December 11, 2009

Food Insecurity? or Hunger?

From Food Safety News

 Isn't It Hunger?
by Olivia Marler | Dec 11, 2009

The New York Times headline shouts:  "Hunger in U.S. at a 14-Year High."  
President Obama says:  "hunger rose significantly last year."  But, researchers for a Department of Agriculture report will only say that people are experiencing "food insecurity" or even "very low food security."  This latter terminology is politically motivated doublespeak.  

So why is the Department of Agriculture using the term "food insecurity" and not "hunger?"

Post by Professor Donna M. Byrne, William Mitchell College of Law.

December 11, 2009 in Food security | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 02, 2009

A Just and Sustainable Recovery: Bread for the World Institute’s 2010 Hunger Report

A Just and Sustainable Recovery: Bread for the World Institute’s 2010 Hunger Report  is now available online. This year’s report focuses on green jobs and domestic economy, but still includes international statistics on food security, poverty, and development. The 2010 report includes new data on economic mobility, housing, health and climate change." [Christine Matthews, Librarian - Bread for the World Institute]

December 2, 2009 in Food security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 18, 2009

USDA Report Reveals Highest Rate Of Food Insecurity Since Report Was Initiated In 1995

USDA News Release, Nov. 16, 2009:

USDA's Economic Research Service's (ERS) today released its annual report on Household Food Security in the U.S., which revealed that in 2008, 17 million households, or 14.6 percent, were food insecure and families had difficulty putting enough food on the table at times during the year. This is an increase from 13 million households, or 11.1 percent, in 2007. The 2008 figures represent the highest level observed since nationally representative food security surveys were initiated in 1995.


November 18, 2009 in Food security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 02, 2009

GAO Report on International Food Assistance

The Government Accountability Office has just published International Food Assistance: Key Issues for Congressional Oversight. 


Multiple U.S. government agencies and stakeholders coordinate U.S. food assistance programs through various forums. In 1990, the U.S. government established the Food Aid Consultative Group (FACG) to coordinate international food assistance activities. The FACG meets twice a year and includes participants from U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the private sector, among others. The FACG is a consultative body guided by an Executive Committee. In 2009, four FACG working groups were established to discuss commodities procurement, packaging, child nutrition, and transportation.

In May 2008, the Food Security Sub- Policy Coordinating Committee was established to develop a governmentwide strategy. Ten U.S. agencies met biweekly until the group dissolved in January 2009. In April 2009, the new administration convened the Interagency Policy Committee led by the National Security Council and co-chaired by the Department of State and USAID.

Also in 2009, a group of U.S. nongovernmental organizations (NGO) produced the Roadmap to End Global Hunger. This report makes recommendations in four issue areas that are needed for addressing global hunger in the short, intermediate, and long term, as well as necessary funding requirements. These four issue areas include

  1. emergency response and management,
  2. social safety nets,
  3. nutrition programs, and
  4. market-based agriculture and infrastructure development.

October 2, 2009 in Current Affairs, Food security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 19, 2008

USDA Publication: Household Food Security in the United States, 2007

A report on household food security is available on the website of the USDA Economic Research Service:

Household Food Security in the United States, 2007, By Mark Nord, Margaret Andrews, and Steven Carlson

Eighty-nine percent of American households were food secure throughout the entire year in 2007, meaning that they had access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. The remaining households (11.1 percent) were food insecure at least some time during the year. About one-third of food insecure households (4.1 percent of all U.S. households) had very low food security—meaning that the food intake of one or more adults was reduced and their eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year because the household lacked money and other resources for food. Prevalence rates of food insecurity and very low food security were essentially unchanged from those in 2005 and 2006.

Thanks go to Mary Ann Archer (Warren E. Burger Library, William Mitchell College of Law) for this post. 

November 19, 2008 in Food security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 17, 2008

USDA: $5 million in grants to increase food stamp access

WASHINGTON, Sept. 17, 2008 - Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer today announced $5 million in grants for six state agencies, one local agency and a non-profit organization to simplify the Food Stamp Program application and eligibility systems and improve access to program benefits for America's low-income households.

"The federal government plays an important role in combating food insecurity and hunger, but we can not do it alone. Partnerships are needed at all levels to reach those most in need," said Schafer. "These grants will achieve our goal of increasing program access and participation among America's most vulnerable citizens."

This year's participation grants focus on modernizing and streamlining the food stamp application process or eligibility system to improve overall customer service. More than half of the grants place emphasis on increased participation among Hispanics and the elderly. Compared to a national participation rate of 67 percent, the Hispanic participation rate in the Food Stamp Program is considerably lower at 56 percent; while even lower among elderly Hispanics at 34 percent.

Food stamp benefits provide critical nutrition assistance to low income seniors, families, and children. Public, private, non-profit, and faith and community-based organizations play an important role in ensuring that all eligible people know about USDA's nutrition assistance.

The eight grantees are: El Paso County (CO) Department of Human Services, United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona, Denver (CO) Department of Human Services, Florida Department of Children and Families, California Statewide Automated Welfare System Consortium IV, Oregon Department of Human Services, Alabama Department of Human Resources, and City of New York Human Resources Administration.

The Food Stamp Program is the cornerstone of the nation's nutrition safety net. It is the largest of the USDA's 15 domestic nutrition assistance programs and provides crucial support and vital supplement for low income households to buy the food they need for good health, and helps many make the transition to self-sufficiency.

On October 1, 2008, the Food Stamp Program will change its name to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) -- a program that supports individuals and families by putting healthy foods within reach. For more information on the Food Stamp Program and FNS, visit

September 17, 2008 in Food security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 25, 2008

FDA: U.S. Grown Jalapeño and Serrano Peppers Not Connected to Salmonella Saintpaul Outbreak

Fda FDA Statement:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is advising consumers that jalapeño and Serrano peppers grown in the United States are not connected with the current Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak.

However, the FDA continues to advise consumers to avoid raw jalapeño peppers--and the food that contains them--if they have been grown, harvested or packed in Mexico.

In addition to domestically grown raw jalapeño peppers, commercially canned, pickled and cooked jalapeño peppers from any and all geographic locations also are not connected with the current Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak.

The FDA is working with state regulatory agencies and food industry groups that represent restaurants, grocery stores and wholesalers to ensure everyone clearly understands this new, more narrow, advisory. The FDA will continue to refine its consumer guidance as the agency’s investigation continues.

The more narrow advisory the FDA is issuing today is based on evidence gathered during a multi-week, intensive investigation conducted in partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health authorities in several U.S. states to find the source of the contamination that led to the outbreak. The collective review of the current traceback investigation and harvesting dates, matched with the dates that people became ill, have combined to indicate that the contaminated jalapeño pepper originated in Mexico.

Additional traceback and traceforward information obtained this week has led to the determination that the Agricola Zarigoza produce-distribution center in McAllen, Texas--from where FDA took the positive jalapeño pepper sample--was not the original source of the contamination.

The FDA is continuing to advise that people in high-risk populations, such as elderly persons, infants and people with impaired immune systems, avoid eating raw Serrano peppers from Mexico or food made from raw Serrano peppers from Mexico until further notice.

July 25, 2008 in Food security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 13, 2008

Britain Urging Return to Wartime Food Frugality

Associate Press article by David Stringer:

Evoking an era of World War II austerity, British families are being urged to cut food waste and use leftovers in a nationwide effort to fight sharply rising global food prices.

It's not back to ration books, "victory gardens" or squirrel-tail soup yet, but warning bells are being rung by experts at all levels of Britain's government as well as from the World Food Program.


July 13, 2008 in Food security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 26, 2008

Rising food prices and land use

Interesting column by Ross Clark at this morning -- We Can Feed the Word: Just Look at All the Space.  Clark suggests using Google Earth to get a sense of how much space there is and how little of it is being used for agriculture.

Globally, less food is being produced on even less land than was the case in the early 1990s.

Label_a_goat Read the article here

Ross Clark is the author of How to Label a Goat: the Silly Rules and Regulations that are Strangling Britain

June 26, 2008 in Food security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 29, 2008

UN Conference on World Food Security, June 3-5, 2008

High-Level Conference on World Food Security: The Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy, Rome, 3 - 5 June 2008. Report: Soaring food prices: facts, perspectives, impacts and actions required (50 pages, PDF)

From the introduction to the report:

1.  The world is experiencing a dramatic increase in food prices. During the first three months of 2008, international nominal prices of all major food commodities reached their highest levels in nearly 50 years while prices in real terms were the highest in nearly 30 years. Although the food market situation differs from country to country and future evolution remains highly uncertain, best projections suggest that food prices are likely to remain high in the next few years and high prices are expected to affect most developing country markets.

2.  Rising food prices are causing severe hardship and suffering. For many of the 800 million people who are already affected by chronic hunger, higher food prices can be devastating. Already their ranks are being swelled by many other millions of poor people who now find themselves unable to buy the food that their families need for a healthy life. It is not surprising that this is provoking social unrest across the developing world.

Thank you to Mary Ann Archer, Associate Director for Public Services, Warren E. Burger Library, William Mitchell College of Law, for this post!

May 29, 2008 in Food security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 03, 2008

Food Stamp Use Approaches a Record High

Grocery_bag The New York Times reported that the number of Americans receiving food stamps is projected to reach a record high of 28 million this year (the U.S. population is estimated at over 303 million; therefore nearly 10% of the U.S. population is receiving food stamps).

According to the article, although food stamp use has fluctuated since the program was implemented in the 1960’s, the recent upward trend is attributed to economic slowdown and inflation.  In Michigan, one in 8 residents now receives food stamps, and the caseload has more than doubled since 2000. 
Food stamp eligibility is determined by a complex formula, but generally recipients must have incomes below 130% of the poverty line.

Congress is considering bills that would alter the food stamp eligibility formula to more closely track the cost of living, but the bills may be stalled as part of partisan farm policy disagreements.   The Wall Street Journal recently reviewed the current status of the farm bill in Congress. 

A short history of the food stamp program is available from at the USDA website.

Thank you to William Mitchell College of Law student Ellen Laine for preparing this post.

April 3, 2008 in Food culture, Food security, Issues and thoughts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 01, 2008

Better Childhood Nutrition Increases Economic Prosperity

A study published this week in The Lancet  showed a link between early childhood nutrition and economic prosperity later in live. From the International Food Policy Research Institute Press Release:

Washington, DC—Feeding very young children a high-energy, high-protein supplement leads to increased economic productivity in adulthood, especially for men, according to a study published in the current issue of The Lancet, a leading medical journal.

Boys who received the supplement, known as atole, in the first two years of life earned on average 46 percent higher wages as adults, while boys who received atole in their first three years earned 37 percent higher wages on average. Those who first received the supplement after age three did not gain any economic benefits as adults.

This study is the first to present direct evidence of the effects of early childhood nutrition programs on adult economic productivity and incomes. The research was conducted in Guatemala by Emory University, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama, the University of Pennsylvania, and Middlebury College.

Article: Effect of a nutrition intervention during early childhood on economic productivity in Guatemalan adults, The Lancet 2008; 371:411-416 (requires login but registration is free).


February 1, 2008 in Children, Food security, Scientific studies | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 30, 2008

Pollinating Our Future: Urban Agriculture Conference Feb 28 in Milwaukee

Urban_ag_confFrom The Milwaukee Urban Agriculture Network announces its first annual Pollinating Our Future: Urban Agriculture Conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin February 28 March 1, 2008 at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center. Keynote speaker, Michael Ableman, award-winning urban farmer, author and educator heads a line-up of leading sustainability experts in presenting the revolutionary power of urban agriculture.

Conference speakers and attendees will address important and controversial issues facing cities today focused on Food Justice, Garden as Community, Policy and Planning and Enterprise Development with workshops, forums, film, exhibits, and Town Hall meeting.

From the Urban Agriculture Conference website:

January 30, 2008 in Farming, Food culture, Food security, Organics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 06, 2007

FDA Science and Mission at Risk. Report of the Subcommittee on Science and Technology

Press release:

"The nation's food supply is at risk, as are the regulatory systems that oversee the nation's drug and device supplies, according to a subcommittee of the FDA's Science Board in a report...presented today. The subcommittee attributes the deficiencies to soaring demands on the FDA; and resources that have not increased in proportion to those demands. They conclude that "this imbalance is imposing a significant risk to the integrity of the food, drug, cosmetic and device regulatory system, and hence the safety of the public."

FDA Science and Mission at Risk. Report of the Subcommittee on Science and Technology. Prepared for FDA Science Board, November 2007

December 6, 2007 in Food security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 20, 2007

USDA announces $1 million in food stamp outreach grants

From a USDA news release:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 19, 2007 - Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Nancy Johner today announced the availability of at least $1 million in grants for public and private nonprofit community and faith-based organizations to improve awareness of USDA's Food Stamp Program for low-income households. Specifically, these grants will target the two most significantly underserved populations in the Food Stamp Program, seniors and Hispanics.

"Those in need also need to know if they qualify for food stamps, how the nutritional guidance can help their well-being," said Johner. "Public and private, faith-based and community groups all serve an important role in the President's commitment to educate those in need about USDA's food and nutrition assistance programs."


November 20, 2007 in Food security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Free -- addicting vocabulary game

Free_rice_2At, ( every time you get a vocabulary word right, they donate 10 grains of rice.  Budget your time -- this thing doesn't end;  they just give you more and more interesting words.  It is easy to play; go to (not this blog!)  There will be a word followed by four choices for a synonym.  You just click on the right synonym.  Example:

maritime means:


It won't work to click here, but if you were looking at this on the website, you could click on any one of those choices. 

Online game nets billionth grain of rice donation

By Ashleigh Patterson, News

The United Nations says millions of online wordsmiths have translated their vocabulary prowess into more than one billion grains of rice -- enough to feed 50,000 hungry people for one day., the brainchild of 50-year-old U.S. computer programmer John Breen, was launched on Oct. 7 and has produced a mountain of rice for the United Nations' World Food Programme in little more than a month.

For what it's worth, I posted this blurb on November 20, 2007.  It still gets more hits every day than any of my other posts!  DMB (2-1-2008)

November 20, 2007 in Food security | Permalink | Comments (21) | TrackBack

The Futility of Food Banks

Generosity of Donors and Volunteers Hasn't Addressed Underlying Problem -- Poverty

Transcript of Washington Post interview with Mark Winne, Former Director, Hartford Food System; Author, "Closing the Food Gap"

"America's far-flung network of emergency food programs - from Second Harvest to tens of thousands of neighborhood food pantries - constitutes one of the largest charitable institutions in the nation. Its vast base of volunteers and donors and its ever-expanding distribution infrastructure have made it a powerful force in shaping popular perceptions of domestic hunger and other forms of need. But in the end ... there is something in the food-banking culture and its relationship with donors that dampens the desire to empower the poor and take a more muscular, public stand against hunger."

Mark Winne, former director of the Hartford (Conn.) Food System and author of "Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty" was online Monday, Nov. 19 at 1 p.m. ET to discuss his Outlook article about how the food bank infrastructure prevents any serious efforts to truly solve poverty and food insecurity

November 20, 2007 in Food security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 06, 2007

Farm Policy a cause of obesity?

From the Danville Register Bee:

Fat? Blame Congress, at least partly
By SEAN MUSSENDEN, Media General News Service

. . .

It costs far less to get the calories from unhealthy foods with added oils or sweeteners than it does from nutritious foods like fresh vegetables. Energy-dense foods made with subsidized crops like soybean oil and high-fructose corn syrup have been linked to heart disease and diabetes.

"There's a huge cost disparity. It's not a coincidence that low-income people will gravitate towards cheaper, energy-dense foods that are nutritionally poor," said Adam Drewnowski, director of the nutritional sciences program at the University of Washington.

His studies have found that foods made from subsidized crops - like cookies and soda -- cost five times less per calorie than unsubsidized foods -- like carrots or orange juice.

Drewnowski finds it ironic that the Agriculture Department encourages people to eat vegetables like lettuce or carrots that are not subsidized, and therefore more expensive, while giving people an economic incentive through subsidies to buy foods it says they should eat sparingly.

"The farm bill is geared to production of calories, not nutrients," he said. "It's resulted in a diet that is energy rich but nutritionally poor."


November 6, 2007 in Farming, Food culture, Food security, nutrition policy, Obesity | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 25, 2007


WASHINGTON, Oct. 25, 2007—Acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner today approved the State of California's request to operate a Disaster Food Stamp Program (DFSP) in San Diego County from October 21 to November 19, 2007.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to all who have suffered losses as the result of the continuing wildfires in Southern California," said Conner. "We are closely coordinating with other federal departments to meet the immediate and long-term needs of those affected by the wildfires. In addition to the 2,500 USDA Forest Service firefighting personnel who are assisting, this food assistance to individuals and families in San Diego County will help to ensure their needs are met."

. . .

Disaster benefits are provided like regular program benefits – through a debit card that can be used at authorized food retailers to buy food. These systems are commonly referred to as Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) systems.

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service can authorize the issuance of emergency food stamp benefits when the President declares a major disaster. FNS works closely with States to prepare plans for the Disaster Food Stamp Program.

Administered by the Food and Nutrition Service, the Food Stamp Program is the cornerstone of USDA's 15 nutrition assistance programs that form the nation's nutrition safety net. The Program provides a vital supplement to the food budgets of 26 million low-income men, women and children each month. For more information on the Food Stamp Program and USDA, visit or call 1-800/221-5689.

read the USDA news release

October 25, 2007 in Food security, nutrition policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 18, 2007

Somalia Detains U.S. Food Aid Official

From the Associated Press:

Somalia Detains U.N. Food Aid Official

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Dozens of heavily armed government security forces stormed a United Nations compound Wednesday and spirited away the official overseeing emergency food aid for Somalia's war-ruined capital, prompting the agency to suspend distributions.

The World Food Program called for the immediate release of Idris Osman, a Somali in charge of the agency's efforts to help feed tens of thousands of people in Mogadishu. The city is in shambles after more than a decade and a half of chaos and war.

October 18, 2007 in Food security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack