WBEZ | U.S. Department of Agriculture http://www.wbez.org/tags/us-department-agriculture Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Lunch staffers to CPS: We want to cook http://www.wbez.org/story/lunch-ladies-school-officials-dump-frozen-food-95793 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-January/2012-01-24/cityroom_20100407_llutton_1648854_Chic_large.png.crop_display.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago schools are serving more healthy food than they were a couple years ago, but many kitchen workers seem to think the district still has a long way to go.</p><p>For the 2010-11 school year, Chicago Public Schools switched to menus with more whole grains, a wider array of vegetables, and less sodium, starch, sugar and fat. For the current school year, the district made its breakfast offerings more nutritious. The district says it’s also adding more salad bars.</p><p>A union that represents about 3,200 CPS food workers on Tuesday released survey findings suggesting that many students and even school principals are not eating the chow. UNITE HERE Local 1 criticized the district’s use of frozen food prepared off site, and called on the Board of Education to “ensure that all new school construction proj­ects are planned with full-size kitchen facilities capable of real cooking.”</p><p>Linda Green, a 22-year CPS employee who works in the Southwest Side’s Grimes Elementary kitchen, said students are eating less of what she serves than they once did. “There is a lot of waste because it’s just unappetizing,” said Green, who helped conduct the survey. “If it’s cooked on site you can use more seasoning and make it more flavorful.”</p><p>Local 1 said 436 CPS food employees completed the survey in December. According to the union, 42 percent felt that students were eating the new food, 50 percent reported they rarely or never had observed their principals eating their cafeteria’s lunch offerings, 75 percent indicated they had not had a chance to provide input about the new menu and recipes, 62 percent wanted more training on healthy food and 39 percent felt they could report food quality or safety concerns to parents or students without facing discipline.</p><p>A CPS statement says about a quarter of the district’s schools now serve food prepared mostly off site. The statement says that “all new elementary schools are being built with a warming kitchen” and that “all new middle and high schools are being built with cooking kitchens.”</p><p>“The food that is brought into the warming kitchen meets the same nutritional guidelines as the food in the cooking school model,” the statement adds. “We are committed to providing healthy and nutritious meals for all students at all schools. Delivery of this meal may depend on a variety of factors including kitchen capacity, facility size and condition as well as cost. However, nutritional standards are consistent across all schools. Vendors, regardless of delivery system, are expected to meet the same nutritional standards.”</p><p>The survey findings came as the U.S. Department of Agriculture planned a Wednesday unveiling of the first major changes in school meal standards in more than 15 years. The department says the new rules aim to reduce childhood obesity by “ensuring kids are offered fruits and vegetables every day of the week, substantially increasing offerings of whole grain-rich foods, offering only fat-free or low-fat milk varieties and making sure kids are getting proper portion sizes.”</p><p>A version of the guidelines the department proposed more than a year ago would also have cut down on potatoes, made it harder for schools to report pizza tomato paste as a vegetable, and halved the amount of sodium in school meals. In November, lawmakers blocked the department from carrying out those rules.</p></p> Wed, 25 Jan 2012 00:43:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/lunch-ladies-school-officials-dump-frozen-food-95793 Agriculture funding bill passes House, odd amendments and all http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-06-17/agriculture-funding-bill-passes-house-odd-amendments-and-all-87990 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-June/2011-06-17/salmon1_custom.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>What do genetically engineered salmon, school lunch standards, and a controversial abortion pill have in common? They're all part of the House <a href="http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d112:h.r.2112:">agriculture appropriations bill</a> that passed Thursday by a vote of 217 to 203.</p><p>The ag spending bill that keeps the country's farm and food programs rolling is often a magnet for specialized amendments, and this year it offers a peek into brewing battles over the federal deficit.</p><p>As part of their pledge to reign in spending, House GOP leaders worked hard to keep the cost of the bill down — too far down — say Democrats.</p><p></p><p>"As the Congress continues the battle to lower spending, cut waste and create jobs, this bill represents a reduction of 13.4 percent in discretionary funding and makes the tough choices necessary to reduce spending while keeping our bill's basic missions of food production, food and drug safety, rural development and nutrition programs intact," said Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Jack Kingston of Georgia.</p><p>Democrats, who lost in their efforts to restore some of the funding during the course of the three-day debate, disagree.</p><p>A big Democratic complaint is that the bill cuts more than $650 million from the <a href="http://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/">Women, Infants and Children</a> nutrition program, which usually enjoys broad bipartisan support. About half the babies born in this country are eligible, and up to 350,000 people could be <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/06/14/137176147/house-debates-funding-cuts-for-food-safety-nutrition-programs?ps=sh_sthdl">turned away</a> if the cuts are sustained.</p><p>The House bill also makes significant cuts to government food safety programs at a time when <em>E. coli</em> outbreaks are a <a href="http://www.npr.org/2011/06/14/137103265/more-burger-tests-good-for-health-but-too-costly">rising concern</a> and salmonella is getting worse.</p><p>However, farm subsidies did not appear to be a place where the House thought it should <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/15/republicans-food-aid-women-farm-subsidies_n_877265.html">cut back</a>. For example, it rejected efforts by Arizona Republican <a href="http://flake.house.gov/">Jeff Flake</a> to cut farm subsidies for people earning more than $250,000 a year.</p><p>The bill effectively guts the USDA's new school lunch nutrition standards by sending the department back to the drawing board to re-write the rules. That means the <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2010/12/02/131761469/house-passes-bill-to-upgrade-school-lunches">6-cents-per-lunch increase</a> schools that comply with the new standards were expecting may evaporate.</p><p>"For millions of children, the meals they eat at school serve as a nutritional safety net — denying these children healthy options at school is just another example of House Republicans choosing to prioritize oil companies and big business instead of the children who need our help the most," said House Education and Workforce ranking Democrat George Miller of California after the House vote.</p><p>The bill also contains some surprise amendments, like the one that prevents the Food and Drug Administration from approving <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2010/09/21/130015372/a-fishy-question-about-genetically-engineered-salmon">genetically engineered salmon</a> and the one blocking any funds from being used for mifepristone, commonly known as the abortion pill, <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=18195345">RU-486</a>.</p><p>But the House bill is not the final word. The Senate still has to write its version, and that process is at least several weeks away, congressional aides say. <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. </p> Fri, 17 Jun 2011 08:47:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-06-17/agriculture-funding-bill-passes-house-odd-amendments-and-all-87990 After wild weather, higher food prices on horizon http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-06-11/after-wild-weather-higher-food-prices-horizon-87734 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/npr_story/photo/2011-June/2011-06-13/109197582.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Throughout April and May, U.S. farmers faced floods, tornadoes, downpours and droughts — all of which made planting difficult. Now in June, intense heat has been sweeping over much of the country.</p><p>The harsh weather likely will reduce the fall's harvest, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That, in turn, could further drive up grocery prices for consumers.</p><p>"Farmers had everything thrown at them" by Mother Nature this spring, USDA economist Gerald Bange said. "Excessive rains led to planting delays, and then some of what was already planted actually got flooded."</p><p>The violent storms and persistent rains were especially challenging for Midwestern farmers who needed to get their corn crops planted by mid-May to maximize the harvest, Bange said.</p><p>The USDA has reduced its June estimate of planted corn acres by 1.5 million acres, down from its March "planting intentions" survey to 90.7 million acres. That means U.S. farmers are on track to produce 13.2 billion bushels this year, down 305 million bushels from the May estimate.</p><p>Bange said the harvest should be a record, but still will be too small to meet the record demand. "We are seeing very, very strong demand for corn for bio-energy, livestock feed input and export," he said.</p><p>Prices have been shooting up along with the surging demand. The cash price of a bushel is now at $7.75, up from $3.20 at this time last year. Some analysts expect the price to keep climbing to $9.</p><p>All of that could have a big — and bad — impact on consumers. Economists are predicting meat prices will rise 7 percent this year. And that would hurt consumers, who already have seen the average price per pound of beef rise 8 percent over the past year, according to data compiled by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.</p><p>The problem of rising prices is not confined to corn-fed beef. In fact, most food prices are trending up. This past week, the American Farm Bureau Federation released its spring Market Basket survey of 16 common food items purchased at supermarkets. It found that on average, prices were 8 percent higher than one year ago.</p><p>A number of food companies, including Kraft, Kellogg, Sara Lee and Smucker, have raised prices to keep up with the surge in the cost of ingredients like corn, oats, coffee and so on. Many restaurants, including McDonald's, also have raised prices.</p><p>But Bange noted that food price hikes reflect much more than just the Midwestern flooding and the Southwestern drought. The trend toward higher prices has been in place for months — and is a global phenomenon.</p><p>A United Nations report issued last week showed that global food prices have been unusually high this year. The U.N.'s global price index for meat hit a record high in May. The U.N. blamed bad weather, high oil prices, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and export policies that restrict the flow of food.</p><p>But the single biggest factor is soaring demand for food as the world gets more crowded. Inventories of food stocks of all sorts are quite low all over the world, according to Ben Grossman-Cohen, a spokesman for Oxfam America, an international relief and development organization.</p><p>The tight inventories keep prices high, making it hard for poor people to eat. "About a billion people go hungry every day because they can't afford to grow or buy enough food," he said.</p><p>On June 22-23, the agriculture ministers of the so-called G-20 — a group of the world's biggest countries — will meet in Paris to discuss food issues. They are planning to launch an initiative called the "Agriculture Market Information System." This system would push countries to more honestly report on agriculture. For example, China has always been secretive about its stocks of food. So if China signs on, it would start to release more data about its food inventories and consumption.</p><p>The agriculture ministers say transparency is important. If countries had a clearer idea of what crops were being planted and how they were coming along, then officials could respond more quickly in a coordinated way whenever they see food shortages developing. More crop information also would cut down on price speculation. <div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. <img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1307851329?&gn=After+Wild+Weather%2C+Higher+Food+Prices+On+Horizon&ev=event2&ch=1006&h1=Around+the+Nation,Food,Environment,Your+Money,Economy,Business,U.S.,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=137129634&c7=1006&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1006&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110611&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c21=10&v21=D%3Dc2&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></div></p></p> Sat, 11 Jun 2011 18:44:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-06-11/after-wild-weather-higher-food-prices-horizon-87734 Food prices likely to decrease with greater supplies http://www.wbez.org/story/corn/govt-boosts-estimates-corn-soybean-supplies <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/corn_Bloomberg.jpg" alt="" /><p>The government estimates corn and soybean reserves will be higher than initially estimated. That should ease some concerns about rising food prices. The U.S. Agriculture Department predicts there will be about 122.5 million metric tons of corn left over after this year's harvest, up from an estimated 123.1 metric tons in last month's estimate. There should be about 58.2 million metric tons of soybeans left over, compared with last month's estimate of 58.3 million. Lower reserves caused global grain prices to double this year. The government estimates that food prices could rise more than 3 percent this year as processed food makers and grocery stores pass along their higher costs for raw ingredients.</p> Thu, 10 Mar 2011 17:13:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/corn/govt-boosts-estimates-corn-soybean-supplies Federal food stamp program fails some low-income Chicagoans http://www.wbez.org/story/audio-engineering/federal-food-stamp-program-fails-some-low-income-chicagoans <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/001.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois uses $2 billion of the federal food stamp program.That translates into a lot of assistance for food, but it doesn&rsquo;t always translate into assistance for healthy food. Parts of Chicago are food deserts &ndash; places where there&rsquo;re few grocery stores with fresh produce and meat. Often, low-income families who rely on food stamps shop at liquor stores, gas stations and dollar stores. A WBEZ investigation found that these retailers make up 30 percent of the food stamp providers in Chicago.These places offer more junk food than fresh food, but the federal government still gives these stores the green light to accept food stamps.&nbsp;</p><p>Caroline Ellis is at Citgo buying gas &hellip; and snacks.</p><div><em>ambi: I want five on one first and I want this on Link.</em></div><div>&nbsp;</div> <div>Ellis uses her Link Card, or food stamps, to buy two cans of pop and two bags of chips.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>Besides a few bananas near the cash register, there&rsquo;s not much healthy food here. After all, it is a gas station.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>As Ellis pumps gas outside, she explains Citgo is not where she grocery shops.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>ELLIS: See, I have a vehicle. A lot of people don&rsquo;t have vehicles so they not able to get around and they forced to buy this stuff. I can ride past Western on Cicero to get me some fresh fruit, vegetables or whatever I need. I don&rsquo;t buy fruits and vegetables and things like that at a gas station.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>Ellis is in the Woodlawn neighborhood on Chicago&rsquo;s South Side. She travels several miles just to shop for fresh groceries.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>That&rsquo;s because she lives in a food desert &ndash; a community lacking healthy food or mainstream grocery stores. More than half a million Chicagoans live in such food deserts. The areas tend to be low-income and minority.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>There are more than 2200 authorized food stamp retailers in Chicago. WBEZ found that 14 percent are gas stations or liquor stores.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>Another 15 percent are pharmacies and dollar stores.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>ambi: One Stop Store describing: You see garlic because people like garlic. Lemons, because people like lemons. Green apples&hellip;but you can&rsquo;t put that much out there.</em></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Michael H. works at One-Stop on 73rd and Racine. It&rsquo;s a cross between a dollar store and a corner store. An on-duty butcher cuts meat, but there are only four heads of cabbage, three withered lemons, sweet potatoes and a box of onions. On the other hand, One-Stop is heavy on potato chips and pop. Still, it&rsquo;s an authorized food stamp retailer.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>Here are Michael&rsquo;s thoughts if the federal government ever gave the store a decree for more healthy food:</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>MICHAEL: The thought is real good, but being such a small store&hellip;I would probably say this, I could add it, but I wouldn&rsquo;t have to keep it where I can store it, because people ain&rsquo;t gonna buy it.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>He adds, he&rsquo;d have to raise prices, too.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>I hear arguments like Michael&rsquo;s at a lot of gas stations and liquor stores I visit.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>Over and over, they say it&rsquo;s too hard to keep fresh food &hellip; so they don&rsquo;t offer much.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>GALLAGHER: There are two problems with the USDA food stamp retailer program. One, the standards are too low. And two we&rsquo;re not in compliance with the low standards.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>Mari Gallagher is a national food desert researcher based in Chicago.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>GALLAGHER: The food stamp program is in effect rewarding people who are not playing by the rules and generally these stores that are not playing by the rules are of a lower retail caliber. And they attract more of the same.</div> <div>The U.S. Department of Agriculture does have criteria for SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program&hellip;commonly known as food stamps.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>For one, tobacco and alcohol can&rsquo;t be bought.&nbsp;</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>Next, there must be at least three varieties of food in four staple food groups.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>They have to offer perishable foods in at least two of these categories: meat, poultry or fish; bread or cereal; vegetables or fruits and finally, dairy products.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>And last &hellip; More than half of the dollar amount of all things sold has to be from the sale of eligible staple foods.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>And, yep &hellip; that&rsquo;s supposed to include gas stations.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>But these rules aren&rsquo;t always followed at outlets that take food stamps.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>ambi of liquor store, bags rustling</em></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>At ER&amp;J Food and Liquor, owner Elias Abuelizam basically admits that he&rsquo;s not adhering to the standards. But when USDA officials visit him, they don&rsquo;t cite him.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>ABUELIZAM: I&rsquo;m a liquor store mostly. I got food and liquor. We sell liquor but food is slow these days but it&rsquo;s okay, it&rsquo;s not that much.</div> <div>Again, there&rsquo;re 2200 stores that accept food stamps in Chicago, but USDA officials say they haven&rsquo;t kicked out even one retailer in fiscal year 2010 for noncompliance.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>Kevin Concannon is USDA&rsquo;s Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services. I ask him if the benchmarks are high enough.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>CONCANNON: I&rsquo;ve asked the question myself to be perfectly frank. It certainly bothers me when I see a sign, the preeminent sign in front of the store is liquor and then the store meets the criteria minimally to be able to process the SNAP program of food stamps.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>Concannon says he hopes the 2012 Farm Bill will increase requirements around food stamp choices. His agency points to the growing inclusion of farmer&rsquo;s markets as a way to wipe out food deserts.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>He doesn&rsquo;t accept the rationalization store owners provide &ndash; again, that people just won&rsquo;t buy healthy food. Concannon says a different food program known as Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC, has worked.&nbsp; It&rsquo;s expanded food choices. More fruits, less fat. He says there&rsquo;s evidence that when a store offers WIC food &hellip; even people outside the program buy healthier items.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>The problem is &hellip; for now, current food stamp program requirements are still low.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>So in people in food deserts are literally hungry for produce.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>There are efforts to fill in the gap &hellip;.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>ambi of food pantry: number 41</em></div><div>&nbsp;</div> <div>Deanna Haymer shows up for some free produce at a food pantry in Chicago&rsquo;s Englewood neighborhood.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>Five produce trucks come by once a month. On this Friday morning, about 200 people file in for cucumbers, lettuce and grapefruit.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>Deanna Haymer loads up her cardboard box.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>ambi: yeah, I know how to cook green beans</em></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Haymer says her produce options have been dicey. A Food 4 Less store recently opened a few blocks from her, but before that, she shopped at liquor stores and gas stations.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>HAYMER: I&rsquo;m not satisfied with what I get but sometimes you just have to accept what you can get at the time. Like the fruit sometimes it be like mushy or the green peppers be a different color or shriveled up.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>Transportation has been a huge problem for Haymer.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>In fact, a lot of low-income families can&rsquo;t drive or use public transit to shop outside their neighborhoods.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>Experts say we need to get creative to fix the problem of food deserts and food stamp standards.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>That doesn&rsquo;t just mean getting more mainstream grocery stores to open in food deserts.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>Researcher Mari Gallagher says one idea is to improve all the stores that already accept food stamps.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>GALLAGHER: What if we worked with those stores and said hey, we&rsquo;re going to use carrots and sticks. The ones who are going to have the different types of dairy products and other kind of products that support a healthy diet can stay in the program. And the ones who don&rsquo;t will have to get out. I think that would actually not only improve public health but it would help revitalize the market because stores would have to step up.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>It might not seem fair to let some communities be dominated by dollar or liquor stores.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div>But Gallagher says, with the right tools, those stores could actually increase healthy food options ... and not just be the destinations for junk food that they are right now.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> Liquor stores and gas stations <iframe src="http://www.batchgeo.com/map/1d1f724353941d155fd5f15dccc328d1" frameborder="0" width="500" height="600"></iframe> Drug stores and dollar stores <iframe src="http://www.batchgeo.com/map/031d35fa401d23bb26a483aea2eed6e2" frameborder="0" width="500" height="600"></iframe> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:RelyOnVML /> <o:AllowPNG /> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> 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mso-para-margin-left:0in; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} </style> <![endif]--><em>Pritzker Journalism Fellow Icoi Johnson contributed to this report. </em></div><div><em><br /></em></div><div><em>Music Button: Mike Reed's Loose Assembly, &quot;Ghost Writer&quot;, from the CD Last Year's Ghost, (482 Music)</em><iframe height="600" frameborder="0" width="500" src="http://www.batchgeo.com/map/1d1f724353941d155fd5f15dccc328d1"></iframe></div><p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: center;">Drug Drug stores and dollar stores <iframe height="600" frameborder="0" width="500" src="http://www.batchgeo.com/map/031d35fa401d23bb26a483aea2eed6e2"></iframe></p></p> Mon, 22 Nov 2010 22:07:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/audio-engineering/federal-food-stamp-program-fails-some-low-income-chicagoans America's hunger problem moves beyond starvation http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/americas-hunger-problem-moves-beyond-starvation <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Chicago Food Depository.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>According to the latest statistics from the <a href="http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome" target="_blank">U.S. Department of Agriculture</a>, about 50 million Americans, including about 17 million children, lack consistent access to food. There are efforts to improve this situation. Back in August, the U.S. Senate passed the <a href="http://ag.senate.gov/site/legislation.html" target="_blank">Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act</a>. The bill still requires congressional approval.</p><p>To discuss hunger in America and how it plays out in Chicago, Eight Forty-Eight spoke to the CEO of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, <a href="/www.chicagosfoodbank.org/site/DocServer/MaehrBio_10.09.pdf?docID=5041" target="_blank">Kate Maehr</a>.</p></p> Mon, 22 Nov 2010 14:22:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/americas-hunger-problem-moves-beyond-starvation