Year in review: Bleeding Heartland on food and parenting in 2009

This blog will always be primarily about politics, but I enjoy writing about other subjects from time to time. In fact, one of my new year’s resolutions for Bleeding Heartland is to write more about food and parenting in 2010.

After the jump I’ve compiled links to posts on those topics in 2009. Some of the diaries were political, others are personal. The link I’m most proud of combined the two: My case against Hanna Rosin’s case against breastfeeding.

Any thoughts or suggestions for future topics to cover are welcome in this thread.

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Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 1)

I expected 2009 to be a relatively quiet year in Iowa politics, but was I ever wrong.

The governor’s race heated up, state revenues melted down, key bills lived and died during the legislative session, and the Iowa Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in Varnum v Brien became one of this state’s major events of the decade.

After the jump I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from January through June 2009. Any comments about the year that passed are welcome in this thread.

Although I wrote a lot of posts last year, there were many important stories I didn’t manage to cover. I recommend reading Iowa Independent’s compilation of “Iowa’s most overlooked and under reported stories of 2009,” as well as that blog’s review of “stories that will continue to impact Iowa in 2010.”

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Legislators not sold on new junk food rules for schools

In April the Iowa State Board of Education approved new nutrition standards:

A special task force drew up the standards, which set limits on calories, fat content, sugar and other nutritional measures. Carbonated beverages are banned. Caffeinated beverages and sports drinks are banned in elementary schools.

But the rules do not apply to food provided by school lunch or breakfast programs, items sold at concession stands or certain fundraisers or items provided by parents, teachers or others for class events.

Although I would have preferred tougher guidelines, these rules were a step in the right direction. To be more precise, they would have been a step in the right direction. After protests from some school officials, the State Board of Eduation “delayed most of the standards from going into effect until the 2010-11 school year.”

By that time, the regulations may have been relaxed, judging from what happened last week in the state legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Committee (unofficial motto: “Where good rules go to die”). The rest of the story is after the jump.

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The week in Tom Harkin news

I’ve been meaning to write up a few stories about Senator Tom Harkin this week. As you may recall, he has been working on a compromise for the Employee Free Choice Act, which would build the middle class by making it easier for workers to join a labor union. (Click here for background on the EFCA.)

On Monday Harkin told Bloomberg News that the “card check” provision may have to be dropped from the EFCA in order to get the bill through the Senate. “Card check” means that workers could form a union if a majority sign a document stating that they would like to join a union. Republicans and business groups are loudly complaining that this would destroy “secret ballot” elections on unions, ignoring the reality: “[t]he current process is not secret or democratic.”

Anyway, Harkin told Bloomberg that he hopes to find a compromise

that will gain “maybe the grudging support of labor and maybe the grudging support of some businesses.” […]

A softened version of the bill may attract support from more lawmakers, Harkin said. “Many do feel there is an imbalance” in current laws that favors business over labor, Harkin said.

“They may not be for the card-check, but they are for changing election process and procedures and shortening the period of time for elections” to form unions in a company.

The Bloomberg piece didn’t say anything about binding arbitration, which in my opinion is as important a part of EFCA as card check.

Also this week, Harkin told CNN that he supports appropriating funds to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention complex this year, as President Barack Obama has promised to do.

In other news, I read at La Vida Locavore that Harkin just introduced a bill to amend the Child Nutrition Act of 1996. Jill Richardson writes that Harkin’s bill

will update the rules on what’s allowed to be served or sold in schools. Right now, almost everything is fair game to sell in schools. You just can’t sell the worst junk in the cafeteria during lunch time. Outside of the cafeteria, anything goes. In the cafeteria when it’s not time for lunch, anything goes.

Harkin’s commitment to improving the health and nutrition of American children continually impresses me (see here, here and here).

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Soft drink makers pit public health advocates against "moderation moms" and "hard-working families"

With numerous studies linking soft drinks to rising rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes, especially in children, reducing consumption of sugary drinks would appear to have obvious benefits for public health. Limiting access to soft drinks at school has been shown to reduce children’s overall consumption of such beverages, and raising the price of soft drinks through new taxes would likely reduce consumption among adults too.

Iowa native Susan Neely will lead the opposition to policies aimed at getting Americans to drink less pop, soda or sugary juice and sports drinks. In the Sunday Des Moines Register, Philip Brasher profiled Neely, who has been president and chief executive of the American Beverage Association since 2005. I recommend reading his whole article, but I will comment on a few key points after the jump.

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