Currently browsing posts about: Coronavirus
In this week’s updates of items related to food and Coronavirus, let’s start with the good news (yes, there is some).
I. Free meals for New Yorkers
The New York City Department of Education has announced that it will make three free meals available every day for any New Yorker, at more than 400 locations.
- No one will be turned away at any time
- All adults and children can pick up three meals at one time
- Vegetarian and halal options available at all sites
- No registration or ID required
What, you might wonder, is in these meals?
This is no time to criticize, and I won’t.
This is a monumental undertaking and city officials deserve much praise for making what look like typical school meals available to everyone.
Much praise also to the school food service and other personnel who are preparing these meals.
II. Recognition that the lowest-paid workers are essential
The economy and society run on the work of farmworkers, many of them immigrants and undocumented, health care employees, restaurant delivery and food service personnel, and so many others involved in our food system. The indispensible value of their work has suddenly become visible. That’s a good first step, but not enough, of course.
III. An opportunity to document history
A crisis of this magnitude calls for analysis. It’s hard to do that when you are right in the middle of it, but the Association of Public Historians of New York State has issued a call for documentation and offers suggestions about what to write and collect right now. We can all do this and lay the groundwork for future historical analysis. I’m interested in the food and food politics aspects that I’ve been posting about on this site. All suggestions welcome.
IV. A return to home gardening and cooking
Salon’s recent article about renewed interest in gardening, canning, and baking focuses attention on how difficult it has become to get seeds and find flour, yeast, and eggs in supermarkets. My local CSA baker (Wide Awake in Ithaca) is offering sour dough starter, flour, recipes, and instructions along with weekly loaves. It’s still too cold to plant anything up here in the Finger Lakes, but the robins are back, the forsythia is in bloom, and it will soon be time to start the peas.
The Mexican food advocacy group, Alianza por la Salud Alimentaria, has produced this guide for taking care of your food needs during this emergency.
And here’s a general survival guide.
This is what the bagged salad section of the Wegmans in Ithaca, New York, looked like early last Friday morning (right after the store opened for the day).
Thanks to Stephanie Borkowsky for the photo.
President Trump’s $2 Trillion relief package is the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020.’’
This 880-page (!) bill addresses food systems in several ways, most of them in “Title I Agricultural Programs” which starts on page 609 like this:.
For an additional amount for the ‘‘Office of the Secretary’’, $9,500,000,000, to remain available until expended, to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus by providing support for agricultural producers impacted by coronavirus, including producers of specialty crops, producers that supply local food systems, including farmers markets, restaurants, and schools, and livestock producers, including dairy producers: Provided, That such amount is designated by the Congress as being for an emergency requirement pursuant to section 22 251(b)(2)(A)(i) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency 23 Deficit Control Act of 1985.
This sounds good (in Ag-speak, specialty crops are fruits and vegetables), but what this means in practice, according to the New York Times, is
- About $23.5 billion in assistance to farmers ($9.5 in subsidies, $14 in borrowing authority)
But this will go mainly to soy and corn producers, key Trump constituents in an election year. This amount follows nearly $26 billion in aid already provided to offset losses from the China trade war. This new funds exceed USDA’s entire discretionary budget request for next year. The USDA Secretary may allocate the funds as he wishes, with no oversight.
So much for welfare for the rich.
As for the poor, the bill provides
- About $25 billion for food assistance (domestic food programs $8.8 billion, SNAP $15.8 billion).
This too sounds like a lot but all it does is account for the expected increase in demand from people newly out of work. It does not in any way increase the amount that individuals and families receive.
How did this happen? Chalk it up to effective lobbying by agribusiness.
The gains for agribusiness were accomplished, says the Times, by “A small army of groups mounted the fast-moving campaign for aid, including the politically powerful American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Joining them were other smaller players representing producers of goods like turkey, pork and potatoes or sunflowers, sorghum, peanuts and eggs.”
Earlier, Politico reported that nearly 50 organizations representing farmers, equipment manufacturers and agricultural lenders sent a letter stating their needs as a result of declining demand from school and restaurant shutdowns and direct-to-consumer sales.
The bill does little to help the folks who most need help. Anti-hunger groups tried, but failed.
Poor people need to vote. And organize.
- Floyd Cardoz, a chef whose food I loved, is one of the early casualties. I last talked to him at an event not six weeks ago. He was having a hard time. But to end like this? A heartbreak.
Predictions of high risk
- Obesity and type 2 diabetes make people more vulnerable: Reuters reports on the situation in Mexico.
Effects on food systems
- Countries are starting to hoard food: Bloomberg News reports. [Oh great. Just what we need].
- Industry trade groups work together to fill gaps, create economic stability as COVID-19 spreads: An ad-hoc partnership between FMI-Food Industry Association, the International Foodservice Distributors Association, United Produce Association and National Fisheries Institute aims to help overwhelmed grocery retailers keep shelves stocked, stores clean and employees safe in the coming weeks while also providing economic stability as foodservice distributors see business dry up unexpectedly due to the coronavirus pandemic…. Read more
- With Covid-19, wild-animal markets face new pressures to shutter: The trade in wild animals is coming under increasing pressure to shut down, ever since the source of the Covid-19 pandemic was linked to a “wet market” in Wuhan, China, where throngs of customers shop for live animals held in cramped quarters, as Brian Barth reports in FERN’s latest story.
- United Fresh calls for federal assistance for COVID-19 losses: The United Fresh Produce Association is requesting urgent action by Congress to help the fresh produce supply chain deal with the financial shocks caused by the coronavirus COVID-19 outbre
The alcohol industry responds
- US alcohol calls on Congress for economic relief from COVID-19: With the economic fallout from the COVID-19 crisis only likely to worsen, the federal government is announcing different forms of aid packages. US alcohol associations are now asking for assistance…. Read more
- Coronavirus: Alcohol struggles as bars close, but ecommerce thrives: The beverage industry is keeping a close eye on the rippling effects from the COVID-19 pandemic. And in the US, there have been a few positives mixed in with the negatives, such as a boom for ecommerce…. Read more
- Alcohol companies pivot to producing hand sanitizer as coronavirus intensifies: As consumers empty store shelves of the popular gel, local distilleries and bigger companies like Diageo and Anheuser-Busch are helping to alleviate the shortage while finding a new source of revenue.
Here come the panaceas
- Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls ramps up production of its Throat And Chest and Herbal Cough lozenges during Coronavirus: Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls has shifted production to its Throat And Chest and Herbal Cough lozenges to help people suffering from the effects of coronavirus…. Read more
- Coronavirus prompts spike in e-commerce sales of CBD; consumers seek higher dose products: Regulatory uncertainty coupled with the fact that retailers are not focused on onboarding new brands right now make this a tough time for new CBD brands. However, e-commerce sales of hemp-derived CBD have spiked, while a new survey from Brightfield Group suggests that four in 10 CBD consumers plan to use CBD more frequently because of COVID-19, with 15% planning to use a higher dose…. Read more
- Coronavirus is driving sales of probiotic products: Why? These are marketed as immunity boosters [if only].
- Charles Piller writes in Science about the risks of malaria drugs
Here come the frauds
- The Department of Justice has issued a fraud warning: It lists the schemes and legal liabilities.
- FairWarning says “Here come the frauds…Coronavirus cons begin“
- Coronavirus immunity claim warning for Omega-3 industry: Omega-3 businesses have been warned about the dangers of making immunity claims during this Coronavirus crisis…. Read more
For useful information
Thanks to Dr. Leon Axel for his cartoons, especially this one.