Three big days came into focus this week:

  • Celebrating achievements on Women’s Day.
  • Discussing climate before Earth Day.
  • Finalizing long-sought relief on Thursday.

“Equality will allow women to focus on what they do best — deliver great products and great leadership. Women create products that other women want — and diversity in the workplace leads to better products and more diverse perspectives.”

Kaitlin Mogentale, founder and chief pulper, Pulp Pantry (Food Business News)

Women’s Day

March 8 marked the centenary of International Women’s Day: a day to highlight the achievements of women and to raise awareness for gender parity.

  • Civil Eats heralded the efforts of women: “From farmworkers and graziers to entrepreneurs and advocates, these women are leading the change for more just and sustainable food.”
  • The International Food Policy Research Institute called out its director for Africa, Jemimah Njuki, for nabbing a spot on Food Tank’s list of elite women transforming the food system. The list also includes notable figures such as Oxfam America CEO Abby Maxman and Women’s Agricultural Network founder Mary Peabody.
  • Modern Farmer recommended women-authored food and farming books.
  • The Washington Post suggested Burger King’s “Women belong in the kitchen” ad is a lesson “in what not to do when promoting a social cause.”
  • Chicago Tribune challenged readers to “reflect on who is behind their most beloved restaurants — and how ordering takeout or dining safely in a show of support can make all the difference in keeping those culinary institutions afloat.”
  • A Bloomberg Quicktake interview described the “new wolfpack in the tequila industry,” describing women who are changing the business.
  • In January, NRN released its 2021 Power List where women were well-represented among the 50 individuals who helped the restaurant industry navigate change in 2020.

Stimulating the Food Economy

On March 11, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan. The $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill — which passed Congress split directly along party lines — includes $22.7 billion for existing food and agriculture programs and establishes a $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

  • National Restaurant Association President & CEO Tom Bené thanked the administration: “This fund is a win for the smallest and hardest hit restaurants that have sacrificed and innovated to continue to serve their communities. …today the industry has hope for the future.”
  • New York restaurateur Danny Meyer told The Wall Street Journal, “Positive as this news is, this should have and could have happened last fall or winter. [It] may be too late for many independent restaurants.”
  • Similarly, Feeding America’s Vince Hall welcomed hunger relief efforts, but warned, “more food assistance will be needed to overcome the heightened levels of hunger.”
  • The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union cheered provisions for testing and protecting frontline workers.
  • The American Farm Bureau Federation broke down where farm-focused funds will go.

Climate Concerns

The topic of climate change is of rising concern in food production, and the United States is expected to announce its return to the Paris Climate Agreement on Earth Day, April 22. Citing new analysis from Climate Action Tracker, Reuters summarized that, overall, the U.S. must reduce emissions between 57% and 63% below 2005 levels by 2030 to be on track to meet its target.

  • Fast Company posted an article urging Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to “reshape the food pyramid to save the climate.” Article author Michael Shank, from the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, suggested that more plant-based foods in the federal nutrition guidelines is a start.
  • Friends of the Earth expressed concern with the high volume of meat pizzas, hot dogs and hamburgers in California school lunches and argued that the state — and its massive buying power — should serve “more climate-friendly school meals.”
  • Agri-View reported on the membership growth of the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance, listing many new members and their reasons for joining. By the end of February, a total of 14 industry organizations representing major crops and livestock had joined the Alliance and expressed interest in being part of conversations on climate-related legislation.
  • AgDaily shared recent Michigan State research that suggests two Midwest climate change trends — hotter days and cooler nights — will cancel each other out and negate the need for much additional water to maintain current crop yields.

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Bagel Boom

New York Times’ Tejal Rao made the bold claim that “the best bagels are in California.” The columnist and restaurant critic highlighted some West Coast spots that she says are “driving a great bagel boom” from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Predictably, New Yorkers did not take the news well (Eater). 

Receipts on the Rise

Food & Wine shared recent data from the USDA that shows grocery prices rose by 3.5% in 2020: the highest annual increase in 20 years. According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, “Supply chains struggled to adapt to [stay at home orders], which put upward pressure on retail prices.” As far as 2021 predictions go, the USDA fortells a decrease in grocery prices.

No Truffling Matter

Providing a glimpse into the world of truffle hunting in Italy, “The Truffle Hunters” is a documentary starring local foragers and their trusty canine companions. Eater described the film: “An ode to slow living, the movie captures a humble tradition, its observational style subtly exposing greater socio-political issues that surround a luxury business.”

How Do You Brew?

What started out as a tweet from Mia Farrow led Washington Post food reporter Tim Carman on a search for the perfect cup of home-brewed coffee. Carman tested out five different brewing methods to give us the rundown on each one, complete with a list of pros, cons and even “cleanup” ratings. 

Been Caught Stamping

The proprietors of Stein Meat Products, a Brooklyn-based meat purveyor, pled guilty to charges of defrauding customers by selling choice grade beef as higher-grade prime. The pair, who must pay heavy restitution fines, used counterfeit USDA stamping tools to upgrade steaks it sold to fine restaurants in NYC (Food Safety News).