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Salt, Sugar, Fat

Since the 1950s convenience foods have ignited the processed food industry. In his new book Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, Michael Moss says that the government has been the industry’s best friend and partner in encouraging Americans to become more dependent on processed foods. According to Moss, processed foods are engineered using addictive recipes and manipulated ingredients whose structures have been chemically-altered. He says processed foods are manipulated using weaponized salt sugar and fat ingredients including 40 varieties of restructured salt and with tobacco-industry like marketing campaigns aimed at various ethnic groups and children, products are poised to addict or as the industry prefers to say, appeal and allure.

This is the second in a three-part Big Food series for Letters & Politics, a syndicated public affairs radio show out of Pacifica’s west coast station, KPFA 94.1 FM. This series investigates how the processed food industry came to dominate the American plate to become a top industry earning over one trillion in annual sales. The series digs into America’s food labs, food habits and food policy to detail how America became hooked on processed food.


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Young & Determined: how a group of young men is reinventing Marin City



Read the story on KALW.

Lorenzo Bynum has the “baller” build you might see on the cover of GQ, without the swagger. He’s clean-cut, 5’10”, wears two small earrings and has a muscular frame. It’s a Wednesday afternoon in Marin City, and the 23-year-old is digging frantically through a 10’ by 10’ closet. He’s hunting for a parachute large enough for a game with 15 third graders.

Wednesdays are busy days for Bynum. He clocks in at three part-time jobs: two hours directing elementary school children, two hours coaching track and field, and two hours coaching middle school boys basketball.

One reason Bynum likes basketball is that he grew up shooting hoops around town—with the friends and family members who are now his business partners. In late 2011, Bynum, his cousin Louis, and his friends Marcus Mason, Maurice Jenkins, and Melvin Judson, launched a business designing and selling t-shirts.

With $365 pooled from their savings, they ordered 100 cardigans and 50 sweatshirts, and began screen printing original designs. So far they’ve sold over 200 shirts.

“If you don’t know us, and you just see us on the street, you think ‘oh these are just some bad guys from Marin City.’ And most people don’t see us. So we’re here to get that out in the streets,” says Bynum.

Like many living in Marin City, the young men have had a hard time finding work.

Two of them are working towards degrees. For both, it’s their second try. Mason lost his housing, and Bynum says he just wasn’t able to pay.

“They hiked the tuition to where it was $35k to go a year and I couldn’t afford that even with financial aid, grants and scholarships,” says Bynum.

Meanwhile, Judson and Jenkins work part-time. They see each other daily at Babies “R” Us. Judson has worked as a cashier and stocker there for four years. This year, he got a raise. Now he earns $10.51 per hour, just over the county minimum wage. At 17 years old, Louis Bynum is the youngest. He also used to work at Babies “R” Us.

“Right now working for me is a bigger priority, trying to start this business and also provide for myself,” said Jenkins.

Over the last 30 years, Marin City residents battled poverty and drug abuse. Today, some things are better.

According to the 2010 census, Marin City is now a median-income community. But the stigma and the challenges remain. Marin City still has higher crime and poverty rates than the prosperous county surrounding it and more than a quarter of Marin City residents continue to live under the poverty line.

“Over the last few years, the city changed for the better,” says Andrew Abou Jaoude, Client Services Coordinator for the Marin City Community Development Corporation.

Bynum and his crew see themselves as part of Marin City’s renewal.

“Our clothing line is called RedEy3. It means ‘Real expressions determined through one’s eyes.’ And the image is a plane. It means being successful in anything and everything you do. Flight to success, it’s catchy. It rolls off the tongue,” he said.

The crew works out of two homes, both of which are in public housing. At the four-bedroom apartment that Maurice Jenkins shares with his parents and siblings, they receive equipment and clothing. They hold meetings at the two-bedroom apartment Lorenzo shares with his family. But soon, they will be working out of their own office, thanks to a local non-profit.

Along with joblessness, youth crime continues to plague Marin City. Kevin Lynch is the Director of Marin County Youth Probation Services. “Approximately 75 percent of youth in our system are youths of color, which is way out of proportion to what youths of color represent in Marin County,” says Lynch. “And when I see numbers going down for other youth, that frustrates me even more. I feel like we can do better.”

Walking around Marin City, it’s easy to see the things that make life harder. Outside Jenkin’s apartment, an older, frail woman is walking around in circles. She’s stoned. Within 45 seconds, a police car approaches, and officers step out to talk with her. Behind her, young men are joking and listening to music. They don’t seem to notice.

Outside of the Phoenix Project of Marin, John Allen, 26, and Derek Morgan, 17, both say living in Marin City is challenging.

“Marin City is what you make of it. It can be your heaven or it can be your hell,” says Allen.

“It’s kinda hard growing up here because we don’t have a lot of things. But, it takes you to rise up above the influence. Growing up here you can get caught up, or, you can rise,” says Morgan.

RedEy3 still faces some challenges. This year they contacted the Marin City Community Development Corporation for small business resources, but they have yet to sign up for any assistance programs. The bigger issue now is duration. Can they keep it fun long enough to push them through months of small business hardship?

The RedEy3 team is in the process of coming out with a new collection. This one will have 120 shirts and tank tops for sale. Until the collection comes out, they will be submitting grant applications as they prepare to buy a digital t-shirt printer machine, and they’ll keep the business going.

You can see RedEy3 designs at http://www.redey3flight.com.


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They met and they prospered

friends+beach+jump= love explored. Photo by zlan zihan, flickr, Creative Commons license

Two couples who have lived through various Valentine’s Day seasons share how they’ve made their match succeed and how they met.

After 47 years of marriage, Bob & Lila recount their initial meeting and the proceeding six weeks that led to their on-the-fly marriage ceremony in Idaho. Jokingly, Lila says, “we haven’t killed each other yet” when describing the amount of time they’ve spent together and their shared interests.

Jon & Kathy, recently returned from a one year backpacking honeymoon in South America, recount their meeting at a party and food, the pleasure that always brings them back.

Interested in hearing more about love? Listen to Reflections on love and lovelessness…how do you define genuine love? « Malinali’s Blog This piece is a wonderful juxtaposition of chapter 1 of bell hooks’ book All About Love and a vox pop of students from Rudsdale High School in East Oakland who were asked, “What does love mean to you?”



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Words on heroes

Fabric wall photo by Jan Smith, flickr, Creative Commons license

Warrior, protector, defender. Today, the word hero is defined by websters as one who carries out great feats.

What makes a hero? What do our hero associations imply? This piece reflects on the word and asks questions using the words of hero-theme writers and Umberto Eco.


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The Kitchen of Champions cooks it up

Harley DeCent preps beef patties for the grill.

Over the last three years the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul in Oakland has developed a program, part academy and part job placement workshop, where standout individuals dealing with various levels of distress such as prison re-entry and homelessness metamorph into lean mean cooking machines.

In twelve weeks this program covers 400 instruction hours and carries out 30 tests. On average 76 percent of Kitchen of Champions graduates find work after the program.

Lonnie, a recent grad, Chef Michael Stamm, and Brett Forman talk about the Kitchen of Champions in this segment.


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Farmers and activists gather in Cancun for climate change and social justice

UNORCA farmer listens to speakers in Oaxaca. Photo by Irene Florez

An estimated 40,000 UN delegates, journalists, farmers, and climate activists were in Cancun for the COP 16 UN summit on climate and the three alternative climate and social justice summits.

On the ground, growers and unions like Unorca, which represents indigenous farmers, and the SME, which represents electric workers, are against REDD and against carbon trading. Many stressed that we should begin fighting climate change by supporting local non GMO agriculture and that heavy emitters like the US should reduce their carbon footprint.

With little resolution to the problems presented by changing weather conditions, the global south and climate activists are demanding change. This segment covers a two week period of interviews with climate justice activists, making their way to Cancun, who are experiencing environmental challenges first hand.  Denise Perry of Florida’s PowerUCenter, Luther Allen of Direct Action for Rights and Equality, Mickey McCoy of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC), and Sunyoung Yang of the Labor/Community Strategy Center share their thoughts.

SME, electric worker's union, members stand outside of their union hall in Tepuxtepec. Photo by Irene Florez


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Recycling workers feel the strain

Recycling Bins at a recycling station. Photo by ThreadedThoughts, flickr, Creative Commons license

What is it like to work the recycling assembly line? At Waste Management’s Davis Street Recycling Center located near the Oakland Airport, roughly 80 workers sort through 3,000 tons of  waste per day. This includes smelly food scraps, aluminum, paper, and glass, which provide Oakland with valuable export commodities.

Isabel, an Oakland recycling center employee talks about her job and union contract with Waste Management, the nation’s largest waste services provider.  She and fellow co-workers are beginning to feel the pressure and strain as their contract expires later this month. She asks that Bay Area residents support center employees in organizing for better wages. To lend support, contact Oakland city council members and express support for recycling workers: OAKLANDNET.COM/GOVERNMENT/COUNCIL/CITY-OFFICIALS

Street level recycling bins. Photo by Tim-Tak, Flickr, Creative Commons license