A Tribute to Bob Lawrence

Wayne Roberts

Wayne Roberts

CLF Guest Blogger

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

Today the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health honors CLF Director Bob Lawrence with a scientific symposium. Bob announced his plans to step down earlier this year. The symposium is available via live-streaming.

Bob at the helm / 2014

Bob at the helm / 2014

I met Bob at a think-tank organized by the Kellogg Foundation in 2001, and we took to each other immediately, because we recognized each other as fellow catastroptimists—people who are determined to remain positive and look for a way out and forward no matter how bad things look.

I was managing the Toronto Food Policy Council at the time and was feeling my oats about all the positive and empowering things that could be done with food at the city and community level. But I was also looking desperately for someone more prestigious than I was to promote that message—which required a shift in outlook on the part of good food advocates, as well as a leap of faith about city leaders who weren’t exactly falling over themselves to prove their relevance to this area.

But Bob was willing to give this approach a try.

I have to say it saved my sorry butt. Read More >

Policy expert Mark Winne has watched food movement grow up

Leo Horrigan, MHS

Leo Horrigan, MHS

CLF Correspondent

Center for a Livable Future

Long-time food policy expert Mark Winne has seen this nation’s food movement follow a path that mirrors his own professional journey. More and more advocates are delving into policy to get support for the hands-on projects that were their first forays into food issues.

As a result of this shift in food movement emphasis, there has been an explosive growth in food policy councils in the U.S., going from 100 councils in 2010 to 180 in a recent census by the Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC).

Winne may know more about the history of U.S. food policy councils than anyone, as he has been a consultant to dozens of councils over the years, working under the auspices of CFSC. That organization is closing shop at the end of 2012, however, leaving Winne without an umbrella organization to support his food policy council work.  Meantime, he will soldier on as an independent entity, Mark Winne & Associates, while looking for another organization that will house his work.  He has just released a how-to manual for anyone who’s creating a food policy council, entitled Doing Food Policy Councils Right: A Guide to Development and Action. Read More >

Farm Bill Considerations: The Case for Funding EBT Technology at Farmers Markets

Sarita Wahba

Sarita Wahba

Research Assistant

Center for a Livable Future

The Waverly farmers' market, Baltimore, Md.

With the Farm Bill debate well under way, it’s important to remember that the policies being debated have a very real impact on the American public. With the current economy, many may find it difficult to justify new spending. But there is one program that, if implemented, will not only benefit both farmers and eaters, but may have the added benefit of job growth and economic activity. Indeed, this measure will take some initial investment, but it will give back once implemented. I’m talking about funding the technology to make it possible for SNAP participants to spend their SNAP dollars at farmers’ markets.

When I rise early on a Sunday morning, I only have one thing on my mind: getting to the farmers’ market, grabbing a hot cup of Zeke’s delicious coffee, and then wandering through the lanes of the farmers’ market under I-83. All week Read More >

Farm Bill Considerations: The Case for Protecting Environmental Compliance Provisions

Sarita Wahba

Sarita Wahba

Research Assistant

Center for a Livable Future

As the 2012 Farm Bill continues to be debated, and I continue to learn about the critical issues involved, I am reminded of a concept fundamental to survival: if there are no farms, there is no food. Due to the vast array of elements that can place farmers and crop production at risk, it is critical to support American farmers to ensure continued food production. However, it is not just the farmers that must be supported, but the land, and water as well.

For more than a decade “direct payments,” a program within the Farm Bill, required that farmers take part in conservation efforts in order to receive these funds. The direct payment program, which makes up a large portion of farm subsidies, was a social contract between American taxpayers and farmers whereby Americans supported the solvency of the farming industry in exchange for the assurance that farmers would take care of the land and resources upon which we all depend. Now, in the 2012 version of the Farm Bill Read More >

Get by with a little health from my friends…

Rebecca Klein

Rebecca Klein

Program Officer, Food System Policy Program

Center for a Livable Future

If the farm bill could sing, that might be its riff, and our Senators its friends. In an uncharacteristic act of relative efficiency, the Senate debated 73 amendments and on Thursday, June 21, passed the bill in the span of three short days. And, believe it or not, the final bill is a little better for public health than it was three days ago. There’s still a long way to go, but for now there are a few things to sing about.

Wins for Public Health

These improvements did not float in lightly on the breeze. They were hard—and in some cases, narrowly—won. The closest call was an amendment (#2438), proposed by Senator Saxby Chambliss (R–GA), which requires farmers to undertake basic conservation measures in order to receive government help in paying for crop insurance. This is a commonsense social contract with significant implications for human health, as we have outlined here and here, and yet narrowly passed by a 5-vote margin (52/47).  Read More >

Farm Bill Considerations: The Case for Conservation

Sarita Wahba

Sarita Wahba

Research Assistant

Center for a Livable Future

The Senate Agriculture Committee recently put forth their version of the Farm Bill, which included steep cuts to conservation funding. Conservation efforts protect natural resources as well as the public’s health. As the 2012 Farm Bill continues to be debated on the Senate floor, it is clear that there is a lot at stake, and it becomes difficult to ignore the inter-relationship of food, farming, and our environment as a whole.

Hello, everyone. I am Sarita Wahba, and I recently joined the team at Center for a Livable Future as a research assistant. With all of the action occurring on the Senate floor, it has taken no time at all to become completely immersed in the complexities and urgency of the Farm Bill. Read More >

The Power of Story: Conversations with Philippe Cousteau

Brent Kim

Brent Kim

Project Officer, Food Production & Public Health

Center for a Livable Future

Philippe Cousteau, co-founder of EarthEcho International

Today marks what would have been the 102nd birthday of Jacques-Yves Cousteau.

My father had a knack for finding horseshoe crabs. He’d spot one scuttling along the sand beneath shallow waves, then lift it up by its armored hull—leaving eight chitinous legs and a piercing tail (not intended for combative purposes, as I later learned) waving in the air, searching for stable ground. Those childhood visits to New England beaches fostered my appreciation for the wonders of the natural world.

I recently asked Philippe Cousteau about his first memories of the ocean. When he was six, his mother took him and his sister, Alexandra, to Hawaii. Every day, they ran down to play in tidal pools where they found crabs, tiny fishes and a myriad of other critters left behind by the receding tide. It was, in his words, “a journey of wonder and discovery.” It is perhaps no surprise that Philippe has grown to become one of the leading advocates for the health of aquatic ecosystems. Read More >

People Like Us: Food Chain Workers Speak Out

Roni Neff, PhD

Roni Neff, PhD

Research and Policy Director

Center for a Livable Future

“When you buy meat, think about [how] that meat is coming from the hands of people like us who are being humiliated in the workplace.”

The woman who spoke these words, and asked not to be identified for fear of employer reprisal, works in a meatpacking plant and took a considerable risk to share her emotional story at a conference.  A single mother of four, she said, “We live it every day,” referring to the lack of sick leave; not being allowed to go to the bathroom; being laughed at for not speaking English; and lifting heavy things even though she is not supposed to.  “But I have to,” she said tearfully. “I need to work.”

The conference, held yesterday at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York, marked the release of the landmark report, The Hands that feed us: Challenges and opportunities for workers along the food chain. It was the first such conference to bring together workers from around the food system, from farm to processing to distribution to retail to restaurants, highlighting their many shared concerns. Read More >

SNAP and the Farm Bill Budget Visualizer

Vanessa Hoffman

Vanessa Hoffman

Health Policy Fellow

Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress

The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry recently approved the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, also known as the Farm Bill. Because the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, accounts for the lion’s share of this bill’s budget, representing about two-thirds of 2008 Farm Bill spending, innovation in SNAP could have a tremendous impact in improving the nutritional status of its participants. Last year over 45 million people were enrolled in the program, which combats hunger by providing a monthly benefit to low-income households to purchase food. Read More >

Colbert Talks Chicken Feed

Patti Truant

Patti Truant

CLF-Lerner Fellow

Center for a Livable Future

Stephen Colbert with a Xanax nugget

Last week, Stephen Colbert used his signature blend of mock-outrage and wit on a topic very familiar to those of us here at the CLF.

In a segment called “Thought For Food,” Colbert commented on news reports that cited a recently published CLF study that found antibiotics (some of which have been banned for use in poultry), caffeine, acetaminophen, antidepressants and antihistamines in feather meal, a poultry by-product made from ground up poultry feathers and then incorporated into animal feed and used as a fertilizer. Read More >