By Lorrie Baumann
The U.S. doesn’t have a shortage of food or a shortage of food assistance programs. Despite that, in 2014, 5.6 percent of American households – that’s about 7 million households – had experienced hunger in the past year, for an average of about seven months, according to a new report from the National Commission on Hunger titled “Freedom from Hunger: An Achievable Goal for the United States of America.” The commission was created by Congress to recommend ways to use existing USDA funds to combat domestic hunger and food insecurity.
Hunger in the United States isn’t a result of famine; it comes from many factors that mean that, while there’s food available, many people can’t afford enough of it. The percent of households facing hunger rose from 4.1 percent in 2007, before the Great Recession, to 5.4 percent in 2010, and it’s been holding steady around 5.6 percent ever since, despite six years of economic recovery.
Some of that’s because not enough Americans are working or are underemployed. Labor force participation has been declining since its peak in 2000, which means that many people who could work aren’t doing so. Structural changes in the American economy, away from manufacturing and toward more service jobs, have meant that there are fewer job opportunities for people who don’t have a college education. If you graduated from high school and went right to work, you’re more likely to hold a job that pays low wages and is part-time, unstable or seasonal. The job may not have much opportunity for career advancement and may not offer benefits such as sick leave and family leave. These jobs are also associated with major income instability, and these are the kinds of conditions that can cause a household to experience hunger, according to the report. “We hear every day loud and clear from all areas of the state that people can’t support their families,” said Donna Yellen, Chief Program Officer from Preble Street, which operates eight local soup kitchens in Maine, in her testimony before the Commission. “They can’t get food because they can’t find decent jobs.”
The costs of hunger include greater health care expenditures, reduced worker productivity and greater rates of worker absenteeism. Senior adults are among the most vulnerable to hunger, and the number of older adults is expected to rive over the next few decades. Compared to seniors who don’t experience hunger, those who are hungry are three times as likely to suffer from depression, 50 percent more likely to have diabetes and 60 percent more likely to have congestive heart failure or a heart attack.
Hunger also has indirect costs, including impairment of childhood health and development, which exacts a price in their academic achievement and even their mental health. About 4.4 million of people in households that include children under 6 are in households that report hunger, and households headed by single parents are particularly vulnerable. Adults in these households frequently go without food so they can feed their children, but that affects their ability to juggle parenting, work and self-care, according to the report. Hungry adults have higher rates of obesity and diabetes.
While the government can’t solve the problem of hunger within our borders alone, improvements in government programs can play a part. The government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (the program formerly known as Food Stamps) needs to get better, as do child assistance programs. Those programs are neither as effective, cooperative or as efficient as they should be, according to the Commission.
The U. S. spent $103.6 billion on food and nutrition assistance programs in 2014, with one in four Americans having participated in at least one of the government’s 15 food assistance programs at some point during the year. The largest of these government programs are SNAP, WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children), the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, the Summer Food Service Program and the Child and Adult Care Food Program.
WIC provides food, health care referrals and nutrition education for low-income pregnant or post-partum women and to infants and children under five who are at nutritional risk. In 2014, more than half of all newborn children in the United States participated in the WIC program, which has been credited with a 68 percent reduction in hunger among families with young children. WIC is associated with healthier births, more nutritious diets and improved cognitive development as well as a greater likelihood that children will be immunized, according to Kate Breslin, President and CEO of the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy, who testified before the Commission.
SNAP is the country’s largest food assistance program. It works by giving low-income individuals and households additional income to buy groceries. SNAP provided assistance to 46.5 million people in an average month in 2014 and is credited with decreasing the percentage of households experiencing hunger by 12 percent to 19 percent. In households participating in SNAP, children are 16 percent less likely to be at risk of developmental delays, and they have lower rates of hospitalization compared to children in similar households that don’t participate in SNAP.
The National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs operate in more than 100,000 schools and residential institutions and served more than 30 million students in the 2014 fiscal year. In 2014, nearly 22 million school children received a free or reduced price school lunch.
In addition to these government programs, a variety of individuals, nonprofit organizations, faith-based organizations and corporations are engaged in hunger relief efforts in their communities. These include Feeding America, the largest umbrella organization for food banks and food rescue organizations. In 2010, Feeding America-affiliated agencies distributed food to 37 million Americans, including 14 million children. More recently, in 2015, the Specialty Food Association donated more than 97,000 pounds of food at last Summer’s Fancy Food Show with the help of 324 City Harvest volunteers and another 100,000 pounds of food at the 2015 Winter Fancy Food Show in conjunction with Feed the Hungry. “Stonewall Kitchen, like a lot of other companies here at the Fancy Food Show, is a small company. We’re not a faceless corporation. We know the people in our communities. We donate food, and we work at our local soup kitchens in Maine and New Hampshire, so donating our food here at the show is just a logical extension of that,” said John Stiker, CEO of Stonewall Kitchen.
Most of the Commission’s recommendations for improving government food assistance programs without additional spending relate to improvements in either SNAP or child nutrition programs. For SNAP, the Commission recommendations are intended to promote work, improve nutrition and enhance well-being. In particular, the Commission recommends that Congress and the USDA should require states to encourage SNAP applicants who are able to work to do so by supporting them in their efforts to seek employment or participate in work-related activities that might realistically lead to available jobs. The Commission also recommended that individual states should have more flexibility in how they use employment and training funding tied to SNAP, so that, for instance, a state might use some of its SNAP money to provide substance abuse and mental health treatment if that’s what will help a SNAP recipient get back to work.
The Commission also recommends that Congress and the USDA should find ways to encourage SNAP recipients to purchase fruits, vegetables, high-quality proteins, whole grains and other healthy foods and to disallow the use of SNAP benefits for purchases of sugar-sweetened beverages. These might include requiring grocery stores and other stores that qualify as SNAP vendors to devote more prominent shelf space for healthier foods and vegetables.
Twenty-seven chocolatiers participated in Retail Confectioners International’s Chocolate Boot Camp® held February 22 through 25 at Fascia’s Chocolates in Waterbury, Connecticut. Students in the course varied in age and experience, yet each of them graduated with a better understanding of working with chocolate.
“As part of a 102 year-old business, the last thing we want to do is become complacent,” said Michael Crudden, Vice President of Operations for Rosalind Candy Castle in New Brighton, Pennsylvania. “Through my experience at Chocolate Boot Camp, I am able to take back new knowledge and ideas that will help us grow as a company.”
The four-day course incorporated both lecture and hands-on lab sessions, so that students could apply what they were learning. For example, they learned about the science of tempering chocolate in the lecture portion and then were able to see and be involved in the process through the lab sessions. Many students came in with a basic understanding of tempering and walked away with a comprehensive knowledge of not only what tempering is, but also the different methods to temper chocolate and how that affects the end product.
Chocolate Boot Camp was taught by five confectionery and chocolate experts who have more than 150 years of combined industry experience. Lead instructor Randy Hofberger, with R&D Candy Consultants, has been an instructor at RCI’s Chocolate Boot Camp since the first course was offered in 2003. “Everyone feels like they’ve learned something they can take back to their business and that is the best part for us.”
Retail Confectioners International provides educational opportunities across the country for confectionery retailers. For information about upcoming courses and events, visit retailconfectioners.org.
Twenty years after carrying its first craft brew at a single Kalamazoo store, Meijer is selling more than 34 locally-brewed craft beers each minute in Michigan while continuing to add up-and-coming local breweries to an extensive selection that rivals specialty stores across the Midwest.
Meijer says it expects to continue five years of double-digit volume growth in craft beer sales and plans to sell more than $90 million in craft beer in 2016, including $30 million in local and hyper-local craft beers produced by breweries in Michigan. Building on the popularity of local breweries that account for 44 percent of all craft beer sold in Michigan, Meijer will carry IPAs, amber ales, stouts, and porters from 50 Michigan breweries and also expand the reach of six of the most popular local brands in the state at stores across its Midwestern footprint this year.
“What’s happening here in Michigan is a microcosm of what’s happening throughout the Midwest and across the country – the state of craft beer is thriving,” said Peter Whitsett, Executive Vice President of Merchandising and Marketing for Meijer, who notes that since 2010 the number of craft breweries Meijer carries and the space it provides for its selection has more than doubled. “Since carrying our first six packs of Bell’s Oberon in 1995, the culture of exploration in the craft beer community has continued to seek new tastes and flavors from locally-made brands. The craft partnerships we’ve forged over the last two decades are indicative of what is considered some of the best beers available in the country.”
The six breweries that will be featured in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin in 2016 include Bell’s Brewery, Founders Brewing Company, Short’s Brewing Company, New Holland Brewing Company, Atwater Brewery and Arcadia Brewing Company.
“It used to be that craft beer was only sold at small, independent stores,” said Dave Engbers, Co-founder of Founder’s Brewery, which started its partnership with Meijer in 2006 and sold more than 200,000 cases of its beer at Meijer stores this year. “Meijer took the opportunity to welcome craft beer enthusiasts and has done a great job engaging customers and listening to what they are demanding.”
“I remember coming to Meijer to start talking about distribution beyond our Bellaire brewery in 2006, and not yet having a production and packaging facility,” said Joe Short, Founder of Short’s Brewing Company. “The only way we could bring a sample was in a growler. They took a chance on us based on our experimental brews and that relationship not only helped build anticipation for our brand, but was pivotal in laying the foundation for our continued growth.”
Whitsett said Meijer customers can expect to see craft ciders, hard soda-flavored beers and distilled craft spirits to increase in popularity this year and that brewers will be aggressive with new innovations in barrel-aged brewing and techniques to improve consistency in each bottle or can of their brews. Whitsett also believes the popularity of hyper-localized breweries will continue to gain traction, and Michigan breweries like Perrin Brewing Company, Brewery Vivant, Dark Horse Brewery and Griffin Claw Brewing Company will continue attracting craft beer enthusiasts.
“One of the most exciting things about the craft beer world is its constant evolution, and we’re seeing more enthusiasts and casual beer drinkers shopping our aisles in their quest to find new brews and tastes from Michigan and beyond,” Whitsett said. “Being a retailer that calls Beer City U.S.A. home, it’s always been about community for us, and we’re thrilled we can help breweries expand beyond their local boundaries while providing customers across the Midwest with the craft beers they are most excited about.”
New Hope Natural Media announces the finalists of its NEXTY Awards. The twice-annual award, which is connected to New Hope’s Natural Products Expo shows, is bestowed upon products that display true innovation, inspiration and integrity with the purpose of bringing more health to more people. From delicious sauces, snacks and desserts to revolutionary supplements and green products for the home, pets, kids and body, the vast field of finalists displayed high standards in transparency, sustainability, packaging, use of ingredients and give-back missions.
“The NEXTYs were created to recognize the most game-changing and inspiring products in the CPG market today, and our 2016 Expo West NEXTY finalists all fit that bill,” says Carlotta Mast, Executive Director of Content and Insights at New Hope. “Picking the winners in each category was a tough task for our judging panel of industry experts.”
To determine the winners, New Hope’s content and standards team narrowed the field of more than 500 submissions down to three finalists each in 19 categories. Next, seven esteemed industry judges were brought in to select the winning product in each category, which will be revealed on March 12 at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, California.
The 2016 NEXTY Award finalists are:
Perdue is moving NO ANTIBIOTICS EVER™ protein into mainstream grocery categories and foodservice menu items with the rapid transition of its entire frozen, refrigerated and fresh value-added chicken products and all of its foodservice turkey items to NO ANTIBIOTICS EVER (NAE). Perdue made the announcement during the 2016 Annual Meat Conference in Nashville.
The transition, taking place now, will make PERDUE® the first major brand to convert all of its value-added chicken products to NO ANTIBIOTICS EVER, providing consumers with choices in every category – fresh, refrigerated and frozen. The conversion to NO ANTIBIOTICS EVER at retail includes all PERDUE brand heat-and-eat and pre-seasoned chicken items, such as retail nuggets, strips and grilled strips. It ensures that consumers do not have to forego the confidence that comes with NO ANTIBIOTICS EVER for the convenience they want, nor will they have to wait years. Products will hit shelves this month, with the conversion continuing through May. Perdue is distributing those products coast-to-coast.
The conversion to NO ANTIBIOTICS EVER for all foodservice turkey items means that more than 150 NO ANTIBIOTICS EVER menu items are now available to independent operators through foodservice distributors across the country. The foodservice turkey items join a complete line of NO ANTIBIOTICS EVER menu-ready chicken distributed under the PERDUE HARVESTLAND® and other foodservice brands.
Eric Christianson, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Innovation, explains the scale of Perdue’s latest advancement in NO ANTIBIOTICS EVER consumer products: “In the retail sector, we’re converting all branded refrigerated and frozen convenience products to NO ANTIBIOTICS EVER, bringing the total number of products with the claim to more than 200. In just a few months, we will take NAE mainstream, moving it beyond select fresh items and niche brands and making PERDUE NO ANTIBIOTICS EVER chicken products available everywhere consumers shop for chicken in the grocery store. The combination of converting our everyday, go-to PERDUE products to NO ANTIBIOTICS EVER, along with our NO ANTIBIOTICS EVER foodservice offerings, represents a significant transformation in the market. We’re raising the bar on the choices consumers can expect right now.”
The announcement follows the company’s continued leadership in minimizing antibiotic use: two-thirds of the company’s chickens are now raised without any antibiotics of any kind, up from 50 percent six months ago. And although raising turkey without antibiotics is more difficult than chicken, Perdue has nonetheless converted more than half of its turkey raising to NO ANTIBIOTICS EVER, a major shift in turkey production practices.
“The NO ANTIBIOTICS EVER distinction is very important to us,” said Chairman Jim Perdue. “That claim is transparent and absolutely clear to consumers: no antibiotics of any kind, at any time. Consumers have a number of concerns around antibiotic use, and they deserve products that address all those concerns with a promise they can trust. That’s why we back up the NO ANTIBIOTICS EVER claim on PERDUE consumer chicken products with a USDA Process Verified Program.”
Cheese lovers everywhere are preparing to celebrate Raw Milk Cheese Appreciation Day on April 16, 2016. Created by the Oldways Cheese Coalition, this worldwide holiday offers cheese enthusiasts from Melbourne to Manhattan a chance to participate in events highlighting the distinctive cultural heritage of raw milk cheese.
Last year, Raw Milk Cheese Appreciation Day (RMCAD) included more than 500 retail locations around the globe providing samples and information about traditional cheeses. The Second Annual RMCAD is set to be another boon for raw milk cheese, especially in light of the US Food and Drug Administration’s recent decision to suspend testing requirements that posed a threat to raw milk cheese in the US.
“Raw milk, unpasteurized cheeses are truly the old ways, and this delicious, traditional food deserves attention,” said Sara Baer-Sinnott, Oldways President. “Raw Milk Cheese Appreciation Day introduces more people to the pleasures and great tastes of these extraordinary traditional cheeses, and celebrates the individuals who bring raw milk cheeses to life from the pasture to the plate.”
Cheese has been made with pure raw milk from its earliest days millennia ago. Traditional cheesemaking helped preserve fluid milk before the advent of refrigeration, and it was only in the last century that cheese began to be made with pasteurized milk. The natural microflora in raw milk produces cheeses — such as Gruyère AOP, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Roquefort, and many American originals like Grafton Village Cheddar — that are characteristic of local environments, expressive of terroir, evocative of complex flavors, and beneficial to health. Raw milk cheeses are both delicious and nutritious. Scientific studies reveal that, when consumed in moderation, cheese is an excellent way to add healthy fats, minerals, vitamins and probiotics to your diet.
Longtime aficionados and newcomers to the world of raw milk cheese will be able to experience a wide variety of events around the world, from tastings in Denver to special classes in São Paulo. Producers will offer cheese samples at retail stores in San Francisco, and cheesemongers will share their love of fromage au lait cru in Paris and Boston. All participating organizations, activities, and promotions for Raw Milk Cheese Appreciation Day will be listed on the Oldways Cheese Coalition website.
Retailers, restaurants, producers, and cheese enthusiasts are invited to participate by registering their own RMCAD events. To get involved with Raw Milk Cheese Appreciation Day, or learn more about joining the Cheese Coalition, contact Carlos Yescas, Oldways Cheese Coalition Program Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org, 617.896.4822.
Join in the cheese conversation and celebration on social media by using the hashtag #RawMilkCheese.
Purdue University President Mitch Daniels on Thursday, February 25, called on leaders in the public, private and nonprofit sectors to push back against the attackers of biotechnology in agricultural production. Daniels was a keynote speaker at the annual Agricultural Outlook Forum in Arlington.
“The attack on GMO technology is the most blatant anti-science of the age, but it is far worse than that,” Daniels said. “Lives are at stake, and while scientists, regulators and business people are naturally reluctant to fight back, it’s morally irresponsible not to.”
Daniels cited projections by the United Nations that the global population is expected to grow to more than 9 billion people in 2050, generating a 70 percent increase in the demand for food. He described GMOs as the best hope to ensure the world’s poor have access to an affordable and nutritious diet.
“Thousand of studies and trillions of meals consumed prove the safety of biotechnologies,” he said. “We would never withhold medications with a safety record like that, and it’s just as wrong and just as anti-scientific to do so for food.”
Daniels also praised Purdue and other land-grant universities for making the world’s food supply not only safer and more abundant, but far friendlier to the environment.
Daniels cited work done by the university’s World Food Prize winners as well as the Purdue Improved Crop Storage program as examples of land-grant initiatives that are making a difference in the developing world. He also described a forthcoming study by Purdue agricultural economist Wally Tyner and colleagues that concluded if the United States banned GMO crops, consumers would pay at least $14 billion more in annual food costs and global agricultural greenhouse gases would increase by up to 17 percent.
ALDI opens its first eight southern California locations on Thursday, March 24. The ALDI grand openings will mark a significant milestone for the grocery retailer as it prepares to open approximately 45 stores and employ more than 1,100 people in southern California by the end of 2016.
“Ever since we announced our plan to bring ALDI to Southern California, the positive response from people across the Southland has been overwhelming, and we’re excited to start opening stores next month and throughout the year,” said Gordon Nesbit, Moreno Valley division Vice President for ALDI. “There is a strong appetite among southern Californians for an alternative place to shop and we are eager to show them the significant benefits that can come from shopping at ALDI, both for their wallets and lifestyles.”
When shopping at ALDI for the first time, customers will immediately see a difference from other grocery stores. Those little differences add up to big savings for customers and are the key reasons ALDI is one of America’s favorite grocery stores:
As part of its responsible retailing efforts, Ahold USA has announced plans to make its companies’ private label shell eggs 100 percent cage-free by 2022.
Ahold USA’s retail divisions – Stop & Shop, Giant Food of Landover, Giant Food Stores of Carlisle, Martin’s and online grocer Peapod – now offer cage-free, free-range, organic, and traditional egg varieties for its customers. Approximately 80 percent of all eggs sold among Ahold USA companies are sold as house brands or private label.
“Animal welfare is a fundamental part of our responsible retailing program,” said Marissa Nelson, Senior Vice President of responsible retailing and healthy living, Ahold USA. “We believe that cage-free environments are a more humane way to treat hens, and we have committed to have all of our private label shell eggs 100 percent cage-free, subject to available supply.”
“Ahold USA companies are deeply committed to providing customers with great products at great prices from suppliers who share our dedication to the highest standards of animal welfare,” continued Nelson. “Ahold USA and our retail divisions will continue to work with the most reputable suppliers to source our private label cage-free shell eggs produced with respect for the animal.”