February 9, 2013

The domestic food desert

Filed under: Britain, Health — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:00

Theodore Dalrymple on one of the more likely culprits for obesity among poor British families:

With the decline of the family — wrought by the policies of successive governments — patterns of eating have changed. Meals in many households, especially those of the relatively poor, are no longer family or social occasions. It has been found that a fifth of children do not eat more than one meal a week with another member of their household; and in such households, which I used sometimes to visit as a doctor, the microwave oven was the entire batterie de cuisine, or at any rate the only cooking implement that was ever actually employed.

Moreover, there was no table at which a meal could have been eaten in common if anyone had thought of doing so. The result was that children became foragers or hunter-gatherers in their own homes, going to the fridge whenever they felt like it and grazing on prepared foods — high, of course, in the evil fructose. Not coincidentally, these households were also the least likely to have what would once have been considered the normal family structure.

Such households also tended to be in areas called “food deserts”, in which fresh produce is either not easily available or unavailable. But those who ascribe the dietary habits of the households I have just described to food desertification put the cart before the horse: for if heroin can reach these areas (and it can), surely the humble lettuce can do so?

It is also sometimes alleged that people buy prepared foods because they are cheap. This is nonsense. In fact, if you go to areas inhabited by poor Indian or Pakistani families you will find stores that sell an astonishing range of vegetables at equally astonishing prices. I used to shop in one such store, at a time when I did not have to concern myself too much over the price of food; I could hardly carry all that I could buy for a few pounds. I remember in particular a 10-kilo bag of onions costing £1.49.

The Indian and Pakistani women bought with discrimination and, taking a maternal interest in me, would sometimes indicate what to look for among what were for me the more exotic vegetables. But I never saw any poor whites shopping there: they went straight to the pie and pizza shops, without so much as a glance at the okra and aubergine.

In other words, food desertification and the supposed cheapness of industrially prepared foods is a consequence, not a cause of, the food habits I have described. Food desertification is a symptom of the culinary ignorance, incompetence and indifference of a substantial minority of our population: ignorance, incompetence and indifference unopposed by any attempt of our educational system to counteract it, for example by teaching girls the elements of cookery. Fat is indeed a feminist issue, but not in the sense that Susie Orbach originally meant it.

Crowdfunding the NanoLight

Filed under: Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 09:51

Cassandra Khaw at TechHive on the attempt to crowdfund a new LED light:

NanoLight prototype

Part lightbulb, part spaceship component, the LED NanoLight (funding through March 8) is being touted as the world’s most energy efficient lightbulb.

Using just 12 watts of electricity, the NanoLight should generate 1600 lumens, the equivalent of a 100-watt lightbulb. The estimated cost of running a NanoLight (for three hours a day) is less than $2 a year, and the bulb is expected to last 25 to 30 years.

Aside from looking rather stellar and being economical with the usage of power, the NanoLight also differs from the average LED lightbulb in that it’s capable of emulating the omnidirectional nature of your classic lightbulb—but cool enough not to mimic its habit of scorching your flesh if you make the mistake of touching it when it’s been on for a while. And unlike most compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs, the NanoLight provides full brightness as soon as you turn it on.

QotD: When God sticks his nose into public health and taxation issues

Filed under: Britain, Health, Humour, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

It is not an original thought to say that public health crusaders often resemble religious zealots, but seldom is the comparison more literal than in the case of Mike Rayner, director of the British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group.

[. . .]

So far, so mundane. Another illiberal battler against the free market with a heightened sense of his own importance and his nose in the trough. The only point of interest is that Mr Raynor is a Church of England priest who is guided by voices.

    In all of this I see a sacred dimension. You may not believe that I have heard God aright but I think God is calling me to work towards the introduction of soft-drink taxes in this country and I am looking forward to the day when General Synod debates the ethical issues surrounding this type of tax rather than some of the other issues that august body seems obsessed by.

Golly. Where to begin? On a theological note, I do wonder whether Jesus would really be in favour of a deeply regressive stealth tax that would take from the poor to give to the rich. Perhaps the reason the General Synod does not debate tax policy is because they recall the old “render under to Caesar…” message and realise that it’s none of their business.

If we weren’t already sceptical about the documents coming from Mr Rayner’s team of would-be policy-makers, the fact that its director believes that God has told him to bring about a fat tax in this land should be enough to make us suspect that a tiny bit of research bias might have crept into his work. Considering that the Almighty has approved of the policy, what are the chances of his loyal servant producing evidence that would question its efficacy?

Christopher Snowdon, “Fat tax campaigner: ‘God told me to do it'”, Velvet Glove, Iron Fist, 2012-05-21

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