WBEZ | USDA http://www.wbez.org/tags/usda Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Is a national policy on school milk boosting lunchtime waste? http://www.wbez.org/news/national-policy-school-milk-boosting-lunchtime-waste-113813 <p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">One day this fall, first grader Russell Muchow brought his usual bagged lunch from home to Kellogg Elementary School in the far Southwest Side Beverly neighborhood. &nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">When it came time for lunch, he wanted to have a cold milk. But when he asked for a carton in the lunch line, his mom Molly Muchow says Russell was told, &ldquo;in order to take the milk (he) had to take the lunch.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/20151103_122235_resized.jpg" style="height: 500px; width: 281px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; float: right;" title="Inside school garbage can. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" />But the 6-year-old already had a lunch and if he took a second one, he&rsquo;d just have to throw it away. It didn&rsquo;t make sense to him. So when he got home, Molly Muchow says, &ldquo;he was distraught&rdquo; over being told he had to take food he couldn&#39;t eat. &ldquo;That is not what we teach them at home. We don&rsquo;t throw out food. That is unacceptable.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Muchow says she called up the Kellogg school &nbsp;lunch director (Chicago Public Schools officials did not respond to WBEZ requests to interview the lunch director.) and basically got the same message: kids can&rsquo;t take free milk unless they take the whole meal.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">&ldquo;So I said I&rsquo;d just pay for the milk extra,&rdquo; Muchow recalled. &ldquo;And [the lunch director] told me it would actually be better for me to have him take the lunch even if he was going to throw it out, for budget reasons, and numbers and for them.&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">This may sound outrageous from a food waste perspective, but from a school money angle, it&rsquo;s true.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">That&rsquo;s because for each child who takes the full meal &mdash; which includes an entree with milk and a side of fruits or vegetables</span>&nbsp;&mdash; the U.S. Department of Agriculture pays CPS $3.15, which it shares with the food service company Aramark.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">But if a child just takes a milk, the district and Aramark get nothing from the feds.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">The situation recently dominated a Kellogg Local School Council meeting, but it&rsquo;s an issue that&rsquo;s rooted in federal policy.</span></p><p dir="ltr">&quot;In order for it to be a reimbursable meal by USDA the lunch needs to include all the meal components,&quot; explained USDA regional administrator Tim English. &quot;And that would be a grain, vegetable or fruit, milk and meat or meat alternate. The idea is that we want to provide kids who are taking school lunch with a well-rounded meal.&quot;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/8546053033_e95eaad450_k.jpg" style="text-align: center; height: 349px; width: 620px;" title="Students and parents at a Chicago public school say that when kids just want a single part of a meal--like a milk to go with a home lunch--they are pushed to take an entire free lunch. The full meal triggers payment from the federal government. Some think this could be generating a lot of food waste in schools. (flickr/USDA)" /></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">But it means kids who just want an egg or banana at breakfast, for instance, must take the rest of the meal, even if it&rsquo;s tossed in the garbage.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Starting last school year, most &nbsp;districts across the country like Chicago&rsquo;s, with a lot of low-income students, adopted the Community Eligibility Provision. That&rsquo;s a USDA program that &nbsp;makes all meals free to all students in the school or district regardless of income. This reduces mountains of free lunch application paperwork and the need to collect money in the lunchroom.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Students still have the ability to pay 45 cents for milk out of pocket each day. But Northwestern University economist and professor of social policy Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach says the policy doesn&#39;t make that likely.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">&ldquo;Under these circumstances, if you&rsquo;re getting the same thing and you can choose to pay for it or you can choose to get it for free the vast majority of people will choose to get the same item for free instead of paying for it,&rdquo; she said.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">&ldquo;The incentives here are certainly for kids to take what&rsquo;s free and then wastefully dispose of it,&rdquo; she continued, &ldquo;so it seems like there&rsquo;s room for a policy improvement so that kids can get just the milk for free instead of taking the whole meal and then throw part of it away.&rdquo;&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">That policy change would require an act of Congress &mdash; which happens to be reviewing the rules around school lunch right now, albeit at a slow pace.</span></p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/nutritionists-raise-glass-whole-milk-new-dietary-guidelines-113390" target="_blank"><span style="display: none;">&nbsp;</span><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/8542429717_dfe01d4a07_k.jpg" style="height: 207px; width: 310px; float: left; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px;" title="The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture have teamed up to revise the country’s dietary guidelines, as they have every five years since 1980. They aim to drop the longstanding limit on total fat consumption, which could clear the way for whole milk in school meal programs. (flickr/USDA)" /><span style="display: none;">&nbsp;</span></a></div></div><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">There is, however, a window for a quicker fix. CPS could choose to pick up the 45 cent tab when a student wants just a milk, making the less wasteful option an easy option (We found at least one district in Ohio where the superintendent says he decided to start doing this two months ago in response to food waste).</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Still, CPS rejects the idea, saying it would just cost too much. And, to be fair, this appears to be the stance of most districts across the nation, according to Tim English, the USDA director for the Midwest.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">So if free milk won&rsquo;t be an option in the district, how are the existing choices presented to students? Are kids told they can bring money to buy a milk? Are they encouraged to take more than they want? </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>We asked CPS to explain exactly how lunch staff are told to present the options, but officials would not talk to us about it. The district also would not give us permission to talk to the Kellogg lunch staff about the procedure they follow on the matter.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Kellogg parent Jill Zayauskas says she pretty clear about the way the options are handled at her school, and it makes her mad.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">&ldquo;My son was five when he first saw this and if a five-year-old knows wasting food is wrong then the people who plan this program should know that,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I just don&rsquo;t understand why children are forced to throw away a complete lunch to get chocolate milk and actually encouraged to do that so someone can make their quota. It&rsquo;s all about money&rdquo;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">About half of the money for each meal goes to food service company Aramark, which receives $1.31 for each lunch taken.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Kellogg mom Emily Lambert says students are getting mixed messages, right when they&rsquo;re in the middle of a food drive.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">&ldquo;My son is coming home every day asking to take food to school to give food to people who don&rsquo;t have it, while in the lunchroom they&#39;re throwing it away,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;They understand that it&rsquo;s wrong to throw away food that you have and you aren&rsquo;t going to eat.&rdquo; &nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">The USDA is also in the middle of its own campaign to reduce food waste by 50 percent in 15 years.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><em><span id="docs-internal-guid-21bd09b5-15d2-103d-de8b-cc3df2ad6f9d">Monica Eng is a WBEZ food and health reporter. Contact her at </span><a href="mailto:meng@wbez.org">meng@wbez.org</a> or follow her on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a></em></p></p> Tue, 17 Nov 2015 05:17:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/national-policy-school-milk-boosting-lunchtime-waste-113813 Small meat produces take their slaughterhouse gripes to Congress http://www.wbez.org/news/small-meat-produces-take-their-slaughterhouse-gripes-congress-113369 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/img_9073-524fd68bfe9ba02f55a34a5b59e5ff800ee9b6b5-s900-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res448956336" previewtitle="Greg Gunthorp converted his garage into a slaughterhouse so he wouldn't have to truck his hogs and turkeys to a federally inspected plant in Michigan."><div data-crop-type="" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="Greg Gunthorp converted his garage into a slaughterhouse so he wouldn't have to truck his hogs and turkeys to a federally inspected plant in Michigan." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/10/15/img_9073-524fd68bfe9ba02f55a34a5b59e5ff800ee9b6b5-s900-c85.jpg" style="height: 464px; width: 620px;" title="Greg Gunthorp converted his garage into a slaughterhouse so he wouldn't have to truck his hogs and turkeys to a federally inspected plant in Michigan. (Courtesy of Gunthorp Farms)" /></div><div data-crop-type="">Nowadays consumers are more willing to pay extra for a rack of ribs if it&#39;s produced nearby. A local bone-in rib eye is, on average, costs about $1 more than a conventional steak.<br /><br />A pound of locally sliced bacon has a $2 upcharge, according to retail reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.</div></div><p>What are we paying for when we pay more for local meat? Lots of things. But small producers say one key issue that&#39;s holding them back, and driving up costs, is the strict rules when it comes to how they slaughter their animals.</p><div id="res448959382">There aren&#39;t enough government-regulated slaughterhouses to go around anymore, for one. The number of small federally inspected cattle slaughter plants (that slaughter under 10,000 head per year) declined by 12 percent between 2001 and 2013, according to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/1763057/ap068.pdf">USDA</a>.</div><p>Meanwhile, the slaughterhouses that aren&#39;t as heavily regulated &ndash; called &quot;custom slaughterhouses&quot; &mdash; place too many restrictions on what cuts of meat small producers can sell, some small farmers say.</p><p>Small producers in remote areas often have to make long drives from the farm to the slaughterhouse, says Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union. They also have pay high processing costs to bring local meat to market.</p><p>Under the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/rulemaking/federal-meat-inspection-act">Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906</a>, farmers who want to sell meat commercially across state lines must get their animals slaughtered and processed at a meat plant that has been approved by the USDA. Government meat inspectors are required to be on the floor anytime those plants are operating.</p><p>To make it easier for more home-grown meat to reach consumers, a small but vocal group of farmers and local food advocates is trying to change federal meat inspection law.</p><div id="res448946774" previewtitle="Virginia farmer Joel Salatin says the PRIME Act would make it easier for consumers to buy more affordable local meat and give small farmers more access to the market."><div data-crop-type="" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="Virginia farmer Joel Salatin says the PRIME Act would make it easier for consumers to buy more affordable local meat and give small farmers more access to the market." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/10/15/joel-salatin_custom-91522c449d8bc32127615424fd1d23091ae6c9e9-s900-c85.jpeg" style="height: 415px; width: 620px;" title="Virginia farmer Joel Salatin says the PRIME Act would make it easier for consumers to buy more affordable local meat and give small farmers more access to the market. (Abbie Fentress Swanson for NPR)" /></div><div><div><p>Rep. Thomas Massie, a Republican from Kentucky who&#39;s also a grass-fed beef producer, introduced the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr3187/text">Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption Act (PRIME) Act</a>&nbsp;in July. The bill, if passed, would allow farmers to get their meat processed at custom slaughterhouses that are inspected by USDA occasionally but do not have meat inspectors overseeing daily operations. Farmers could then sell these custom cuts of meat commercially within state lines. It&#39;s currently legal for farmers to use custom slaughterhouses to process their own animals into frozen quarters and halves but these large quantities of meat cannot be labeled and commercially sold.</p></div></div></div><p>&quot;Under the PRIME Act, I can take a steer into custom slaughter and piece it out to 100 people, some of whom want a T-bone steak, and I could sell it retail,&quot; says Virginia farmer and local food advocate Joel Salatin. &quot;It would allow these small struggling community slaughterhouses to have an influx of business that would keep them surviving.&quot;</p><p>The PRIME Act now has 15 co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives and has been sent to the House Agriculture Committee. If the PRIME Act does not pass in this session, Rep. Massie says he plans to introduce it as an amendment to the next Farm Bill.</p><p>But some meatpackers and consumer advocates say they oppose the bill and are monitoring its progress.</p><p>Tony Corbo, a lobbyist for the consumer advocacy group Food &amp; Water Watch, says all of our meat should be inspected by trained workers at slaughterhouses and processing plants to prevent the spread of mad cow and other possible animal diseases.</p><p>Eric Mittenthal of the North American Meat Association agrees: &quot;Food safety standards should not be compromised for the convenience of a market segment,&quot; he says.</p><p>To stay in business, some producers have come up with their own creative solutions to deal with the dearth of slaughterhouses.</p><p>For years, Will Harris, owner of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.whiteoakpastures.com/">White Oak Pastures</a>&nbsp;in Georgia, says he hauled his cattle, sheep, hogs and poultry 100 miles to the closest federally inspected slaughterhouse. When the plant could no longer process his farm&#39;s growing volume of animals, Harris decided to build his own slaughterhouse and processing plant. But it wasn&#39;t cheap. Two abattoirs &ndash; one for cattle, hogs, sheep, goats and rabbits and another for chickens, turkeys, geese, guineas and ducks &ndash; cost Harris a whopping $7 million.</p><p>&quot;Building a facility that meets the standards for USDA to issue a certificate of inspection is expensive,&quot; says Harris. &quot;But any businessman who is willing to take the risk can build a USDA-inspected slaughterhouse<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/10/15/448942740/small-meat-producers-take-their-slaughterhouse-gripes-to-congress?ft=nprml&amp;f=448942740#_msocom_1" name="_msoanchor_1">[AS1]</a>&nbsp;.&quot;</p><p><img alt="It took several years for Greg Gunthorp to get USDA approval, but he now processes 60 hogs and 3,000 chickens each week on the farm, much of it for Rick Bayless' restaurants in Chicago." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/10/15/gunthorp-meat_custom-26d8a8e5c0e03edb615bb646a05de2e31722fb85-s300-c85.jpg" style="height: 407px; width: 300px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; float: right;" title="It took several years for Greg Gunthorp to get USDA approval, but he now processes 60 hogs and 3,000 chickens each week on the farm, much of it for Rick Bayless' restaurants in Chicago. (Courtesy of Gunthorp Farms)" /></p><p>Over in Indiana, Greg Gunthorp converted his garage into a slaughterhouse instead of trucking his hogs and poultry to a federally inspected meat plant in Michigan. It took several years for him to get USDA approval, but he now processes 60 hogs and 3,000 chickens each week on the farm, much of it for Rick Bayless restaurants in Chicago.</p><p>Pennsylvania farmer John Jamison bought a local slaughterhouse 21 years ago and converted it into a USDA-approved facility to process his grass-fed sheep and lamb. &quot;We did it because we couldn&#39;t find anyone to slaughter and process our meat at the quality level we needed. If we were going to grow our business, we had to be able to sell to restaurants,&quot; says Jamison.</p><p>The investment has been paying off: Jamison now counts chefs Dan Barber, William Telepan and Anne Quatrano among his chef clientele.</p><p>Another option, for farmers living in Washington, Arkansas, California, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, New York and Texas, is to hire a refrigerated USDA-approved mobile slaughter unit to harvest animals and process that meat on site.</p><p>&quot;USDA treats them like any other small plant. It&#39;s just they move around,&quot; says Bruce Dunlop, whose mobile slaughter unit was among the first to be approved by USDA in 2002.</p><p>Dunlop&#39;s truck and trailer is equipped with running water and heat, and processes animals at 70 farms in northwest Washington state.</p><p>But even with the growth of mobile slaughter units in parts of the country, it may be some time before customers see more affordable local meat at the farmers market or grocery store.</p><p>Barring changes to federal meat inspection law, farmers will still be required to truck their animals to the nearest certified meat plant, build their own slaughterhouse or come up with more inventive ways to bring their local meat to market.</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/10/15/448942740/small-meat-producers-take-their-slaughterhouse-gripes-to-congress?ft=nprml&amp;f=448942740" target="_blank"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Thu, 15 Oct 2015 16:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/small-meat-produces-take-their-slaughterhouse-gripes-congress-113369 Morning Shift: USDA re-evaluates the WIC program http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2014-10-13/morning-shift-usda-re-evaluates-wic-program-110926 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/dr.blackstexassuperfood.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We look at the USDA policy changes in dietary guidelines. And, we discuss how Illinois fares in electing diverse government officials.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-report-shines-light-on-poor-conditio/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-report-shines-light-on-poor-conditio.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-report-shines-light-on-poor-conditio" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: USDA re-evaluates the WIC program" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Mon, 13 Oct 2014 08:34:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2014-10-13/morning-shift-usda-re-evaluates-wic-program-110926 Morning Shift: Rental competition heats up in some of Chicago's emerging neighborhoods http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-07-29/morning-shift-rental-competition-heats-some-chicagos <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/discosour.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We talk about the USDA&#39;s push for healthier school options. And, we look at the growing competitive rental market in Chicago. And, how climate change impacts the cultural identify of some Indian Americans. Plus, sounds of traditional Son Joracho music.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-rental-wars-in-some-of-chicago-s-pri/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-rental-wars-in-some-of-chicago-s-pri.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-rental-wars-in-some-of-chicago-s-pri" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Rental competition heats up in some of Chicago's emerging neighborhoods" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Tue, 29 Jul 2014 08:27:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-07-29/morning-shift-rental-competition-heats-some-chicagos China's African empire http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-06-02/chinas-african-empire-110265 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/China photo.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>There are about one million Chinese citizens living in Africa at the moment. They are a major force of development on the continent. Author Howard French tells us how China is changing Africa.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-china-s-african-empire/embed?header=none&amp;border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-china-s-african-empire.js?header=none&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-china-s-african-empire" target="_blank">View the story "Worldview: China's African empire" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Mon, 02 Jun 2014 11:27:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-06-02/chinas-african-empire-110265 USDA to crack down on convenience stores that accept food stamps http://www.wbez.org/news/usda-crack-down-convenience-stores-accept-food-stamps-109895 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/corner store_140320_nm.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The recently enacted federal farm bill has a new provision requiring that convenience stores sell healthier food.</p><p>It requires &ldquo;depth of stock&rdquo; on the shelves of convenience stores that are in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, commonly known as food stamps.</p><p>Depth of stock means more varieties of fruits, vegetables, grains and meats.</p><p>&ldquo;Our goal is really primarily to make sure SNAP households or low-income households or people with limited income have access to healthy foods,&rdquo; said Kevin Concannon, Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.</p><p>Concannon said 82 percent of SNAP benefits are redeemed at supermarkets or big-box stores. The challenges are the small stores often in low-income neighborhoods. Last year USDA held <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fnews%2Fculture%2Fusda-seeks-input-food-stamp-program-108659&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGOlQP568wSsZPHjrqVQgY-yFPpgA">hearings</a> around the nation about policy changes at convenience stores.</p><p>Food access is a big issue in Chicago food deserts. Gas stations, liquor stores, dollar stores and corner stores are the most common grocers. They accept food stamps, but these retailers are typically repositories for junk food.&nbsp; And a common complaint has been that the USDA food stamp standards are too low and those low standards aren&rsquo;t enforced.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s too minimal, frankly,&rdquo; Concannon said.</p><p>The USDA has to iron out the regulations but officials want the new rules to be in place by the end of the year. Once they are released, there will be a comment period before the changes take effect.</p><p>Concannon said USDA won&rsquo;t object if stores drop out of the program once the stricter regulations are in place. But food stamps are a boon for retailers. Across the country SNAP provides $80 billion in food stamp benefits. In Chicago, researcher Mari Gallagher said the Roseland community, a food desert, has 87 stores that take food stamps, earning on average $5,000 a week.</p><p>Only two of those Roseland stores are &ldquo;mainstream,&rdquo; which means they stock enough options to support a healthy diet on a regular basis. The rest were &ldquo;fringe&rdquo; stores that had limited food choices and specialized in high-fat and high-salt junk food.</p><p>Gallagher said the federal changes are necessary.<br /><br />&ldquo;I&rsquo;m super excited about how fringe stores could improve and serve the community in the future and help their own bottom line,&rdquo; Gallagher said. &ldquo;Being in SNAP is not an inherent right. It&rsquo;s a privilege they need to learn.&rdquo;</p><p>But she wants the USDA to put in safeguards for enforcement.</p><p>&ldquo;People might not be worried about tougher rules because who&rsquo;s going to enforce them?&rdquo; Gallagher suggests that the federal government partner with local public health authorities to ensure compliance.</p><p>Shamar Hemphill, an organizer with Inner-City Muslim Action Network, agrees about accountability. IMAN&rsquo;s approach to help eliminate food deserts is to not wait for a big-box store to come, but to improve existing corner stores where many people shop.</p><p><a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fstory%2Fnews%2Flocal%2Fmuslim-coalition-targets-arab-run-stores-food-deserts&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNEFUj4BlBCWMPPNR3H1dQxlIrIKnQ">Muslim Run</a> is the name of the campaign and it has expanded to four stores. Organizers have had <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fstory%2Fcorner-stores-become-oases-food-deserts-96575&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHFqby93zdO0vrrMuZT0hfidwKFeA">success</a> in getting fresh produce not only stocked but sold.</p><p>Hemphill said he looks forward to the new federal regulations but change &ldquo;won&rsquo;t happen unless the residents push and demand that these stores operate and carry these staple foods.&rdquo;</p><p>Frank Hafeez manages Halsted Grocery on 71st Street. The liquor-convenience store in Englewood has a tray of lemons, oranges, grapes and wilted green bell peppers. Boxes of potatoes and onions are stacked by the door.</p><p>&ldquo;I would like to know more,&rdquo; Hafeez said of the federal regulations. &ldquo;We carry what customers request.&rdquo;</p><p>Meanwhile, the Illinois Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights met about Chicago food deserts at Kennedy-King College on Thursday. The committee will make recommendations on how to eradicate food deserts in the next couple of months.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" rel="author">Natalie Moore</a> is a WBEZ reporter. <a href="mailto:nmoore@wbez.org">nmoore@wbez.org</a><u>&nbsp;</u></em></p><p><em>Follow Natalie on <a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" rel="me">Google+</a>, &nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore">Twitter</a></em></p></p> Thu, 20 Mar 2014 15:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/usda-crack-down-convenience-stores-accept-food-stamps-109895 Food stamp spending grows at Midwest farmers markets http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/food-stamp-spending-grows-midwest-farmers-markets-109436 <p><p dir="ltr">In 2013, the amount of money spent at farmers markets by food stamp recipients grew in the Midwest.</p><p dir="ltr">And the number of farmers markets that accept food stamps experienced a 79 percent increase.</p><p dir="ltr">Alan Shannon, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said there are a lot of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/can-two-reporters-survive-5-food-day-108658">misperceptions</a> about families in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;A lot of times there are access issues - food deserts and the like - where SNAP populations or lower-income populations don&rsquo;t have access to healthy food. Farmers markets a lot of times can resolve those challenges,&rdquo; Shannon said.</p><p dir="ltr">Last year, 65 farmers markets in Illinois accepted SNAP benefits; this year there are 97.</p><p dir="ltr">That helps many low-income areas, which <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/audio-engineering/federal-food-stamp-program-fails-some-low-income-chicagoans">lack</a> healthy food options.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;When we look at these data every year going up for SNAP redemptions in the Midwest, you can tell that SNAP participants really do want healthy food, they just have to have access to it,&rdquo; Shannon said.</p><p>Illinois is third in the country in the number of farmers markets. Michigan is second in the nation in farmers market food stamp sales. Shannon said the private and nonprofit sector has helped support small farmers reach low-income families.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/image001.jpg" style="height: 308px; width: 620px;" title="Source: USDA" /></div><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" rel="author">Natalie Moore</a> is a WBEZ reporter. <a href="mailto:nmoore@wbez.org">nmoore@wbez.org</a> Follow Natalie on <a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" rel="me">Google+</a>, &nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore">Twitter</a></em></p></p> Tue, 31 Dec 2013 05:53:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/food-stamp-spending-grows-midwest-farmers-markets-109436 USDA seeks input on food stamp program http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/usda-seeks-input-food-stamp-program-108659 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 10.30.01 PM.png" alt="" /><p><p>U.S. Department of Agriculture officials visited Chicago on Wednesday as part of their national listening tour. They&rsquo;re considering policy changes for retailers in the food stamp program that are skimping on healthy food choices.</p><p>The food stamp program is formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Advocates have long complained about lack of access to healthy food in corner and convenience stores - sometimes the only shopping options in areas designated as food deserts.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s very likely that there are going to be some changes. We are very, very interested in hearing from the advocacy community particularly. But also from retailers as to how they can get these healthier options in these stores, &nbsp;not the constant &lsquo;no people won&rsquo;t buy them.&rsquo; But where it&rsquo;s been successful, tell us how you&rsquo;ve done it so we can have that as part of the model that we can utilize as we develop the new rules,&rdquo; said Audrey Rowe, administrator for Food and Nutrition Services for USDA.</p><p>Rowe said ideally changes would be implemented this time next year.</p><p>USDA is asking a number of questions about the impact of SNAP. They include whether certain retailers should be excluded, possible tweaks to staple food groups and figuring out how stores can &nbsp;improve access to food choices.</p><p>There&rsquo;s long been criticism that the food stamp program has low standards, and those low standards aren&rsquo;t enforced. It&rsquo;s easy to see how this routinely fails in Chicago.</p><p>In 2010, a WBEZ <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/audio-engineering/federal-food-stamp-program-fails-some-low-income-chicagoans">investigation</a> found that liquor stores, gas stations and dollar stores comprise 30 percent of the food stamp providers in Chicago. Often, these places offer more junk food than fresh food, but the federal government still gives these stores the green light to accept food stamps.</p><p>&ldquo;Saturday I was driving down along the South Side and I was looking at the stores and I was trying to identify those that had Link [the name of Illinois&rsquo; food stamp card] in their window and wondered myself how compliant they are,&rdquo; Rowe said. &ldquo;Many stores when they want to apply are very compliant.&rdquo;</p><p>Rowe said USDA has expanded its compliance division to so that it can investigate more often. &nbsp;</p><p><em>Natalie Moore is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore">@natalieymoore</a>. </em></p></p> Wed, 11 Sep 2013 22:22:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/usda-seeks-input-food-stamp-program-108659 Can two reporters survive on $5 of food a day? http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/can-two-reporters-survive-5-food-day-108658 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 10.16.35 PM.png" alt="" /><p><p>Every September, hunger groups ask <a href="http://lee.house.gov/press-release/full-member-list-congressional-snap-challenge">politicians</a>, community leaders and journalists to take a break in their normal diet and try to live on $5 a day, or roughly the amount allotted to users of food stamps (officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or <a href="http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap">SNAP</a>).</p><p>This year&rsquo;s &ldquo;<a href="http://www.chicagosfoodbank.org/site/PageNavigator/SNAPChallenge.html">SNAP Challenge</a>&rdquo; comes as the USDA conducts a rare review of the rules that govern the federal food assistance program. It also coincides with another push by Congress to renew the Farm Bill, which expires on Sept. 30, and ultimately determines how much money is allocated to the program. WBEZ reporter Natalie Moore and producer Monica Eng have been following these developments closely and decided to take the SNAP challenge themselves this year.</p><p>First, a few caveats: we know that taking the <a href="http://www.chicagosfoodbank.org/site/PageNavigator/SNAPChallenge.html">SNAP challenge</a>&nbsp;for two days is not the same as putting ourselves in the shoes of those who truly rely on the program. Our cooking knowledge, kitchen equipment and access to a car are not shared by all low-income Chicagoans. We also realize that surviving on $5 a day for two days is not the same as doing it for months or even years. &nbsp;And finally, we know that $5 is not a perfect figure for comparison as SNAP funds, in most cases, are supplemented with other income.</p><p>That said, in the course of a few days we learned a lot about the difficulty of translating these meager funds into healthy, fulfilling meals. We figured out how much extra time and planning this can take, and how many of the daily foods and treats we take for granted suddenly become unavailable when your budget is cut back so severely.</p><p><strong>Our SNAP Game Plan</strong></p><p>We began preparing for the challenge last Saturday at the <a href="http://experimentalstation.org/farmers-market">61st Street Farmers Market</a> in Woodlawn, where we interviewed real SNAP participants on how they use their money. We chose this particular farmers market to enjoy the &ldquo;theoretical&rdquo; benefit of double value for all SNAP purchases up to $25. This is the only market in the city that doubles benefits up to $25 and it was a huge help in making our dollars go further. Shopping with a friend allowed us to split items, for example buying two bunches of kale for $5, instead of $3 a bunch.</p><p>We continued our shopping at <a href="http://www.petesfresh.com/">Pete&rsquo;s Fresh Market</a> in Brighton Park and the <a href="http://www.tortilleriaatotonilco.com/">Atotonilco Tortilleria</a> and <a href="http://www.supermercadoselguero.com/en/">El Guero supermercado</a> in Back of the Yards. These stores offer a greater selection and, in some cases, better deals than many of the substandard convenience stores, liquor stores and gas stations that pepper many of Chicago&rsquo;s low-income neighborhoods (we hope to address the challenge of using SNAP at those stores down the road). &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>In total, it took us a whopping four hours to shop and plan our meals &ndash; and stay on budget. Next, we had to prepare our meals and then, of course, eat them!</p><p>Click on the following links to see our individual grocery lists and food diaries for Monday and Tuesday of this week (Sept. 9-10).</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/monica-engs-snap-challenge-food-diary-and-shopping-strategy-food-stamps-108660" target="_blank">Monica Eng&#39;s SNAP food diary</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/natalie-moores-snap-challenge-food-diary-and-shopping-strategy-food-stamps-108661" target="_blank">Natalie Moore&#39;s SNAP food diary</a></p><p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="710" scrolling="no" src="//instagram.com/p/eI8gckr-TV/embed/" width="612"></iframe><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="710" scrolling="no" src="//instagram.com/p/eI3VDTL-bt/embed/" width="612"></iframe><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="710" scrolling="no" src="//instagram.com/p/eJOwcSr-eu/embed/" width="612"></iframe></p></p> Wed, 11 Sep 2013 22:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/can-two-reporters-survive-5-food-day-108658 Humane Society calls for USDA investigation of Chicago Bull Run http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/humane-society-calls-usda-investigation-chicago-bull-run-108334 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Bull Run_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Humane Society says an upcoming Chicago Bull Run needs a license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but organizers say otherwise.</p><p>The event involves bulls chasing thrill seekers around a fenced track.</p><p>The Humane Society contends that organizers do not have a USDA license that ensures the safety of both animals and the public.</p><p>John Goodwin is The Humane Society&rsquo;s Director of Animal Cruelty Policy.</p><p>&rdquo;Why would we put animals in harm&rsquo;s way when we have more entertainment options available to us today than in any point in human history?&rdquo; Goodwin said.</p><p>Rob Dickens is the co-founder and chief operating officer of The Great Bull Run.</p><p>&rdquo;What happens with this company is that they supply bulls to rodeos,&rdquo; Dickens said. &ldquo;They transport bulls all over the U.S. for this purpose and so it&rsquo;s that country that requires all those licenses by transporting these animals.&rdquo;</p><p>Goodwin says that a lack of license prevents the USDA from inspecting the event.</p><p>The Humane Society has called for the USDA to investigate bull runs around the country.</p><p><em>Lee Jian Chung is a WBEZ arts and culture intern. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/jclee89" target="_blank">@jclee89.</a></em></p></p> Thu, 08 Aug 2013 10:07:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/humane-society-calls-usda-investigation-chicago-bull-run-108334