News Archive for October, 2012

For Immediate Release: October 22, 2012

FM3 Poll: Most California students give more healthful state school menus thumbs up

From an October 19 article in the Los Angeles Times:

For every three California public school students who think school meals are yummier than usual, there’s only one who thinks they’re worse, according to a new poll released Wednesday.

The survey by the California Endowment, the state’s largest healthcare foundation, was the first to tally the attitudes of California students and parents since new national nutrition standards took effect in July.

The changes by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, put into place partially to help curb childhood obesity, require schools to offer whole grains and low-fat milk and to cut back on sodium and saturated fat levels.

The results of the telephone and Internet survey show that Californians appreciate the health-conscious shift, said Judi Larsen, a program manager at the California Endowment.

“I have to be honest, we went in knowing the results could go either way,” Larsen said. “We’re definitely pleased.”

Ana Lorenzo, a 19-year-old senior at Miguel Contreras Learning Complex, had to pause and think about whether she’d noticed a change in school meals this year.

She shook her head, sending a cascade of wavy, brown hair back and forth over her shoulders.

“It’s kind of the same as it’s always been,” Lorenzo said, but added that it definitely hadn’t gotten worse.

The new requirements didn’t cause any sweeping changes in the Los Angeles Unified School District, which already had revamped its school menus to be healthier, said David Binkle, the district’s interim director of food services.

“With some of this, we’re way past where districts in California and the nation are,” Binkle said.

Take, for example, sodium levels.

By 2014, each meal will have to come in at less than 1,400 milligrams of sodium — a bit more than a cube of chicken bouillon.

L.A. Unified’s meals max out at 1,100 milligrams, Binkle said, and have for the last five years.

Sodium is down and participation is up. Binkle said more students are eating school lunches this year.

Zenobia Barlow, executive director of the Berkeley-based nonprofit Center for Ecoliteracy, which works on school food reform and sustainability, took comfort in Wednesday’s results.

“I just want to say how thrilled we are,” Barlow said. “We had that feeling, but it’s really great to see it confirmed by polling.”

Three weeks ago, Barlow’s center held a California Food for California Kids conference where more than 200 school food officials from around the state gleaned advice from the Center for Ecoliteracy.

The main message: Make healthy renditions of students’ favorites — pizza, pasta, rice, soup, salad and wraps — and play into the state’s diverse food palates. The center suggests a Latin American flavor profile, for example.

But Amy Lopez, a 19-year-old Miguel Contreras Learning Complex graduate who volunteers at her former high school twice a week, said the meals could have used a bit of help.

“They would give us these weird tortillas with some cold sauce,” Lopez said through a laugh.

For Immediate Release: October 3, 2012

Metz: Government does a good job of protecting our natural history

An op-ed written by FM3 Partner David Metz and Public Opinion Strategy’s Lori Weigel was recently published on The Hill’s Congress blog:

The voters we talk to across America can tell you a lot about what Washington has done wrong: the bickering; the perceived lack of attention to the important issues facing the country; the redundancy and waste. The glum ratings they report to pollsters like us are not just attributable to concern about the economy, but often are grounded in skepticism about whether or not their leaders are up to the tasks at hand.

In a national survey we co-conducted entering the height of the political campaign season on behalf of the National Institute on Civil Discourse, fewer than one American voter in ten has “a great deal of confidence” in elected officials to solve the problems facing the country. Instead, voters described feeling “frustrated,” “worried,” and even “ashamed” when they think about their elected officials. This deep dissatisfaction is one of the few things that unites Democrats, Republicans and independents in this election season.

The bright spot amidst this gloom in voters’ characterization of how well government functions today? Americans see the nation’s public lands as emblematic of something government has gotten right. Three-quarters of the national electorate (77 percent) agrees that “One of the best things our government does best is to protect and preserve our national history and natural beauty through national parks, forests, and other public lands.”  That sentiment holds true across the political spectrum and across the nation.

National research conducted on behalf of The Nature Conservancy this past summer, and a survey of Western voters conducted on behalf of Colorado College earlier this year demonstrates that voters perceive public lands as a job well done on several levels: a vital resource for their quality of life, while at the same time an engine for their local economy.

Fully 87 percent of American voters agree that their “state and national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife areas are an essential part of my state’s quality of life.” A near-unanimous 96 percent of those we polled in six inner West states likewise agreed.

But voters don’t stop there. Seven-in-ten Americans and nine in ten Westerners agree that these public lands are “an essential part” of their state’s economy. Think about it: in six states with some of the highest proportions of land in public hands, voters were even more likely to view those lands as a valuable economic resource. The numbers quantify what voters tell us in Western focus groups: that public lands bring tourists, hunters, anglers, and other outdoor recreationalists to spend money in their communities; that their neighbors moved there for the clean air, trails, and trout fishing; that a growing company chose their town because they knew future workers would find the nearby natural beauty and outdoor recreation opportunities desirable too.

We have consistently seen that three-quarters of Americans believe we can “protect land and water and have a strong economy with good jobs at the same time, without having to choose one over the other.” To hear some pundits and politicians describe it, voters must view their land, water and wildlife as either a source of jobs or as the foundation of a healthy environment – and never both. Yet these surveys demonstrate that Americans reject trying to pit the economy against the environment, just as much as they reject combative politics today. Amidst all their cynicism and negativity, voters across the political spectrum see public lands as a shining example of how government can get more things right.