My introduction to the Delmarva Peninsula occurred during a lecture in which Dr. Meghan Davis presented some incredible statistics about the region. Dr. Davis described Delmarva as having one of the highest densities of poultry production in the world. Sadly, this concentration of poultry production is generating large amounts of agricultural runoff (manure, nitrogen, etc.) that pollutes the Chesapeake Bay.1 The runoff creates marine dead zones (areas unable to sustain life due to dissolved oxygen depletion2) and alters the microbial compositions and ecosystem functions within the bay.1,3 I subsequently learned that many Delmarva farmers are unhappy with the predominant model of poultry production in the region and its detrimental effects. What inhibits these farmers from adopting alternative production models? Read More >
In college, I rocked some Girls Love Dirt mountain biking socks, and the environmental club I founded was called Dirt First, a Simpsons reference for those of you who are fans. Let there be no mistake: this woman still loves dirt, but for growing food, dirt is not our best option. For that, we really want soil. Read More >
Last year the US District Court of Appeals took a huge step forward to protect public health from pollutants released by industrial-scale livestock facilities. This March, however, Congress negated the Court’s ruling when it passed the FARM Act. It was easy to miss this undermining of the 2017 decision since Congress rolled the FARM Act into the 2018 Omnibus Spending Bill as a rider.
What is the FARM Act?
The federal Fair Agriculture Reporting Method (FARM) Act is a formal, legislatively guaranteed exemption for industrial-scale livestock producers to the laws requiring other industries to report releases of hazardous materials. Read More >
Call it what you will: a crossroads, a turning point, a tipping point. Iowans might simply call it progress, or rather, the prospect of progress. After more than 20 years of pushing back against the industrial-scale hog-raising operations in their communities, grassroots organizations might be making the behemoth budge.
Until recently, the corporate hog industry in Iowa has been impenetrable. Twenty-three years ago, in 1995, the state passed legislation that allows confined animal feeding operations, also called CAFOs or “confinements,” to exist. There was very little public outcry, and hundreds of confinements popped up, mostly in northern Iowa. Read More >
For years, residents of the Eastern Shore of Maryland have been asking their local legislators and the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to help them with a local problem. They live in communities that are home to industrial-scale poultry operations, where hundreds of thousands of birds are raised in chicken houses next to residential neighborhoods, and they feel that their health is suffering as a result. The stench from the chicken houses is bad enough, they say, but they must also contend with health problems such as asthma and persistent sinus infections, runny noses and headaches that they believe are a result of those poultry operations. Are their health problems caused by the ammonia and other pollutants blown from chicken houses through exhaust fans? There aren’t enough data to answer that question. Read More >
Since President Trump was inaugurated 13 months ago, no one has been expecting his administration to champion nutritious food, especially in comparison to the Obama administration, which was more active than any other with respect to policies to encourage healthful eating and reduce diet-related disease. (The Obama years were marked by the Let’s Move campaign, the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, mandatory menu-labeling as part of the Affordable Care Act, and a pretty substantial overhaul of the Nutrition Facts label on food packaging.) Read More >
A political clash over millions of Americans’ access to food may be in store for this year. Recent executive and legislative developments suggest important changes are likely for the 42 million Americans that rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Administrative Changes on a State-by-State Basis
In November, 2017, the administrator of the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service, which oversees SNAP, invited states to share strategies to promote “greater state flexibility,” Read More >
As city councils, policymakers, and citizen groups consider proposed new locations or expansions of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), they rely on scientific evidence to help them weigh the potential impacts of CAFOs on the health of their communities. When asked to assess such proposals, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) refer to a considerable and growing body of rigorously conducted scientific evidence that suggests there are connections between living near CAFOs and adverse health outcomes. Curiously, in contrast to this evidence Read More >
The Photovoice medium, which some refer to as a form of “citizen science,” is an emerging tool being put to good use by food policy councils, government agencies and, most importantly, citizens around the globe. By using the power of photography, community members observe and document the specific food system dynamics in their own neighborhoods. Discussion groups review and reflect upon the photograph, and sometimes the previously unheard “voices” that are channeled through the photographs direct and inspire new policies and goals.
In the Spanish communities of Los Rosales and San Cristobal in Madrid, Photovoice Villaverde worked with the European initiative Heart Healthy Hoods to bring together 24 residents to take photos of their food environments. Read More >
There are many organizational types of food policy councils (FPCs), but for my masters thesis I explored the significance of those differences—and similarities. In particular, I investigated whether those differences were associated with differences in FPC outcomes, objectives or orientations.
What did I want to know? As a research topic, this question of how best to structure an FPC is relatively new and has not been addressed, let alone answered, in the literature. So, in partnership with CLF’s Food Policy Networks (FPN) project, I dug deeper into the question: Is there an association between organizational type and differences in institutional and organizational characteristics, discourse (how FPCs conceptualize and communicate about food systems issues as well as their role in improving them) and strategies (approach to food system issues)? Read More >