This generates policy possibilities. It has the means, because of the strong ability of the state to shape the environment to make healthy choices easier and more likely.

And make no mistake about it  the world needs China to succeed. Obese people tend to consume more of the types of foods that have a higher carbon footprint such as meat, sugar and dairy. There are diets  vegetarian, Mediterranean and pescetarian for example  that are healthier for the planet and for humans. China needs to draw on traditional eating habits and move towards its own 21st century version of a healthier diet  we all have a stake in that.

 

The 100-Mile Diet.

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Following our look at whether local food is “better,” read about a Canadian couple who experimented with this approach….

When Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon learned that the average ingredient in a North American meal travels 1,500 miles from farm to plate, they decided to launch a simple experiment to reconnect with the people and places that produced what they ate. For one year, they would only consume food that came from within a 100-mile radius of their Vancouver apartment. The 100-Mile Diet was born.

The concept of the 100-mile diet forces a mental shift from eating globally to think more locally to ensure everything you eat is within a 100 mile radius of your table. Though going cold turkey into eating within such a restricted geographical region may not be for everyone you can start with a single family meal. This forces you to research and explore what’s actually grown close to your home and you’ll begin to appreciate not only the bounty of your local region, but the major implications of eating foods from around the world.

Choosing to consume food that is produced within 100 miles of your home comes with all of the benefits of local, seasonal eating: more flavourful foods, smaller environmental footprint, better health, and support for local farmers.

Alisa and James admit that finding local food sources took a lot of time.  Very little in a supermarket can be traced to where all the ingredients come from and many of the products contain oils, sugar or seasonings that have travelled vast distances.  So they set about finding just who did produce food in the Vancouver area. Unsurprisingly, one of the biggest challenges was finding carbohydrates during the ‘hungry gap’ before the new season’s harvest began – rice, pasta and bread were all unavailable leaving only potatoes.  Between them they lost 15 pounds in six weeks and were forced to loosen the rules slightly to include locally milled flour from grain that at least came from Canada. Summertime made life a little easier, with plentiful Farmer’s Markets a wealth of local foods. This did lead to its own problems though – many hours spent preserving foods for the long Canadian winter.

Is the 100 mile diet one that is realistic for your average person leading a busy life?  No, but it was never intended to be.  Alisa and James set themselves a high challenge to discover what the real issues with local food sourcing were.  In the process they did much more, attracting a world-wide audience and making a bold political statement.  This has led some people to label local food as the ‘new organic’ – something that seems to be at odds with the founder’s values which were very much attuned to sustainable organic food production.  However, local food sourcing is deservedly gaining attention and the 100 mile diet certainly struck a chord with many who believe in sustainable production.