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Food Service Manager Certification
Food Certification history
Killexams : Food Certification history - BingNews https://killexams.com/pass4sure/exam-detail/FSMC Search results Killexams : Food Certification history - BingNews https://killexams.com/pass4sure/exam-detail/FSMC https://killexams.com/exam_list/Food Killexams : Fraud and weak USDA oversight chip away at integrity of organic food industry

SIOUX FALLS — Trey Wharton of Sioux Falls has made numerous sacrifices in his life in order to maintain a healthful lifestyle centered around a vegan diet and consistent consumption of organic foods.

To afford organic products that are sometimes double or triple the cost of conventionally grown foods, Wharton works two jobs, doesn’t take vacations and drives a dented SUV.

“I’m investing in this vessel,” Wharton said, pointing at himself, “rather than in that vessel,” he added, motioning toward his 2011 Honda. “I pay more and sacrifice to invest my money in the foods I want.”

Wharton, 31, acknowledges that he is forced to trust the organic industry to uphold its promise that the foods are minimally processed, are grown without chemicals or additives, and are truly more healthful than non-organics.

“I don’t have a place in that system, so I have to trust them,” Wharton said.

Like other consumers who buy organic, Wharton sometimes wonders and worries if he’s actually getting what he believes he is buying. He is well aware of a few high-profile cases of organic food fraud — including a exact multimillion-dollar fake organic grain scam in South Dakota — in which unscrupulous producers made millions of dollars by illegally selling conventional grains packaged and sold as organic.

In the 2018 case in South Dakota, farmer Kent Duane Anderson of Belle Fourche made $71 million in fraudulent income by selling thousands of tons of conventionally grown grain falsely labeled as organic. Anderson then used the proceeds to buy an $8 million yacht, a $2.4 million home in Florida, and a Maserati, among other extravagant items, according to a federal indictment. Anderson is now in federal prison.

In July 2022, a Minnesota farmer was charged by federal prosecutors in a $46 million grain fraud scheme. In a federal indictment, authorities say James Clayton Wolf bought conventionally grown grain and resold it as organic over a period of about six years. Wolf has pleaded not guilty and will fight the allegations in court, his lawyer told News Watch.

Those cases of fraud or alleged fraud have caused uncertainty and mistrust among some consumers in an industry that relies largely on the honesty of producers, processors and packagers to maintain the integrity of the industry and, ultimately, to allow consumers to feel confident they are actually getting organic products for which they pay a premium price.

“If there’s more money in it, there’s more people looking at the dollars aspect and not the moral aspect,” said Charlie Johnson, a longtime organic farmer who grows soybeans, corn, oats and alfalfa southwest of Madison, S.D. “Those types of people and operations need to be pointed out and prosecuted, because they can bring down all of us if we don’t keep the system clean and honorable.”

Organic shopper Trey Wharton.jpg
Trey Wharton of Sioux Falls has made many financial sacrifices in order to afford to buy organic foods that are part of his vegan diet.

Bart Pfankuch / South Dakota News Watch

In many ways, the organic food industry in America — which topped $63 billion in sales in 2021 — is responding to negative publicity from fraud cases and other weaknesses in the organic regulatory system by pushing for more stringent requirements and stronger enforcement of existing rules to protect the industry’s reputation long term.

At the policy level, the organic industry has been pushing for more regulation and oversight from the USDA and Congress to protect the integrity of the industry as it grows and evolves, said Reana Kovalcik, director of public affairs at the Organic Trade Association, a business group representing the organic industry in Washington, D.C.

The group that represents organic farmers, processors and retailers is pushing for new rules and programs to Improve transparency, oversight and enforcement of national organic regulations and processes, Kovalcik said.

“It’s kind of unique for an agriculture industry to say, ‘Hey, please regulate us more,’ but that’s exactly what the organic industry is asking for,” she said. “The industry wants to make sure everything is as buttoned up as it needs to be for producers who are doing this extra work to get a price premium, and for consumers who are paying that premium price.”

The organization has separate regulatory and congressional packages it has been pushing for years, but both are bogged down in Washington, Kovalcik said.

One element of the proposals deals with increasing fraud protections within the industry, she said.

As hard as the organic industry tries to police itself and protect its integrity, Kovalcik said she still hears people speak about Randy Constant, the Missouri corn and soybean grower who perpetrated the largest organic grain-fraud scheme in U.S. history. Constant was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2019 for generating $142 million in fraudulent organic grain sales, which he spent on an extravagant lifestyle. Constant took his own life after being sentenced.

“It’s really in the interest of the entire organic industry to keep our regulations current, modern and transparent for the good of producers, retailers and consumers,” she said. “The organic seal was all about trust and integrity; that’s why we have seals, and the organic industry takes that very seriously.”

Wharton, meanwhile, said he will continue to buy organic and trust that sufficient safeguards and oversight are in place to ensure organic practices are followed and that organic labeling is accurate.

“It’s like when they build a house,” he said. “You have to trust at some level that what they are doing is up to code.”

Organic oat bran.jpeg
Organic foods, including grains such as these oat bran flakes, can cost double or even triple the price of non-organic foods grown with pesticides and fertilizers and yet look exactly the same, making the industry an attractive target for fraudsters. This organic oat bran at the Sioux Falls Food Co-op cost $4.49 a pound, while conventional oat bran at Walmart in Sioux Falls cost $1.95 a pound.

Bart Pfankuch / South Dakota News Watch

Billion-dollar industry attractive to fraudsters

As in any industry, the lure of making big money through fraud is enticing to unscrupulous farmers and suppliers who are willing to risk prison to take advantage of weaknesses in the organic system to defraud consumers.

The enticement to commit outright fraud, or just to cut corners or manipulate the system in small ways, is high in the organic industry, where more expensive, more carefully produced final products look exactly the same on the shelves as products that are cheaper and produced with far less-stringent standards and more chemicals and additives.

On a basic level, organic foods are non-genetically modified crops grown in soil without chemical additives such as fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides; and non-genetically modified livestock raised on mostly organic feed without added hormones or antibiotics.

The USDA describes organic farming as “the application of a set of cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that support the cycling of on-farm resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. These include maintaining or enhancing soil and water quality; conserving wetlands, woodlands, and wildlife; and avoiding use of synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering.”

The USDA sets forth a host of operating and labeling regulations, including lists of allowable and non-allowable food additives and agricultural practices, as part of its National Organic Program that was established through the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990.

USDA workgroups within the larger program work continuously to consider requests to modify the program and consider new allowable substances and practices to keep the program up to date, though many people and groups in the organic industry say the USDA is too lenient and too slow to react to industry changes.

Furthermore, the organic food industry is relatively new in comparison to the conventional food industry, so regulations have come more slowly and with less consistency and lower government investment and intervention.

For example, the USDA is responsible for setting product-safety and production guidelines for both the conventional and organic food industries. But while the USDA is responsible for regulating and enforcing the rules in most conventional agricultural processes — the meat industry, for example — the USDA outsources the certification and regulatory functions of the organic food industry. In the organic world, producers who want to label their products as organic must become certified by one of about 80 independent groups or agencies, many of them nonprofit groups devoted to promoting organic agriculture. Typically, those agencies inspect producers they certify only once a year, and they are paid for their certification services, creating a potential incentive to maintain a high number of certified producers.

The organic food industry has exploded in roughly the past 30 years as a growing number of Americans and people around the world seek more healthful foods grown with fewer chemicals and less-invasive agricultural practices.

Sales of organic foods have roughly quadrupled in the past 15 yeas, from about $16 billion nationally in 2016 to more than $63 billion in 2021, according to the Organic Trade Association.

South Dakota has been slower than other states to take advantage of the exploding organic market, and is ranked 38th of the 50 states in the number of organic farms. South Dakota’s 124 certified organic farms and related businesses generated $14 million in product sales in 2019, a 42% increase over 2017. However, acres of farmland devoted to organics in South Dakota still make up less than 1% of the overall agricultural land in the state.

SDNWOrganicChart.jpg

Sources/notes: Organic Trade Association and USDA 2019 Agricultural Census; U.S sales increase shown is for one year (2020-21); some numbers are rounded.

Organic system relies on ‘checks and balances’

Angela Jackson has obtained a close-up view of the organic foods industry from two distinct vantage points: as a producer who owns and operates Prairie Sun Organics certified poultry and crop farm in Vermillion; and as someone with more than a decade of experience as an organic expert and independent inspector who has audited organic farms in 36 countries.

“I have spent my life working with verifying bodies, working as an inspector, making sure that things are done right and bringing integrity to the system,” she said.

And yet, Jackson is aware of the concerns over the integrity of the organic agriculture system in the U.S. and in other countries.

“Within organics, there are people that really know the system and are experts at finding the loopholes in the system and they take advantage of that,” Jackson said. “But 99.9 percent of the time, farmers do a fantastic job, and the good news is that the bad guys get caught, which tells me that the system is working.”

Jackson noted that the certification agencies and most of their employees are well trained in identifying and rooting out fraud or potential fraud. While she acknowledges that more oversight would be good for the industry, she added that organic foods are actually more highly regulated and monitored than conventional foods.

Annual inspections of producers seeking organic certification typically include a review of paperwork, a tour of the farm and farm operations, and testing of products and equipment for the presence of non-allowed substances such as pesticides, she said. Reports developed by on-site inspectors, she said, are then reviewed for accuracy by the certifier’s technical specialist.

“To be qualified to be an inspector is arduous,” she said.

One weak point in the regulatory oversight process, Jackson said, is that most of the testing of organic crops is done to look for genetically modified organisms, which are not allowed. More direct testing of products for the presence of pesticides could be done in the inspection process, she said.

Angela Jackson-Pulse-240x300.jpg

Angela Jackson

Jackson added that there is a difference between “compliance,” which is following both the letter and spirit of organic regulations, and “ethics,” which puts more onus on the farmer to do what is right even if the rules don’t necessarily call for it.

Jackson said some farmers and livestock producers are beginning to find loopholes in the organic requirements that have been in place for decades, including the growth of hydroponic crops that never touch actual soil. Some farms risk cross-contamination of organic and non-organic products through “dual production” farms, which grow or raise both types of products on the same farm and open the door to reduced integrity of the organics produced there.

“What we’re losing in organics is the ethics piece, and the ethics are getting watered down,” she said. “The compliance piece is still there, but unfortunately some farms are putting corporate interests first, and it’s all about money to them.”

However, Jackson said, the majority of organic farms in the U.S. are both compliant and ethical in how crops are grown and how animals are raised and treated.

But even as she is aware of the weaknesses within the organic certification and regulatory system, Jackson is confident that consumers who desire organic products can rely on the systems in place to ensure safety and authenticity.

She also urged a consumer who questions the validity of a claim of organic on any product to take a picture of the product and submit it to the USDA for investigation. Getting to know local food producers personally is another good way consumers can ensure they are getting the organic products they expect, she said.

“Could there be more enforcement officers with the USDA, and could there be more auditors like me doing this work, yes, there could be,” she said. “But generally, organic farmers have a heart to do the right thing, and there’s checks and balances in the system so it works very well.”

“You can be assured that when you buy a product, it has 95% less pesticides than a conventional product, because we can never get to 100%,” she said. “More than 90% of the time, however, we have total confidence, and if it’s made in the USA, and it’s certified in the USA, you can be highly confident the organic product is what it says it is.”

Charlie Johnson Abby Lundrigan.jpeg
South Dakota organic farmer Charlie Johnson met recently with Abby Lundrigan of the Real Organic Project to review details of Johnson's operation to determine if his operation will be certified under the guidelines of the non-profit organization.

Bart Pfankuch / South Dakota News Watch

Organic industry focuses on integrity

In many ways, the organic food industry is taking new steps on its own to further protect the relationship of trust it has with consumers, to assure them what they’re buying is what they’re getting.

Abby Lundrigan is driving across the American Midwest to meet with organic farmers to examine their practices to see if they qualify for a so-called “add on” organic certification.

Lundrigan, a former organic farm manager, is a certification liaison for the Real Organic Project, a Vermont-based nonprofit organization that seeks to provide organic farmers who meet their standards a way to further identify their products as approved by the organization.

The add-on labeling — provided free to qualifying farmers — is one way some organic producers are trying to retain and bolster their integrity and credibility with consumers at a time when the organic industry has been plagued by occasional cases of fraud, sidestepping of basic organic farming principles and watering down of federal organic standards.

The group’s literature said it was created because while USDA organic certification is important, it has become weakened to the point where many organic farmers feel it can be manipulated or abused by farms and operators who don’t follow some of the original tenets of organic farming.

For example, the group points out that the USDA allows organic certification of farms that use hydroponics, or soil-less growing methods, and allows certification of cattle and poultry farms known as confinements, where animals are not allowed onto pasture land and are not free to move about in the outside air.

“The growing failure of the USDA to serve and protect organic farming was the catalyst that united us,” the group says in its literature. “The farmers of the Real Organic Project have created an add-on label to USDA organic to differentiate organic food produced in concert with healthy soils and pastures.”

The group further states: “As organic succeeded, the same big players in chemical ag became the big players in the organic industry, and with this big tent, we suddenly found the tent changing. Soon we could barely recognize as ‘organic’ much of what was being sold under our label.”

Since launching in 2018, the Real Organic Project has certified more than 850 farms to use its add-on labeling.

Lundrigan said that while outright fraud within the organic industry may be rare, examples of minor manipulations of the system, though still rare, are more common than Real Organic Project would like.

“Once the organic industry became a multibillion-dollar industry, somehow a lot more organic food ended up on the shelves but somehow there’s not any more organic farmers producing it,” she said.

High-profile incidents of organic-grain fraud not only hurt consumers who didn’t get the organic grain they assumed they did, but also cause fundamental damage to the reputation of the industry and farmers who are doing things right, Lundrigan said.

“I think customers are starting to learn that when they go to the store, that flour they are paying more for isn’t necessarily grown the way they think it was,” she said. “And as people are starting to think that, it’s really harmful to organic farmers that are really doing it the right way and are suffering from that growing mistrust or erosion of trust.”

On a exact trip to South Dakota that included a visit to Charlie Johnson’s farm, Lundrigan said she knew of organic milk producers who mixed organic milk with conventional milk and labeled it organic. She told of berry producers whose plants never touched soil yet were allowed to be labeled organic.

Real Organic Project, she said, will not certify hydroponic farms or those that raise animals in confinement. And some grain operators and handlers do not do a good enough job of cleaning out residue from conventional grain before storing organic grain in elevators, she said.

Real Organic Project requires that crops be grown in real soil that is well managed, and requires that livestock and poultry live in pastures rather than in confined spaces.

The add-on label, Lundrigan said, “is free and meant to distinguish farms that are legitimately organic. It’s a label largely focused on that trust element we need to have with consumers, a trust element that is foundational to the success of the organic industry.”

Putting the farmer back in farming

It only takes a few hours of visiting with Charlie Johnson and driving in a pickup around his farm in Lake County, S.D., to realize why organic grains cost more than conventionally grown grains at the wholesale and retail levels.

Johnson and his family members have been growing and harvesting organic grains since the 1980s, and Johnson has emerged as a leader in mastering the processes of organic farming and as a promoter of the organic-farming lifestyle and its values.

On a more philosophical level, Johnson sees organic farming as a return to the roots of agriculture — in which farmers didn’t rely on chemicals, huge machines or vast economies of scale to drive production and profits, but rather lived on the land, spent many hours working the land, and used their minds to determine the most efficient, purest way to grow healthy crops.

“In modern agriculture, we’ve taken the farmer out of farming,” Johnson said. “If we want more community here, more churches, more schools, and a healthy economic environment, organic farming will promote that because it requires human and farmer input. It’s about consumers supporting a family-friendly, community-friendly, soil-friendly and health-friendly approach to farming, and they want to put their dollars behind that.”

To uphold that strong connection between earth, farmer and consumer takes a lot of thought, planning and hard work.

Johnson has 65 separate fields of crops on his 1,600 tillable acres, and he uses a six-year rotation of crops, in which each year a field has a different crop grown on it to promote soil health.

Instead of herbicides, he must drive a cultivator over his crops to remove as many weeds as possible from the land between crop rows. About 5% of his land is preserved as buffer strips and shelter belts that form a natural barrier between croplands and between his organic crops and those of neighboring conventional farms to block chemical drift. Signs are placed in ditches along his crops so pesticide contractors hired by conventional farmers do not apply chemicals to Johnson’s crops by mistake.

Johnson has no doubt that the resulting products are not only different, but also better than conventionally grown crops.

“I just think organic foods are simply better; they’re very much richer and better in quality and in food density,” he said.

His efforts make it slower to develop yields but he’s rewarded with higher prices when he sells them to a certified organic wholesaler. In mid-July 2022, Johnson was able to sell soybeans for more than $30 a bushel while conventional soybeans were bringing about $14 a bushel. His organic corn was selling for about $10 a bushel compared with the roughly $6.50 per bushel price being paid for conventional corn.

While Johnson acknowledges he has been successful in organic farming, and makes “a decent living,” he is still eager to learn more and try new things.

He is working with researchers and students from South Dakota State University to plant numerous small test plots on his land to see which crops grow best in particular conditions and settings. He is trying a new way to regenerate soil by cutting down and mulching small alfalfa plots and leaving the crop to decompose where it lies. He hosts regular farm tours and visits to educate the public about his operation and the value of organic farming.

“Putting the whole argument that organic is better for the environment off to the side, I would say it’s more community-friendly, because what you do in organic farming has a greater emphasis on the farmer and the farm and the management of the land.”

In mid-July, Johnson answered a series of questions from Lundrigan, of the Real Organic Project, and gave her a pickup-truck tour of his farm. After the initial examination, Lundrigan said, it appeared that Johnson Farms was highly likely to qualify for the add-on organic label.

Johnson farm signage.jpeg
Charlie Johnson and his family have placed signs in the ditches along their organic crop fields to prevent other farmers or contractors from mistakenly applying fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides to their crops.

Bart Pfankuch / South Dakota News Watch

Epilogue: Wharton’s sacrifices take a toll

In mid-July 2022, a South Dakota News Watch reporter met and spoke with Trey Wharton as he arrived at the Sioux Falls Food Co-op to purchase some organic foods for the next few days.

Wharton told of some of the financial and lifestyle sacrifices he had made to keep up his more expensive organic vegan diet.

“I sacrifice having money to go on fun trips I see everyone on social media doing, being able to have enough to keep up with rent and bills, not being able to save money, and not being able to buy fun things like roller blades or new research books,” he wrote in a Facebook message. “I’m always living day-to-day, buying food for the day or maybe the next two days based on the amount of tips I get and how far I can stretch my paychecks.”

Two weeks later, when News Watch contacted Wharton to clarify a few things, the 31-year-old shared some bad news.

Although Wharton said he has a full-time job as a delivery driver for Pizza Ranch in Sioux Falls and works part time as a package handler for UPS at the Sioux Falls airport, the pay from his 55-hour work week wasn’t enough to pay the rent.

“I’m now living in my car because my rent was behind and they non-renewed my lease so I’m now living the ‘van life,’” Wharton wrote to News Watch. “But at least I have my health. Ha.”

Asked if he was willing to share news of his exact homelessness with the public, Wharton wrote back that he is willing to give up basic comforts in order to sustain his healthful diet, including living for a spell in his 2011 Honda CRV.

“I’m cool with it — it shows the math of how hard it is to eat this way,” he wrote, “and what someone might need to sacrifice to try and regain their own health.”

— This article was produced by South Dakota News Watch, a non-profit news organization online at sdnewswatch.org.

Mon, 08 Aug 2022 10:34:00 -0500 en text/html https://www.postbulletin.com/news/south-dakota/fraud-and-weak-usda-oversight-chip-away-at-integrity-of-organic-food-industry
Killexams : Fraud cases chip away at organic food integrity

Trey Wharton of Sioux Falls has made numerous sacrifices in his life in order to maintain a healthful lifestyle centered around a vegan diet and consistent consumption of organic foods.

To afford organic products that are sometimes double or triple the cost of conventionally grown foods, Wharton works two jobs, doesn’t take vacations and drives a dented SUV.

“I’m investing in this vessel,” Wharton said, pointing at himself, “rather than in that vessel,” he added, motioning toward his 2011 Honda. “I pay more and sacrifice to invest my money in the foods I want.”

Wharton, 31, acknowledges that he is forced to trust the organic industry to uphold its promise that the foods are minimally processed, are grown without chemicals or additives, and are truly more healthful than non-organics.

“I don’t have a place in that system, so I have to trust them,” Wharton said.

Like other consumers who buy organic, Wharton sometimes wonders and worries if he’s actually getting what he believes he is buying. He is well aware of a few high-profile cases of organic food fraud — including a exact multimillion-dollar fake organic grain scam in South Dakota — in which unscrupulous producers made millions of dollars by illegally selling conventional grains packaged and sold as organic.

In the 2018 case in South Dakota, farmer Kent Duane Anderson of Belle Fourche made $71 million in fraudulent income by selling thousands of tons of conventionally grown grain falsely labeled as organic. Anderson then used the proceeds to buy an $8 million yacht, a $2.4 million home in Florida, and a Maserati, among other extravagant items, according to a federal indictment. Anderson is now in federal prison.

In July 2022, a Minnesota farmer was charged by federal prosecutors in a $46 million grain fraud scheme. In a federal indictment, authorities say James Clayton Wolf bought conventionally grown grain and resold it as organic over a period of about six years. Wolf has pleaded not guilty and will fight the allegations in court, his lawyer told News Watch.

Those cases of fraud or alleged fraud have caused uncertainty and mistrust among some consumers in an industry that relies largely on the honesty of producers, processors and packagers to maintain the integrity of the industry and, ultimately, to allow consumers to feel confident they are actually getting organic products for which they pay a premium price.

“If there’s more money in it, there’s more people looking at the dollars aspect and not the moral aspect,” said Charlie Johnson, a longtime organic farmer who grows soybeans, corn, oats and alfalfa southwest of Madison, S.D. “Those types of people and operations need to be pointed out and prosecuted because they can bring down all of us if we don’t keep the system clean and honorable.”

Trey Wharton of Sioux Falls has made many financial sacrifices in order to afford to buy organic foods that are part of his vegan diet. Photo: Bart Pfankuch, South Dakota News Watch

In many ways, the organic food industry in America — which topped $63 billion in sales in 2021 — is responding to negative publicity from fraud cases and other weaknesses in the organic regulatory system by pushing for more stringent requirements and stronger enforcement of existing rules to protect the industry’s reputation long term.

At the policy level, the organic industry has been pushing for more regulation and oversight from the USDA and Congress to protect the integrity of the industry as it grows and evolves, said Reana Kovalcik, director of public affairs at the Organic Trade Association, a business group representing the organic industry in Washington, D.C.

The group that represents organic farmers, processors and retailers is pushing for new rules and programs to Improve transparency, oversight and enforcement of national organic regulations and processes, Kovalcik said.

“It’s kind of unique for an agriculture industry to say, ‘Hey, please regulate us more,’ but that’s exactly what the organic industry is asking for,” she said. “The industry wants to make sure everything is as buttoned up as it needs to be for producers who are doing this extra work to get a price premium, and for consumers who are paying that premium price.”

The organization has separate regulatory and congressional packages it has been pushing for years, but both are bogged down in Washington, Kovalcik said.

One element of the proposals deals with increasing fraud protections within the industry, she said.

As hard as the organic industry tries to police itself and protect its integrity, Kovalcik said she still hears people speak about Randy Constant, the Missouri corn and soybean grower who perpetrated the largest organic grain-fraud scheme in U.S. history. Constant was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2019 for generating $142 million in fraudulent organic grain sales, which he spent on an extravagant lifestyle. Constant took his own life after being sentenced. 

“It’s really in the interest of the entire organic industry to keep our regulations current, modern and transparent for the good of producers, retailers and consumers,” she said. “The organic seal was all about trust and integrity; that’s why we have seals, and the organic industry takes that very seriously.”

Wharton, meanwhile, said he will continue to buy organic and trust that sufficient safeguards and oversight are in place to ensure organic practices are followed and that organic labeling is accurate.

“It’s like when they build a house,” he said. “You have to trust at some level that what they are doing is up to code.”

Organic foods, including grains such as these oat bran flakes, can cost double or even triple the price of non-organic foods grown with pesticides and fertilizers and yet look exactly the same, making the industry an attractive target for fraudsters. This organic oat bran at the Sioux Falls Food Co-op cost $4.49 a pound, while conventional oat bran at Walmart in Sioux Falls cost $1.95 a pound. Photo: Bart Pfankuch, South Dakota News Watch

Billion-dollar industry attractive to fraudsters

As in any industry, the lure of making big money through fraud is enticing to unscrupulous farmers and suppliers who are willing to risk prison to take advantage of weaknesses in the organic system to defraud consumers.

The enticement to commit outright fraud, or just to cut corners or manipulate the system in small ways, is high in the organic industry, where more expensive, more carefully produced final products look exactly the same on the shelves as products that are cheaper and produced with far less-stringent standards and more chemicals and additives.

On a basic level, organic foods are non-genetically modified crops grown in soil without chemical additives such as fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides; and non-genetically modified livestock raised on mostly organic feed without added hormones or antibiotics.

The USDA describes organic farming as “the application of a set of cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that support the cycling of on-farm resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. These include maintaining or enhancing soil and water quality; conserving wetlands, woodlands, and wildlife; and avoiding use of synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering.”

The USDA sets forth a host of operating and labeling regulations, including lists of allowable and non-allowable food additives and agricultural practices, as part of its National Organic Program that was established through the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990.

USDA workgroups within the larger program work continuously to consider requests to modify the program and consider new allowable substances and practices to keep the program up to date, though many people and groups in the organic industry say the USDA is too lenient and too slow to react to industry changes.

Furthermore, the organic food industry is relatively new in comparison to the conventional food industry, so regulations have come more slowly and with less consistency and lower government investment and intervention.

For example, the USDA is responsible for setting product-safety and production guidelines for both the conventional and organic food industries. But while the USDA is responsible for regulating and enforcing the rules in most conventional agricultural processes — the meat industry, for example —  the USDA outsources the certification and regulatory functions of the organic food industry. In the organic world, producers who want to label their products as organic must become certified by one of about 80 independent groups or agencies, many of them nonprofit groups devoted to promoting organic agriculture. Typically, those agencies inspect producers they certify only once a year, and they are paid for their certification services, creating a potential incentive to maintain a high number of certified producers.

The organic food industry has exploded in roughly the past 30 years as a growing number of Americans and people around the world seek more healthful foods grown with fewer chemicals and less-invasive agricultural practices.

Sales of organic foods have roughly quadrupled in the past 15 yeas, from about $16 billion nationally in 2016 to more than $63 billion in 2021, according to the Organic Trade Association.

South Dakota has been slower than other states to take advantage of the exploding organic market, and is ranked 38th of the 50 states in the number of organic farms. South Dakota’s 124 certified organic farms and related businesses generated $14 million in product sales in 2019, a 42% increase over 2017. However, acres of farmland devoted to organics in South Dakota still make up less than 1% of the overall agricultural land in the state.

Here is a look at the number of certified organic crop, livestock or combined farms in South Dakota and in other states as well as the U.S. as a whole in 2019. The chart shows number of certified farms, value of organic goods sold, percent of sales increase from 2017-2019, and national ranking in number of farms.

State         Farms          Value             % Change     U.S. rank

Iowa           1,066           $145 million     +52%            5th

Minn.         996              $114 million     +12%             8th

Neb.            358              $185 million    +173%           22nd

Mont.          342              $66 million     +162%           23rd

N.Dakota     200             $113 million     +108%          31st

S. Dakota    124              $14 million     +42%           38th

Wyo.            82                $16 million      +45%          42nd

Calif.           5,077            $3.6 billion      +27%           1st

U.S.             28,000          $63 billion        +2%            —Sources/notes: Organic Trade Association and USDA 2019 Agricultural Census; U.S sales increase shown is for one year (2020-21); some numbers are rounded.

Organic system relies on ‘checks and balances’

Angela Jackson has obtained a close-up view of the organic foods industry from two distinct vantage points: as a producer who owns and operates Prairie Sun Organics certified poultry and crop farm in Vermillion; and as someone with more than a decade of experience as an organic expert and independent inspector who has audited organic farms in 36 countries.

“I have spent my life working with verifying bodies, working as an inspector, making sure that things are done right and bringing integrity to the system,” she said.

And yet, Jackson is aware of the concerns over the integrity of the organic agriculture system in the U.S. and in other countries.

“Within organics, there are people that really know the system and are experts at finding the loopholes in the system and they take advantage of that,” Jackson said. “But 99.9 percent of the time, farmers do a fantastic job, and the good news is that the bad guys get caught, which tells me that the system is working.”

Jackson noted that the certification agencies and most of their employees are well trained in identifying and rooting out fraud or potential fraud. While she acknowledges that more oversight would be good for the industry, she added that organic foods are actually more highly regulated and monitored than conventional foods.

Annual inspections of producers seeking organic certification typically include a review of paperwork, a tour of the farm and farm operations, and testing of products and equipment for the presence of non-allowed substances such as pesticides, she said. Reports developed by on-site inspectors, she said, are then reviewed for accuracy by the certifier’s technical specialist.

“To be qualified to be an inspector is arduous,” she said.

One weak point in the regulatory oversight process, Jackson said, is that most of the testing of organic crops is done to look for genetically modified organisms, which are not allowed. More direct testing of products for the presence of pesticides could be done in the inspection process, she said. 

Jackson added that there is a difference between “compliance,” which is following both the letter and spirit of organic regulations, and “ethics,” which puts more onus on the farmer to do what is right even if the rules don’t necessarily call for it.

Jackson said some farmers and livestock producers are beginning to find loopholes in the organic requirements that have been in place for decades, including the growth of hydroponic crops that never touch actual soil. Some farms risk cross-contamination of organic and non-organic products through “dual production” farms, which grow or raise both types of products on the same farm and open the door to reduced integrity of the organics produced there.

“What we’re losing in organics is the ethics piece, and the ethics are getting watered down,” she said. “The compliance piece is still there, but unfortunately some farms are putting corporate interests first, and it’s all about money to them.”

However, Jackson said, the majority of organic farms in the U.S. are both compliant and ethical in how crops are grown and how animals are raised and treated.

But even as she is aware of the weaknesses within the organic certification and regulatory system, Jackson is confident that consumers who desire organic products can rely on the systems in place to ensure safety and authenticity.

She also urged a consumer who questions the validity of a claim of organic on any product to take a picture of the product and submit it to the USDA for investigation. Getting to know local food producers personally is another good way consumers can ensure they are getting the organic products they expect, she said.

“Could there be more enforcement officers with the USDA, and could there be more auditors like me doing this work, yes, there could be,” she said. “But generally, organic farmers have a heart to do the right thing, and there’s checks and balances in the system so it works very well.”

“You can be assured that when you buy a product, it has 95% less pesticides than a conventional product, because we can never get to 100%,” she said. “More than 90% of the time, however, we have total confidence, and if it’s made in the USA, and it’s certified in the USA, you can be highly confident the organic product is what it says it is.”

South Dakota organic farmer Charlie Johnson met recently with Abby Lundrigan of the Real Organic Project to review details of Johnson’s operation to determine if his operation will be certified under the guidelines of the non-profit organization. Photo: Bart Pfankuch, South Dakota News Watch

Organic industry focuses on integrity

In many ways, the organic food industry is taking new steps on its own to further protect the relationship of trust it has with consumers, to assure them what they’re buying is what they’re getting.

Abby Lundrigan is driving across the American Midwest to meet with organic farmers to examine their practices to see if they qualify for a so-called “add on” organic certification.

Lundrigan, a former organic farm manager, is a certification liaison for the Real Organic Project, a Vermont-based nonprofit organization that seeks to provide organic farmers who meet their standards a way to further identify their products as approved by the organization.

The add-on labeling — provided free to qualifying farmers — is one way some organic producers are trying to retain and bolster their integrity and credibility with consumers at a time when the organic industry has been plagued by occasional cases of fraud, sidestepping of basic organic farming principles and watering down of federal organic standards.

The group’s literature said it was created because while USDA organic certification is important, it has become weakened to the point where many organic farmers feel it can be manipulated or abused by farms and operators who don’t follow some of the original tenets of organic farming.

For example, the group points out that the USDA allows organic certification of farms that use hydroponics, or soil-less growing methods, and allows certification of cattle and poultry farms known as confinements, where animals are not allowed onto pasture land and are not free to move about in the outside air.

“The growing failure of the USDA to serve and protect organic farming was the catalyst that united us,” the group says in its literature. “The farmers of the Real Organic Project have created an add-on label to USDA organic to differentiate organic food produced in concert with healthy soils and pastures.”

The group further states: “As organic succeeded, the same big players in chemical ag became the big players in the organic industry, and with this big tent, we suddenly found the tent changing. Soon we could barely recognize as ‘organic’ much of what was being sold under our label.”

Since launching in 2018, the Real Organic Project has certified more than 850 farms to use its add-on labeling.

Lundrigan said that while outright fraud within the organic industry may be rare, examples of minor manipulations of the system, though still rare, are more common than Real Organic Project would like.

“Once the organic industry became a multibillion-dollar industry, somehow a lot more organic food ended up on the shelves but somehow there’s not any more organic farmers producing it,” she said.

High-profile incidents of organic-grain fraud not only hurt consumers who didn’t get the organic grain they assumed they did, but also cause fundamental damage to the reputation of the industry and farmers who are doing things right, Lundrigan said.

“I think customers are starting to learn that when they go to the store, that flour they are paying more for isn’t necessarily grown the way they think it was,” she said. “And as people are starting to think that, it’s really harmful to organic farmers that are really doing it the right way and are suffering from that growing mistrust or erosion of trust.”

On a exact trip to South Dakota that included a visit to Charlie Johnson’s farm, Lundrigan said she knew of organic milk producers who mixed organic milk with conventional milk and labeled it organic. She told of berry producers whose plants never touched soil yet were allowed to be labeled organic. 

Real Organic Project, she said, will not certify hydroponic farms or those that raise animals in confinement. And some grain operators and handlers do not do a good enough job of cleaning out residue from conventional grain before storing organic grain in elevators, she said.

Real Organic Project requires that crops be grown in real soil that is well managed, and requires that livestock and poultry live in pastures rather than in confined spaces.

The add-on label, Lundrigan said, “is free and meant to distinguish farms that are legitimately organic. It’s a label largely focused on that trust element we need to have with consumers, a trust element that is foundational to the success of the organic industry.”

Organic farmer Charlie Johnson inspects a field in his farm southwest of Madison, S.D. Johnson is a leading producer and advocate for organic farming and organic foods in South Dakota. Photo: Bart Pfankuch, South Dakota News Watch

Putting the farmer back in farming

It only takes a few hours of visiting with Charlie Johnson and driving in a pickup around his farm in Lake County, S.D., to realize why organic grains cost more than conventionally grown grains at the wholesale and retail levels.

Johnson and his family members have been growing and harvesting organic grains since the 1980s, and Johnson has emerged as a leader in mastering the processes of organic farming and as a promoter of the organic-farming lifestyle and its values.

On a more philosophical level, Johnson sees organic farming as a return to the roots of agriculture — in which farmers didn’t rely on chemicals, huge machines or vast economies of scale to drive production and profits, but rather lived on the land, spent many hours working the land, and used their minds to determine the most efficient, purest way to grow healthy crops.

“In modern agriculture, we’ve taken the farmer out of farming,” Johnson said. “If we want more community here, more churches, more schools, and a healthy economic environment, organic farming will promote that because it requires human and farmer input. It’s about consumers supporting a family-friendly, community-friendly, soil-friendly and health-friendly approach to farming, and they want to put their dollars behind that.”

To uphold that strong connection between earth, farmer and consumer takes a lot of thought, planning and hard work.

Johnson has 65 separate fields of crops on his 1,600 tillable acres, and he uses a six-year rotation of crops, in which each year a field has a different crop grown on it to promote soil health.

Instead of herbicides, he must drive a cultivator over his crops to remove as many weeds as possible from the land between crop rows. About 5% of his land is preserved as buffer strips and shelter belts that form a natural barrier between croplands and between his organic crops and those of neighboring conventional farms to block chemical drift. Signs are placed in ditches along his crops so pesticide contractors hired by conventional farmers do not apply chemicals to Johnson’s crops by mistake.

Johnson has no doubt that the resulting products are not only different, but also better than conventionally grown crops.

“I just think organic foods are simply better; they’re very much richer and better in quality and in food density,” he said.

PHOTO/VIDEO: South Dakota organic farmer Charlie Johnson stands astride experimental grain plots planted on his farm by researchers from South Dakota State University. In the video — click arrow to view — Johnson explains why he believes organic farms are critical to building community in rural America. Photo/video: Bart Pfankuch, South Dakota News WatchPlay Video

His efforts make it slower to develop yields but he’s rewarded with higher prices when he sells them to a certified organic wholesaler. In mid-July 2022, Johnson was able to sell soybeans for more than $30 a bushel while conventional soybeans were bringing about $14 a bushel. His organic corn was selling for about $10 a bushel compared with the roughly $6.50 per bushel price being paid for conventional corn.

While Johnson acknowledges he has been successful in organic farming, and makes “a decent living,” he is still eager to learn more and try new things.

He is working with researchers and students from South Dakota State University to plant numerous small test plots on his land to see which crops grow best in particular conditions and settings. He is trying a new way to regenerate soil by cutting down and mulching small alfalfa plots and leaving the crop to decompose where it lies. He hosts regular farm tours and visits to educate the public about his operation and the value of organic farming.

“Putting the whole argument that organic is better for the environment off to the side, I would say it’s more community-friendly, because what you do in organic farming has a greater emphasis on the farmer and the farm and the management of the land.”

In mid-July, Johnson answered a series of questions from Lundrigan, of the Real Organic Project, and gave her a pickup-truck tour of his farm. After the initial examination, Lundrigan said, it appeared that Johnson Farms was highly likely to qualify for the add-on organic label.

Charlie Johnson and his family have placed signs in the ditches along their organic crop fields to prevent other farmers or contractors from mistakenly applying fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides to their crops. Photo: Bart Pfankuch, South Dakota News Watch

Epilogue: Wharton’s sacrifices take a toll

In mid-July 2022, a South Dakota News Watch reporter met and spoke with Trey Wharton as he arrived at the Sioux Falls Food Co-op to purchase some organic foods for the next few days.

Wharton told of some of the financial and lifestyle sacrifices he had made to keep up his more expensive organic vegan diet.

“I sacrifice having money to go on fun trips I see everyone on social media doing, being able to have enough to keep up with rent and bills, not being able to save money, and not being able to buy fun things like roller blades or new research books,” he wrote in a Facebook message. “I’m always living day-to-day, buying food for the day or maybe the next two days based on the amount of tips I get and how far I can stretch my paychecks.”

Two weeks later, when News Watch contacted Wharton to clarify a few things, the 31-year-old shared some bad news.

Although Wharton said he has a full-time job as a delivery driver for Pizza Ranch in Sioux Falls and works part time as a package handler for UPS at the Sioux Falls airport, the pay from his 55-hour work week wasn’t enough to pay the rent.

“I’m now living in my car because my rent was behind and they non-renewed my lease so I’m now living the ‘van life,’” Wharton wrote to News Watch. “But at least I have my health. Ha.”

Asked if he was willing to share news of his exact homelessness with the public, Wharton wrote back that he is willing to give up basic comforts in order to sustain his healthful diet, including living for a spell in his 2011 Honda CRV.

“I’m cool with it — it shows the math of how hard it is to eat this way,” he wrote, “and what someone might need to sacrifice to try and regain their own health.”

Sun, 07 Aug 2022 06:00:00 -0500 en-US text/html https://www.keloland.com/news/local-news/fraud-cases-chip-away-at-organic-food-integrity/
Killexams : Federal food aid in Wisconsin has evolved, but users still face decades-old barriers

Although she’s been receiving federal food assistance for around 15 years, Madison resident Elizabeth Blume has never eaten government cheese. She’s heard horror stories from people who have, though.

“There was just this big block of ... something gelatinous that was orange,” Blume said.

President Ronald Reagan holds up a block of government surplus cheese during an event in 1985. When it began in 1939, federal food assistance consisted primarily of surplus goods purchased from farmers and food producers. Over the decades, it evolved into the food stamp program. Now, recipients use electronic benefit transfer cards to purchase groceries. But some long-lasting barriers remain, including a cumbersome process to maintain benefits.

Today, federal food programs no longer rely on surplus dairy products to feed food-insecure Americans. Eligibility requirements have been loosened, there are easier payment options, and the current system provides users with more choice and dignity.

While Blume, 39, has more choice than early commodity recipients, it’s still hard to maintain a balanced diet using food pantry donations and FoodShare benefits.

“Healthy food should be a basic right for everyone, but it’s just not,” Blume said.

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Before the pandemic, the $155 per month she received in FoodShare benefits made it hard to buy food that matched her dietary needs. For example, she’s lactose intolerant — but she couldn’t always afford $5 gallons of lactose-free milk.

Instead, Blume often sticks to cheap foods like rice and potatoes. Her meals vary depending on the time of the month and how much FoodShare money she has left; during her more difficult weeks, she eats only cereal and depends on food pantries for donations. She feels the consequences physically.

“You just feel more tired,” Blume said. “You feel sluggish. Your digestion is not quite ... on par. (But) you don’t have a choice.”

Insufficient benefits aren’t the only hurdle. Participants must navigate a convoluted process to apply for and keep food assistance. And they continue to face social stigma for participating in a program that’s been around in one form or another for nearly 90 years.

A top official formerly in charge of administering Wisconsin’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as FoodShare, says the process is hopelessly complex for the people it seeks to help.

“I’m a well-educated, smart individual, (and) that was my job,” said Rebecca McAtee, who ran the program in the Department of Health Services from 2016 to 2021. “If I had to apply for benefits, I would be challenged to do so.”

Benefits vary nationwide

Across the country, there is little consistency as to who can receive benefits and how. Each state differs in how it counts assets, if it requires work and how often recipients must report their income to renew benefits.

Wisconsin’s program requires able-bodied recipients between the ages of 18 and 49 to work, do job training or complete job search activities for at least 80 hours per month. Exemptions apply for recipients who have a child in the household and for primary caregivers of people who cannot care for themselves.

Since the pandemic, all work requirements have been waived, but Hunger Task Force Executive Director Sherrie Tussler, a Sturtevant native, said they will likely be reinstated by fall. The work requirement waiver expires on Sept. 30, but it may be extended past that date.

In Wisconsin, recipients cannot make more than 200% of the poverty level or risk losing FoodShare. A single recipient cannot earn more than $2,148 per month, or $25,776 a year, to qualify for help. A family of four cannot make more than $53,016 a year.

In the past two decades, the percentage of Wisconsinites using FoodShare has more than doubled. In 2001, 6.8% of the state’s residents received FoodShare benefits. In 2020, it was 15.7%. The program had a exact high participation of 19.1% in 2013.

Government funding for Wisconsin’s FoodShare program in 2021 stood at $2.1 billion — by far the highest it’s been in a decade. That has sparked concerns from legislative Republicans that the state is spending too much and possibly disincentivizing work.

Frustration sparks food stamps program

The federal food assistance program has changed in numerous ways since it was implemented in 1933. During the Great Depression, America faced twin crises: starvation and surplus. While impoverished families went hungry, crop prices declined and farmers were left with excess food. In response, the federal government bought up surplus foods and distributed them to people in need.

But the food, consisting of whatever farmers and manufacturers produced too much of, provided little nutritional balance. Families waited in line to receive huge quantities of commodity foods, from canned goods to perishables including cheese and potatoes. They ate the same foods for a month before the next box arrived.

Since federal food assistance programs were first implemented, users like Blume have expressed dissatisfaction with them. Frustration from commodity recipients, combined with lobbying from the food industry, led to the creation of the first food stamps program in 1939.

In the early days of the program, families would spend their monthly grocery budget to purchase food stamps. A $10 food stamp purchase would buy the family $10 in orange stamps, which could be used to buy any food. It would also give them $5 in blue stamps, which could only be used to buy government-designated surplus foods.

It also subjected users to social stigma.

“People used to get paper food stamps, and they would go to the grocery store and they were segregated in lines separately from people who were paying with cash or check,” Tussler recalled.

The system would publicly label people as poor in an era when poverty was associated with moral shortcomings. Decades later, the humiliation associated with poverty is still present but manifests itself more subtly.

‘Doing the right thing’

Britnie Remer used to be angry at her single father for not “doing the right things” to escape poverty. He worked multiple strenuous jobs to provide for her on his own — but the family still needed FoodShare to make ends meet.

Growing up in Elkhorn, Remer thought that if her father just worked harder, they wouldn’t have to be poor. She told herself, “I’m going to make different choices, and ... my life will be different and I won’t struggle.”

But in college, Remer realized it wasn’t that simple, falling into $40,000 of student loan debt while she worked two full-time jobs. Later, after years without benefits — and still no degree — she signed up for FoodShare again.

Britnie Remer says food insecurity is a symptom of a system that fabricates scarcity and “prioritizes profit over human life.” Remer, who has relied on FoodShare as a child and as an adult, is a chair for Wisconsin Poor People’s Campaign. She is seen at Oak Park in Wausau on July 7.

Today, Remer, who lives in Wausau, is a chair for Wisconsin Poor People’s Campaign, a community organization that fights systemic poverty. She realized it wasn’t her father’s fault for needing food assistance, nor was it hers. Instead, she said it was a symptom of a system that fabricates scarcity and “prioritizes profit over human life.”

Though Remer understands this, she still suffered the social stigma of poverty. It was obvious at grocery stores, when her father would pay with an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card, the form of payment used by FoodShare recipients.

“You get people glaring at you when you pull out the green card,” Remer said.

In 2002, the EBT system replaced physical food stamps, allowing recipients to pay for groceries with funds preloaded onto a card. In 2004, Wisconsin renamed the stigma-laden food stamps program FoodShare.

Now, card readers let the cashier know the customer is paying with EBT. Cashiers run EBT payments differently than credit or debit purchases, but in most cases, customers don’t have to say out loud that they are receiving food assistance.

Small changes like this help reduce the stigma around food assistance, Blume said.

“It’s not that hard,” Blume said. “It’s not that much to do, just to just take tiny little steps.”

‘So many loopholes’

Still, the path to less stigma and more choice was not straight. In the decades after the first food stamps program lapsed during World War II, legislative efforts to revive it failed to take hold. In 1944, Wisconsin Sen. Robert La Follette Jr. cosponsored a bill to reinstate a food stamps program.

This bill would have provided low-income families with stamps to purchase additional food needed to meet minimum nutritional requirements. But in the post-war era, food insecurity was no longer a legislative priority.

Laurie B. Green, an associate professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin, thinks this is because the federal government didn’t recognize hunger domestically. American legislative efforts at the time focused on solving “world hunger,” ignoring similar issues at home.

“Hunger is a problem everywhere but the United States,” Green said. “The United States is immune.” Because of this misconception, it took until 1959 for Congress to reinstate food stamps legislation.

Twenty-five years after food stamps first began, President Lyndon Johnson made it permanent in 1964 as part of the Democratic president’s War on Poverty. The Food Stamp Act also allowed users to purchase a wide variety of foods, not just surplus products.

But, “there’s so many loopholes in the Food Stamp program,” Green said. “It’s good for some people and it’s a disaster for others.”

The food stamps program was opt-in, meaning states and counties could choose to issue food stamps, continue with the commodity system or not provide any assistance at all. Even when state and local governments implemented the program, Green said individuals with no income or irregular income often could not afford to buy stamps.

As a result, only 18% of America’s poor were served by the food stamp or commodity programs in 1968, according to the influential report, Hunger, U.S.A.

Some progress toward greater accessibility was made in 1971, when the Republican administration of President Richard Nixon made food stamps free for those most in need. Three years later, it doubled the average benefits users received and mandated that states implement it.

But the new program had its drawbacks. Some participants had to pay up to 30% of their monthly income upfront in order to receive extra money in stamps. For those living in poverty, the process of getting federal benefits was still too expensive.

In 1979, President Jimmy Carter remedied this issue by ending the purchase requirement for food stamps. Instead, recipients were given determined amounts of food stamps based on income.

Despite improvements over the years, nearly 1 out of 5 of those eligible for SNAP do not participate, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That number is lower for the working poor, defined as people who are eligible for SNAP benefits and live in a household where at least one person earns an income. Less than three-fourths of those individuals receive SNAP benefits, according to the USDA.

Searching for solutions

During her time as FoodShare director, McAtee realized the complex and often tedious nature of the application process. It requires extensive paperwork, interviews with a caseworker and notifications whenever a recipient’s monthly income rises above 130% of the poverty level — even if it’s just by a dollar.

Blume is familiar with this issue. One time, she was denied federal food assistance because she surpassed the monthly income limit by $6. Remer, too, has spent years making barely too much money to qualify for FoodShare.

“It’s absolutely sickening, frustrating, heartbreaking,” Blume said.

The overly complicated bureaucracy of FoodShare makes it hard for substantial changes to be made, McAtee said. It’s frustrating for all parties involved, she said, adding that was part of the reason she left.

“You can only kind of bang your head against the wall so many times before you’re finally like, ‘This is too much,’” McAtee said.

Chris Kane, director of client services for Society of St. Vincent DePaul Madison, has noticed the government’s inaction in addressing food insecurity.

“It’s a battle,” Kane said. “We have to fight right now with the system that is in place.”

Kane has worked for St. Vincent’s food pantry for 26 years. While Kane is happy helping people fight food insecurity, he doesn’t think it should be his job.

“I work and run a food pantry,” Kane said. “But I’ve always believed myself that it really is the government that should be taking care of people, and making it so … that people don’t need to go to a place of charity to get food.”

Chris Kane, director of client services at St. Vincent de Paul, helps with curbside delivery at the the nonprofit's food pantry in Madison. "We are seeing nearly double the amount of people in need ... and making sure everyone stays as safe as possible," Kane said at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

Pandemic prompts expansion

Just as food stamps began as an emergency response to the Great Depression, the sweeping exact changes to food assistance programs were sparked by another crisis: the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Trump administration had planned to cut back on federal food assistance funding, but in response to the pandemic in 2020, Trump raised all SNAP recipient households to the maximum benefit level based on their income level and family size. Now, a no-income household with two adults and three children could receive $768 per month — around $240 more than before.

Blume had received an extra $95 per month, bumping her FoodShare benefits up to $250 per month total. It has made “a huge difference,” she said.

The Trump administration also instituted the School Pandemic EBT program. This program gave benefits to families whose children could not receive free or reduced lunch due to school closures.

That is why rather than skyrocketing, food insecurity rates remained largely unchanged during the pandemic, said Judi Bartfeld, project coordinator for the Wisconsin Food Security Project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She said the “robust” federal response kept people fed, despite widespread unemployment.

For Kane, the federal response to the pandemic made him realize the government had the power to mitigate food insecurity all along, but previously chose not to.

Remer echoed the sentiment, saying it isn’t just an unfortunate accident that some people are poor. Instead, she believes it’s the direct result of a capitalist system that benefits people in power.

“This isn’t just a product of what’s happening,” Remer said. “This is ... a choice.”

‘Divide of disbelief’

As some pandemic measures lapsed in 2021, the administration of President Joe Biden permanently increased average SNAP benefits to over 25% above pre-pandemic levels, or a national average addition of around $36 per person per month — the biggest permanent change in the program since 1979, when Carter eliminated the purchase requirement for food stamps.

But in Wisconsin, pandemic-era policies that helped alleviate food insecurity may be short-lived. For example, Republican legislators introduced Assembly Bill 935 earlier this year, which would have reinstated work requirements to receive FoodShare.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a massive expansion in the size and scope of government welfare programs,” said Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, in a heated hearing over AB 935. “We have more people on benefit programs than we did before the pandemic. … You can just get all kinds of money in these programs now, with more people on them than ever before.”

Given the contentious divide over food assistance policy, Bartfeld is doubtful pandemic-related measures will become permanent fixtures of Wisconsin’s approach to addressing food insecurity.

“It’s hard to know what the policy directions will be in Wisconsin,” she said. “There’s interest in making access to food much more streamlined and less restrictive, and there’s interest in really restrictive policies, and I don’t know that either of those are going to get any traction right now.”

Despite an uphill political battle, McAtee has some ideas for how the program could improve. Most families who are eligible for one federal assistance program like FoodShare are eligible for other benefits too, but each program requires different information, making the process difficult for users, McAtee said. A more streamlined, less complicated system would help.

Such major changes won’t happen overnight, but McAtee sees states and local communities leading change.

But Remer is less optimistic. She knows food insecurity is a systemic issue, and to fix it, people would need to completely rework their understanding of poverty.

“There’s no reason to even have FoodShare ... when it comes down to it,” Remer said, because food insecurity should not exist in the first place — but “while this is in place, an expansion would help.”

Tussler has witnessed the back-and-forth between lawmakers on food assistance policy since she started working for the Hunger Task Force over two decades ago. She believes ignorance — not politics — is the main barrier to change.

“I’ve met Republicans who want to feed people and I’ve met Democrats who go, ‘They should all get a job,’” Tussler said. “But I guess the divide is one of disbelief, and it’s one of inexperience and lack of knowledge, because if you’ve ever been hungry, if you’ve ever gone for weeks without having access to adequate food, you don’t forget it.”

Former University of Wisconsin-Madison student Rachel Clark contributed to this report. Wisconsin Watch is a nonprofit newsroom that focuses on government integrity and quality of life issues. Wisconsin Watch (www.WisconsinWatch.org) collaborates with WPR, PBS Wisconsin, other news media and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by Wisconsin Watch do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates. This article first appeared on WisconsinWatch.org and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Tue, 02 Aug 2022 08:54:00 -0500 en text/html https://journaltimes.com/news/local/federal-food-aid-in-wisconsin-has-evolved-but-users-still-face-decades-old-barriers/article_b39914be-11c1-11ed-a2c7-6b4e658976b7.html
Killexams : From Clean Cocoa to Healthy Fish: Cameroonian Researchers Focus on Food Safety

 HYDRAC, a company specializing in the use of nuclear techniques for industry, has become the first analytical laboratory in Cameroon to receive accreditation in food safety using nuclear techniques. (Photo: M. Gaspar / IAEA)

DOUALA and YAOUNDE, CAMEROON – Cocoa production represents over 8 per cent of Cameroon’s agricultural output, but exports have been wobbly as a result of a lack of quality control tests available locally.

“Without quality assurance and microbiological testing, the sales price is bad – and the income for producers is meagre, resulting in persistent poverty,” said Elie Bertrand Mutngi, Director of Quality and Sustainability at Cameroon’s National Cocoa and Coffee Board.  

This is now expected to change, as a local company with a long history of using nuclear techniques for testing in the oil and gas sector, has begun to offer tests for chemical residues and contaminants in cocoa and coffee. The certification they provide, which exporters could obtain only from European labs before, is a prerequisite for export to most countries.

HYDRAC, the Douala-based majority state-owned company, has used nuclear techniques for non-destructive testing of pipes, construction material as well as hydrocarbons. It has cooperated with the IAEA since 1995, when the need for such tests first emerged during the construction of an oil pipeline connecting landlocked Chad with the Cameroonian coast.

Food security is a key pillar of the government’s 2020-2030 National Development Strategy, and it requires food safety systems in place. Furthermore, safety and high-quality of food are also paramount in order for the country to increase its exports. It is in support of this plan that HYDRAC has decided to diversify into food testing, said David Ekoume, the company’s Director General. Products such as cocoa and coffee sometimes contain pesticide residues and other toxins above safety limits established by the European Union and other import markets.

The IAEA, through its technical cooperation programme and in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, has helped train seven analytical chemists and managers in the use of nuclear and nuclear-based analytical techniques in food safety and has supported the lab with equipment including an atomic absorption spectrometer, a gas chromatograph coupled with a mass spectrometer as well as radio receptor assay tool kits to perform relevant tests (see The Science box).

“Previously a lot of the country’s cocoa and coffee exports were rejected by importers or could only be sold locally at lower prices, due to lack of testing,” Ekoume said. “This is true also for other agricultural exports such as banana and pineapples. We are therefore working to get accreditation as a general food safety lab.”

As of this year, the lab is able to check for mycotoxins, pesticide residues, toxic metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which occur naturally in oil and can contaminate food, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a highly carcinogenic substance formerly used in industrial and consumer products. The extension of ISO accreditation for HYDRAC’s lab from cocoa and coffee to food in general is under way and should be completed this year, in August 2022, Ekouma said.

Tue, 02 Aug 2022 03:22:00 -0500 en text/html https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/from-clean-cocoa-to-healthy-fish-cameroonian-researchers-focus-on-food-safety
Killexams : PD wine writer Sarah Doyle: From food to wine and 17 countries in between

“Behind the Byline” introduces you to those who write stories, shoot photos, design pages and edit the content we deliver in our print editions and on pressdemocrat.com. We’re more than journalists. As you’ll see, we’re also your neighbors with unique backgrounds and experiences who proudly call Sonoma County home.

Today, we introduce you to Sarah Doyle, one of our wine writers who is focused on in-depth coverage of the wine industry.

―――

Before wine, there was the Easy-Bake Oven.

The year was 1983, and thanks to the miracle of television commercials, I had firmly decided the dazzling, sunshine yellow oven (once powered by a single light bulb) would be the answer to my childhood dreams. As it turned out, my youthful zest for cooking would spark not just a lifelong passion for food (and eventually wine and spirits) but also my career as a writer.

Born and raised in Santa Monica, I landed on the East Coast via Boston to study classical clarinet, which amounted to nothing more than 21-year-old uncertainty and plentiful student debt.

My love of food and cooking eventually led me to culinary school in New York City, where I went on to work as a private chef and recipe developer while searching for my culinary niche.

At one point, I decided a job in the Martha Stewart test kitchen could be my calling. But during the cooking audition, I accidentally used a sheet tray — instead of a baking pan —to bake my lightly golden, perfectly risen Parker House rolls.

Let’s just say, sh*t hit the pan — I mean, fan. And I was promptly dismissed by the head chef.

That was okay; I didn’t want to work there, anyway. Besides, I had recently discovered a new passion for food writing, and storytelling and finding unique adjectives for words like “crispy” and “plump.”

But it wasn’t until I wrote a popular essay for Saveur magazine on the idiosyncrasy of carob Easter bunnies that I realized I had found my true calling as a writer.

Over the next decade, I would go on to write for 40 magazines and newspapers, first about food, then about spirits and travel, then about the alluring blend of all three.

Along the way, I developed a full-fledged love affair with Scotch whisky, which led to my first articles for the New York Times, the Boston Globe, Robb Report and Forbes. It also inspired a move to Scotland’s Isle of Islay in the Inner Hebrides and a certificate from Bruichladdich’s Malt Whisky Academy (but that’s another story).

If I had to define the first moment wine truly swept me off my feet, it would be my first visit to Tablas Creek Winery in Paso Robles. I had just moved to the Central Coast to be near family when a friend invited me to tag along to the winery for a tasting.

I had always enjoyed wine; wine accompanied food. But I hadn’t experienced its mystery, complexity and intricacy until I tasted the Rhône-varietal wines at Tablas Creek.

For starters, what was picpoul blanc? Rousanne? Marsanne? Mourvèdre? And why did the latter have me wrapped around its finger with its distinct underpinnings of gamy meat?

During a tour of the property, our guide explained that Tablas Creek originated from a partnership between the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel, a famed estate in the Southern Rhône region of France, and the Haas family of Vineyard Brands, an American wine importing business whose founder, Robert Haas, helped to establish Beaucastel as one of the leading estates in the international wine community.

We toured the greenhouse and learned the magic of grafting budwood onto rootstock, the two snapping together like pieces of a puzzle. And as the chunky limestone soil crunched beneath our feet, we learned about dry farming, the definition of calcareous, and the tenacious character of a grapevine with limited access to water.

My visit to Tablas Creek winery was a turning point. The allure of wine deeply resonated with my passion for food and cooking, and the more I learned, the more I wanted to know.

Within a few weeks, I got a job in the Tablas Creek tasting room, which would eventually lead to a 15-year career in the wine industry, both on the Central Coast and in Sonoma County.

This included three harvest internships, advanced study in enology and viticulture, and various positions that ranged from public relations and marketing, to education, sales, and most recently, communications.

I also earned the Wine & Spirits Education Trust Level 3 Advanced Award in Wine.

Like many people during the pandemic, I spent time reflecting on my purpose and what I’m most passionate about. So yes, I became a card-carrying member of the Great Resignation.

I realized my deepest joy comes from writing about the intricacies of this incomparable wine region — the people, the land, the changing climate, current trends, our revered history, and how all of these things affect the wine in our glass.

As a writer I have an innate curiosity, I love to ask questions, and I work hard to convey the passion of others through my words.

In March, I joined The Press Democrat as a wine reporter, charged with providing in-depth stories about the wine industry.

I am thrilled and honored to be reporting about wine in one of the most important wine regions in the world.

It is our lifeblood here in Sonoma County. And I enjoy showcasing all of the aspects of this ever-evolving industry.

This month, I am celebrating 10 years as a resident of Sonoma County, and I’ve never felt more lucky to call this community my own.

I recognize that every day is a new opportunity to expand my knowledge of our local wine industry, and I fully embrace wine education as a lifelong endeavor. But I couldn’t be more excited to share this journey with you.

Fri, 05 Aug 2022 11:26:00 -0500 en-US text/html https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/pd-wine-writer-sarah-doyle-from-food-to-wine-and-17-countries-in-between/
Killexams : Ask Kyle: The good, the bad, and the surprises from the first 2 weeks of Detroit Lions training camp

ALLEN PARK -- Two weeks of training camp are in the books. With “Hard Knocks” set to debut on Tuesday and the first preseason game lurking on Friday, the third week might be the biggest one yet.

While you wait for practice to kick off on Monday afternoon, a mailbag to kick off a big week in Allen Park:

Q: Do you expect Amon Ra to be as heavily involved in the offense as he was down the stretch last year? Believe he was getting close to 30% of the targets the last 6-7 weeks of the season. -- @truMAIZEnBLUE

A: You’re not kidding. In the six games after Thanksgiving, Lions quarterbacks attempted 207 passes. Amon-Ra St. Brown was targeted on 67 of them, good for a targetshare of 32.3%, by far more than anyone else on the team.

Of course, you can understand why too. Outside of Josh Reynolds, there weren’t many other places to go with the football. Not with T.J. Hockenson out for the duration of that stretch, and D’Andre Swift for parts of it too. And St. Brown just kept producing too, racking up 51 catches for 560 yards and five touchdowns in just those six games after Thanksgiving.

The rest of the team: 86 catches for 854 yards and seven touchdowns.

St. Brown has looked even better in camp, by the way. His route running -- his explosion in and out of breaks -- is on another planet from where he was this time last year. His hands have remained sure. And coaches are especially pleased with his new abilities once he has the football in his hands.

“I talked to him in the middle of the summer, during our off time, just to see how he was doing,” offensive coordinator Ben Johnson said. “He’s like, ‘Coach, I’m telling you right now, this run after the catch, I’m all over it. I’m all over it.’ And I think you see that all over the field. At least I do.”

So to answer your question: Yes, St. Brown will be heavily involved in this offense. Jared Goff loves going to him, and Johnson is finding new, more creative ways to deploy him. (Team rules prohibit me from saying more, for obvious reasons).

That said, the Lions also signed DJ Chark, who has been unguardable down the field over the last half-week. At some point, Jameson Williams -- one of the fastest men in the NFL -- will join them too. With Reynolds, Hockenson and Swift all back too, there are just so many damn places to go with the football. And that’s saying nothing of the running game, which, hey, this is a team that has invested three first-round picks building up an offensive line that can take over games on the ground. Dan Campbell wants to run the football, and if the game allows it, he wants to run the football a lot.

All of which is to say St. Brown looks like an even better version of the player who was drawing 32.3% of the targets down the stretch last season, but his usage rate in the passing game almost certainly will decline anyway because of all the places Goff can go with the football. Which might be bad news for St. Brown fantasy owners, but it’s very good news for St. Brown and the Lions. Because if everyone stays healthy, there are just so many ways this offense should be able to beat teams.

Q: Who is the player who has surprised you the most, good or bad? -- @dodie_hanley

A: We’re one week into padded practices, and rookie linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez is already working into the rotation with the first team, including at Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage. Considering about 30% of sixth-round picks never make it out of their rookie camps at all, yeah, that’s probably the biggest surprise of camp.

Rodriguez’s instincts are just so good for a young guy. I do worry about his size and how well he’ll hold up during the 17-game grind, but his reps say it all. Coaches believe he’s already becoming one of Detroit’s best inside linebackers, despite going 188th overall in the draft.

“Man, with the pads on, he showed up,” Campbell said last week. “His key and diagnose, and coming downhill, and hitting the way that (defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn) and (linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard) want those guys to hit it, and playing an aggressive style, (is so good). But yet he can play in coverage as well. So listen, I love the battle that’s going on there. It’s early, I still I like what we got in that room.”

Q: Jarrad Davis… haven’t heard anything about him or how he’s looked in camp. How has his return to Det looked so far? -- @Sully0288

A: You haven’t heard much about him because, well, he hasn’t done much. Not exactly what you want to see from a guy repping a lot with the third team. The only time I can remember him making a play in the backfield was a sack the other day, and even that was due to going unblocked. He just looks pretty ordinary out there. I think he’s on the wrong side of the bubble heading into the preseason.

Q: Is Hard Knocks still happening or did the whole crew get injured trying to run through a brick wall after listening to Campbell every day? -- @zachgollach

A: Ben Raven and I just talked to Shannon Furman, the “Hard Knocks” director, for the podcast the other day. So seems like at least one made it out alive.

For the record, Furman said Dan Campbell’s team meetings have been so good that they’re having a hard time figuring out what to cut. She also wears an earpiece during practice, and while she has access to live sound from a handful of coaches and players, she usually stays tuned to Dan Campbell throughout. Can’t blame her either.

Here’s guessing the show does its best to develop storylines across the roster, and Furman even said “Hard Knocks” will give more airtime than usual to the assistant coaches because, well, the assistant coaches are more interesting than usual. We’re also going to see a lot of Aidan Hutchinson, including his rendition of “Billie Jean” that was the talk of camp last week. But at the end of the day, I think it’s pretty unavoidable that Dan Campbell will emerge as the year’s biggest star.

With that, please allow this shameless plug of the podcast. Shannon Furman offered great insights into the making of “Hard Knocks” and what to expect when the season debuts on Tuesday night.

Q: Aidan Hutchinson looks ripped and in great shape. Will he need more weight on his frame for the raw power needed to battle in the trenches? -- @RyanDetroitLion

A: Like almost any rookie, Hutchinson certainly has room to grow into his frame. But at 264 pounds, I don’t think girth will be a problem for him. He’s so strong that he’s already rushing from the inside in subpackages. Reminds me of something Graham Glasgow, the former Michigan and Lions offensive lineman, said after working out with Hutchinson during the pandemic year in 2020.

“He was strong as (expletive),” Glasgow said. “It’s kind of weird to me he was born in 2000. That kind of messed me up a little bit. He was 19 years old and he was doing the same weights that I was doing, and I was going into my fifth year in the NFL. I was like, ‘What the hell man? Like, what are you on?’”

These days, the answer to that question is a roll. The man is on a roll. And while that big, meaty, talented offensive line does give Hutchinson fits sometimes, there is no better education to lining up everyday against Penei Sewell, former first-round pick. Or Taylor Decker, former first-round pick. Or when he slides inside, Jonah Jackson, Pro Bowler. Or Halavapouliuvaati Vaitai, a 328-pound people-mover.

Despite facing one of the most talented offensive lines in the league as a 21-year-old rookie with zero NFL snaps, Hutchinson already is making plays, and learning quickly from the mistakes he does mkae. Would he benefit from another year or two in an NFL strength and nutrition program? Of course. And with the habits he has on and off the field, I’m sure we’ll see it. But until then, I still think you’re going to see him on the field in a variety of roles, and I don’t think size or strength will be what holds him back. It’ll be acquiring more experience against the size of NFL blockers and complexity of blocking schemes.

“You see him run dudes over,” Glasgow said. “He ran over that dude from Ohio State. I think he has a nice combination of strength and technique that almost sort of elicits a Bosa brother type of thing. ... I think overall he has the technique and strength and overall agility and athletic ability to be a good player.”

No doubt. We’re already seeing it.

Q: With Paschal being down for a while and Levi looking like he can’t stay healthy, is it possible that Hutch plays much more inside this season or do the lions need to go and pick up some more starter level talent on the interior? -- @pauliewalnuts67

A: I don’t know when second-round pick Josh Paschal will return from sports hernia surgery, although I imagine it’ll probably be soon. I don’t think the Levi Onwuzurike injury is long term, although missed time for a young guy is troubling, especially a young guy who didn’t play well as a rookie because he missed so much practice time.

That said, yes, we’ll see Aidan Hutchinson rush from the interior. But I think that was the plan before the injuries inside, and will continue to be the plan whenever guys like Paschal and Onwuzurike are back. Hutchinson did it a bit at Michigan, Detroit was raving about that versatility, oh, about 10 minutes after making the pick, and he’s been rushing from the inside in subpackages during camp.

Either way, I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Lions did try to go find some more meat on the inside. Don’t forget that John Penisini, a backup defensive tackle, also decided to retire this offseason. Dan Campbell has already intimated another move might be forthcoming to add some muscle at that position.

“I will tell you this: I do think that we may need a little bit more girth up front,” he said. “I wouldn’t say that we’re not looking for that, or won’t be.”

Once rosters are trimmed down next month, don’t be surprised if Detroit puts in a waiver claim for an interior lineman.

Q: Kyle a couple buddies and I are coming down from the great white north for the Thanksgiving game this year. What are three spots for food/beer that we absolutely have to hit? -- @ConDaddy

A: At last, a question I am actually qualified to answer. Of course a lot depends on what sort of thing you’re looking for, but if you’re just looking to have some beers, Cøllect is an absolute gem if the weather is nice. They have a well-curated menu of beers and a nice, chill rooftop with beautiful vistas. It’s also right outside Eastern Market and about a 15-minute walk to Ford Field. Love that place, and I’m not just saying that because they’ve saved my [this is a family publication] by finding my AirPods. Twice.

Other bars I really enjoy include Detroit City Distillery and Eastern Market Brewing Co., which are across the way from each other in (you guessed it) Eastern Market, which makes for easy hopping. If you’re in that area, show Cutter’s some love too. Great spot with an interesting menu of bar food.

Kiesling (for cocktails and a lovely patio), Sugar House (for a Detroit institution with a never-ending list of high-end cocktails), Bad Luck (for wildly expensive and tasty cocktails), Bronx Bar (for a good ole-fashioned hole-in-the-wall bar with killer, no-nonsense burgers), Monarch Club (for the bird’s nest views of downtown), Sid Gold’s (for the piano karaoke), Time Will Tell (new hot spot in my rotation) and Stadt Garten (for the German beer and wine) are some other watering holes that are sure to keep you hydrated.

As far as food goes, my favorite gem -- and still a bit hidden, although maybe the secret is getting out -- is Coriander. It’s a bit of a drive from downtown, but the canal-side vibes and food are totally worth it. Pro tip: Check out the margaritas, thank me later.

If you’re looking for more upscale, Shewolf (for the housemade pasta), Marrow (for the steak), Leila (for the Lebonese), Grey Ghost (for classic American fare) and Selden Standard (for the tapas) are some favorites. If downscale is more your vibe, my goodness, SuperCrisp might be the best bang-for-your-buck in the whole city. Outside downtown are even more gems like Yemen Cafe, Hamido, El Parian (a taco truck at a car wash -- just trust me here), Yum Village, Voyager, Ima and really I could go on and on, but I digress.

If you’re looking for brunch, there are so many good ones, although Vivio’s has the best bloody marys and a good menu to go with it. And if you’re just looking to put away some coneys after a long day of Lions football (and let’s be honest, most days of Lions football are long), skip Lafayette/American and head straight for Duly’s in Mexicantown.

Q: I still don’t know what to think about Goff? Will he be good enough to take this team to the playoffs? -- @Tskitt22

A: Make sure you wear comfortable shoes, because the line to get into that club is a long one.

My best guess: Goff isn’t good enough to see through this rebuild, and the Lions will use their two first-round picks to add his eventual successor in the draft. That said, they are certainly giving Goff a legitimate shot to show he can be that guy, spending huge resources to add receivers like DJ Chark and Jameson Williams, even though the defense was the big problem last year.

With a top offensive line in front of him, everyone back behind him and two speedy wideouts added to a passing game that returns a Pro Bowler at tight end and the best rookie receiver in franchise history in the slot, the time is now for Jared Goff to show what’s got. Or else.

Q: I haven’t heard much about third-round pick Kerby Joseph yet. I’m just curious about his progress so far. -- @raynuzzy

A: Your eyes and ears are not deceiving you. Since camp opened two weeks ago, the only time Kerby Joseph has been mentioned by any player or coach occurred on Saturday, when Dan Campbell said before the intrasquad scrimmage: “I want to see what Kerby Joseph does today.”

That’s it. So yeah, pretty quiet. I’ve heard he’s putting in the work off the field and in the film room, but I get the sense he has a ways to go before he’s ready to have a game-day role on defense. Tracy Walker and DeShon Elliott are entrenched as the starting safeties right now, while Ifeatu Melifonwu -- who just moved from cornerback to safety this offseason -- looks like the first guy off the bench and in subpackages.

Considering Joseph didn’t move to safety full time until his final season at Illinois, perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise he needs some more experience either.

Q: How has Jeff Okudah looked? -- @LionPride8123

A: He’s had his moments. He’s also locked in a job battle with a guy who just moved to the position because he’s been one of the NFL’s worst safeties since stepping foot into the league, which isn’t exactly what you want to see from a third overall pick. Okudah also didn’t do team stuff on Friday and did not participate in the scrimmage on Saturday.

Make no mistake, I’m not writing off Okudah. He went more than 10 months without lacing up his cleats, so it shouldn’t be a surprise he needs time to get right. But at this very early stage, he doesn’t look like a top-five pick. At this point, I wonder if we ever will.

Q: A most welcomed return to you and your bag. I almost hate myself for asking this … Quinntricia must undoubtedly be aware of all the positive vibes around this franchise in the city. Do you think it ever makes them think twice about how their conduct/approach turned off the fanbase, compared to how Holmes/Campbell have had just the right touch in, well, just about every way? -- nmgelfond

A: Thanks for the kind words, and it’s good to be back. Although I might not have totally hated another week or two in Europe. I digress.

I think all first-time head coaches make mistakes. The key is to learn from them, and to Matt Patricia’s credit, he tried. He was better in Year 2 and better yet in Year 3 with how he conducted business with players, media and fans. The problem is he was just so damn bad in Year 1, and burned a lot of bridges permanently. That includes with some of his best players, like Darius Slay, Quandre Diggs, Golden Tate and so on. Once the Lions replaced those players with worse players, well, the losses continued to mount and killed off any chance Patricia had of saving himself.

I’m sure Patricia would do a better job if given another opportunity, and didn’t have to try to dig himself out of a thousand-mile hole. And hey, with the weird machinations under way in Foxborough, where Patricia is officially an offensive line coach but apparently might be calling offensive plays too, while also signing player contracts and showing up the NFL owners meetings and so on, maybe he’s being groomed to eventually take over in New England. Or maybe he just has kompromat on Bill Belichick. Who knows.

Note to readers: if you purchase something through one of our affiliate links we may earn a commission.

Mon, 08 Aug 2022 08:20:00 -0500 en text/html https://www.mlive.com/lions/2022/08/ask-kyle-the-good-the-bad-and-the-surprises-from-the-first-2-weeks-of-detroit-lions-training-camp.html Killexams : Cadets at Vernon Cadet Training Centre receive history lesson on the camp before they head home

Wayne Emde - | Story: 378801

Youth at the Vernon Cadet Training Centre received a history lesson before heading home.

Cadets enrolled in courses at the camp were treated to a lesson on the history of the centre from military historian Megan Hamilton.

Hamilton, a former national-level rhythmic gymnast, presented the cadets with a quick overview of the Second World War and the roles Canada played from a separate declaration of war to sending equipment, food and funding to Britain.

She then went on to describe the history of the Vernon Military Camp, from its beginnings in 1912 when it was a tented encampment, to the building of barracks, garages, kitchens and storage buildings in 1942.

Using vintage photos, Hamilton described the training soldiers undertook, including the development and use of the Battle Drill School at Coldstream Ranch.

“The conditions were harsh,” she said. “The soldiers slogged through mud and trenches that often included animal organs and blood while live rounds were fired close to them.”

At the time, Vernon had a population of about 7,000 – and at times the camp’s numbers exceeded the city’s.

She said the city supported the soldiers with dances and other social events.

“Women played a large role in giving the soldiers breaks from the training,” she said.

After the war ended, many of the buildings, the traditional H-Huts, were dismantled and repurposed in what became known as the 'Hundred Homes' neighbourhood on the East Hill.

Hamilton has just been accepted as a PhD candidate in Britain and will soon be moving to London to continue her studies in military history.

She will also be making presentations at the Armstrong Museum Aug. 18 at 1 p.m. and the Okanagan Military Museum in Kelowna on Aug. 13 at 2 p.m.

Sun, 07 Aug 2022 03:33:00 -0500 en text/html https://www.castanet.net/news/Vernon/378801/Cadets-at-Vernon-Cadet-Training-Centre-receive-history-lesson-on-the-camp-before-they-head-home
Killexams : Q&A with Lisa Brooks, a Charlotte native who’s helping shape the city’s food scene

For Lisa Brooks, providing an intimate dining experience has long been a part of her life. 

Every Sunday, her grandmother, Mattie, would prepare a special meal for the family who would gather for dinner at her house. Her mother would often host dinner parties for family and friends.

The Charlotte native enjoyed those specials moments. She went from peeking into the kitchen to see what her grandmother and mother were cooking to eventually helping them prepare meals.

Today, the 51-year-old Brooks runs Heart & Soul, a personal chef business that has picked up traction on social media and landed her on the Food Network’s hit series “Chopped.”

She has expanded business into a new dining experience called “Mattie’s Front Porch”, a monthly six-course dinner series showcasing low-country and southern coastal cuisine.

Guest will learn about Brooks’ life and how its namesake inspired her to cook. In addition to Brooks, it features an all-female team of chefs.

QCity Metro spoke with Brooks about her culinary journey and her new dining experience.

Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

How did your mom and grandmother impact your love and style of cooking? 

Everything about what my mom and grandmother did, whether they were entertaining or cooking for the family, was very personal. I didn’t want some big catering company that was really impersonal. I wanted a way that I could cook for people and connect with them at the same time.

The women in my life impacted my love of cooking by showing me love and acceptance through food and in the kitchen. And because there were times of scarcity, we had a reverence for food and tried not to waste any of it. We always took our time and enjoyed the process of cooking…I still do to this day!

What sparked your interest in becoming a personal chef?

I’ve been cooking my whole life. I just didn’t know that it was something special or that it was a gift. I thought everybody could cook. I didn’t realize it was really a gift until I got older. I had always cooked for everybody, even going back to college. I always put so much thought into taking a dish to a potluck or to some type of party. I just loved it.

I had never worked in the culinary field before. By the time I was 40, I had been working in the corporate world for 16 years. The job had stressed me out so I decided that I wanted to find food jobs.  I knew that I didn’t want to work for a restaurant so I found the concept of a being personal chef something that resonated with me.

What was your favorite meal to cook with your grandmother?

My grandmother had a garden, so we always have fresh okra, fresh tomatoes, and fresh corn. We would make cream corn, sliced tomatoes from the garden , fried or stewed okra, rice and cornbread. That was our ideal Sunday meal and that’s my favorite meal to this day. It reminds me of home.

Was it difficult to get clientele when you first created Heart and Soul?

It was all God because I hadn’t officially started my business or gotten into culinary school when I got my first client. It was March 2010. I was living in Chapel Hill at the time and planning to move back to Charlotte, so I was in search of an apartment. 

During my first tour, the guide told me that his wife was looking for a personal chef. I didn’t think anything of it, especially considering that they hadn’t even tried any of my food. The next week, his wife reached out to me. I started working for them and they started referring me to other people. 

That August, I enrolled full-time in culinary school at CPCC. I had just enough clients that I could do two or three clients a week and still be at school. After I graduated,my business just expanded. I was getting invited to cater for parties and events, so I began including some of my fellow culinary chefs that I was in school with to help me. 

The phone has been off the hook for the past 12 years and hasn’t stopped ringing since.

What was it like to be on Food Network’s Chopped?

They contacted me and asked me if I wanted to be on the show. I went through the interview process. It was months later when I got accepted and they sent me a filming date to be in Knoxville, Tennessee in October 2021.

I was nervous because I had no idea what we were gonna be doing or what our episode’s gonna be about. But when I found out the episode was about Black History, all my nerves went away.  At the time, me and the other chefs didn’t know that this was an historical episode. This was the first time the show had all black judges and all black chefs. 

The episode aired in February of this year. It was a very special experience. I was a finalist, coming in second. We all still keep in touch. It was a life changing experience for me.

What are some of the challenges you faced as a female in the chef industry? Were you often doubted or overlooked? 

When one speaks of the chef industry, they are largely referring to restaurant chefs. Being a personal chef has come with its own set of challenges in general. There is no industry recognition for our niche. So male or female, we work primarily in the shadows of the restaurant chefs. I haven’t worked in the restaurant industry and have never experienced those disparities personally. 

Mattie’s Front Porch offers six course including unique desert items created by Brooks. Photo credit: Amanda Richardson

Why did you decide to use all female chefs for Mattie’s Front Porch, primarily women of color?

It must have been divine because it wasn’t my plan. It wasn’t my intention at all. People wanna work with someone who resonates with them. I’ve had interns work with me from all different races and genders. But the people who stuck just so happened to be women of color. It’s not that I wouldn’t hire anyone else, but it just happened that my team is all women of color.

What qualified the chefs that work with you compared to other chefs? 

Passion. I can teach skills. I cannot teach passion for food and passion for people. Both are equally important when you cook privately in clients’ homes. There’s no veil between the chef and the client. So personality is much more of a factor than in other traditional chef roles. It takes a special combination of both. 

What does it mean for you to provide an opportunity to female chefs? 

It is an honor that each of these women has placed their trust in me to help foster their careers and their own businesses. I’ve been able to teach them not only cooking and technical skills to hone their craft, but I’ve also been able to teach them leadership skills and business management skills and truly make them bosses of their own destiny. I encourage them all to pursue their own business ventures and highlight them whenever I can. Mentoring is the most important and rewarding aspect of my work. 

Besides good food, how do you expect Mattie’s Front Porch to impact those who participate in the experience?

Each dinner is carefully curated to ensure guests not only leave full, but leave with insight into who I am as a person and the importance of each and every dish as it relates to my childhood, my family, my passion for cooking, and my desire to share our history in Southern cooking. I want my guests leaving with the feeling of inclusion, belonging, abundance, and joy.

What are your words of advice for young girls who are interested in a career in culinary arts?  

Turn and walk in that direction. If it’s what you love to do, pursue it whole-heartedly and do not be swayed. Be fearless, bold, and creative. Live your dreams and pursue your passion no matter what it is.

Although culinary school is not required to be successful as a chef, you will need some mentorship or apprenticing or some type of training. Get under the wings of someone who’s doing exactly what you want to do and learn everything you can from them. If it’s important to you, you have to invest time in your craft. Be obsessed with food!

Mattie’s Front Porch will have its next dining experience on August 14. Tickets can be purchased through Eventbrite.

Mon, 01 Aug 2022 20:49:00 -0500 en-US text/html https://qcitymetro.com/2022/08/01/qa-with-lisa-brooks-a-charlotte-native-whos-helping-shape-the-citys-food-scene/
Killexams : Brewery guide: Craft beer, food and fun at taprooms in Sarasota, Bradenton and Venice

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Tue, 02 Aug 2022 21:01:00 -0500 en-US text/html https://www.heraldtribune.com/story/entertainment/dining/2022/08/03/brewery-guide-craft-beer-food-and-fun-at-taprooms-in-sarasota-bradenton-and-venice-florida/10147469002/
Killexams : College food pantries help feed students

Marcela Gonzalez, who had wanted to be a physical therapist since she was a teenager, was in the final stage of realizing her dream.

But when she started in the PT program at the University of California San Francisco in 2021, a vexing struggle of her undergraduate years came back. Academic pressures and stomach troubles, compounded by financial worries, drained her of any energy and capacity to feed herself.

“I didn't eat; I lost a lot of weight because I just couldn't eat,” Gonzalez recalled. “I was too stressed out all the time; I was a mess.”

During her first year at UCSF, Gonzalez, for whom food has “always just been hard,” discovered that she qualified for CalFresh (California's version of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as “food stamps”). Her participation in the program – as well as the presence of a campus food pantry – helped lift a heavy mental burden and allowed her to refocus on school.

To understand the mechanisms that connect eligible students with CalFresh benefits, which could greatly Improve their lives and education, University of California researchers interviewed UC campus staff responsible for guiding undergraduate and graduate students through the application process. Their recently published study, which involved researchers at UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Nutrition Policy Institute, illuminated several major facilitators and barriers to CalFresh enrollment.

Staffing and coordination

Ensuring that college students have access to CalFresh is especially crucial, given that food insecurity affects that segment of the population roughly four times the rate of the general population, according to the study's principal investigator and co-author Suzanna Martinez, an associate professor in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at UCSF.

It's estimated that more than 40% of college students face uncertain access to healthy food – and inflation, the rising cost of attending college and increasingly unaffordable housing are likely to swell those numbers.

That's why researchers say it's critical for campus staff who work on CalFresh outreach to collaborate with the financial aid office and the county office that administers the CalFresh program locally. Through close coordination, staff members can determine if students meet the necessary exemptions and help them with the paperwork.

“When that happens, it's much easier than when a student applies without their campus Basic Needs coordinator, or when they just go to the county and apply on their own,” Martinez explained. “Maybe they don't know all of the verification documents that have to be included, or they might not know their financial aid status.”

Erin Esaryk, NPI research data analyst and first author of the study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, also highlighted the need for increased campus staffing to help with CalFresh enrollment, as well as more outreach by campus and county staff to student populations about the benefits.

“When there's a lot of outreach, that helps alleviate some of the stigma, to normalize the receiving of CalFresh,” Esaryk said.

Helping others worry less

Given her own history of travails, Gonzalez, the physical therapy student, wanted to help others at UCSF “de-stress” about food. In summer and fall 2021, she served as a “CalFresh ambassador” for her cohort of new PT students, developing presentations and guides that break down how to apply for or renew CalFresh benefits.

She became the go-to person for her classmates' questions on the logistics and details of applying for the program, and also encouraged fellow health-professional students who, like herself, did not think they would qualify.

“To take out less loans, or to not worry about food a little bit every week, is a great thing,” said Gonzalez, pointing out that subtracting food costs allows students to shave down their loans.

After helping introduce her classmates to CalFresh, she transitioned to working at the food pantry at the Parnassus campus. In addition to setting up and distributing the items, Gonzalez also posts on Instagram and TikTok (@ucsf_basicneeds) to promote the “food market,” which attracts about 100 students and campus community members every Thursday afternoon.

“You never know what you're going to get, but there's so much really good, fresh produce,” she said.

Pantries deliver health benefits

Researchers are also studying how campus food pantries affect students' overall health, including easing the challenges of anxiety, depression and sleep deprivation. Another recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior analyzed health-survey responses of 1,855 undergraduate and graduate students at all 10 UC campuses – before and after access to a campus food pantry.

“What we found was that students reported improvements in their perceived health and sufficient sleep,” said UCSF's Martinez, the lead author. “We also found that they reported fewer depressive symptoms, compared to before having access to the food pantry.”

By 2019, all UC campuses had established food pantries, although nationwide only about 25% of four-year colleges have one. The significant health benefits reported by UC students in this study give researchers hope that campus food pantries will see additional governmental support, in California and beyond.

“It was important to evaluate whether the food pantries were actually making a difference…if you don't have numbers or evidence, then you're not going to get funded to support future programming,” Martinez said.

Research guides

Studies of food insecurity in the college setting have already informed policymaking aimed at smoothing the application process for CalFresh – benefits regarded by Martinez as a better long-term solution than food pantries, which constitute an emergency “short-term response” to the problem.

One example of the research's impact is a law passed last year in California that requires community colleges and California State University campuses to designate a campus-county liaison who would help students procure social services, including CalFresh. A separate law expanded the list of training programs within which students would potentially qualify for CalFresh, and another bill currently under consideration by the state Legislature would make the processing of students' CalFresh applications more consistent from county to county, through more standardized training of staff.

Meanwhile, on the research front, Esaryk, Martinez and their colleagues are completing a follow-up study on students and CalFresh enrollment, this time looking at the perspectives of county staff. And while their broader goal remains clarifying and streamlining student eligibility rules and processes at all levels, they remain focused on students and meeting their needs.

“Right now, our main mission is just to try to increase awareness of CalFresh for students and to let them know they may be eligible,” Martinez said, “and then assist them through that application process so they can actually get the benefits.”

In addition to Esaryk and Martinez, NPI director Lorrene Ritchie and Laurel Moffat of Washington State University are also authors of the CalFresh/SNAP benefits study, while co-authors of the college food pantry study are Ritchie, Gwen Chodur of UC Davis, Sevan Kaladijian of UC Irvine and Michael Grandner of the University of Arizona.

Source: University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

Mon, 01 Aug 2022 23:10:00 -0500 en text/html https://www.farmprogress.com/extension/college-food-pantries-help-feed-students
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