5 Food Labels to Look Out For

Whether you’re looking for a quick bite of information or want to drop some knowledge on your dinnertime companions, here’s our Featured 5 of the Week! 

When you go to the grocery store, you see an array of labels on your food and new ones popping up every day! Whether it’s organic, natural, or non-GMO, each one comes with a perceived connotation about whether it is good or bad. But, what most consumers don’t know are the true definitions behind these labels. Here is everything you need to know about the top 5 most prevalent food labels.

5. Organic

This is one of the most popular food labels. Some consumers actually base their diets around being “all organic”. But are all organic labels the same?

USDA organic products do have strict production and labeling requirements. The foods must be produced without any genetic engineering or ionizing radiation, and with only natural pesticides and fertilizers.

Are all organic labels legit? It depends. Products labeled “100% Organic” are just that. However, products labeled “Organic” are made with 95% organic products, and those labeled “Made with Organic Ingredients” indicate that 70% of the product is organic.

It’s also good to note that organic foods do have pesticides. They are not pesticide-free but are instead treated with pesticides approved by the USDA. Also, pesticide residues are found on organic foods just like conventional, but all are safe to consume.

4. No Added Hormones/rBGH/rBST

Hormones – it sounds bad, right? Well, you’d be surprised.

Hormones are used on livestock to help them grow faster and enter the meat market earlier in their lives. Dairy cows may get rBGH and rBST to help them produce more milk, but this isn’t used as much today. Products with the label No Added Hormones indicates that the producers did not use any hormones during the animal’s life.

Does “no added hormones” mean the same thing across a variety of food categories? With livestock, it does. However, labels that state “hormone-free” are not regulated by the USDA because, like humans, all animals naturally produce hormones. Furthermore, hormones are prohibited for use on poultry and pigs, so if you see this label on these products, it’s just for marketing purposes.

3. No Antibiotics

What is an antibiotic? We know it as medicine that the doctor prescribes to make us feel better when we have a bacterial infection. It’s the same for animals.

Just like humans, animals also get sick and need antibiotics. Sometimes, if antibiotics are not administered, the animal will die. The labels listed below indicate that producers did not use any antibiotics during the animal’s lifetime.

  • No antibiotics administered
  • No antibiotics added
  • Raised without antibiotics

However, the term, “antibiotic-free” is not allowed by the USDA because they can’t verify if the animal ever received antibiotics.

The FDA requires all livestock to be clear of any antibiotic residue before harvesting, thus implying that all meat and dairy are antibiotic-free.

2. Non-GMO

Despite seemingly everything being labeled as “non-GMO”, there are only 10 GMO crops currently approved for consumption in the United States: alfalfa, apples, canola, corn, cotton, papaya, potatoes, soybeans, squash, and sugar beets. That’s it.

If you see a non-GMO label on any other produce, food, or beverage — including strawberries, tomatoes, rice, chicken, etc., it is yet another marketing tool because there are no GMO ingredients in these products. Also, GMOs are the most rigorously-tested products in our global food system. Aside from being completely safe to eat, they also have the same nutrient profile as their non-GMO counterparts, making them just as nutritious for you.

The FDA does not regulate any “non-GMO” labels, so this is a label you should be aware of

A non-GMO label creates fear in consumers and can be harmful to our pocketbooks due to the often increased price for the perceived benefit. Know which products have GMO ingredients so you can avoid falling for deceitful marketing ploys.

1. Natural

Natural sounds better than unnatural, right? It sounds like everything else that doesn’t have a natural label on it is fake. But, that’s not the case at all.

Labels that we are referring to include but are not limited to:

  • 100% Natural
  • Made with natural ingredients
  • All-natural

These labels don’t mean anything at all. These terms are not monitored by any government agency and the USDA says that these terms only refer to how meat is processed after harvesting. It’s mostly used by food companies to trick consumers and charge more for their products. They are made to seem superior so consumers don’t mind spending the extra money on them.

What is the Biden Era Agricultural Agenda?


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The Changing Cast of Players

The new Congress and Administration will feature some new names in key roles for shaping our nation’s food and agriculture system. And while some familiar from the Obama Administration, experienced old hands in ag matters also will show up on the leadership roster, they will have an agenda that differs significantly from the past four years – and just as likely, a different approach to the role of government.

On Capitol Hill, long-time House Agriculture Committee Chair Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) is being replaced by Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.).

On the Senate side, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) is expected to return to her previously-held role during the Obama Administration as chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Another familiar name from the Obama Administration – Tom Vilsack — also has been tapped to return as Secretary of Agriculture. Some elements of the left-wing of the Democrat Party have been critical of his nomination due to his familiarity with traditional farm and food organizations, as well as his past comments on climate change and minority relations. But Vilsack brings extensive experience and knowledge of all aspects of the food system. He has enjoyed the support of a wide spectrum of the agricultural community throughout his extensive career in public service.

New Players, New Agenda

The new leadership group undoubtedly brings a lot of experience in food and agriculture to the table. But the challenges confronting the American food system are very different from just a few short years ago. The change in administration brought a new and updated set of priorities – and a very different view of the role of government in dealing with those challenges.

Expect to see Congress and the Biden Administration focus on:

  • Covid-19. Stemming the spread of the virus will be the most visible immediate priority not just for the agriculture committees but the entire government. Access to vaccines in rural areas will be high on the agenda, as will continuing economic support for those most damaged by the lockdown.
  • Climate change. Don’t look for omnibus “climate change” legislation from either ag committee as much as efforts to promote conservation and other regenerative environmental practices by farmers and ranchers through expansion of existing programs and additional incentives for responsible, environmentally beneficial farming practices, all carefully couched and presented as ‘climate change’ initiatives. Many immediate actions are likely to involve a flurry of executive orders rather than time-consuming and contentious legislation. The creation of a ‘carbon market’ for agriculture will be a popular item for debate.

While the focus on climate change comes as no surprise, the farm community anxiously awaits some sign of the approach to be taken. Farm leaders urge policymakers to think in terms of carrots rather than sticks. That is, they note that the farm community by and large is supportive of the broad effort to act responsibly on matters that affect the climate, and the environment.

Policies that incentivize and reward positive actions will work better than threats of punishment for failure to comply. That approach is best in unleashing the creative and entrepreneurial capabilities of the farm sector, far more than an imposition of rules and regulations devised solely or largely by bureaucrats.

  • Rural economic development and revitalization. After years of declining net farm income and massive direct government payments, both legislators and administration officials will be looking at bigger, more comprehensive packages to stimulate rural economic vitality. Look for initiatives to promote growth in ‘green’ jobs, expand health care services and improve broadband access.
  • Social equity. Congressional leaders, in particular, have been outspoken in the need to address perceived economic inequities, notably for smaller farm operators and minority farmers and ranchers. Prominent Democrats also have called for immediate attention to farm labor issues, to address matters of wages, work conditions, organizing rights, and other concerns.
  • Relations with China. No market remains more important to the economic interests of farmers and ranchers. Efforts to promote improved relations and fulfillment of ambitious purchase commitments by the Chinese will remain top priorities. But expect a more studied effort to assess overall U.S. China relations, of which agricultural interests are just one part of the bigger picture of future relations between the two countries. Also, look for greater movement toward a multilateral team approach – especially with the EU – from the Biden Administration…it will be a movement away from the bilateral approach of recent years to more emphasis on building coalitions capable of exerting influence on the Chinese.

  • Improved trade opportunities. The ‘America first’ approach of recent years is likely to evolve into a more traditional model of negotiation, built around ‘constructive engagement.’ Bilateral trade negotiations to open new market opportunities will no doubt continue. But also look for much more energy behind attempts to revive and rejoin broader trade initiatives and agreements, notably in the Pacific and among long-standing U.S. allies.
  • Don’t rock the boat. Basic farm programs and policies have worked well for years, providing Americans (and others around the world) with a steady supply of affordable, nutritious, safe, and expanding food choices. No one in government wants to change the basic direction of our farm and food policies or to risk radical changes that harm the hard-won framework of rules, protections, and incentives that makes such a system possible. But there is a strong new commitment to making the system work better for all those involved in the system, and to address the legitimate environmental issues and questions arising from the climate change debate.

Beyond the Agriculture Committees

The agriculture committees undeniably make up the center of gravity in crafting food and agricultural policy. But other parts of Congress also come into play.

  • Taxes. Any farmer will quickly point out that farming is a capital-intensive business. Finance and money management are critical skills – and a major area of interest, especially when candidates and elected officials in a new political era have made the issue of “revenue” a major target area for attention.

Continuing economic challenges from the pandemic, coupled with a generally more ambitious agenda of government initiatives, mean an almost certain review and revision of tax laws. It will likely involve examining a range of tax policies, including capital gains, gift taxes, inheritance taxes, accounting rules, and more.

For an economic sector largely based on family ownership and reliant on land values as a key element of their financial strength, these are highly important subjects. Expect the food and agriculture community to keep a close eye on the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, and the new Biden Administration’s role in shaping any changes to tax laws.

  • Technology. Advances in technology are sweeping across the global agricultural system. Congress is trying to keep pace. The current focus on communication technology is expanding to cover other areas, with the gradual emergence of a variety of science and technology groups advocating a re-think of how Congress deals with the need to better understand and constructively guide the sector’s expanding role in all aspects of life, from the farm to the dinner table. Keep an eye on this wild-card in the emerging new era of government.
  • Health care. The pandemic helped focus attention on the need to improve health-care delivery across the country, in particular in the rural areas underserved by the existing system. The Biden Administration has made economic revitalization of rural America a priority, and expansion of health care services and facilities should be a substantial component of that effort. Look for additional collaboration between the Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, as well as a greater collaborative effort among all health-related departments and agencies.

  • Infrastructure. Like health care, the broad issue of improving the nation’s crumbling infrastructure also will have implications for the agricultural community and all of rural America. Maintenance of roads and bridges is a key component of the modern food chain, and most local authorities will agree that more needs to be done to maintain and improve what already exists. The big question will be not so much where such efforts should be focused, but how to pay for them.
  • Research. The Department of Agriculture and congressional committees traditionally made science and research a key element of their policy agenda. The new administration has made “science-based” decision-making a fundamental plank of their campaign. The agricultural community is waiting anxiously to see exactly what that means, in terms of the decisions to be made regarding the role of genetics in expanding food production, and the willingness of the government to continue sharing the financial burden of aggressive research on food and environmental matters.

Digging into the Biden Era Agricultural Agenda

The Changing Cast of Players

The new Congress and Administration will feature some new names in key roles for shaping our nation’s food and agriculture system. And while some familiar from the Obama Administration, experienced old hands in ag matters also will show up on the leadership roster, they will have an agenda that differs significantly from the past four years – and just as likely, a different approach to the role of government.

On Capitol Hill, long-time House Agriculture Committee Chair Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) is being replaced by Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.).

On the Senate side, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) is expected to return to her previously-held role during the Obama Administration as chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Another familiar name from the Obama Administration – Tom Vilsack — also has been tapped to return as Secretary of Agriculture. Some elements of the left-wing of the Democrat Party have been critical of his nomination due to his familiarity with traditional farm and food organizations, as well as his past comments on climate change and minority relations. But Vilsack brings extensive experience and knowledge of all aspects of the food system. He has enjoyed the support of a wide spectrum of the agricultural community throughout his extensive career in public service.

A Rare Glimpse of Bipartisanship

Food and agricultural policy has been one of the few examples of functional bipartisanship, crafting farm bills running hundreds of pages. This daunting task demands cooperation and a willingness to listen and compromise, among dozens of committee members representing rural, suburban, and urban interests. They cover everything from production agriculture to nutrition to rural development to commodity markets to SNAP to bioenergy – and a long list of all the policy matters that make our food system function. Between farm bills, the committees wrestle with the same dynamics in dealing with individual legislative proposals that emerge in every Congress.

The unique world of food and agriculture has helped foster a spirit of bipartisanship not often found elsewhere on Capitol Hill. That’s not to say there aren’t sharp differences in ideology or priorities or approaches. And as the committee membership continues to become more inclusive and diverse – with expanding representation from outside the rural sector – the potential for sharp differences certainly increases.

These committees share and are united by a recognition of the critical importance of providing not just Americans but others around the world with the safe, nutritious and affordable food they need, produced responsibly and sustainably.

Together, they have built the framework of the rules of the road that make such a remarkable food system possible.

In such an environment, the leaders from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue become especially important to continuing the bipartisan process. They must be solid leaders – knowledgeable of both the broad issues and specific details of farm policy, and highly skilled in building bridges with committee members and the rest of the Congress. They have no choice in the matter. Farm legislation simply can’t pass without the support of a diverse congressional membership that increasingly is urban and suburban, not uniquely rural.

Both outgoing House Agriculture Committee Chair Rep. Collin Peterson and Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Sen. Pat Roberts are widely regarded as consummate diplomats and political bridge-builders. It’s now up to Rep. Scott and Sen. Stabenow to maintain that spirit in an era of the continuing partisan divide. With both committees divided into almost equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans, that means their relationships with the ranking minority members of each committee will be very important.

In the House, that role goes to Rep. Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania. As another long-standing member of the panel, Thompson also has extensive first-hand experience in farm-related legislation. He also brings a particularly strong focus on education, including support for wider educational opportunities at land-grant colleges and universities, as well as strong advocacy for expanded access to better health care, especially in rural areas.

On the Senate side, the role of ranking minority member will go to Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas. He also brings an extensive record of service on the committee, as well as the highly important Senate Appropriations Committee. He has served on various subcommittees deal with a spectrum of key food and agricultural issues, from production agriculture, conservation, nutrition, and research. His background as a small business owner and an expert in health care matters also are noteworthy.

New Players, New Agenda

The new leadership group undoubtedly brings a lot of experience in food and agriculture to the table. But the challenges confronting the American food system are very different from just a few short years ago. The change in administration brought a new and updated set of priorities – and a very different view of the role of government in dealing with those challenges.

Expect to see Congress and the Biden Administration focus on:

  • Covid-19. Stemming the spread of the virus will be the most visible immediate priority not just for the agriculture committees but the entire government. Access to vaccines in rural areas will be high on the agenda, as will continuing economic support for those most damaged by the lockdown.
  • Climate change. Don’t look for omnibus “climate change’ legislation from either ag committee as much as efforts to promote conservation and other regenerative environmental practices by farmers and ranchers through expansion of existing programs and additional incentives for responsible, environmentally beneficial farming practices, all carefully couched and presented as ‘climate change’ initiatives. Many immediate actions are likely to involve a flurry of executive orders rather than time-consuming and contentious legislation. The creation of a ‘carbon market’ for agriculture will be a popular item for debate. (D2D will look at climate-related issues in more depth in future posts.

While the focus on climate change comes as no surprise, the farm community anxiously awaits some sign of the approach to be taken. Farm leaders urge policymakers to think in terms of carrots rather than sticks. That is, they note that the farm community by and large is supportive of the broad effort to act responsibly on matters that affect the climate, and the environment.

Policies that incentivize and reward positive actions will work better than threats of punishment for failure to comply. That approach is best in unleashing the creative and entrepreneurial capabilities of the farm sector, far more than an imposition of rules and regulations devised solely or largely by bureaucrats.

  • Rural economic development and revitalization. After years of declining net farm income and massive direct government payments, both legislators and administration officials will be looking at bigger, more comprehensive packages to stimulate rural economic vitality. Look for initiatives to promote growth in ‘green’ jobs, expand health care services and improve broadband access.
  • Social equity. Congressional leaders, in particular, have been outspoken in the need to address perceived economic inequities, notably for smaller farm operators and minority farmers and ranchers. Prominent Democrats also have called for immediate attention to farm labor issues, to address matters of wages, work conditions, organizing rights, and other concerns.
  • Relations with China. No market remains more important to the economic interests of farmers and ranchers. Efforts to promote improved relations and fulfillment of ambitious purchase commitments by the Chinese will remain top priorities. But expect a more studied effort to assess overall U.S. China relations, of which agricultural interests are just one part of the bigger picture of future relations between the two countries. Also, look for greater movement toward a multilateral team approach – especially with the EU – from the Biden Administration – It will be a movement away from the bilateral approach of recent years to more emphasis on building coalitions capable of exerting influence on the Chinese.

  • Improved trade opportunities. The ‘America first’ approach of recent years is likely to evolve into a more traditional model of negotiation, built around ‘constructive engagement.’ Bilateral trade negotiations to open new market opportunities will no doubt continue. But also look for much more energy behind attempts to revive and rejoin broader trade initiatives and agreements, notably in the Pacific and among long-standing U.S. allies.
  • Don’t rock the boat. Basic farm programs and policies have worked well for years, providing Americans (and others around the world) with a steady supply of affordable, nutritious, safe, and expanding food choices. No one in government wants to change the basic direction of our farm and food policies or to risk radical changes that harm the hard-won framework of rules, protections, and incentives that makes such a system possible. But there is a strong new commitment to making the system work better for all those involved in the system, and to address the legitimate environmental issues and questions arising from the climate change debate.

Beyond the Agriculture Committees

The agriculture committees undeniably make up the center of gravity in crafting food and agricultural policy. But other parts of Congress also come into play.

  • Taxes. Any farmer will quickly point out that farming is a capital-intensive business. Finance and money management are critical skills – and a major area of interest, especially when candidates and elected officials in a new political era have made the issue of “revenue” a major target area for attention.

Continuing economic challenges from the pandemic, coupled with a generally more ambitious agenda of government initiatives, mean an almost certain review and revision of tax laws. It will likely involve examining a range of tax policies, including capital gains, gift taxes, inheritance taxes, accounting rules, and more.

For an economic sector largely based on family ownership and reliant on land values as a key element of their financial strength, these are highly important subjects. Expect the food and agriculture community to keep a close eye on the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, and the new Biden Administration’s role in shaping any changes to tax laws.

  • Technology. Advances in technology are sweeping across the global agricultural system. Congress is trying to keep pace. The current focus on communication technology is expanding to cover other areas, with the gradual emergence of a variety of science and technology groups advocating a re-think of how Congress deals with the need to better understand and constructively guide the sector’s expanding role in all aspects of life, from the farm to the dinner table. Keep an eye on this wild-card in the emerging new era of government.
  • Health care. The pandemic helped focus attention on the need to improve health-care delivery across the country, in particular in the rural areas underserved by the existing system. The Biden Administration has made economic revitalization of rural America a priority, and expansion of health care services and facilities should be a substantial component of that effort. Look for additional collaboration between the Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, as well as a greater collaborative effort among all health-related departments and agencies.

  • Infrastructure. Like health care, the broad issue of improving the nation’s crumbling infrastructure also will have implications for the agricultural community and all of rural America. Maintenance of roads and bridges is a key component of the modern food chain, and most local authorities will agree that more needs to be done to maintain and improve what already exists. The big question will be not so much where such efforts should be focused, but how to pay for them.
  • Research. The Department of Agriculture and congressional committees traditionally made science and research a key element of their policy agenda. The new administration has made “science-based” decision-making a fundamental plank of their campaign. The agricultural community is waiting anxiously to see exactly what that means – in terms of the decisions to be made regarding the role of genetics in expanding food production, and the willingness of the government to continue sharing the financial burden of aggressive research on food and environmental matters.

Blue Zones: Long & Healthy Living


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Why are so many of us overweight, over-stressed, and prone to so many diseases? It’s easy to blame genetics or factors beyond our control. But as more and more studies pile up on the subject, we’re finding that the decisions we make every day affect our health much more so than our genetic makeup.

Living better and longer

Scientists and academics who have examined human longevity in-depth have identified locations called “Blue Zones.” These are geographic areas and cultural enclaves around the world with many citizens aged 90 and older. Here in the U.S., we have an average lifespan of only 78 years, so what’s the secret?

“Individuals get lucky, populations don’t,”  – Dr. Dan Buettner, longevity expert

Genetics indeed plays a role in making longer lives possible. But these studies suggest genetics is only about 20% of the equation. The remaining 80% is from epigenetics, where your lifestyle determines how your genes express themselves.

It comes down to a few simple yet powerful guidelines:

  • Eat a balanced and nutritious diet
  • Get plenty of physical exercise, and find ways to reduce stress
  • Stay mentally vibrant and intellectually engaged in life, and with others

Internationally recognized researcher, explorer, founder of Earthtreks, Inc., Emmy Award winner for co-producing PBS’s Scientific American, and most recently an author and American National Geographic Fellow, Dr. Dan Buettner, worked with the National Institute on Aging, pioneering incisive new research in the ways people everywhere pursue longer, healthier lives.

Dr. Buettner shared his discoveries in his book, Blue Zones: Lessons From the World’s Longest Lived where he interviewed 263 individuals from Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Ikaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, California.

The “Power 9”

The nine common denominators discovered through this decade-long study were a series of lifestyle choices, not quick solutions, that are believed to slow our aging process.

  1. Moving naturally refers to our daily activities. Rather than setting aside an hour of the day to exercise, these populations are natural movers. They garden, they walk, they do housework both inside and outside, the commute on foot, their jobs are physical. Their everyday routines are much less sedentary than the typical American work-life cycle.
  2. The purpose of the Okinawans, called ikigai, is an understanding that they can make a difference in others’ lives every day. This motivation to live each day is fueled directly by a sense of purpose, a reason to get out there and live with meaning.
  3. Downshifting is a major takeaway from each culture, which often use a part of their day or week to seek rest. This “downshift” is the practice of managing their stress by ensuring rest. We know that stress can lead to chronic inflammation, which is associated with a variety of age-related diseases. The Okinawans take time each day to remember their ancestors, while the Ikarians commonly nap. Sardinians downshift by having daily happy hour, while Adventists rest on Sundays.
  4. The 80% Rule is a 2,500-year-old rule from Okinawa’s Confucian ancestors. They say the mantra before each meal to remind them to only eat to 80% capacity. That 20% gap is the difference between losing or gaining weight. People in the Blue Zones generally tend to eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening and then fast for the remainder of the day.

  1. Wine @ 5 refers to all Blue Zones, save for California, whose Adventist population does not drink alcohol. The trick is to keep drinks to 1 or 2 glasses per day, often with food and friends.
  2. Belonging is a critical part of the findings. All but five of the 263 centenarians who were interviewed belonged to some type of faith-based community. The denomination did not seem to matter. The research showed that attending a faith-based gathering four times per month added four to 14 years of life expectancy.
  3. Loved ones first is widely practiced in these communities by having their grandparents and great-grandparents live very close. Furthermore, these communities were known for committing to one partner for life, allowing them more time to invest in their children and to share love.
  4. The right tribe goes hand in hand with social circles. The world’s longest-living people were either born into or chose social groups that support healthy lifestyles. For example, the Okinawans created moais, which is a group of five friends that committed to each other for life. These groups proved to combat loneliness and decrease negative lifestyle factors.
  5. Eating practices for these locations included a diet rich in vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts. Additionally, they also often practiced fasting, as well as decreased calorie intake. The Blue Zones also eat diets that are fish heavy, as a preferred protein. For example, in Icaria and Sardinia, fish is a staple and high in omega 3s.

Does location determine longevity?

National Geographic and Dr. Buettner did not originally set out to uncover these Blue Zones. In fact, they were embarking on what was originally designed to be an expedition to explore uniquely different areas of the world, only to find out that these 9 factors were major contributors to their longevity.

We know that there is no actual fountain of youth and that moving to these exotic places is not going to add years to your life. According to Buettner, these populations were not ‘trying’ to be healthy- they had not set out on a health quest to cleanse themselves, or create new ways of life. No, it was innate. The environment in which they lived was primarily natural, they worked near loved ones and knew their purpose. They broke bread with family and took the time to recharge.

Blue Zones, in partnership with Healthways, created what is called the Blue Zones Project which has set out to bring the Power 9 longevity principles to entire communities. To focus on changing environments, and creating long-term sustainable change for future generations.

This task is no small feat. Changing the way communities move, and share and eat and grow requires a lot of effort, as Buettner details:

“We work with restaurants, grocery stores, schools, and large employers to make healthier foods more accessible and less expensive. We also work with local community groups and religious institutions to create walking groups and other opportunities for residents to meet new people, create new connections, and improve their lives with volunteer work or new hobbies…we make it easier for people to move naturally, make new friends, and eat healthy.”

So far, the results have been dramatic. The first community work for this project was in Alberta Lea, MN. In a single year, the citizens added 2.9 years to their lifespans, with healthcare claims decreasing by 49%. There are now 42 Blue Zone project cities in the U.S. We look forward to seeing what changes these communities will actualize. According to Dr. Buettner:

“…through policy and environmental changes, the Blue Zones Project Communities have been able to increase life expectancy, reduce obesity, and make the healthy choice the easy choice for millions of Americans.”

Hope for the rest of us

And while we know this is one study, the initial results support other research for living longer. We know about some similar lifestyle suggestions such as meditation, the Mediterranean Diet, the importance of exercise, the need to have a purpose in life, and the critical component of love with family and friends.

We must, for the health of ourselves, and our children, focus on the whole body. From decreasing our stress to prioritizing our loved ones, to giving ourselves the time to relax and recharge, to not overeating and focusing more on the foods we eat than being full.

5 Reasons Vitamins Are Essential

Whether you’re looking for a quick bite of information or want to drop some knowledge on your dinnertime companions, here’s our Featured 5 of the Week! 

Fueling your body with vitamins is essential, especially in these long, dark, cold winter months. Why are vitamins important? We’re here to tell you!

5. You Can’t Have Minerals Without Vitamins

We always hear “vitamins and minerals” together rather than apart. That’s because vitamins and minerals complement each other. One works with the other.

What’s the difference? A vitamin is a carbon-containing molecule. It’s classified as either water-soluble or fat-soluble. Vitamins can also be changed or inactivated by heat, oxygen, light, or chemical processes. Minerals, however, don’t contain carbon and are not affected by heat or light. Minerals are elements and remain in the same state whether they’re found in food, soil, or even a cooking pan. 

When you have a vitamin, let’s say calcium, and a mineral, take magnesium, the magnesium helps your body absorb the calcium. And, together, they provide bone support.

4. Supplements What We Don’t Get in Food

Vitamins are much more than little pills or gummies you take in the morning. They are also found in whole foods. Supplement forms of various vitamins can help provide our bodies with all the extra nutrients you may not get from our diet.

When instructed to eat 5-7 servings of fruits and veggies a day, it’s because of the vitamins and minerals they contain. For example, eggs and fish provide vitamin D. If you’re vegan and don’t eat eggs or fish, you may need to take vitamin D supplements. The chart below can help you decipher different foods and their vitamins.

Each vitamin supplement has a different function and specific purpose in the body. Missing one can lead to problems with the immune system, digestion, and more. While supplements can be helpful, you should seek to intake your vitamins and minerals from whole foods when possible.

3. Help Protect Against Disease

We know that each vitamin has a specific purpose in the body, so lacking a vitamin can lead to a weakened immune system and a higher risk of developing a disease.

Let’s look at some examples. Vitamin E helps keep your eyes and skin healthy, but it does more than that. Some scientists say that vitamin E can help prevent diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.

The MIND diet also includes food that, due to its vitamin and mineral compound, can lower one’s chance of developing Alzheimer’s. These include berries, leafy greens, nuts, and wine. Yes, you heard us – wine! For example, leafy greens contain vitamin K, which make up the brain cell’s membrane and promotes cell growth. Nuts contain vitamin E that absorbs free radicals that damage brain cell membranes.

So, if you’re deficient in any vitamins, you may be exposing yourself to different illnesses.

2. Make Healthier Cells

Every day, our body makes new cells. And, since these cells carry out vital tasks all over our body, we want them to be strong and healthy.

This means we have to eat healthy foods full of vitamins and minerals. The more nutrient-dense foods we eat, like fruits and vegetables, the more vitamins our bodies will absorb, and the stronger our new cells will be.

We want strong and healthy cells because they will replicate into more strong and healthy cells, rather than weak ones.

1. Can Benefit Your Long-Term Health

We, of course, want to live a healthy long life. Vitamins can help us do that.

Research shows that as we age, mitochondria are not as prevalent in our cells. Mitochondria are important because they give cells the energy to carry out tasks all over the body. Vitamins can enhance the mitochondria, improving DNA damage, and thus diminishing aging issues.

Vitamins and minerals work two-fold. First, they take care of short-term deficiencies within the body. They also aid in tackling long-term problems like inflammation and DNA mutation, which can lead to heart disease and cancer.

 

Functional Water: All fun, no function?


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Functional waters are defined as enhanced waters that provide benefits outside of just sheer hydration. A sector that sprung onto the market in June 2016 when All Market Inc. launched Vita Coco, water in a box that touted the benefits of added electrolytes. From there, major players joined the scene—from PepsiCo to Coca-Cola to Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, Nestle, and more.

The global market share for water has grown from $10 billion in 2017 and is projected to be upwards of $18 billion by 2025. With nearly half of all Americans drinking less than four cups of water on a daily basis, it seems this sector could be promising for a dehydrated America.

But what can functional water really provide beyond hydration?

These beverage companies are hoping to revolutionize the hydrating experience, making claims like: ensuring better sleep quality, body-detoxing properties, pH balance, and more. But, what’s the real scoop here? I know Gal Gadot wants me to drink Smart Water, Dwayne Johnson wants me to refresh with Voss, Gwyneth Paltrow suggests hydrating with Flow, and Jaden Smith tells me to opt for Just Water. And while I know that my favorite celebs would nevvvverrr lie to me, there may be some smoke and mirrors at play.

Let’s see what the real deal is, where science meets celebrity, and how to base our spending on fact, not fame.

Types of Functional Waters

One size does not fit all.

Functional waters come in many forms, from alkaline to hydrogen-rich, electrolyte-enhanced to superfood infused…each one touting its unique health benefits.

Can these really all be true?

Alkaline Water:

CLAIM: Alkaline water brands claim to help regulate our body’s pH levels. By drinking alkaline water, you can lower your bodies pH, strengthen your immune system, clean your colon, prevent aging, detoxify your system, lose weight, and prevent cancer.

ANSWER: FALSE.

EXPLANATION: Much like our research of the Alkaline diet, the theory that too much acidity in the body is harmful and creates a need to increase our pH level, is itself false. Furthermore, the claim that water can alter a human’s internal pH levels is also untrue.

The reality is that our bodies do a darn good job of maintaining our very tight pH levels. There are many metabolic ways our body rids itself of acids to keep our pH between 7.35 and 7.45. Our lungs control our body’s pH by releasing carbon dioxide each time we breathe out. Our body also rids itself of acid by secreting it through our skin and urine. Furthermore, our stomach acids neutralize the alkaline water we ingest.

POTENTIAL UPSIDE: A 2012 animal study found that alkaline water with a pH of 8.8 neutralized pepsin, a stomach enzyme involved in breaking down food proteins and producing stomach acid. This suggests that alkaline water might help soothe acid reflux—though the issue has not been studied in people yet.

TAKEAWAY: If alkaline water is going to get you to drink more water, go for it! Just don’t think that the money you are spending is going to alter your body’s acidity levels. But if you suffer from acid reflux, give it a try!

Hydrogen-Rich Water:

Hydrogen-rich water is regular water boosted with extra hydrogen molecules. Hydrogen is a colorless, odorless, non-toxic gas that binds to other elements like nitrogen, carbon, and oxygen and can form a variety of compounds like water.

CLAIM: Adding hydrogen molecules in water can provide extra antioxidants to protect our body against damage caused by free radicals. It can also decrease inflammation, boost athletic performance, and even slow down how our body ages.

ANSWER: Not to the extent of these claims.

EXPLANATION: Water molecules consist of one oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms. The assertion of benefits from infusing water with additional hydrogen molecules lacks any scientific backing – and in fact may have been disproved by a recent four-week study in which 26 healthy people were asked to drink 20 ounces of hydrogen-rich glasses of water each day. When compared to results from a placebo group, the study found no indication of decreased oxidative stress or inflammation.

It is also important to note that there is currently no industry-wide standard for the amount of hydrogen that can be added to water. Should I worry about too much hydrogen? While a few studies have shown that too much hydrogen could lead to a build-up of hydrogen ions, which could cause muscle fatigue, these results are rare.

TAKEAWAY: If you enjoy drinking it, go for it! Just don’t think that the money you are spending is going to decrease inflammation and rid our body of free radicals.

Electrolyte Water:

Electrolyte Water is enhanced with electrolytes. But did you know that tap water and most other waters also contain trace amounts of electrolytes? Electrolytes themselves are minerals that help to conduct electricity when dissolved in water.

We have all heard of giving Pedialyte to kids who have the flu and need to add back electrolytes to get their energy level up. Well, here is what is happening: when electrolytes are distributed through fluid in our body, their electrical energy helps to control fluid balance, regulate blood pressure, and contract muscles like the heart.

CLAIM: Electrolyte waters can help to replenish electrolytes lost during physical activity, and help to increase energy.

ANSWER: YES in some cases.

EXPLANATION: Electrolyte water is most beneficial for those who are physically active, or those who have lost electrolytes due to sickness. During physical activity, the body loses sweat that contains sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Electrolyte enhanced waters can provide a replenishment of those minerals lost through sweat. But unless you are an athlete or under the weather, why pay more? And be careful of sports drinks with electrolytes, like Gatorade, that contain a whopping 30-grams of sugar in a 20-ounce bottle. In addition to the added calories, these sugar-rich drinks can actually make symptoms worse.

TAKEAWAY: If you find that electrolyte-rich water helps you recover faster, try it out! Just don’t think that the money you are spending is going to have much of an effect unless you are an athlete or have been sick and need to replenish lost electrolytes.

Infused Water:

Water added flavors such as fruits, vegetables, or herbs tend to taste great and is a perfect alternative to sodas and other sugary drinks. But what is this gorgeous glass of lemon and cucumber water providing you outside of an Instagram-able moment, and a good smelling, better tasting vessel to get your daily water intake? Well, truth is, not much.

CLAIM: Clear Skin! Weight Loss! Detoxing!

ANSWER: No, no, and no.

EXPLANATION: We have seen claims saying that up to 20 percent of nutrients from added fruits will leech into the water and provide some of the benefits from eating the whole food. Even if that were true, why not just pop the strawberry or cucumber in your mouth and get 100 percent of the nutrients?

But I suppose that is neither here nor there. Take lemon water as an example. Infusing water with lemon raises the amount of Vitamin C and antioxidants – but only produces a very, very small change in its nutritional content.

If that is your goal, simply eat the whole food….but maybe not a lemon.

POTENTIAL UPSIDE: If you are drinking delicious, homemade infused water, you’re staying hydrated without adding sugar. And that right there is a benefit in itself. I have recently been cutting up lemon and rosemary sprigs and putting them in a pitcher of water at the front of my fridge. This serves not only as a reminder to keep hydrated but an easy tasty option to sip my water all day long.

TAKEAWAY: If infused water is going to get you to drink more water, go for it! Just don’t think that the pretty pitcher of pineapple counts as a serving of fruits. It doesn’t. Just eat the darn fruit, and drink a glass of pretty water because it tastes good, looks good, and smells good, not because it is better for you.

Just Plain, Old Tap Water:

The healthiest and most affordable choice. While it may not be the tastiest option, it is, simply put, all we really need. Our bodies are made up of 60 percent water and each and every drop of water helps us digest, eliminate waste, deliver oxygen to our system, lubricate our joints, regulate our temperature, and help our nutrients flow. Basically, every single one of the billions of cells in your body needs water to function. Drinking more water can also help you stay fuller longer, which can decrease the desire to consume unnecessary calories.

According to the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, men should drink about 15.5 cups each day or 3.7 liters, while women should strive for 11.5 cups each day or 2.7 liters.  If you are thirsty – you are a bit dehydrated. Check your urine to see if the color is yellow or dark yellow – then reach for the bottle or glass.

Healthy Breakfast Wrap

Looking for something YUM for dinner, a side dish to elevate your entrée, or healthfully satisfy your sweet tooth? Check out our list of tried and true recipes  – you won’t be disappointed ????

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5 Benefits of GMOs

Whether you’re looking for a quick bite of information or want to drop some knowledge on your dinnertime companions, here’s our Featured 5 of the Week! 

GMOs are one of the most controversial topics within our global food system. There are many misconceptions regarding what a GMO is and what the technology is designed to do. GMOs provide a wide array of benefits for our global food system and world.

5. Less Pesticide Use

They use more pesticides, they’re a pesticide-crop – these are a couple of the rumors floating around about GMOs, and we’re here to give you the cold-hard truth: GMOs are NOT pesticides. Conversely, they create plants that require fewer pesticides.

Let’s break this down. A GMO is a genetically-modified plant (or seed). Why is it genetically-modified? The modifications allow GMO plants to resist diseases, repel insects and weeds, and to be drought-tolerant – to name a few. So, if plants can be resistant to these threats, wouldn’t that mean farmers don’t need as much pesticide and herbicide to protect the crop? You got it.

Bt Brinjal, a GMO eggplant, required 92% less pesticide use in a growing season compared to conventional eggplant. That is a huge reduction! And, in 2014, GMOs resulted in 37% overall reduced agricultural chemical use.

4. Higher Crop Yield

When walking through a farm of conventional versus GM farming, you will probably notice a vast difference in the crop’s quality and quantity.

A 2014 meta-analysis stated that GMOs increased crop yields by 22%. GM crops allow farmers to grow more and better crops for a few different reasons. First, genetically-engineered seeds are resistant to diseases and viruses that can harm that crop. Second, GM crops are resistant to insects that may harm them. For example, the Diamondback moth likes to prey on vegetable crops like broccoli and zucchini. With genetically-modified seeds, the crops are resistant to the diseases that the moths pass on to them. Third, since GM crops don’t require as much pesticide and herbicide use as conventional crops, farmers can spend that money on more seeds.

Farmers appreciate GMOs because they give them the flexibility to create a more sustainable farm by decreasing inputs, increasing outputs, and ultimately providing healthy food to their customers, like you and me.

3. Better For The Environment

Critics of GMOs claim they’re bad for the environment. However, research shows this isn’t the case.

We already know that GMOs require less pesticide use. Less pesticide use results in fewer pesticides released into the air and soil. Farmers who use Roundup Ready crops can practice no-till farming, which means they don’t have to turn the soil over to get rid of weeds. With this, nutrients are put back into the soil, keeping it dense and fortified. Furthermore, since there’s no need for a tractor to turn the soil over, fewer emissions are released into the air.

GMOs also require less water. Food and agriculture use about 70% of our global water supply. Droughts are a massive threat to our food supply. By creating drought-tolerant seeds, crops require less water.

GMOs allow farmers to use fewer pesticides, release fewer carbon emissions, conserve water, and increase soil health, all while having a higher crop yield.

2. More Nutritious

Vitamins and minerals are vital in our diet. They strengthen our immune system, keep our body functioning properly, and help maintain our overall health.

We’ve used the example of banana bread before. Banana bread has a basic recipe to follow, but you can add ingredients such as flaxseed and yogurt for extra nutrients. The same is true with GMOs. Nutrients are added to seeds to create a product that’s better for us. For example, Golden Rice, genetically-modified rice, includes two new genes from corn and a commonly ingested soil bacterium. These new genes allow the rice to express its beta-carotene gene – a precursor to vitamin A – leading to an overall healthier and nutrient-dense rice.

Since many people are deficient in some nutrients, including vitamin A, a crop that is more nutrient-dense is key to a healthy diet.

1. Greater Food Security

In 2050, our global population will increase to 9.7 billion. That means we need to be able to feed an extra 2 billion people. How will we do it?

Experts say that by 2050, annual cereal production will need to double to about 3 billion tonnes to feed the entire population. The way to do this is to implement plant breeding technologies.

Scientists have already sequenced new variations of barley and wheat genomes that will be able to produce a higher yield. The grains were also 12% larger than usual. Since wheat takes up about 20% of the calories consumed globally, and the current yield is only increasing 1% annually, this is especially hopeful.

800 million people worldwide are already chronically hungry and 2 billion are nutrient deficient. In countries like Africa, GMOs are already necessary to feed their people, just as they will be for the world by 2050.

Transparency in the Produce Aisle


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I have been working in the agriculture industry for a long time. Over 30 years to be exact. But it wasn’t until I entered the highly-perishable fresh produce sector a decade ago that I gathered a true appreciation for how complicated – and how powerful – a transparent supply chain can be.

For many deep-rooted and emotional reasons, consumers have a close relationship with their fresh produce, scanning the produce aisle high and low for just the right piece of fruit to take home. And if at a farmer’s market, they’ll often quiz the farmer on how the product was grown, what crop protection products were used, and when was it picked. Arguably, the consumer’s relationship with fruits and vegetables is the most complicated one in the supermarket.

Those are the old days. Or at least that is the past, and singular, view of how consumers connect with the most perishable of products in their shopping cart.

The promise of technology and its impact on transparency will forever change the produce aisle, just like moving from 3G to 5G technology.

Different Views on Produce

When I speak to consumers about transparency, they reflect with varied responses. Some will say they want to get to know the specific grower that produced the beans or apples. What type of land was the crop raised on? What chemicals were sprayed, if any? What similar products can I purchase from that particular farmer?

When I speak with growers, transparency means building deeper loyalty with retailers and the consumers they serve (with hopes the loyalty is returned). But equally important, it’s a way to keep track of the product in case of food safety inquiries and also ensuring the quality of food arriving at its final destination — a nudge for growers to improve transparency.

A Push for Transparency: Savings & Security

Like with most technologies, there must be a benefit for increased transparency to become more ubiquitous. The most tangible benefit is financial, of course. That could come in the form of cost savings by eliminating a portion of the supply chain, or through increased margin at the checkout stand demanded by a premium label.

At the same time, it could also be an opportunity to protect market share. We’ve all seen the many recalls for romaine lettuce. We’re told of a few brands and bar codes to be aware of, but how do they know? The ability to trace-back a product to a particular warehouse or field is very important for a retailer and the consumer.

In the case of a food safety incident, quick trace-back can mean the difference between a small recall involving one or two growers, or a larger investigation that involves tens of millions of dollars of impacted product. And, if consumers fall ill from the incident, a bruised reputation for the retailer or brand, regardless of the outcome.

A Tool for Telling a Story

According to a 2020 study by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Label Insight, shoppers have higher expectations for transparency when shopping online compared to in-store. Think back to the early days of COVID-19. According to FMI, online grocery purchases soared to 27% of all grocery spending for the March/April period of this year, compared to 14% in February.

This increase in online sales will undoubtedly drive consumers’ interest in a more transparent system. Why? In the store, you can look and feel the product you are about to purchase. Online, you need something more to tell the complete story of a product – how it was grown, when it was picked, size, and other quality attributes. That’s where transparency fills the gaps.

When you go to a grocery store, what do you want to know about your fruits and veggies? Why would you pick a particular brand of berries over another? Or what is it that you like about a particular store’s produce section? We often look for certain benefits when we purchase a product. It starts with the basics of getting a good product at a fair price. But beyond that, transparency helps the consumer make a purchase.

According to IRI Research, “consumers are more concerned than ever about where their food comes from. They are not only making their concerns widely known on social media; they are editing their shopping lists based on those concerns”. Not a surprise to see that the food transparency trend is growing, especially in the younger generations.

A Demand from Millennials

The effect of transparency on purchase decisions is even starker among the Millennial generation. According to a Snacking Trends Report, this demographic is increasingly making purchasing decisions based on “the tenets of self, society, and planet”, which feeds into sustainability.

Millennials have a real connection to the betterment of the planet, and brands need to be careful not to miss this. They must embrace the new level of transparency that Millennials have elevated. Just “talking the talk” will no longer cut it.

Farmers Demanding Price Visibility & Insights

Farmer acceptance of transparency technology is growing for multiple reasons. In the case of fresh produce, transparency allows the grower to look for efficiencies in the supply chain. Not only with their operation, but in the part of the chain above and below them.

Through an open purchasing platform, a grower may learn what the distributor pays the manufacturer for inputs, which puts them in a better negotiating position with the distributor, or even directly with the manufacturer.

Going the other direction in the supply chain, a grower may be able to directly access consumer insights on their products and brand. In the past, that information may have been maintained by retailers or distributors that, in turn, passed it along to the grower. The net result of this shift is quicker and better-informed decisions about what to grow.

And more importantly, they can look for particular attributes to provide the highest return from the marketplace. Similar to the consumer, it often comes down to economics: can I increase my revenue or lower my costs through the use of new technology that pulls up the shades somewhere else in the supply chain?

Promising Technologies in the Works

New technology has a way of telling the story of ‘what’s possible’. Here are two promising examples:

Founded in 2013, a Californian company called safetraces developed DNA “barcodes” that can be added to fruits and vegetables via a liquid spray or wax. What’s so special about that? The company takes a small piece of synthetic DNA from organisms not typically found in the produce section – like seaweed – which they mix with trace amounts of sugar and create a sprayable solution. According to the company, the spray is odorless, tasteless, and poses no food safety risk.

If a problem with the product arises, the DNA on the surface can be swabbed and identified within minutes. Placing the DNA barcode directly on fresh produce significantly reduces the potential for traceback information to be lost. Produce boxes, which traditionally carry the tracking information, are discarded long before anyone catches on to a problem.

In a different twist on innovative traceability technology, software company HarvestMark partnered with iFood Decision Sciences to create a solution that allows consumers to not only view each step along the supply chain, but to provide feedback and reward those brands they feel are doing the best job of transparency.

The product information is collected and shared with the consumer on an item-level basis. The consumer has instant feedback linked to the product’s age, origin, and location. This allows the grower to see how a specific product performs on the grocery store shelf and then make short and long-term production decisions.

In addition to the quality and analytical measurements provided to the grower, like temperature control, inventory monitoring, and supplier notifications, this traceability system also provides a mechanism for product recall in case there is a food safety incident.

The real power of the HarvestMark technology comes through the integration of both the consumer and analytical supply-chain feedback. A highly perishable raspberry variety, for example, might have great flavor and visual appeal according to consumer feedback. Through the analytics of the traceability software across the supply chain, the grower can maximize the shelf-life of the raspberries and reduce perishability at the store level. The result is increased income for both the grower and the retailer…and a happy customer who returns for repeat business.

The promise of this technology will be optimized even further using blockchain applications, which enables the industry to share data up and down the supply chain while maintaining the integrity of the data at each source.

Khala Hurd

Click to listen as Hayley Philip interviews Khala.

As D2D’s Social Media Manager, Khala writes and shares content about food, nutrition, and agriculture across D2D’s social media platforms. She also collaborates with her teammates in researching and debunking various health myths, especially those that involve trendy diets and fads on social media. She regularly posts articles about health and nutrition and creates Featured Five articles and our recipe pages.

Khala is also heading up a new D2D educational initiative designed to empower educators to help children understand how their food is grown, where it comes from, and what it takes to get it to their plate. Having grown up surrounded by farms in upstate NY, Khala is still amazed there was no education about agriculture or the local farming community.

Knowing how valuable this would have been in her life, Khala is committed to ensuring more children learn about the food that is not only grown around the world but, quite possibly, right in their own communities.

Khala Hurd graduated with a B.S. in Communication from Cornell University. She worked in digital and social media at Modern Marketing Inc., Thrive LOUD, and WEtv at AMC Networks before joining Dirt to Dinner. In her free time, Khala enjoys exercising, singing, and experimenting with new recipes that she loves turning into videos for D2D’s audience.

Garland West

Click to listen as Khala Hurd interviews Garland.

Garland has spent four decades immersed in the complex world of food and agriculture, as both a profession and a personal passion. As a contributing writer to Dirt-to-Dinner, he applies that experience and keen interest in all things food-related to focus on our modern global food system, sustainability and other timely topics.

Over his career, Garland has applied his academic training in journalism to coverage of agricultural, environmental and trade policy in Washington and Europe for clients that include major corporate leaders and prominent global consulting firms. His resume includes postings in Washington, Minneapolis, London, New York, Chicago and Detroit, both as a corporate executive and president of his own communications company. He is a published author and public speaker on agriculture, trade and public policy matters, as well as a consultant to various organizations on organizational leadership.

He and his wife Nancy today reside deep within in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where they maintain an animal sanctuary and savor a more contemplative and relaxed pace of life.

Hillary E. Kaufman

Click to listen as Lucy interviews Hillary.

Hillary believes in the power of research to substantiate sound decision-making, especially when it comes to learning about our food system. Hillary’s earlier career centered on forecasting consumer trends and researching potential investment ideas in the healthcare and consumer goods spaces. But as her family grew, Hillary’s priorities shifted. So, in 2017, she enthusiastically joined D2D.

As a team member, Hillary manages the D2D website and makes sure readers have a great experience navigating all our content across our varied subjects, media experiences, and platforms. Given her love of cooking, she’ll write about the issues affecting our decision-making at the grocery store. This often includes all those gimmicky labels we see on our foods that make us falsely assume one product is superior. The worst offender to date? Non-GMO salt.

Hillary hopes her contribution to the site helps readers make research-driven food decisions for their families, as it has with hers.

Hayley N. Philip

Click to listen as Hillary Kaufman interviews Hayley.

Hayley joined D2D in 2018 as Marketing Director. As the granddaughter of a farmer and growing up in California’s Central Valley, one of the nation’s most productive agricultural regions, Hayley’s interest in food, farming, and agriculture began at a young age. But it wasn’t until a few years ago when she was trying to make healthier meals for her family, that she realized the enormous challenge people faced in getting actual facts about our food and food system.

During that time, Hayley found herself navigating through a jungle of misinformation, misleading labels and “fake” diets and health claims. As her frustration mounted, Hayley wondered if the glut of food misinformation was contributing to millions of Americans now facing obesity and chronic illnesses (like Type 2 diabetes).

Determined to be part of the solution and help people use food to better their own health, Hayley jumped at the chance to be part of the D2D team.

Hayley also leads the team in debunking popular fad diets, fast-nutrition, and myths about ‘quick’ dietary fixes. Hayley also researches and writes about the intersectionality of regeneration and sustainable growing methods that will safely produce enough food for future generations.

Hayley is a graduate of the University of California Santa Barbara with degrees in Sociology and Marketing.  She moved to New York shortly after graduation, where she worked in sales and marketing for almost a decade before joining D2D.

How is Dirt to Dinner Funded?

Hi – it’s Lucy here. I have received a lot of questions about D2D’s funding. Asking good questions and demanding transparency from any news source is crucial.

I want you to know I am personally answering the below questions. Have a question about our funding that I didn’t answer? Shoot it to me here.

Who funds D2D?

The answer is easy: I, along with help from my husband, fund this site with the money we have earned or are earning by working and investing. My previous career was in banking and finance. Over the past several years, I have invested in small businesses. My husband is CEO of his own firm, Hamlin Capital Management.

I am proud of the career I have built and the money I have earned. I’m glad I have made enough of it to start D2D.  My goal is to give you, the consumer, clear, straight-forward answers (always backed by science and research) about food and our food system.

In some ways, it’s a wonder why I built my own career. When I was younger, I was told my main job was to “marry well”.  I never asked exactly what that meant, but assumed it was to marry someone who would take care of me. Lots of girls were told that. Why? At that time, many people assumed a woman couldn’t (or wouldn’t) make any money on her own. Well, I married a great guy who has provided for me lots of love, support, and excitement. I also managed to build a career on my own and have a few kids along the way.

Wait – you’re a part of the Cargill family! Cargill is a global corporation –  do you do this to benefit Cargill?

You’re right…I am part of the Cargill family. In 1865, my great, great grandfather, W.W. Cargill, started a small grain business which today is Cargill Inc. You can read about the company here. Today, I hold some shares in Cargill, along with many other companies. And, as I put in my bio, I served on the Cargill Board of Directors for 18 years.

It’s fair to ask whether Cargill is somehow benefiting from D2D. Here’s the answer: no. Cargill doesn’t need me – or anyone else for that matter – to start a blog to secretly help them disseminate information or make money. They do that very well and are very transparent by bringing food, agricultural, financial and industrial products to people who need them all over the world.

Do you sell Cargill’s products and services on this site?

No, we don’t sell any of Cargill’s products or services on this site. However, Cargill is one of the biggest agricultural businesses in the world and sometimes we may talk about something they are involved in. If we do, we’ll be transparent about it and explain why we think it is important for you to know about the product or service we are mentioning.

Does Cargill help fund D2D?

No. Dirt to Dinner does not receive any money from Cargill.

Do you sell anything on your site?

Yes! We are just beginning to sell apparel. Please check it out here.

Have more questions for me about our funding?  Send them to me here.

Lucy M. Stitzer

Click to listen as Garland West interviews Lucy.

Founder, Editor

Lucy’s passion for ensuring people everywhere have access to healthy, safe, and sustainable food began when her first child was born. Lucy and two of her sons have a unique blood disorder which encouraged them to ‘eat well’ and live a healthy lifestyle. She began researching what foods could help. What the young, working mom found was a vast and complex food system.

There was (and still is) a wealth of misinformation, fads and outright lies about food. Lucy’s journey with her sons inspired her to research and understand the science around food and food production. As a board member of her family’s agricultural company, Cargill, Inc., she developed a strong understanding of the food supply chain.

Today, Lucy also believes an educated food consumer can transform the global agricultural system. She is determined to make evidence-based food research and information accessible to consumers so they can make the best choices for themselves and their families.

By demanding best practices using innovation, technology and sound science, consumers can ensure farmers and producers use fewer chemicals, create healthier soil, protect clean air, and bring the healthiest, sustainable food to market. At the same time, Lucy believes that consumers are capable of aiding American farmers and food producers to be profitable, eco-sensitive and more competitive in the global agricultural market.

Through D2D, Lucy is putting food knowledge and power where it belongs —

with the consumer.

In addition to Cargill, Lucy serves on the Board at Waycrosse Inc., Hamlin Capital Management, and is Chairman of Rush Creek Golf Course. She began her career in banking and finance.

Lucy loves excitement and fun activities with her three boys and husband. She runs, skis, golfs, gardens, rides motorcycles, and flies airplanes.

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