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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Video: Why Parents Should Care About the Farm Bill

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Parent Earth's “Parents Stand Up For Food” Campaign is intended to educate the public about the Farm Bill. We invite people to get involved by organizing screenings and discussions on the Farm Bill to educate and engage their communities and share the videos with their friends online.

Visit http://www.parentearth.com/action/farm/ for more information.

For detailed information about the farm bill from Parent Earth's partners (including IATP), visit our resource page.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Squeezing Tropicana

The all-American breakfast beverage is not what you think—and IATP Food and Community Fellow Alissa Hamilton has long been arguing for greater transparency from the orange juice industry. Her 2009 book Squeezed: What You Don't Know About Orange Juice showed us that those premium cartons of Florida orange juice are far from what we would ever think of as "all natural." And now a recent string of lawsuits is using Hamilton's research about the processing that's actually involved in these "100% pure" varieties. According to Hamilton, orange juice from companies like Tropicana is preserved for up to a year in aseptic storage, which involves stripping the juice of oxygen—and flavor. Orange juice companies add chemically engineered "flavor packs" to the juice, which makes it taste the same year-round. According to a recent AP article, the lawsuits argue that juice from companies like Tropicana is "so heavily processed it shouldn't be called 'natural.'" The article goes on to credit Hamilton for this recent surge in litigation:

The Tropicana lawsuits are partly the result of a 2009 book about the orange juice industry,...

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Chipotle, please add some farmworker justice to my burrito

Many of us on staff at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy enjoy an occasional Chipotle burrito. Compared to other casual dining options, the company has done an outstanding job of sourcing antibiotic-free meat from farmers committed to the humane treatment of animals. We applaud its efforts to provide “food with integrity” and, of course, the touching “Back to the Start” video that depicts the life of a family farmer.

Yet despite these admirable efforts, we are disappointed by Chipotle’s blind spot when it comes to farmworkers. As mentioned in a previous post and illustrated in a video by IATP Food and Community Fellow Shalini Kantayya, the treatment of workers in Florida’s tomato fields is atrocious. Tomato harvesters are still paid by the piece, and the average piece rate today is 50 cents for every 32 pounds of tomatoes they pick, a rate that has remained virtually unchanged since 1980. As a result of that stagnation, a worker today must pick more than 2.25 TONS of tomatoes to earn minimum wage in a typical 10-hour workday—nearly twice the amount a worker had to pick to earn minimum wage thirty years ago, when the rate was 40 cents per...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Planting new roots in the heartland

Originally published in Hyphen Magazine.

In Battle Creek , MI, several hundred people are gathered to celebrate the grand opening of the Burma Center. Burmese women in the crowd are dressed in traditional floor-length wrap skirts, and men wear similar woven fabric draped and tied across one shoulder. Children run in and out while older women fry onion fritters to be set out alongside banana cakes, corn cakes, rice with peas and hot pepper sauce — all Burmese delicacies.

Edward Thawnghmung (THONG’-moong) strides to the stage and plays the cowboy classic “Red River Valley” on his harmonica, a favorite he learned as a child growing up in British-controlled Burma. He could hardly have known that six decades later, he would be performing it in the heart of America, to a room full of his own people.

Thawnghmung was determined to take his family out of Burma after a military coup toppled the fledgling democracy in 1962. Successive military regimes have perpetrated a string of human rights violations against the Burmese people, in particular the ethnic minorities such at the Shan, Karen, Rakhine, Chin and smaller groups that make up onethird of the population. Muslim and Christian minorities are also targets in the country, which is 89 percent Buddhist.

Battle Creek has developed as a hub for...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A low-tech way to save that cilantro

Originally published in the Washington Post.

When I was a kid, the future promised all kinds of whiz-bang technologies. Jet boots. Robot maids, like on “The Jetsons.” And, most exciting for a 12-year-old with a subscription to Gourmet magazine, “smart” refrigerators that performed tricks like alerting you to eat that lettuce in the back of the produce drawer before it spoiled and went to waste.

Smart refrigerators finally do exist. (Sadly, I’m still waiting for jet boots.) For about $4,000, I can have a fridge that generates recipes based on what’s on the shelves and tells me when I’m out of milk. But no matter how smart the appliance is, it still cannot warn me when those pricey strawberries from the farmers market are about to get moldy or when that bunch of cilantro is about to turn black. Nor will it be able to assuage my guilt for forgetting about them and wasting food.

Happily, there is a better, low-tech solution to that problem.

Read the full story at the Washington Post.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Harleys and Heifers

Originally published at World Ark.

I used to be a biker. Well, maybe that's a bit of a stretch. But I did own a motorcycle. In divinity school back in the late '90s, I rode a Honda Nighthawk. Back then I was a bad boy among the pious, a rebel in a black leather jacket who thought he was challenging the seminary status quo. My biking career was short-lived, though. I had a nasty wreck on a friend's motorcycle that left my right side Flayed, my ego bruised and my wallet empty. Eventually I sold the motorcycle. But my inner seminarian never entirely displaced my inner biker.

When I learned that a group of bikers from a nearby town—members of a "biker church" no less—were starting a feeding ministry called The Giving Table, a social enterprise model that joins local farmers, churches and the hungry, I knew I had to meet them. I called up Dwight "Bubba" Smith, an associate pastor at Crossfire United Methodist Church who manages the church's feeding ministries. Smith told me to come up for their big "Jesus Rocks" motorcycle rally. They would be doing a free barbecue lunch for the hungry that day, and maybe we could even visit one of their partner farms.

On the First Saturday in May last year, I got out my old leather jacket, pulled on my leather boots and, in a sad attempt to earn myself some street cred with the bikers,...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Jungleland? New Orleans Community Activist Rejects NY Times Depiction of Ninth Ward

Originally published in America's Wire.

The New York Times Magazine recently ran a story on my home, the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, a place one of the most powerful newspapers in the world insensitively dubbed a “Jungleland.” Contrary to the article, residents of this community are not reconciled to life in the wilderness and we don’t live in an untamed mess of overgrowth or in a forgotten wasteland. We are not resigned to anything; we are fighting to revive our community.

While the article cites the city government’s futile attempts to improve the neighborhood, it barely mentions the overall lack of government support before and after Hurricane Katrina and the hard work by committed citizens to improve the community. Yes, many parts of the Lower Ninth are overgrown and neglected, but what the article missed is that many are not. Moreover, the untold story is how city, state and federal government abandoned this community.

The Times probably had good intentions — document the bad situation so our community can get help. But while writing about broken people, vacant lots and...

Friday, May 4, 2012

Whoopi, get your (sister) act together on breastfeeding

Dear Whoopi Goldberg,

It’s time to get your (sister) act together.

As an African American woman, my association with you is already tenuous given how I am still healing, or perhaps reeling, from the infamous incident of you dressing your then-boyfriend Ted Danson in black face for a roast and then later admitting to helping him write the racist script.  This of course, is after you adopted a Jewish name to get ahead but yet pick up the African American mantle when it’s convenient.

But your recent rants on The View which can only be categorized as anti-breastfeeding and anti-truth don’t help any women at all, instead they only fuel the misplaced anger and hostility that unfortunately already cloud an important public health issue-an issue that could save millions of infant lives and bolster the health of millions of mothers.

Most importantly, you have a powerful and influential position yet you show negligent disrespect for that with your utter disregard for the facts before one of your riffs. Now, I strongly believe and agree that a mother should choose which first food is best for her and her baby. But supporting breastfeeding is not about removing choice, it’s about leveling the playing field which has, for decades, been tilted in favor of the big pharmaceutical companies that produce infant formula and...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Organic vs Industrial Agriculture Rematch

Originally posted at rajpatel.org

Nature just published the latest in the war over whether organic agriculture can feed the world. The headline: organic agriculture produces 25% less than industrial agriculture.

Tom Philpott, skillfully as ever, has sliced through the study, its silences and its implications. Headline: sure, if you look at the narrowest possible metrics, conventional’s better, but the whole point of organic is that you don’t just look at the narrowest possible metric.

As I’ll be arguing in a forthcoming, loooong, article in the Journal of Peasant Studies, the problem here is one we’ve seen in other comparisons between organic and conventional. Organic-industrial isn’t terribly far from industrial conventional. What this study, and others like it ignore are cases that don’t just try to compete on industrial agriculture’s terms, but on...

Monday, April 30, 2012

Are hospitals undermining neonatal health by pushing formula?

First published at Mochamanual.com.

True story. A high-level hospital administrator gets ready to start a meeting with the nursing staff of the neo-natal unit—the men and women who care for the hospital’s most precious arrivals. As the meeting sets to commence, several staffers say, we can’t start the meeting without “Phil”  (*names changed to protect the guilty and shameless). As everyone agrees Phil should be at the meeting the administrator can’t recall a staffer named Phil. She thought she was having a senior moment. Turns out, Phil is the infant formula rep. Not a hospital staffer.

But Phil had so cleverly insinuated himself into the culture of the neo-natal care unit that he was viewed as part of the team, someone’s whose input should be considered in administrative decisions.

Pause for WTH moment.

Sadly, the more I talk and travel and interview and ask and discover and observe, the more common these stories are.

Truth is, the pharmaceutical companies want your baby hooked on their infant formula whether you want to or not. And hospitals, who, given the state of America’s health should be focused on providing superior healthcare are instead serving as a marketing vehicle for the drug companies....

Meet the Fellows

Jenga Mwendo

Jenga Mwendo, a community organizer based in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward, focuses on strengthening community through urban agriculture.

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.

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