WBEZ | Food http://www.wbez.org/sections/food Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Fish-filled diet causing elevated mercury levels in Asian-Americans http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/fish-filled-diet-causing-elevated-mercury-levels-asian-americans-113564 <p><p>Asian-Americans eat a lot of fish.</p><p>And while that can contribute to better health, it can also lead to elevated mercury levels in the blood. That&rsquo;s because industrial pollution has contaminated waterways and the fish living in it. This makes some traditional Asian eating patterns risky, especially for women of childbearing age.&nbsp;</p><p>Elevated mercury levels in pregnant and nursing women can impair the cognitive development of their children. And high levels in older adults can increase risk of cardiovascular disease.</p><p>When researchers studied blood and hair samples of Asian Americans in Seattle and New York they found elevated mercury levels in one-third to nearly half of all subjects, respectively.</p><p>Preliminary studies have shown similar issues in Chicago Asians, according to environmental health physician Dr. Susan Buchanan. This week the University of Illinois at Chicago announced that Buchanan and her colleagues have received a $2.6 million grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health to study the issue further.</p><p>The five-year research project will work with Asian community groups to gather and better gauge mercury exposure. But the scientists also hope to explore the cultural traditions and practices around fish consumption.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Sambal-fish.jpg" style="float: right; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="Environmental health physician Dr. Susan Buchanan will be studying the eating habits of local Asians, as well as mercury levels in staples of their diet, like fish sauce and oyster sauce. It’s part of her five-year project to reduce mercury exposure in Asian Americans. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" />&ldquo;I&rsquo;m really interested to see what role the different types of fish sauces play,&rdquo; Buchanan said. &ldquo;We are going to be testing them for mercury levels and using statistical analysis to gauge what role the quantity of fish sauce plays in their overall risk. I&rsquo;m also interested in the practice of eating the whole fish including the organs and sometimes the bones.&rdquo;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>And then there&rsquo;s the issue of fish head soup.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We have learned from our preliminary interaction with Asian community groups in Chicago that fish head soup is very popular during breastfeeding,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re wondering if that might lead to elevated mercury [in mother&rsquo;s systems] during breastfeeding, which would also be a concern because mercury does appear in breast milk.&rdquo;</p><p>The researchers are also concerned about exposure to PCBs through fish consumption, But because the chemicals are difficult to measure in the body, they will do PCB testing on fish from local markets where the participants shop.</p><p>After the UIC scientists have identified some of the most common sources of mercury exposure in the local Asian diet, Buchanan says they plan to craft interventions. These will include a text message app that will remind women about the safest fish choices during their childbearing years.</p><p><em><span id="docs-internal-guid-2ca5692f-b8eb-f4d8-4c0e-94a2bc3e88e4">Monica Eng is a WBEZ food and health reporter. Follow her at</span><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> @monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Fri, 30 Oct 2015 08:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/fish-filled-diet-causing-elevated-mercury-levels-asian-americans-113564 The Startling Racial Divide In Pay For Restaurant Workers http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/startling-racial-divide-pay-restaurant-workers-113474 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/restaurant_race.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In America&#39;s fine-dining restaurants, how much workers get paid is closely correlated to the color of their skin.</p><p>That&#39;s according to a new study from researchers at the University of Santa Cruz and UC Berkeley. The report, <a href="https://www.scribd.com/fullscreen/285968393?access_key=key-aB2D7wLPk5XfesMYf7Wj&amp;allow_share=true&amp;escape=false&amp;view_mode=scroll">Ending Jim Crow in America&#39;s Restaurants</a>, describes how waiters at high-end restaurants may earn salaries five times greater than those of employees washing dishes, clearing tables and prepping food in the same establishment.</p><p>That pay disparity among different jobs is perhaps to be expected. The troubling part is the stark racial divide the researchers found between the highest- and lowest-paid workers: Basically, white employees overwhelmingly fill the jobs with the heftiest salaries, while Latinos, blacks and other minorities occupy positions with pay closer to the poverty level. The divide is gender-based, too: White men across the restaurant industry are paid, on average in the U.S., roughly a quarter more than women, whether white or of color.</p><p>The racial segregation seen among America&#39;s 11 million restaurant workers is not necessarily a result of intentional discrimination on the part of employers, says study co-author <a href="https://ccrec.ucsc.edu/profile/chris-benner-phd">Chris Benner</a>, a professor of environmental studies at UC Santa Cruz.</p><p>Rather, it is a product of many factors that cannot easily be eliminated or addressed through policy and legislation &mdash; the way that safe working conditions or minimum wage can.</p><p>For one thing, Benner tells The Salt, Latinos tend to apply for certain types of jobs, like dishwasher, line cook and table busser. Likewise, such so-called &quot;back-of-house&quot; positions are not generally targeted by Caucasian applicants, who more often seek higher-paying bartender and waiter positions.</p><p>&quot;We call this the self-selection bias,&quot; says Benner, whose research involved interviewing owners and managers at 12 California restaurants, half of which were high-end establishments, and closely analyzing national industry data. &quot;People may just not see themselves as working in a certain area.&quot;</p><p>Sometimes, he says, customers may drive the bias against immigrants filling front-of-house positions.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;ve heard of a lot of stories where the customer actually asked for a different server, because they had a hard time understanding the accent of whoever the server is,&quot; he says.</p><p>This is not the first time a close look at the restaurant industry has revealed striking inequity in the labor force. The organization Restaurant Opportunities Centers United went undercover in 2011 and 2012 and found that upscale restaurants were racially discriminating in their hiring process.</p><p>The national group sent pairs of equally qualified individuals &mdash; one person white, the other not &mdash; to apply for jobs at white tablecloth-type restaurants in Chicago, Detroit and New Orleans. The group repeated this method, called &quot;matched pair testing,&quot; 273 times.</p><p>&quot;Testers of color [in Chicago] were only 53 percent as likely as white testers to get a job offer, and were less likely than white testers to receive a job interview in the first place,&quot; according to the resulting <a href="http://rocunited.org/the-great-service-divide-national/">report</a>, published in 2014. Applicants of color fared better in the other cities, but were still far less likely than their white counterparts to get the job.</p><p>That study was led by <a href="http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/author/saru-jayaraman/">Saru Jayaraman</a>, co-director of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United and the director of the Food Labor Research Institute at UC Berkeley. She tells The Salt that about 20 percent of restaurant jobs pay exceptionally well. In the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, servers and bartenders can take home as much as $180,000 per year, she says &ndash; if they&#39;re working in upper-end establishments, the kind with tasting menus that start at $75 a person, for example.</p><p>&quot;But these jobs are held almost exclusively by white people, and in particular, white men,&quot; says Jayaraman, who also collaborated with Benner on the more recent research.</p><p>Latinos, she says, tend to spend their restaurant careers in back-of-house jobs, earning somewhere closer to $30,000 per year &ndash; with few paths for promotion or pay raises. Jayaraman says she has interviewed Latino table bussers who reported having helped train newly hired white employees who were easing into positions waiting tables.</p><p>&quot;Then, within weeks or months, the people they&#39;re training are earning five times what that busser is making,&quot; she says.</p><p>African-Americans seem to have a particularly tough plight in the restaurant industry, mostly working in down-market restaurants where wages and tips are minimal.</p><p>&quot;For African-American workers, it&#39;s almost 100-percent exclusion from [fine dining restaurants] altogether,&quot; Jayaraman says. &quot;They work almost exclusively at fast-food restaurants or very casual restaurants like Red Lobster.&quot;</p><p>Most of the big bucks in the restaurant industry come from tipping &mdash; a practice that is increasingly coming under scrutiny. Prominent New York restaurateur Danny Meyer recently banished tipping in his eateries as a step toward equalizing the skewed pay scale. In an <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/10/14/448678237/danny-meyer-will-banish-tipping-and-raise-prices-at-his-restaurants">interview with NPR</a>, he noted that waiters&#39; take-home pay at fine restaurants has skyrocketed thanks to tips, but the pay of workers at the back of the house hasn&#39;t kept pace. And women workers who rely on tips may feel obliged to tolerate sexual harassment from customers, Jayaraman <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/16/opinion/why-tipping-is-wrong.html?_r=0">argued</a> in a recent op-ed for The New York Times.</p><p>The National Restaurant Association thinks little of the new &quot;Ending Jim Crow&quot; study.</p><p>&quot;The restaurant industry is one of the most diverse industries in America, with zero barriers to entry and endless pathways to success,&quot; says Katie Niebaum, the association&#39;s vice president of communications, who corresponded with The Salt via email.</p><p>Niebaum, citing U.S. Census Bureau numbers, says restaurant ownership among minorities and women &quot;outpaced growth in the overall industry during the last 10 years on record.&quot;</p><p>&quot;In addition, we proudly employ more women and minority managers than any other industry,&quot; she says. &quot;Two in five restaurant managers are women; overall, one in three come from a minority background.&quot;</p><p>The researchers agree that the restaurant industry is more racially diverse today in America than in the past.</p><p>But that, Jayaraman warns, should not necessarily win the industry any brownie points.</p><p>&quot;It just makes the segregation more and more pernicious, because we see greater concentrations of people of color in lower-level positions,&quot; Jayaraman says.</p></p> Thu, 22 Oct 2015 15:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/startling-racial-divide-pay-restaurant-workers-113474 Surgeon General wants us to walk to health http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/surgeon-general-wants-us-walk-health-113033 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP_369456341694.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-e8a2a3b9-f741-cd9c-d2a8-0a6d47da69bd">Let&rsquo;s start with some stats.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1710486">Studies show</a> that the most important risk factor for premature death and disability in the U.S. is diet.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.clocc.net/about-childhood-obesity/prevalence/">Nearly half</a> of all Chicago Public School sixth graders are overweight or obese.</p><p dir="ltr">And Chicago kids suffer from some of the highest levels of diet-related disease in the nation.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">So you&rsquo;d think that when Surgeon General Vivek Murthy came to town to talk about child health, nutrition would be front and center, right?</p><p>Well, not really. During his 20-minute speech Tuesday at the Northern Trust, Murthy talked about diet for exactly 24 seconds&mdash;and that was to congratulate Healthy Schools Campaign, the lunch host, for its work in that area.</p><p dir="ltr">Instead, Murthy focused on things like vaccinations, bullying, AIDS and especially walking.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Walking, it turns out, is one of the most powerful tools we have to roll back the tide of chronic disease in America,&rdquo; he said.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this month, he launched a campaign called Step It Up to combat diabetes and cardiovascular disease through walking, with no mention, in <a href="http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2015pres/09/20150909a.html">this press release</a> for example, of the powerful role diet plays in those diseases. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">This summer <a href="http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/08/09/coca-cola-funds-scientists-who-shift-blame-for-obesity-away-from-bad-diets/?_r=0">Coca-Cola came under attack </a>for hiring researchers and experts who play up exercise over diet in the war on obesity. And this month, others pointed out what they feel is a similar pattern in Murthy&rsquo;s approach.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Fed Up </em>filmmaker Laurie David, wrote on Twitter, &ldquo;Who&rsquo;s muzzling him? Why isn&rsquo;t he telling the truth to America?&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">And earlier this month, activist dietitian Andy Bellati wrote a piece for<em> Al Jazeera America</em> on the subject, called <a href="http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2015/9/why-is-the-surgeon-general-silent-on-the-american-diet.html">&ldquo;Why is the Surgeon General Silent on the American Diet?&rdquo; </a></p><p>The Surgeon General did not take questions after his speech Tuesday and his office did not respond to requests for comment immediately.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Tue, 22 Sep 2015 17:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/surgeon-general-wants-us-walk-health-113033 Advocates say new food cart rules taste bittersweet http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/advocates-say-new-food-cart-rules-taste-bittersweet-112955 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Fruit cup 3.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-114682cd-d82b-5f16-81bf-bc8775e48e21">This week, Chicago Alderman Emma Mitts did something she&rsquo;d never done before: She ate her first elote, the grilled corn on the cob that&rsquo;s a popular street food in Mexico.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;A little hot, but it was good, and I see why the kids like it,&rdquo; she said at a City Council hearing Wednesday.</p><p dir="ltr">But that bite of corn on the street wasn&rsquo;t just tasty &mdash; it was also illegal.</p><p dir="ltr">According to advocates, there are nearly 2,000 vendors pushing carts of fresh fruit, elotes and other snacks around Chicago, despite laws forbidding it. But Wednesday, a City Council committee passed an ordinance that&rsquo;s long been in the works to not only license these vendors, but to punish those who operate illegally.</p><p dir="ltr">Sponsoring Alderman Roberto Maldonado (a self-proclaimed fan of elotes) called the License and Consumer Protection Committee&#39;s support for his ordinance &ldquo;historic.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;At a time when the national debate has turned toward demeaning our immigrant population, we must strengthen our laws to bring our immigrant entrepreneurs out of the shadows and give them the respect and legitimacy they deserve,&rdquo; Maldonado said.</p><p dir="ltr">The <a href="https://chicago.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&amp;ID=3755517&amp;GUID=AEE49835-4E57-409A-81D2-80965444258D">ordinance</a> would legitimize most of what push cart vendors do already. It would allow them to sell fresh fruit or food on carts around the city&rsquo;s neighborhoods, as long as they take classes, get permits and pay fees: $350 for a business license and more than $300 in shared kitchen fees over two years.</p><p dir="ltr">But what bothers advocates most is the provision that forbids vendors from preparing food on the cart, meaning all food would have to be cooked, cut, seasoned, packaged and sealed before vendors leave licensed kitchens.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think we&rsquo;ve reached a great compromise. Like always no ordinance is [ever] perfect but it&rsquo;s a work in progress, something that we&rsquo;re all willing to start with,&rdquo; Maldonado said.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The prepackaged and pre-seasoned provision comes as a response to concerns from the Chicago Department of Public Health. Although the department acknowledges there has never been a single reported incident of foodborne illness connected to the food carts, it insists that on-cart prep is dangerous.</p><p dir="ltr">The agency is &ldquo;committed to ensuring the food Chicagoans eat is safe&hellip;[Because] food carts are not required to have hand washing capabilities on them. Having food that is not prepackaged would be unsanitary and unsafe,&rdquo; the department said in a statement.</p><p dir="ltr">Still, for many, the fresh preparation and customization of condiments (chile, salt, lime, cheese) are part of the appeal.</p><p dir="ltr">Vicky Lugo, who serves as the vice president of the Association of Mobile Vendors, knows the rules are less than ideal.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I am not in favor of this product being pre-cut because products that are pre-cut and sold in stores are not fresh,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;But right now [vendors] will take whatever the city will approve because as it is now there is no license for them.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The plan, says Lugo and others, is to start here and then move toward fresher options later.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We are trying to push for a last prep step where vendors could possibly cut the fruit at the cart and for the corn add the mayo and cheese and that stuff,&rdquo; she said.</p><p dir="ltr">Beth Kregor of the Institute for Justice on Entrepreneurship has been working on this issue for years. She notes that the licensing rules, if passed by the full council, could apply to all sorts of foods.</p><p dir="ltr">Vendors would be allowed to sell pretty much anything they, or others, prepared &mdash; as long as they were packaged in a licensed kitchen. During the hearings she spoke eloquently about the measure&rsquo;s potential.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We should pass this ordinance because those vendors will be the next immigrant who earns her way in this country,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo; The next business owners serving up culture, cuisine and commerce in our community spaces, one customer at a time. And the next parent who built a better life for his child by working hard and following the rules.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">A <a href="https://www.illinoispolicy.org/reports/chicagos-food-cart-ban-costs-revenue-jobs/">recent survey by the Illinois Policy Institute</a> estimated that the 1,500 food-cart vendors in Chicago make an estimated $35.2 million in annual sales.</p><p>The ordinance still needs the full city council&rsquo;s approval, which is scheduled to meet next Thursday. The law would then take effect 30 days after passage.</p><p><br /><em>Monica Eng covers food and health for WBEZ. Follow her at <a href="http://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng.</a> Lauren Chooljian covers Chicago politics for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian.</a></em></p></p> Wed, 16 Sep 2015 16:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/advocates-say-new-food-cart-rules-taste-bittersweet-112955 Federal money to make school lunches healthier remains unspent in many states, including Illinois http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/federal-money-make-school-lunches-healthier-remains-unspent-many-states-including <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP_472548821527.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>New school food rules, passed in 2010, have required districts to revamp their offerings--boosting whole grains and vegetables while reducing sodium and trans fats.</p><p>But many districts and politicians--aiming to roll back the rules--have complained that those standards cost too much to implement.</p><p>In Chicago today, U.S. Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack struck back at those claims, noting that his department gave states $90 million to implement the new rules with training and technical assistance programs.</p><p>&ldquo;But there&rsquo;s still $28 million left unspent,&rdquo; Vilsack said during a talk at the Union League Club Friday. &ldquo;My favorite is the state of Louisiana where Bobby Jindal has not spent a dime of that money. It&rsquo;s $2 million [in unspent funding] in that state and I think it&rsquo;s a fairly significant amount in Illinois, too.&rdquo;</p><p>According to USDA sources, the amount unspent in Illinois (where healthier Chicago Public Schools lunches have met mixed reactions) is more than $3 million--$1.5 million of which is set to expire at the end of the month.</p><p>So why have Illinois and other states left the money unspent?</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a puzzle to me,&rdquo; Vilsack said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ve written them. We&rsquo;ve communicated to governors and legislators that this money is available.&nbsp; You&rsquo;d have to ask them.&rdquo;</p><p>The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), which is charged with using the money, did not make anyone available for comment before deadline. But USDA says that it has already approved use of the $1.5 million to purchase menu planning software. It&rsquo;s unclear, however, if ISBE will procure the contracts for the software in time to use the money.</p><p>After Sept. 30, the state will have $1.7 million in funding remaining, according to USDA.</p><p>While at the Union League Club, Sec. Vilsack was also asked what he planned to do about school food waste, reportedly exacerbated by new healthier school food rules. Vilsack said studies did not show greater waste in schools caused by the rules. But he did say that the broader food waste problem was troublesome. Vilsack announced that he will unveil a brand new national anti-food waste initiative this Thursday in New York city.</p><p><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng" target="_blank">Monica Eng is WBEZ&rsquo;s food and health reporter. Follow her at @monicaeng or write to her at meng@wbez.org</a></p></p> Fri, 11 Sep 2015 17:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/federal-money-make-school-lunches-healthier-remains-unspent-many-states-including Dining from the dollar store http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/dining-dollar-store-112780 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/dollar salmon.jpg" alt="" /><p><div>Last summer, while researching a story on the changing landscape of Chicago food shopping, I was surprised to learn that dollar stores were becoming a form of a grocery store for many low-income neighborhoods.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>I imagined peopled doomed to aisles full of highly processed, low-quality junk food-- of dubious origin.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>As one colleague said to me, &ldquo;I wouldn&rsquo;t even trust pet food from a dollar store.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>So I was pretty skeptical when a natural foods company urged me to check out its line of vegetarian foods that recently arrived in thousands of Dollar Tree stores across the nation. Vegetarian foods at a dollar store? What?</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>I decided to conduct a taste test.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>When I stopped in at a couple of these stores (one in Lakeview and another in Belmont Cragin) I found plenty of the usual &nbsp;food suspects--chips, ramen, and chicken bologna. But I also discovered vegetarian and vegan fare, ribeye steaks, sustainable and wild seafood, Chinese dumplings, Jamaican meat pies, bags of frozen vegetables, boxes of eclairs and Indian pastries.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>All for $1 each. How could this be?</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Randy Guiler, vice president of Investor Relations at Dollar Tree, said they&rsquo;ve long carried ethnic items, but their selection has continued to expand, especially as more stores add frozen food sections.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;We are always adding new items. Some are &lsquo;tests,&rsquo; some are special buys and others are replacements,&rdquo; he wrote to WBEZ. &ldquo;Our expansion into [new categories] comes along as products that used to be outside of our price point become available.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>As dollar stores have spread into more American communities--there are now about 25,000 across the country and about 20 percent of their customers make more than $70,000--their offerings reflect the demand for natural, sustainable and boldly flavored foods.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>According to Nielsen figures, the dollar store category (which also includes Dollar General and Family Dollar) accounted for about 35 percent of the retail food store expansion between 2007 and 2013. Although expansion has slowed since, the category&rsquo;s growth is expected to continue to outpace conventional grocery stores&rsquo;.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Today, Guiler says that about 70 percent --and counting--of the company&rsquo;s stores feature frozen food sections.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>That&rsquo;s where I found most of the following products--each for only a dollar. But are they any good? Here are some mini-reviews from our discriminating tasting panels: my family, my colleagues and me.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>Note: Notable ingredients are listed in these evaluations, not as a sign that they are dangerous but because some consumers want to be aware of them.&nbsp;</em></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Ribeye Steak</strong></span></div><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dollarstore/dollar-ribeye.jpg" /></p><div>How can you sell a ribeye (traditionally one of the most expensive cuts) steak for just a dollar? Well, you can cut it extremely thin and pump it full of salt water, which is the case here. One taster called it rubbery, but another thought it tasted surprisingly beefy for a dollar. After cooking, the 3.5 oz steak shrinks considerably, leaving enough for a small dinner portion of meat or a layer of a steak sandwich. &nbsp;</div><div><strong>Grade</strong>: B-</div><div><strong>Brand</strong>: Stampede</div><div><strong>Size</strong>: 3.5 ounces</div><div><strong>Country of origin</strong>: USA</div><div><strong>Notable ingredients</strong>: Bromelain and 30 percent sodium solution. Hydrolyzed corn and soy protein.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Wild Salmon</strong></span></div><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dollarstore/dollar-salmon.jpg" /></p><div>Our tasters generally liked this skin-on fillet, especially after it was broiled and served with a butter lemon sauce. One commenter noted its pale color and thought it was a little dry.</div><div><strong>Grade</strong>: B</div><div><strong>Brand</strong>: Ocean Market</div><div><strong>Size</strong>: 4 oz</div><div><strong>Country of origin</strong>: China</div><div><strong>Notable ingredients</strong>: Wild salmon and tripolyphosphate to retain moisture.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Veggie Burgers</strong></span></div><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dollarstore/dollar-veggie-burgers.jpg" /></p><div>Tasters overwhelmingly praised these boldly spiced patties for their recognizable bits of vegetable and &ldquo;bold&rdquo; South Asian spicing--although one person called them &ldquo;too spicy.&rdquo; Two compared them favorably to Trader Joe&rsquo;s masala veggie burgers. Others didn&rsquo;t like the soft texture, abundance of potato and oiliness.</div><div><strong>Grade</strong>: B</div><div><strong>Brand</strong>: Chef Ernesto</div><div><strong>Size</strong>: Two patties, 5.6 oz</div><div><strong>Country of origin</strong>: India</div><div><strong>Notable ingredients</strong>: All vegetables, spices, and vegetable oil.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Vegetable Samosas</strong></span></div><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dollarstore/dollar-samosa.jpg" /></p><div>These baked veggie dumplings were tasty and boldly spiced with wrappers that crisped nicely in the toaster oven. Although they cried out for traditional sweet and spicy dipping sauces,</div><div>most of the tasters gave them an excellent rating. One felt they had a little</div><div>too much potato and another thought they were a little too bready.</div><div><strong>Grade</strong>: B</div><div><strong>Brand</strong>: Chef Ernesto</div><div><strong>Size</strong>: 8 samosas 6 oz</div><div><strong>Country of origin</strong>: India</div><div><strong>Notable ingredients</strong>: Just potatoes, other vegetables, spices and a wrapper.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Crispy Green Bean Fries</strong></span></div><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dollarstore/dollar-beans.jpg" /></p><div>We had a hard time getting these beans to crisp up in the toaster oven and tasters noted that failing. &nbsp;But they also complained about a lack of good bean flavor. One called it an insult to vegetables. But another said she could see them tasting better with a dipping sauce.</div><div><strong>Grade</strong>: D</div><div><strong>Brand</strong>: Snapps</div><div><strong>Size</strong>: 6 oz</div><div><strong>Country of origin</strong>: USA</div><div><strong>Notable ingredients</strong>: Mostly just beans, flour, corn starch and soybean oil.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Clam Strips</strong></span></div><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dollarstore/dollar-clam-strip.jpg" /></p><div>These clam strips came out crispy, chewy and sweet from the toaster oven, pleasing tasters who likened them to the Howard Johnson clam strips of their youth-- but meatier. We also liked</div><div>that, at least according to labeling, they&rsquo;re wild caught and hand-shucked from sustainable fisheries.</div><div>The portion is large enough for a modest snack or a crunchy topping for a salad.</div><div><strong>Grade</strong>: A-</div><div><strong>Brand</strong>: LaMonica</div><div><strong>Size</strong>: 4 oz</div><div><strong>Country of origin</strong>: USA</div><div><strong>Notable ingredients</strong>: Partially hydrogenated soybean oil is the second to last ingredient.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Lobster Sliders</strong></span></div><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dollarstore/dollar-lobster.jpg" /></p><div>The thrill of seeing lobster at a dollar store faded when we tasted these plump, overly sweet and bready patties. They recalled crab cakes but sweeter and breadier--but, of course, much cheaper.</div><div><strong>Grade</strong>: D</div><div><strong>Brand</strong>: Pride &amp; Joy</div><div><strong>Size</strong>: 3.5 ounces</div><div><strong>Country of origin</strong>: US</div><div><strong>Notable ingredients</strong>: Too many to name but lobster meat is the first and bread is the second along with lots of spices, trans fat and different sweeteners.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Pork and Vegetable Potstickers</strong></span></div><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dollarstore/dollar-potsticker.jpg" /></p><div>We steamed some and pan-fried others and all the tasters agreed that the flavorful filling and thin,&nbsp;elastic wrappers were some of the best we&rsquo;ve tried among packaged dumplings.</div><div><strong>Grade</strong>: A</div><div><strong>Brand</strong>: Tasty Select</div><div><strong>Size</strong>: 10 dumplings, 7 oz</div><div><strong>Country of origin</strong>: USA</div><div><strong>Notable ingredients</strong>: Pretty much just meat, vegetables and flour wrappers but also some monosodium glutamate.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>BBQ Pork Steamed Bun</strong></span></div><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dollarstore/dollar-pork-bun.jpg" /></p><div>All of the tasters who tried this were experienced Chinese pork bun eaters and they called this &ldquo;one of the best they&rsquo;d ever eaten.&rdquo; It features a moist, puffy and pliant bun along with a generous portion of some of the most delicious and porky filling we&rsquo;ve tasted. One note is that most steamed pork buns (or char siu bao) at Chinese bakeries cost less than $1. So even though it&rsquo;s no big bargain, it&rsquo;s</div><div>a high-quality bao.</div><div><strong>Grade</strong>: A-</div><div><strong>Brand</strong>: Tasty Select</div><div><strong>Size</strong>: 5 oz</div><div><strong>Country of origin</strong>: USA</div><div><strong>Notable ingredients</strong>: Artificial food coloring.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Salad shrimp</strong></span></div><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dollarstore/dollar-shrimp.jpg" /></p><div>Tasters loved how quickly these pre-cooked, wild shrimp can go from freezer to salad (two minutes). Inside a lemony shrimp salad, these nickel-sized nubbins are fine. But alone, they&rsquo;re a little mushy and watery tasting. In the wake of recent shrimp labor investigations, some tasters also worried how the low price connects with the ethics of their production chain. &nbsp;</div><div><strong>Grade</strong>: B</div><div><strong>Brand</strong>: Tastee Choice</div><div><strong>Size</strong>: 3.5 ounces</div><div><strong>Country of origin</strong>: India</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Pink Salmon in a packet</strong></span></div><div>This single serving packet made for a quick and tasty (if not very pink) salmon salad on the go. The broth keeps it very moist and the flavor is fine.&nbsp;</div><div><strong>Grade</strong>: B</div><div><strong>Brand</strong>: Sunny Sea&nbsp;</div><div><strong>Size</strong>: 3 oz</div><div><strong>Country of origin</strong>: China</div><div><strong>Notable ingredients</strong>: Just salmon, water, and vegetable broth. Also contains soy.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Jamaican Style Chicken Patties</strong></span></div><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dollarstore/dollar-jamaican-pattie.jpg" /></p><div>The package directions recommend microwaving this spicy meat pie in its vented wrapper, and tasters were amazed at how flaky and crisp the crust remained. They also loved the &ldquo;curry like&rdquo; chicken filling that made for a &ldquo;tasty office lunch.&rdquo;</div><div><strong>Grade</strong>: A-</div><div><strong>Brand</strong>: Golden Krust</div><div><strong>Size</strong>: 1 pattie 5 oz</div><div><strong>Country of origin</strong>: US</div><div><strong>Other ingredients</strong>: Textured vegetable protein, hydrolyzed soy protein, beef suet, dough conditioner.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Bone-in Pork Loin Chops</strong></span></div><div>This ultra-thin pork chop with a thin slice of bone carried decent flavor and moisture, probably owing to the generous (up to 12 percent) sodium solution it&rsquo;s treated with,</div><div>&nbsp;along with meat tenderizers and</div><div>seasonings. Still our tasters thought it &ldquo;wasn&rsquo;t bad for $1.&rdquo;&nbsp;</div><div><strong>Grade</strong>: B-</div><div><strong>Brand</strong>: None</div><div><strong>Size</strong>: 4 oz</div><div><strong>Country of origin</strong>: USA</div><div><strong>Notable ingredients</strong>: Dextrose, hydrolyzed soy protein and bromelain which is a protein found in pineapples used as a meat tenderizer. &nbsp;&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Iced Eclairs</strong></span></div><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dollarstore/dollar-eclairs.jpg" /></p><div>Although no one will mistake them for fine French pastries, these were &ldquo;tasty&rdquo;&nbsp;</div><div>little desserts with &ldquo;delicious&rdquo; custard&rdquo; and &ldquo;decent&rdquo; chocolate icing. They also liked the size, saying that it was &ldquo;great way to limit sweets if you eat just one.&rdquo;&nbsp;</div><div><strong>Grade</strong>: B</div><div><strong>Brand</strong>: Dolce Toscano</div><div><strong>Size</strong>: 6 mini custard-filled eclairs</div><div><strong>Country of origin</strong>: USA</div><div><strong>Notable ingredients</strong>: Partially hydrogenated oil, artificial colors, carrageenan and artificial flavors.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Cream Puffs</strong></span></div><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dollarstore/dollar-cream-puff.jpg" /></p><div>Tasters called the pastry shells on these puffs &ldquo;stale&rdquo; and &ldquo;chewy,&rdquo; but they were thrilled by the creamy vanilla custard inside and one said, &ldquo;I can&rsquo;t stop eating them.&rdquo;&nbsp;</div><div><strong>Grade</strong>: B</div><div><strong>Brand</strong>: Dolce Toscano</div><div><strong>Size</strong>: 8 pack, 3 oz</div><div><strong>Country of origin</strong>: USA</div><div><strong>Notable ingredients</strong>: High fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (trans fats) are the 5th and 6th ingredients. Plus soy protein concentrate, carrageenan and multiple artificial colors.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>*Each time meat was part of a product at least one taster noted that the animal was probably factory farmed--raised indoors, fed antibiotics and given growth promoters where legal. The labels don&rsquo;t claim otherwise.&nbsp;</em></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/content/chewing-fat-podcast-louisa-chu-and-monica-eng" target="_blank">Chewing The Fat</a> podcast. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng" target="_blank">@monicaeng</a> or write to her at <a href="mailto:meng@wbez.org?subject=Dollar%20store%20food">meng@wbez.org</a>.</em></div><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Thu, 27 Aug 2015 17:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/dining-dollar-store-112780 Tax on sugary drinks gets pushback http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/tax-sugary-drinks-gets-pushback-112752 <p><p dir="ltr">Just weeks after Chicago Ald. George Cardenas&rsquo; proposed a penny-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks, the soda industry shot back with a battery of testimonials.</p><p dir="ltr">They came from an industry funded group called the<a href="http://illinoisbeverage.org/chicago-coalition-against-beverage-taxes-launches-opposition-to-discriminatory-beverage-tax/"> Chicago Coaltion Against Beverage Taxes</a>. And among its members is the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Omar Duque leads the chamber and says its members would be &ldquo;adversely affected by the tax&rdquo; because it would drive soda sales down.</p><p dir="ltr">But that&rsquo;s exactly why Esther Sciammerella of the Chicago Hispanic Health Coalition supports a tax.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We see the increases in obesity in children and adults in the Hispanic community, and the issue of diabetes and metabolic syndrome has become epidemic,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;So we advocate drinking water, not soda.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="The proposed tax on sugary drinks would fund obesity prevention programs, but the Chicago Coalition Against Beverage Taxes says soda taxes don't better public health. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/HKNfY0sCT1cBDGupbjiw643iZ_PT5_P6HVlAG1TU2CQh3aMsZruWsf9-2AmnRNTlPjR3i2vOIuZb4Id3RDqEgi3-KRaYMH-pwn76XmRpVefHSeBk3Rq3XkVG2CT99CUK1MzvMyw" style="text-align: center; font-family: Arial; font-size: 14.6666669845581px; white-space: pre-wrap; border: none; transform: rotate(0rad); height: 241px; width: 300px; float: left; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px;" title="The proposed tax on sugary drinks would fund obesity prevention programs, but the Chicago Coalition Against Beverage Taxes says soda taxes don't better public health. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" /></p><p dir="ltr">Duque says he recognizes that Latinos suffer from high levels of sugar-related disease. &nbsp;But he doesn&rsquo;t think a local soda tax--that builds on sugar taxes already in place--would help.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Our particular opposition is specifically focused around the fact that studies show that punitive taxes around this don&rsquo;t solve the issue,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;An excise tax on sugared beverages would drive down product sales, but it would not really push the needle to reduce obesity.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">As evidence, he cites taxes on sugary beverages in Arkansas and West Virginia, which have some of the highest obesity rates in the nation. But Elissa Bassler of the Illinois Public Health Institute--which is also backing a<a href="http://iphionline.org/2015/03/heal-act-reintroduced-makes-a-splash/"> state soda tax</a> to fund Medicaid--believes the comparison is inappropriate.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The [soda] taxes in those states are much much lower and they don&rsquo;t go to fund prevention programs like the proposals in Chicago and Illinois&rsquo;,&rdquo; she said. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The proposed city soda tax would fund health programs in Chicago Public Schools. And supporters of the state tax say it could raise $600 million for Medicaid and obesity prevention each year.</p><p dir="ltr">For many, soda taxes are complicated issues in low-income minority communities. According to <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/163997/regular-soda-popular-young-nonwhite-low-income.aspx">2013 Gallup data,</a> whites drink sugary soda only about half as often as minorities. &nbsp;And those who make more than $75,000 a year are half as likely to drink regular soda as those who make less than $30,000 a year.</p><p dir="ltr">So Bassler concedes that the excise tax could affect the pocketbook of low-income minorities more than others.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;But we need to remember [minorities] are also disproportionately targeted by the marketers for sugary drinks,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;And those are the communities that are most impacted by the health problems attributable to excess consumption of sugary drinks.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The Chicago Coalition Against Beverage Taxes is not the first such coalition funded by the soda industry. Similar groups crop up in most places taxes are proposed. A <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/13/nyregion/behind-soda-industrys-win-a-phalanx-of-sponsored-minority-groups.html?_r=0">2013 New York Times investigation</a> also detailed millions in soda industry funding to minority groups who would later come out vocally against soda taxes.</p><p dir="ltr">Duque says Coca-Cola is, and has been a dues-paying member of his organization for around 20 years. But he says that has nothing to do with his opposition to the tax.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We are not being paid off to be part of this,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We represent businesses in our community, that hire people and have a positive impact in the communities in which they operate and their employees live. They&rsquo;re telling us that they would be adversely affected by this tax. The more we can help these business to continue to operate and be profitable, the more of an impact we&rsquo;re going to have on our economy.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Still, Sciammerella of the Chicago Hispanic Health Coalition questions those priorities.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;What is the positive role of businesses who are not helping the health of the community?&rdquo; she asks. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m pro-health and helping people to be less sick. What good are profits if they come with the consequence of increased illness in the community?&rdquo;</p><p><br /><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at<a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a>&nbsp;or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em><br /><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 27 Aug 2015 15:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/tax-sugary-drinks-gets-pushback-112752 Despite the drought, California farms see record sales http://www.wbez.org/sections/water/despite-drought-california-farms-see-record-sales-112741 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/gettyimages-471006602-99705b6d250521f4014e8c84f29849326d342a59-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>While prolonged drought has put a strain on California agriculture, most of the state&#39;s farms, it seems, aren&#39;t just surviving it: They are prospering.</p><p>The environment, though, that&#39;s another story. We&#39;ll get to that.</p><p>But first, the prosperity. According to new&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/farm-income-and-wealth-statistics/annual-cash-receipts-by-commodity.aspx#P892cc423657a499584e30a89895d0f4d_2_16iT0R0x5">figures</a>&nbsp;from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2014, the year the drought really hit, California&#39;s farmers sold $54 billion worth of crops like almonds or grapes, and animal products like milk.</p><p>That&#39;s an all-time record, up 5 percent over the previous year, and an increase of 20 percent from 2012.</p><p>If you&#39;re surprised by this, you haven&#39;t been paying close attention, says&nbsp;<a href="http://are.ucdavis.edu/en/people/faculty/daniel-sumner/#pk_campaign=short-name-redirect&amp;pk_kwd=sumner">Daniel Sumner</a>, an agricultural economist at the University of California, Davis. It&#39;s been clear for some time, he says, that California&#39;s farmers did very well last year.</p><p>There are two keys to the record-breaking revenues. The first is prices. &quot;You have all-time high prices over the whole range of crops,&quot; says Richard Howitt, another economist at UC Davis.</p><p>Second, even though farmers didn&#39;t get their normal supply of water from rivers and reservoirs, they pumped it from underground aquifers instead. According to a&nbsp;<a href="https://watershed.ucdavis.edu/files/biblio/DroughtReport_23July2014_0.pdf">report</a>&nbsp;that Sumner and Howitt co-authored last year, farmers in 2014 replaced about 75 percent of their surface water deficit by draining their groundwater reserves.</p><p>James McFarlane, who grows almonds and citrus near Fresno, is one of those farmers. He says that drought has been &quot;beyond terrible&quot; for some farmers. But for him personally? &quot;It&#39;s been a good year. We&#39;ve been able to make some money, and you have to just count your blessings and call that a good year,&quot; he says.</p><p>McFarlane has received some irrigation water from Kings River, via the Fresno Irrigation District, but he is also pumping water from his wells. &quot;If it weren&#39;t for the wells, we couldn&#39;t have made it work,&quot; he says.</p><p>Howitt says that there are two contrasting realities in California agriculture these days. &quot;Some people just don&#39;t have the underground water. You meet these people and they really are in poor shape,&quot; he says. But where there is water, &quot;you have investors pouring money into planting these almond trees at a rate that they&#39;ve never seen before.&quot;</p><p>But this is also where the environmental damage comes in. Those underground reserves are getting depleted, wells are going dry, and in many locations, the land is sinking as water is drawn out. When this happens, it permanently reduces the soil&#39;s ability to absorb and store water in the future.</p><p>California has enacted new rules that eventually should stop farmers from pumping so much groundwater, but for now, it continues. This year, California&#39;s farmers are still pumping enough groundwater to replace about 70 percent of the shortfall in surface water, according to a new UC Davis&nbsp;<a href="https://watershed.ucdavis.edu/files/biblio/Final_Drought%20Report_08182015_Full_Report_WithAppendices.pdf">report</a>.</p><p>Such massive use of groundwater can&#39;t continue forever, and high commodity prices probably won&#39;t, either. Milk prices already have fallen, and if China stops buying so much of California&#39;s nut production, those prices may crash as well.</p><p>On the good side, though, maybe rain and snow will return, filling the reservoirs again.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/08/27/434649587/despite-the-drought-california-farms-see-record-sales?ft=nprml&amp;f=434649587" target="_blank"><em>NPR&#39;s The Salt</em></a></p></p> Thu, 27 Aug 2015 05:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/water/despite-drought-california-farms-see-record-sales-112741 Low wheat prices leave a gluten glut at Midwest's grain elevators http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/low-wheat-prices-leave-gluten-glut-midwests-grain-elevators-112642 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/ap_133792988199_wide-7fe03c7ed92b6fea41438a880b1a66cedd8bb9e9-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The sun hasn&#39;t been up long in Kingfisher, Okla., but it already feels like it&#39;s burning. Trucks are moving wheat as people try to get their work done early. It looks like business as usual for a hot summer day an hour northwest of Oklahoma City.</p><p>Henry Senn, Jim Willms and Bill Stolz come to CHS Plains Partners, the local grain elevator, just about every day to share stories from the good old days and talk about wheat prices.</p><p>They harvested their wheat in early June, but with spring floods, the quality of the wheat wasn&#39;t good. That&#39;s one of the factors driving down prices and keeping the grain elevators at capacity.</p><p>Right, now, the price for a bushel of wheat is slumping to just over $5, the lowest it&#39;s been in five years, and these farmers that costs them a lot of money &mdash; as much as $20,000 or $30,000 for an average grower, Senn says.</p><p>&quot;Three years ago, the average wheat price in the United States was $7.70 a bushel, and it cost about $4.75 to produce it. There was a lot of profit,&quot; says Oklahoma State University professor Kim Anderson, who helps farmers figure out when to sell their wheat. &quot;You could make a lot of money raising wheat, and so farmers raised wheat.&quot;</p><p>So, over the past several years, supply on the world market has been steadily increasing, but demand hasn&#39;t been.</p><p>And that&#39;s not the only factor. The value of the dollar is up, making it more expensive for overseas customers to buy American wheat. Jay Minton manages several grain elevators for Plains Partners in Oklahoma.</p><p>Jay Minton, who manages several grain elevators in the area for Plains Partners, says about a third of the 2015 harvest there has been sold.</p><p>In the Kingfisher elevator, Senn absently drums his fingers on the folding table as coffee time nears an end. He and his friends say they have extra income from oil and gas wells, so Senn says they haven&#39;t sold any of their 2015 crop.</p><p>&quot;Not a bit. You probably haven&#39;t either? You haven&#39;t either,&quot; he says. &quot;We&#39;re hoping, surely, it&#39;ll make a little spurt before the first of the year. Usually does.&quot;</p><p>Whether the wheat price rallies or not, these men are off to work. Today, they&#39;re spraying weeds and preparing the ground for next year&#39;s crop. Planting starts in less than six weeks.</p><p><em>&mdash; via <a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/08/13/432017353/low-wheat-prices-leave-a-gluten-glut-at-midwests-grain-elevators">NPR News</a></em></p></p> Thu, 13 Aug 2015 08:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/low-wheat-prices-leave-gluten-glut-midwests-grain-elevators-112642 Thai Town opens at last in Albany Park http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/thai-town-opens-last-albany-park-112329 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 10.44.29 PM.png" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">After four years of delays, chef Arun Sampathavivat finally opened his <a href="http://www.wbez.org/can-arun-sampanthavivat-create-chicago-neighborhood-scratch-108701">Thai Town Center</a>&nbsp;in Albany Park.</p><p dir="ltr">The center is housed in an old police station and features a restaurant, noodle bar, wellness center, and Buddhist shrine. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">On Sunday evening the chef was working the dining room, serving dishes and explaining the long delays.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It has dragged on and on and we ran into dilemmas, one after another, he said. &quot;We almost lost funding in the middle and we had to stop and raise funds again.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The chef who brought upscale Thai food to Chicago with his elegant restaurant Arun says people had been asking him to open a casual place for years.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;For the first time people will have accessibility to eat my food and now they can&rsquo;t complain [about price and exclusivity],&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;This will appeal to the public with affordable prices and we want to welcome little kids to start them on this kind of food early on.&ldquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Currently only the shrine and the restaurant are open to the public, but Sampathavivat says that he hopes to open the noodle bar in the next month and the wellness center (which will be called Arunati) in 6 to 8 months.</p><p dir="ltr">In the meantime, the chef says he hopes food fans will come and enjoy his Thai cooking. He&#39;s especially proud of his &ldquo;sour curry and stewed pork ham hock.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I could never imagine that an American guest would have a stomach for sour curry,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;But [Saturday] after he finished it, he ordered another to take it home. And the ham hock is the very best dish of Thailand. We only cook it a day or two each week and then we rotate.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">In 2011, the Thai Town project was awarded more than $1 million in tax increment financing from Ald. Margaret Laurino, who faced criticism for the move. But she defended it saying that she believed it would add value to the neighborhood.</p><p dir="ltr">The chef says he hopes to use the Center to attract national and international visitors to the neighborhood.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Mon, 06 Jul 2015 22:42:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/thai-town-opens-last-albany-park-112329