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The Food is Never Waste CoalitionThe United Nations Environment Programme’s latest 2021 Food Waste Index Report suggests that the world is in “an epidemic of food wastage.” Currently, the world wastes about 17% of all food available for human consumption. Households contribute 61% to the total food waste while 26% comes from the foodservice industry and the retail industry contributes 13%. These wasted food resources could help to feed the 690 million undernourished global citizens.

A Closer Look at Food Waste

Food loss and waste persist for various reasons. Households may not utilize every food item they purchase and often throw out leftover food. Typically, the average household wastes roughly 74 kilograms of food per person annually. Food waste is responsible for an annual monetary loss of $1 trillion, impacting both farmers and families. The UNEP’s report finds that food waste occurs across all nations, not just low-income nations as is common belief. In fact, “at the farming stage alone,” roughly 1.2 billion tonnes of food is lost. Interestingly, middle and high-income nations account for “58% of global farm-stage food waste.” Considering these statistics, the world is searching for ways to decrease food waste and make food accessible to all.

The World’s Response

Many coalitions and campaigns are emerging to address the food waste crisis. In 2013, the UNEP began the Think Eat Save food waste awareness campaign. Now, UNEP is implementing “Regional Food Waste Working Groups in Africa, Asia Pacific, Latin America, the Caribbean and West Asia.” The groups share ideas and findings concerning food waste within a peer-to-peer network in order to reduce food waste across nations.

USAID is also taking a stand against food waste by investing $60 million over the next five years to research and reduce food waste. In September 2021, USDA Secretary Vilsack announced that “the United States joined the global coalition on food loss and waste” — the Food is Never Waste Coalition. The coalition aims “to halve food waste by 2030 and to reduce food losses by at least 25%.” The coalition works to fulfill the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 to reduce consumer and retail food waste and loss.

The Food is Never Waste Coalition

The Food is Never Waste Coalition represents a significant step for global action against food waste. The international coalition works to reduce food loss and waste while emphasizing financial and economic sustainability. Members include G7 and G20 groups as well as more than 30 member states in addition to academic groups, NGOs, UN agencies and private sector groups.

Drawing from various sectors, including technology, energy and education, the coalition utilizes a public-private partnership (PPP). A PPP enables the coalition to look across food supply chains and intervene from multiple angles. By collaborating with governments and private businesses, the coalition invests in mutually beneficial sustainable food pathways. In Norway, a PPP strategy helped manufacturers reduce food waste by 15% in a period of just three years.

The Food is Never Waste Coalition will conduct research, share knowledge on food waste reduction methods and invest in food loss reduction. The coalition tracks progress with the UNEP’s Food Waste Index Report. Tracking progress will enable the coalition to maintain goals and establish necessary initiatives. Member states benefit from participating in the coalition. For instance, investing in food waste reduction creates business opportunities for local farmers and women in low-income countries.

The coalition also offers a platform for collaboration between countries by sharing knowledge on food waste research and strategies. Through grassroots efforts, private sector involvement and research, the Food is Never Waste Coalition seeks to improve food pathways. Additionally, the group will encourage food surplus donations among members states to feed those in need.

Alleviating Global Hunger by Reducing Food Waste

Ultimately, halving food waste and loss by 2030 will be a collaborative effort. The coalition embodies the international effort to improve food systems. Resources usually lost at the production or household levels could feed the world’s hungry. By improving global food pathways and encouraging surplus donations, the Food is Never Waste Coalition works to create sustainable and accessible systems with less food waste.

– Dana Gil
Photo: Flickr

Food Sovereignty
Food insecurity is abundant on Native American reservations, with the lack of grocery stores and affordable fresh foods leading to high rates of diabetes, heart disease and obesity. As of 2018, a quarter of Native Americans lacked access to nutritious foods. When COVID-19 hit, the more than two-hour round trips to get food were often fruitless, as panic-induced buying emptied store shelves. Some tribes are now taking matters into their own hands. Today, solutions to the problem are starting to emerge with a variety of tribal and intertribal efforts exploring food sovereignty.

The Structure of Reservations

Federal government mismanagement of native lands is a major underlying cause of food insecurity. Through the federal trust doctrine, the U.S. government owns and manages native lands and assets. This means that reservation residents are not usually the owners of homes. This makes it impossible to mortgage property to start a business on a reservation. Federal land ownership hinders harnessing natural resources and developing the land. On-reservation development projects must go through 49 steps, spread across four government agencies before approval. In contrast, off-reservation projects require only four steps and this difference extends wait time from a couple of months to years.

These factors, in addition to low population density and poverty, cause companies to avoid investing in reservations. Tribal leaders or entrepreneurs are able to start farms. However, the leaders often lack the complementary infrastructures needed to get their products on grocery store shelves. As such, produce and meats often leave the reservation for services such as grading, freezing and packaging. By the time the products make it back to the reservation, the produce is less fresh and marked-up due to travel.

The Disruption of Traditional Diets

The lack of infrastructure and government restrictions on hunting and gathering create food insecurity on many reservations. The Pine Ridge Reservation imports 95% of foods and everyday necessities while the Menominee Reservation, the largest reservation east of the Mississippi River, has only one grocery store.

Due to the situation, some families’ only option is to seek government assistance. In 2015, 24% of Native families participated in the SNAP program, formerly known as the Food Stamps Program. This is almost twice as much involvement as that of the general population. Furthermore, nearly a fifth of all Native children participated in the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) free or reduced school lunches at the same time.

These programs, while important to feeding the hungry, do not conform with traditional diets. In 2014, the USDA’s Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations only allocated roughly $1 per meal. These meals are high in processed sugars and carbohydrates and lacking in fresh produce. This leads to high rates of health problems on reservations. For example, 42% of Native Americans struggle with obesity, and 20% of Navajo adults have diabetes, the third-highest rate in the world, below only Nauru and Mauritius.

Reclaiming Traditional Diets

In 2018, the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin established the Department of Agriculture and Food Systems (DAFS). Embracing their traditional culture and diets, the Menominee move toward food sovereignty by hunting, fishing, gathering, tree tapping and farming.

DAFS Director Gary Besaw told The Borgen Project that the Menominee Tribe has a long history of agriculture. Archaeological evidence shows that the Menominee gardened through the last ice age. To do so, the Menominee used advanced techniques like raised-bed farming and biochar to improve soil quality. The tribe has reclaimed producing squash, maple syrup and corn, with hopes of growing orchards in the near future.

Nature and Intertribal Efforts

Prior to reservation life, the Menominee had access to fishing over much of the Great Lakes and their river systems. The current location of the Menominee Tribe’s reservation lacks this access. This makes it difficult to obtain enough fish without depleting the local resources.

Besaw stressed the importance of intertribal commerce and collaboration since each Tribal Nation has access to different food and lands. Besaw informed The Borgen Project that “re-establishing intertribal trade and commerce allows not only for economic growth in a sustainable green industry but also allows us to obtain healthy traditional foods.” Both products and skills move between tribes. The Menominee work with neighboring tribes and organic farms to grow food, manually dealing with weeds, pests and invasive species.

One of the Menominee Tribe’s partners, the Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin, worked with the Intertribal Agriculture Council to form the Mobile Farmer’s Market. This organization connects Native Americans across the United States with produce grown and harvested by Native Americans. Additionally, the Mobile Farmer’s Market hosts workshops to facilitate the spread of traditional skills.

In February 2019, a workshop occurred on the Menominee Reservation, teaching farming, seed keeping and healthy diets. According to Besaw, Menominee County has the highest rate of diabetes and heart disease in Wisconsin. The move toward food sovereignty and traditional diets has had a positive impact on the community’s health. To supplement these healthier diets, the Menominee Tribe is also conducting early-stage diagnosis and tracing family trees to see who has a genetic predisposition to diabetes.

Food Insecurity and COVID-19

According to Besaw, the COVID-19 pandemic illuminated the level of dependency that his tribe has on the federal government for food. The food boxes that the USDA provided were a lifesaver, though sometimes compromising his tribe’s goal of growing food indigenously, without GMOs and pesticides.

Across the country, many tribes have realized this as well. In Minnesota, the Dream of Wild Health intertribal nonprofit organization is working to distribute food to food-insecure Native Americans living in the Twin Cities. The organization owns a 30-acre pollinator farm outside of the Twin Cities and produces pesticide- and GMO-free produce.

Throughout the Dream of Wild Health’s history, the organization has received heirloom seeds from around North America. In 2019, it started to identify the seeds and return them to its community of origin, benefitting in-state and out-of-state tribes. According to another seed-saving organization, Indigenous Seed Keepers Network, the demand for seeds has increased around 4,900% during COVID-19, as Native Americans strive toward food sovereignty during these challenging times.

With many tribes and intertribal organizations around to help Native Americans attain food sovereignty, prospects are growing across North America. Not only are traditions returning but traditions are also making their way between and outside of tribes. As these efforts continue with success, it is time the U.S. government steps up to give tribes the support they need in a way that will not jeopardize their health further.

Riley Behlke
Photo: Flickr

Agricultural Improvements in Tanzania
Tanzania is a country located along the coast of the Indian ocean in Eastern Africa. It has a population of more than 60 million people and continues to grow. Tanzania’s economy has been on the rise over the last decade. However, its agricultural sector employs a large number of people and is still struggling to make ends meet. The country partners with many agencies and organizations. Moreover, the U.S. government-funded USAID is Tanzania’s most important donor. It has been working to contribute to agricultural improvements in Tanzania by increasing the efficiency of weather information. Here are some facts about Tanzania’s economic condition, the importance of access to climate information and the U.S. aid that the country’s farming sector has received recently.

The Total Number of Low-Income Tanzanians Has Increased Despite Economic Growth

Tanzania has a wide variety of resources and economic reforms. As a result, the nation has witnessed astonishing growth in its economy within the last 10 years. Thus, the poverty rate fell from 34.4% in 2007 to 26.4% in 2018. Additionally, approximately 14 million people were living in poverty. However, due to the country’s rapid population growth, the absolute number of people living in poverty increased while the relative number decreased. The areas of economic growth were related to industry and service. This only gives work to 6% of the total population. The agriculture industry requires the most support and foreign aid because it grows slower. In addition, many Tanzanians work in this industry.

Easy Access to Weather Information is a Necessity

Access to weather information is the main tool in the process of agricultural improvements in Tanzania. This has become increasingly important as the climate is constantly changing. Since food production heavily relies on precipitation, farmers need to be able to predict and prepare for any amount of rainfall. The Tanzania Meteorological Authority (TMA) has been sending out SMS to more than 3,000 farmers all around the country several times a month to provide them with the much-needed information. However, due to high cost and inefficiency, the methods of spreading information have been the main focus of improvement.

Database for Farmers has Supported Agricultural Improvement in Tanzania

USAID funds the Building Capacity for Resilient Food Security Project and serves as an important partner in improving the spread of information. This project’s goal is to support the Tanzanian government in stabilizing its agricultural sector through different climate challenges. Additionally, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is one of the project’s three national partners. It has also supported TMA in creating a database for farmers to access and analyze weather information. The new technology has made it easier for farmers to receive the necessary information and has also resulted in higher usage of social media platforms by people in rural areas. It has become much easier for those in the agricultural sector to schedule the planting and harvesting of crops with this improvement.

USAID Sponsored Training to Increase Food Production Efficiency

The Building Capacity for Resilient Food Security project has contributed to many agricultural improvements in Tanzania. For example, the project sponsored training sessions for decision-makers and stakeholders throughout Tanzania in 2019. These training sessions teach farmers how to survive different climate crises and how to plant and harvest efficiently. Experts from American universities and various international partners are leading the training program. Furthermore, the goal is to teach the participants how to practice climate-smart agriculture. The hope was that the training session would increase Tanzania’s food production and decrease the number of farmers living in poverty.

Making Tanzanian Agriculture Self-Reliant

The partners of the Building Capacity for Resilient Food Security Project, FAO, USAID and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) improved Tanzanian farmers’ capability to plan their food production efficiently in January 2021. Furthermore, the partners provided important supplies such as ph meters, measuring cylinders, bottles and new technologies for a weather database to the TMA.

It will be easier for the agency to collect weather data and quickly spread the information to Tanzanian farmers with the new equipment. This will support the farmers’ goal in expanding their food production and security to the point of self-reliance. The organizations hope that making Tanzania’s agriculture more sustainable will contribute to the country’s economic growth and help many people who have employment in the sector out of poverty.

– Bianca Adelman
Photo: Flickr

hunger in Serbia
The Republic of Serbia, located in the Balkans region of Southeast Europe, has a population of approximately 7 million citizens and ranks 25 out of 117 qualifying countries struggling with hunger, per the Global Hunger Index. Hunger additionally coincides with low food security — a detrimental status that many inhabitants face due to lack of money for food or the absence of other resources for them to use as food. The United States Department of Agriculture defines low food security as the multiple reports of “reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet.” As Serbia’s persistent hunger crisis continues to affect its inhabitants, many will encounter illness and death because of the insufficient amounts of nutrition consumed. Here are five facts about hunger in Serbia.

5 Facts About Hunger in Serbia

  1. Global Hunger Index: Serbia has a Global Hunger Index (GHI) score of 6.5; a value that the country’s indicators of undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting and child mortality determines. All of these variables factor into caloric deficiencies and poor nutrition statistics throughout the country. On the GHI Severity Scale, a score of 6.5 is considerably low.
  2. Malnourishment: According to Macrotrends — 5.7% of Serbia’s population had gone undernourished from 2016 to 2017. Those that the study accounted for did not meet the dietary energy requirements because of their inadequate food intake.
  3. Children: Children under the age of 10 are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity and can suffer from being underweight and thin. According to a cross-sectional study in regard to hunger in Serbia by Cambridge University Press — Serbian school children (ages 6 to 9) attending schools without any health-focused educational programs were “1.57 times more likely to be thin than peers enrolled in schools with such programs.”
  4. Disease: Coronary heart disease and heart inflammation (also known as myocarditis) are the two leading causes of death in Serbia. A study that the Journal of Evolution of Medical and Dental Sciences conducted found a link between malnutrition and cardiac debility — especially in children. Those children experiencing malnourishment are likely to experience alterations to their body compositions as they mature, including a loss of skeletal and heart muscle mass as well as other cardiac abnormalities that electrolyte, mineral or vitamin deficiencies cause. In 2018, coronary heart disease contributed to 22.16% of total deaths in Serbia, while myocarditis contributed to 16.02% of total deaths.
  5. Dietary Assessment Tool: The Network for Capacity Development in Nutrition in Central and Eastern Europe and Balkan countries (NCDNCEE) created a dietary intake assessment tool to identify areas of hunger and challenges of malnutrition within the region. By utilizing pre-existing food composition databases, dietary studies and micronutrient suggestions — the Diet Asses & Plan (DAP) platform can identify any nutritional concerns within the region.

A Need for Strategic Intervention

As the issues of malnutrition and hunger in Serbia continue to affect the populace, the country’s overall health will continue to decline — unless the country devises and implements a premeditated plan of action. Despite the many hunger reduction and alleviation strategies that have emerged to aid in these issues, the Republic of Serbia still has ample room to enhance its citizens’ nutritional health and well-being for a much healthier future.

Isabella Socias
Photo: Flickr

PEER Research
Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research is a competitive, international grants program that offers scientists researching funds in developing countries to address global development challenges.

PEER Research is designed to leverage federal science agency funding from NASA, NIH, NSF, Smithsonian Institution, USDA and USGS by supporting scientists from impoverished countries in areas including water resource management, climate change, agriculture, nutrition and maternal and child health. Since its launch in 2011, PEER has supported more than 200 projects in over 45 countries, with a total investment of more than $50 million. These projects address gaps in scientific knowledge to combat global poverty.

PEER not only catalyzes collaborative research between scientists in developing countries and their U.S.-funded counterparts but also elevates the use of science and technology to further USAID’s development objectives. “Collaboration is key for accelerating the impact of scientific research on development,” said Ann Mei Chang, USAID’s chief innovation officer and executive director of the U.S. Global Development Lab.

Besides scientific collaboration, PEER Research also hopes to see scientists from developing countries improve their negotiating skills, innovation and commercialization, as well as different methods of communicating research to policymakers in their home countries. In this approach, PEER strives to strengthen the research ecosystem in developing countries and enable partners to become better collaborators in development.

PEER significantly helps strengthen the global scientific research community by providing opportunities for the best scientists to collaborate on crucial development issues. The following are PEER’s past successful stories:

Climate Change

In Southeast Asia, researchers successfully built emissions models for predicting air quality scenarios. The findings have effectively informed policies in Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia to reduce emissions.

Education

In Morocco, researchers have developed a computer-based instructional tool that helps translate Modern Standard Arabic into Moroccan Sign Language in real-time, aiding hearing-impaired students in learning and accessing education.

Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission

In Malawi, researchers work together to evaluate the effectiveness of Option B+, a promising antiretroviral treatment to mother-to-child HIV transmission and inform the public and the government of the results of their work.

“The research partnerships nurtured through this program are crucial to building capacity among local scientists and research institutions, strengthening linkages with international research institutions and finding solutions to global development challenges,” said USAID Vietnam Mission Director Mike Greene.

Yvie Yao

Photo: Flickr

Dietary Choices
Researchers spend a lot of time trying to understand what social factors influence dietary choices. Many have concluded that the two primary social issues at play are socioeconomic status and education level. According to the European Union Information Council (EUFIC), individuals with low incomes and little education tend to have unhealthy dietary lifestyles. When purchasing food, people who make less money tend to prioritize low prices and familiarity over health value.

Food deserts are common in poorer neighborhoods. The USDA defines food deserts as “parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers.” A lack of healthy choices leads many individuals to buy unhealthy, nutrient-poor, processed foods from local convenience stores and fast food restaurants.

People who’ve received little education are also prone to making unhealthy dietary decisions due to lack of knowledge about nutrition. Reports from State of Obesity estimate that in recent years nearly 33 percent of American high school dropouts were obese, compared to only 21.5 percent of college graduates.

Lowering the prices on healthy food may help improve peoples’ dietary choices. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, healthy diets cost $1.50 more per day than unhealthy diets. One study showed price reductions on low fat foods resulting in consumers purchasing more of them.

Insurers like Humana and local Blue Cross Blue Shield providers are trying to reduce poor dietary choices by offering customers coupons and discounts on healthy food items. Recipients of these coupons were shown to purchase 4.5 percent more healthy food products than they had before.

Another proposed solution is increased funding for nutrition education. SNAP-Ed programs from the USDA have demonstrated a positive correlation between nutrition education and good dietary choices. According to one report, children and seniors who received nutrition education made positive dietary choices, such as choosing low-fat milk and increasing their consumption of fruits and vegetables.

Shannon Warren

Photo: Flickr

Search for a President in Haiti
The Haitian government would have an arguable point to debate with the U.S. regarding their humanitarian assistance. Before they negotiate, however, Haitians must complete the search for a president.

Contentions are rising over a joint project between the USDA and UN World Food Programme (WFP) that is providing 500 metric tons of peanuts to the Haitian people. The “Stocks for Food Program”, as it is called, is distributing these peanuts to school-aged children.

But over 60 NGOs agree that it might as well be dubbed “the great peanut dump.”

In the poorest country in the Americas, the economic shock created by such a program could negatively impact Haiti’s 150,000 peanut farmers. “We’re talking about small, very poor farmers that are very dependent on a single crop,” says Dr. Louise Ivers, senior policy advisor at Partners in Health.

Yet in Port-au-Prince, politicians are distracted by the search for a president in Haiti. Without a leader since February, party officials are busy organizing the next round of elections, scheduled for October 9.

Haiti is currently led by interim President Jocelerme Privert, who received a 120-day mandate after Michel Martelly completed his term. That mandate expired this June and is beginning to alarm the foreign governments that finance Haiti’s elections.

The EU has announced the withdrawal of its electoral observation mission because Haiti’s 2015 elections were “generally in line with international standards.” The U.S. followed suit and canceled its $33 million in electoral funding to Haiti last month.

According to State Department spokesman Mark Toner, “The Haitian people deserve to have their voices heard, not deferred.”

Toner’s comment resonates in a country where over 80 percent of the population lives in poverty.

Haiti’s medical system is in shambles and depends on foreign doctors to function. This is especially true given its recent experience with cholera, a disease that has now killed 10,000 and affected 800,000 more.

In fact, cholera victims sued the U.N. in 2011 for allegedly causing the outbreak of the disease. Bases for the Haitian stabilization mission, MINUSTAH, were suspected of improperly treating their wastewater.

Over $40 billion in damages were sought, though the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals found the case to be “without merit.”

Nevertheless, the search for a president in Haiti continues. Among the candidates are favorite Juvenel Moise, along with runner-up Jude Celestin.

Objectors include the Tet Kale, or “Bald Head” Party, which has not accepted the schedule proposed for the repeat election.

With so many troubles at hand, Haiti would do well to expedite the election process to find a leader.

However, the U.S. should also remain cognizant of its impact through humanitarian aid. After all, destabilizing half a million people who live off the peanut trade is hardly the way to assist Haiti’s democratic governance system.

Alfredo Cumerma

Photo: Flickr

End World Hunger GMOs
GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are plants or animals whose genetic codes have been altered by the insertion of genes from a different plant or animal in order to gain advantageous traits. Plants can be modified, for example, to better resist disease, pests and drought.

GMOs undergo rigorous testing (a period ranging from five to eight years) conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration to make sure the genetically modified food is safe for human consumption. Currently, there is no legislation requiring food packagers to label the genetically modified food that sits on supermarket shelves.

AgriLife Research at Texas A & M investigated the introduction of spinach proteins into citrus trees to help protect them against citrus greening, a disease responsible for millions of dollars in citrus crop losses annually. The spinach protein-infused citrus trees were less susceptible to citrus greening compared to normal citrus trees, allowing a larger crop to be harvested for consumption.

 

GMOs Tackle World Hunger

 

With the success of many GMO projects, research is being done to determine how this technology can be used to address the issue of world hunger. Modified crops that can benefit developing countries include C4 Rice, which is being funded by the Gates Foundation. Rice naturally photosynthesizes through the C3 pathway, which is less efficient than the C4 pathway utilized primarily by grass crops such as maize and sugarcane. Converting the cellular structure of rice from C3 to C4 will allow the crop to support more people than is currently possible. While a single hectare of land in Asia produces enough rice to feed 27 people, the International Rice Research Institute has estimated that by 2050, that same hectare will need to produce enough rice to feed 43 people, a problem that genetically modified C4 rice may be able to address.

Since rice provides one-fifth of the calories consumed by people worldwide, more efficient rice crops have the potential to combat world hunger related to population growth.  Other projects, such as editing and deleting genetic information in crops using CRISPR-Cas9 technology, are making headway in an effort to produce crops that are less reliant on chemical pesticides and more adaptable to inhospitable growing conditions.

GMOs have the potential to help solve food production issues in the future, making a dent in the fight against global poverty. Yet it is important to recognize the reality of and work to address the downsides, as the introduction of GMO crops (large, industrialized yields) to a country’s economy could change local farming practices (smaller, local yields), may dominate their food markets, can harm the environment through the required pesticides and can result in large-scale monocultures.

– Bayley McComb

Photo: Flickr

made_in_china
It has recently been unearthed that United States-raised chicken has been being sent to be made in China and then re-entered into North America for over a year now. Controversially, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has vowed to not label the Chinese-imported chicken with a “Made In” label per grocery sales, leaving shoppers unaware of their purchases’ true origin.

Since 2014, many have become weary after multiple reports, particularly stemming from a “Complete Health and Happiness” article, releasing coverage of the alleged “money-saving tactics” USDA had been “green-lighting” for “quite some time.”

According to “Reuters,” the no-stranger-to-controversy federal branch enacted on the incentive to distribute live poultry-stock to Chinese plants, initiating this as early as January 2014. USDA has since then been entangled in a firestorm of controversies, especially when additional details highlighted the potential absences of health inspectors in the foreign plants.

The unearthed information has met negative reception, with regard to the Chinese units already being notorious for their insanitary food safety regulation issues and high rates of food-borne illnesses.

As noted in accompanying media, poultry is not the only item on the menu for foreign procession. Livestock such as cattle and beef are already considerable contenders.

For some everyday American citizens, USDA’s proposal does not seem the least bit shocking, given the string of negative events that have seen minimal, yet significant media coverage, which exposed the adding of horrendous chemicals in several grocery items.

In the Spring of 2012, outrage sparked the nation when “ABC News” broadcasted a segment that exposed grocery beef as actually being a “pink-slime” substitute, which USDA failed to notify the public of. Although USDA claimed it was safe for human consumption, the American public did not buy into the gimmick.

Immense backlash would soon result in USDA taking the substitute beef off the cold-cut shelves and national school lunch menus, and also shutting down three of four Beef Products, Inc. plants that were responsible for the matter.

However, less than two years later, the pink-slime muck was restocked to grocery shelves, after BPI reopened one of the defunct plants and cited the substitute meat as “lean finely textured beef,” adding claims that 70 percent of U.S.-sold ground beef contains similar material, hence the gradual restocking of the pink-slime beef at a “cheap rate.” Further claims by the BPI indicate that a drought crisis allegedly caused American manufacturers to resort to the pink slime.

Even with frustration imposed on American beef sales, other problems have been brought to the forefront. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s 2014 findings outlined a Chinese manufacturing unit that held ties to 500 deaths in canine pets due to the unit’s production of chemically-hazardous dog treats.

With all beef and accompanying commodities aside, tension of the chicken matter would briefly decline, when on January 8, 2015, Chinese officials placed a ban on U.S. poultry goods, due to an avian influenza scare affecting North American birds. Negative reception immediately rose once a USDA secretary urged Chinese officials to lift the ban, by inviting officials over to inspect East Coast states to ensure the flu was not infecting selective livestock, and to furthermore meet profitable demands.

One week following China’s initial ban, MSN and Parent Society shared medical data conducted by the FDA that signified over 70 percent of poultry being sold in the U.S. contained an arsenic-induced drug that triggers cancerous diseases.

However, even with these findings, problems still continue to surface.

Recently, National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson requested congressional leaders to vote against a passed bill “to repeal country-of-origin labeling” due to the bill never specifying the nature of foreign chicken entering U.S. grounds unlabeled, despite the National Chicken Council’s conflicting response that claims U.S. companies had no such plans, according to “AGWeek.com.”

With problematic notes of 240 million pounds of chicken and 56 million pounds of turkey being processed in Chinese plants since January of 2014, alongside recent reports noting South Korea, Canada and Mexico serving as other foreign poultry-processing plants, USDA likely has no desire in stopping their controversial operations.

In a money-making industry, where profit comes before health, it seems unlikely a change will be met unless the American nation decides to speak up in a massively-collective manner to cease further production that could potentially harm unsuspecting lives.

– Jefferson Varner IV

Sources: Complete Health and Happiness, Reuters, Agweek, Time, MSN, Reuters
Photo: NPR

Food for Progress

The United States Department of Agriculture has long been an advocate of agricultural enterprise here in America. Its support for the improvement and development of agricultural practices is not limited, however, to within these domestic borders. Through its Food for Progress program, the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service can spread its agro-influence globally.

The Food for Progress Act of 1985 established the program as a means to help bolster the agricultural enterprises of fledgling democracies. American agricultural commodities are donated to qualifying communities in need. These commodities are then sold in local markets, with the proceeds going toward the funding of development projects, many with an agricultural focus.

The general process to initiate a Food for Progress program is very similar to that of a grant, with an applicant organization submitting a proposal based on eligible American agricultural commodities and the demonstrated need of a community. Applicant organizations can be private voluntary organizations, cooperatives, nongovernmental organizations, intergovernmental organizations, or foreign governments.

For a recipient community to be eligible, it must be in a country that meets certain priority need criteria. These criteria include per capita income at lower or lower-middle-income standard per the World Bank, greater than 20% of the total population as undernourished per the World Health Organization, and social structures supporting freedom as defined by Freedom House, including political rights and civil liberties.

The project should also involve measurable objectives and a preferred focus on the private agricultural sector. Tangible benefits to this sector can include development initiatives like improved marketing systems, training in more efficient agricultural practices, and updated farmer education. Selected projects are also vetted to ensure no effort would disrupt existing commercial markets.

Once a project is approved, the process is the same as for the other two major U.S. food assistance programs, Food for Peace and Food for Education. The applicant organization, now known as a “Cooperating Sponsor,” assesses its project’s specific needs and orders commodities for delivery to the recipient community. The USDA Kansas City Commodity Office directly handles all purchasing of the type and amounts of commodities requested by the Cooperating Sponsor.

The USDA evaluates the commodity bids by American producers and awards a commodity contract based on the lowest landed cost. The commodity contract establishes the date by which the goods must be at a U.S. port and ready to be shipped to the destination country, but all logistical arrangements for delivery are the responsibility of the cooperating sponsor per their agreement with the USDA, to whom a progress report is due every six months.

During the 2012 fiscal year, the Food for Progress program helped an estimated 6,950,000 beneficiaries, the majority of whom were located in Senegal and Nicaragua. Through its unique approach of fostering local agri-business, Food for Progress is not simply a food aid program but is also a development initiative targeting a critical sector within foreign economies. With continued support from the U.S. government, the Food and Progress program offers an exciting future as a leader in global food security assistance.

– Lauren Brown

Sources: US Food Aid and Security, FoodAid
Photo: WFP