Food for Thought Friday

Would you look at the time!?!…more like…would you look at the calendar! Where have the weeks gone? Three weeks have passed since traveling to Seattle, and I just thought I might share a little “Food for Thought” by putting together all of the information that entailed the poster Anna (another Dietetics student at SDSU) and I presented while at the National Collegiate Honors Council National Conference.

nchcgroup

Honors Family Picture at NCHC!

To start off, our research comprised of a handful of simple questions aimed at answering some basic questions regarding the concept of nutrition as implemented and perceived in China. We were interested in gaining a general understanding of what the “average” Chinese citizen knows about the resources available in his/her country focusing on improving and maintaining proper nutrition. Here is the list of the exact questions we used while touring the country:

  1. Do you think nutrition is a priority in your country?
  1. Are there dietary guidelines in China?
  1. Is there media associated with proper nutrition? Any information available?
  1. On a scale of 1-10, how informed do you feel about proper nutrition?
  1. If you had questions about your diet, would you contact anyone? Who? How do you get informed?
  1. Are you more concerned about obesity or undernourishment?
  1. Do students get fed at school or do they bring their own lunch? What do they eat?
  1. If you didn’t have enough food to get through the week, is there anywhere you could get a meal or supplies? Who runs these? Does this vary around the country?
  1. If there was an elderly person who couldn’t access food for him/herself, how would they get it? Who takes care of elderly in China?
  1. Does the government emphasize any food/drink/ingredient?
  1. What is consumed at Universities?
  1. Is there relief specifically to hungry children?

Of course in order for our comparison to occur, we also needed to have a basic understanding of the nutritional services offered at home in the United States. We spent a couple of nights before our trip doing some “heavy” research to refresh ourselves with various supplemental nutrition programs, food distribution programs, and child nutrition programs. Here is a list of what we found and highlighted about the various programs!

USDA: Food & Nutrition Service

  1. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Largest program in domestic hunger safety
  • Works with State (benefits issued through), nutrition educators, faith-based organizations
  • Requirements:
    • $2,250 in countable resources
    • Must work
    • Net income depending on household size
  • Benefits: 30% of income (spend on food)
  • Doesn’t discriminate and available to legal immigrants
  1. Food Distribution Programs
  • Focuses on schools & families
  • 100% American grown
    • The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)
      • States provide food to local food banks
      • Eligibility:
        • Public or private nonprofit organizations
        • Households meeting requirements
      • Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP)
        • Improve health of low income elderly (at least 60), pregnant and breastfeeding, infants, and children (up to 6)
        • Distributes food and funds
        • Not complete diet, provides common lacking nutrients
        • State, local, and Indian agencies
      • Schools/Child Nutrition USDA Food Programs
        • Purchases domestic products for use
        • Programs:
          • National School Lunch Program (“entitlement foods”)
          • Child & Adult Care Food Program
          • Summer Food Service Program
          • School Breakfast Program
  1. Child Nutrition Programs
  • Fight hunger and obesity by reimbursing facilities for serving healthy meals
  • Programs:
    • Child & Adult Care Food Program
    • Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Program
    • National School Lunch Program
    • School Breakfast Program
    • Special Milk Program
    • Summer Food Service Program
  1. Women, Infant, & Children (WIC)
  • Provide supplemental foods, info on healthy eating, and referrals to healthcare
  • Programs:
    • Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program
    • Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program

American Non-Profit Organizations

  • Feeding America
    • Nation’s largest domestic hunger relief
    • Includes: Mobile food pantry, school pantry, senior groceries, community health/nutrition, disaster response, SNAP outreach
    • Gives: 3.6 million dollars annually, 200 food banks, 60,000 pantries, 45 million people, safe place for a meal
    • To: Nearly every US community, children, seniors, disaster victims, struggling adults
  • Meals on Wheels
    • Extends senior’s independence and health as they age
    • Community volunteers take meals to the homes of seniors in need
    • Gives: Meal delivery to seniors, safety check, friendship, nutritious meals for improved health
    • To: nearly every community in the US, 2.4 million seniors annually
  • Share Our Strength (No Kid Hungry)
    • Partners with local and state organizations to bring healthy meals to hungry children
    • Includes: State and Local partnerships, cooking matters
    • Gives: Support through knowledge and funds to local and state anti-hunger organizations, emphasis on summer meals, classes about proper cooking, budgeting and decision making
    • To: Organizations->Children all over the US, classes for caregivers
  • Salvation Army
    • . Faith-based organization serving anyone, vary by community needs and resources
    • Includes: adult rehab, veteran affairs services, prison ministries, elderly services, combating human trafficking, missing persons, hunger relief, housing and homeless services, Christmas assistance, youth camps, and emergency disaster relief
    • Gives: 60,000 meals annually, shelter
    • To: anyone in need, homeless people of all ages, singles and families who are down on their luck

American Private or For-Profit Organizations

This includes many companies that donate to the cause of aforementioned organizations among other nonprofits in their communities. Most include food companies, but monetary funds are also donated by companies without food to donate. Seed companies have been known to donate relief as well.

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Now, after doing all of the background research and getting our research questions answered by various individuals throughout our travels, Anna and I could finally compose what would make up our poster presentation for the NCHC National Conference.

Below contains our background, data, conclusion, and sources from our research. We ultimately ended up grouping our data into multiple categories with a specific focus based on the answers we received from each question.

Processed with VSCO

Processed with VSCO

Background:

The project was designed around a nutrition study abroad class in China. Before embarking overseas, preliminary research was completed to re-familiarize students with the nutritional services offered in the United States, and to develop a background on Chinese nutritional services in order to prepare adequate interview questions. While traveling throughout China, students interviewed several general Chinese citizens and observed the country for any signs of nutrition promotions and services. Research took place in Shanghai, Wuhan, and Beijing, supplemented with a presentation from nutritionists at China Agricultural University.

Data:

Nutrition as a Priority

Food security and taste are generally prioritized above nutrition. Elders of families prioritize nutrition by promoting rice consumption to their kin. Prioritize getting enough food so they have enough energy to function throughout their busy day.

Dietary Guidelines

Guidelines do exist, however diets are more influenced by family tradition than dietary guidelines. The public is under the impression that 30% rice, 30% vegetables, 15% meat, and 25% fruit with no sugar, and exercise after every meal are part of a healthy diet and lifestyle. The dietary recommendations truly recommend…

Nutrition in the Media

A single food pyramid and an orange juice machine with vitamin C promotions were observed throughout the trip. Scientists are developing an app that can document the nutrition information of food from a photograph.

Nutrition has hit billboards, television and radio commercials, and posters on the walls of institutions nationwide. Celebrities have even been called upon to endorse healthy products.

Emphasis on Products

The government is perceived to emphasize fish and produce but suggest less pork consumption. A rising trend is in increased potato consumption. The government emphasizes surplus agricultural products. Agriculture is the platform for healthy eating. There is an effort to get the public to limit sugar, fat, and salt. Nutrients of concern are vitamin A and iron.

The “Got Milk?” campaign is well known throughout the U.S. with many celebrity endorsements. Many other campaigns focus on the consumption of local agricultural products, but are typically funded by the private sector. Healthy eating in general has recently been heavily promoted by Michelle Obama and the Let’s Move campaign.

How Informed is the Public?

The public tends to believe that fish and beef should be eaten more than pork, the freshest produce should be purchased for the most nutrients, and supplemental vitamins are not an adequate source of nutrition. There is not as much hype around the latest nutrition fads in China as in the United States. The Chinese have less confusion over what is and is not healthy, because the country’s diet is simpler than the “melting pot” of America.

Younger generations tend to have more nutritional knowledge, because the dietary guidelines are taught and implemented in public school lunches. Older generations are more set in their ways and eating habits to take the ever changing nutritional advice. Altogether, the U.S. public is aware of what constitutes a healthy diet, but can get confused by all the latest trends and fad diets.

Availability of Nutrition Information

China FDA is known, but not frequently utilized. They could use the internet, but rarely do. Most people take the advice of friends and parents, rather than seeking the paid assistance of a doctor or “nutritional engineer.”

The USDA has information readily available online. The main platform is choosemyplate.gov. Dietitians are available in a growing number of grocery stores and health care facilities. Most people wait until they are in serious need to seek the help of a nutritional professional.

Which is the Problem…Obesity or Undernourishment?

Food security is a bigger concern in the rural areas of China, however there is a mix of concern in the urban areas. Being overweight is more of a concern than being obese.

Obesity and undernourishment often go hand-in-hand in the United States, because the cheapest foods are high in calories and low in nutrition, but obesity is not segmented just to the poor.

Food for the Children

Orphanages receive funding from the government, in order to feed the children.  Nutritional specialists are trying to get more nutritional programs in schools, but are not receiving adequate backing from governmental officials. The government offers some support for school lunches.

Public schools get government funds to serve meals that follow the dietary guidelines. Various private and nonprofit organizations have made it their mission to ensure children and their mothers receive proper nutrition. These organizations/programs include: Feeding America, Salvation Army, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), summer food service program, and many more from the national to local levels.

Food for the Needy

You must apply and need a certification in order to receive any food from the government.

There is an abundance of options for hungry people, including food stamps from the government, meals from national non-profits like the Salvation Army, and meals and grocery assistance from local churches and volunteer groups. Proof of need is required for government assistance, but most free meals are open to any community member.

Food for the Elderly

Families are responsible for taking care of their seniors. Couples are opting into the “DINK” (Double Income, No Kids) family dynamic in order to lessen their financial load.

Elderly often reside in nursing homes which meet their nutritional needs at a cost which can often be supplemented by insurance. Nursing homes can cut their costs by following the dietary guidelines which leads to government assistance. Meal on Wheels is a national nonprofit that delivers groceries and meals to the homes of senior citizens.

Food for Universities

At Universities, convenience food is available all day long. Students do not show much care for their nutrition and eat a lot of junk food. Convenience and taste, take priority over fruit and vegetable consumption. University students often go into school with the intention to eat healthy, however do not follow through with such intentions.

Universities most often contract with a food servicer such as Aramark. Universities can only offer foods that are offered by such servicers, which can lead to a standardized college student diet. Most foods offered are convenient and unhealthy. Nutritious foods can be found, but are typically more expensive and less convenient.

Discussion:

The primary means of nutrition services in China come from within families. The government provides dietary guidelines, however, the general public tends to stick to traditional family nutrition. Whereas, the United States dietary guidelines are established and implemented within various public programs, the Chinese dietary guidelines are still establishing their roots among families and public programs.

The profound practice of dieting and focusing on weight loss within the United States has influenced the culture to promote and revolve around nutrition. On the other hand, less concern for dieting in China explains the lack of nutrition promotion within the country.

Another key factor that affects the differences between diets within China and the United States revolves around who takes responsibility for one’s lifestyle. In the United States, one takes responsibility for his/her own diet and most often relies upon outside sources for nutrition support. Whereas, in China, individuals heavily rely upon the nutritional insight and offerings from family members.

Convenience plays a critical role in both countries dictating the day-to-day diets of the population.

Overall, many programs exist within the United States and nutrition assistance is seen at every sector. Whereas, in China, the government and families serve as the main providers of nutrition assistance.

Sources:

“CFDA.” CFDA. China Food and Drug Administration, n.d. Web. 08 Aug. 2016.

“Feeding America.” Feeding America. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Aug. 2016.

“Meals on Wheels America.” Meals on Wheels America. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Aug. 2016.

“Programs and Services.” Food and Nutrition Service. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Aug. 2016.

“The Chinese Dietary Guidelines.” The Chinese Dietary Guidelines. Chinese Nutrition Society, n.d. Web. 8 Aug. 2016.

“The Salvation Army – Home.” The Salvation Army – Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Aug. 2016.

By no means was this project aimed towards picking out the nitty-gritty details about the nutritional services offered/not offered in China. As undergraduate researchers, our goal when doing this project was to get a better understanding of what the world of nutrition is like beyond the United States.

nchcpresenting

While presenting our poster, the question that Anna and I were asked by all of the judges was, “What was the one thing that surprised you the most about your research?” We were excited to share that we were surprised to hear from a board of nutrition directors at China Agricultural University that China is looking towards switching their carbohydrate staple food of white rice to potatoes! Shocker right?! Ha!…Actually, we learned that the University is interested in the idea of improving sustainability and nutrient content when shifting the staple food from rice to potatoes…but this idea of thinking beyond the societal “norm” when talking about health is exactly what I mean when writing this “Food for Thought” post! Thinking outside the box is not exactly a bad thing when aiming towards improving one’s physical and mental wellness. Putting that little extra thought…and then effort…into health might just be worth it!

Looking back and reflecting on all that I learned, not once did I feel overwhelmed by performing the research component of this project but instead inspired to learn more in the field which I will have my whole life to explore. In fact, with one research project officially done and in the books, I cannot wait to see what my second research project “Wellness Needs and Issues of First-Year College Students” has in-store!

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