Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

266 posts categorized "Hunger in the News"

Hunger in the News: Unemployment Rates, School Meal Standards, Income Inequality

A regular, non-comprehensive roundup of current news links on hunger and poverty issues from around the Web.

"40 maps that explain food in America," by Ezra Klein and Susannah Locke, Vox. "'The future of the nations will depend on the manner of how they feed themselves,' wrote the French epicurean Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin in 1826. Almost 200 years later, how nations feed themselves has gotten a lot more complicated. That’s particularly true in the U.S., where food insecurity coexists with an obesity crisis, where fast food is everywhere and farmer’s markets are spreading, where foodies have never had more power and McDonald’s has never had more locations, and where the possibility of a barbecue-based civil war is always near."

"The damage of poverty is visible as early as kindergarten," by Danielle Kurtzleben, Vox. "A big part of the American Dream is being able to climb the ladder and land higher than your parents. But that climb starts when people are just small children, according to new research, and getting off on the wrong foot has lifelong consequences."

"In Most States, Unemployment Rates Haven’t Bounced Back," by Alicia Parlapiano, New York Times (infographic). Five years since the end of the recession, many states still haven’t returned to, or neared, their previous levels of unemployment. And though many states have seen significant drops in rates, most of the improvement can be attributed to workers dropping out of the labor force altogether.

"House Delays Vote on Easing School Meal Standards," by Emmarie Huetteman and Ron Nixon, New York Times.  A House vote on an Agriculture Department spending bill containing a provision that would allow schools to opt out of the Obama administration’s nutrition standards for school meals has been delayed.

"Here's Why This Food Truck Takes Your Cash and Gives You Nothing," by Liz Dwyer, Takepart.com. Minnesota company Finnegans has a "reverse" food truck that collects nonperishable items and money for hungry citizens, rather than selling food.

"Here's How States Are Fighting Income Inequality," by Jake Grovum, Stateline/Huffington Post. "The two U.S. counties with the worst income inequality couldn’t be more different. No. 1 is Manhattan. The second is a rural Native American reservation in North Dakota. The two illustrate how widely inequality is spread around the country, and how the issue presents itself in different ways. The far-reaching problem was a driving force behind a raft of proposals in the states this year, as lawmakers looked to address persistent wealth gaps exacerbated by the Great Recession and the subsequent years of halting economic growth."

Hunger in the News: Fewer Americans on SNAP, Homelessness Declines

A regular, non-comprehensive roundup of current news links on hunger and poverty issues from around the Web.

"Economic Upswing Has Fewer Americans Receiving Food Stamps," by Pam Fessler, NPR. Critics of the food stamp program have been alarmed in recent years by its rapid growth, but the numbers have started to drop. "It's really showing that the program is doing what it's designed to do," says Dorothy Rosenbaum, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "It expanded when the economy was weak and when unemployment was on the rise. And now, as the economy is improving, it's starting to decline."

"Unemployment Extension: Score One for Gridlock," by Steven Dennis, Roll Call. "Gridlock is winning the battle over an unemployment extension. It's June 1, the day after a Senate-passed unemployment benefits extension would have expired, and advocates are no closer to restoring them. An estimated 2.9 million unemployed workers have been cut off from the now-defunct Emergency Unemployment Compensation program."

"Homelessness declines as new thinking fuels 'giant untold success'," by Noelle Swan, Christian Science Monitor. "A radical change in how states address homelessness has fueled a 17 percent decline in homelessness since 2005 – a trend that has withstood financial panic, a foreclosure crisis, and the Great Recession."

"Seattle minimum-wage fight: Does $15 an hour make economic sense?" by Maria L. La Ganga, Los Angeles Times. One of the architects of the $15 minimum wage, multimillionaire Nick Hanauer, explains how raising the wage in Seattle will help the economy.

"The Campaign for Junk Food: Michelle Obama on Attempts to Roll Back Healthy Reforms," by Michelle Obama, New York Times (op-ed). "As parents, we always put our children’s interests first. We wake up every morning and go to bed every night worrying about their well-being and their futures. And when we make decisions about our kids’ health, we rely on doctors and experts who can give us accurate information based on sound science. Our leaders in Washington should do the same."

Hunger in the News: School Lunches, Worst Places to be a Worker, Affordable Housing Shortage

A regular, non-comprehensive roundup of current news links on hunger and poverty issues from around the Web.

"The worst places in the world to be a worker," by Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post. The International Trade Union Confederation debuted its Global Rights Index, ranking countries on a 1 (best) through 5 (worst) scale on the basis of how well workers' rights are protected. The report ranks the United States a dismal 4.

"Why your baggage handler may be on food stamps," by Simone Pathe, PBS NewsHour. "Joshua Vina works as a baggage handler at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport — the site of Washington state’s first push for a $15 an hour minimum wage. [V]oters in Sea-Tac, the community surrounding the airport, narrowly approved a ballot initiative — known as Proposition 1 — to raise the minimum wage and provide workers with paid sick days. But nearly 5,000 workers at the airport still haven’t gotten their raises because Alaska Airlines, which represents half of the airport’s traffic, has challenged the initiative in court.

"When Did School Lunch Become a Political Issue?" by Katrina Heron, Salon. "When did feeding kids a nutritious lunch become a partisan political issue? Last week healthy-food bigwigs—First Lady Michelle Obama, writers like Mark Bittman and Marion Nestle —were forced, once again, to defend nutritious school meals, which are under threat, once again, from Capitol Hill.

"Lack Of Affordable Housing Puts The Squeeze On Poor Families," by Pam Fessler, NPR. "The U.S. is in the midst of what Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan calls the "worst rental affordability crisis" ever. Poor families are being hit the hardest: an overwhelming majority spend more than half of their incomes on rent. Others live in substandard housing, or are homeless."

"The Main ‘Vegetables’ Americans Eat Are Pizza and French Fries," by Jason Best, TakePart.com. "New USDA research finds we’re mostly fooling ourselves that we're eating our vegetables."

Nutritional Guidance from...Lobbyists?

'Potatoes' photo (c) 2011, jamonation - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Let's pretend, for a moment, that you're the parent of a two-year-old, and you want to make sure you're buying your toddler the most nutritious food possible, so she will grow healthy and strong. You're looking for advice. Whom would you turn to? Maybe a doctor? A nutritionist? Or a lobbyist?

Most people would pick the doctor or nutritionist, but it seems that some members of Congress would be inclined to go with the lobbyist.

Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee are currently embroiled in a debate about the nutritional value of one of America's favorite foods—the white potato.

Potato growers have recently voiced outrage over the exclusion of the white potato from the approved list of food that can be bought with Women Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program benefits. WIC provides healthy food to pregnant women and young children, allowing families to buy certain items deemed nutritious by scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Milk and fruit are on the list, as are vegetables—save for white potatoes. USDA guidelines exclude white potatoes from WIC because, according to its dietary data, no Americans, rich or poor, are eating too few white potatoes in any form—in fact, we are eating too many. Potato growers maintain, as anyone with a financial stake in selling more potatoes might do, that white spuds are a nutritional powerhouse that should be available to WIC beneficiaries. 

Today, members of the Senate Appropriations Committee sided with potato growers, voting during its agriculture appropriations committee markup process to examine the issue more closely but, in the meantime, add white potatoes to the list of approved WIC foods.

Allowing a powerful special interest to have any say in determining guidelines for federal child nutrition programs sets a dangerous precedent. The move opens the door for lobbyists and special interests to begin promoting their foods. Luckily, there is still time to fix it! You can still contact your senators and tell them that the WIC foods program must address the nutritional needs of children, not the interests of the most powerful lobbies.

New York Times food writer Mark Bittman has written a piece on the potato battle, and what seems to be a trend toward members of Congress throwing science out the window and considering the profits and needs of special interests, to the detriment of children. It doesn't stop with Congress caving to the demands of potato growers—a recent House bill proposed allowing schools to ignore healthy eating guidelines for school lunches if they find that ridding their cafeterias of junk means they're making less money from food sales.

This week, a large group of national, state, and local organizations penned a sign-on letter to Congress, asking them to continue to let science-based decisions govern federal nutrition programs, whether deciding what foods can be purchased with WIC benefits, or what nutritional guidelines school lunches should follow. Hopefully, members of Congress will realize that science, not special interests, should be determining what is considered the most nutritious food for growing children.

Hunger in the News: Poverty and Boomer Immigrants, SNAP, Can Fasting Affect Climate Change?

A regular, non-comprehensive roundup of current news links on hunger and poverty issues from around the Web.

"For Many Boomer Immigrants, Rough Times Ahead," by Chris Farrell, PBS Next Avenue. "On average, aging immigrant boomers own fewer assets, earn less income and have little savings set aside for their elder years than their native-born peers. They also tend to work longer, well into the traditional retirement years."

"Congress shifts food aid funds into shipping costs," The Olympian (editorial). "A month ago, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014, which increased transportation costs of U.S.-sourced food aid by $75 million annually. A coalition of humanitarian groups estimates that diverting this money from food to shipping costs will deprive about 2 million vulnerable people of access to life-saving food."

"What I Realized When I Finally Decided to Sign Up for Food Stamps," by Dennis Powers, Huffington Post. "What it has let me do is purchase better quality foods. Low sodium canned products, more fruit and fresh vegetables and slightly better cuts of meat instead of just the cheapest. I still need to be frugal but I no longer need to defer a food purchase in order to fill my gas tank, pay my phone bill or buy medication. There is still a lot of stress from my financial situation but I never realized how much of it or how insidious it was to maintain the balancing act of paying bills or buying food."

"Who Gets to Graduate?" by Paul Tough, New York Times. "[W]hether a student graduates or not seems to depend today almost entirely on just one factor — how much money his or her parents make. To put it in blunt terms: Rich kids graduate; poor and working-class kids don’t. Or to put it more statistically: About a quarter of college freshmen born into the bottom half of the income distribution will manage to collect a bachelor’s degree by age 24, while almost 90 percent of freshmen born into families in the top income quartile will go on to finish their degree."

"Here’s Something You Can Do About Climate Change: Don’t Eat," by Jason Best, Takepart.com. "Could fasting once a month make a difference when it comes to climate change? That’s the question behind a growing global movement coalescing around the hashtag #fastfortheclimate."

Read more here: http://www.theolympian.com/2014/05/15/3133254/congress-shifts-food-aid-funds.html#storylink=cpy

Hunger in the News: Poverty in America, Income Inequality, School Lunches Around the World

A regular, non-comprehensive roundup of current news links on hunger and poverty issues from around the Web.

"The Changing Picture Of Poverty: Hard Work Is 'Just Not Enough,'" by Pam Fessler, NPR. "There are 46 million poor people in the U.S., and millions more hover right above the poverty line — but go into many of their homes, and you might find a flat-screen TV, a computer or the latest sneakers.And that raises a question: What does it mean to be poor in America today?"

"Mapping Three Decades of Income Inequality, State by State," by Richard Florida, Atlantic Cities. "Income inequality has risen considerably in the United States and across the entire advanced world. Most research has focused on growing inequality within and across nations. What’s less clear is to what degree income inequality has grown across different parts of the U.S."

"One in five rely on food stamps in five states," by Jennifer Liberto, CNN Money. Nearly one in five people are on food stamps in five states—Mississippi, Oregon, Tennessee, New Mexico and Louisiana—a stark reminder that the Great Recession continues to be a drag on the nation's poorest.

"A taste of school lunches around world," by Donna Gordon Blankinship, AP. The Associated Press sent photographers to Asia, Europe, Africa and Latin America to see what kids around the globe eat for lunch.

"Where Do Food Stamps Go the Furthest? At the Farmers Market," by Willy Blackmore, TakePart.com. Despite the cuts to SNAP (formerly food stamps) brought about by the new farm bill, a $2.5 million grant from First 5 L.A. will make SNAP recipients’ food assistance go twice as far at farmers markets across the Southland.

Policy Focus: House Must Act on Immigration Reform

With one-third of unauthorized immigrants living in poverty and reports showing that legalization and citizenship would increase immigrants' earnings 13 percent or more, immigration reform is an important hunger issue. Moreover, the biblical mandate to "welcome the stranger" implores us as Christians to seek reform of our country's immigration system. The Hebrew word for immigrant — ger — appears 92 times in the Bible.

It has been nearly a year since the Senate passed S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. Despite widespread support for advancing some sort of immigration reform, the House has yet to act as a whole. However, significant movement has taken place behind the scenes.

The Senate passed one large comprehensive immigration bill, but the House decided to take a piecemeal approach, opting instead to pass a number of separate bills dealing with different aspects of our immigration system. The House Judiciary Committee has passed five bordersecurity measures. More importantly, three other bills lie in the wings as representatives negotiate final details and prepare for the proper moment to introduce their legislation. These bills focus on granting citizenship to DREAMERS (undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as young children by their parents or relatives and who have lived most of their lives here), providing a path to legalization for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S., and addressing low-skilled workers.

For Congress to carry out comprehensive immigration reforms, the House must act. The votes exist. Speaker John Boehner needs only to bring legislation to the floor of the House for a vote. Many House Republicans, including many within the leadership, have made strong statements indicating their support for passing reforms this year.

There are two periods when immigration reform has its best chance of passing out of the House: the next couple of months and early this fall. A number of House Republicans wanted to delay voting for reforms, scared off by potential primary challengers. Now that the primaries are ending, a short window of opportunity exists before the August recess. Another short window of opportunity exists in September, after the August recess but before members return to their districts for the final campaign spree before the November elections.

Members of Congress must feel political pressure to act. They must feel there is a political cost in their November elections if they are seen as not acting on immigration reform. This is not a question of policy. It is a question of politics and members hearing from their constituents. Members of Congress need to be going to leadership, urging them to bring immigration bills up for a vote in the House because they are feeling too much pressure back home not to do so.

During Bread's 2014 Lobby Day (June 10 — see Bread Slices for more information), we will be increasing this pressure. One of the "asks" or topics during Lobby Day will be urging House members to press for votes on immigration reform, primarily those bills that will have a measurable impact in reducing hunger.

Photo: Advocates gather in front of the U.S. Capitol on June 27, 2013, to pray for compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

[This article originally appeared in the May 2014 edition of Bread for the World's e-newsletter.]

Salvaging Food: Creating Compost in Santa Fe

'141Big Dig' photo (c) 2012, Ciarán Mooney - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

[This is the last post in a four-part series on salvaging food, reprinted with permission from the Bread New Mexico blog. Part 1 looked at restaurants and food waste; part 2 explored the barriers schools face in donating excess food; and part 3 looked at a chef-founded program that helps restaurants donate their excess food.]

By Carlos Navarro

How many of us who grow a garden every summer create our own compost with banana peels, egg shells, coffee grounds, dated celery, and badly-bruised apples? While those are common ingredients in homemade compost, almost all foods are fair game if you have the right tools and equipment.

The City of Santa Fe, in partnership with Reunity Resources, has a plan to create compost on a larger scale from food waste collected at restaurants, hotels, and schools. This is a common practice in other cities around the country, particularly in California, including Monterey and Laguna Hills.

Under the Santa Fe plan, Reunity Resources—a New Mexico based non-profit committed to building community partnerships and implementing zero-waste programs—will collect the food waste and bring it to Payne’s Organic Soil Yard, which will then process it into nutrient-rich compost. The compost will be available for purchase from Payne’s.

Reunity Resources will provide clients with bins, bags, labels, and 64-gallon wheeled carts for collection once, twice, or three times a week. "Our goal is to make food scraps/organics separation as simple as possible  for our restaurant clients, and to make a seamless transition from trash to treasure," said Reunity Resources.

If you're interested in learning more about innovative ways in which restaurants are composting, check out this New York Times article about the challenges composting restaurants face, and watch a video on a Chicago restaurant that has managed to go completely trash free.

Carlos Navarro has been a Bread member for over 20 years and has led Bread’s presence in New Mexico for the last decade. He maintains the Bread for the World New Mexico website and blog, and serves on the Bread for the World board of directors.

Salvaging Food: The Food Brigade

File:Bagel Dumpster.jpg
This 2009 photo of a dumpster behind N.Y.C. Bagel shows how much food restaurants and grocery stores can waste. Programs like Santa Fe's Food Depot make sure excess food from retailers is instead used to feed hungry people. (Sachi Yoshitsugu/Wikimedia Commons)

[This is the third in a four-part series on salvaging food, reprinted with permission from the Bread New Mexico blog. Part 1 looked at restaurants and food waste, and part 2 explored the barriers schools face in donating excess food.]

By Carlos Navarro

Chef Katherine Kagel moved to Santa Fe, N.M., from northern California in 1978 to open Cafe Pasqual's. The restaurant has been a fixture near the Santa Fe Plaza for more than 35 years, but it isn't Chef Kagel only important contribution to Santa Fe: she created the Food Brigade, an all-volunteer organization that collected excess foods from grocers and restaurants and delivered them to Santa Fe's feeding programs and shelters. The Food Brigade was a natural step for Chef Kagel, who helped found Foodchain, the international association of prepared and perishable food rescue programs.

The Food Brigade evolved into the Food Depot, a food bank that serves Santa Fe and nine northern counties through 10 satellite food banks. Foodchain followed a similar path, becoming part of the operations of America's Second Harvest, which is now Feeding America.

The Food Depot now serves some 125 northern New Mexico social service agencies with perishable and non-perishable foods. "The Food Brigade, along with a few other nonprofits, recognized the need for a more complete food rescue in Santa Fe, so they formed the Food Depot," says Sherry Hooper, the director of the food bank.

Food Depot in Santa Fe
The Food Depot serves the traditional role of a food bank,which is to provide packaged foods and fresh produce to pantries and feeding sites, but the Santa Fe food bank is to some extent continuing the mission of the Food Brigades (even though prepared foods are not as readily available in the current restaurant environment). "Most restaurants prepare as ordered so they don’t have a lot of leftover food," says Food Depot director Sherry Hooper. "Plus, in Santa Fe there is not a great demand for prepared food so, while we are available to pick up and distribute prepared food, we are rarely called upon to do so."

Still, there are opportunities to pick up leftover food at a handful of eateries and bakeries in our state capital. "We collect from a few restaurants, such as Olive Garden, and some bakeries," says Hopper. "We pick up at all grocery stores, bakeries, a few restaurants, the Farmers Market, etc. Restaurants call us when they have donations to make. We get deli and prepared foods from the grocery stores."

The restaurants that currently have an arrangement with Food Depot are Starbucks, Olive Garden, Café Pasquals, Panera, Momo & Co, Sage Bakehouse, Tribes Coffeehouse, and Walter Burke Catering.

Hopper also says Food Depot will also direct a donation of prepared food directly to one of its partner agencies—a homeless shelter, for example—to get the food more quickly to an agency and served, since it is so highly perishable. She adds, however, that meals are prepared or brought in by volunteers at many agencies or shelters, so the demand for prepared foods is not as high.  

Continue reading "Salvaging Food: The Food Brigade" »

Salvaging Food: Restaurants and Food Waste

[This is the first in a four-part series on salvaging food, reprinted with permission from the Bread New Mexico blog.]

360px-Dumpster-a-plentyBy Carlos Navarro

The issue of household food waste has grabbed a lot of headlines in recent months, but restaurant food waste is a problem not talked about as frequently. I started putting together this blog post to highlight how the City of Santa Fe and anti-waste nonprofit Reunity Resources developed a pilot progam to convert food scraps to compost.  As I was conducting research on how restaurants deal with leftover food, I came across a very interesting and comprehensive guide, put together by the National Restaurant Association and the U.S. Department of Agriculture), for restaurants to donate their leftover meals to food-salvage operations.

So, I decided to look at the issue in a four-part series. Part 1 offers excerpts from the guide; part 2 will provide excerpts from a memorial passed by the New Mexico state legislature to encourage the state's public schools to donate excess food; part 3 describes how food salvage got its start in Santa Fe; and part 4 looks at the operation that turns food scraps into compost.

Here are a few excerpts from the report "Food Donation: A Restauranteur's Guide."

Food Donation
Of the many methods employed to fight the problem of hunger in America, food recovery may be one of the best because it makes use of wholesome food that would otherwise be discarded. A June 1997 study by the US. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that more than one-quarter of all food produced in the nation is wasted. The study, conducted by the USDA Economic Research Service, is the first of its kind in 20 years to examine and quantify food loss. The study found that, in 1995, about 96 billion pounds of food-or 27 percent of the 356 billion pounds of food available for human consumption in the United States-were lost at retail, consumer and foodservice levels... With little effort, [restauranteurs] can make a huge difference in the lives of children, the elderly, the home- less and even the working poor in their communities by doing something that is already second nature to most restaurant professionals-feeding people.

Rescuing Fresh Produce
Restaurateurs should begin their search for donation items by looking at the food they have in storage, such as fresh produce that will spoil before it can be used. While no one would want to eat anything that is moldy, there are many occasions when perfectly edible fruits and vegetables are thrown out because they have passed the point of restaurant quality or freshness or are discovered to have bruises or to be soft so that the produce cannot be served to customers.

Protection from Liability
One of the biggest obstacles to donating food to hunger programs has always been the prospective donor’s fear of liability. However, everyone involved in the fight against hunger is now breathing easier since the passage of the Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act in October 1996. The coverage provided by this law-in combination with proper food-safety practices and thorough documentation-will go a long way toward protecting restaurants from liability in the unlikely case of a lawsuit involving donated food.

Carlos Navarro has been a Bread member for over 20 years and has led Bread’s presence in New Mexico for the last decade. He maintains the Bread for the World New Mexico website and blog, and serves on the Bread for the World board of directors.

Photo: A trash bag full of vegetables in a dumpster. (Flickr user Gabriel Amadeus)

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