In Food Policy This Week: 5 News Bites

A roundup of news clippings we're reading that affect the way we eat.

Eat More Sodium (Maybe) and More in Food Policy This Week

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[Photograph: Shutterstock]

Could More Sodium Be Better For Your Health?

A new study in the American Journal of Hypertension suggests that the current USDA dietary guidelines may set the bar too low for sodium consumption. The guidelines currently recommend that adults consume at most 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day (about 1 teaspoon of salt). But researchers note that while high sodium consumption carries risk of hypertension, there are also risks associated with eating too little sodium. In their study, researchers found that most adults had better health outcomes when they consumed between 2,600 and 5,000 milligrams of salt per day (as compared to health outcomes when subjects consumed more or less than that range). Of course, those with genetic risk of high blood pressure should still monitor their sodium consumption. But for others, the current guidelines may prove to be too low.

Organic Crops May Soon Have Their Own Commodities Exchange

Many consumers are unaware of the power of the commodities exchange, where commodity crops such as corn, wheat, and soy are traded. The Chicago Mercantile Exchange controls commodity prices and has international implications on agricultural productivity and food costs. But the CME is only open to conventionally-grown produce, not to newly-booming sectors like organic or GMO-free crops. While the amount of farmland dedicated to producing these alternative crops is still minimal, their market share is rising. Now a new exchange, called Mercaris, seeks to provide the same transparent trading operation for organics as exists for conventional crops. Mercaris could help stabilize the prices of organic crops and lower the cost to consumers. It remains to be seen if the exchange will catch on with farmers and traders.

Number of Home Gardeners Spikes 17% Since 2008

The National Gardening Association has kept track of how many American households are engaged in growing food, either in their own backyards or as part of community gardens, since 1978. Their new report shows that since 2008, the number of food-growing American households has risen 17%, from 36 million to 42 million. The Association credits First Lady Michelle Obama with this significant jump. FLOTUS's pro-gardening and healthy-living messages, in conjunction with her Let's Move! initiative and White House garden, have encouraged many first-time farmers to get their hands dirty. The jump in gardening activity was seen across demographics.

Future Farmers of America Growing at Record Rate

Despite the conception that young people are moving away from agriculture in the U.S., the century-old organization Future Farmers of America is experiencing record membership. Currently, FFA has about 600,000 students registered with chapters across the country. Urban and suburban groups are seeing particularly high enrollment. Part of this growth has to do with FFA's new direction. Instead of training students primarily in farm skills, they are shifting towards more policy, entrepreneurship, and bookkeeping skills. They also emphasize food science as part of their curriculum. All of these areas are of greater interest and provide more useful skills to millenials who grew up interested in agriculture but without access to land.

About the Author: Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her other work can be found at her website, and you can follow her on Twitter @leahjdouglas.

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