Friday, December 14, 2018

The Birth of a Little Food Waste Warrior

So my 5-year-old son wrote Krispy Kreme a letter, urging them to donate their “ugly” doughnuts. The company responded his letter with toys and coupons, but not one word about if his suggestion will be considered.

Like all the other 5-year-old, my son likes toys. But what he wanted more is a a real response. So he wrote another letter.

This is how Krispy Kreme responded to his second letter:

So the company basically said that in order to maintain a reputation of serving the best doughnuts, they have to throw away the irregular doughnuts. This didn’t make sense to me. Or my son.

He had lots of question. “I don’t get it. Do they think eating ugly doughnuts is worse than hunger?” “If so, why don’t they make all the doughnuts beautiful at first place? Or at least not so many ugly doughnuts?” “Why do they make so many ugly doughnuts and then throw them away?”

“…I don’t know.” I really don’t. The last time we visited Krispy Kreme, we saw them throw away 5 doughnuts in 10 minutes. I know little about the food industry, but that looked like a high percentage of doughnuts they made didn't arraign their own standard. In stead of throwing tons of edible food away, why not improve their technique? I don’t know.

“I…I…” my son hesitantly started, seeming to have some difficulties in opening his mouth. Then he finally said it, “I won’t ever eat Krispy Kreme again!”

It must be a hard decision for him, considering how much he loved doughnuts.

“I…I…I think the more we eat Krispy Kreme, the more they will throw away the poor doughnuts. I just don’t feel good about it.” He continued, “And I want every one to stop throwing food away.”

I told him that I’ll be the first one to join him and stop wasting food. And then I asked if there is anything else I can do to support his cause.

“I don’t know yet.” He said, “But I’ll figure out growing up.”

So my son had his very first attempt to advocate for his own believing. This is how he concluded the experience:

Monday, December 3, 2018

Tips for Breastfeeding Through the Holidays

Breastfeeding through the holidays can be tricky for new moms. We all heard about “holiday weaning,” which means accidentally nursing less often due to traveling, busy holiday schedules, or surrounding by groups of family and friends. And by doing so, moms often inadvertently decrease their milk supply, and maybe even ending the breastfeeding relationship altogether.

I have breastfed through a lot of holidays—Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year. These experiences have helped me figure out how to make breastfeeding easier around holiday events. Here are some tips of mine for breastfeeding through the holidays.

First, let your friends and family know ahead of time that you are breastfeeding. I found when people knew what to expect, it made me feel more comfortable. If you are hosting a holiday party, plan nursing time ahead. If you are visiting family or friends, ask for a private space to nurse when you arrive. Also, if you are hosting an event, do ask for help!

Whether you are hosting or visiting, dress to make it effortless to breastfeed confidently. Personally I found a good nursing bra really helps, and it’s worth it investing a few items of nursing wear to make life easier. It’s not necessary to buy specific breastfeeding clothing—simply layer up two of your normal tops will do. However there are a huge selection of stylish breastfeeding tops and dresses out there these days, you can wear them even when you are not breastfeeding.

Bring a breastfeeding cover or wear your baby in a sling is also a good idea. Keeping your baby close will help you catch feeding cues you would otherwise not have noticed if baby was in a swing or others’ arms. Plus, it’s sleek. A cousin of mine once dressed in a red cheongsam and wear her then newborn in a metallic colored baby wrap to Chinese New Year family gathering. She breastfed the baby through the dinner and no one even noticed. At the end of the evening our uncle asked what happened to her right arm. He actually thought the baby in the wrap was a broken arm! This remains one of the best family jokes till the day.

Last but not least—actually I would say this one is the most important—, take plenty of breaks to feed your baby and make sure the baby is not getting over stimulated. Remember to keep yourself hydrated and fed, too. Just be careful with holiday drinks that contains peppermint, which may decrease milk supply.

At the end of today’s blog, I want to share a little story. My family went to Palm Springs for this Thanksgiving. And of course we visited the famous Aerial Tramway. At the gift shop we saw a cute “Wisdom from a Bear” sign. My 5-year-old son asked me to read it to him. So I did.

It read,

Then I asked my son what he thought about it.

“It says ‘don’t miss a meal.’” He said, “so I think you should go feed Jasper now.” He was right.

So I did. Happy holidays!

This is originally a post for San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition's newsletter published on December 1, 2018. Photo credit to Mu-huan Chiang.

Friday, November 30, 2018

How Krispy Kreme Responded to My 5-Year-Old's Food Waste Concern

So my 5-year-old son wanted Krispy Kreme to donate their misshapen doughnuts. Eight days after sending the company a letter, he saw a package laying at our front door, with his name and a Krispy Kreme logo on the envelop. 

This is the first time he got a package or a letter that addresses him as a “mister.” He was totally excited! Immediately, he opened the package.

This is what he got:

A Christmas card, a coupon good for one dozen original glazed doughnuts, a pair of toy sunglasses, and a 1939 delivery truck model.

There wasn’t a word about what the company would do with their irregular doughnuts besides throwing them away. Even so, I thought my son would be delighted. After all, he is a 5-year-old who LOVES toy trucks!

But he wasn’t. He didn’t pay much attention to that truck. He tried to read that card. It said “May the joy of the holidays be with you throughout the year.” Some of the words were hard for him, so I helped. He read it several times.

And then, after a moment of silence, he looked up at me, “so they don’t say what they are gonna do with the not-so-beautiful doughnuts!”

“No, they didn’t.” I understood a national chain like Krispy Kreme must have a lot to consider when making a decision like this, but I didn’t know how to explain it to my young child.

“Maybe they don’t take me seriously because I am a child?” He was apparently disappointed.

“No, I don’t think that’s the case, baby. Maybe it’s hard for them to donate the doughnuts.”

“How so?” he cried. “I want to help!”

The next morning was Saturday. We visited one of our local doughnut shops and asked the manager how they deal with the “ugly” doughnuts. They told us they would still serve them since doughnuts with imperfect size the shape taste just as good. They also told us many restaurants don’t donate leftover food because they’re scared of being sued.

My son was dismayed. “I don’t believe it!”

I was surprised, too. So I did a little research with my son. (Sometimes it’s really convenient to be a journalist.) It turned out there is no available public record of anyone in the United States being sued because of harms to donated food. Restaurants and companies are protected by Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. Passed in 1996, the bill protects restaurants from civil and criminal licitly should a recipient get ill or hurt as a result of consumed donated food.

As soon as we are home, my son started to write another letter to his “new friends at Krispy Kreme,”sharing what he just learned and offering to help. In the middle of writing the letter, he stopped and ask, “do you think it will work better if you write them a letter? Because you’re an adult? And a journalist?”

“Maybe,” I said. “But I think you should finish what you started.”

He said, “you are right!” And finished this letter.

Friday, November 16, 2018

My 5-Year-Old Wants Krispy Kreme to Donate Their “Ugly” Doughnuts

I don’t like to admit this, but in spite of all my efforts to protect kids from junk food, my 5-year-old son loves doughnuts. (So does my husband. I can’t blame him. He went to school in North Carolina and Krispy Kreme plays a major part in his collegehood memory.)

So once a while I would take my son to a Krispy Kreme place for a parent-child date. This Tuesday we visited the Krispy Kreme location in San Diego’s Carmel Mountain neighborhood. It was our lucky day: The “Hot Now” sign was lit up when we arrived and we got free doughnuts. My son was very happy. Really, you can’t buy happiness but you can buy doughnuts. And for a 5-year-old, they are pretty much the same thing.

Regardless the happiness he felt with the free doughnuts, my son left the Krispy Kreme location feeling exactly the opposite on that day.

As always, he enjoyed his doughnut while watching the doughnut machine running and pumping out his favorite doughnuts. For some reason, he saw something he never noticed before. A woman by the conveyor belt took some doughnuts, crumpled them up, and left them on the counter top.

My son was alerted, “What are they doing to those doughnuts?”

I looked at the conveyor belt and realized those were irregular doughnuts. Some of them looked like two doughnuts squashed together. Some of them were just shaped weird. I explained to him that it’s probably the company’s quality control procedure. We stood there and watched for a few more minutes. Five not-so-perfect doughnuts were taken within five minutes.

My son wanted to know what would happen to those little weirdos. So we reached out to Krispy Kreme. Our Krispy Kreme host Stephen told us the company policy is to compost any doughnuts that don’t arraign the “Krispy Kreme standard”.

My son was apparently dismayed. He happened to be a very sensitive child. “No fair!” He protested, “I am still happy to eat them. I think many people are still happy to eat them. Every doughnut wants to be eaten.” He repeated several times. I could tell that he is about to cry. So I took him back to our car and drove away.

But it wasn't over yet. The seem-to-be minor incident really bothered my seem-to-be innocent, ignorant child. On our way home he asked, “Do you think they can not throw the doughnuts away? Do you think they can give the doughnuts to hungry people? There are lots of hungry people. Every time you count one to five, somebody dies because he is too hungry.” He closed his eyes and count to five. Then he announced: “Somebody just died. He didn’t have to die if we had given him the doughnuts!”

He actually remembered that every 5 seconds a child dies of hunger or related causes. We read it together somewhere a while ago. That surprised me. I told him I think donating doughnuts is doable. I used to volunteer with a church’s hunger ministry and I remember getting misshapen doughnuts from local doughnut shops.

My son asked me to drive back so that he could talk to the “boss” at Krispy Kreme. I told him it might not work because the “boss” actually lives in North Carolina. He then asked to write to him. So that evening he wrote this letter.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

How Breastfeeding Supports School Success


Dia Michels, the author of Milk, Money & Madness: The Culture and Politics of Breastfeeding believes that breastfeeding, talking, and touch in infancy all support school success.

“In the wild, the day the child weans is the day s/he walks. Childhood and lactation are one-and-the-same,” she wrote. “Everything the young need to know to travel the path from helplessness to self-sufficiency is learned while breastfeeding. By looking at mammal mothering, we learn about the role breastmilk plays in child development and gain an appreciation of early mother-infant attachment.”

Breastfeeding plays a unique role in promoting literacy. A research conducted by Oxford University and the Institute for Social and Economic Research, Essex University, have shown that breastfeeding causes children to do better at school. The study found that as little as four weeks of breastfeeding for a newborn baby has a significant effect on brain development, which persists until the child is at least 14 years old.

Researchers matched each breastfed baby with one or more babies who were not breastfed, but who were similar in all other respects. Test scores in reading, writing and mathematics for the children at ages five, seven, 11 and 14 revealed a statistically significant difference between those who had been breastfed as compared with those who had not.

Some argues that breastfeeding is more likely to be practiced by mothers who are of higher social class. To demonstrate whether the relationship between breastfeeding and brain development was caused by the breastfeeding alone, or whether it was because mothers who breastfeed are likely to have more successful children anyway, the researcher used a rich dataset from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, which covers 12,000 children born in the early 1990s in the Bristol area. Babies were matched on a huge range of characteristics, including gender, gestational age, birth weight, mother’s age and marital status, parents’ job status and education, and home environment.

Crucially, the researchers also used the parents’ attitudes to breastfeeding as measured before birth.

“Comparing the test scores of groups of children matched in this way, we are effectively estimating the causal effect of breastfeeding,” said co-author of the research, Dr. Almudena Sevilla-Sanz of the Department of Economics and the Centre for Time Use Research at Oxford University. “We find that breastfeeding does have a causal effect on children’s cognitive outcomes. The difference is statistically significant across English, Maths and Science scores, and persists into secondary school. Indeed, there is some evidence that the effect tends to grow over time.”

When tackling the “vocabulary gap” between rich and poor children, breastfeeding can help. Breastfeeding boosts the brain development of a baby—researchers at Brown University have discovered that breastfeeding alone produces the best results for boosting a baby's brain growth. Just three months of breastfeeding boosts a baby’s brain growth by 20 to 30 percent.

The researchers found that even a combination of breastfeeding and formula produced better development than formula alone.

*This post original appeared on San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition's Newsletter on Nov. 15, 2018. Photo credit to the writer, To-wen Tseng.