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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

One Nation, Underfed

Originally posted on

This week on DemocracyNow!, I got to talk a little about Newt Gingrich’s poisonous comments on Obama being the food stamp president. First, the facts. Under George Bush, the number of people on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (what food stamps are more properly called in the US) rose by 14.7 million. Under Obama, the number rose by 14.2 million. It’s true, however, that much more money is being spent by Obama. As part of the stimulus bill, entitlements rose to a whopping average of $134.

The entitlements help, to some extent, to dampen in the impact of poverty. And in the teeth of the recession, it’s hard to argue against strengthening the safety net when so many Americans were falling into it.

Which brings us to Gingrich’s racial coding of ‘food stamp president’. Larry Wilmore deconstructs this nicely on The Daily Show.


While Gingrich...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Paula Deen’s missed opportunity

 It could have been a turning point in America’s war on obesity. This morning on the Today show, Food Network star Paula Deen—the queen of deep-fried Twinkies—admitted that she had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. But when asked whether fans should cut back on the “yummy, fattening” recipes she promotes, she told Al Roker: “Honey I’m your cook, not your doctor.”

Deen’s position is hardly a surprise. This is a woman known for fried chicken and broccoli “salad” that includes sugar, mayonnaise, cheese and bacon. Deen knows that even a mention of healthy, responsible eating could undermine her multimillion-dollar television-and-cookbook empire built on the glories sugar and lard.

Still, it was a grand disappointment. While everyone from Anthony Bourdain to Frank Bruni have called Deen a menace to a healthy society, I always believed that Deen, or someone like her, might be the key to change. Everyday Americans, including a large number that struggle with weight and diabetes, like Deen. They listen to her. As I wrote in a piece on the...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Orange juice not as safe as it seems

Alissa Hamilton has been studying orange juice for years, so it's not surprising that she's the expert the media turn to when something goes awry with that classically American beverage. During her time as a Food and Community Fellow, Alissa published Squeezedan exhaustive account of the orange juice production chain that showed that much U.S.-consumed orange juice is anything but "100% Pure." Unfortunately, orange juice has made more headlines to that effect in the past month. First, ABC News with Diane Sawyer did a story on orange juice in December, interviewing Alissa and bringing needed national attention to some of the issues raised in SqueezedAmong these is the disturbing fact that a great deal of orange juice is ultra-pasteurized until it's essentially flavorless--then it's re-flavored with a "flavor packet" not mentioned on any juice labels. 

More recently, and of greater concern from a food safety standpoint, is the recent discovery of trace amounts of the fungicide Carbendazim in Brazilian-made orange juice. Though the chemical is banned in the  United States, it's legal to use in Brazil, where most U.S...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Where lazy shoppers and farmers are friends

This month’s Smarter Food focuses on an innovative coop in Wooster, Ohio called Local Roots. The carefully conceived venture solves many of the issues faced by  small farmers and foodies who love them.

Here’s how it works: The coop rents shelf space to local farmers for the bargain price of $10 a month. They drop off once or twice a week. But, unlike at a farmers market, they don’t have to stand there and sell their wares. Instead, customers shop as they would at a grocery store. They can buy milk from grass-fed cows, eggs, locally baked walnut bread and produce from dozens of farmers but still check out at a single cash register, using cash, a check, a credit card, even food stamps.

Launched two years ago in a renovated warehouse off Wooster’s main drag, the market is thriving. On a recent visit, the shelves were stocked with potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, arugula, nine varieties of apples, grass-fed milk, jam, maple syrup and locally milled flour. And this is the slow season.

Let’s hope this savvy model catches on elsewhere. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Kandace Vallejo connecting labor and food movements in Texas

Where do construction workers intersect with the food movement? Just ask Kandace Vallejo. In early 2010 Vallejo launched a food justice education project for children of members--many of them undocumented immigrants--of the Workers Defense Project, a worker center working to address workplace abuse faced by low-wage workers in Texas.  Tracie McMillan sat down with Vallejo for a recent Q&A on Grist.

Q. What made you decide to bring food justice education to a group of construction workers?

A. Our membership asked us to. We bought a building in 2009 with a couple acres of land, and when our membership voted on what they wanted to see happen here, having a garden was one of the top priorities. In terms of doing youth programming around food issues, it just became apparent that it was something kids could really grasp because food is something that everybody interacts with. You can use it to talk about issues of access and economic inequality with a high schooler, and for a five-year-old we can talk about why it's not fair that they don't have a grocery stores in their neighborhood. That's...

Monday, January 9, 2012

Gearing Up for the 2012 Food Bill

Originally published in the Green Fire Times

Right now the 2012 Farm Bill, which I will refer to as the Food Bill, is under negotiation. Everyone who eats has a vested interest in the Food Bill. Why? Because we want to know where our food—our children’s and grandchildren’s food—comes from and how it is grown. There have been years of discussion as to how the Food Bill impacts all of the citizens of the world, the U.S. in particular. The 2012 Food Bill is a hugely important piece of legislation, evidenced in part by its size: with a budget of $288 billion, the Food Bill is the second-largest budget item in the United States, second only to the Department of Defense. It is the mechanism used to shape food policy in this country.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the agency that manages all aspects of food production, food and nutrition programs, forestry, related research and education, as well as international trade policy. It also manages commodity programs, including the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). Nutritional programs (including food stamps) take up 70% of the budget, or $188 billion. The Food Bill is an omnibus bill that is passed every four years, though it sometimes takes longer, depending on Congress. The U.S. created its first form of a farm...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Another puritanical breastfeeding debacle: Oh the hypocrisy!

Originally published on abc news.

I’m not really sure why breasts can be openly used to sell beer and entice people to eat chicken wings at Hooters, but when they are used in their actual context — feeding a baby — people get all puritanical.

Oh, the hypocrisy!

This week, another breastfeeding mom, who was covered up, was forced to stop feeding her 4-month old in the hallway of  a Washington, D.C., DMV office when two (GASP!) female security guards told her to stop because it was indecent.

Simone Dos Santos, a lawyer, was waiting for a traffic hearing and stepped out into the hallway to breastfeed when the guards approached her, although she had covered her baby with a jacket.

“I was shocked, upset and angry that by providing food for my son, I was being treated like a criminal,” she said in recent news reports.

As an attorney, Dos Santos knew that  she had legal rights — 28 states as well as the District of Columbia  exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws.

But it’s a shame that the laws of common sense don’t govern most people. And it is our babies who ultimately suffer when women are made to feel uncomfortable  performing the biological act of infant feeding.

Our bodies naturally produce breast milk,...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Jenga Mwendo named one of Gambit's 40 under 40

IATP Food and Community Fellow Jenga Mwendo was named one of Gambit Magazine's 40 under 40.  Every year Gambit solicits nominations from the public, then honors 40 people under the age of 40 for their accomplishments and the contributions they have made to New Orleans. Here's an excerpt from the article:

Jenga Mwendo was in New York City working in the computer animation industry in August 2005. After Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures, she knew she had to return to New Orleans to help rebuild her neighborhood, the Lower 9th Ward. Looking for a way to make a significant contribution, she realized the important role agriculture played in her community.

"What I found was that so many people traditionally and still do have backyard gardens," she says.

In 2007, Mwendo identified the Ernst Garden, a pre-Katrina community garden and, with the help of neighbors and friends, replanted it. Seeing how the garden brought the community together, she founded the Backyard Gardener's Network (BGN), a nonprofit aimed at building and preserving community through gardening. Since its founding in 2009, BGN has acquired the property next to the garden and converted it into a gardening resource center with a tool...

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Future of the Fish Sandwich

By Paul Greenberg

Originally published in the New York Times.

As the first chill of winter descends on the Northeast and the traditional cold-weather codfish run starts in earnest, fishermen and scientists are again at odds, debating whether the once fantastically abundant North Atlantic codfish populations are finally rebuilding — or hurtling inextricably toward collapse.

But even as regulators parse a recent gloomy assessment of Gulf of Maine codfish populations, the entire question of the commercial future of cod may soon become moot. Cod and other wild-caught whitefish, for centuries a staple of the Western diet, are on the way out.

Not long ago, any kind of colorless, neutral-tasting fish product sold in the United States or Europe (“whitefish” in fishing industry parlance) was made out of one of several wild species of the taxonomic order Gadiformes: cod, pollock, haddock, hake, take your pick. Over the eons, these fish came to congregate in the cooler latitudes in large enough numbers for fishing to transform itself from an artisan practice into an industry.

Largely thanks to the gadiforms, fish itself was also transformed — from a regionally specific menu item into a nameless transnational protein product. But beginning in the 1990s, right around the time the term “outsourcing” was entering the...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Turning the Tide on the Shrimping Business

Originally published in the Washington Post

Montegut, La. — The Anna Marie isn’t your typical shrimp boat. To start, it has a full-size kitchen, air conditioning and satellite television. From his captain’s chair, owner Lance Nacio can plot his course and check water depth and tidal flows, all with the push of a button on a slick gadget not much larger than an iPad. But the most unusual addition to the Anna Marie is a set of high-tech plate freezers on its deck, which transform the boat into a kind of floating processor. With a crew of three, the Anna Marie can stay out at sea up to three times as long as a traditional shrimp boat, pulling in as much as 16,000 pounds on each journey.

The 40-year-old, with a doe’s brown eyes and a neat goatee, grew up shrimping the way southern Louisianians have for generations: He netted what he could and sold it fresh on the dock to processors and other middlemen at the market price. Today, Nacio catches and processes the shrimp himself and sets his own price. He is a savvy marketer, as comfortable (if not as happy) negotiating prices via cellphone or offering samples to celebrity chefs as he is out on the water. With customers including restaurants, Whole Foods Market and the famed Berkeley Bowl in California, Nacio has...

Meet the Fellows

Rebecca Wiggins-Reinhard

Rebecca Wiggins-Reinhard works with La Semilla Food Center to improve access to healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate foods in southern New Mexico.

Ideas in focus

Cultivating Leadership and Equity in the Food Movement

April 2013

The IATP Food and Community Fellows Program is coming to an end, but it's springtime for our work growing equity in the food system and cultivating diverse leadership in the movement.

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

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