UN ECOSOC Recap: Building a Sustainable Future

by Laura Barley

In January, second year AFE student Laura Barley served as a student representative to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in New York City. Empowered youth from across the globe gathered with governmental officials to share ideas about how to achieve the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Here, she recounts her experience and shares some of the key takeaways from the event.

Image source: Author

Image source: Author

For two days at the end of January, I was given the opportunity to travel alongside four fellow Tufts student representatives to the ECOSOC Youth Forum at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The forum was a whirlwind of speeches, brainstorming sessions, and long-winded discourse from youth representatives and official ministries from all over the world—all putting their heads together to decide how to best empower the future.

ECOSOC, abbreviated from the UN Economic and Social Council, regularly holds these types of events to integrate policy frameworks that support the Sustainable Development Goals from the ground up. For those unfamiliar with the SDGs, they were created by the UN in 2015 as a comprehensive platform of 17 goals that cover the world’s most pressing issues: gender equality, hunger and malnutrition, and climate change mitigation, among many others.

By popular consensus, the SDGs are seen as a much-needed improvement from the UN’s previous set of Millennium Development Goals, which many viewed as too vague and intangible. Instead the SDGs work to define timely, measurable goals that nations can properly mobilize—for instance, reducing current levels of food waste by half, or completely eradicating poverty for people living on less than $1.90 a day.

Fostering the notion that young people have exceptional power to drive social change, the Youth Forum focused specifically on six SDGs that dealt with clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, sustainable cities and communities, sustainable consumption and production, life on land, and technological innovation, and how to empower youth to achieving these goals.

The structure of the forum allowed participants to choose only one SDG-focused brainstorming session, and as the pious AFE student that I am, I naturally gravitated towards the session on SDG 12: Sustainable Consumption and Production. Voices from Great Britain, Nepal, and Saudi Arabia all echoed sentiments familiar to the halls of Jaharis—we’re consuming too much and too quickly for our planet to withstand. We ought to know better by now, but we’re not living up to our own standards as we should be. And under the framework of youth empowerment, the subtext of these truisms begged the question: how can we raise our children to be more mindful than we’ve been?

The voices from developed nations, including my own American perspective, maintained that serious gaps in our educational institutions preclude most youth from even realizing that their choices have an impact on the natural environment. Exposure to nature, agriculture, and nutrition have become secondary and tertiary priorities in most public school systems, which ultimately neglects the chance to positively influence the consumers that all children will become.

So, when it came time to distill our ideas into concrete policy recommendations, we converged on a few points central to the evolution of education. We recommended increasing diverse and equitable educational experiences across all types of school systems, emphasizing focus on transforming the mindsets of youth from those of a consumer towards those of a producer. In this sense, sustainable development means an expanded awareness of the relationship between consumption and production, and that even the simplest of our everyday choices has the power to influence how the world’s natural resources are used.

Image source: Author

Image source: Author

Ultimately, the participants’ recommendations will be compiled into a broader report on youth engagement published by the United Nations, reflecting official policy goals of the signatory countries to the SDGs. And though I gleaned constructive insight into the annals of UN procedure—how they gather information, how they form their policy stances—I found that the hallway conservations I had with my peers were far more valuable. These events function to tap into the infinite potential of minds with vision and hope, and the sum of our parts are starting to become an incredibly powerful whole. Earnestly, I hope to see the Tufts community continue to engage with the Sustainable Development Goals at this level and beyond.

Laura Barley is a second-year Agriculture, Food, and Environment master’s student ceaselessly curious about the complexity that global food systems has to offer. She’s always happy to indulge conversation at laurabarley88@gmail.com.


Branchfood Holds First in 4-Part Panel Series on Technological Innovation in Food and Farming

by Laura Barley

On February 22, Branchfood hosted the first panel in a four-part series entitled The Future of Food, exploring innovation in agriculture, food products, nutrition, and retail. Second-year AFE student Laura Barley attended The Future of Agriculture panel, and reports on the exciting developments on the industry’s horizon. Don’t miss the rest of the series! (Details below.)

As part of its mission to connect food innovators from the local to the global, last Thursday February 22 Branchfood debuted the first in a four-part series of panels devoted to the future of food systems. The Future of Agriculture convened four ambitious leaders for a discussion on the role of data and technological innovation in agriculture, and how they can contribute to the greater vision of global sustainability.

The panel, moderated by the charismatic captain of the Entrepreneur Agrarian Fund, Aaron Niederhelman, focused heavily on one recurring theme: digital disruption. And for a field so central to the health of the planet, this kind of disruption may just be the type of makeover that agriculture needs to account for its externalities.

Water scarcity, greenhouse gas emissions, and chemical run-off continue to plague large-scale agriculture all over the world, so the implicit question underlying the panel remains: in a world where machines can now compile and analyze massive amounts of data, how can we teach sophisticated machines to solve agriculture’s most complex problems?

Lauren Moores, Vijay Somandepalli, Lawrence Wang, and Brett Brohl discuss their work in agriculture tech and data science. Aaron Niederhelman moderates. (Image source: Author)

Lauren Moores, Vijay Somandepalli, Lawrence Wang, and Brett Brohl discuss their work in agriculture tech and data science. Aaron Niederhelman moderates. (Image source: Author)

For Vijay Somandepalli, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at American Robotics, the answer lies in automation, though developing this technology hasn’t always been as straightforward as it seems. “Lots of drones work, but almost none of them are actually used,” Vijay admitted.

To counter the trend, he and his team have developed the first fully-automated field drone, which independently collects and analyzes crop field data from launch to landing. From his point of view, automation is one step closer to ensuring that the benefits of drone technology are actually implemented—if farmers don’t have to manually monitor their field data, they and their workers can spend their time on tasks better suited to human hands. Given the continued trend toward farm consolidation, where the average size of an American farm is 234 acres and half are more than 1,100 acres, this can translate into an incredible amount of saved time and energy.

Essentially, automation has the potential to become the hallmark of precision agriculture, where farmers can build trust in technology to deliver the efficiency gains they need to remain profitable. This vision for technology was echoed by the other panelists, each of whom has the power to influence agricultural production trends on a global scale.

Lawrence Wang, Digitalization and Analytics Strategy Lead at Cargill, spoke to the promising commitment that the multi-national agribusiness company has made towards technological innovation and sustainability. Cargill has partnered with Ecolab and Techstars to create a Farm to Fork Accelerator, an entrepreneurship program dedicated to bringing some of the leading ideas in food safety, manufacturing, and food waste to fruition.

Brett Brohl, Managing Director of the Techstars accelerator program, contends that “The timing is right—there’s a bunch of venture capital moving into food innovation in the last several years.” For a behemoth processing and manufacturing corporation like Cargill, which largely contributes to the nine billion animals slaughtered in the US each year, re-shaping conventional systems of meat production could have widespread implications. Concepts like traceability and transparency have become increasingly popular among consumers, and in an attempt to gauge consumer interest and trust, Cargill has even started to trace each Thanksgiving turkey all the way back to the start of its supply chain.

But for Lauren Moores, VP of Data Strategy and Data Sciences at Indigo Agriculture, data amounts to more than the results it produces. She believes that data analysis is fundamentally a storytelling challenge, and in her line of work, that challenge means simplifying the vast complexity of the plant-soil microbiome. As a prominent Boston startup, Indigo works to tap the potential of the microbes that have evolved in conjunction with plants over time, ultimately to produce a seed coating that maximizes plant health and productivity. The universe of the microbiome is still so elusive, and the microbial cocktail of Indigo’s seed coatings is complex enough to warrant selection by machine learning just to refine the tens of thousands of possible strains available.

Lauren also acknowledges that “farmers know their land better than anyone,” and that Indigo’s role is to develop data to help them cultivate their land more sustainably. The standing paradigm of the microbiome, which Indigo is actively researching, suggests that the biology of bacteria and fungi can enhance crop water and nutrient uptake, so that excessive irrigation and synthetic nutrients won’t need to be applied as frequently.

Interestingly, Vijay’s drone technology aims to reduce the need for agricultural inputs from a slightly different angle—drone imagery can pinpoint nutrient deficiency and other crop ailments at a much higher resolution than even the farmer’s own eye. Where a farmer used to apply chemicals to a whole field just to cover their bases, they can now apply them only to the specific areas in need.

This is the story of technological efficiency—and optimism—that these innovators are trying to write. Collectively our minds are capable of pioneering solutions to the problems of our past’s conventions, and agriculture isn’t the only sector that could use a technological re-vamp. To bring awareness to innovation materializing throughout the whole food system, Branchfood is hosting three further panels on the Future of Food Products, the Future of Nutrition, and the Future of Grocery respectively on March 22, April 26, and May 24. The panels will continue to bring visionary food minds together, to share and inspire how our collective food story will evolve.

Correction, March 7, 2018: This article has been updated to clarify that Indigo Agriculture uses data about plant-soil microbiomes to develop seed treatments that enhance plant health and productivity. –Editors

Laura Barley is a second-year Agriculture, Food, and Environment master’s student ceaselessly curious about the complexity that global food systems has to offer. She’s always happy to indulge conversation at laurabarley88@gmail.com.

Game Changer: How Cellular Agriculture is Poised to Revolutionize Dairy and Meat

by Kathleen Nay

We already know that conventionally-produced animal products are problematic—animal agriculture is land, water, and energy intensive, and potentially harmful to human health and animal welfare. For most people though, meat and dairy are also delicious. What if there was a cleaner, greener way of producing our favorite animal-derived foods? Turns out, the science already exists.

Henry Ford With 1921 Model T. (Image source: Ford Motor Company / Wikimedia)

Henry Ford With 1921 Model T. (Image source: Ford Motor Company / Wikimedia)

Nearly a century ago, Henry Ford had a vision. What he’s best known for is a vision of the modern automobile: a future where humans on four-wheeled machines hurtle through space at 60 miles per hour. But while that particular vision revolutionized the world as we know it today, Ford also dreamed of another future—one that minimized the role of animals in agriculture.

In 1921, Ford told the New York Tribune, “The cow is the crudest machine in the world. Our laboratories have already demonstrated that cow’s milk can be done away with and the concentration of the elements of milk can be manufactured into scientific food by machines far cleaner than cows and not subject to tuberculosis,” (a pathogen transmitted through raw milk, and a major public health concern at the time).

What Ford envisioned was probably similar to the soy and nut milks we’re familiar with today. He also happened to be a big proponent of the soybean as a meat substitute: in 1939, he caused a kerfuffle among American butchers when he predicted that soy-based foods would entirely replace our need to raise cows at all. His predictions were likely in the service of his goal to decentralize car manufacturing and put farmers to work in factories instead of in barns. In that sense, his prediction was right. The mechanical revolution of the 1920’s fueled migration from fields into cities, where factory work was more promising than life on the farm that was increasingly reliant on mechanical efficiency.

Fast-forward ninety-seven years, and advances in food technology are inching us ever closer to realizing Henry Ford’s wildest cow-less dreams. Enter Tufts University alum, Ryan Pandya. Three years ago, I wrote about Muufri, the company Ryan cofounded with Perumal Gandhi. Together, they’re using what’s called “cellular agriculture” to commercialize the first animal-free dairy milk. Cellular ag is the production of animal products like meat, milk, eggs, and leather from cell cultures, rather than a farm. In other words, their product is not one of the many plant-based milks that are already on the market today, but real dairy proteins—namely, casein and whey—that are grown using yeast cells specially engineered to produce them using fermentation. Essentially, Ryan and Perumal are building milk protein by protein, without all the expenses, energy, water, land, or emissions associated with growing, feeding and housing cattle.

Image source: Perfect Day via Food Navigator

Image source: Perfect Day via Food Navigator USA

Much has changed for the company in the last three years. For starters, Muufri has undergone rebranding as Perfect Day. Ryan says that the new name more accurately reflects their forward-looking philosophy. Muufri (“moo-free”) felt limiting; they wanted to focus on what they are bringing to food, not what they’re leaving out of it. They came across a 2001 study by two psychologists which demonstrated that certain songs, when played for Holstein herds, increase milk yields. Lou Reed’s 1972 track “Perfect Day” was one such milk-maximizing song. “As a company on a mission to make cows, people, and the planet happier,” reads Perfect Day’s FAQ page, “it seemed like a perfect fit.”

Over the last few years Perfect Day has expanded their target market, graduating from products confined to the refrigerated dairy section to… well, the whole supermarket. “Fundamentally, milk proteins add functionality or nutrition to products in every part of the grocery store,” Ryan told me. Dairy is found in products you may not expect, from soups and tomato sauces, to dressings, condiments and baked goods. “If you can name a part of the grocery store, I can find you a product where dairy is involved.” Although they still plan to produce some fresh dairy products, from a business perspective, Ryan sees a much larger market for Perfect Day’s milk proteins that would extend their reach beyond the fresh dairy case. Since their process omits lactose, even those who suffer from lactose intolerance would be able to enjoy dairy-containing products without compromising digestive comfort.

Food manufacturers that use dairy in their products are watching Perfect Day with interest. They’re used to using milk proteins with a specific ratio of components, but it’s cost-prohibitive to separate and isolate the proteins they need for specific functions in their foods. Since Perfect Day has the advantage of making these proteins individually, saving food manufacturers the added cost and effort of breaking down whole, unprocessed milk into its component parts, the company is able to tap into a much broader functionality.

The food industry, investors, even the government—according to Ryan, they “get” it. Perfect Day is well on its way toward establishing GRAS (“Generally Recognized As Safe”) designation through the FDA. In fact, the regulatory process for the product is relatively straightforward—Perfect Day’s milk proteins are created in much the same way as many other products we use every day. All kinds of flavor and fragrance additives are made using fermentation processes. Look at the label of almost any cheese made in the US and you’re likely to find a reference to “non-animal rennet” or “microbial enzymes.” Rennet, a key ingredient in cheese, used to be obtained from slaughtered calves, but is now more commonly made using fermentation. Perfect Day’s process is similar, and the tech it uses is by no means new—it’s the application that’s novel. “Although we’ve had the technology for about 40 years, Perfect Day is first company to really care about it and talk about it,” says Ryan.

New Harvest Cultured Tissue Fellow Natalie Rubio. (Image source: Natalie Rubio)

New Harvest Cultured Tissue Fellow Natalie Rubio. (Image source: Natalie Rubio)

Milk isn’t the only cellular ag product on the horizon. Although we’re a little further away from commercializing cultured meat, one Tufts University PhD student is advancing the research that may one day make it possible to buy a piece of steak that was never attached to a cow. Natalie Rubio got her start in cellular ag first as a volunteer with New Harvest—the institute that gave Perfect Day its initial seed money—and later as an intern during the early days of Perfect Day (when the nascent company was still known as Muufri, in 2014). Since then, New Harvest has launched a research fellowship, naming Natalie as the first New Harvest Cultured Tissue Fellow.

Natalie says that even as an intern at Perfect Day, she knew she wanted to work on meat. “The biotech industry has been using cells to produce proteins [for various products] for many years,” she tells me. “The idea of using whole cell cultures themselves as a product is more novel. We can use the tissue engineering techniques to create meat from cell cultures without involving livestock, besides donor animals for the initial biopsy.”

She explains that there are three main focus areas in the emerging field of cultured tissue research. The first area aims to develop new, animal-free sources of growth media used to feed the cells. When tissue cells are growing, they basically float in a liquid mixture of sugar water, some proteins, and a substance called fetal bovine serum. While the base formulation of sugar water, vitamins and minerals is animal free, the bovine serum supplement is a byproduct of the meat industry. It makes for a great environment for growing tissue cultures, but since the goal of this field of research is to avoid using animals, scientists are searching for substances to use in place of fetal bovine serum.

Another focus of this work, says Natalie, is obtaining and tinkering with new cell lines. The initial cells are biopsied from domestic species like turkey, bovine, fish, or any other species of interest. Stem cells, which are capable of prolific growth and differentiation, are isolated and extracted for use in tissue cultures. Scientists are then able to tell the stem cells how to behave and what to become; in the case of cultured meat, they become muscle, but scientists can also direct stem cells to become tissues with other properties, like fat.

The focus of Natalie’s research is scaffolding. “Think of the scaffold as everything besides the cells themselves,” she tells me. “In our bodies, we have muscle cells, but that’s not all that our muscle is. It’s also surrounded by this matrix of proteins, primarily collagen, that make up muscle. I’m trying to emulate these other substances by using animal free materials.” Her work overlaps with the engineering of human skeletal muscle tissues that are already used routinely in regenerative medicine. Someday in the not-too-distant future, we could grill animal-free steaks with the same fibrous, muscle-y appearance and texture that we expect from meat.

Lest the idea of lab-grown meat or milk stoke anyone’s fears of genetic modification, Natalie sets the record straight: these products do not contain GM ingredients. She explains that tissue culturing does not involve manipulating any genes. She describes the cells they use in her field as “proliferative,” meaning they are naturally inclined to grow and multiply according to the instructions encoded in their DNA—no gene tinkering required. And while Perfect Day’s process does involve genetically modifying yeast cells to make milk proteins, the GM yeast is carefully filtered out of the milk before being added to any food products. This process of altering yeast’s genetic code to make proteins is exactly the same way vegetarian rennet, vanilla, insulin, and many other everyday products are made. (New Harvest’s FAQ goes into further detail about the role of GMO in cellular agriculture, as well as other common questions that come up around this emerging industry.)

Natalie Rubio conducts her research at the David Kaplan lab at Tufts University. (Image source: Natalie Rubio)

Natalie Rubio conducts her research at the Kaplan Laboratory at the Department of Biomedical Engineering, on Tufts University’s Medford campus. (Image source: Natalie Rubio)

Cellular agriculture is not so much a new technology as it is a new application for the technology we’ve long used in medicine and pharmaceuticals. It seeks to avoid some of the ongoing problems we have with animal agriculture. For example, producing meat and milk in sterile environments reduces the risk of contamination from pathogens. (Remember Ford’s concern about tuberculosis?) The ability to scale up these processes could also have positive implications for agricultural land use in the U.S. Imagine converting some of the 170 million acres currently planted with corn and soy into specialty crops, expanding our ability to produce and harvest solar energy, or reaping the ecological benefits of putting more land into conservation—all while reducing the emissions associated with animal agriculture.

While Henry Ford may have envisioned a world devoid of cattle, Ryan Pandya, for his part, is quick to assure me that the goal of cellular agriculture is not to upend the dairy or meat industries. “Demand is increasing for animal products all over the world—such a demand that the world’s farmers can’t keep up. I hope we can create a complementary supply chain that will take some of that pressure off.” He sees a future where, instead of abolishing animal products entirely, consumers are willing to pay a premium for products that have the traditional touch of animal farming.

It’s a future that’s increasingly easy to imagine.

Kathleen Nay is a third-year dual degree student in the Agriculture, Food & Environment and Urban & Environmental Policy & Planning programs and a co-editor of The Friedman Sprout.

A Magical (Food) Journey

by Hannah Macfarlane

Some people visit theme parks to go on the rides, others go to investigate the food. For Hannah Macfarlane, her winter vacation presented an opportunity for both. Keep reading to explore Orlando’s famous parks as told through meals and learn some tips for eating your way to a great vacation .

Over winter break, my mom and I headed to Orlando for four days of theme park hopping: two days at Walt Disney World and two days at Universal Studios. We walked more than forty miles, rode nearly every roller coaster designed for people over the age of six, and took lots of awkward selfies so our family at home in the Northeast could envy the beautiful weather. And because I am a food-loving nutrition student, I made it my mission to find the healthiest, most satisfying theme park food I could.

Quick disclaimer: if you want to eat cheeseburgers, churros, and cotton candy while you’re on vacation (or not), go for it! No food is bad food, ESPECIALLY when you’re in the Happiest Place on Earth™. For me, eating balanced meals was important because I have a sensitive stomach and experience acid reflux, so my goal was to find foods that wouldn’t make me feel sick while riding roller coasters that made me feel sick. Isn’t that great logic?

Day 0:

We had originally planned to do one day at Disney and two at Universal, but thanks to some last minute inspiration and a free flight change from Delta, we ended up arriving in Orlando a day early. That meant more time for rides, and more food to eat! Before we checked into our hotel, we stopped by the supermarket (Publix, obviously) to pick up some food and local beer for our mini fridge. Breakfast ended up being the one meal that stayed consistent all week: fresh berries with plain Greek yogurt and chocolate granola, and whatever coffee we could find. I referred to my breakfast as “room service,” but really it was my wonderful mother waiting on me so I could sleep in. She’s a saint.

Day 1:

Not food, but I had to throw in a photo of Cinderella's castle at night! (Image source: Author)

Not food, but I had to throw in a photo of Cinderella’s castle at night! (Image source: Author)

We officially began our adventure in the utopia that is Magic Kingdom. I’d downloaded the Disney World app the previous week and looked at the menus about 17 times each, so I knew I wanted to drag my mom to Columbia Harbour House for lunch. I ordered the Grilled Salmon; she had the Broccoli Peppercorn Salad. The food was good, but the best part of the meal was making a new friend in the form of a flight attendant from Seattle who had run the “Dopey Challenge” the previous weekend—a 5K, 10K, half marathon, and full marathon in sequential days. I discovered that not only are there obsessed Disney World fans and obsessed runners, there are a ton of people out there who are both. Personally, I prefer to get my physical activity in by skipping from ride to ride, but to each their own.

For dinner, we swung by the Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn, located in the Frontier Land area. I went for the tacos, but quickly fell in love when I discovered the UNLIMITED GUACAMOLE. Yes, you read that right. After you order your food—I got a Taco Trio with Seasoned Ground Beef, Seasoned Chicken, and Spicy Breaded Cauliflower topped with 5-spice Yogurt and Pineapple Salsa – you head to the toppings bar for all the fixin’s. I am not kidding when I say I helped myself to a full cup of guacamole, or $10 worth if we’re talking in Chipotle terms.

Day 2:

This was our longest day; we were in the parks from 8 am (pre-rope drop for those in the know) to 11 pm. Lunch was this bowl from Satu’li Canteen in the new Pandora section of Animal Kingdom, and it was DELICIOUS. I hadn’t decided what to eat until I walked past the restaurant and scoped out the menu (I spent a lot of time looking at menus, clearly). As soon as I saw it was a build-your-own-bowl place, I knew I had to get that food in my belly. I would have gone back for dinner but we were in Epcot by that point. Go to Pandora for the food, stay to watch people suffer through the ridiculously long lines for the Avatar Flight of Passage ride.

(Image source: Author)

(Image source: Author)

Our second park dinner was our only real sit-down meal during the four days of park hopping. One of my mom’s best friends and her daughter had planned a trip to Disney at the same time, so we met up at Restaurant Marrakesh in the World Showcase. My mom and I ordered two dishes—Roast Lamb Meshoui and Shish Kebab—and swapped halfway through so we could try both. Honestly, the best part of the World Showcase is the food—you can try food from all around the world in one place!

A typical menu at Universal Studios. (Image source: Author)

A typical menu at Universal Studios. (Image source: Author)

Day 3:

As much as I love Disney (and I do LOVE Disney), I was most excited to visit Universal for one reason only: the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I don’t love being surrounded by hordes of people, but I’m happy to deal with crowds of Muggles trying to catch a photo of the Gringotts dragon mid-fire breath.

The food at Universal Studios is generally pretty limited, making me wish there were house elves on hand to cook up our favorite foods. When you search the park’s website for “healthy options” in the two main parks you get one result, and it costs $50 for an adult. That said, it’s the Marvel meet-and-greet restaurant, so you may get to hang out with Thor.

I made the rookie mistake of winging lunch that day, and I ended up struggling to find something that met my requirements (read: not a burger and fries) while fighting through my “hanger.” We finally ended up at Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck for—you guessed it—more tacos. Sadly, the guacamole there was NOT unlimited, but I did enjoy the Korean beef. Universal closed at the non-magical hour of 7 pm, so we didn’t waste time getting dinner at the park. Why eat when you can ride the Hulk again and again?

Sunset over Hogsmeade. (Image source: Author)

Sunset over Hogsmeade. (Image source: Author)

Day 4:

After my lunchtime annoyance of the previous day, I had already decided to visit Fire Eater’s Grill for our final lunch. The food wasn’t the best, but my gyro came with a side of veggies (carrots and celery sticks) and hummus. Not too shabby! Disappointingly, there were no fire eaters to be found. 

Ice cream at Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour (*authentic British spelling!) (Image source: Author)

Ice cream at Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour (*authentic British spelling!) (Image source: Author)

I only got ice cream once during our four days in the park, but this cup from Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour* was totally worth the wait. As a huge Harry Potter fan, just having the experience of eating ice cream in Diagon Alley would have been enough for me; this ice cream also happened to be incredibly tasty. My mom and I ordered separately and somehow both ended up with salted caramel blondie and clotted cream. Accio deliciousness!

After picking up souvenirs at Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, we headed back to Hogsmeade only to discover that the park closed at 6 pm. I didn’t get to ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey again, but we did have extra time to get tasty Ethiopian food for dinner near our hotel.

Overall, I was pretty satisfied with the food I found at both parks, especially Disney World. It definitely takes some effort and planning, but there are vegetables to be found! Most importantly, I had a blast.


  1. Do breakfast/coffee in the hotel so you’re in a good mood by the time you reach the park. Those crowds can be brutal and you don’t want to face them when you’re hangry (trust me on that one).
  2. Bring snacks. I had plenty of dried mango in my bag so that I could raise my blood sugar whenever I felt myself getting cranky (see above). We also had pretzels, cheese crackers, beef jerky, nuts, and granola bars—snacking is a serious business for us!
  3. Plan ahead. This is especially true if you have any kind of dietary restrictions. I’m just picky, but I still got a little hangry (again, see above) on the one day I didn’t pick a lunch spot ahead of time. (Sorry, Mom!)
  4. Look into the meal plans. We didn’t do this, but both Disney and Universal offer flat rate meal plans that are accepted at many on-site dining locations. As a bonus, you’ll feel like a freshman again!

Hannah Macfarlane is a second year student in the Nutrition Interventions, Communication, and Behavior Change program. Her favorite activities include re-reading Harry Potter, snacking, and pretending to be a kid again.

Roses are Red

Roses are red, Friedman is Blue… the SNOW is back, and The Sprout is too!

Welcome to 2018, Sprout Readers! Waltzing into this new semester feels a bit like making the first few steps on a path of freshly fallen snow. Perhaps because that’s probably what you were doing on your way to class this morning (thanks mother nature!) Nevertheless, we are excited to begin this next chapter of Friedman life, learning, and leading and cannot wait to share it with you.

With the new semester, we welcome the students starting off their Friedman journey, look forward to learning from them and embracing the diversity of background and perspective they bring to our campus. The incoming spring class includes five Master of Nutrition Science and Policy students, five MS in Agriculture Food and Environment students, two MS in Food Policy & Applied Nutrition students, one MS in Nutrition Interventions, Communication and Behavior Change student, and two combined MS and MPH students. We are excited to get to know you all!

This month, Sara Scinto motivates us to get moving despite the frigid temps and precipitation. Perhaps ironically, going indoors to work out opens up a multitude of options for getting your sweat on – whatever your exercise preferences are. Sara tells us about all of them and encourages us to find whatever makes us feel good!

In a survey of over 200 respondents, Sprout co-editor Kathleen Nay uncovered the reasons behind why people change their dietary identities from plant-eaters to meat-eaters, and the spectrum that lies within the extremes. The surprising results of her survey may help you think about and better understand your own dietary choices, meat eater or otherwise.

Did you know February is National Heart Month? April Dupee rounded up five of her favorite breakfast recipes to literally power up your favorite organ and fend off one of the nation’s top killers – Heart Disease. Not only are the recipes healthy for your heart, they are simple, easy and delicious – all the more reason to include them in your recipe repertoire.

Ready to get political? The Friedman Food Policy Action Council is back with a Friedman Policy Update on timely legislature and encourages advocacy-driven Friedmanites to get involved with this new student organization. Alana Davidson provides an introduction to the group and explains how to make our voices heard.

Finally, Laura Barley, a native Californian, reckons with the recent disasters wrought by natural forces in her home state and around the globe. She highlights the interventions we’ve tried and the policies currently on the table to attempt to mitigate the extent to which our climate has changed, and has a motivating message for all of us.

A special thanks to the writers who contributed articles this month, getting a head start on work before the semester officially began. We are incredibly grateful for your hard work and want to be sure you know The Sprout would not be what it is without you!

Happy Reading,

Hannah and Kathleen


In this issue…

Moving Through Winter

Sara Scinto Snowshoeing Massachusetts

by Sara Scinto

Do you dread winter because it keeps you from engaging in exercise that you love? Are you looking for new ways to move your body that don’t involve the gym? Are you interested in making the best of what this cold season has to offer? Then read further for thoughts and ideas on how to move through winter with more enjoyment.


To Meat or Not to Meat? (Is That Really the Question?)

Photo: Pexels.com

Photo: Pexels.com

by Kathleen Nay

After eight years of keeping a vegetarian diet, I’m compelled to ask myself: why am I still a vegetarian? And more intriguingly, why are my former-vegan and -vegetarian friends not?


Recipe and photo by OhSheGlows.

Photo by OhSheGlows


5 Breakfasts to Power your Heart

by April Dupee

The month of February is all about the heart. Not only is it that time of year when stores are stocked with greeting cards, balloons, and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates to celebrate Valentine’s Day, but also it marks American Heart Month to raise awareness about heart disease and prevention. With 1 in 3 deaths in the U.S. attributable to cardiovascular disease, American Heart Month serves as an important reminder to take care of our hearts and encourage our communities to support heart health initiatives.


Friedman Policy Corner: Advocate for Sound Nutrition and Agricultural Policy This Spring … and Then Run for Office!

by Alana Davidson

This spring is the end of the 2017-2018 legislative session in the Massachusetts State House. Read about what this means in terms of advocacy and learn about Friedman’s new student-run organization, the Friedman Food Policy Action Council. Finally, consider if a life in public service is right for you and whether you should run for office!


Paradise Lost

by Laura Barley

Photo credit: CNN.com

Photo credit: CNN.com

Climate change is a globally felt human experience that recently hit home for California native Laura Barley. Here, she reflects on the wildfires in her home state and takes a look at some policy tools aimed at climate mitigation.




Moving Through Winter

by Sara Scinto

Do you dread winter because it keeps you from engaging in exercise that you love? Are you looking for new ways to move your body that don’t involve the gym? Are you interested in making the best of what this cold season has to offer? Then read further for thoughts and ideas on how to move through winter with more enjoyment.

If you were anywhere in the Northeast during this holiday season, you likely experienced at least one major winter storm, cold spell, or both. Living in Northeastern Ohio where the lake effect snow regularly comes down by the foot, I encountered multiple while I was home for break. If you are an active biker, walker, or runner, snow and ice can really throw a wrench in your usual physical activity schedule. This is especially true if the mere thought of a treadmill (known to many as the “dreadmill”), stationary bike, or indoor pool makes you cringe. But instead of lamenting about these seasonal limitations, you can change your perspective on winter; it actually is an excellent time to try alternative types of movement, both indoors and outside.

Attending group workout classes is one way to build up body heat, fight frigid temperatures, and experience new forms of exercise during the chilly stretch between November and March. For me, hot yoga is the most effective remedy for the constant cold and low energy I often experience during winter. It leaves me feeling warm and relaxed for the rest of the day, as long as I make sure to take a shower and put on dry clothes before walking back into the brisk air (wearing sweaty clothes in the cold is a recipe for disaster). As Friedman students, we are fortunate enough to have multiple studios within walking distance of our school; just minutes down Harrison Avenue, there is both a Turnstyle (cycling) and a Corepower (varying levels of hot yoga) studio. If you’re looking for a nearby studio that offers something really different, check out Swet Studio, which has rowing, aerial yoga, and other antigravity activities! And if none of those get you excited, check out this list of 10 local classes that get your body moving in creative ways.

Title Boxing Club Boston Nutrition Students

Me and my friend after trying out boxing together (Photo: Sara Scinto)

Admittedly, these classes are often outside a graduate student budget, but some studios offer student discounts or even a first class for free! Although you may realize at the end of the class that it’s not for you, the complimentary class allows you to determine that without having to pay for something you don’t end up liking.

Another more affordable option for Friedman students is the Wang YMCA, where there is a wide selection of classes like Tai Chi, Zumba, cycling, and high intensity interval training (H.I.I.T) classes, just to name a few. With the discounted membership rate information that was emailed to all Tufts Boston Health Sciences students before the start of the fall semester, you can purchase a monthly membership to the YMCA for the same (or lower) price as most single exercise studio classes. Although the Wang YMCA is the closest location to Friedman, a membership allows you to get into YMCA branches all over Boston. This gives you access to even more varieties of physical activity like power yoga, barre, and kickboxing.

Even though it may not seem like it, winter is also a terrific season to experience the outdoors in a way that does not involve running or biking. Despite living in the snow belt nearly my entire life, I’ve only just begun to explore snow sports. And while not every winter sport is for me, I’ve found activities like snowshoeing to be wonderful. Trekking through a forest while the snow clings to the bare trees like floating cotton balls is breathtaking in more ways than one! Although my hands were frozen for the first 20 minutes, the discomfort was worth being able to view winter and snow in a completely new and appreciative way.

Sara Scinto Snowshoeing Massachusetts

A beautiful winter forest while snowshoeing (Photo: Sara Scinto)

Lack of equipment may seem like a big barrier for engaging in winter sports, but many places offer rentals at a reasonable price. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are generally less expensive options compared to snowboarding and downhill skiing, although there are ways to save on ski lift tickets. Making a day trip with some friends to engage in snow sports can be a perfect opportunity to get outside of the city and breathe some crisp, fresh air. Here is a great resource on locations near Boston to snowshoe, ski, and snowboard (I can confirm the Weston Ski Track is great for beginners). And if you don’t have a mode of transportation out of town, don’t worry! There’s still plenty of outdoor fun to take advantage of in Boston, including something called “frost bite” sailing on the Charles River (for experienced sailors) and ice skating and sledding in the Boston Common. Because in case you needed a reminder, you’re never too old for sledding. And marching back up Beacon Hill over and over really gets your heart pumping!

Winter offers an abundance of ways to move your body, some of which wouldn’t even be possible in other seasons. Although the urge to stay snuggled underneath the covers is strong, I encourage you to try a new activity this year that will help you view winter as a season of opportunity and discovery, rather than a season of limitations.


Sara Scinto is a second-year NICBC student, avid coffee drinker, runner, triathlete, and yogi. She has a love for rainbows and all things food/nutrition related. During the winter, she enjoys staying warm and active with yoga and running outside in *almost* any weather conditions (to avoid the treadmill). You can find her on Instagram @saras_colorfull_life.

To Meat, or Not to Meat? (Is That Really the Question?)

by Kathleen Nay

After eight years of keeping a vegetarian diet, I’m compelled to ask myself: why am I still a vegetarian? And more intriguingly, why are my former-vegan and -vegetarian friends not?

Photo: Pexels.com

Photo: Pexels.com

Eight years ago, transitioning to a vegetarian diet was my New Year’s resolution. I’d just finished reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals about the dark side of animal agriculture, and I’d been with my partner—a lifelong vegetarian—for three years. At that point making the swap seemed inevitable, and I’ve pretty much been vegetarian ever since.

It wasn’t a difficult transition. My dad had become vegetarian when I was a pre-teen, and we never had much meat in the house to begin with. Meat was a “special occasion” food, or something I’d order at a restaurant, but rarely prepared at home. For me, the choice was convenient and socially acceptable. I felt convinced that a vegetarian diet was best for the planet, and it neatly sidestepped the complex feelings I had around causing harm to sentient animals and the workers who kill and process them.

But I’ve never lost that particular craving for meat that substitutes just don’t quite satisfy. Some people seem to get over this; my dad, for example, always said that he eventually stopped craving it, and no longer enjoys the taste or texture. Not so for me. If we’re operating on strict definitions of vegetarianism, then I’m technically not one—I sample a bit of turkey at the requisite holiday gatherings, and occasionally give in to a craving for a roast beef sandwich when I need a quick lunch away from home. I try not to hold myself to such high definitional standards, however, and usually identify as a plant-based eater. If I’m honest with myself, I’ve fleetingly thought about abandoning my vegetarianism, though I know that if I were to return to eating meat, I would struggle with the dissonance between my values—the social and environmental benefits of a low-impact diet—and my tastes.

I certainly wouldn’t be the first to experience such turmoil over my diet. I know several individuals who just couldn’t make a plant-based diet stick, and Internet listicles abound with people sharing how they lost their “veginity.” Reportedly, even celebrities once famed for being vegan—Bill Clinton, Anne Hathaway, Natalie Portman, and others—have ended their exclusive plant-food affairs.

So I got curious. Why do so many people, once persuaded to give up meat, transition back to it? How do those reasons compare with their motivations for avoiding animal products in the first place? Do they experience guilt or social pressures around their dietary choices, and why?

Much research has been done on factors that predict the likelihood of someone converting to a vegan or vegetarian diet. For example, being female, having greater educational achievement, and higher IQ scores in childhood have each been linked with greater likelihood of becoming vegan or vegetarian as an adult. Some research has linked feminism with vegetarianism. Other work has demonstrated that people who are oriented toward social dominance—that is, those who believe that hierarchical systems should be maintained, a personality trait that predicts social and political attitudes—are actually less likely to become vegan or vegetarian, and are also likely to view vegetarianism as a social threat.

However, the research into factors predicting lapses from vegetarianism is scant, though there are some studies beginning to appear in the literature. One very recent study by Hodson and Earle (2017) looked at whether ideology plays a role in returning to meat consumption. They found that political conservatism tends to predict lapses from vegetarian/vegan diets, particularly among eaters for whom reasons of justice (animal welfare, environmental concerns) are weakest, and for those who do not have strong social support for their dietary choices.

I wondered what I would find if I surveyed my networks. I created a survey of 25 questions for former vegetarians and vegans about why they went vegetarian in the first place; how long they adhered to a vegetarian diet; and what caused them to revert back to eating animal products. In comparison to Hodson and Earle’s work, my investigation is perhaps less academically rigorous and more qualitative in nature, but still valuable for understanding former vegetarians’ dietary motivations.

Through conversations around Friedman I’ve gathered that there are a fair number of us who once identified as vegetarian and no longer do. But I didn’t limit my query to Friedman students or alumni. A large number of people in my life are or once were vegetarian for religious purposes. Having been raised Seventh-Day Adventist, a Protestant Christian denomination whose adherents are well known for abstaining from meat, alcohol and cigarettes, it was once more common for me to meet lifelong vegetarians than to meet someone who regularly consumed meat. As I’m still well connected with this community, my survey skewed slightly toward former vegetarians who were raised with dietary restrictions and/or people who adhered to a vegetarian diet because of religious affiliation.

About 200 former vegetarians and vegans responded to my survey. Most respondents—around 77%—were female, while 18% and 4% identified as male and nonbinary, respectively (this is in keeping with considerable research finding that women are more likely to adhere to a vegetarian diet than men). Respondents’ ages ranged from 20 to 63 years, with the median age being 33. People reported having followed a vegetarian diet for an average of 9.2 years, though actual duration ranged widely, from 6 months to 39 years. Overwhelmingly (85%) respondents specified that they had followed a vegetarian diet, as opposed to being vegan, pescatarian, or fluctuating between the three. (For simplicity, I use the word vegetarian in the rest of this article to encompass all of these terms together.)

Age at conversion to vegetarian/vegan diet

Age at conversion to vegetarian/vegan diet.

Age at conversion back to meat-inclusive diet.

Age at conversion back to meat-inclusive diet.

The largest groups of respondents said they became vegetarian during their teens (45%) and twenties (25%). Respondents also reported transitioning back to eating meat during their twenties (56%) and thirties (22%), potentially suggesting that your parents were right—going vegan in your teens was just a phase. This tracks with ongoing research into the development of the adolescent brain. In a recent episode of the podcast The Gist, journalist Dina Temple-Raston explains that the insular cortex, the area of our brains responsible for causing us to feel empathy, is on hyper alert during adolescence. In her interview with host Mike Pesca, she surmises that “this may explain why you want to save the mountain gorillas when you’re 16, or why you become a vegan.” (Catch Temple-Raston’s Gist interview here.)

Indeed, the most salient reason people gave for rejecting meat in the first place was out of concern for “animal welfare” (20% of received responses). The other most common motivators cited were “health” (17%) and “environment” (16%). That last one especially resonates with me; the enormous environmental footprint of animal agriculture compared to crops is what finally convinced me to give up meat.

But then we get to the crux of my question: what was it that ultimately persuaded my respondents to resume eating animals? Here’s where the data started to get interesting.

The top three reasons respondents provided for why they returned to consuming animal products were “personal taste preferences” (21%), “health” (20%), and “convenience” (16%). Interestingly, health was a significant motivator for transition both toward and away from vegetarianism.

Motivations for converting to vegetarian/vegan diet.

Motivations for converting to vegetarian/vegan diet.

Motivations for converting back to meat-inclusive diet.

Motivations for converting back to meat-inclusive diet.

That health showed up as a primary motivator in both places was really curious to me. I wanted to dig in there, so I filtered out all the responses from individuals who said that health motivated them to both adopt a vegetarian diet and to abandon it. Samples of their comments are reproduced in the tables at right.

Pro-vegetarian/vegan health motivators.

*A common response I received was that a vegan/vegetarian diet was used to hide or aid an eating disorder. In the words of one respondent: “I said I loved animals too much to eat them but I was also really excited about the opportunity to be able to decline to eat in front of other people with a legit excuse.” Fortunately, this respondent later said that they got therapy and learned coping mechanisms as they gradually reintroduced meat to their diet. However, it would be remiss not to acknowledge that the sudden elimination of entire food groups or adoption of dogmatic dietary practices can be red flags for disordered eating. For a brief exploration of this darker side of vegetarianism, read this Psychology Today article by Hal Herzog, Ph.D.

Pro-meat health motivators.

Above: pro-vegetarian/vegan health motivators vs. pro-meat health motivators.

Other questions that yielded interesting results were about convenience and perceived social/cultural pressures to eat meat. Aside from health concerns, frequently given reasons for reverting to omnivore diets included living or traveling abroad (also “living in the South” and living among First Nations peoples in northern British Columbia); not having the time or patience to prepare vegetarian meals; lack of available options on college campuses or at restaurants; causing conflict with loved ones (family members, partners); not wanting to inconvenience hosts or seem rude/ungrateful; unwillingness to “be constantly reading labels, turning down meal invites from friends”; the financial cost of keeping a vegetarian diet; employment (“I now work in a job where we encourage row crop producers to integrate livestock to regenerate soil health…” “I work in a restaurant”); and peer pressure (“Many of my friends ate meat,” “It was culturally weird among my friends… to not eat meat,” “social pressure around parenting”).

Finally, I asked respondents about whether they felt any guilt around eating animal products since resuming the inclusion of meat in their diets. Responses were about evenly split (48% Yes; 52% No). As expected, the majority of people mentioned feeling guilt over concerns about animal cruelty and environmental impact. Other common reasons included embarrassment for not sticking with what they felt was a positive lifestyle choice, unawareness of the meat’s origins, and contradicting their cultural upbringing or religious beliefs about the uncleanliness of certain meats. When asked how they alleviated their guilt or dealt with cognitive dissonance around choices to eat meat, most respondents said that they try to minimize or moderate their meat intake; attempt to source meat locally/ethically; look for alternate ways to reduce their carbon footprint; acknowledge the animal’s life; rationalize that meat is a necessary inclusion for their personal health; try not to think about it; or simply accept their guilt.


Having grown up a mostly-vegetarian Seventh-Day Adventist, and having later developed a more personal, moralized dietary identity, has caused me to reflect on my own cognitive dissonance when I sneak a turkey sandwich. What does my dietary identity even mean? Upon reflection, it actually means quite little in my case; as I admitted earlier, my interpretation of a vegetarian diet is increasingly more relaxed than the term might imply to others. But the distinction between calling myself plant-based as opposed to strictly vegetarian is relatively small—a difference of one or two meals per month, at most. Somehow, to say my diet is “plant-based” makes me feel as though I can hold on to my social/environmental values while giving myself wiggle-room to accommodate the irresistible pull of sensory memory and cultural pressure—in case I get caught with said turkey sandwich.

We adhere to dietary labels and self-imposed restrictions in order to project something about our selves and our values to the world. And yet, some 84% of vegetarians and vegans eventually return to eating meat. If my survey shows me anything, it’s that people’s reasons are vast, varied… and not altogether unreasonable. Now that we’re already a month into our 2018 New Year’s resolutions, I say it’s time to adopt another goal: to start being a little more forgiving of other people’s dietary choices—and our own.

Kathleen Nay is a third-year AFE/UEP dual degree student and co-editor of The Friedman Sprout. For being a vegetarian, she spends an unreasonable amount of time thinking about meat.