June 3rd, 2014
- State Legislative Update
- Food Workers Sponsor Discussion: “Empty Shelves” Tuesday June 10th
- Press Conference to Launch the 2014 Summer Meals Program: Thursday June 5th
- LA CAN Awards and Dinner June 14th
- Congress Attempts to Weaken School Nutrition Standards
- Initiatives To Deal With Food Waste Are Expanding
- Food Prices Rising Due to Drought and Other Factors
- How Food Prices Play Into Food Choices
- Attack on the Poorest Continues
- Some Other Items of Note
1. State Legislative Update: Sustainable Ag Takes Hits
This past May 21, 55 advocates from LA joined contingents from all over the state to travel to the Capitol during a critical week of budget negotiations and decisions on various proposals to help the poor. Some of those are still in play, but here are some of the results of bills that are particularly connected to sustainable agriculture and its connections to food assistance:
AB 2385---This bill would have created a $2 million fund for California for the Market Match program, providing bonus dollars to low income families, seniors and others to match their fruit and vegetable purchases at certified farmers markets participating in the program. It was held in suspense by the Assembly Appropriations committee, meaning further progress is unlikely until next year.
Thanks to this move, CA now lags behind South Carolina in progressive food access policy:
In a second blow to California farmers, the committee also held AB 1961 in suspense, a bill which would have required an inventory of existing farmland with an eye to preserving it and saving it from developers (“This bill would require each county to also develop, on or before January 2, 2018, a sustainable farmland strategy.”).
And finally, the CA Senate rejected a bill to label genetically modified foods:
California Senate Defeats GMO Labeling Bill:
Bill would allow tenants to grow food: Hunger Action LA is following and supporting AB 2561, authored by local Assemblymember Steven Bradford. The bill is called The California Neighborhood Food Act and seeks to ensure the rights of renters and homeowners to use backyards for growing food.
The bill requires that tenants of single family homes and duplexes be able to grow produce in portable containers on the property they rent for personal use or for donation as long as it does not block walkways or utilities or create other hazards. It allows the landlord to require an additional security deposit for restoring lawns or landscaping if needed. Commercial food cultivation is still subject to agreements between landowner and tenant, as in existing law.
2. Food Workers Sponsor Discussion: “Empty Shelves” Tuesday June 10th
From our colleagues at Restaurant Opportunities Center:
Join Us at a Special Briefing & Discussion
Empty Shelves: The Looming Crisis Facing Food Retail Workers and California’s Economy
Tuesday, June 10th, 1pm to 3pm
Los Angeles Trade-Tech College's Aspen Hall 111
400 W. Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90015
Co-sponsors: Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, Los Angeles Food Policy Council, Food Chain Workers Alliance, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 770, UFCW Western States Council
Join us for this special briefing to discuss the findings of the report, “Shelved: How Wages and Working Conditions for California’s Food Retail Workers Have Declined as the Industry Has Thrived,” by the Food Labor Research Center at UC Berkeley. This report is the largest and most comprehensive study of California’s food retail industry every conducted.
The food retail industry is one of the largest sectors in California’s economy and employs one out of every five retail workers. However, despite being a primary source of food and jobs for Californians, the quality of these jobs is being degraded. As a result, more and more workers are forced to rely on public assistance and face growing levels of food insecurity while low-income communities lack access to healthy, fresh affordable food.
Please join us for this important discussion to find real solutions to this crisis.
3. Press Conference to Launch 2014 Summer Meals Program: Thursday June 5
From Healthy School Food Coalition:
This year LAUSD and LA Recreation and Parks are collaborating to serve 4.5 million FREE meals to anyone 18 or younger! No need to go hungry!!
The initiative is called "FOOD THAT’S IN, WHEN SCHOOL IS OUT" and it is organized by Food Services Division in LAUSD and various other partners and agencies that sponsor these programs annually.
Why Summer Meals?
As you know, our work focuses, primarily, on school food policy, but it's not limited to nutrition access while at school hours. Hunger does not have a timeline or clock-out hours and it increases in the summer months. In the last several years now, it has stressed the already stressed and needy families we work with all over the city and the district.
One mother once told me, "In the summer my refrigerator is empty. It seems I can't never fill it and it's empty again. There is no school, I got to go to work and I have to leave my kids home alone. They eat. They are hungry."
Come out and learn how you can support the programs and ensure the communities you work with participate in Summer Meals. LAUSD will service at over 300 school sites and dozens of parks.
For more information about menu and participating sites visit http://cafe-la.lausd.net/ and click on the purple box titled "Summer Feeding Sites 2014."
Press Conference information:
Thursday, June 5th, 2014 at 10:30am and Taste-testing of menu options at 11:00am
Lake Street Community Center, located at 227 N. Lake Street, Los Angeles, CA 90026
Please distribute far and wide!!
4. LA CAN Awards and Dinner June 14
Have you purchased your tickets to the FREEDOM NOW Awards?
Saturday, June 14, 2014 | 5pm - 8pm
The California African American Museum
(located at Exposition Park)
LA Community Action Network’s 4th Annual Freedom Now Awards and Dinner will be held at the California African American Museum. Honorees this year include Robin D.G. Kelley, Gary B. Nash Professor of American History at UCLA: Diane Middleton, longtime civil and human rights attorney and founder of the Diane Middleton Foundation: and core LA CAN members Ignacio Aguas and Emma Gullette.
To purchase tickets or sponsorships, contact Becky at 213.228.0024 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click HERE for more information.
5. Congress Attempts to Weaken School Nutrition Standards
Republicans in Congress have sought to weaken the dietary standards for school meals that regulate the amount of fat, sodium and calories in meals, citing them as burdensome for schools in financial distress. First Lady Michelle Obama has moved to speak out in defense.
6. Initiatives To Deal With Food Waste Are Expanding
Stephanie Strom writing in the Times surveys a range of current programs addressing food waste, from Austin’s city sponsored food scrap bin pickup to the Food Recovery Network of colleges. 1.3 trillion tons of food is wasted worldwide annually---most of it at the time that it’s eaten, not in production.
7. Food Prices Rising Due to Drought and Other Factors
Fruits and vegetables:
…and other items especially meat and milk:
USA Today: “An 8.4% increase in meat prices in April accounted for more than a third of the jump in producer prices, the Labor Department said.Drought, unusually cold winter weather, a shrunken cattle herd and a virus in the hog population have all contributed to higher wholesale food prices in recent months, which have been flowing through to consumers. Prices for processed poultry and eggs have also risen.”
CNBC interactive map displaying areas with highest rising prices:
8. How Food Prices Play Into Food Choices
With food prices rising, people turn to cheaper food, which leads to habits that over time create poor health.
Authors of a new report on obesity say it’s increasing among all groups, and one reason is that all kinds of food are cheaper now than any time in history. (That’s a historical trend---it doesn’t mean food is getting cheaper now, and it certainly doesn’t mean everyone can afford it now.) Mary MacVean reports in LA Times.
It’s difficult to promote healthy eating when people are exposed repeatedly in the course of a day to a billboard for 1.99 breakfast from Carl’s Jr or the Dollar Menu at any one of a number of chains. The idea of the dollar menu is that the customer coming to buy cheap things might buy more profitable things like soda which cost nearly nothing to make and are sold at high margin, and have lots of sugar that make you feel good. (here’s an article that’s A Primer on Loss Leaders). But franchises are finding that the cheap items aren’t profitable for them---they take as much time to make as the higher priced items.
Is it an uphill battle to get fast food chains to offer healthier fare? In fact, such items sell well enough to be kept on the menu, and they actually have higher profit margins than some of the usual calorie laden items like cheeseburgers. The healthier options still don’t sell nearly as well, but their very presence on the menu indicates they have a value beyond just good PR for the companies.
9. Attack on the Poorest Continues:
State and local legislators seem convinced that rather than fighting the conditions that create poverty, we should just lock up poor people or fine those who are helping them, and that will remove the problem visually. Out of sight, out of mind.
We should keep things like this from happening in California. Join the Homeless Bill of Rights campaign!
10. Some Other Items of Note
Until this cool website came along, you had no idea what fruit or vegetables should be ripe now, and stumbled through markets randomly grasping at whatever was there. Check out RipeTrack, a great site that shows you what produce is in season using a color coded system, similar to that popularized by George W. Bush.
In China, a private company has used a giant 3D Printer to create up to 10 houses a day, layer by layer, using quick-drying cement. I’m not one to tout technological fixes to social problems (homelessness) without accompanying policy changes. Nor can I attest to the accuracy of this article. But it’s good to be inspired and dream about what might be possible if we put our minds to it.