By Julia Conley
A federal judge in Washington, D.C. late Sunday struck down the Trump administration's proposed changes to the SNAP benefits program, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of people from losing badly needed federal food assistance.
<div id="e8d44" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="be49aabc36a5465eed30ca54f88f6b2d"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1318171686232096772" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">A judge has ruled in our favor and blocked the Trump administration’s unlawful changes to SNAP. This decision is… https://t.co/5zeTafxMLm</div> — NY AG James (@NY AG James)<a href="https://twitter.com/NewYorkStateAG/statuses/1318171686232096772">1603111595.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="f47ab" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="381daa45528adda7398d5628d047294f"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1318175677724676096" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">There's a lot of competition for Vilest Policy Ever, but slashing food stamps during a pandemic that's causing mass… https://t.co/EYvb0C8Q3m</div> — Tamar Haspel (@Tamar Haspel)<a href="https://twitter.com/TamarHaspel/statuses/1318175677724676096">1603112546.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="946d8" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3cff2dc2643fc55ab21d2a73881c7de8"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1318168614541950976" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Trump: yes to Space Force, no to Food Stamps. Another equation that might be remembered in a few weeks. https://t.co/9IEDBaMy2o</div> — Matt Taibbi (@Matt Taibbi)<a href="https://twitter.com/mtaibbi/statuses/1318168614541950976">1603110862.0</a></blockquote></div><p>"Trump: yes to Space Force, no to Food Stamps," Taibbi tweeted.</p>
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Dr. Charles Owubah
Today is World Food Day, a time to reflect on the foundational role that food plays in our lives, communities, and cultures. We cannot live without food.
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The UN World Food Program (WFP) said on Tuesday that will need to raise $6.8 billion over the next six months to avert famine triggered by the coronavirus pandemic crisis.
Over 1 Billion Raised<p>The UN food agency is the world's largest humanitarian organization and it is entirely funded by donations. In 2019, the money it raised funded school meals for 17.3 million children globally and delivered 4.2 million tonnes of food to regions or countries.</p><p>Beasley is now urging donors, including governments and institutions, but also the more than 2,000 billionaires in the world - who hold a combined net worth of $8 trillion - to donate to the WFP.</p><p>The organization has so far raised $1.6 billion, far below the target needed this year. </p>
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This year's Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) for its "efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict," the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced Friday.
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By Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner
When I call Chef Q. Ibraheem to discuss urban farming in her own cooking career, she's in the middle of placing an order for microgreens from a small farm in Lake Forest, a ritzy suburb just north of downtown Chicago. Now's a great time for her to chat, actually, because the Chicago-based chef is immersed in what she loves, sourcing ingredients as locally as possible.
Urban Farming as a Social Practice<p>In her work, Chef Q has helped turn empty lots and abandoned buildings into urban farms, which allows neighbors to "take ownership in their communities" and also become educated consumers. In neighborhoods where the fancy grocery store is referred to as "<a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2019/04/01/whole-foods-prices-amazon-announces-cuts-and-more-prime-benefits/3335214002/" target="_blank">Whole Paycheck</a>," Chef Q has seen seed exchanges help folks start growing new produce, and regain agency over their food budgets and eating habits. Programs like the <a href="https://www.eventbrite.com/e/15th-annual-chicago-food-policy-summit-registration-89317576275" target="_blank">Chicago Food Policy Summit</a>, a free annual event on Chicago's South Side, help popularize urban farming and education and help provide Chicagoans with grants to start growing their own food. Though <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/30/dining/urban-farming-kids-healthy-food-new-york-city.html" target="_blank">gentrification may bring relief</a> to previously dubbed <a href="https://truthout.org/articles/how-do-people-living-in-a-food-desert-feed-themselves-amid-a-pandemic/" target="_blank">food deserts</a> — neighborhoods without a nearby source of fresh food — the slew of problems attached to gentrification, including higher costs of living, can easily make these new, more nutritious food options completely unaffordable to residents of the neighborhood.</p><p>As seen in smaller cities, urban farming may be the key for cities to be less reliant on rural areas, and also help <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-urban-agriculture-can-improve-food-security-in-us-cities-106435" target="_blank">achieve food security</a>. As Dr. Miguel Altieri, professor of agroecology at the University of California, Berkeley, has shown, diversified gardens in urban areas can yield a large range of produce and efficiently feed nearby residents.</p><p>Of course, land in cities is often at a premium, with many people living in little space. Shifting public land use to incorporate food growth and getting creative with rooftops, basements and unused buildings can seriously change the way cities consume fresh ingredients.</p><p>In fact, renewed efforts by the conservation organization <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">World Wildlife Fund</a> to <a href="https://www.fastcompany.com/90505222/why-the-world-wildlife-fund-is-trying-to-spark-an-indoor-farming-revolution" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">boost indoor farming</a> may revolutionize some sources of produce, particularly in cities. Repurposing unused indoor space, such as warehouses, can create direct sources of ingredients for restaurants or community-supported agriculture for neighbors. Indoor farming, while potentially more expensive, also allows urbanites from all walks of life to connect to the food system, repurpose food waste into compost and expand knowledge on growing food. <a href="https://www.gothamgreens.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Greenhouses like Gotham Greens</a>' rooftop spaces can supplement indoor and outdoor spaces, adding even more potential healthy food to local ecosystems.</p>
Urban Gardening With Neighbors in Mind<p>When she's not hosting pop-up dinners with culinarily curious Chicagoans, Chef Q volunteers with <a href="https://www.facebook.com/fosterstreetgarden/" target="_blank">Foster Street Urban Agriculture</a>, a nonprofit garden that aims to help end food insecurity in Evanston, the Chicago suburb home to Northwestern University. In the garden, Chef Q teaches kids how to water, plant, weed and grow produce. She'll notice a multigenerational interest: "Once kids taste zucchini, it's over," she jokes, of little ones bringing in parents and grandparents to learn to cook with more fresh produce. "They'll start [the program] eating hot Cheetos, and they're eating something green and leafy and won't go back."</p><p>Kids also just love being able to eat something that comes out of the ground and will take their passion back home, growing tomatoes in their windowsills or trying other small gardening projects in spaces available to them near home. Harvests from Foster Street are donated to food pantries and also sold at a local farmers market, where kids learn community-based entrepreneurial skills.</p><p>"Everyone eats, it's a common denominator," she says. "When food is on the table, people will have conversations."</p>
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It's harvest time, and by eating what's in season locally, people can reduce the carbon pollution caused by trucking food long distances.
Farmers are the stewards of our planet's precious soil, one of the least understood and untapped defenses against climate change. Because of its massive potential to store carbon and foundational role in growing our food supply, soil makes farming a solution for both climate change and food security.
Soil can act as a natural "carbon sink." Climate Central, 2019
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Without bees, future generations may not be able to identify with adages like, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away."
Crop yields for key crops like apples, cherries and blueberries are down across the U.S. because of a lack of bees in agricultural areas, a Rutgers University-led study published Wednesday in The Royal Society found. This could have "serious ramifications" for global food security, reported The Guardian.
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By Francesca DiGiorgio
A bipartisan group of lawmakers is working to increase federal aid for emergency food distribution in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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By Katie Howell
More than 6,000 plant species have been cultivated for food worldwide, but only nine account for the majority of total crop production, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). FAO finds that crop diversity is continuing to decline across the globe because of unsustainable agricultural practices, industrialization, and increased urbanization.
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By Isabelle Gerretsen
"When I told people I was going to grow tomatoes in the desert, they thought I was crazy," Sky Kurtz, founder of Pure Harvest Smart Farms, told DW.
Water Scarcity and Fossil-Fuel Reliance<p>The technology uses minimal land and up to 95% less water than conventional agriculture. </p><p>The hydroponics system places the plants' roots directly into a water-based and nutrient-rich solution instead of soil. This "closed loop" system captures and recirculates all the water, rather than allowing it to drain away — useful for a country like the UAE suffering from extremely high water stress.</p><p>Globally, agriculture accounts for 70% of freshwater withdrawals, and UAE is extracting groundwater faster than it can be replenished, according to the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA).</p><p>"Water is very expensive over in the UAE, but energy is cheap as it is subsidized," says Jan Westra, a strategic business developer at Priva, a company providing technology to vertical farms.</p><p>The artificially controlled environment is energy intensive because the air conditioning and LED lights need a constant source of electricity.</p><p>This bringing forth of life in the desert could come at a high environmental cost. Most of that energy comes from carbon-emitting fossil fuels, even as the Middle Eastern country feel the effects of climate change.</p><p>By 2050 Abu Dhabi's average temperature is <a href="https://benthamopen.com/FULLTEXT/TOASCJ-13-56" target="_blank">predicted to increase by around 2.5°C</a> (36.5 F) in a business-as-usual scenario. Over the next 70 years patterns of rainfall are also expected to change.</p>
Integrating Renewable Energy<p>Although Pure Harvest is building a solar-powered farm in neighboring Saudi Arabia, its UAE operations get electricity from the carbon-intensive national grid.</p><p>Investing more in renewables "is a goal of ours," Kurtz told DW. He said the company has not set a clean energy target but is working on various green power projects, including a plan to integrate solar power generated in UAE into its operations. </p><p>However, Willem van der Schans, a researcher specializing in short supply chains at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, says sustainability and clean energy should be "inherent in the technology and included in plans when starting a vertical farm." </p><p>He argues that many vertical farming companies are not sustainable in terms of energy as they still view clean power as an optional "add-on."</p><p>Ismahane Elouafi, director general of the government funded ICBA in Abu Dhabi, acknowledges that vertical farming has some way to go before achieving "real sustainability," but she believes the innovations are "promising."</p><p>Improved battery storage, increasingly efficient LED lights and cheaper solar panels will help, she adds. </p>
Local Solutions<p>By 2050, the UAE government wants to generate almost half its energy from renewable sources.</p><p>Fred Ruijgt, a vertical farming specialist at Priva, argues that it's important to factor transport and refrigeration into the energy equation. Vertical farming uses more energy to grow crops than traditional agriculture, but because crops are grown locally, they do not have to be transported by air, sea or truck over long distances. </p><p>"The energy saving is difficult to calculate exactly, but the advantages of locally grown crops are huge," he says, adding that those grown in vertical farms not only use less water and pesticides, but that they also have a longer shelf life due to minimal transportation time. </p>
Food Security and Coronavirus<p>In 2018, the UAE set out its vision to become a hub for high-tech local food production.</p><p>Companies and investors have flocked to the region, attracted by the 0% corporate tax rate, low labor costs and cheap energy. With their help, UAE aims to reduce its reliance on imports and make its food system more resilient to shocks like climate change and pandemics. </p><p>Oshima from Aerofarms says the coronavirus pandemic has brought "greater appreciation of how fragile the supply chain is and raised questions about food safety and security."</p><p>When the UAE went into lockdown in April, imported supplies of perishable goods like vegetables fell and business boomed for local suppliers.</p><p>ICBA's Elouafi said they have helped keep the UAE well-stocked during the pandemic.</p><p>"With the help of local food production and adequate imports, there has been absolutely no shortage of food in the UAE," Elouafi told DW.</p><p>Climate change, however, poses an altogether more complex threat to the country in the long-term. Given climate change's likely impact on food production, she says vertical farming has shown it is "an economically viable proposition even with harsh climatic conditions."</p>
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By Michael Fakhri and Ntina Tzouvala
According to a new United Nations report, global rates of hunger and malnutrition are on the rise. The report estimates that in 2019, 690 million people – 8.9% of the world's population – were undernourished. It predicts that this number will exceed 840 million by 2030.
How Much Should Healthy Food Cost?<p>Experts have debated for years how best to measure hunger and malnutrition. In the past, the U.N. focused almost exclusively on calories – an approach that researchers and advocacy groups <a href="http://archive.wphna.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/2013-Ethics-Int-Aff-Francis-Moore-Lappe-et-al-Counting-hunger.pdf" target="_blank">criticized as too narrow</a>.</p><p>This year's report takes a more thoughtful approach that focuses on access to healthy diets. One thing it found is that when governments primarily focused on making sure people had enough calories, they did so by supporting large transnational corporations and by making fatty, sweet and highly-processed foods cheap and accessible.</p><p>This perspective raises some important issues about the global political economy of food. As the new report points out, people who live at the current global poverty level of US$1.90 per day cannot feasibly secure access to a healthy diet, even under the most optimistic scenarios.</p><p><span></span>More broadly, the U.N. report addresses one of the longest-running debates in agriculture: What is a fair price for healthy food?</p><p><span></span>One thing everyone agrees on is that a plant-heavy diet is best for human health and the planet. But if prices for fruits and vegetables are too low, then farmers can't make a living, and will grow something more lucrative or quit farming altogether. And costs eventually go up for consumers as the supply dwindles. Conversely, if the price is too high, then most people can't afford healthy food and will resort to eating whatever they can afford – often, cheap processed foods.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a7be2c0d670900205476c0f6bac1a515"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/iteCytv0RqY?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Role of Governments<p>Food prices don't just reflect supply and demand. As the report notes, government policies always directly or indirectly influence them.</p><p>Some countries raise taxes at the border, making imported food more expensive in order to protect local producers and ensure a stable supply of food. Rich countries like the U.S., Canada, and in the EU heavily subsidize their farming sectors.</p><p>Governments can also spend public money on programs like farmer education or school meals, or invest in better roads and storage facilities. Another option is to grant people living in poverty food vouchers or cash to buy food, or to ensure everyone has a basic income that allows them to cover their fundamental spending. There's a host of ways in which governments can make sure food prices allow producers to make a living and consumers to afford healthy meals.</p>
The Human Cost of Cheap Food<p>The U.N. report focuses on trying to make sure that food is as cheap as possible. This is limited in a number of ways.</p><p>New <a href="https://www.yalelawjournal.org/note/amazons-antitrust-paradox" target="_blank">research</a> highlights that mostly focusing on <a href="https://www.ucpress.edu/book/9780520299931/a-history-of-the-world-in-seven-cheap-things" target="_blank">cheap prices</a> can promote environmental damage and brutal economic systems. That's because only large corporations can afford to compete in a market committed to cheap food. As our research has shown, <a href="https://www.academia.edu/30170463/Food_for_the_Global_Market_The_Neoliberal_Reconstruction_of_Agriculture_in_Occupied_Iraq" target="_blank">today</a> and in the <a href="https://uoregon.academia.edu/MichaelFakhri" target="_blank">past</a>, people's access to food is usually determined by how much power is concentrated in the hands of the few.</p>
<div id="68c2c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3b52ed2e8c0a86bc4d0075279238dc4a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1282318358864699392" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">meatpacker #Toennies slaughterhouse in #Germany under fire for requesting government support after #COVID19… https://t.co/RzRN023XIS</div> — Hiro (@Hiro)<a href="https://twitter.com/mnDonotpanic/statuses/1282318358864699392">1594563495.0</a></blockquote></div><p>One current example is <a href="https://news.trust.org/item/20200612121508-ftbpr" target="_blank">meatpacking plants</a>, which have been coronavirus transmission centers in the U.S., Canada, Brazil and Europe. To keep prices low, people work shoulder-to-shoulder <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-understand-the-danger-of-covid-19-outbreaks-in-meatpacking-plants-look-at-the-industrys-history-137367" target="_blank">processing meat at an incredible speed</a>. During the pandemic, these conditions have enabled the virus to spread among workers, and outbreaks in factories have then spread the virus to nearby communities.</p><p>New international standards allow factories to continue to operate, but in a way that <a href="http://www.iuf.org/show.php?lang=en&tid=36" target="_blank">protects workers</a>. In our view, governments are not adequately enforcing these safety standards to stop the spread of the virus. Globally, four corporations – Brazil's JBS, Tyson and Cargill in the United States, and Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods – dominate the meat-producing sector. Studies have shown that they are able to <a href="https://www.iatp.org/blog/leaders-global-meat-complex" target="_blank">lobby and influence government policy</a> in ways that prioritize profit over worker and community safety.</p><p>Our work has convinced us that the best way for governments to make sure that everyone has access to good food is to view a healthy diet as a human right. This means first understanding who has the most power over food supplies. Ultimately, it means making sure that the health, safety and dignity of people who produce the world's food is a central part of the conversation about the cost of healthy diets.</p>
By Danielle Nierenberg
Since the first episode of Food Talk Live aired on March 19, our twice-daily live conversation series has featured nearly 150 food system experts, advocates, scientists, chefs and more.