The Restaurant “Scene” in DC

We have eaten at a lot of restaurants in our lifetime, be it in NYC or other places around the world. I wouldn’t call us picky or high rollers, but we definitely know what we like. After moving to DC, we were less inspired to go out so much. Instead, we (my better half) cooked a lot more, and I would argue better than what you get at restaurants.

But go out we did, and below is where we went, and what we thought of the food (1 to 5 * with ***** being the best). We haven’t tried all the hot spots (a few) and were often confined to our nabe, that being Capitol Hill. We would agree with many critics that DC seems to be obsessed with the “small plate” sharing thing. Not our thing. Also obsessed with making reservations or waiting in long lines. Again, not our thing. Maybe 2016 will show some new trends beyond bland ramen, overly fried chicken, and fancy tacos. Let’s hope.

  • Bens Chili Bowl—June—(***) classic joint in chocolate city, if you like hotdogs and chili, playing soul music.
  • El Centro DF—June, Dec—(***)—decent hip Mexican/Tequila bar on 14th street. went there again in december and thought it sort of sucked.
  • Satellite Room (next to 930 club)—July—(***)—standard American bar food
  • ShopHouse—July—(***)—good for lunch, got it to go on train
  • Nooshi—July—(***) ok sushi, kinda funky vibe
  • Hank’s Oyster Bar—July—(****) don’t remember much, except lots of kids. sort of expensive for mainly fried seafood. lobster sandwich is good. Been there now a few times.
  • District Taco—July Sept, Oct etc—(****) good for lunch (i went once or twice).  lots of salsa options. good red sauce on burritos
  • Sanphan Thai—Aug— (***) salty + oily + spicy but not in such a flavorful way
  • Capitol Sushi—Aug—(*****) great small local sushi restaurant; great omakasi ($50). Been there several times.
Uni at Sushi Capitol

Uni at Capitol Sushi. Yum.

  • La Lomita II—Aug—(***) dated + kitschy, standard mex
  • Ocopa—Aug—(**) peruvian place on H (near RnR hotel), decent food (tuna ceviche and pollo dish good) but service terrible, outside space with bar
  • Cava Mezze—Aug—(***) good neuvo greek food, tapas style. went there again in Nov and didn’t like it as much – went from 4 to 3 stars.
  • Busboys & Poets— Sept—(***) ok food, interesting vibe
  • Impala— Sept—(***) decent Mexican food (tho not very spicy) in cool outdoor space, went there before Algiers
  • Eat the Rich—Sept—(***) ok oysters + bar snacks ate there before JAMC
  • Rose’s Luxury—Oct—(***)  just okay. pretty overhyped. small dishes without a ton of flavor, a sweet pasta. not sure why it is rated #1 in DC…
  • Osteria Morini —Oct—(****) pretty decent italian food on the water near Navy Yard. Nice space, and imagine that summer outside would be nice. had a good burrata.
  • Barcelona—Dec—(***) close to black cat (saw all them witches after). good tapas style food. their bread is the bomb. wine and beer really reasonable.
  • El Chucho—Dec—(**) taqueria mainly in columbia heights. I wouldn’t go back there again but pretty decent food. guacamole and salsa weren’t mind blowing.
  • Toki Underground—Dec—(****) pretty decent ramen in a relaxed atmosphere. Nothing on par with ramen on japan, but decent. not sure what the hype is…maybe 3 stars in NY but 4 in DC.
Toki Underground 2.JPG

Toki Underground on H Street

  • Acqua Al 2—Dec—(***1/2) Nice atmosphere. Good vegetarian pastas. My fusili con carciofi was delicious. Bread and service were good too. Good nabe italian place. Wouldn’t come here if not living in CH.
  • Le Diplomate—Dec—(****) Beautiful french brasserie atmosphere. Good food, not such great service. I had lobster risotto, derek had steak frite. Not sure it is any better than your typical NY french restaurant.
  • Fiola Mare—Dec—(*****) Went here for our anniversary dinner. In Georgetown. Had a special menu for Xmas eve 5 course seafood. All was very good and they gave us many treats to celebrate our anniversary (prosecco, dessert and some cocoa to take home).
  • Rasika—Dec—(***) Supposedly the best Indian. We had vegetarian, so maybe that was the problem. Pretty fancy place…and not sure what the hype is all about.
  • Oyamel—Dec—(****) Very good, and pretty authentic mexican food in penn quarter. homemade tortillas and guac were excellent, and so was the queso fundido. All tapa style.
Posted in culture, DC, eating, restaurants, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly…and then some.

The Good

Remember that scene in American Beauty when the intense, borderline-creepy, documentarian-obsessed teen is showing his girlfriend a video of a plastic bag blowing in the wind, and marvels about how beautiful it is? He says: “… And I need to remember… Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world I feel like I can’t take it, like my heart’s going to cave in.” As 2015 draws to a close, I had to rack my brain to remind myself of the beauty that remains in the world, and what positive permanence it brings to my own life, and even more so, our global citizenry.

New York Times posted their astonishing 2015 year in pictures, and the gallery begins with this statement: “This is the year of the great unraveling.” Most of the photos were tinged with some hopelessness, sadness. While I don’t want to be overly dramatic and pessimistic as we enter 2016, there were good things that happened, and that did matter, at least, to me. Here are a few that come to mind:

  • Ebola was essentially eradicated in West Africa. A miraculous feat considering some of those countries affected by the virus are still recovering from intense years of conflict. Although the death toll was significant, and apathy towards that toll was overrun with fear of containment and keeping it “over there”, there in the heart of darkness, things could have been much, much worse.
  • The United States, in all of her slow breakdown, had one gleaming light of hope for social justice and equity: The landmark Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage. One up for LGBTQ rights and equity in the eyes of the law. Sometimes, she can surprise…
  • Science continues to amaze me, and I hope the world appreciates what it brings. This summer, we pulled a Top Gun, and did a flyby of Pluto. While we may question whether that is a good use of resources, seeing this icy world, with its many moons and mountains, was pretty spectacular. The human body is also pretty amazing – we are learning more and more about the virtual organ called the microbiome that reminds us how little we know about our complicated selves. We also can thank science for gene editing (raising more ethical debates), a preliminarily effective Ebola vaccine, and the discovery of what may be the oldest known Homofossil, dating to 2.8 million years ago, in where else? Ethiopia, the mother land.
  • Bad politics come and go. Canada was in desperate need for a new Prime Minister and they got a younger, liberal, and more modern one. Nigeria had a fair, democratic election. Nations came together at least in spirit, to sign a climate change agreement in wracked Paris and new Sustainable Development Goals. While both global accords may not live up to their promised potential, which could be catastrophic but realistic, at least there was intention. I think we can call that progress.

pluto

The Bad

Later that night, i held an atlas in my lap, ran my fingers across the whole world and whispered, where does it hurt? It answered, everywhere everywhere everywhere. – What they did yesterday afternoon, Warsan Shire

Unravel it did. I reason we can officially concur that the United States is lost. I won’t even bring up the pending election of 2016, because that is just too depressing to think that this is the best that America has to offer. We have bigger catfish to fry. Social exclusion, disadvantage, and inequity have reared their ugly heads: guns, police brutality and mistrust, hatred of other races, religions, sexual preferences, and of women. And then there are drugs, religious ideology, and incarceration that all eat away at the fabric of “the American dream.” All sitting on a bed of poverty with a cherry on top. Lives matter, be they black, white or blue, and the only way to address this is through organized social change and a not-so-quiet revolution. As Martin Luther King said: “We cannot walk alone” but I think America has forgotten how to walk, to move one foot in front of the other.

Our justice, health and food systems are the most strained. From my perspective, food is a lens through which to view the most important problems of society. And the future of food is a cause for concern: not enough of it, not the right kind, not equally accessible, and a lot thrown out. Diet-related non-communicable diseases, like heart disease and diabetes, along with obesity statistics are alarming. Blame it on salt, sugar and fat and our deceptive food environment. We have reached a tipping point on the scales, and on life span as well. We are in a free-fall, and this young generation will not live as long as my parents will live. And to think that it was food that did us in. Go figure. I recently wrote about the moral implications and obligations of achieving global food security and our decisions about what to eat can have profound societal impacts that are far reaching. Eating indeed is an ethical act. As Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright wrote: “We all have a moral responsibility to do our part.”

Looking beyond the U.S., geopolitical conflicts and civil wars, terrorism, and refugees are some of the issues that stayed with us in the headlines. With climate disruption and variability, and more extreme and unpredictable weather events, we will witness more conflict over natural resources like food, water, and land. More war. More displaced, landless, and sometimes nationless refugees. We are no longer in a world of climate change. We are in a world of everything change.

I am convinced, now more than ever, that the biggest driver of these tribulations is the ever-expanding, exponential growth of the world’s population. We are at 7.391 billion. This clock that keeps track of births at earth shattering speeds freaks me out. I was born when the population was almost half of what it is now = 3.71. You can feel that 7 billion everywhere you go, in everything you do. There is no place left un-crowded, un-touched, un-tourist-icated, or un-monetized. How much more can humanity and the planet sustain?

Biologist Paul Ehrlich doesn’t have much hope, at least from the perspective of feeding ourselves. When writing about the future of global food security, he calls for a “revolution” that includes getting engaged in family planning and population control. He wrote: “Achieving universal food security is a staggering challenge, especially in a world with an expanding population, accelerating consumption, and many signals of a deteriorating global environment…Meeting the challenge of food security demands a revolutionary change in human society, necessarily one as far-reaching as a combination of the agricultural revolution, now 10 millennia in the past, with the industrial revolution and the multiple transitions to more democratic governance that started three centuries ago. We urge policy makers around the world to move this issue to the top of the political agenda. Anything less is a recipe for disaster.” Heavy indeed, but not too far off the mark.

The Ugly

“…Is our world gone? We say “Farewell.” Is a new world coming? We welcome it and we will bend it to the hopes of man.” – Lyndon B Johnson. (This quote is actually in the U.S. passport, along with other meaningful quotes by our fine forefathers about social justice and equity).

I am trying reeeeal hard to be the shepherd and welcome this new world. But the new world is one in which we are less social, less observant, and more depthless. What happened to tangible, face-to-face human contact? Maybe there are just too many of us now and connecting in real-time is too overwhelming.

Instead, we seek out our pleasures in the privacy of our lighted screens and feel the need to display and share the mundaneness of our every day lives on apps in the hopes that we will get voluminous likes, hearts and favorites. I am guilty of it too. George Monbiot about ecological boredom: “Technologies that promised to save time and free us from drudgery fill our heads with a clatter so persistent it stifles the ability to think.”

How have we become so self-consumed, with selfies and those stupid selfiesticks, snapchats and other social media shenanigans, to the point of numbness? Think we are far off from the benign replicants in a Blade-Runner-esque world (which takes place in 2019 FYI)? Think again. Although I don’t think we can claim to be half as glamorous or introspective as Sean Young or Rutger Hauer.

So I ask, where have we gone? I just don’t know.

blade runner.jpg

And Then Some

“I still do not know myself. Perhaps I never will.” — Sylvia Plath

I could continue to rattle off the many micro-miracles that make you realize there is humanity, somewhere, out there in the ether. I could take another path, and continue to focus on the daily atrocities that are committed upon each other. We must remember though, not everything is lost. Although the media paints an ominous picture, Steven Pinker, author of Better Angels of Our Nature, says that overall, violence in our society is on the wane, with widespread peace and progress. I want to believe that he is right. Besides, everyone always believes that their time is the worst, the most tumultuous, the most despairing.

homicides

The human species is good at keep on keepin’ on like a bird that flew. I believe, I must believe, there is still so much to do and see. There is still wild nature to experience and fascinating cultures to bear witness to. Sometimes so much so that it is overwhelming, all consuming. I think this is what drives me forward: the opportunity to see this crazy world — the good, the bad and the ugly.

This year we traveled over 100,000 kilometers and slept in 65 different beds to see some of this craziness. We went to some new places like West Timor, Stockholm and Hong Kong and went back to old haunts like Nepal, Aspen, Italy and India. I feel fortunate. We missed Africa for a second year in a row, but that will change in 2016. We (permanently) left NY for the third time (Oh, will I ever get over you?) to live in Chocolate City, our nation’s capitol to focus on issues of ethics, and international affairs. I am now endowed, thanks to Michael Bloomberg.

So while I may seem negative, and full of trite, I am actually quite hopeful that this world and humanity has something left to give. At least, I plan to keep searching and exploring…

Posted in conflict, development, diets, environment, food Insecurity, food systems, obesity, population, poverty, randomness personal, u.s. food system, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t think twice, its all right

It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends. I can remember now, with a clarity that makes the nerves in the back of my neck constrict, when New York began for me, but I cannot lay my  finger upon the moment it ended, can never cut through the ambiguities and second starts and broken resolves to the exact place on the page where the heroine is no longer as optimistic as she once was.” – Joan Didion, Goodbye to All That

We said we were leaving New York twice before. And we did leave, at least for a while. The first time was for Kenya, a year of traveling in Africa. The second, for the Eternal City of Rome, but our time wasn’t eternal, no. Only a triennium. When we first came to New York, we promised to stay for only five years. But we broke that promise, and now, 15 years later, we are leaving and maybe, this time for good. But who knows. I guess I knew that when we left New York those other times, we wouldn’t feel at home, and those places were not where we belonged. Maybe I missed the place— ‘our town’ —the place we called our own. But coming back, with each stint abroad, I realized everything had changed. We tried to bring back the feelings of why we fell in love with New York. We walked every street trying to remember, to hold onto the memories that already passed. We would never get them back. Maybe New York was never our home. But it doesn’t matter anyway because time moves on, so do we, and “the world fills in the gaps it makes.”  I could talk about all the things that bother me about New York — the density of people, the aggression, the noise, the lack of space — but there really is no point in looking backwards. I guess it is better to just say goodbye and fare thee well to all that.

“All I mean is that I was very young in New York, and that at some point the golden rhythm was broken, and I am not that young anymore.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Sodas, Celebrities and Sell-Outs

Last year, Mark Bittman wrote: “Why Do Stars Think It’s O.K. to Sell Soda?” This was in response to Beyonce’s promotion to sell Pepsi. I couldn’t agree more. It is maddening actually. With the current culture being so obsessed with all things celebrity, you would think that actors, musicians, and athletes would use that position, an enormously powerful one, to make positive change. I am not asking celebrities to go all Angelina Jolie on me, but still, get some perspective.

CIMG2898

There are currently 2.1 billion people globally who are overweight or obese. That is 1 out of every 4. The globesity pandemic touches everyone including children and teenagers. Obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years and now more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.

Is soda bad? Well the evidence is pretty cut and dry at this point. Some would argue, and are often “paid” to do so, that soda doesn’t make a dent as a contributor to our waistlines but that is just hogwash. We know three things about soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs such as soda, energy, sports drinks, sweetened teas):

  1. Serving sizes have increased: Before the 1950s, standard soft-drink bottles were 6.5 ounces. Now, 20-ounce to 42 ounce bottles are the norm.
  2. People everywhere are drinking more soda: In one decade, calories from sugary beverages increased by 60% in children ages 6 to 11, and sugary drinks (soda, energy, sports drinks) are the top calorie source in teens’ diets. Lovely.
  3. Soda does contribute to obesity and diabetes: Recent meta-analyses show that higher intake of SSBs among children was associated with 55% higher risk of being overweight or obese compared with those with lower intake. Another meta-analysis showed that one to two servings per day of SSB intake was associated with a 26% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with occasional intake (less than one serving per month). And two large randomized control trials showed that reducing consumption of SSBs significantly decreases weight gain and adiposity in children and adolescents.

Convinced yet?

can of coke and body

Unfortunately, some of the top-selling musicians are clearly not convinced or just don’t care. Instead, they have sold their souls to the soda companies. Not that some scientists are any better. This whole fiasco of soda companies funding science is just beyond me. With all the commoditization of everything on the planet, isn’t there anything that remains pure and of sound truth? Science should remain untouched, unmonetized: an “immunopriveledged” place where you just don’t tamper with evidence. But I digress…

Selling products with saccharin sweet pop music is so ubiquitous in our culture that you can even take quizzes on which celebrity sold Coke or Pepsi. Not sure the point of that but indeed a good time waster.

The 80s saw pop music come to life (and further exploited) through our TV, not just our record players (cassette tapes in those days) thanks in large part to MTV. Commercials or mini videos followed. As an 80s teenager, the first massive star I remember selling soda was Michael Jackson and he took a pretty decent pop song, Billy Jean, and changed its lyrics from “Billy Jean is not my lover” to You’re the Pepsi generation.” Swell. But it all didn’t work out so well for Mike. Remember the hair catching fire incident? Next up. Madonna aka self-proclaimed #rebelheart. Dancing in lingerie in front of burning, Catholic crosses and kissing a black jesus proved to be a bit too racy for Pepsi. Mama mia.

With each decade, the hits and the soda sales just escalated. Britney Spears, Beyonce, One Direction for both Pepsi and Coke (isn’t that a conflict of interest?), and Taylor Swift, to name a few. But Taylor is okay because she promotes diet soda. Taylor – don’t you know about the implications of diet soda on the profile of the microbiome? Sigh…

CSPI, a DC nutrition watchdog, published a list of celebrities, what they promote, and twitter feeds like Pittbull’s elegant tweets of poetry: “Hanging out at Club23 with Dr. Pepper.” For reals.

Most recently, Nas and Drake for Sprite – Obey your thirst. In the ridiculous video below, showing lots of young African American men drinking soda, Drake actually credits Sprite with his success. Boy, that is really sad. I guess your talent didn’t count.

Even the dead cannot RIP. I saw this ad in ‘da Bronx the other day. Who gave Sprite permission to use his image? Biggie’s estate? Is that even legal? I guess hip hop artists have a “history” of selling soda.

notorius BIG and sprite

What makes this so infuriating is that they are targeting young, African Americans. But African Americans are not untouched by the obesity epidemic and often, suffer significantly more than other races due to poor access to healthy foods, poverty and inequity. Some stats in case you don’t believe me:

  • African American adults are nearly 1.5 times as likely to be obese compared with White adults.
  • 47.8% of African Americans are obese compared with 32.6% of Whites
  • More than 75% of African Americans are overweight or obese compared with 67.2% of Whites
  • 35.1% of African American children ages 2 to 19 were overweight, compared with 28.5% percent of White children

#BlackLivesMatter – indeed they do. And if we continue to push junkfood and soda on populations, inequities will continue to persist. Why do you want to do your own people wrong Nas?

Yes, I get it. They make a shitload of money making these commercials. We could equally criticize all the sports players who promote equally unhealthy sugar sweetened beverages (Gatorade etc) and movie stars promoting fine Japanese whiskey, but picking on pop stars is fun. And they earn so much money already. Well, at least if Taylor Swift keeps Apple and Spotify in check. One Direction is the highest grossing band this past year due to touring, which of course is always sponsored by somebody. Do you guys need to sell Toyota, Coke, and everything else that comes along, to sell your songs and get teenagers to come to your concerts?

I am not judging them. Well, maybe I am. I bet they are all great human beings and many have promoted important causes (I better say this or the 1D fans will send me hate mail). One Direction is pushing Action 1 which is getting the young generation to take action and raise their voices to what future they want in the post 2015 development agenda. Commendable. Taylor Swift in her own right is empowering young women #GirlPower! The millennial generation, which Taylor and others are ‘labeled’ as, is really impressive. I know. I teach them every day. What bothers me is the selling of their songs – their “art” – to sell soda. Why? Why? Why? If you have to sell something, can’t you guys try selling kale? Goji berries? Olive oil?

At least think of your fans. You want them to continue buying your records, and going to your shows right? Don’t you want your pre-pubescent and adolescent fans to be healthy? Especially our girls who are particularly vulnerable to obesity, with lifelong repercussions?

We know celebrities care about their own health. They gotta look good with 25million+ twitter followers watching their every move. Most popstars are on special diets, have brutal trainers, do yoga and soul cycle. They probably don’t drink soda or for that matter, consume any sugar. Because well, that is what their personal nutritionist advised them to do…And advice given by “nutritionists to the stars” is ALWAYS of sound scientific evidence (Think Beyonce + Cleanse).

And maybe it is all just a bit unethical to be pushing soda on children? Marketing junk food and soda to children is generally considered pretty immoral in some circles, and wreaks of the same tactics used by tobacco to get kids to smoke. Maybe celebrities need to be held accountable to what they are selling and to who?

Young popstars should take a page from the songbook of Neil Young. Or at least watch “This Notes for You” and his rip on the commercialism of rock and roll.

Ain’t singin’ for Pepsi


Ain’t singin’ for Coke


I don’t sing for nobody


Makes me look like a joke


This note’s for you.

Well sung Neil Young.

Posted in diabetes, drinks, health, junk food, sugar, u.s. food system | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

There was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine

“Going up that river was like travelling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest. The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. There was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine.

The long stretches of the waterway ran on, deserted, into the gloom of overshadowed distances. On silvery sandbanks hippos and alligators sunned themselves side by side. The broadening waters flowed through a mob of wooded islands; you lost your way on that river as you would in a desert, and butted all day long against shoals, trying to find the channel, till you thought yourself bewitched and cut off forever from everything you had known once -somewhere- far away in another existence perhaps.

There were moments when one’s past came back to one, as it will sometimes when you have not a moment to spare to yourself; but it came in the shape of an unrestful and noisy dream, remembered with wonder amongst the overwhelming realities of this strange world of plants, and water, and silence. And this stillness of life did not in the least resemble a peace. It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention. It looked at you with a vengeful aspect.”

– Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Posted in conflict, poverty | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Ethics of Eating

Food makes philosophers of us all.” Food is an essential aspect of human function, existence and experience. The idea that “you are what you eat” has some truth to it: our food choices define who we have been, who we are and who we want to become. These choices are often intertwined in our beliefs and values, our relationship to where the food is sourced, and our physiological drive towards certain foods and habits.

Wendell Berry wrote, “Eating is an agricultural act.” With 795 million people impacted by food insecurity, and a burdened global food system, the view that “eating is an ethical act” resonates as well.

The Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, along with the Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, launched the Global Food Ethics Initiative to take on the challenge of working through conflicting visions of what it means to feed the world ethically and find a concrete path forward even in the absence of consensus about ethical commitments and values.

The main product of the first phase of the Global Food Ethics project is the 7 by 5 Agenda for Ethics and Global Food Security. This report is the result of an unprecedented undertaking: gathering a diverse, international, and influential Working Group of experts to build a research and policy agenda for global food ethics that would make an important, practical contribution to global food security. I had the honor of being a part of this group.

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 12.53.51 PM

We put forward seven important and tractable projects to make progress on ethics and global food security in five years. The 7 by 5 projects are:

1. Ethical Challenges in Projections of Global Food Demand, Supply, and Prices

2. The Food Sovereignty Movement and the Exceptionality of Food and Agriculture

3. The Case for the Professionalization of Farming

4. Global Agricultural Research and Development: Ethics, Priorities, and Funders

5. Climate-Smart and Climate-Just Agriculture

6. Ethics of Meat Consumption in High-Income and Middle-Income Countries

7. Consumers, Certifications, and Labels: Ethically Benchmarking Food Systems

For the Initiative, I wrote a piece on the ethics of nutrition in the context of global food security which is under review for the Global Food Security journal. The food security directive often focuses solely on ensuring the world is producing and consuming enough calories in bulk to reduce hunger and safeguard survival, as opposed to a goal that includes nutrition for well-being and development. To advance the dialogue, it is necessary to address the ethical questions that swirl around integrating nutrition into the food security paradigm. Key ethical issues to consider include how to make societal decisions and define values about food security that impact nutrition outcomes, and the ethical trade-offs between environmental sustainability and ensuring that individual dietary and nutritional needs are met.

It is also important to consider questions such as:

  • What ethical obligations do we have with respect to the consumption of certain nutritious foods such as resource-intensive foods from animal sources?
  • What are the obligations and responsibilities of different public and private actors towards realizing the right to adequate nutrition?
  • What are the moral obligations of stakeholders to ensure that the global population has access to a nutritious diet?

Such complex questions underscore the need to articulate the broader ethical landscape of the nutrition debate within global food security. 

Now, we are committed to making the 7 by 5 Agenda a reality. As we work to bring attention to the 7 by 5, our hope is not only to see these worthy projects undertaken, but also to help raise awareness in global and regional institutions, national governments, and the general public of the critical importance of ethics to global food policy and practice. Feeding the world is an unquestionable moral imperative. But we must do more than that. We must feed the world ethically.

This is a hot topic at the moment. More and more people are highlighting the need for more ethical ways in which are food should be produced and consumed. Issues such as the increased demand for meat, GMOs, animal welfare etc are high on the agenda for debate. 

Madeleine Albright just wrote a piece on why global food security is a moral imperative. Paul Thompson, just published a thoughtful book “From Field to Fork: Food Ethics for Everyone.” And demand for ethically made foods and products is increasing.

The 7 by 5 Agenda report, and brief descriptions of the projects be found here: http://www.bioethicsinstitute.org/globalfoodethics

Posted in agriculture, biodiversity, calories, food Insecurity, nutrition | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dealing with Fragility and Conflict: The importance of resilient food systems

One of the great dilemmas of our time is how we will secure and provide plentiful, healthy and nutritious food for all, and to do so in an environmentally sustainable and safe manner while addressing the co-existing double burden of under- and over-nutrition, such as nutrition-related infectious and chronic non-communicable diseases. Issues such as disasters, shocks, fragility and conflict in households, communities, and within and among nations further challenge the global community to address this dilemma. Yet, we know that natural disasters and armed conflict have marked human existence throughout history and have always caused peaks in mortality and morbidity in the global population (Leaning and Guha-Sapir 2013). What is also clear is that disasters and displacement are also increasing. See the figures below from an NEJM 2013 paper by Leaning and Guha-Sapir.

Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 2.09.42 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 2.09.57 PM

We are witnessing multiple burdens of malnutrition, with some countries, communities and households suffering from undernutrition, overweight and obesity, and micronutrient deficiencies. Stunting, which reflects chronic undernutrition during the early stages of life, causes children to fail to grow to their full genetic potential, both mentally and physically. Although stunting in children under five years of age has declined from 40 to 26% since 1990, an estimated 162 million children remain moderately or severely stunted (Black et al. 2013). Wasting in children under five years of age has decreased 11% since 1990, but still, 52 million children suffer (Black et al. 2013). Deficiencies of essential vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) continue to be widespread and have significant adverse effects on child survival and development, as well as women’s health.

The risk and prevalence of malnutrition is high in fragile and conflict-affected countries as compared to more stable countries with the ability and capacity to absorb shocks – whether they are natural disaster related, economic, conflict and war, food shortages and price volatility. Regions such as Latin America and East Asia are making progress in addressing food and nutrition security, but sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and some countries of South Asia continue to see reversal of gains. Of the countries with the highest burdens of undernutrition, most are conflict or recently post-conflict countries. The UNICEF figure below clearly demonstrates this – Timor Leste, Burundi, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Pakistan, the DRC…

Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 2.13.11 PM

Why does it matter? Inadequate nutrition has been described as “a scourge in our world” (DFID 2011). Not getting the right amount and type of food and nutrients can lead to people being undernourished or overweight—both of which have serious, deleterious effects on health, development, and productivity. Inadequate nutrition contributes to early deaths for mothers, infants and young children, and impaired and often irreversible physical and brain development in the young. This in turn can lead to poor health into adulthood, which affects not only individual well-being but also the social and economic development of nations.

Disruption of food production and supply, destruction of household assets and livelihoods, mass displacement of population, and degradation of vital services are associated with rapidly escalating levels of malnutrition. These disruptions are not isolated – and are linked to the recent global food, economic and fuel crises. Food insecurity and malnutrition are also associated with heightened risk of violent social unrest and conflict (Taylor 2013). As Devakumar and colleagues depict, conflict also has serious impacts on women and children’s health and nutritional status that can last generations as shown in the figure below. Despite this, there is little investment in long-term food security and nutrition resiliency and development.

Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 2.10.25 PM

Conflict aside, in an increasingly globalized world and interconnected food system, subjected to the pressures of growing populations, inequity, climate variability and food price volatility, no country or population is immune to the challenges that lay ahead. While unsettling, we now have more information, both in science and in practice, on how to improve the global food system and protect fragile and conflict states. The solutions are inherently trans-sectoral, engaging practitioners and experts across agriculture, rural development and public health.

Solutions should go beyond just food aid and assistance, which is vital to decreasing morbidity and mortality in some short-term emergency situations. Much effort will require advance preparedness that addresses both acute and chronic undernutrition, by incorporating interdependent interventions in health, food security and agriculture. Addressing underlying problems of food insecurity and undernutrition can have broader, longer-term benefits including education, poverty alleviation strategies, agricultural investments and subsidies, and land reform (Bhutta et al 2013).

The role of agriculture and food has a particular resonance in fragile and conflict states, where conflict results in often sharp rises in food insecurity, and where smallholder farming can, in the right circumstances, form the basis of peacebuilding and economic recovery (Taylor 2013). Improvements can be driven by resilient food system approaches to ensure better utilization of food and dietary diversity and quality. Interventions include social protection mechanisms through food safety nets, resilient food and nutrition sensitive approaches, mechanisms to protect natural resource assets, and management schemes to ensure better recovery and resilience against shocks. By taking a sustainable development approach to food and nutrition security, reconstructing livelihoods of conflict and disaster affected communities is possible.

References:

Bhutta, Z. A., Das, J. K., Rizvi, A., Gaffey, M. F., Walker, N., Horton, S., … & Maternal and Child Nutrition Study Group. (2013) Evidence-based interventions for improvement of maternal and child nutrition: what can be done and at what cost? The Lancet, 382(9890), 452-477.

Black, R. E., Victora, C. G., Walker, S. P., Bhutta, Z. A., Christian, P., De Onis, M., … & Maternal and Child Nutrition Study Group. (2013) Maternal and child undernutrition and overweight in low-income and middle-income countries. The Lancet, 382(9890), 427-451.

DFID (2011) Scaling Up Nutrition: The UK’s position paper on undernutrition. September 2011. London, UK.

Leaning, J., & Guha-Sapir, D. (2013) Natural disasters, armed conflict, and public health. New England journal of medicine, 369(19), 1836-1842.

Taylor S (2013) Fragile but not helpless: Scaling Up Nutrition in Fragile and Conflict-Affected States. World Vision, London UK.

Posted in agriculture, aid, development, environment, nutrition, stunting | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment