Food Policy Journal Watch: February 2015
Effective government policies are essential to increase the healthiness of food environments. The International Network for Food and Obesity/non-communicable diseases (NCDs) Research, Monitoring and Action Support (INFORMAS) has developed a monitoring tool (the Healthy Food Environment Policy Index (Food-EPI)) and process to rate government policies to create healthy food environments against international best practice. The aims of this study were to pilot test the Food-EPI, and revise the tool and process for international implementation.
Food and nutrition: A biological anthropologist’s experiences from an academic platform (American Journal of Human Biology)
The article is guided by an analytical framework that compares eight projects in terms of their mode of knowledge production, academic impact, public impacts, and personal rewards. The projects range from village-based surveys in Samoa and Malawi to food security planning in upstate New York communities, US policies on genetically engineered (GE) foods, and participant–observer research on nutrition policy development in low-income countries.
Rising Food Prices, Food Price Volatility, and Social Unrest (American Journal of Agricultural Economics)
Because food prices and social unrest are jointly determined, data on natural disasters are used to identify the causal relationship flowing from food price levels to social unrest. Results indicate that for the period 1990–2011, food price increases have led to increases in social unrest, whereas food price volatility has not been associated with increases in social unrest. These results are robust to alternative definitions of social unrest, to using real or nominal prices, to using commodity-specific price indices instead of aggregated price indices, to alternative definitions of the instrumental variable, to alternative definitions of volatility, and to controlling for non-food-related social unrest.
What’s on the Menu for an Equitable Approach to Nutrition Labeling in Restaurants? (Public Health Ethics)
This commentary attempts to begin to specify what these equity considerations ought to look like given the specific situational and dispositional factors associated with menu labelling. It concludes that the goals of menu labelling interventions should be, at a minimum, to strive to give consumers equality of access to nutrition information and/or the equal opportunity or capability to make informed food decisions in the eating out environment. These considerations support a universal approach to menu labelling, but may also require targeted strategies to attend to the needs of those less capable of making informed food decisions.
Planning for food security in a changing climate (Journal of Experimental Botany)
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other international agencies have concluded that global crop production is at risk due to climate change, population growth, and changing food preferences. Society expects that the agricultural sciences will innovate solutions to these problems and provide food security for the foreseeable future. My thesis is that an integrated research plan merging agronomic and genetic approaches has the greatest probability of success. I present a template for a research plan based on the lessons we have learned from the Green Revolution and from the development of genetically engineered crops that may guide us to meet this expectation. The plan starts with a vision of how the crop management system could change, and I give a few examples of innovations that are very much in their infancy but have significant potential. The opportunities need to be conceptualized on a regional basis for each crop to provide a target for change. The plan gives an overview of how the tools of plant biotechnology can be used to create the genetic diversity needed to implement the envisioned changes in the crop management system, using the development of drought tolerance in maize (Zea mays L.) as an example that has led recently to the commercial release of new hybrids in the USA. The plan requires an interdisciplinary approach that integrates and coordinates research on plant biotechnology, genetics, physiology, breeding, agronomy, and cropping systems to be successful.
Does SNAP improve your health? (Food Policy)
In this study, we examine the effect of SNAP on health quite generally, examining self-assessed health (SAH), healthy time, and basic health utilization measures as outcomes. Our approach is to model outcomes and participation simultaneously, using exogenous variation in state eligibility to identify SNAP participation. We use this approach for both ordered choices (health) and count outcomes (sickdays, office-based visits, outpatient visits), where the former uses maximum likelihood and the latter maximum simulated likelihood. In addition, we control for state-level unobservables that are correlated with both participation and health, which previous studies of this question have neglected. Our results indicate that SNAP has an consistently positive effect on SAH; it significantly increases the probability of reporting excellent or very good health. We also find that SNAP participants spend about 3 fewer days in bed due to illness each year, and report between 1 and 2 fewer office-based doctor visits and a fraction fewer outpatient visits. Supplementary specifications indicate that, although SNAP participants consume fewer office visits overall, they have more checkups than comparable non-participants.