Posts tagged diabetes

Meet the King Corn guys

Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, filmmakers and stars of "King Corn"
Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, “King Corn” filmmakers

   All that corn being harvested this fall in Iowa, in one sense, isn’t even edible. In another sense, it’s ubiquitous in nearly everything we eat.

   That irony is the theme behind the documentary, “King Corn” which was screened Thursday night at Christ Episcopal Church in Cedar Rapids as part of the Environmental Film Festival.

   Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, filmmakers and stars of the documentary, made an appearance at the church to discuss the film with the crowd of about 50 people.  The church’s Rev. Barbara Schlachter said seeing the two stars walk in after watching them on the big screen was like a scene out of “Field of Dreams.”

   Curt, now of Austin, Texas, and Ian, of Brooklyn, NY, both 28, also spent time at Coe College this week. The two are still making environmental films. Their next, “The Greening of Southie,” is about the making of the first large-scale “green” building in Boston.


   The two, best friends in college on the East Coast, discovered they both had great-grandparents from the same northern Iowa county while in the process of making King Corn. The documentary shows their efforts to grow an acre of corn in Greene, northwest of Waterloo, and their attempts to follow their corn in the food system. Along the way, they interview experts who describe government subsidies of the crop – “we subsidize the Happy Meals but we don’t subsidize the healthy ones,” one expert noted – and what has happened to corn, in a nutritional sense, since corn first came into the country hundreds of years ago from Mexico. Essentially, in exchange for higher yields, the high protein content of corn has given way to a higher starch content, with no nutritional value.

   The corn seen growing in most Iowa fields isn’t corn-on-the-cob for humans, but a variety used for cattle feed, ethanol and high-fructose corn syrup, which is in most of what we eat and drink. Soda is liquid candy, one health expert in the film said. The film pointed out that the higher consumption of pop and other processed foods has contributed to the nation’s obesity epidemic, which in turn, contributes to higher rates of Type 2 diabetes.


   Ian and Curt said they’ve changed their eating habits since making the film, with Curt noting that he no longer drinks soda. They plan to do an offshoot movie of “King Corn,” along with other projects in the works.


  The Environmental Film Festival runs through Oct. 26. See the gardening events tab on this blog for the full listing. If you’ve seen one of the films and have some insight to share, add a comment below.



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Veggies in the city

An awesome idea from the Oakhill Jackson Neighborhood in Cedar Rapids is moving along. Michael Richards, president of the Oakhill Jackson Neighborhood Association, said the group will present a formal request to the Cedar Rapids City Council at its meeting on Wednesday, March 26, about using one city-owned vacant lot in the neighborhood. The lot would be used on a seasonal basis as a vegetable garden demonstration project. 

The City Council meets in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of  City Hall,  at 6 p.m., with the presentation to be made during the public comment segment. The group is welcoming support for the project, regardless of where you live. Richards said the lot will be used as an “outdoor classroom” home vegetable garden demonstration project. 

 He had this to say about the project: “The objective is to encourage Oakhill Jackson families to plant their own backyard gardens.  Low income families have the very least access to real food, and consume the highest quantities of processed commodity based food.  Nationally, this dietary situation results in billions of dollars in disease care costs to deal with the rising levels of obesity as well as childhood and adult diabetes.  The Oakhill Jackson/Metro High School Community Garden Classroom is a way to mitigate this national health problem on a local level.” 

To keep the effort highly focused, the demonstration garden will be at one site in Oakhill Jackson, with families from Wellington Heights, Moundview and any other CR residents invited, as well.  Susan Jutz, former president and current board member of Practical Farmers of Iowa, is donating all seeds for this project.  She and Kate Hogg, an advocate of community-supported agriculture, will be working with Metro High students this year to “glean” surplus produce at their two farms to bring the fresh produce into the Oakhill Jackson/Metro High/Kalona Organics Store Front project. 

The storefront will provide organic milk, eggs, cheese, butter and produce to Oakhill Jackson at a wholesale/affordable price.  The community garden classroom will be part of this overall healthy/local food initiative. Richards said the group is recruiting a local Master Gardener to serve as instructor for this community open air classroom. 

As an added note, for those of you who missed the message from Carrie Marsh on a previous post, anyone who could not attend a community forum last night at the Jane Boyd Community Center can contact her. Those who want to contribute ideas on the “greening” of Oak Hill or other Oak Hil-related urban development topics, can email Carrie at:  

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