Food Politics: Jan. 20, 2011

Gleaning a Harvest for the Needy by Fighting Waste (by Blake Farmer – no joke – at NPR):

On U.S. farms, gleaning is making a comeback, as a national anti-hunger organization has turned to the ancient practice to help feed the poor. And it also gives farmers a way to use produce that would otherwise be wasted.

In the Old Testament, farmers are told not to pick their fields and vineyards clean, but instead to leave the edges for orphans, widows and travelers. In the modern day, gleaning is more about preventing would-be waste.

Food gets left in the field for all kinds of reasons. Two big ones are that mechanical harvesting misses a lot — and sometimes the crops aren’t pretty enough for supermarket shelves.

“The statistics are that 96 billion pounds of food are left — this is pre-consumer food — goes to waste in this country,” says Linda Tozer of the Society of St. Andrew, an organization that coordinates farmers around the Southeast and out West.

And that food-waste estimate, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is going up, not down.

“What we are trying to do is build a network that will take food that would not make it to market for a variety of reasons,” Tozer says, “and get it to agencies that are feeding the hungry.”

(h/t to my buddy, J, who also said this: “This sounds like a not for profit in the making if someone could figure out how to get the extra food from the fields to food banks, etc. in a consistent and streamlined way. I could see high school kids getting community service in these towns for doing the picking. You could even involve Americorp somehow.” If you are in the market for a not-for-profit, this is a damn good idea.)

More articles after the jump…


The GOP’s Biggest Health Care Victory? Keeping Race Out of the Debate (by Jamilah King at Colorlines)

“Access to healthy foods, healthy housing, health care, safe neighborhoods, education and employment opportunities, and transportation – often collectively referred to as social determinants of health – play as important a role in keeping us healthy as they do in making us sick,” Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said in a statement last week.

USDA’s Food Environment Atlas.  This is an AWESOME interactive map about food consumption, prices, etc. throughout the US.  Check it out.

Hey, Obama, pass the spice! After their Chinese guests requested a ‘quintessentially American’ meal, the White House came up with this? (by Francis Lam at Salon)

Have we seen the last of the Spinach E. coli cases? (by Bill Marler of Marler Blog)

As Bison Demand Rises, So Does Need for Ranchers (by Grace Hood at NPR)

Another Salmonella Lawsuit filed in a Sprouts Outbreak (by Bill Marler of Marler Blog)

You Know What Must be Nice (by Jill at Feministe):

Now, being that I have never cooked for my pet and I am almost definitely not going to start anytime soon (sorry, cat), I have no first-hand knowledge as to whether that’s true or not. But I’m guessing it is not, and, like preparing a healthy meal, it is not totally impossible to do on a budget and even with time constraints. The framing of home-cooked pet food, though, feeds right into the Healthy Food Culture Wars, where Rich Liberal Elitists are trying to force-feed you arugula, while Good Down-Home Folks know that a heart attack on a plate is the only way to be a True American — it’s a fictional debate. And the Times, because it’s the Times, has totally created a ridiculous “trend” story that seems to be based mostly on “here is this thing that one of my friends does sometimes,” and is basically prodding its readership to seriously consider whether it’s Class War time.

World Food Prize Laureate David Beckmann Speaks at State of the World 2011 (by Christina Bonanni at Nourshing the Planet):

Beckmann ended by urging individuals to encourage their Congress members to act on hunger issues. This will begin a chain of pressure on Congress to address the effectiveness of our foreign aid and the role we need to play in addressing world hunger. “We need to push to protect and expand funding,” he said. “More needs to be done, and now…the next generation will depend on what we do.”

New ‘Giant’ Species of Crayfish Found in Tennessee Creek (by Mark Memmott of NPR)


Finally, the food story of the day is all about Wal-mart:

Wal-Mart to make, sell healthier foods (by Mary Clare Jalonick of the AP, via The Washington Post)

Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest grocer, says it will reformulate thousands of products to make them healthier and push its suppliers to do the same, joining first lady Michelle Obama’s effort to combat childhood obesity.

The first lady accompanied Wal-Mart executives Thursday as they announced the effort in Washington. The company plans to reduce sodium and added sugars in some items, build stores in poor areas that don’t already have grocery stores, reduce prices on produce and develop a logo for healthier items. […]

The nation’s largest retailer plans to reduce sodium by a quarter and cut added sugars in some of its private label products by 2015. It also plans to remove remaining industrially produced trans fats. The foods Wal-Mart will concentrate on our products like lunch meats, fruit juices and salad dressings, items that contain high levels of sugar or sodium that consumers don’t know they’re ingesting.

A number of food makers have made similar moves, lowering sodium in their products based on shopper demand and increasing scrutiny by health groups. Bumble Bee Foods, General Mills Inc., Campbell Soup Co., PepsiCo Inc. and Kraft Foods Inc. all announced sodium reductions to their products last year. […]

Wal-Mart said it would reduce prices on fruits and vegetables by $1 billion a year by attempting to cut unnecessary costs from the supply chain. The company also said it would work to reduce price premiums on healthier items made with more expensive ingredients.

Wal-Mart Food Push Echoes Earlier Moves on Generic Drugs (by Scott Hensley of NPR):

And on Thursday morning in Washington, Wal-Mart, with an assist from first lady Michelle Obama, said it will press suppliers to improve packaged foods by reducing sodium by 25 percent, cutting added sugar by 10 percent and virtually eliminating trans fats. The changes are supposed to happen by 2015. […]

Now this isn’t the first time the retailer has jumped on a consumer health issue in a big way. In late 2006, Wal-Mart started making a slew of generic prescription drugs available for $4 a month. And later, 90-day mail order prescriptions were added. Their price: $10.

There was some skepticism at the time. But Wal-Mart’s move to offer generic drugs at such cheap prices prompted other retailers, including Target, to bring down their prices, too.

First Lady Lauds Walmart’s Push for Healthful Food (by NPR Staff and Writers at NPR):

Obama called Walmart’s plan “a huge victory” for parents and children.

“When healthier options are finally affordable, that can affect every single meal a child eats, whether it’s adding fruit at breakfast or whole-wheat bread at lunch or more veggies on the plate at dinner,” she said.

Behind Walmart Plan, Some Healthy Business Logic (by Alan Greenblatt at NPR):

In announcing its new healthy food initiative Thursday, Walmart said it would work to bring down the price of fresh produce by reducing costs in areas such as transportation. Andrea Thomas, a Walmart senior vice president, predicted consumer savings of $1 billion per year on fruits and vegetables as a result, if Walmart succeeds in making serious changes to the supply chain.

The bigger question is whether people will be drawn to healthy options, even as they’re made more widely available. As people go about making their daily food selections, health often is a secondary factor, falling after issues such as ease of preparation, cost and taste-cravings.

Over the past two decades, food manufacturers have primarily tweaked their products by adding good-for-you ingredients such as Omega-3 fatty acids or whole wheat. If they lower sugar, they boost salt or fat, or vice versa.

Now, they are being asked to reduce all the unhealthy flavorings that people love. The only way this can work, says Balzer of the NDP Group, is if the whole food industry makes such a shift together. That’s why it will be helpful for Walmart to roll out this initiative over five years, he says.

Wal-mart’s 5-Year “Health” Plan (by Jessie Cacciola at Slashfood):

The company’s plan is to “reduce sodium by 25 percent, eliminate industrially added trans fats and reduce added sugars by 10 percent by 2015,” says the Times. Wal-Mart also plans to develop a criteria for “healthy” foods and to create a label to signify products that comply. The not-for-profit Partnership for a Healthier America, which works under the First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign, will monitor the company’s progress.

But the biggest change? More Wal-Marts. A lot more, to fill the food “deserts” in urban areas. Stay tuned to see exactly how many, and where they land…


2 thoughts on “Food Politics: Jan. 20, 2011

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Food Politics: Jan. 20, 2011 « Speaker's Corner --

  2. Pingback: SHOCKER: Maybe Walmart’s Health Initiative Isn’t So Good « Speaker's Corner

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