Wednesday, April 29, 2009

watch this: food, inc trailer

Like I've mentioned before, I became vegetarian three years ago because of my concerns for how meat was processed. I didn't want to support an industry that abuses workers, animals and the environment. In doing my own research on the food industry overall, sometimes I feel like I should just not eat anything, because a lot of stuff I like isn't processed in a way that I would consider ethical. Living in Berkeley, CA allow me to be in the very privileged position of being able to obtain at least some portion of my food in a relatively guilt-free way.

This trailer does mention health impacts. How most food is processed in the United States has a few important health consequences. Some interesting ones to research include:

  • Ratio of omega-6 fats to omega-3 fats in corn fed beef compared to grass fed beef.
  • Levels of sugar in food over the years
  • Environmental impact of the meat industry
  • Slaughterhouse working conditions

Another one is the "Obesity-Hunger Paradox." Basically, why is it that the poor, who are the least able to afford food, have high obesity rates? In a 1999 study, Christine Olson found that the average body mass index for women in a food-insecure household was 28.2 compared to women in a food-secure household, who had a mean BMI of 25.6. [1], [2]

The management of hunger is a complex task. As a person with extreme economic privilege, I definitely have the option to ask my parents for money when it comes to groceries. However, I don't, and often end up trying to figure out ways to buy a week's worth of groceries for $15. Or, sometimes, if I don't have money to buy a sandwich when I'm in a hurry, I'll get a cup of coffee instead, which usually suppresses my appetite for about 6-8 hours and a little bit over a dollar. Obviously, not very healthy. But as someone who does this occasionally, it's not the same thing as someone--or a family--who regularly faces food insecurity and has very few options. According to the Urban Institute, in 2000, 21.4% of nonelderly Asian-Americans faced food insecurity, compared to 18.2% of non-Hispanic whites. [3]

"Underdogs" by the Coup

"Big ol' spoons of peanut butter, big ass glass of water
Makes the hunger subside, save the real food for your daughter"

[1] "What is the Hunger-Obesity Paradox?" by Lee M. Scheier
[2] "Nutrition and Health Outcomes Associated with Food Insecurity" by Christine Olson
[3] Urban Institute, 2000.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Return of Affirmative Action?

A long time ago (grin), as a former high school student at Torrance High School in Torrance, CA, I was conscientous of the fact that our high school graduates' "success rate" (a.k.a. how many students enroll into a four-year university post graduation) was relatively impressive. As a freshman, I learned that a total of approx. 40 Asian-American students out of the entire graduating class of that year were UCLA-bound alone.

As a freshman at UCLA, the experience of walking through the UCLA campus closely mirrored my experiences of walking through Koreatown in Los Angeles. Statistically, the percentage of Asian-American UCLA students has always been high, and my peers at UC Berkeley resounded the same sentiment. It almost felt strange to walk through the campus of an institution that assumes great pride on its efforts towards diversity. It seemed like Asian-Americans were the majority. There were many days within my four years where I really wished that there were less Asian-American students.

Over this past weekend, I read an article that a friend of mine (also a UCLA graduate) emailed to me:
New UC Admissions Policy Angers Asian-Americans
This past February, the UC Board of Regents unanimously approved a new admissions policy that, according to UC's own estimate, could result in the proportion of Asian admissions to drop as much as 7 percent, while admissions of whites could rise by up to 10 percent.

Directly quoted from Silicon Valley's
"Since its adoption by the UC Regents in February, the policy has triggered Asian suspicions of the UC entry system not felt since the mid-1980s, when a change in admissions policy caused a decline in Asian undergraduate enrollment. In 1989, then-UC-Berkeley Chancellor Ira Michael Heyman apologized for the policy.

'I fear a general sense that there are too many Asians in the UC system," said Patrick Hayashi, former UC associate president.'"

My first, honest initial reaction to the SF Chronicle article was "Whew, thank goodness I'm done with college." But I could not allow myself to remain smug and shelter only a complacent stance on this issue. If I was applying to college or I was the parent of a child who was applying to UC schools, I'd be just as upset as everyone else.

As a women's studies major, this article immediately and naturally infuriated me. How does the UC system envision to implement this policy without making the lessening of Asian-American admissions conspicuous? Is this a reversal of affirmative action? Are people of other races infuriated by this policy as well? Will this policy truly not impact racial diversity, if the UC's claims ring true?

I took a careful look at the UC's website to read through the system's published policy:
UC Regents Adopt Changes to Freshman Eligibility
While there is no mention of "Asian" or "Asian-American" - in fact, any other race - this policy would inevitably sharply reduce Asian-American admissions.

Personally, I want to believe that the UC's intent behind this policy is not for the purpose of increasing diversity, but I do believe that that will be the result. Moreover, I do not believe it will be for the betterment of the UC institution altogether - with what I believe are lowered standards for admissions, the overall integrity and academic excellence of the schools will consequently drop as well. I am definitely a person that standardized tests do not truly reflect the promise and potential of a student, but how can the UC system claim that their admissions determinations are for the purpose of "fairness" to the face of a highly qualified applicant? Like one person commented on the SF Chronicle online article, I also agree that every race has very intelligent, capable men and women. As an Asian-American student, I am confident that my Asian-American peers have worked hard in the past to become the successful professionals and academicians they are now. To see that the hard work of only future Asian-American collegians will be negatively impacted by this policy greatly saddens me.

I would love to know what you think.

Status of Hepatitis B services in Alameda County for the API population

Hideto Saito, a public health graduate student, and his group will be giving a presentation on the status of hepatitis B services in Alameda County for the API population this Wednesday May 29 at 10:30 a.m. on the 4th floor of University Hall on the UC Berkeley campus.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

APA for Progress- conference call

On May 31st, Asian Pacific Americans for Progress (, the national network of progressive Asian Americans and allies, is hosting a nation-wide conference call with Konrad Ng, the Chinese American brother-in-law of President Obama. It will be a great chance to hear from someone so close to the President and to learn how the President might approach our community.

All the details are on Basically, it can just be a dozen friends or so, gathering for a potluck and then calling in and listening to Konrad. There'll also beanother guest or two. After the call, parties can all talk about the issues they think matter, not just on a national level, but also locally. APA for Progress will then record all these thoughts and share them with the Obama administration. It will be a chance to have our collective voice heard.

It would be great to have some health discussions concerning our community that we can submit to the Administration.