January 24, 2020
Challenging, and Challenges of, Responsibility
“School breakfast is often viewed as something separate from the school day and school performance, but in fact, these findings show that it was very much intertwined with student success in schools where [Breakfast After the Bell] was implemented.”“No Kid Hungry
The pressure on companies and governments to demonstrate responsibility for the people and the planet continues to mount with calls for change on climate, pollution, underserved communities and plastic use.
- On January 19, Bloomberg reported that China had introduced measures to “ban non-degradable, single-use plastic straws nationwide by the end of 2020 … with the goal of reducing the ‘intensity of consumption’ of such plastic utensils by takeout services in urban areas by 30% by 2025.”
- On January 21, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson announced a sustainability commitment “to become resource positive — storing more carbon than we emit, eliminating waste, and providing more clean freshwater than we use.” The coffee giant also introduced an initiative to open 100 community stores in low-income neighborhoods by 2025 as part of a partnership with United Way.
- The Coca-Cola Company partnered with the Benioff Ocean Initiative to provide $11 million to clean up rivers and stem the flow of waste to oceans. Greenpeace suggested, “Rather than commit to reducing its massive plastic footprint, the company wants people to believe it can capture this waste before it enters our oceans.”
- On January 16, Nestlé launched a $2 billion fund “to lead the shift from virgin plastics to food-grade recycled plastics and to accelerate the development of innovative sustainable packaging solutions.”
- On January 21, Tyson Foods unveiled the Coalition for Global Protein with the goal “to convene the food and agriculture sector to address feeding the world’s growing population while benefiting people, animals and the planet.”
- Furthering its Better Planet commitment, Conagra Brands said it would “work toward making 100% of its current plastic packaging renewable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.”
- Wendy’s released its annual CSR report, “Good Done Right,” on January 22. The report explains, “Good Done Right means we are serious about providing freshly made food that is traceable and from responsible sources.”
Kids Gotta Eat
This week, the USDA proposed school meal rules that roll back Michelle Obama’s signature initiative: the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The new rules debuted on Mrs. Obama’s birthday, January 17, a coincidence that was not lost on critics.
- Food Management explained how the proposed rules “would increase flexibility in the ‘vegetable subgroups’ requirements for school lunches, allow schools to adjust fruit servings at breakfast, provide more options for schools in applying age/grade groups for meal patterns and expand the ability of schools to offer school lunch entrées for a la carte purchase.”
- The USDA refuted critics’ claims that the rule change would allow schools to replace nutrient-rich veggies with white potatoes.
- The Wall Street Journal quoted U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, “More common-sense flexibility is needed.”
- Food Politics writer Marion Nestle decoded what she called USDA “doublespeak,” refuting many of the claims in the USDA announcement.
- The New York Times‘ coverage noted this is the USDA’s second attempt to roll back the nutrition standards promoted by Mrs. Obama, and the second time states have introduced a lawsuit to stop it.
- No Kid Hungry presented research that shows a 6% drop in chronically absent students when schools provide breakfast options before (or during) the school day.
Hunger and nutrition-related challenges affecting vulnerable populations also stirred conversations this week. States and pundits fought to increase access for food stamp participants, and activists ramped up efforts to get food to victims of natural disasters.
- On January 16, Politico reported 14 states filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration for rule changes tightening work requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, aka “food stamps”) participants. The lawsuit claims the USDA “unlawfully limited states’ discretion to exempt certain adults from work requirements for an extended period of time based on local employment conditions.”
- On January 21, Civil Eats reported on three states that are trying to implement a Restaurant Meals Program under an “obscure provision in the federal Food Stamp Act that lets food assistance programs in California and elsewhere allow SNAP recipients to buy prepared food from restaurants and supermarkets.” The program’s aim is to make life easier for participants who can’t cook or don’t have access to a kitchen.
- On January 17, The Washington Post covered hunger relief efforts in Australia in the wake of bushfires and extreme weather conditions. While nonprofit groups, emergency services and the food industry have risen to the occasion, the article notes, “Many Australians are angry at the federal government response to the wildfires they consider tone deaf and inadequate.”
- On January 16, Perdue Farms debuted the Delivering Hope To Our Neighbors hunger initiative, “focused on providing access to nutritious protein for people struggling with hunger and making meaningful progress toward ending hunger.” As a first step, Perdue is donating $100,000 to 10 of its food bank partners affiliated with Feeding America.
“All of the world’s 2,650 or so Salmonella strains continue to be allowed in U.S. meat and poultry.”Dan Flynn, editor Food Safety News
Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.
A Nobel Cause
Des Moines Register publicized an upcoming speaking engagement from Nobel Laureate Richard Roberts. As part of The Nobel Laureates’ Campaign to Support GMOs, Roberts will lecture at Iowa State University to “convince governments and the general public to support the use of GMOs to increase food production, reduce the use of pesticides and end hunger worldwide.”
Wuhan Coronavirus Origins
Bloomberg attributed the “surging number” of Wuhan coronavirus cases in China to “wet markets, where sales of freshly slaughtered, unpackaged meat have become the focus of an investigation into an outbreak of a potentially deadly lung virus.” At the time of publishing, Wuhan coronavirus had infected 865 and killed 26 in China, but “fears are growing that spread will intensify as hundreds of millions of Chinese travel for the Spring Festival holiday this week.”
Fast-food burger chain Krystal filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing debts between $50 million and $100 million. CBS News republished an emailed statement from Krystal: “The actions we are taking are intended to enable Krystal to establish a stronger business for the future and to achieve a restructuring in a fast and efficient manner.”
One Foie All, All Foie One
On January 17, New York Times delved into the unintended impacts of food and ag regulation. On October 30, 2019, New York City passed a ban on foie gras, a move supported by special interest groups that left foodies and chefs scrambling. That’s nothing in comparison to the income loss 400 low-wage immigrant workers now face at two farms where “almost all of the foie gras produced in the United States comes from.”
Nothing to Wine About
Wine enthusiasts can breathe a little easier. On January 21, Reuters reported: “The [U.S. and the E.U.] have essentially agreed to postpone any action until 2021: France won’t collect any digital taxes and America won’t add any additional tariffs.” This follows events from October, when the U.S. placed $75 billion in tariffs on European exports in response to subsidies given to aircraft manufacturer Airbus.
War Against Salmonella
Lawyer Bill Marler rose to notoriety in the 1990s when he represented victims of the Jack-in-the-Box E. coli outbreak. On January 20, The Washington Post publicized his latest effort targeting Salmonella. Marler, Center for Science in the Public Interest and Food & Water Watch petitioned the USDA to label 31 different Salmonella types as “adulterants,” as the strains have been linked to recalls and outbreaks over the past two decades.
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