IS SETTING A PLACE FOR EMPOWERMENT
Wednesday, February 23, 2000
is a conversational magician with a very practical agenda
when it comes to food and health. "We need to harness the
technology to empower the consumer," she declares during
visit to Chicago.
later her vivid description has evoked the image of an
"electronic farmers' market" and with it the opportunity
healthy products on-line that either will be delivered or picked
a nearby market, part of a national network of independent retailers.
these foods in ways to take maximum advantage of their
nutritional assets, she conjures up a selection of recipes from
panel of chef advisers of the caliber of Alice Waters and Rick
Bayless. No magic needed. The panel already exists.
So does a
Web site, FoodFIT.Com, which debuted in January, hard on the
heels of the publication of Haas' book "Great Adventures
in Food" (St.Martin's Press, $25).
The Web site
is the vortex of her vision. It can be used interactively
to measure a person's dietary and fitness habits and calculate
management." Then an "organizer" can be used to
personalized to the person's needs. The suggestions then may be
checked off against a list of kitchen essentials, a "pantry
and the recipe data bank. A personalized shopping list emerges
will be filled through the market procedure outlined above.
If this seems
ambitious, it is. A lot of pieces will have to fall into
place before this puzzle is complete. But Haas is no stranger
uphill challenges involving food and nutrition.
In the mid-1970s,
concern about food quality and food prices (the
former going down, the latter skyrocketing) led her, the mother
children, to organize a consumer council in Maryland.
Beltway, she gained the attention of Congress and the
national food industry in the 1980s when, as founder of the respected
consumerist group Public Voice, she built bridges between consumer
activists and the nutrition establishment. In the next decade,
Under-Secretary of Agriculture, Haas oversaw the first updating
nutritional standards for the national school lunch program to
them in line with the U.S. Dietary Guidelines.
full-time involvement in the on-line project and the book
spring from her belief that "the best way to make meaningful
in the food supply is by creating more informed consumers. This
lead to grassroots demand for foods that promote health and help
move away from fad diets."
to add, "This is not aimed at the gourmet upscale market.
It's about improving product quality. It's about education, turning
mainstream consumers into confident cooks.
have on-line cooking classes on how to use ingredients,
seasonal guides to fresh fruits and vegetables," she says.
encourage food preparations that nurture and please families,
they will share them at table together."
Adventures in Food," meanwhile, is a blueprint for healthy
living based on a diet that combines sound nutrition with food
"truly tasty." Divided into two parts, it begins with
a guided tour
through the supermarket of today, pointing out how to maximize
"nutritional punch," take advantage of "healthy
time-savers" and stock
a "full-flavor pantry." The second part, titled "Cooking
Home," is recipe-oriented. The design is lively and there
of tips and "trivia" to erase any suggestion of a nutrition