The Best TED Talks on Food Systems, Nutrition, and Public Health

Surely a sign of progress, there are now an abundance of TED talks that explore food, nutrition, and public health. Below are my very favorites — a collection of videos that I consider informative, important, and incredibly fascinating! If you have a favorite TED talk that’s not listed here, send me a link in the comments below.

PART I: PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTHY FOOD ENVIRONMENTS

How an Obese Town Lost a Million Pounds (Mick Cornett)

I just got back from OKC this week after visiting a college roommate, so this Midwestern town is fresh on my mind. Regardless of whether or not you’ve ever been to the Sooner state, you’ll definitely be inspired by this talk from current mayor Mick Cornett. Equal parts entertaining and inspiring, this story highlights how city planners and public health professionals can play an important role in fighting the obesity epidemic, and shows how important a walkable environment is in promoting health.

Teach Every Child about Food (Jamie Oliver)

Oliver has gained a well-deserved reputation as a tireless advocate for childhood obesity prevention. In this talk, Oliver explains just how important improving nutrition is to our children, and just how serious of a problem the American food environment has become. Our kids deserve better than this, and Oliver explains why.

How We Can Eat Our Landscapes (Pam Warhurst)

In this delightful and motivational story, Warhurst describes how a grassroots volunteer gardening movement is creating a supportive framework for the local food economy. Her talk celebrates the small actions of the community, and highlights the importance of edible landscapes.

PART II: WHY ORGANICS ARE IMPORTANT

From Fabels to Labels (Urvashi Rangan)

Identifying healthy products at the supermarket can be a challenge, especially when packages tout a variety of health claims and nutrition buzzwords. In this talk, Rangan explains which food claims and labels are more credible than others, and also makes an excellent case for supporting organics.

Why is Organic Food so *#@! Expensive? (Ali Partovi)

If the previous talk didn’t convince you of the importance of organic farming systems, this one surely will. Tech giant Partovi dispels a lot of myths surrounding organic food and industrial agriculture. This talk is a must for anyone that thinks that organic farming is expensive and inefficient, and that industrial agriculture is necessary to feed the world.

PART III: SUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEMS AND FOOD POLICY

How I Fell in Love with a Fish (Dan Barber)

Sustainable food enthusiasts and seafood lovers alike will enjoy this engaging talk from Chef Dan Barber, which explores the sustainability of farmed fish. If you enjoyed Barber, be sure to check out his other TED talk about ethical foi gras. Or, if you’d like to learn more about sustainable seafood, be sure to check out this TED talk from chef and National Geographic Fellow Barton Seaver.

Turning the Farm Bill into a Food Bill (Ken Cook)

A new farm bill has passed since this 2011 talk first aired, but many of the points remain relevant. Cook explains how, despite the growing demand for responsibly produced food, government programs and legislation still favor industrial agriculture and the profits of a few food giants over family farms and public health.

Hungry for more? Check out the line-up from the TedxManhattan conferences (here are 2015 and 2014 to get you started) which are focused on “Changing the Way We Eat,” and are the sources of many of the videos above. The TED website also has a “What’s Wrong with What We Eat?” video playlist, a “Talks for Foodies” video playlist, and a “Plantastic!” video playlist. Additionally, Netflix offers a bundle of food related TED talks, in a collection called “Chew on This.”

– Kelly

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Voting for Nutrition: Find out Which Politicians are Supporting Healthy Food

Aligning my food choices with my priorities is one of my nearest and dearest causes, but voting with your fork can only get you so far. That’s why it’s important to elect representatives that will be champions of good food policy. To keep track of which elected officials are supporting nutrition programs, hunger alleviation, and responsible farming, it takes a score sheet. Luckily, Food Policy Action did the hard part for you.

According to Food Policy Action,

“Our mission is to highlight the importance of food policy and to promote policies that support healthy diets, reduce hunger at home and abroad, improve food access and affordability, uphold the rights and dignity of food and farm workers, increase transparency, improve public health, reduce the risk of food-borne illness, support local and regional food systems, protect and maintain sustainable fisheries, treat farm animals humanely and reduce the environmental impact of farming and food production.”

Food Policy Action produces a scorecard on how each Senator and House member votes on various food issues.

Food Policy Action

 

You can search by state, zip code, or the name of the politician.

Food Policy Action

So far, the scores are all over the place. In the 2013 Food Policy Scorecard, 73 House members and 14 Senators scored a perfect 100%! That means that these 87 politicians consistently championed good food policies (including issues of nutrition, conservation, and hunger) EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Unfortunately, there are also some failures. In 2013, 28 House members and 10 Senators scored a 0%, meaning they voted against policies that support food access, healthy diets, and local food systems.

Are your elected officials champions of good food? Find out here.

– Kelly

Female Food Heroes: 9 Women Shaking Up our Food System

1. Michelle Obama

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Through the “Let’s Move” Initiative, First Lady Michelle Obama has been a relentless voice in championing healthy habits. It is inspiring to see one of the most public figures in America devote herself to such a noble cause, addressing not only the American public, but the food industry as well. I am particularly impressed by her September 18th address on food marketing to children (check it out here).

2. Marion Nestle

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Marion Nestle is my absolute favorite voice in the nutrition and food systems arena. While not a Registered Dietitian, this NYU nutrition professor and public health expert has a no-nonsense interpretation of nutrition science that simply can’t be argued with. Her bluntness is refreshing, and she has no problem pointing fingers when talking about the culprits of obesity. Marion Nestle has written several insightful books, and I am completely addicted to her blog, foodpolitics.com.

3. Kathleen Marrigan

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Kathleen Marrigan has been a champion of organic and local foods from the very beginning. In fact, her MIT dissertation became the basis of the 1990 Organic Foods Production Act. In 2010, Time Magazine named Kathleen Marrigan as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.  She has held various positions for the US Department of Agriculture throughout her career, including most recently the Deputy Secretary (a post from which she retired in March of 2013). During her time there, she managed the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, and worked tirelessly to strengthen the American food system. Oh yea, and she’s a longhorn (hook ’em!).

4. Frances Moore Lappe

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In 1971, 27 year old Frances Moore Lappe wrote the book on sustainable diets. Literally. In Diet for a Small Planet, she made made waves by re-framing world hunger as a problem of distribution, not a problem of production. Since then, she has authored or co-authored 17 other books related to world hunger and living democracies, and has co-founded 3 organizations (Food First, the Small Planet Institute, and the Small Planet Fund). Her enthusiasm has been an inspiration to numerous activists over the years, and I am proud to be a new member of the Small Planet Institute team.

5. Anna Lappe

Anna-Lappe

Anna Blythe Lappe is the daughter of Frances Moore Lappe, and was also a co-founder of the Small Planet Institute. Anna has written multiple books, including the recent publication, Diet for a Hot Planet. She is also an advocate for “real food” and sustainable food systems (causes near and dear to my heart!) Check out her TED talk on food marketing to children here.

6. Alice Waters

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When people search for the beginning of the local food revolution, many people point to Chef Alice Waters. Since the 1971 opening of Chez Panisse, Alice Waters has shown consumers the magic of local, seasonal food, as well as helping chefs and other members of the food system see that eating locally and seasonally is not only possible, but profitable as well. In 1996 Alice expanded her reach into children’s food and nutrition education by founding the Edible Schoolyard Project.

7. Ann Cooper

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Chef Ann Cooper, aka the Renegade Lunch Lady, is working hard to show our kids what healthy, delicious food looks like. Reforming the National School lunch program is a HUGE challenge! (I would know, I spent 6 weeks managing an elementary school cafeteria). So I applaud Ann for acting not only as a role model in her own school district, but as a consultant and advocate as well.

8. Ellie Krieger

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“To get people to eat well, don’t say a word about health. Just cook fantastic food for them”- Ellie Krieger

Ellie Krieger is a Registered Dietitian, television chef, James Beard Award winning cookbook author, and consultant to Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” anti-obesity initiative. With her recipes, Ellie Krieger proves that healthy eating is not a punishment, and that choosing health does not mean sacrificing taste. It’s exciting to see RDs become public figures and have the opportunity to model healthy behaviors!

9. Vandana Shiva

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Located in India, Dr. Vandana Shiva is a world renowned expert on agriculture and food systems. She started started research and advocacy organization Navdanya “to protect biodiversity, defend farmers’ rights and promote organic farming”. A relentless advocate for environmental activism and biodiversity, Dr. Vandana Shiva has also authored numerous books.

That’s my list! I would have loved to feature 10 women (because 10 is a nice, even number) but these were the main ones that came to mind. Any ideas?

– Kelly

P.S. For photo credits, click the image.

True Food Kitchen: This RD approves!

This summer I spent a week in Phoenix, Arizona with my family. Not only was I able to read, swim, and spend some much-needed quality time with my family, but I was also able to finally eat at True Food Kitchen!

True Food Kitchen

^^The airy, trendy atmosphere was definitely a seller. Image via Fox Restaurant Concepts.

True Food Kitchen serves up “globally inspired cuisine” at its 6 different locations (all in the Southwestern United States). The basis of the menu is Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet, but don’t let that scare you off. From Spaghetti Squash Casserole with Fresh Mozzerella, Organic Tomatoes, and Zucchini to Grass Fed Steak Street Tacos with Avocado, Cojita Cheese, Tomotillo Salsa, Sour Cream and Anasazi Beans, these menu items are nothing short of spectacular.

True Food Kitchen

^^ Watermelon & Heirloom Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese, Basil, Cashews, and Olive Oil. Quite possibly my very favorite item on the menu!

Restaurants are usually a minefield of hidden fat and calories, devoid of nutrient rich fruits and vegetables. While True Food Kitchen does not post nutrition information (and some dishes do seem to be calorically dense), there is no doubt that the menu items available are extremely nutrient rich. I also love that vegetables are considered to be the main event, rather than an afterthought.

True Food Kitchen

^^ Tuscan Kale Salad with Lemon, Parmesan, Breadcrumbs, and Grilled Steelhead Salmon

Over the course of my trip, I went to True Food Kitchen 3 different times, and let me just say that 3 times was not nearly enough! Between my family and I, I got to sample:

  • Quinoa Johnny Cakes with Blueberries, Greek Yogurt, and Maple Syrup
  • Street Tacos with Grass Fed Steak
  • Tuscan Kale Salad with Grilled Steelhead Salmon
  • Spaghetti Squash Casserole with Fresh Mozzerella, Organic Tomatoes, and Zucchini
  • Red Chili Shrimp with Sesame Noodles
  • Heirloom Tomato & Watermelon Salad
  • Flourless Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream
  • Nectarine and Blueberry Tart with Greek Yogurt Ice Cream

YUM!

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Don’t live in the Southwestern United States? No problem! Lately I have been getting my True Food fix at home, courtesy of the True Food Cookbook (pictured above). This cookbook is filled with seasonal recipes from the restaurant, as well as the most gorgeous photography I have ever seen.

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^^ My rendition of the Chicken and Farro salad, via Instagram

Have you ever been to True Food Kitchen? Do you know of similar restaurants on the east coast? Do tell!

– Kelly

Sustainable Aquaculture Interview with Fishmonger and Gastronomy Student Noel Bielaczyc

New Deal Fish Market

This week I met up with fishmonger and fellow Gastronomy student Noel Bielaczyc at his place of work, New Deal Fish Market (622 Cambridge St). Noel gave me the inside scoop on sustainable aquaculture, and also expanded my knowledge on the different varieties of fish available. Check out the interview below…

New Deal Fish Market

Kelly: How did you first get interested in seafood and aquaculture?

Noel: When I moved to Ann Arbor for college, I saw a fish market and I knew I wanted to work there. I love fishing and the water, so it’s a natural mix of interests.

K: Can you tell me a bit about organic seafood certification and how valuable that is?

N: I’m kind of skeptical about the organic seafood label. It only applies to farm raised fish and just means that plant portion of their feed (soybeans, corn, etc.) was organically raised. But fish like salmon are primarily carnivores, so how can you say that the fishmeal (wild anchovies, sardines, etc.) component of their diet is organic? This label only makes sense for fish that can be raised on an entirely vegetarian diet, like tilapia and catfish. Your best bet is to look for wild, domestic seafood.

K: Can fish be farmed sustainably, and if so, how would we know?

N: I have heard of a few cases of fish being farmed sustainably, but that is not the majority of the farmed fish on the market. It can be done well, but it’s not enough to feed the world.  Because salmon are carnivores, you must catch fish to grow fish, which leads to a net loss. [Salmon farms] are not really doing anything to increase supply.

K: How can consumers help support a sustainable aquaculture system?

N: If the only fish you eat are shrimp, cod, and salmon, you’re missing the point. If you want to be a responsible seafood consumer, you’ve got to branch out. Additionally, shellfish is some of the best stuff you can get. Shellfish aquaculture (like clams, mussels, or oysters) is almost like planting seeds, and it’s not nearly as intensive as salmon farming.

K: A February 2013 New York Times article reported that approximately 1/3 of the fish on the market are mislabeled. How can consumers avoid getting duped? Is there anything that should raise red flags?

N: You are most likely to run into that [deception] at a restaurant, because there’s less seafood expertise, the supply chain is longer, and there’s lots of pressure to control costs. If you are eating an $8.99 platter of scallops, snapper, and haddock, there’s a good chance it might not be what you think it is. [In order to avoid getting duped,] find a fish market you trust and fishmongers you can develop a relationship with. Over 80% of our seafood is imported, so one of the safest things you can do is buy domestic seafood whenever possible.

K: Do you know of any restaurants in Boston that source fish responsibly?

N: Bergamont gets their fish from us, and they do a really great job. East by Northeast buys from us as well. I’m sure Legal Seafoods is doing something right, but I’m not really sure what their practices are. Smaller, independent places are going to be your best bet.

K: Many home cooks are intimidated by the prospect of cooking fish. Any tips?

N: The most important thing to remember is that it’s actually quicker than cooking almost anything else. Let your fishmonger do the dirty work (scaling, gutting, filleting…)! My favorite way to eat fish in the summer is actually raw. Just throw together some dry scallops, good olive oil, onions, and grapefruit juice, and you’ve got yourself a beautiful crudo. If you are unsure about which fish can be eaten raw, you have to ask, and not all fish markets are like that.

New Deal Fish Market

Looking for the best catch in Boston? Then visit the team at New Deal Seafood! Noel helped me pick out some excellent Striped Bass from right here in Massachusetts. Do you have a favorite type of seafood to cook? Do tell!

– Kelly

Sustainable Aquaculture Video and Book Recommendations

Despite the fact that many species of fish are endangered and over-fished, seafood has been gaining attention as a potential solution to feed a growing population. Coming up on the blog I have an interview with a local fishmonger and fellow gastronomy student who knows a thing or two about responsible aquaculture. Until then, here a few video and book recommendations to tie you over…

Sustainable Aquaculture Video Recommendations:

To learn more about the pros and cons of farmed fish, check out this entertaining TED talk from witty Chef Dan Barber.

Since moving to Boston, I have had the pleasure of seeing Chef and National Geographic Fellow Barton Seaver speak twice at various events. In the TED talk below, hear his take on the sustainable seafood movement.

Sustainable Aquaculture Book Recommendations:

sustainable aquaculture book & video recommendations

In Four Fish, author Paul Greenberg focuses on America’s four favorite fish (salmon, seabass, cod, and tuna) to explain how aquaculture morphed into it’s current state, and offers suggestions to set us on a more sustainable path.

Sustainable Aquaculture Video & Book Recommendations

The Perfect Protein, by Andy Sharpless, is a relatively new release (May 2013) that explores the role of seafood in feeding our growing population. With a foreword written by former President Bill Clinton, this pick has been getting lots of buzz.

Sustainable Aquaculture Video & Book recommendations

If you enjoyed Barton Seaver’s TED talk above, then check out his first cookbook, For Cod and Country.

Check back soon for the interview!

– Kelly