Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

259 posts categorized "Hunger in the News"

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)

What Does Food Insecurity Look Like in Your Community?


A woman serves dinner at a soup kitchen. (Screen shot from A Place at the Table, courtesy of Participant Media)

“I just want my kids to be fed," Jaime Grimes of Lincoln, Neb., recently told NBC News. The former teacher and mother of four visits food pantries, grows food in a community garden, and receives food stamps (SNAP); her children participate in a variety of nutrition programs, from school lunches to a backpack program that sends them home with food once a week. Still, it's not enough. 

Although the effects of the Great Recession are fading for some, many families are still struggling to put food on the table. Feeding America's 2014 Map the Meal Gap report, released earlier this week, shows that food insecurity continues to touch every county in the nation, and that children are at especially great risk of experiencing hunger.

According to the report, even in the most food-secure state—which is Nebraska, where Grimes and her children live—more than 1 in 10 children struggles with hunger.

(View the map, and see the food insecurity rate in your state and county.)

“We haven’t really seen increases in food insecurity [since the recession], which is a good thing. The downside of that is there are still way too many food insecure people," said Bread for the World policy analyst Christine Melendez Ashley, in the same NBC News piece.

The Map the Meal Gap report does note that federal nutrition programs and the emergency food system "weave a comprehensive nutrition safety net, reaching food-insecure individuals at different levels of poverty," Still, there is a need to "strengthen anti-hunger programs and policies to ensure food-insecure individuals are eligible and have access to adequate levels of assistance." 

Some key finding from Map the Meal Gap include:

  • 324 counties in the United States are high food-insecurity counties; minorities are disproportionately affected
  • In every state, children are at a higher risk of food insecurity compared to the overall population.
  • Of the counties with food insecurity rates in the highest 10 percent, 51.5 percent were rural, even though rural counties represent only 42.5 percent of all counties in the United States.

What does hunger look like in your community? How many people live below the SNAP threshold? What is the average cost of a meal? Whether you live in Nebraska, with its low rate of food insecurity, or Mississippi—the state with the highest number of people struggling with hunger—viewing the map reminds us of the need to advocate to strengthen our country's safety net and ensure that all are fed.

UConn Player: "We Do Have Hungry Nights"

On Monday night, the University of Connecticut won its fourth national men's basketball title—the UConn Huskies beat the Kentucky Wildcats 60-54. "You're looking at the hungry Huskies," UConn player Shabazz Napier said after the win, a reference to the team's unstoppable determination to bring home the title.

But last week, Napier used his platform as a star college basketball player to bring attention to a different kind of hunger. "Sometimes there's hungry nights when I'm not able to eat, but I still gotta play up to my capabilities," he told news reporters. "[Student athletes] are definitely blessed to get a scholarship to our universities, but, at the end of the day, that doesn't cover everything. We do have hungry nights....there are hungry nights that I go to bed and I’m starving."

Napier made the remarks after being asked his opinion of college athletes unionizing, the latest development in the ongoing debate over whether college sports players should be considered employees and receive some of the profits they help pull in for their schools.  A few outlets (and a lot of their commenters and social media followers) are discussing whether it's possible for Napier to be hungry. Some have pointed out that he has a meal plan as part of his scholarship package, and that most colleges go to great lengths to ensure their top-tier athletes are well-fueled. Others countered that student athletes who burn thousands of calories each day may require extra sustenance, and long practices and frequent road trips may mean grabbing dinner at a campus dining hall before a 7 p.m. closing time isn't always feasible.

Although Napier's story has sparked some heated debate, everyone seems to agree that no college student should ever have to worry about having enough to eat.

We've written about college hunger before. As the economy limps toward recovery, and the cost of higher education continues to skyrocket, students are increasingly seeking out food stamps (SNAP), food banks, and other community resources in order to feed themselves. While college isn't a particularly flush time for most, there's a difference between being a "broke" student subsisting on ramen noodles and iced coffee, and being a student dealing with chronic food insecurity and even homelessness

Unfortunately, most students don't qualify for SNAP benefits, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the program, notes that there are quite a few exceptions. And while it's heartbreaking to think of college students needing them, food pantries that cater to students are becoming more common on campuses.  Still, the fact that university students, young people seen by so many as having "made it," are facing hunger and food insecurity shows just how pervasive the problem of hunger is in this country. It also underscores the need to strengthen and expand safety net programs, so that students can focus on acing their midterms, and winning championship titles, instead of wondering where they'll find their next meal.

Happy 100th Birthday, Norman Borlaug

Borlaug_field"Food is the moral right of all who are born into this world," —Norman Borlaug (March 25, 1914 – September 12, 2009)

Dr. Norman Borlaug—scientist, father of the Green Revolution, and Nobel Peace Prize receipient— would've been 100 years old today.

Borlaug's work transformed modern agriculture and fed billions of people in the process. His development of high-yield, disease-resistant varieties of wheat and other crops doubled the world's food production, prevented famine across the globe, and showed the world that ending hunger is within our reach. 

In honor of Borlaug's great achievements , there will be celebrations of his life around the world today, including the unveiling of a Borlaug statue in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. The state of Iowa, Borlaug's birthplace, commissioned a 7-ft. bronze statue in his likeness to be displayed in the National Statuary Hall Collection.

Borlaug had special ties to Bread for the World, and served as an early board member of the organization. "No single person has contributed more to relieving world hunger than our friend, the late Norman Borlaug,"said Bread for the World President David Beckmann, in 2009. "Norman was truly the man who fed the world, saving up to a billion people from hunger and starvation."

The World Food Prize, which Borlaug founded, is collecting pledges from people around the world, who have vowed to continue Borlaug's work, in ways both big and small. Some have said they will  reduce their personal food waste, others have said they will work with small-scale farmers.

"Nothing could pay greater homage to the life's work of Norman Borlaug and his Green Revolution than to eradicate hunger around the world,"said Beckmann, who received the World Food Prize in 2010.

While the number of hungry people has dropped significantly over the past two decades, 842 million people continue to struggle with hunger every day. So, advocacy on any scale, whether calling your member of Congress and asking him or her to protect domestic nutrition programs, or sending handwritten letters in support of U.S. food aid reform, is an important, worthy tribute to Borlaug's legacy.

Photo: Norman Borlaug in 1964, scoring wheat plants for rust resistance in wheat breeding plots near Ciudad Obregón, Sonora, northern Mexico. (The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center/CIMMYT)

Hunger and Health: Making Connections on Capitol Hill

Medical check upDuring a typical hospital visit, health care professionals will check a patient for a range of health issues—hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol, among others. Last year, Toledo-based healthcare system ProMedica began screening visitors to its hospitals for something new: food insecurity. Recognizing that hunger can have as much of an impact on health as any disease, they even helped some patients at risk of hunger apply for food stamps, and sent others home with emergency groceries. 

"There is nothing more fundamental to population health than food and other social determinants of health," Randy Oostra, ProMedica’s president and CEO, told USA Today earlier this month.

While the implications of hunger are often discussed, the connection between hunger and health isn't a topic that is frequently raised. But hunger impacts health—and it's time people started talking about it.

Bread for the World Institute’s 2014 Hunger Report, "Ending Hunger in America," details the ways in which ProMedica has set out to recast hunger as a healthcare priority, similar to fighting heart disease or cancer. Fighting hunger is now an important part of the preventative and wellness methods that keeping people healthy and reduce healthcare costs.

Tomorrow, the Alliance to End Hunger and ProMedica will host “Come to the Table,” a summit to address hunger as a health issue, on Capitol Hill. The purpose of the event is to persuade more lawmakers and healthcare industry leaders to champion anti-hunger initiatives by making connections among reducing hunger, improving health outcomes, and lowering healthcare costs. The event will also serve as a platform to form creative, effective collaborations and encourage federal legislation to protect anti-hunger programs.

Bread for the World President Rev. David Beckmann will join other experts, including U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary Kevin Concannon, to discuss how we can combat hunger in our nation, and improve our nation’s collective health. 

Photo: A doctor examines a patient at Family and Medical Counseling Service in Washington D.C., on June 11, 2009. (Rick Reinhard)

Hunger and Poverty in the State of the Union Address

Obama1During last night’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama focused on income inequality and the growing opportunity gap in America—a regular theme of his recent speeches. “Americans understand that some people will earn more than others, and we don’t resent those who, by virtue of their efforts, achieve incredible success,” he said. “But Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.”

While the president said the word “poverty" only three times, and made no mention of hunger, his speech still referenced several issues relevant to ending hunger and poverty—such as restoring unemployment insurance for those who’ve lost benefits since Jan. 1, and bolstering the earned income tax credit (EITC), one of our government’s most effective anti-poverty measures.

Much of the speech tracked closely with Bread for the World Institute's 2014 Hunger Report: Ending Hunger in America, and Bread for the World's work to end hunger at home and abroad..

Below are five quotes from last night's State of the Union address that touched on hunger and poverty issues, and a brief look at how those remarks connect to Bread’s 2014 legislative agenda.

Unemployment Insurance

“I’m also convinced we can help Americans return to the workforce faster by reforming unemployment insurance so that it’s more effective in today’s economy," said Obama. "But first, this Congress needs to restore the unemployment insurance you just let expire for 1.6 million people.”

Bread for the World and its advocates are pushing Congress to immediately reinstate unemployment insurance, and help Americans who rely on their unemployment checks to feed their families and keep a roof over their heads while they continue to look for work. Please contact your members of Congress today and urge them to extend unemployment assistance immediately.

Minimum wage

“[I]f you cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty,” said the president, after promising that he would give an estimated 560,000 federal contract workers a wage increase to $10.10. He then urged Congress to pass the Harkin-Miller bill and raise the federal minimum wage.

Bread for the World’s 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America, outlines a plan to end hunger in America by 2030, and increasing minimum wage is a critical component. The report urged the president to reform federal contracting policies as an important first step. Income from work is the primary buffer against hunger for the vast majority of American families, yet 28 percent of U.S. jobs pay poverty-level wages.

Earned Income Tax Credit

“There are other steps we can take to help families make ends meet, and few are more effective at reducing inequality and helping families pull themselves up through hard work than the earned income tax credit," Obama said. "Right now, it helps about half of all parents at some point. But I agree with Republicans, like Sen. [Marco] Rubio, that it doesn’t do enough for single workers who don’t have kids.  So let’s work together to strengthen the credit, reward work, and help more Americans get ahead.”

Bread for the World supports strengthening the EITC, a refundable tax credit that helps low-income families.  Read more about EITC, and how it helps families.

Immigration

“Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades," Obama said. "And for good reason: when people come here to fulfill their dreams – to study, invent, and contribute to our culture – they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everyone.  So let’s get immigration reform done this year."

Bread for the World firmly believes that immigration reform will reduce poverty and hunger, and is advocating for comprehensive, compassionate reform that includes a path to citizenship. Read more about Bread for the World’s immigration work, and our latest update on how Congress will address reform in 2014.

Food Aid

During the State of the Union address, President Obama spoke of work in Africa that would “help end extreme poverty,” and talked about the United States “extending a hand to those devastated by disaster – as we did in the Philippines.” He did not, however, explicitly mention U.S. food aid or food aid reform.

Bread for the World is pushing for smart reforms to U.S. food aid, which does so much good around the world, but simple changes could ensure that the food aid does even more for people in—with no additional cost to U.S. taxpayers. Bread for the World's 2014 Offering of Letters focuses on much-needed reform to U.S. food aid. Learn more about U.S. food aid and why reform is so critical.

Why Doesn't the United States Rank Higher in Healthy Eating?

WIC_at_farmers_market
Federal nutrition programs are finding ways to connect the people who rely on them with a healthy selection of foods. Farmers markets that accept food stamps and WIC give program recipients better access to fresh produce (Jim Stipe).

The United States is one of the richest nations in the world, so it reasons that it would do better than most countries in providing access to fresh, nutritious food, right? Not according to a new Oxfam report on the best and worst places in the world to eat—the United States ranks 21st out of 125 countries.

The study evaluated countries based on four factors: Do people have enough to eat? Can people afford to eat? Is food of good quality? What is the extent of unhealthy outcomes of people’s diet? Wealthy nations had an automatic edge in the rankings, but levels of obesity and diabetes kept the United States out of the overall top 10, and placed it in the bottom 10 of countries where diet positively influences health. The United States is a land of plenty when it comes to cheap, high-calorie, nutrient-deficient food, and there's no shortage of expensive health food stores and restaurants, either. Still, options that are both healthy and affordable are more difficult to come by.

Oxfam policy adviser Max Lawson told NPR that the obesity and diabetes levels in the United States are largely driven by poverty, rather than excess. "Food is very, very cheap in the U.S., compared to most countries," he explains. "But the fact is you end up with people malnourished in one of the richest countries because they don't have access to fresh vegetables at a cheap enough price to make a balanced diet."

Federal nutrition programs, such as food stamps (SNAP) and WIC, are our nation's best tools in making healthy food more accessible to everyone in the United States. Unfortunately, both programs have faced deep cuts and harmful changes over the last several months. Last week, a group of doctors warned members of Congress of the serious public health consequences that would accompany steep cuts to SNAP.

"If you're interested in saving health care costs, the dumbest thing you can do is cut nutrition," Dr. Deborah Frank, of Boston Medical Center, told the Associated Press. "People don't make the hunger-health connection."

Even with such programs in place to help people afford healthier diets, benefits don't always stretch far for struggling families, and many people live in food deserts, without easy access to a grocery store. Despite these realities, Congress is still considering cuts to SNAP.

If you want to know if your members of Congress are voting in support of vital programs that keep people healthy and prevent them from going hungry, see Bread for the World's 2013 congressional scorecard. Also visit Bread for the World's action center to learn more about what you can do to ensure that everyone has access to enough healthy, nutritious food.

72,000 Unemployed Lose Benefits Each Week

Greenjobs"We all deserve better than this," writes Tara Dublin of Portland, Ore. In a recent Mom's Rising blog post, Dublin, an unemployed single mother who lost her job in social media, likens her experience to living a nightmare.

In last month’s budget deal, Congress failed to extend EUC - emergency benefits for the long-term unemployed. Every week that Congress delays an extension, 72,000 people lose their benefits. Congress will consider another extension in the next few weeks with the first test this morning in the Senate.

In a Dec. 3 press conference, Labor Secretary Tom Perez talked about the plight of the unemployed missed by statistics. "They have been looking day in and day out for work. They are trying to feed their families," The Durango Herald reported Perez as saying.

Many of the long-term unemployed have used their savings to fill in financial gaps as they look for work, and unemployment benefits are their last lifeline. "They are trying to stave off foreclosure," said Perez. "They are making judgments between food and medicine – judgments that no person in America or anywhere should have to make.”

But more than the bills that pile up, just keeping your head up is difficult, says Tara Dublin. "This is not where I expected to be at the age of 44," writes the exhausted single mother, "especially not when I had my life together so good 4 years ago." Dublin remembers when life was easier. "But then 2009 happened and now here we are, and it is time this Dark Age of Awful comes to an end.”

Although the economy is slowly improving, it is not enough. There are three applicants for every job opening in America. Today's vote will test the temperature of America and our willingness to leave an estimated five million unemployed workers out in the cold this year.

In the Senate, Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller and Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Jack Reed have authored a bill that would extend the benefits retroactively for an additional three months. The Senate postponed a vote scheduled last night for 10 EST this morning, allowing senators caught in bad weather time to reach Washington, D.C. It is yet unclear when and if the House, which returns from the holiday recess today, will take up the bipartisan bill.

Call 800-826-3688 now or email your members of Congress today. Tell them to extend unemployment insurance immediately as their first action in 2014.

Photo: Construction workers experienced the highest percentage point increase in long-term unemployment during the recession. Read more how full employment is the first step to ending hunger in America in the 2014 Hunger Report (Rick Reinhard).

Stay Connected

Bread for the World