Innovative food rescue efforts allow food bank to give away fresh food

Truckloads of surplus oranges destined for the trash in California are now making their way to homes of needy families in the Twin Cities. Fresh potatoes left to rot in Minnesota farm fields are now being harvested and given to hungry families. Unsold fruit and vegetables, bakery items and even meat that local grocers toss from their shelves are being picked up and redistributed to needy neighbors. It’s called food rescue, and Twin Cities-based Second Harvest Heartland food bank is a national leader in the movement. Nearly half the 97 million pounds of food that Second Harvest gives away each year is fresh. Increasingly, reliance on canned goods and boxed foods is a thing of the past. “It’s a radical change,” said Second Harvest CEO Rob Zeaske. The organization’s staff, many with vast corporate experience, are scouring every point of the nation’s food supply chain — from growers, processors, grocers and even restaurateurs. The goal is to identify possible inefficiency and wastefulness, and then persuade businesses to donate.“It’s an assault to our sensibilities in Minnesota to throw away food,” said April Rog, Second Harvest director of food rescue. “Businesses know it’s just the right thing to do.” The result is healthier, fresher food for Minnesota’s most needy families. The organization also participates in a Midwest regional produce cooperative with food banks in seven states. For instance, Second Harvest combines individual shipments of fruits and vegetables and then redistributes them so neighboring food banks receive greater varieties in the quantities that they can handle. “Food is medicine,” said Zeaske, who pointed out that low-income people often rely on a diet of less expensive starchy, high-fat foods that results in obesity and related illnesses. More than one-third of Second Harvest clients have diabetes, he said. “This is what hunger looks like in Continue Reading

Rite Aid and Walgreens Need to be Careful as They Add Fresh Food

Last Updated Sep 8, 2010 5:16 PM EDT Across the country from each other, two major drugstore chains have both hit upon fresh food as their next hot merchandise category. Their locations and reasons for adding produce are different, but both Rite Aid (RAD) and Walgreens (WAG) have the same goal: To bring shoppers back more often. Both also face challenges in executing fresh food in a way that doesn't damage profit margins or confuse customers. In Walgreens' case, the addition of fresh food comes clothed in do-gooderism. The chain is adding produce in urban Chicago drugstores where there are no nearby full-line groceries. Walgreens' attempt to eradicate "food deserts" and bring healthier food to inner-city residents is earning it some positive press. No doubt carless residents in these neighborhoods are thrilled to be able to get a bag of salad or some fresh melons instead of just Hostess cupcakes. But if Walgreens expands this program, it could run into trouble. For customers with ready grocery access, the question will just be: What does Walgreens know about produce? The answer is nothing. While they might buy the occasional gallon of milk or grab an apple at the drugstore, at some point more sophisticated customers will still want to buy their food from a store where there's a produce manager on deck to answer questions. As drugstores reduce their health and beauty items to make room for avocados, customers may wonder what exactly the drugstore is becoming. After all, we go to the drugstore for the much broader variety of health and beauty items they usually carry. As they scale that back for food, some customers are bound to be disappointed as their favorite makeup is dropped and their drugstore starts to look a lot like...well, big national grocery chains. Only smaller. At which point, shoppers might as well just head to Safeway (SWY) for both their grocery and beauty needs. Rite Aid has the better approach, adding produce through a partnership with supermarket Continue Reading

National Southern Food Day: Where to find legit soul food in Palm Beach County

Today is National Southern Food Day. So, if you are looking for good southern food, or soul food today, we found that for you!   If you think there aren’t enough soul food restaurants around the county for a guide, think again. And guess what? The establishments that serve what you’d get from Grandma’s kitchen are steeped in history and family traditions, like the ones that inspire Ms. Wylene Jackson’s memorable sweets at Jack-Ham’s Soul Food Restaurant in West Palm Beach.   The local soul food culture dates back to the early 1900s, notes Lori J. Durante, a local culinary expert who runs the history-based Taste Culinary Tours. Her narrated bus tour serves as an annual Black History Month trip for African-American retirees and seniors patronizing Southern restaurants. But interest in the topic is growing and draws a cultural mix to her tours. Durante, who sings the praises of local Southern soul foods, often takes her tour participants to soul food restaurants like Donnie’s in Delray Beach or The Banyan Restaurant in Belle Glade.  Her tour members learn that soul food spread, thanks to the Great Migration from 1916 to 1970s, where millions of African Americans left the South and relocated to Northeastern states and California “for more opportunities,” she says. “Their cuisines were decidedly Southern, cooked by both whites and blacks, but became associated with an African American culinary experience because of the Great Migration.”  But let’s take our own tour.  Here’s a sampling of what Palm Beach County  has to offer in the soul food sector. Take note of the favorites we’ve tried at each location -- we think they would make for a delicious, tummy-filling feast.   Home of the smothered wings The fried chicken and waffles at Donnie's Place are the next best thing to the restaurant's smothered chicken and grits. Corvaya Continue Reading

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

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

‘Food desert’ blooms in the Bronx; Wholesale farmer’s market opens

The south Bronx is transforming from a so-called "food desert" to an oasis of fresh produce with the debut on Wednesday of the city's first wholesale farmers' market open to the public. The new Wholesale Greenmarket opened in the parking lot of the New Fulton Fish Market at Hunts Point. The initiative is funded by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets and led locally by the Council on the Environment of New York City, which runs retail greenmarkets throughout the city. Though geared to serve grocers and restaurants and selling only in bulk, the Wholesale Greenmarket will also be open to the public, giving area residents a unique opportunity to buy farm-fresh vegetables at dramatically reduced prices. The City Planning Department has dubbed the Bronx a "food desert" with a large swath of the population having limited access to quality fresh produce - despite being home to the nation's largest wholesale produce distribution hub at Hunts Point. "Our community has watched for decades as the region's freshest produce moves in and out of our borough en route to stores, restaurants and supermarkets throughout the East Coast, but we never had access to that huge bounty," said Rep. Jose Serrano (D-South Bronx), a longtime crusader for better local access to affordable healthy foods. "From now on, people in the community can access fresh food in bulk at affordable prices," Serrano said. Some community groups are already making plans to organize neighborhood buyers clubs to help local residents take advantage of low-cost bulk purchases. They may have to get up early, though. The new market at 800 Food Center Drive only will be open Monday-Friday from 2 a.m. to 8 a.m. The market will stay open until noon on Saturdays to accommodate local shoppers. While legal questions remain, the envionmental council hopes local shoppers will be able to use food stamps at the new market. "We absolutely want to accept food stamps at the Wholesale Continue Reading

National happiness survey shows New York’s multiple personalities

Are New Yorkers happy? Well ... kinda.In a recent study that ranked the states based on well-being, New York comes in at an unimpressive 35 out of 50, with residents reporting mixed results in categories such as satisfaction with work, physical and emotional health and access to basic needs like health care and fresh food.The survey of Americans' happiness, conducted by Gallup in partnership with Healthways and America's Health Insurance Plans, also ranked all 435 congressional districts -- with both good and bad news for NYC. The 14th Congressional District, which includes the east side of Manhattan and parts of Queens, came in strong at number 14, thanks to the healthy behavior and positive overall life evaluation of its residents. But just a few miles to the north, the 16th Congressional District, which includes the South Bronx and surrounding neighborhoods, came in second to last in the nation, with low scores in physical, emotional and economic health.The Gallup survey gave the highest state marks to Utah, which boasts lots of outdoor recreation for its youthful population. Speaking of outdoor recreation, the islands of Hawaii took second place and Wyoming was third.But fun outdoors obviously wasn't the only criteria — "wild, wonderful" West Virginia was ranked last among the states. And the bluegrass state of Kentucky was 49th, with Mississippi 48th on the list.In general, highest well-being scores came from states in the West while the lowest were concentrated in the South. The happiest congressional districts were some of the wealthiest, while the lowest scores came in some of the poorest.Jim Harter, a researcher at Gallup, said he was reluctant to explain regional differences without more study, but he suspected that some of the variations are explained by income. For example, when people were asked to examine their status in life now and five years from now, wealthier people tended to score higher.The survey attempts to measure people's well-being. Continue Reading

Amazon tests food stamps, another breach of Wal-Mart territory

SAN FRANCISCO — This summer, Amazon will begin accepting food stamps to pay for online grocery orders as part of a pilot program along with six other companies.The two-year program by the U.S. Department of Agriculture could help alleviate what are known as food deserts, areas where residents have little access to fresh food and groceries, while also relieving some of the stigma of using food aid.Five national stores are taking part in the USDA pilot, including Amazon, FreshDirect in New York, Safeway in Maryland, Oregon and Washington, ShopRite in Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania and Hy-Vee in Iowa. Plus two smaller companies in New York state, Hart's Local Grocers and Dash's Market, will participate.The program could represent an opportunity for Amazon, which has typically ceded the lower-income food market to Walmart. Amazon shoppers in Maryland, New Jersey and New York will be eligible to take part.Grocery items can be ordered on Amazon by paying a delivery fee. Free delivery requires a Prime membership (typically $99 a year) or a $49 per order minimum. To get perishable items such as fresh produce, dairy and meat, Prime members must additionally payAmazon may feel the need to position itself to cover the full gamut of grocery customers, not just the higher end. Walmart is still the nation's largest seller of groceries and coming soon are two European discount grocery chains, Aldi and Lidl, both of which are looking to expand in the United States, said Phil Lempert, a food marketing expert.While a potential new market, selling to this demographic may also require a slightly different marketing push, said Lempert."For those who are on food stamps, their primary 'computer' most likely is their smart phone - so Amazon will have to have an education effort for these shoppers to download the Amazon app to buy their groceries," he said.Amazon said it was excited to participate in the Continue Reading