Occupy the Food Supply

My living room veg garden: cabbage seedlings, burdock and sweet potatoesBy Dr. Susan Rubin

My journey from being a dentist to a food activist has been filled with twists and turns over the years. When the Occupy Wall Street movement started last fall, I was immediately intrigued. At the core of the Occupy movement is greed, corruption and the undue influence of corporations on our government. The corporate control of food in every level of our lives had been pretty darn clear to me for a long time, its a big reason I’m an active participant in the Occupy movement.

Corporate control of our food is every where you look. Here are just four examples (there are many more):

1. School Food: 25% of all school cafeterias are run by giant corporations such as Aramark, Chartwells, Sodhexo and others. These corporations are required by law to deliver a profit to their shareholders, that comes way before providing healthy, safe food to kids. In my 10+ years of school food advocacy, I saw first hand that the school cafeterias who made meaningful healthy changes came from school districts that did NOT outsource their food service to corporations.

2. Genetically modified organisms, aka GMOs. Approximately 70% of all processed and packaged foods contain GMOs. One corporation, Monsanto, controls more than 95 percent of our nation’s sugar beets, 94 percent of the soybeans, and 88 percent of the corn grown in this country. Pretty darn creepy. Learn more about Monsanto’s influence on our food system by clicking here.

If you live near me, get your seeds from the Hudson Valley Seed Library.

3. Seeds. Ready for another creepy fact? Five companies dominate the world’s seed market — Bayer (Aventis), Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, and Syngenta (Novartis and AstraZeneca). These are the corps who make pesticides and genetically modified organisms. Corporate control of seeds is terrifying, learn more by clicking here. The answer to this is save your own seeds or be involved with a local seed swap. I belong to the Hudson Valley Seed Library – check it out!

4. A flawed farm bill Sadly we live in a country where a happy meal is cheaper than a healthy meal. Multi-national meatpacking corporations like Tyson-IBP, ConAgra, Cargill and Smithfield are big players in the farm bill, keeping subsidies for corn and soy so they can profit from factory raised cows. Learn more about the farm bill by clicking here.

So what can YOU do to keep corporations out of your food supply?

Here are some suggestions:
1. Buy your veggies from a local farmers market. It is essential that we all do everything we can to support our local regional food systems. With climate change and resource depletion (fossil fuels), we must rebuild local food. Regular visits to farmer’s markets can be a delicious way to wean yourself away from corporate controlled food.

2. Join a CSA. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture- its a great way to keep corporations out of our food supply, you deal directly with a farmer for an entire growing season. Local Harvest is a website that can help you to find a CSA near you. (l I’m psyched that Kitchawan Farm is a starting new small CSA just minutes from my home. Learn more about their 2012 farm share by clicking here.

3. Buy your bread from a a local bakery. Get yourself some REAL bread! We have one a few towns away from here, in Port Chester, its called Kneaded Bread its a special treat and worth the trip. You’ll find that 99% of bread in supermarkets contains questionable ingredients that don’t belong in bread. Most of it contains GMO ingredients. Get your family off of this poison!

4. Prepare you own meals instead of buying fast food, take out or frozen dinners. If you stop to think about it, how did we ever lose this skill of preparing food for ourselves and our families? You guessed it! Food corporations and their slick ad campaigns turned cooking into “drudgery” and sold us “convenience” YUP, it comes down to re-skilling: learning how to cook, its really not rocket science. Get your kids started on this as well, child labor is appropriate, you’ll be teaching them life skills. By the time they’re out of high school, they should know how to cook for themselves. That way they will not be dependent upon the corporate run cafeterias at their college or worse yet, RAMEN! Note that there are colleges with great food, UMASS Amherst is a great example.

5.Buy your milk from a local farm. Find one in your area and support it. Corporate influence of our milk supply is truly disturbing. One thing you must make sure of and that is that the milk you drink does not contain Monsanto’s recombinant bovine growth hormone. rBGH increases your chances of breast, colon and prostate cancer.

6. Make you own cookies, cakes, and pies. With real ingredients. Organic butter. Fair trade sugar. Teach your kids that these forms of treats #1 taste better……teach them quality counts, #2 better for you and for the planet. Stay far far away from toxic corporate cookies like Girl Scout cookies. Support your local troop with a check instead and make your own cookies at home.

7. Start growing your own. I often tell people, “gardens are the answer. what was your question?” The benefits of growing food are enormous, let me start to count the ways. Getting your hands in the dirt, soil, has health benefits: anti-depressant properties, may help facilitate learning, may help people with asthma.


bio Dr. Susan Rubin is an eco-gastronomically focused food educator and leader in the world of school food activism as well as a mother of three.  She is the founder of Better School Food, a coalition of health professionals, educators, and concerned parents, whose mission is to raise awareness about the connection between better food and better health. She is one of the Two Angry Moms in the documentary film of the same name.  Dr. Susan has a private health counseling practice in Westchester, NY.  You can contact Dr. Rubin at www.drsusanrubin.com


Maps to the Treasure: A Story of Alzheimer’s Disease

By Sarah L. White

Originally posted on Maria Shriver: Ideas, Inspiration & Information for ARCHITECTS OF CHANGE

In May of 2010 I lost my grandmother to complications of Alzheimer ’s disease. Along with the grief I felt watching my grandmother struggle with her memory loss, I also grieved for my mother as I watched her loose her mother to this heart wrenching illness.

Perhaps the most painful grief I felt was watching my own children and my sister’s children slowly loose the great grandmother who had rocked and cared for all of them throughout their short lives. The amazing woman who once knew everything about them slowly lost her ability to recall their names and who they belonged to…but she never forgot them.

Sitting in her chair in the living room she would ask about them constantly. She would describe them with such loving words, “the adorable little boy with blue eyes,” or “that beautiful little girl with brown hair.” Alzheimer’s may have caused her to forget some important things, but it never was able to take from her what mattered the most. Our young children would bring her books to read to them and would snuggle up with her to watch their favorite movie or cartoon.

She may not have remembered their names, but she never forgot their souls.

As a therapist I knew the outcome of Alzheimer ’s disease and how to accept what was happening to my grandmother. As a mother I was at a loss to explain this very adult concept to my young children.

I wanted my children to understand that their great grandmother’s struggle to remember things about them was not something she had done intentionally and that they would always be in her heart and deep in her mind. I knew that she wanted them to always know how much she loved them and treasured them.

I wrote the poem below, Maps to the Treasure, to help explain that love and her struggle with Alzheimer’s disease to the many children, old and young, whose life she had touched. It was the last of my stories I was able to share with her while she still had those beautiful moments of clarity.

I hope this story brings comfort to those who have loved ones fighting this disease and understanding to the children who are priceless treasures in the minds of those fighting.


Maps to the Treasure
A Story of Alzheimer’s Disease
By Sarah White

A long time ago in lands far away,
Pirates would gather their treasures each day.

They would keep jewelry and trinkets and gold by the pound
And sneak off at night to bury it deep in the ground.

What was special to each pirate, well I really can’t say,
But I imagine it was the little things that brightened their day.

A big diamond ring or some small little charms,
Perhaps they had bracelets that could hang from their arms.

A necklace, a ruby, a bottle of pop?
Or a small leather bag with coins to the top?

Each pirate would chose the treasures they liked the best,
The ones that shined brighter than all of the rest.

They would love them, carry them and show them to others,
They would share them with friends, brothers, sisters and mothers.

But when it would get dark they would sneak off at night
And bury their treasures so they were all out of plain sight.

Knowing how valuable soon this treasure would be,
They would search for a place perhaps under a tree.

They would lurk in the forest or on a beach hill,
Yes hiding the treasure was really a skill!

Only the pirate knew where their treasure was hidden,
Because bringing a friend was strictly forbidden!

The pirates would draw maps so that they could remember
Because chances are they would forget by December.

Back to their beds the pirates would surely go,
And they’d hide the maps so that no one would know.

For years the pirates would return to these places,
And boy each time it would sure light up their faces.

They would look at each treasure and hold it so tight
And dream about the treasure as they slept at night.

In the morning sun they’d be back in their beds,
With visions of happiness filling their heads.

Over and over they would look at the maps they made,
And for some of the pirates the maps started to fade.

A few times they would look in the wrong spot
But slowly for some this happened a lot.

Some days were good and some days were bad,
Some older pirates would get so mad!

After searching and searching and still not succeeding,
It is clear that some help was what those pirates were needing.

A hint or a clue is what they were demanding.
Their families tried to be so understanding.

Some pirates maps were clear while others were blurry,
Because of this it would cause pirates to worry.

Some of the treasures never were found,
They are still buried deep in the ground.

My grandma plays pirate and I know that it is true,
She has a map like the pirates in this story do.

It isn’t on paper or easy to find,
The “x-marks the spot” is so deep in her mind.

Mom talks about the treasures that grandma has hid,
She started collecting them when she was a kid!

The treasures aren’t riches or diamonds and things,
Her box is not filled with gold bars or big rings.

My grandmother’s treasures aren’t items to sell,
In fact I’ve seen a few and know them quite well.

You see her treasures cannot be held in your hands,
And hiding her treasures was not part of her plans.

Sometimes a map to the treasure will just get too worn,
Remember it was created the day she was born.

And those treasures you ask, well what could they be?
Most of her treasures are memories of me!

Watching her search for her treasures can sometimes be tough
But just knowing I am in there is always enough!


Sarah L. White, M.S., M.F.T is a Marriage and Family Therapist in Southern California. She is the author of Sammy’s Soldier, a book for children who have loved ones serving in our military and Somewhere Special, which explains a military funeral for the children who have lost a military member. Sarah is also a mother to two boys, Jacob and Joshua.

A Daughter’s Love Note

from the heart

I remember going through my mom’s drawers when I was a kid. Poor woman had no privacy, I was in every nook and cranny of her life. And I would find all sorts of little scraps of paper where I had scribbled stick figures of her and I holding hands with a big spidery sun over our heads. Sometimes I’d come across notes that my sister had given her before I came along in the family. My favorite one from my sister Debbie to my mom was, “Help! From me, stranded on a raft!” I have no idea what was going on there, and I have silly visions of her playing in the pool in the yard and drifting off, it made me giggle.

Years later, when my sister and I had to pack up the house after my mom died, a couple of years after my dad passed away, I found them all again. They would be in the strangest places, the kitchen towel drawer, her jewelry box, her vanity, my dad’s sock drawer, like little petals of love and memories scattered everywhere as reminders. Tiny fragments of time and love frozen to be savored when discovered unexpectedly.

When I had my own children, they came to me with smiles and sticky hands, sometimes toddling over in the sunshine on the deck in their diapers, with little notes of their own. Like ferocious attempts to preserve the golden glow of summer days, and the incredible bond between mother and child, they flowed in an endless stream. And I channeled that stream to the bottoms of kitchen towel drawers, tucked them into the corners of kitchen cabinets, taped them inside medicine cabinet doors, anywhere that I could stumble upon them and feel that moment reawakened for a split second. I loved that feeling, like little chubby warm arms wrapped around my neck and a sleepy head tucked against my neck and snuggled in, safe as could be.

Today, my youngest gave me a love note. She’s 8 now, my boys are 15 and almost 13. There’s nothing I cherish more than their love, and today was a warm and wonderful reminder of years gone by.

Here’s to mothers everywhere who have sticky notes in their purses, and drawers and jewelry boxes. Moms who tear up and hold those notes close to their hearts when they find them. And here’s the poem I was handed today…

a daughter's love note

The Best Mom Ever

Mommy, I love you because you’re the best,

You take care of all 3 of us in your warm, loving nest,

You make us good food,

Even when we are in a bad mood,

That’s why I love my mom,

Because you’re awesome!

I hope my kids have children as wonderful as they are, who shower them with love notes like this.

xoxo mommy


Going Gluten-Free at the Drive-Through – What to Do When Fast Food is Your Only Option

 Guest Blog by Max Librach of CeliAct.com


choosing GF fast food

While no one’s claiming fast food is ideal, sometimes you need to eat on the run, whether you’re traveling, out with a crowd or just short on time.

You can get a safe gluten-free meal at the drive-through, but you’ll need to be extra careful, choose your restaurant well, and ask questions.

Here are my thoughts on 10 different fast food chains, from my own experience and from what I’ve heard from others who are gluten-free. Some you won’t have in your neck of the woods, but most are well-recognized across the country.

Fast Food Options: Which Have the Best Gluten-Free Menus?

  • Wendy’s has a gluten-free menu, including bunless burgers, salads, baked potatoes and chili. Some restaurants use a dedicated fryer for their fries, making them an option when you’re gluten-free. Ask your local Wendy’s to be sure that your fries are cross-contamination free.
  • Hardees offers a low-carb style burger wrapped in a lettuce leaf, a breakfast bowl or salad for gluten-intolerant customers. Hardees does not use dedicated fryers, so skip the fries.
  • In-and-Out Burger may be a regional chain, but it’s a favorite with lettuce-wrapped burgers and freshly cut fries. The fries are cooked in a dedicated fryer, so they’re a safe indulgence.
  • Chick-Fil-A has a number of gluten-free options and one of the largest gluten-free fast food menus on the market, including a gluten-free kids’ meal with grilled nuggets, blended applesauce and a drink. The grilled chicken, grilled chicken salads and, typically, the waffle fries are safe bets.

Other Safe Alternatives with Gluten-Free Menus

  • Sonic, Burger King and Arby’s all offer gluten-free meats. Have your sandwich made without a bun and skip chicken dishes and fried sides. Pair your bunless burger with a side salad, shake or hit up the kids menu for applesauce or fresh fruit.
  • Many of Subway’s salads are gluten-free or can be made gluten-free. Ask that the server change his or her gloves and use fresh bins of food to reduce cross-contamination. A few Subway restaurants are testing the gluten-free market with gluten-free buns and have provided additional employee training in gluten sensitivity. This got started last year in Dallas, Portland and a few other cities to see if customers would actually buy a gluten-free sandwich. Evidently, the test was a success because Subway has just announced that they will be offering gluten-free sandwiches at all Subway locations in the state of Oregon!

Which Fast Food Options to Stay Away From

  • McDonald’s offers no safe options for a gluten-free lunch on the go. Even a bunless burger isn’t necessarily safe here. A side salad, without chicken, or ice cream is the safest choice if all else fails.
  • Taco Bell looks like it ought to be a pretty good choice. Looks can be deceiving. The only thing that doesn’t contain wheat on this menu is the cheesy nachos.

Keep in mind that cross-contamination is always a risk and you must assume that the employees know nothing about celiac disease and gluten intolerance. Step inside and keep an eye on your meal prep for extra safety, until you’re familiar with the policies at your favorite drive-through. Take the time to politely educate the manager and you may find that you can safely enjoy an on-the-go meal in the future.

Max Librach
Max is a co-founder of Eagle Therapeutics and has had celiac disease for over ten years. Wanting to do more for his health beyond following a gluten free diet, Max set out to research the effects of supplementation on celiac disease. Eventually, he teamed up with nutritionists, dietitians and physicians from all over the world to create CeliAct.