Back in 2012, two district courts rules in favor of lawsuits brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and a group of affiliated public health groups, saying the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) had to act to address antibiotic overuse in livestock. It was an important win on paper because the federal agency has known about the dangers of unnecessary use of these drugs for growth promotion and disease prevention since the 1970s, but has hedged on passing regulations with any real teeth since then.
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.
Most of the people working at Spacesaver, a shelving company based in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, hadn’t heard of community supported agriculture (CSA). That was until Anna Calloway, the company’s human resources partner, found a CSA subscription service from nearby High Meadow Farm that would allow them to get fresh local produce delivered to the office every week.
Imagine a restaurant getting a great review, only to have the chef call the newspaper to complain that the critic was sorely mistaken.
That bizarre scenario was all I could think of when I received an email yesterday from the School Nutrition Association (SNA), relaying SNA president Julia Bauscher’s refutation of a new, peer-reviewed study in Childhood Obesity finding that kids actually like the healthier school food mandated by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA).
California’s ongoing drought is expected to have a devastating impact on Central Valley agriculture this year, to the tune of $1.7 billion and 14,500 jobs lost. Even at the start of the summer, farmers are already being forced to dip into their ‘savings accounts’ — groundwater reserves — to make up for reduced surface water deliveries.
Meanwhile, the California legislature is in the midst of a mad rush to get a passable multi-billion-dollar water bond on the November ballot.
If you find yourself at a Farmer’s Guild meeting, you’re as likely to find a date as you are a tractor. With seven chapters across Northern California, the Guild has become the “it” destination for agrarians looking to mingle. Small farmers and farm-curious folks arrive at these once-a-month gatherings to swap planting tips and talk rural life over beer and a homegrown potluck. The Guild is half party and half knowledge exchange. And it’s entirely about face-to-face connections at a time when most social networking has lost touch with its in-person origins.
Ellen Gustafson’s We the Eaters: If We Change Dinner, We Can Change the World, may have a clumsy title, but the book takes a trenchant and well-researched look at America’s high tech farming and the denatured food it produces. The food activist goes further, by laying out how processors take that food and fill it with sugar, fat, salt, and additives while draining out the nutrition.
And Gustafson goes further still, describing how fast food corporations and junk food convenience stores are muscling out indigenous farming practices and wholesome food not only in our country, but around the world. Developing nations are getting a double whammy, she says, as nutrient-deficient junk food creates growth-stunting hunger in children, and she documents how this results in obesity later in life.
Here’s what caught our attention this week in food news.
1. Study Finds Clear Differences Between Organic and Non-Organic Foods (The Guardian)
As I report in next month’s National Geographic feature, “The New Face of Hunger,” millions of American families are struggling with a new kind of hunger. Some of the increase can be traced to a change in definition; in the 1960s, America equated hunger with physical starvation. By the 2000s, though, researchers started asking whether people were skipping meals because they couldn’t afford to eat, coining the term “food insecurity” to replace hunger. And with wages stagnating and public support of commodity crops far exceeding that for produce, the number of food insecure Americans now far outstrips the number of those who were ever counted as “hungry.” But don’t take my word for it: The numbers speak for themselves.
How bad is the new American hunger?
Millions of people hungry in the U.S. in 1968 10
Millions of people food insecure in the U.S. in 2012 49
Editor’s note: A “Right to Farm” amendment is up for a vote in Missouri this August, and while the Missouri Farm Bureau says the bill will “permanently enshrine and protect the rights of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices,” many worry that it could also make it impossible to criticize or regulate controversial farm practices, regardless of their impact. The Kansas City Star published an editorial calling the amendment a “concerted effort to shield factory farms and concentrated agricultural feeding operations from regulations to protect livestock, consumers and the environment.” A similar amendment passed in North Dakota last fall and there are two more coming up in Indiana and Iowa.