As you may have heard, about half a million people in the Toledo, Ohio area lost their municipal drinking water supply on Saturday because of possible microbial toxin contamination from Lake Erie. A combination of heavier spring rains, exacerbated by climate change, and runoff of phosphorus from fertilizer applied to crops is the likely cause. The good news is that farmers can adopt better practices to eliminate this problem. The bad news is that the agriculture industry, and the public policies that it lobbies for, work against these solutions.
With their rainbow colors and odd shapes and sizes, the appeal of heirloom tomatoes is undeniable. But more than just a pretty face, these darlings of the summer farmers market also represent diversity and freedom in our food supply.
“People ask me, ‘Is this heirloom or hybrid?’” says farmer Bill Crepps of the Winters, California farm Everything Under the Sun. “You can tell that there’s something they don’t like about the word ‘hybrid.’”
In wrapping up a recent conversation with Kiva Zip’s Justin Renfro, I asked him whether there was anything else he wanted to say about the crowdlending platform he helps to run. “Please let more farmers know about us,” he said.
It was an offhand request, but a remarkable one. In his mission to connect small farmers and food makers with sources of interest-free capital, his plea wasn’t for more people to write more checks–it was for more people to give checks to.
Bren Smith, owner of Connecticut-based Thimble Island Oyster Company, and director of the organization Greenwave started growing kelp and shellfish as a reaction to several crises he faced in his own life: overfishing, climate change, and rampant unemployment in the fishing industry. He was working on the Bering Sea when the cod stocks crashed, and he lost oyster crops to both ocean acidification and two hurricanes.
It’s summer, but that doesn’t mean food news stops. Below, we share some of the top news stories of the week.
1. USDA Overhauls Poultry Inspection Rules (The Hill)
After more than two years of proposals and push-back by advocates, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) moved to put new poultry inspection rules in place yesterday. The voluntary rules would result in companies providing their own inspectors (while keeping one from the USDA in every plant), making it essentially a move to privatize the inspections. It will also mean fewer inspectors per plants, with each inspector looking at 140 birds per minute.
It’s rare that a university system commits to solving a social issue on a global scale. That’s why the University of California’s recently announced U.C. Global Food Initiative could mark a critical moment in the history of world food production. If the initiative unfolds as promised over the next few years, it “will align the university’s research, outreach and operations in a sustained effort to develop, demonstrate and export solutions—throughout California, the U.S., and the world—for food security, health, and sustainability.”
What exactly does “processed food” mean? According to a new position paper from the American Society For Nutrition (ASN) processing means “the alteration of foods from the state in which they are harvested or raised to better preserve them and feed consumers.” By this definition, processed foods encompass everything from washed raw spinach and frozen strawberries to Betty Crocker’s Cheesy Scalloped boxed potatoes (a box of the latter is made up of reconstituted ingredients held together with partially hydrogenated oils, artificial dyes, and the sodium equivalent of 60 potato chips per serving).
Anna Larsen makes a lot of calls to fishermen and keeps a closer eye on the weather than most of us. If it rains unexpectedly or the wind picks up or if the fisherman she works with aren’t able to land the salmon, halibut, or whatever she’s offering the members of Siren SeaSA, her community-supported fishery (CSF), Larsen has to think fast. She keeps abreast of what’s being caught and makes sure that whatever does come in to Northern California’s Bodega Bay and Fort Bragg–be it rock cod, Dungeness crabs, or sand dabs–makes it to her shareholders within 24 hours.
If you care about food waste, odds are good that you’ve heard of the Daily Table, a new Boston-based model of grocery store that will take safe food that has been discarded or is close to expiring and sell it at prices that compete with fast food in low-income areas. It’s an important model that comes at a time when U.S. consumers, companies, and businesses throw away 165 billion dollars worth of entirely edible food each year–or 40 percent of the food we produce in this country.
At 7:15 on a Friday morning in a large, culinary classroom at Bend High School, 25 energetic students dressed in crisp, white chef coats begin breaking down two half hogs. Over the next two hours, working in teams, the students will separate the animals into primal cuts — shoulder, loin, belly, and leg — and then into smaller cuts. “The kids can now visualize where their meat comes from,” says Molly Ziegler, the culinary teacher at Bend High School, “and they are learning how to utilize lesser known cuts, or cuts that would often get tossed.”