Walmart’s Fresh Food Makeover

On a map of “food deserts” in Chicago, a red bow-tie-shaped splotch covers parts of Englewood, a historically working-class neighborhood on the South Side.Food and Liquor. We don’t pass any supermarkets. The residents here are just a fraction of the 23.5 million Americans living in areas with no easy access to fresh food, according to government estimates. As cities like Chicago try to expand food access, vanquishing such areas—now labeled food deserts—has also become a matter of national policy. The Obama administration has pledged to eradicate food deserts by 2017, in the hopes that increasing access to healthy food will stem the country’s obesity and diet-related-disease epidemics and create new jobs in the process. In this effort, some policy-makers have turned to a surprising—and controversial—corporate partner: Walmart. In July Michelle Obama announced a joint plan by Walmart, Walgreens and SuperValu, along with three regional chains, to open 1,500 new stores in food deserts across the country. Walmart, the nation’s largest grocery retailer, plans to open more than 275 new stores by 2016 in neighborhoods it claims are underserved. At least a dozen will be in Chicago, where the giant was one of a handful of chains invited to the mayor’s food desert summit. There, the city touted various spots, including one on the fringes of Englewood’s food desert, as ripe for development. Simmons is in talks with the chains and working to put together packages of financial incentives, zoning amendments and other accommodations to seal the deals. “When they know that’s the entree that we’re bringing to them, it tends to yield a very productive conversation,” he says. As Walmart positions itself as an expedient solution to the food desert problem, critics question whether a retailer known for fostering a low-wage economy and driving small stores and union groceries out of business is Continue Reading

Michelle Obama’s Fresh Food Revolution

When Michelle Obama began planting an organic garden on the South Lawn of the White House recently, there was no doubt she was sending a message, but the message was more subversive and far-reaching than most American media coverage recognized. On March 20, joined by a class of local fifth graders, the first lady lifted the first shovels of dirt onto a 1,100-square-foot plot that will feature fifty-five kinds of vegetables, including spinach, peppers, arugula, kale, collards and tomatoes (but no beets–the president reportedly does not like beets). Various herbs and berries will also be grown in the garden, which is fully visible to the thousands of tourists and other pedestrians that pass by the White House daily. (There will also be two boxes of bees for pollination.) Michelle Obama’s stated message was simple and was clearly aimed at her fellow Americans: fresh food tastes better and is better for you, so kids and grown-ups alike should eat lots more of it. “A real, delicious heirloom tomato is one of the sweetest things you’ll ever eat,” she told the 10-year-olds, adding that freshly picked vegetables were what prompted her daughters to try new kinds of foods. What made Obama’s message so subversive was something she left unsaid: the food most Americans eat nowadays is not fresh, tasty or healthy. The superiority of fresh ingredients may be obvious to Italians, but it is a truth most Americans long ago forgot, if they ever knew it in the first place. Over the past fifty years, the United States has been transformed into a fast food nation, in author Eric Schlosser’s phrase. What the typical American eats is not so much food as it is highly processed food derivatives that have traveled thousands of miles since leaving the farm, losing along the way most of the flavor and nutritional value they once possessed. To disguise such losses, food manufacturers overload products with fats, salts and sweeteners, especially corn Continue Reading

South Korea inflation hits five-year high in August as fresh food prices soar

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's annual inflation surged in August to its highest in more than five years as heavy rain and a summer heatwave pushed up the price of fresh foods, government data showed on Friday. The consumer price index rose 2.6 percent in August from a year earlier, Statistics Korea said, accelerating from a 2.2 percent rise in July, and marking its fastest rise since April 2012 when the index also gained 2.6 percent on-year. It compared to a 2.2 percent rise tipped in a Reuters survey of analysts' expectations. "Seasonal factors such as the heatwave, as well as the incident related to contaminated eggs across the country lifted up fresh food prices," said Kim Doo-un, an economist at Hana Financial Investment. Kim said the sudden surge in prices was not from an increase in domestic demand, adding that he saw consumer prices remaining volatile through the October shopping season when South Koreans celebrate the national Chuseok holiday. The price of eggs soared 53.3 percent in August on-year after eggs from some local farms were found to be contaminated with a potentially harmful pesticide. The price of radish and tomatoes surged 71.4 percent and 45.3 percent respectively, pushing up the overall price gains of fresh food costs to 18.3 percent on-year. In monthly terms, inflation gained 0.6 percent from July. Core inflation, which strips out volatile food and fuel prices, was 1.8 percent in August, unchanged from July. Inflation this year has lingered near the Bank of Korea's inflation target of 2 percent as private consumption has improved. Revised second quarter gross domestic product growth data issued released earlier on Friday showed the economy expanded 0.6 percent from a quarter earlier versus 1.1 percent growth in the first quarter. (Reporting by Cynthia Kim and Christine Kim; Additional reporting by Dahee Kim; Editing by Eric Meijer) (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2017. Click For Restrictions Continue Reading

Brownsville is Brooklyn’s worst neighborhood for children due to high poverty, lousy access to fresh food and day care

Four in 10 Brownsville residents don’t live within walking distance of a supermarket, and nearly as many don’t live near a bank. And only about a third of the central Brooklyn neighborhood’s population is within walking distance of a subway line — which stops running at midnight — according to a new report by the Citizens’ Committee for Children that shows Brownsville residents are cut off from an array of much-needed services. The group ranks Brownsville as the riskiest area in Brooklyn for children to grow up in. “What makes Brownsville unique is you have a scarcity of a whole slew of assets. It’s not a mild scarcity,” said Citizens’ Committee for Children research director Apurva Mehrotra. “I really don’t think there are many — or any — other neighborhoods in the city, even those that are economically distressed, that are in that kind of situation.” The neighborhood has long struggled with poverty and crime. More than 54% of its children are growing up in households under the poverty line, and less than half of working-age adults have jobs. Life expectancy, at 74.4 years, is the lowest of any district in the city. Researchers mapped the neighborhood and found that 39% of residents don’t live within walking distance of a grocery store that’s at least 10,000 square feet. People in the southern and central parts of the neighborhood are especially cut off from fresh food. The neighborhood’s eight large food retailers are concentrated in the northern section. Brownsville also has six farmers’ markets, but they’re only open during warm-weather months and just one day a week. Almost 60% of families with children are on food stamps. Nearly a third of residents don’t live within walking distance, defined as half a mile, of a bank, the report found. The neighborhood’s three bank Continue Reading

Community gardens grow tons of fresh food for the poor in Westchester, Rockland

Thanks to dozens of plots in community gardens scattered across the Lower Hudson Valley, patrons of local soup kitchens and food pantries will be enjoying tons of just-picked produce this year. Along with the expected boxes of cereal and jars of peanut butter, they can now look forward to just-picked collards, tomatoes, hot peppers and eggplants, even homegrown herbs like cilantro and basil.Through its Plant a Row for the Hungry program, People to People, Rockland’s largest food pantry, now collects between 10,000 and 12,000 pounds of produce each year from community groups, home gardeners and local farms.Big contributors include Cropsey Farm in New City, the Rockland Farm Alliance, the Nyack Garden Club and ambitious home gardeners like Tom Brizzolara, public affairs director of Orange and Rockland Utilities, who regularly drops off several pounds of vegetables from his garden. “We call him the Zucchini King,” says Diane Serratore, executive director of People to People in Nanuet, which serves 1,400 families a month.“We really make an effort to get fresh produce to our families,” she says. “There are lots of hungry people out there and if there are new ways to put food on their table we’ll do it.”Every spring, summer and fall for the last 14 years, master gardener volunteers from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Westchester have grown about 2,000 pounds of fresh vegetables and berries at the Demonstration Gardens at the Harts Brook Park and Preserve in Hartsdale. Every carrot, raspberry and cherry tomato goes to the pantry and soup kitchen at the women’s shelter at Grace Church in White Plains.“Before the end of the month, we’ll start delivering, and the last one is around Thanksgiving with greens, pumpkins, leeks and squash,” says garden co-chair Andrea Kish.They also use the planting beds to teach gardening basics to school and community groups and to test new vegetable varieties from year to Continue Reading

Lack of fresh food accessibility linked to signs of early heart disease

Healthy food accessibility is an issue that affects thousands of New Jerseyans. Many rely on the local neighborhood store for groceries because a supermarket isn’t close. Unfortunately, many of these stores don’t carry healthy foods.When fresh produce and healthy options aren’t available for purchase, families are forced to consume foods often loaded with saturated fat, high levels of sodium and poor nutrition.New research published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation suggests a lack of access to nearby stores selling fresh food may increase residents’ risk of developing the signs of early heart disease. READ: Staying Healthy: Mindful eating READ: Letter: Healthier food means a stronger economy​ READ:  Staying Healthy: Remember these summer water and food safety tips​ WATCH: Empanada Guy: 'Feed the Addiction'Past studies found that limited fresh food choices and/or numerous fast food restaurants in poorer neighborhoods were linked to unhealthy diets. Residents in these neighborhoods have a greater likelihood of early atherosclerosis (a disease that hardens arteries and underlies many types of heart disease), but no studies have examined which factors might cause  Continue Reading

Bagged salad recall goes national due to listeria contamination; River Ranch Fresh Foods is Calif. lettuce grower

A California lettuce grower has expanded a recall of some bagged salads after routine sampling detected listeria contamination. No illnesses have been reported. The voluntary recall by River Ranch Fresh Foods of Salinas initially included lettuce shipped to California and Colorado. The company said Monday it had expanded the recall to the entire nation. CANTALOUPE LISTERIA SICKNESS KILLS 29 The bagged salads are sold under the names River Ranch, Farm Stand, Hy-Vee, Marketside, Shurfresh, The Farmer's Market, Cross Valley, Fresh n Easy, Promark, and Sysco. The recalled retail and foodservice salad bags have "best by" dates between May 12 and May 29 or Julian dates of 118 and 125. The code date is typically located in the upper right hand corner of the bags. Symptoms of listeria infection include high fever, headache and neck stiffness. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

South Bronx real estate developer turning notorious illegal garbage dump into fresh food hub

Steven Smith looked past 10 million pounds of garbage in the South Bronx, and saw a gem in the making. Ten years ago, when Smith took over Oak Point Property - a 28-acre parcel in Hunts Point sandwiched between the Oak Point railroad yard and the East River - it was a notorious, massive illegal garbage dump and a hangout for criminals. After Smith’s then employer, global electrical giant ABB, abandoned plans to build a power plant on the site, the property tumbled into bankruptcy. Mired in legal woes and facing $60 million in claims, few wanted to touch it. But Smith, an engineer and power plant developer, saw potential in what was one of the largest undeveloped private properties in New York City. He left his job at ABB, cashed out his retirement savings and severance and became Oak Point's trustee. Today, after years of legal wrangling and a $6 million environmental cleanup, Oak Point is out of bankruptcy and on the verge of becoming a fresh food distribution hub with the potential for bringing hundreds of jobs to the South Bronx. “It was forever going to be a dumping site,” said Smith, 59. “We turned it into a viable piece of property.” The city - which Smith had previously battled over its past plans to build a jail at Oak Point - will on Tuesday name Oak Point Property the Bronx Small Business of the Year, in its annual Neighborhood Achievement Awards. Smith's original plan after taking over Oak Point was to plow ahead with a power plant. But community opposition overpowered him. In 2008, after listening to suggestions from local leaders, including Bronx Congressman Jose Serrano, he switched gears and decided to focus on food, becoming part of a larger trend that has food distributors expanding in the South Bronx. The payoff: In 2010, after completing the last part of the massive cleanup, he struck a deal to sell 12 acres to Jetro, a food wholesaler that sells to groceries and restaurants, for $25 Continue Reading

New York Botanical Garden embraces fresh food movement in The Bronx

Ephraim  Steiner, a 12-year-old Jerusalem native, stood in a tranquil garden Wednesday, eating vegetables he had just picked."It was good. Very fresh," he said, after swallowing a freshly picked pea. "We just love nature. They love to plant," Ephraim's mother, Chani Steiner said of her children. This garden scene seemed more a snapshot of country life than one of life in the Bronx, where it took place. The New York Botanical Garden is embracing the popular fresh food movement this summer with its new Edible Garden program. Edible Garden, which will run from Saturday through Sept. 13, will expand the garden's edible plant collection. The New York Botanical Garden has long housed the Children's Gardening Program, as well as a farmers' market and other programs that encourage the growth of edible plants. Temporary exhibitions have been prepared as part of the program, including one called "Tropical Fruits, Roots and Shoots." Martha Stewart has collaborated with the Botanical Garden to revamp its herb garden. It has been transitioned from a facility housing mostly medicinal herbs to one containing herbs to be used in food. The herbs include five types of basil and three types of thyme. "I think it turned out really well. They made a really nice garden here." said Andrew Beckman, the garden editor at Martha Stewart Living. Stewart is scheduled to visit the garden Saturday. She plans to prepare herb-themed cocktails - including such creations as Purple Basil Mojitos and Marthatinis - for garden visitors. Stewart is one of many celebrity foodies and chefs slated to prepare culinary delights for garden visitors this summer. Others include Emeril Lagasse and Lidia Bastianich. Celebrity chef Mario Batali narrates the exhibit's audio tour, which visitors can access via their cellphones. Jennifer Rothman, associate vice president of children's and public education at the New York Botanical Garden, helped with the organization of the Edible Garden program. "I am thrilled. Continue Reading


WHEN LENORE Phillip wants fresh fruit and vegetables, she faces more than a short walk to her local Flatbush grocery store. "My neighborhood - it stinks where the fresh food [is] concerned," said Phillip, 50, a housekeeper. "I think it's because of the class of people, the poor class of people." Phillip has joined a growing number of Brooklynites who travel across the borough to get to supermarkets like the Pathmark in Fort Greene for fresh, healthy food. "They're putting all the junk in our neighborhood," Phillip said as she shopped far from Flatbush at the Pathmark on Atlantic Ave. "They're not eating healthy enough, but how can you eat healthy when there's no healthy food?" The lack of fresh food and abundance of fast-food chains in neighborhoods like Flatbush may help explain a recent Downstate Medical Center report that Brooklyn residents are more likely to have diabetes, weight problems and high cholesterol than other New Yorkers. "Often people buy less nutritious, more fattening food and get fat because it's cheaper to do so," said New York City Coalition Against Hunger Executive Director Joel Berg. "People will travel ridiculously long distances to go to farmers' markets, travel long distances to go to supermarkets," Berg said. Rosa Nieves is another one of those travelers: She lives in Bed-Stuy, but she takes advantage of her lunch break to stop by the Pathmark. "In our neighborhood, we are not getting the fresher part of the fruit," she said. "Where I live they wouldn't be as pretty as this and as fresh." With few fresh, inexpensive options to choose from, many choose fast food to fill their stomachs. College student Kevin Moore said he eats fast food three times a week - "McDonald's, Chinese food, pizza." Moore, 21, said cheaper fast-food joints outnumber healthy spots in his neighborhood, Crown Heights. "I think by the time I'm like . . . 40, I'll be overweight if I keep doing like I do now," he said. Continue Reading