Archive | January, 2012

Super Bowl, Soda and Socialism

31 Jan

Did you know the NFL is a socialist organization?  I didn’t. Not until I watched the CBS 60 Minutes interview with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Sunday night.  To hear Commissioner Goodell tell it, in order to be a thriving, for profit capitalist venture, the NFL must follow some smart socialist principles like revenue sharing and government subsidies, otherwise, small markets like  Green Bay, Wisconsin would be shut out of the game. If the League and it’s 32 teams had to be completely self-funded, there’d be no “national” football league, but perhaps smaller regional leagues like the Oil & Gas League of Texas, the Corn & Soy League of Iowa, or the Internet Start-Up League of California.  Foreigners must think we’re all nuts. While our politicians are carpet bombing each other with accusations ranging from elitist to socialist,  our national spectacle, the Super Bowl, the richest single day sporting entertainment event in the world, is erecting statues not just to Brady and Manning, but to Marx.

I’ve never considered taking up Socialism before, but now, emboldened by the renaissance NFL executives, I’m thinking it may be the just the ticket to blocking and tackling another, though less appealing, national obsession, soda.  Ok, after you roll your eyes, take a guess on how much soda the average American drinks in a year.  Spot on. 450 gallons, or the roughly the amount it’d take to fill up a backyard kiddie pool. Now before Sarah Palin’s Smores SWAT team cuffs me, I’m not advocating that we Americans, capitalists and football fans alike, swear off soda, but I am pointing out that we have a big fat problem.

26 million Americans are obese or worse. 8 million of them are children. 30-40% of that population is  Type 2 diabetic or pre-diabetic, a long painful path. Work productivity is suffering, ADD is on the rise in schools, and air travel costs continue to inflate due to longer boarding times and investment in wider seats. Soda, along with other processed food accounts for 75-80% of the Standard American Diet (SAD).  Smack in the middle of the Team SAD’s huddle is the USDA.  Since the 1950’s this MVP has subsidized grain crops, mostly corn and soy, to the point that Team SAD no longer fields Veggies or Fruits.  Short of outfitting 8 million children with full face guard helmets, and with China’s western style appetites driving grain exports to an all time high, it’s about time we shift our farm subsidies to plants that can’t kill us.

Mark Bittman wrote a great Op-Ed piece in the NYTImes on July 23 last year entitled: “Bad Food? Tax It, and Subsidize Vegetables”. Look it up. And then let me know if you’ve joined the team. Hike.

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What’s the State of Your Union?

25 Jan

I know that for most people New Years Day is the literal annual starting line, but for me, a political sports fan, the State of the Union Address held each January is my self-imposed ready-set-go date. Though sometimes the speeches feel as (rhetorically) bloated as a  Paula Deen Glazed Donut Cheeseburger, I nonetheless emerge heartened by patriotism and a pull toward purposefulness.

I noticed that San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro was seated in the First Lady’s box for last night’s speech; a cool reason for his suddenly “being called away” from his “Fitness Council” kick-off meeting on Monday.  I’m keen to use my invitation to the Council to drive some real results in our community, and am glad to see the alliance with Mrs. POTUS and her ground breaking health initiatives.

I have much respect and appreciation for the First Lady and her initiative to put health, wellness, food, nutrition, and childhood obesity front and center in the U.S. .  She, by creation of the Let’s Move initiative, and it’s private arm, the Partnership for a Healthier America, has led the charge to combat the obesity/diabetes pandemic with real action. More than mere meetings that admire the problem, or work to create “more awareness and education” (my favorite political euphemism for doing absolutely nothing), Let’s Move and PHA are engaging the mega food industry–retailers, manufacturers, restaurants–to enhance the cleanliness of their products, and, to promote organic farming, and get fitness/exercise back into people’s lives.

Mayor Castro of San Antonio has adopted this mission in order to lead the city  to become one of the healthiest in the U.S. by 2020.  Great. Because the state of our healthy union has never been worse. Never. 30% of our population is obese or morbidly obese. 26 million people, or 8% of the population is diabetic. 70-80% of the what the average American eats is processed food. That means it was made in a plant, rather than coming from a plant. Reflect on your day for a moment. Eat anything fresh yet today? Are you working at your desk right now fueled on fake food?  Coffee and muffin for brekkie, fast food or chopped and formed deli meat sandwich served on white flour, corn syrup sweetened bread for lunch?  Diet Coke and cookie, or old, orange peanut butter vending machine crackers for afternoon snack?

What is the state of your union? The union that matters most, before freedom, liberty, family, finances or worship. Without health we have nothing. Our human state of health starts with how we respect our incredible union of mind, heart, legs and lungs. How we balance the food we eat, the amount we sleep and the water we drink.

How’s the state of your union? Check in, lace up and saddle up! It’s January 25. Time to get moving and write your 2012 “you-nion” address. 

Saving San Antonio: Interview in QSR Magazine

22 Jan

Food Sport Followers and local EZ’s Fans,

Here is some news about the good work that EZ’s Restaurants is engaged in…they’re saddling up to lead the charge on serving real food…fast!

January 17, 2012
INDUSTRY NEWS | January 17, 2012
Saving San Antonio
San Antonio has been named one of America’s fattest cities by the American Obesity Association. And with twice the national incidence of diabetes, there’s plenty to be concerned about.
But the city is starting to buck the trend, with some help from an unlikely hero: the quick-serve industry.
Suzy Monford recently became president of EZ’s Brick Oven & Grill, a fast-casual chain based in San Antonio known for serving high-end dishes and wine by the glass alongside burgers, pizzas, and shakes. Her mission is to switch to healthier ingredients whenever possible.
“The standard American diet is 75–80 percent processed foods, which means it’s been heavily refined,” Monford says. “Folks are obese because they’re not eating clean-label [foods].”
EZ’s rolled out a gluten-free bun for its veggie burgers and artisanal breakfast sandwiches, along with brown rice and whole grain pasta to accompany its entrées. The goal is to get rid of trans fats and GMOs, along with additives like MSG and corn syrup.
There are others joining, too. The Healthy Restaurants Coalition is an organization working to encourage restaurants to offer healthier dishes in the Alamo City.
Kathy Shields, who helped found the organization, says its biggest success to date has been the voluntary menu-labeling program called Pro Vida.
“The criteria that was established sets very specific limits on things like calories, fat, and sodium,” Shields says. “Many restaurants have come on board.”
Monford says her customers at EZ’s appreciate the menu changes, and she’s also making herself available to other restaurateurs to talk about how they can make changes on their own menus.
She says that as more restaurants strive to provide healthier options, sourcing quality ingredients becomes easier for everyone in the area.
“My first meetings with food men, all I heard was ‘no,’” she says. “I know to not accept that no. I’m hoping that other restaurateurs saddle up and begin to work with other food manufacturers and demand the best.”
San Antonio quick serves, Shields says, have a lot of work left to do. Pro Vida works for chains that already have healthy menu items, but Shields says her organization can’t do much for chains that don’t.
“The idea of having to create a new menu item is a little daunting, given that you do have to go through the corporate ladder to be able to do that,” Shields says.
Still, the success of the Pro Vida program shows that even big corporations might be ready to adapt; of the nearly 100 restaurants that have signed up for Pro Vida, the majority are McDonald’s units.
By Robert Lillegard

Food Trucks or Trucker Food?

22 Jan

Yesterday some friends and I drove (slightly) out of way to check out the new food truck lot  just off the HWY 281n in SA.  One of the gals had seen a blurb mentioning the new foodie venture on the web, and after logging a massive cycle class at the gym, a casual roadside refueling sounded spot on. Based on the growth of “real” food trucks in the area lately, spawned by the all too slow awakening in SA/So. Texas of lefty (lefty as in left side of the US, you know, like Ca.) trends like farmers markets and vegetarian cafes, we pretty much thought this new gathering would follow suit with a range of freshly prepared fresh. Yeah-no. While there were “pulled pork paninis” (btw, panino is actually the correct pluralization of panini) offered at the “gourmet pig” truck, the menus offered by the rest of the truckers ranged from fried moon pies, cupcakes, and fatty bbq brisket tacos on grocery store flour torts, to flat-top griddled burgers. Yes, there was a fish taco offer, and yes the shredded lettuce, avocado and sauce were flavourful, but fried frozen “white fish” strips do not a true taco make.

The picnic tables and area were clean, though some music or spunk of any kind would be welcome to enliven this as-yet-to-discover-themselves odd collection of trailers and trucks. The experience felt a bit like watching a not so good first date, and wanting to whisper in each of their ears to “lighten-up”!

So a word to the food truck-ers: if your aim is to ride the wave of this still newish food trend, be prepared to get fully wet. You can’t dip your toe in as the tide rises by assuming that any food sold in a truck will get the love and dollars that the real foodie truckers cultivate. If you’re really a fried moon pie trucker, then be proud and lease some space on the rodeo grounds next month. Yee-haw!