Maine Will Be the Nation’s First and Only Food Sovereign State





Maine legislators voted last week to moved forward with a proposed constitutional amendment declaring Mainers have a natural, inherent, and inalienable right to food freedom.
All that’s left is for the voters to ratify it and Maine’s residents will have the right to produce, process, and consume food without government interference in the form of federal health codes, regulations, inspections, and other restrictions. Foraged foods, garden-grown produce, home-cured meats, and goods produced in unlicensed kitchens will be freely bought and sold.

Even if you’re not familiar with the food sovereignty movement, you’ve probably heard some of the complaints about regulatory interference. 
The best known (and most controversial) example is the decades-old squabble over raw milk that pits public safety concerns against individual freedom of choice. The result is a patchwork of conflicting state and federal laws, a booming black market in unpasteurized milk with farmers and dairy coöps selling bottles out of pickup trucks like prohibition-era bootleggers, and the occasional federal sting operation that ends with an armed raid on an Amish dairy barn. And every once in a while you’ll come across a news story of heavy-handed health inspectors shutting down a bake sale and confiscating baked goods from elderly, pie-baking church ladies. In Maine, governmental inspections and regulations make for much more than a quaint human interest story. They can deny a livelihood to the state’s food producers and can threaten the food supply of its residents.

Maine is not like other states.
It’s the nation’s most rural state with the greatest majority of its residents living outside of urbanized areas. Its business landscape is dominated by cottage industries, with small proprietors making up 97% of the state’s employers. Its farms are some of the nation’s smallest, they’re run by women at more than twice the national rate, and its farmers are growing younger in a seriously aging sector. Maine’s farmers are also more likely to engage in direct sales to the surrounding community, with some of the highest participation rates in farm stands, farmers markets, and CSAs.

The heart of Maine’s food sovereignty movement is its objection to the government’s one-size-fits-all approach to regulation.
A small farm typically thrives on diversity, with a range of crops and small flocks and herds of livestock, while the kinds of specialized facilities required to meet state and federal food processing standards are geared toward industrial-sized, single crop producers. The facilities often aren’t accessible to a small and scattered rural population, and a special license or expensive equipment can be burdensome for small producers to maintain on site. These requirements can be a barrier to entry for small businesses, but they also ban the kind of casual commerce and bartering that is a traditional part of rural economies—my side of beef for your load of firewood. Even Maine’s traditional community events like bean suppers and Friday fish fries can fall on the wrong side of the law.

Maine residents have been challenging the nation’s food regulations for years.
16 Maine towns had previously declared a local form of food sovereignty under Maine’s governance system of home rule, which gives municipalities autonomy over local matters. The town ordinances can exempt local producers from state licensing and inspections, but only the state amendment can offer legal protection from federal authorities.

Advocates claim that Maine’s food sovereignty creates fewer health risks than what else is out there.
There are growing concerns about the integrity of our national food system, and criticism of the sometimes arbitrary and wrong-headed nature of health code enforcement. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one out of six Americans gets sick from food-borne illness, with 3,000 of them dying each year. Mainers have decided to takes their chances with local producers, taking reassurance from the personal nature of the interactions between producer and consumer.


Posted in agriculture, community, food safety | Leave a comment

2015 Was A Pretty Lousy Year for Food Policy


It was (Big) business as usual in 2015.
Big Food, Big Agriculture, Big Chemicals, and Big Soda faced off against public health advocates, and the public was all too often the Big Loser. Here are some of the more notable food policy highs and lows from the past year.


The coveted children’s nutrition seal goes to ….Pasteurized Processed Cheese Product

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics selected Kraft Singles as the first product to earn its new Kids Eat Right nutrition seal. The Academy, representing 75,000 health professionals, advises Congress in developing regulations that shape national food policy. It also counts PepsiCo, Kraft, and ConAgra Foods among its corporate sponsors. In a Daily Show segment, Jon Stewart summed up the announcement by explaining “the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is an academy in the same way this [Kraft Singles] is cheese.”



In his first official act as the newly elected commissioner of the Texas Department of Agriculture, Sid Miller declared a statewide ‘amnesty for cupcakes,’ symbolically squaring off against what he calls the federal overreach of school nutrition guidelines. He also reversed a 10-year old ban, returning deep fryers and soda machines to school cafeterias.

In other childhood obesity news, the president of Cinnabon and a former Coca-Cola president were keynote speakers at the annual conference of the School Nutrition Association.

herbicide_spraying_sign-4316-8931Dow and Monsanto doubled down on herbicides this year. Their first generation GMO seeds were bestowed with herbicide-resistant genetic material that allowed crops to survive the bounteous spraying of toxins. Now that weeds have adapted with their own toxin resistance, the agro-giants have newly engineered seeds that are able to tolerate more powerful chemicals and have brewed up companion cocktails combining old and new herbicides. The World Health Organization and the EPA have both voiced concerns about their carcinogenic effects on humans. Expect to see the chemical cocktails on your local garden center shelves in time for spring planting.

The Global Energy Balance Network says 'go ahead, drink up'

The Global Energy Balance Network says ‘go ahead, drink up’

Stunning news came out of an anti-obesity group called the Global Energy Balance Network. The organization burst on the scene this years with an advisory board stocked with respected scientists and physicians all bearing the message that we’ve been wrong about the link between diet and obesity. Despite the 40,000 or so relevant studies that pop up in a quick Google Scholar search, the group’s vice president, Steven N. Blair, a top exercise scientist with the University of South Carolina, dismissed the link with this statement: “Most of the focus in the popular media and in the scientific press is, ‘Oh they’re eating too much, eating too much, eating too much’ — blaming fast food, blaming sugary drinks and so on, and there’s really virtually no compelling evidence that that, in fact, is the cause.”

The Global Energy Balance Network proved to be nothing more than a front for Coca-Cola, a little detail that was omitted in GEBN materials. Founded entirely on millions in unrestricted funds provided by Coca-Cola, the soda company selected the organization’s leaders, edited its mission statement, and suggested content for its website. Side note: in the last few years Dr. Blair received $3.5 million in research funds from Coca-Cola. Just saying.


Food safety, transparency, and traceability took a hit this year when Congress repealed the country-of-origin-labeling rule on beef and pork. This came as we were still reeling from the news that even Chipotle, with its fresh ingredients and best practices, was vulnerable to a series of foodborne illness disasters. Then we heard about the new strain of E. coli appearing on Chinese pig farms that is more virulent and antibiotic resistant than anything we’ve ever seen, able to shake off even anti-pathogen drugs of last resort.
Slave ship shrimp, anyone?

It’s not all bad news from 2015.
We have a First Lady who continues to push for better school nutrition. The American appetite for fast food is finally waning. Trans fats and food dyes are disappearing from many processed foods. We’re losing our taste for sugared cereals, sodium-heavy canned soups, white bread, margarine, and corn syrup sweetened beverages. Calorie intake dropped for the first time in decades mostly because of improved product labeling and effective public health messaging.

In the new year we’ll continue to butt heads over GMOS and antibiotics, soda taxes and marketer access to child-oriented media. Resources aren’t aligned with our nutritional goals, and corporate interests are too cozy with policy makers. Here’s hoping that in 2016 common sense prevails and the public’s interests are put ahead of profits.


Posted in community, food policy, health + diet | Leave a comment

There’s a Little Something Called Responsibility


You made the mess, you clean it up.
That’s what we should be telling producers who package their beverages in plastic bottles.

That’s how it’s done in other countries; across Europe and Canada, food and beverage processors operate under the principle of Extended Producer Responsibility. It means that producers are responsible for the entire life-cycle of their products, especially the reuse, recycling, and disposal of packaging.

The rest of the world has this:


Der Grüne Punkt, German for the Green Dot, is the symbol of national product stewardship systems in 31 countries. The Green Dot on packaging means that the producer takes responsibility for environmental impacts throughout the product’s lifecycle. Before releasing its goods into the marketplace, the manufacturer pays into a recovery organization that complies with UK and EU standards as well as respective national laws. The Green Dot is the world’s most widely used trademark with more than 170,000 participating companies taking responsibility for 460 billion packaged items annually.

The U.S. has this:


Producers get to wash their hands of their handiwork as soon as it leaves the factory. The cost of dealing with the detritus of our consumption falls on municipal governments and taxpayers who fund local infrastructures to deal with the waste.

Naturally, Americans lead the world in creating municipal waste, and food packaging is some of the most problematic. It often combines several different packaging materials to create unrecyclable trash like the plastic-bonded aluminum used in juice pouches (the world can be encircled five times over just by all the Capri Sun pouches that are littered or landfilled in a single year). Food packaging also relies heavily on oil-based plastics—the manufacture, distribution, and disposal of each single-serve water bottle consumes an entire quarter of the bottle’s volume capacity of crude oil, and the average American drinks and disposes of 167 water bottles in a year.

It doesn’t help that recycling rates leveled off a decade ago and have even declined in recent years.
Half of the American population recycles daily, while 13% doesn’t recycle at all. But recycling is not the wished-for magic bullet. What was supposed to be a self-sustaining service has turned into a drain on municipal budgets, and many in the scientific community are questioning whether the resources used in processing waste cancel out the positive environmental benefits of recycling.

Extended Producer Responsibility not only shifts the costs, it shifts the conversation.
By holding manufacturers accountable for the complete life cycle of their products, it incentivizes them to incorporate environmentally friendly design and socially responsible marketing. Instead of focusing efforts on disposal, it motivates them to reimagine production and distribution. It means that consumers and producers both have some skin in the game when it comes to devising and implementing strategies reduce the total environmental impact of waste.

Learn more about the groups behind the Extended Producer Responsibility movement in the U.S.:
The Product Stewardship Institute  promotes legislation and voluntary initiatives to expand state laws that require manufacturers to finance the costs of recycling or safe disposal of dangerous products like pharmaceutical waste, batteries, and electronics.
Upstream pressures consumer goods companies to take responsibility for packaging waste through its Make It Take It campaign.
Waste-producing giants like Keurig, Pepsico, and Coca Cola have kicked in to create the Closed Loop Fund, a social impact fund with $100 million to invest in the development of environmentally responsible products and packaging.



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First You Laugh, Then You Cringe: The Krispy Kreme Children’s Hospital is Real



Dr. Donut via Adventure Time/Cartoon Network

Paging Dr. Donut to the Krispy Kreme Challenge Children’s Specialty Clinic at the University of North Carolina.
Universities have made some boneheaded choices when it comes to selling property naming rights. The University of New Mexico has the WisePies Pizza and Salad basketball arena and Florida Atlantic University cut a stadium deal with an operator of prisons and detention centers (later rescinded when students protested its corporate history of corruption and human rights violations). Then there are the bathrooms. For the smalltime philanthropist, or just a donor with a sense of humor, these too are up for grabs. You can find individually named stalls at Dixie State College of Utah; a named men’s room at Harvard Law School; and library urinals at the University of Pennsylvania complete with plaques that read “The relief you are now experiencing is made possible by a gift from Michael Zinman.” 

The renaming of UNC’s Children’s Specialty Clinic is distinctly different.
It’s not like slapping a corporate name on a stadium. This mashup of children’s healthcare and sugary deep-fried pastries arrives in the midst of an epidemic of pediatric metabolic syndrome, and it does so in North Carolina, ranked 5th worst in the US for childhood obesity. The university drew immediate flak from doctors and nutritionists, beginning with members of UNC’s own faculty:

Shame on my colleagues for not finding a way to accept funds without providing free advertisement for junk food. What is interesting about this is if we named this the Winston-Salem [cigarette] clinic, it would outrage America and maybe even the same for the Coca-Cola Clinic, but Krispy Kremes are equally horrible for our health — they are high sugar, high fat, refined carbohydrate junk food primed to add to the child obesity problem plaguing North Carolina.

 —Barry Popkin, MD, W. R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor/Director, UNC Chapel Hill’s Interdisciplinary Center for Obesity

The clinic responded to the criticism by explaining that it isn’t named for the Krispy Kreme Corporation, or even the sugary treat, but that it’s an homage to a non-profit organization that holds an annual foot race raising money for sick children that just happens to have the trademarked name in the race title. The eponymous Krispy Kreme Challenge is a grotesquely ludicrous feat of athleticism that bills itself as a “test of physical fitness and gastrointestinal fortitude”—the first to run five miles with a midpoint snack of a dozen donuts is the winner. So they say.

The public health advocates at the Center for Science in the Public Interest are circulating a petition on calling out the university for its flagrant hypocrisy and conflict of interest and urging UNC not put the Krispy Kreme name on its children’s clinic.
The petition appeals directly to the administrators and faculty leadership of the health facility:

…you undoubtedly see firsthand the impact of poor diet on children’s health on a daily basis. Putting a doughnut brand on a medical institution that serves children undermines your organization’s credibility, parents’ efforts to facilitate healthy eating by their kids, and children’s health.
Food marketing affects children’s food choices, their diets, and health, resulting in long-term health impacts. Kids don’t need encouragement to eat sweets—particularly from their healthcare providers.
Please act now to ensure that the children’s clinic is not sullied by the Krispy Kreme name.

The CSPI petition is just a thousand or so signers shy of its goal. Help put it over the top by adding your name at
There’s got to be a better way to honor the generosity and  good work of a North Carolina nonprofit without sending such an inappropriate message to children.


Posted in community, health + diet | Leave a comment

In the inimitable words of Oliver Wendall Douglas: Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside.

There really is an Agritopia® . It's outside of Phoenix and it really is trademarked.

There really is an Agritopia® . It’s outside of Phoenix and it really is trademarked.


Golf course condos are passé. The new status symbol is a farm view.
A new kind of residential development is bringing 24/7 farm-to-table living to the suburbs. Called agrihoods, they’re suburban subdivisions built with a working farm as the central feature, in the same way that other developments are clustered around a golf course, or pool, or clubhouse. A few dozen of these planned suburban communities are up and running, and the Urban Land Institute is currently tracking the progress of hundreds more in various stages of development.

The agrihood concept isn’t new but we’re seeing a new breed.
They’re not the hippie-dippy back-to-the-land communes of earlier eras, and they’re more than just a handful of lots being sold off so that a family can keeps its farm. What’s different this time around is the arrival of large corporate developers who are creating massive projects with thousands of housing units on a single tract. They’re anchored by professionally managed, for-profit farms that engage in large scale food production. They’re rich in amenities that give residents the benefits of farm living with none of the chores. And they are a mixed bag. Some are committed to responsible development practices and the preservation of open land; others are sprinkling a little fairy dust of sustainability to push just so much suburban sprawl through local zoning authorities.

The logo'ed plastic cups and bottled water of a Willowsford gathering

The logo’ed plastic cups and bottled water of a Willowsford gathering

More style than substance: Willowsford
300 acres are farmed inside the walls of this gated community in Loudon County, Virginia. Residents of the 2,130 homes can join a CSA or visit their own farm stand, and according to the developer’s brochure, they can also enjoy home grown produce in “The Grange… a gracious gathering space designed in the fashion of an elegant countryside manor… with periodic visits by local and celebrity chefs who use ingredients picked fresh from Willowsford Farm to create pop-up restaurant menus.”

seo responds to the proposed construction of 5,000 new homes.

Green-washing’ the billion dollar agrihood: Lake Pickett South
The Florida developer’s website describes the development as “an idyllic setting that is steeped in nostalgia and mindful of nature…inspired by the rural lifestyle of yesteryear, enabling people to forge a relationship with the land and each other…” That’s some high-fallutin’ language for a plan to create the region’s largest cluster of car-dependent residents on environmentally sensitive land.


The Cannery connects to one of the nation's most well-developed biking infrastructures

The Cannery connects to one of the nation’s most well-developed biking infrastructures


Big isn’t necessarily bad: The Cannery.
You can’t plunk down just any project in Davis, California, a college town that’s known for leading environmental stewardship. The Cannery began with low-impact land use by reclaiming an abandoned tomato packing plant. Each of its almost 600 residences will be electric car-ready, generate its own solar energy, and be planted with fruit and nut trees. All will be within 300 feet of the city’s network of bicycle paths, and the campus and downtown can both be reached within five minutes. The developer deeded the farmland to the city, which will run it with an educational focus.


Open space, bucolic views, and farm fresh food. You might not save the planet, but it’s a beautiful day in the agrihood.



Posted in agriculture, community, home | Leave a comment

Saving the Dive Bars: Give them landmark status

Charles Bukowski, patron saint of dive bars

Charles Bukowski, patron saint of dive bars


Does the bathroom have a working lock? Is it stocked with toilet paper?
Are there more wine options than red or white? Are there growlers? More than one kind of bitters? Is anyone wearing a bow tie?
If you could answer ‘yes’ to any of those questions, it’s not a dive bar.

A dive bar doesn’t serve drinks with fresh herbs, it doesn’t have free wifi, and it definitely doesn’t have the words ‘dive bar’ in its name. What it does have are flinty bartenders and cheap drinks. Its walls exude the decades-old vestiges of smoke and beer; so do the seedy midday regulars who slide down the bar to make way for an after-work cross section of construction workers and executives. It’s also a dying breed.

The death of the dive bar is a familiar story to residents of our increasingly gentrified cities.
Dive bars are neighborhood relics occupying shabby spaces that scream ‘deferred maintenance,’ while commercial rents climb and shiny condo towers rise around them. Eventually they fall victim to a hot real estate market and the disappearance of gritty and grizzled neighborhood denizens, the daily daytime drinkers who are a bar’s purest expression of its divey-ness.

Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
No gastropub, cocktail lounge, or new-fangled speakeasy can take its place. A dive bar is part of a city’s unsanitized, unhomogenized past. The new urbanism tends to erase and eliminate the very things that give a city its character. When a dive bar closes, a neighborhood loses a little piece of its soul.

In rapidly gentrifying cities like San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles, local preservationists hope to safeguard dive bars through landmark designations.
They argue that a city’s legacy businesses should be seen as the metaphorical cousins of architectural landmarks, equally worthy of preservation because of their cultural and historical significance. A landmark designation will usually entitle the businesses and their landlords to preservation funds, special financing, and favorable tax status, which is a tough sell to cash-strapped city governments.

Some residents, city officials, and landmark commissions look at a dive bar and see a sketchy, rundown watering hole that stands in the way of change and progress. Others see a living, breathing emblem of a city’s heritage, and one that can continue to contribute to the intangible but invaluable character of its cultural fabric.

Posted in beer + wine + spirits, community | Leave a comment

Detroit, Michigan: The New Back Forty


There aren’t enough jobs, enough people, or enough tax revenue, but one thing Detroit has plenty of is vacant land.
The city is barely standing after decades of a free-falling economy, fruitless renewal efforts, and a local government that was feckless at best and more often corrupt. Two-thirds of Detroit’s residents streamed toward the exits, leaving 40 square miles of abandoned buildings and empty lots—a space equal to the entire city of Boston—that arson, bulldozers, and nature are transforming into a massive urban prairie.

Most people look to Detroit and see a ruined space prowled by looters and packs of wild dogs; some see a field of dreams.
Visionary citizens and a progressive administration are rehabbing and reshaping the city. To them it’s not blight but unplanned green space, and a prime test case for large-scale urban farming. Detroit has become the nation’s hub for advocates of urban agriculture and the shrinking cities movement that reimagines distressed, post-industrial cities as smaller metro cores surrounded by green belts of food production.

In April 2013, Detroit passed a comprehensive urban agriculture ordinance that changed the way the city is zoned.
Urban zones traditionally fall into one of five major categories: residential, mixed residential-commercial, commercial, industrial, and special zones (school, hospital, airport, etc.). Zoning establishes dedicated land uses; the local government can regulate the activity but it also offers legal protections. Detroit’s ordinance established agriculture as an urban planning priority. It gave formal legal status to an array of land uses including community gardens, rainwater catches, and aquaculture, and permits even small, backyard gardeners to sell homegrown produce from their own farm stands.

The ordinance has been embraced by a public and private cross-section of the city.
Citizen groups like Be Black and Green and My Jewish Detroit have helped to establish the nearly 2,000 gardens flourishing in the city’s ethnic enclaves. More than 1,000 citizens volunteered at a spring planting day launching Hantz Farm, the world’s largest urban farm. The school district has converted one of the city’s many abandoned public schools into 27 acres of gardens to provide produce to its school cafeterias. Even the automakers have joined in with projects like the Cadillac Urban Gardens which has recycled and repurposed hundreds of steel shipping crates into raised-bed planters.

Detroit’s food activists are aiming for a food sovereign city.
That’s a lofty goal of 51% or more of the fresh foods consumed in Detroit to be grown by Detroiters within the city limits. It’s especially gutsy when you consider that just a few years ago Detroit was the poster child for urban food deserts, with fully half of its residents living without reasonable access to fresh groceries. Empty lot by empty lot, the city is transitioning there.



Posted in community, local foods | Leave a comment

A City Guide to Affordable Gastronomy

The Wallet Hub Map of Food Affordability in 150 Metro Markets 


A roof over your head and food on your plate.
Those are the big ones in everyone’s budget. Housing and food add up to nearly half of most Americans’ annual spending.

Housing values are closely scrutinized; food values not so much.
There are endless real estate rankings and ratings—we know about New York condo prices and San Francisco rent; we know which cities are affordable for retirees and where to move to after college. Even though food is often the next largest chunk of the budget, there’s been scant research into where to go for the good food values.

The sweet spot for a food scene is where quality meets affordability.
Wallet Hub
, a social platform for financial decision making, evaluated the 150 most populous U.S. cities to find the most and least economical food scenes in the country. Data was culled from the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and analyzed using 18 weighted metrics indicating diversity, accessibility, quality, and affordability of food in each city. They counted grocers, butchers, cheese shops, and coffee roasters and compared prices across regions. Well-ranked cities have farmers markets, CSAs, food trucks, and maybe a food festival or two. They also have plenty of healthy options, a range of ethnic cuisines, food delivery, and a decent ratio of full-service to fast food restaurants.

Some of the rankings are what you’d expect. For all its bounty, high prices sink New York City to #143 (where it’s sandwiched between Port St. Lucie, Florida and Anchorage, Alaska), and places like Omaha, Nebraska and Fort Wayne, Indiana don’t have too much going on food-wise, but man are they cheap. Coffee, craft beer, and inexpensive ethnic restaurants spring up wherever you find large student populations, giving a ratings boost to big college towns like Madison, Wisconsin (#3) and Austin, Texas (#8). San Francisco is tops for restaurants and diversity but gets dinged for some of the highest prices in the country, knocking it down to #15.

There are also plenty of surprises.
Tourist meccas like Honolulu, Hawaii and Orlando, Florida are inexplicably dense with specialty grocers. Portland, Oregon is perched within the winery and brewery belt of the Pacific Northwest, yet it has some of the highest beer and wine prices in the country. Detroit is in dire need of ice cream parlor. Salt Lake City, even with its caffeine-free Mormon population, has more coffee shops per capita than Jacksonville, Florida and El Paso, Texas. And can someone please tell me why Fayetteville, North Carolina and Henderson, Nevada are two of the nation’s most expensive food towns?

Visit WalletHub’s 2014’s Best and Worst Foodie Cities for your Wallet to get a full picture of the eating landscape, and to learn why we should all pack it in and move to Grand Rapids.




Posted in community, food business, Travel | 1 Comment

Slow Money: It’s Like Slow Food for your Wallet

currency cover art from 'Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money'

currency cover art from ‘Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money’


The Wall Street Journal says of Slow Money: ‘Forget conventional 401(k)s; think goat cheese and fennel.’
Bloomberg Businessweek calls it one of the ‘big ideas that will change small business and entrepreneurship,’ and Time Magazine says it has the potential to ‘remake America’s food industry.’.’

Investments you can sink your teeth into. 
Slow Money is a movement that organizes investors and donors to steer capital to small food enterprises, organic farms, and local food systems. It’s guided by the same principles as the Slow Food movement. Slow Food promotes traditional cooking with local ingredients as a response to the unhealthy and unsustainable fast food lifestyle and the globalized, industrialized state of our food supply. Slow Money offers a similar alternative to the fast money of our global financial markets. It asserts that our current paths, both agricultural and fiduciary, are irresponsible, unhealthy, and ultimately unsustainable.

You don’t need a big bank account to join the Slow Money movement.

  • Kickstarter and Indiegogo have both had great success applying a crowdsourced funding platform to food-related projects. They pool money in increments as small as a few dollars and patronage is usually rewarded in the form of project mementos or perks— a $10 pledge might entitle you to a snack bag from an organic nut roaster, or $200 to a pickle maker could get you a weekend brining workshop.
  • Kiva Zip is a crowd-sourced platform for 0% interest peer-to-peer lending. Lenders can browse individual loan profiles to choose a borrower—both food producers and sellers—approve the payback schedule, and even have direct conversations with borrowers. Loans are pooled from amounts as small as $5 PayPal transactions, and while there is risk involved, borrowers and business plans are vetted for credit-worthiness and are overseen and endorsed by trustees.
  • Credibles crosses crowdfunding with the CSA model of prepayment for the next harvest.
    If an individual were to make a direct investment in an egg farm or a jam maker, payment in-kind would bring them more eggs and marmalade than they would know what to do with. Credibles creates a single fund from the contributions of multiple investors, with buy-ins starting at $50. The loans it makes to small and artisanal producers are repaid in-kind—a farm returns crops, a restaurant returns meals, a small-batch ice cream maker returns pints of rocky road—but since an investor is buying into the shared pool, repayment comes from the collective pool of businesses in the form of edible credits, ‘credibles,’ that can be redeemed for a wide assortment of products.
  • Gatheroundis like TED Talks for the Slow Money crowd. Each live online event features a conversation with a thought leader from the food world plus presentations from several early stage food entrepreneurs who are seeking funding. A $25 donation logs you in, and at the end of the session you direct Gatheround to send those dollars in the form of a three-year, interest-free loan to the entrepreneur of your choice. When the loan is paid back, your tax-deductible $25 will continue to cycle through future Slow Money projects. mobilizes investors at a grassroots level through its network of regional chapters and local investment clubs. 
Since 2010, Slow Money affiliates have funneled more than $38 million to over 350 small food enterprises around the United States. Visit the Slow Money website to learn about local gatherings, and join the emerging network of investors who are working to improve the health of local food systems and the economy.
Put your money where your mouth is. Literally.

Posted in community, food business, sustainability | Leave a comment

There’s a Whole Lot of Ranch Dressing Out There


Eating Patterns of US States via Fast Co Design

Eating Patterns of US States via Fast Co Design


If you’re looking for a Philly cheesesteak you’re more likely to find one at the Jersey Shore than in Philadelphia.
Try New York for a Maine lobster. Or Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, or New Jersey—it appears on more menus in more restaurants in each of those states than in its native Maine.

Co. Design, the design blog from Fast Company Magazine, teamed up with the food industry data collectors at Food Genius to create a map of each state’s most distinctive foods. Populations are mobile, supermarkets are national, and the same chain restaurants dot the landscape wherever you go. Their map looks at the ways in which new and traditional local cultures, economies, availability, trends, and convenience leave distinctive food fingerprints all around the nation.

The foods that made the cut might not be the most prevalent in each state, but they are the most uniquely loved.
Co. Design wanted to measure the relative popularity of each state’s food choices, to find what is distinctive and unique about those choices when compared with the rest of the country. That meant that they had to level the influence of ubiquitous and cookie-cutter fast food and chain restaurants. So no matter how popular and dominant the chains are, the multitude of Waffle Houses, McDonald’s, and Olive Gardens were just counted once for each state.

Here are some of their findings:

As a nation, we love our peppers, which seven states own as their most distinctive ingredient. New Mexico is alone in claiming the green chile, found on the menus of 51% of all the restaurants in the state but only in 2% of restaurant dishes in the rest of the country. The jalapeño is king pepper in Colorado and Texas, Ohio likes its banana peppers, and Michigan, Illinois, and Virginia favor the milder green bell variety.

While lobster is shipped far from its native waters, most coastal states are showing love for their local catches. Haddock stays in Maine and New Hampshire, crab cakes still rule in Maryland, crawfish in Louisiana, grouper in Florida, Walleye in Minnesota, and prawns top the western states on the mainland while Hawaii has its ahi.

America is awash in ranch dressing. It’s the most beloved regional treat in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Iowa, Alabama, Kentucky, Vermont, and West Virginia, and Nebraskans included it in their generic preference for what they simply call ‘dip’.

On the Co. Design website you’ll find an interactive version of the map that lets you explore the top 5 dishes and menu terms for each state.

A Gallup-Well-Being poll from earlier this year ranked all 50 states based on their residents’ emotional and physical health and healthy behaviors. Do you care to guess how the ranch dressing states fared?


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Top 10 Food Scenes: not just the usual suspects.

2010 07 31_0006foodcitysign

What defines a great food scene?
Is it a cluster of big name chefs and world-class restaurateurs? A distinct regional cuisine? The diverse offerings of authentic ethnic enclaves?

The definition is changing.
We still have our celebrated food meccas like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco with countless options and Michelin stars, but America’s towns and small cities are proving that you don’t need vast offerings and high-end restaurants. Instead, what they have is communities of concerned farmers and talented food artisans, passionate and discerning food lovers, and a deep-rooted, indigenous food culture that adds authenticity and meaning to the experience.

These communities give rise to clusters of second tier restaurants. The cooking can be just as refined and inventive as anything you’ll find in their better-known, big-city counterparts, but they’re the kind of restaurants that are opened by independent chef-owners rather than investor consortiums. There’s no publicist garnering national press and pushing these restaurants onto top 10 lists. You don’t go there to add a notch to your foodie belt; you go there to eat well.

Sperling’s BestPlaces, a research firm that produces city rankings, crunched the numbers to come up with a list of America’s Top Cities for Foodies
The list ignores the ratings and emphasizes the food culture by counting up specialty food markets, cookware shops, wine bars, craft breweries, and farm markets, and the ratio of local ownership to chain franchised food outletsIt leveled the playing field for small cities by leaning heavily on density data rather than sheer volume. By Sperling’s measure the ten best ‘foodie’ cultures are found in:

1.Santa Rosa/Napa, California
2.Portland, Oregon
3.Burlington, Vermont
4.Portland, Maine
5.San Francisco, California
6.Providence, Rhode Island
7.Boston/Cambridge, Massachusetts
8.Seattle, Washington
9.Santa Fe, New Mexico
10.Santa Barbara, California



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Everyone Wants to Walk to the Coffee Shop


Abbey Road via Apple (Parlophone)/EMI

Urbanologists call it The Great Inversion.
The last half century was spent fleeing the blight and density of cities. Now we want to go back. The jacuzzi-tubbed four-bedroom suburban spread doesn’t signal the success it once did. These days you’re a nobody if you can’t walk out the front door and get a latté.

It’s a cultural shift built on coffee.
77% of Americans say that walkability is a hugely important factor when they decide where to live. Most say that they would choose a small home with nearby amenities over a larger home where they have to drive everywhere. And the favored amenity isn’t schools, churches, parks, or movie theaters; it’s a café that’s within walking distance.

A premium coffee vendor is no small thing to a neighborhood.
It signals that a neighborhood has 
arrived, that it has economic vitality and cultural momentum that can continue to snowball into something greater. Realtors and civic associations even refer to this type of upswing as the ‘Starbucks Effect.’ And we’re not just talking about fuzzy, quality of life issues; there is usually a real increase in property values when a neighborhood acquires food-related amenities.

Walk Score rates the walkability of any home or business. It calculates a score from 0–100 for any address— 100 is a Walker’s Paradise and 0 is totally Car Dependent. The algorithm assigns points based on the nearby amenities, as well as factors like cul de sacs (not a walk-friendly feature) and block lengths (shorter is better). A car-free lifestyle becomes possible with a score upward of 80. A study conducted by CEOs for Cities uses Walk Scores to quantify the Starbucks Effect: it estimates that each point adds $3,000 to a home’s sales price.

What’s your Walk Score?
If you’ve ever lived in a highly walkable neighborhood, you already know what a beautiful thing it is. Walkable communities are happier, healthier, safer, cleaner, and greener.

See the Walk Scores of some well-known residences:
The Obama’s former Chicago home has a middling Walk Score of 71. The move to the White House got them into a home with the very robust score of 97.
The Brady Bunch ranch house had a Walk Score of 74; very respectable for the San Fernando Valley.
Monica’s lower Manhattan apartment on Friends scores an unbeatable 100 points.



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Would Jesus Tip More than 20%?



Tips for Jesus struck again, this time in Philadelphia.
After drinks ($150) and dinner ($250) a diner left a $2,000 tip for the bartender and $5,000 to the server. Those latest tips bring Jesus’ total extravagance to nearly $150,000.

An anonymous diner or group of diners has been tipping for Jesus since last fall, leaving absurdly generous tips at restaurants and bars in more than a dozen cities in the United States and Mexico. Each receipt has been stamped with the Instagram handle @tipsforjesus, where photos of the tips and the ecstatic recipients are posted.

The tech-savvy Samaritan is rumored to be former PayPal VP Jack Selby and a few friends from his inner circle. While maintaining their anonymity, the group has released public statements and given a few interviews explaining their mission. Despite the insignia and the extensive coverage by religious press organizations, they prefer to keep some distance between Tips for Jesus and traditional Christian philanthropy, calling theirs ‘agnostic’ giving.

The Tips for Jesus crew is hoping  to inspire an army of munificent copycat tippers. They try to create an internet sensation with each new episode, harnessing the power of social media through the 75,000 followers of their Instagram account. And it’s exactly the kind of off-kilter, feel-good story that the internet likes to run with.

The problem is, as an act of charity, this kind of giving falls flat.
With the gap between rich and poor ever widening, plunking down the occasional out-sized tip isn’t especially effective or even moral. It smacks of hubris and privilege, more like the drunken lark of an entitled frat boy than genuine altruism. And while n
o one would argue that restaurant servers aren’t worthy of largesse, the Tips for Jesus recipients aren’t exactly hash slingers working the midnight shift at Denny’s. Whatever their true identities, the Tippers definitely dine like tech millionaires of a recent vintage, and the Instagram photos show receipts for high-end sushi bars, craft cocktail lounges, and  blow-outs at clubby steakhouses—the kinds of places where a server makes a solidly middle class living and is more likely to use a tip windfall to buy a big screen TV than to pay an overdue electric bill. 

Not that I think they should stop.
Tips for Jesus is probably not destined for long-term sustainability, but it’s bringing attention to charitable giving and packaging it for a new generation of givers. Some of them just might take their philanthropic impulses and find their way to more conventional forms of charity. In the meantime, it’s fulfilling the fantasy of everyone who’s ever waited on tables.


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‘Nose-y’ Neighbors Sue to Shut Down Sriracha Factory




It’s harvest time for California’s jalapeno peppers and the air around the Huy Fong Foods factory is perfumed with the rich aroma of chilis and garlic.
The company makes a full year’s worth of Sriracha hot sauce during the three-month chili harvest. Daily deliveries of fresh peppers, 100 million pounds in all, are roasted, ground, and blended with garlic and other spices.

A lawsuit filed on behalf of the factory’s neighbors is threatening this year’s production cycle.
With pepper processing hitting its full swing, nearby residents are complaining about the pungent fumes. They’re getting headaches, their eyes are stinging, throats are sore, and children are being kept indoors. Last Monday, the city of Irwindale, California sued Huy Fong Foods charging that the wafting odors are a public nuisance in violation of the municipal code. The city has asked for a restraining order that would immediately stop all operations at the factory, and lawyers might even pursue a permanent injunction that could lead to a total shut down.

Sriracha is no ordinary hot sauce.
Sriracha love starts out innocently enough: a squirt in the stir fry, a dab added to marinades. 
You marvel at how a tiny hit of heat, sweet, and garlic perk up those dishes. You try a few drops in dips and dressings, a steady squeeze into scrambled eggs, a swipe of the basting brush on meats headed for the grill. A smidgen turns into a dollop and a smear quickly becomes a slather. Pretty soon the green-capped rooster bottle is keeping company with salt and pepper at every meal and there’s a second bottle for the office fridge. You think: is there nothing that can’t be improved by this marvelous elixir?

Sriracha lovers come from all walks of life.
It’s a sleeve-trick of Michelin chefs, a key ingredient in urban street food, and it’s mixed into the mayonnaise at the Applebee’s in Ottumwa, Iowa. The company sold 20 million bottles last year and it pulled it off with no advertising and a website that hasn’t been updated since 2004.

Sriracha could be in very short supply next year, and beyond that—who knows?
Huy Fong Foods is exploring filtration systems and other means of mitigating the aromatic emissions but there’s no quick fix. At least part of this year’s chili pepper harvest will likely be written off. 
Let the hoarding begin.



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Cook Your Cupboard Wants to Know: What’s Languishing in Your Pantry?


Campbell's Limited Edition soups

Campbell’s Limited Edition soups


Cook Your Cupboard wants to know what’s in your pantry.
NPR has launched a food project inspired by a dilemma that every one of us has faced: What do I do with                   ?
Go ahead and fill in the blank with three of the odd, the random, and the esoteric items that lurk, semi-forgotten in the back of your cupboards.

We all have them. 
They might be edible mementoes from a long-ago road trip or bizarre condiments chosen on impulse. There’s the still-full bottle of rose water that was purchased for a specific recipe, the rice cakes from the diet you never started, the raspberry chipotle mustard you were gifted with last Christmas, and the Arborio rice and saffron bought for a dinner party you never gave.

Cook Your Cupboard is never stumped.
Poke around on high shelves and low ones, in the back of your cupboards, and the darkest reaches of your freezer. The Cook Your Cupboard blog invites you to submit three items that you’d like to salvage before they reach their expiration dates. The radio show listeners and blog readers offer suggestions, advice, and recipes, and a few lucky submissions are handled on-air by the week’s guest chef—past participants include big names like Jacques Pepin, Nigella Lawson, and Mollie Katzen.

We learn that canned vegetarian haggis is best left in the desert for coyotes, and powdered lemonade mix should only be used  to clean the insides of a dishwasher, but most pantry hodgepodge trios are put to legitimately appetizing use. Apple cider vinegar, almond milk, and dried red beans become vegetarian chili and cornbread; chick pea flour, chia seeds, and harissa are turned into Indian-inspired fritters. They’ve tackled fenugreek, bonita flakes, Georgian Tlekmani sauce, Moroccan fish balls, and canned custard. And anchovies. For some reason no one seems to know what to do with anchovies.

Submit a photo of your most regrettable purchases and let the culinary brain trust at NPR work some magic. Currently they’re looking for three items hidden in the forgotten corners of your freezer.

The pantry contents of celebrities, the secret language of grocery purchases, and more are revealed in Gigabiting’s Snooping in Other People’s Pantries.

Posted in community, cooking, Entertainment, recipes | Leave a comment

Fixing the 4 Food Groups of the Corner Store


image via The Candy Trail

image via The Candy Trail


Candy, ice cream, chips, and soda.
That’s the stock in trade of the corner store. When kids drop in on the way home from school clutching dollar bills from their allowance, that’s what they buy. And in Philadelphia, the poorest and most obese of the big cities, they were buying way too much. A study published in the journal Pediatrics reported that more than 53% of  the city’s public school students were shopping at corner stores once every school day, and 29% were stopping by both before and after school, five days a week. On average they were spending just over a dollar at each visit, and on average they were buying sugary, fatty treats that added up to 356 calories.

There’s so much wrong with this picture—from the dearth of healthy options in urban food deserts and the poor nutritional choices the kids were making, to the out-of-whack food system that creates so many empty calories so cheaply. It threatened to undermine the schools’ efforts where they had eliminated junk food from campus vending machines and rid cafeterias of hard working deep fat fryers.

The corner store is not the enemy.
Bodegas and convenience markets are part of the urban landscape. They serve an important role in poorer communities where options are limited, and Philadelphia has fewer supermarkets per capita than almost every other large American city. The corner stores are free market enterprises with little square footage and prime display space that’s often contractually reserved for favored vendors. They don’t have room to stock what doesn’t sell, and what does sell is often cheap and unhealthy.

It’s a two-pronged approach.
Store owners need to be encouraged to stock fresh, healthful foods, and kids need to be encouraged to choose them. The Food Trust, a Philadelphia-based organization that works to improve access to affordable, healthy food, has led the charge with its local Healthy Corner Store Initiative and the creation of the national Healthy Corner Stores Network.

Creating a sustainable model on the supply side.
In 2009 The Food Trust began with fewer than a dozen participating Philadelphia store owners. They provided equipment like inexpensive refrigerated barrels that allowed the stores to expand their inventory of perishable foods, and linked the owners with local farmers and fresh food suppliers. They also offered training, merchandising, and technical support to store employers that showed how they could boost food safety and reduce spoilage, and ultimately the store owners found that they could improve overall store operations while profitably selling healthier products.

Appetites don’t naturally follow access.
To create sustainable demand for healthy foods, the diet of an entire household has to be transformed. The Food Trust reaches out to both children and their parents with education and message marketing. They engage families through community-based programs on nutrition and healthy purchasing, and are a strong presence in the public schools where 80% of the city’s students have participated in nutrition and wellness programs. Of equal importance is a youth leadership program that targets the social component of behaviors and the troubled relationship that many kids have with food.

In just four years, Philadelphia’s Healthy Corner Store Initiative has grown to involve 680 store owners. All have agreed to stock at least four healthy new products, with most offering dozens more. Pricing is kept competitive and many products bear labels and logos that highlight the store’s healthy options.

Philadelphia is bucking a childhood obesity trend.
While obesity rates remain unchanged all around the country, recent studies show an average decline in obesity rates for Philadelphia’s schoolchildren of five percent, and an even more significant seven percent drop among African American boys and Latina girls, two groups at especially high risk for diabetes. The success is shared by numerous constituents of the city’s broad-based assault on obesity, but breaking the old corner store habit, with its daily dose of junk food, is no small part of it.


Posted in community, health + diet, kids | 1 Comment

50 States, 50 Hamburgers

americanhamburgerWe’re not just a hamburger nation; we’re a bigger and a better hamburger nation than we were just a few short years ago.

We have burger momentum across the boards.
The old-school, classic burger joints are thriving in small towns and downtowns. At the same time the gourmet burger has found a legitimate place on high-end menus where it’s being made from fresh grinds of prime beef cuts and served on quality breads and buns. They’re being accompanied by a dizzying array of pickles and condiments that are crafted with renewed creativity and attention to detail. There’s even a fast-food burger revival led by chains like  In-N-Out, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Smashburger, The Counter, and Shake Shack, all serving serious but unpretentious burgers.

Tastier than a bald eagle, more beloved than Uncle Sam.
Pizza, tacos, sushi, falafel—they’ve all made a run at the hamburger. But like America itself, the burger is unshakeable. It came to us as an immigrant from Hamburg but quickly learned the language. It’s egalitarian and a little artless, socially mobile and likes to push its way onto foreign shores. The hamburger continually absorbs regional differences and global influences but remains unequivocally, unapologetically American.

The Serious Eats family of websites is never more serious than when they’re discussing burgers. 
There’s lively conversation on Burger Talk, recipes from the Burger Lab, and for the true obsessive connoisseur there’s A Hamburger Today. And now they’ve given us The United States of Burgers, an interactive map of the most iconic burgers and burger restaurants from each of the 50 states.

Delaware has lava rock-grilled burgers from the 1950’s-era Charcoal Pit drive-in; New Mexicans top theirs with roasted green chiles; Iowans eat loose meat, falling somewhere between a hamburger and a sloppy Joe; and New Jersey has its sliders, although Kansas claims White Castle as its own. There are hamburgers that call out for a road trip like Minnesota’s legendary cheese-stuffed Juicy Lucys, and the dry-aged ground beef burgers from New York’s Peter Luger Steakhouse. And there are states we prefer to just drive straight through without stopping like Tennessee where Dyer’s deep fries its hamburgers in cooking oil that they proudly claim has not been changed in over 100 years. Order a cheeseburger and it gets a second, cheese-melting dunk in the century-old grease.

You can let The United States of Burgers be your guide, or design your own burger pilgrimage with help from Burger GPS, a mobile app from hamburger expert George Motz that directs you to all the best hamburgers from coast to coast.

The results from the National Burger Survey show how we really like our burgers.

[image via Zazzle UK]

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Life Has Become One Continuous Snack

It’s official: we’re a nation of noshers. 
We kick off the day with breakfast—no skipping that most important meal of the day—but then we pretty much leave our mouths open and graze straight through to dinner. So says the most recent analysis of government data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES).

grazingWe graze.
In the late 1970’s, 40% of Americans said that they didn’t typically eat between-meal snacks. With 3 meals a day for most, the average number of eating occasions was 3.9 per day. Today we’re skipping more meals but snacking so frequently that we have pushed daily eating occasions up to 10. Just 4% of Americans say they don’t regularly snack, with most reporting 3 or more snacks a day.




What lunch break?
Americans are  now more likely to skip lunch than breakfast. 85% reported eating breakfast the previous day, while only 80% reported eating lunch.





We like pizza. A lot.
In the late 1970’s, just 6% of kids and teens and 3% of adults reported eating pizza the previous day. Today those numbers have more than tripled for all of us, with 10% of adults and 20% of 2-19 year olds reporting a pizza snack or meal in the last 24 hours.





We eat pitifully little fruit. 
That’s been consistent. Since the late 1970’s, fruit consumption has held steady at 0.9 portions per day, and that includes fruit juices.



broccoli yuck


More of us are eating our vegetables.
Just not so many of them. While 25% of Americans today report eating fruits or vegetables in the previous 24 hours, the average is just a combined 1.9 servings in a day. In the 1970’s only 12% ate their fruits and veggies, but they typically consumed 2.6 portions.



100 drink choices


Got milk? Not much.In the 1970’s, 64% of the population (children and adults) had  drunk a glass of milk in the previous day. Today the majority of Americans, 54%, don’t regularly drink milk.





You can find the full report at the National Health and Nutrition Examination SurveysNHANES is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and has produced vital and health statistics for the nation for 50 years.






Posted in community, health + diet | 1 Comment

We Can Do This. We Can Get Yellow Dye Out of Kraft Mac & Cheese.

swatch-yellow5      swatch-yellow6

Meet Tartrazine and Sunset Yellow.

You can thank them for the foil pouch of day-glo cheese powder that comes in every box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Every box in the U.S., that is. Kraft reformulated the recipe for the European market replacing the artificial dyes with natural, plant-based ingredients like paprika and beta carotene. The dyes are gone because European consumers revolted over potentially harmful side effects and demanded that the company remove them.

Both of these yellow dyes are man-made chemicals derived from petroleum.
The additives have been linked to a host of disturbing side effects like asthma, eczema, and migraines, in addition to hyperactivity and learning impairments in children. The Center for Science in the Public Interest reports that both dyes are also contaminated with known carcinogens. And they serve no purpose beyond the aesthetics of bright orange cheese, contributing nothing to the nutritional value or safety of food.

They’re not just in the blue box of Kraft.
It’s estimated that a young child with a taste for fast- and processed foods could be eating as much as a pound of food dye every year. Well beyond the usual suspects like purple Popsicles and rainbow Skittles, you’ll find food dyes in a staggering array of foods like canned fruit, fresh oranges, hot and cold cereals, pizza crusts, chocolate milk, salad dressing, lemonade, ginger ale, cookies and bread, chips and crackers, even matzoh balls. Oy veh.

Where, pray tell, is the FDA?
The Food and Drug Agency calls the shots when it comes to food additives, and it has a long history of calling them wrong. Looking at Tartrazine and Sunset Yellow, the agency acknowledged the sizable body of research linking the colorings to behavioral changes in children, but the advisory panel tasked with their review called the evidence inconclusive and recommended that the agency continue its hands-off approach to the additives. Of course FDA approval is hardly a guarantee of safety. The agency’s site lists 91 previously approved artificial dyes that are now banned. And bear in mind that countries throughout Europe weighed the same ‘inconclusive’ evidence against potential health consequences and have banned most artificial food dyes.

We don’t need to wait for the FDA.
Earlier this year, consumers targeted brominated vegetable oil, an additive that prevents flavorings from separating in Gatorade. After studies linked the FDA-approved ingredient to neurological disorders and altered thyroid hormones, a petition requesting its removal circulated on, collecting more than 200,000 signatures. In January Kraft announced that because of the feedback it was reversing its earlier decision to retain the substance and would be replacing Gatorade’s brominated vegetable oil with a more acceptable emulsifier.

It worked for Gatorade. Now let’s get the yellow dye out of our mac & cheese.
Visit where you can add your name to the 360,000 that have already signed the petition demanding that Kraft stop using dangerous food dyes in its Macaroni & Cheese. You can also bring the fight to the Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Facebook page, where thousands of consumers have already chimed in with their comments.


Posted in community, food policy, food safety | 1 Comment

Fun Facts About Guns in Bars and Restaurants

porcelain pistol by Yvonne Lee Schultz

porcelain pistol by Yvonne Lee Schultz


There’s a lot of talk about gun control at the state and federal level. Let’s talk about guns on a personal level that affects all of us: in bars and restaurants.

  • Fun Fact: Red state or blue—it makes no difference. Nearly every state throws its bar and restaurant doors open to gun-toting customers.

There’ve been some changes in the wake of December’s tragic shootings in Newtown; just not the kind you might expect. With bills pending in a number of state legislatures, we’ll soon see a majority of states explicitly allow residents to bring concealed and open-carry guns into bars and restaurants, while another 20 states continue to allow them by default.

  • Fun Fact: Tennessee State Representative Curry Todd served time this year for drunk driving and possession of a handgun while under the influence of alcohol. He had previously worked tirelessly as the sponsor of the nation’s first guns-in-bars law, which Tennessee passed in 2009.

These laws are the latest wave in the country’s gun debate, and represent progress made by the gun lobby as it seeks, state by state, to expand the realm of guns in everyday life.

Mixing guns and alcohol: this is truly the logic of the madhouse.
A very large body of research tells us that people who abuse alcohol are far more inclined to engage in risky behaviors, and gun owners are more likely to fall into that group:

  • Fun Fact: Compared to people who don’t keep guns in the home, gun owners are twice as likely to down five or more drinks in a single sitting; they’re nearly two-and-a-half times more likely to get behind the wheel of a car when drinking; and they consume 60 or more drinks per month at more than double the rate of non-owners.

Looking for a 3-star gun-free bistro for Saturday night?
Restaurants are free to post signs banning weapons, and recommendation sites like Yelp now include ratings for gun-free dining. Of course concealed weapons make compliance kind of iffy. Unarmed Tennessee residents rely on the listings at not-for-profit Gun Free Dining Tennessee (their motto: Eat in peace) while the NRA crowd visits (protecting the Second Amendment one bite at a time).

For all the fun facts, there’s nothing trivial about the dangerous mix of alcohol and firearms.
Americans own more than 300 million non-military weapons. There are more than 40,000 gun-related deaths every year, and one in three involves alcohol.

Are there guns in your local restaurants? The NRA website has an interactive, state-by-state map of current firearm laws.


Posted in beer + wine + spirits, community, food policy | Leave a comment
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