On a rainy November afternoon in Portland, Oregon, 21 high school students took the food handlers’ exam in a church basement. The usual chattering of nearly two dozen young people dropped to a silence as they worked. Sitting upstairs, I could tell when they had finished by the sounds of laughter coming from the basement kitchen.
These teenagers are participating in the Portland Kitchen, “Oregon’s only free culinary after-school program for youth,” according to founder Abigail Herrera. Read More
Tech business accelerators are sprouting up everywhere. In return for several months of mentorship, education, and access, many fledging companies are willing to trade a percentage of their equity for a quick infusion of cash from venture funders. And, given the explosive interest in food and farming, it should come as no surprise that some investors have finally applied the accelerator model to how and what we eat. Enter Food-X. Read More
I took this past month off from my paid consulting work to spend time focusing on the future of Civil Eats. It was also a necessary break to restore my own personal ecology after a very busy and productive 2014. In the effort to grow a movement, we often forget the need for self-preservation and well-being; I firmly believe we cannot sustain this work unless we sustain ourselves. On both fronts, it was a very fruitful month.
Civil Eats has grown tremendously from a scrappy, edgy “community-supported blog” to an award-winning, “go-to” reading resource cited on the pages of this Sunday’s New York Times’ Week in Review (thank you, Michel Nischan!). For six years, we’ve been reporting from the frontlines of the food movement because now, more than ever, people want to hear the stories behind their food. Read More
Last November, Mark Bittman, Micheal Pollan, Olivier De Schutter, and Ricardo Salvador made the case for a national food and farm policy to improve American diets and the environment. In a collectively penned Washington Post opinion piece, the authors and food system experts identified a crucial roadblock for implementing system-wide change. They wrote:
…reforming the food system will ultimately depend on a Congress that has for decades been beholden to agribusiness, one of the most powerful lobbies on Capitol Hill. As long as food-related issues are treated as discrete rather than systemic problems, congressional committees in thrall to special interests will be able to block change.
There are about 20,000 factory farms in the United States and together they produce more than 500 million tons—or 1 trillion pounds—of manure. These farms, also called concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), altogether house billions of chickens, dairy cows, hogs, and other livestock. The waste from these animals adds up to more than three times the raw sewage produced by people in the U.S. and it emits significant amounts of harmful air pollutants [PDF] that include ammonia, methane, hydrogen sulfide, particulate matter, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Read More
Here’s your recommended weekly allowance of food politics news.
1. One in Five U.S. Children Now Rely on Food Stamps: Census Data (Reuters)
According to federal census data, the number of children living in households that rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) jumped to 16 million last year, surpassing the number that was recorded before the recession. The data also revealed that 27 percent of the children in this country were living with single parents last year, and more than half of those were getting assistance. Read More
Stroll the aisles of your local health food store and our country’s love of “functional beverages”—drinks fortified with vitamins, minerals, and other “healthy” additives—becomes apparent. Products in this $17 billion industry claim to strengthen your immune system, flood your body with antioxidants, and boost energy. It’s faddish, yes. But one of the latest additions, maple water, may also help preserve North American forests and put some welcome cash in the pockets of small farmers. Read More
These days, consumers expect organic food manufacturers to pay close attention to how ingredients are sourced. But, one company has taken the process a step further. Nature’s Path, the British Columbia-based organic cereal manufacturer, has kicked off an innovative crop-sharing model with local farmers by purchasing 5,640 combined acres of farmland in Canada and northern Montana. Read More
You may have heard of the new genetically engineered Simplot potato. It was made with a new GE technology called RNAi (RNA interference), a technology for which many important gaps remain in our understanding.
In fact, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently asked a panel of independent scientists for advice about this technology, which alters the function of genes in the plant, the scientists wrote a detailed report [PDF] that warned the agency of risks that could sometimes result in harm.* And, they noted that current regulations were not well designed to address these risks.
But those concerns didn’t keep the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)—the agency with the greatest responsibility to prevent environmental impacts of GE plants—from approving the Simplot potato. Read More
Snowville Creamery, based in Pomeroy, Ohio, is a small dairy operation, but its owner, Warren Taylor, has big ideas. Taylor wants to change the food system—from one based on factory farms and GMOs to one based on local, sustainable, non-GMO, and organic farms and foods. He is starting with his own operation. Read More