Faces and Visions of the Food Movement: Saru Jayaraman

Since 2009, the federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 an hour. Low-wage workers are actually worse off now than they were in 1968, when the minimum wage reached a peak of $8.56 an hour in inflation-adjusted dollars. Yet as sobering as these statistics are, they don’t capture the complete story. Workers who don’t receive tips are guaranteed $7.25 an hour, yet tipped workers only earn a measly hourly wage of $2.13. Even more staggering, a recent study found that 41 percent of New York City’s restaurant workers are food insecure, and tipped workers are 30 percent more likely to struggle to put food on the table than those who earn tips.

While the top earners in the restaurant industry can make a good living, the average tipped restaurant worker can only expect to take home about $18,200 a year. The majority of these workers are adults and nearly a third of them have children. If working families are going to have a shot at economic prosperity, let alone making ends meet, then something has to give. Read more

Why Grocery Store Workers Are Making Less While Big Chains Clean Up

Have you ever bought groceries from a checker with the sniffles? If so, you’re probably not alone. In fact, most food retail employees can’t afford to miss work when they’re under the weather. Many don’t have medical coverage and few can cover lost wages when taking unexpected time off.

Janifer Suber, a clerk at Vons–a Los Angeles-based division of Safeway, Inc. with over 300 stores nationwide–says employees at her store often take matters into their own hands when a co-worker is sick. She recalls one instance when an employee had a stomach virus that had gotten so bad she missed several days of work, but only after co-workers had pooled their money to cover the co-pay for the doctor’s visit and the lost paycheck. Read more

The Farmer’s Lawyer: Rachel Armstrong

A lawyer and a farmer walk into a field…

While this scenario may sound like the intro to a bad joke, Rachel Armstrong wants you to imagine a world where lawyers and farmers aren’t such strange bedfellows. In an agricultural sector that rarely goes out of its way to support small and mid-size farmers, attorneys can be strong allies by helping food producers navigate the legal system. These kinds of relationships, Armstrong says, can create the foundation for a healthy network of viable farm businesses for the long-term. Read more

All the News That’s Fit to Eat: Soda Ban Revival, Mad Cow, and Climate Change

Here’s some food news that caught our eye this week:

1. NYC Asks Top Court to Revive Bloomberg’s Big-Soda Ban (Bloomberg News)

The New York City Department of Health has brought a case to the state’s Court of Appeals in an attempt to revive former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s rule to ban large sodas in the city. Citing the need to curb the growing obesity epidemic, the Department approved the measure in 2012 to restrict the sale of sugary beverages like soda in containers over 16 ounces. Read more

‘The Soil Will Save Us’: A Manifesto for Restoring Our Relationship with the Land

What if we could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and grow enough food to feed our ballooning population using resources we already have? Kristin Ohlson, author of The Soil Will Save Us, thinks we can do just that. And like a growing number of scientists, farmers, and good food advocates, she believes that in order to fix the problems in the sky, we need to put our eyes and ears to the ground. Read more

All the News That’s Fit to Eat: School Meals, Sick Pigs, and Global Obesity

Here’s some food news that caught our eye this week:

1. Roll Back of Healthier School Meal Standards Advances in Congress (Various)

Yesterday, members of the House Appropriations Committee approved the FY2015 Agriculture Appropriations bill, which will move to the House floor for a vote next month. House Republicans shot down an amendment that would have removed a provision in the bill to let schools opt out of implementing healthier federal nutrition standards for school meals. The waiver will allow school districts who have lost money for six months to receive a one-year exemption from serving more fruits, vegetables, healthy whole grains, and low-fat milk to their students. Currently, 91 percent of school districts have upgraded their meal programs to adhere to the revamped guidelines; some schools have even gotten creative by adding salad bars to their cafeterias. Yesterday, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack argued that the waiver program simply “isn’t going to work,” as it will be both expensive and impractical to determine which schools are struggling financially to implement the standards. Read more

Faces and Visions of the Food Movement: Katherine Deumling

Have you ever looked into your cupboards and sighed because you couldn’t figure out what to make for dinner? If so, Katherine Deumling is here to help. Deumling is the woman behind Cook With What You Have, a Portland-based company that encourages people to experiment in the kitchen with new ingredients while still relying on familiar staples. Her recipes celebrate fresh, seasonal fare and use simple techniques to build confidence in cooking with what’s on hand, without last-minute runs to the grocery store.

Deumling is also on the board for Slow Food USA and was the head of Slow Food Portland from 2003 to 2008. Civil Eats recently caught up with Deumling to talk about building healthy, just communities and reinvigorating the food movement. Read more