Turning a Moment into a Movement

by Sam Hoeffler

Donald Trump is the president of the United States. Now what? Join the movement.

As a protester at Trump’s inauguration in D.C. on Friday January 20th, I met many people who did not identify as activists. I encountered people who had never in their lives been motivated to make signs and march in protest. It was inspiring to see so many people in the streets on Friday, and an estimated 3.3 million people across the country marched on Saturday too. Yet in the afterglow of one of the largest demonstrations in national history, we mustn’t forget our reason for protesting: the rise of nationalism and fear mongering that brought Trump to office.

Trump is poised to push our country off a metaphorical ledge, where we would fall into cronyism, oligarchy, denial of science, restraint of the press, and deeper social inequality and unrest. We the people are the only thing holding the country back from that ledge and what lies below. We the people, standing with linked arms and clasped hands, must inch the country back to solid ground. We need to rediscover and reclaim a solid ground where we can come together and fight for the rights of all Americans to live full, healthy lives.

We need to transition from this historic moment of protest to a unified movement that demands change. The moment becomes a movement when we do not simply hold our elected officials back from running the country off a ledge, but when we begin to take action and shape this country with our own hands. We must look downward, at our own feet, at our own hands, at our own communities, and get organized.

The leaders of the Women’s March on Washington are making our transition into the movement easier. They’re offering us a clear way to get engaged, calling for people to take part in 10 Actions in 100 Days. The Friedman Justice League will be facilitating each of the ten collective actions proposed by the Women’s March on Washington organizers. The first action has been published, and it is a call for postcard- and letter-writing to elected officials.

Let’s let our politicians know that we are not going back to sleep. We have been pulled to the streets, and we want to be a part of the positive change that can come after such an outpouring of activism, advocacy, hope, and protest. All Friedman community members—students, staff, and faculty—are welcome to take part in a postcard-writing event this week. FJL will provide the supplies, and even information on certain topics and addresses of elected officials.

This event is a first step in turning this moment into a movement. See you there!

WHEN: Wednesday, February 1st (11:15-12:15) and Thursday February 2nd (12:30-1:15)

WHERE: Jaharis café

WHAT: FJL will have a table with all necessary supplies for postcards and letters

CONTACT: samantha.hoeffler@tufts.edu, caitlin.joseph@tufts.edu

Overdue for Overtime

by Julie Kurtz

A new California law just enacted the most revolutionary labor standards since the creation of the 40-hour work week.  What is it?  Well, it’s the 40-hour work week. But will it improve equality? Will it impact the cost of your food? Will equitable farm labor make your vegetables healthier? And will the new law change the curriculum at Friedman?

On Monday September 12th, California Governor Jerry Brown signed monumental legislation that should be of interest to all Friedman students. California Assembly Bill 1066 will require that agricultural workers be paid overtime for working more than eight hours in a day or forty hours in a week. While this may seem like a no-brainer, the current standard requires workers to work 10 hours/day and 60 hours/week before earning their overtime pay. The changes will be incremental starting in 2019, with full realization of the law by 2022 for most farms and 2025 for farms with fewer than 25 employees.

We take for granted the forty-hour week as a cornerstone of American work ethics, representing fair working hours and honoring the dignity of work. Many industries had a forty-hour workweek in place well before the 20th century. In the heat of the workers’ rights movements, victory came with the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938, guaranteeing a maximum work hour week—or overtime compensation when forty hours were surpassed.

However, agricultural workers were exempt.

As were domestic workers.

In the 1930s African-Americans were disproportionately employed in agricultural and domestic labor. President Roosevelt signed the Fair Labors Standards Act knowing it was a compromise with Southern Congressmen who had a vested interest in excluding black employees to preserve the plantation-style economy of sharecroppers and black domestic workers.

While there are practical reasons why agricultural workers remained excluded from the labor rights that most Americans enjoy, mostly related to seasonality, it is clear that enormous power differentials persist between farm laborers and farm owners. In California more than 90% of farm laborers are Latino, and 80% are immigrants. Given the long history of labor exploitation in US Agriculture, what does it mean that the agricultural giant California has set this precedent of equality? Will the new overtime legislation be effective? Or are there loopholes that will inevitably allow the continued overworking of farm laborers? Will other states follow in California’s footsteps? And finally, to bring things back home, why should California Assembly Bill 1066 be discussed at 150 Harrison Avenue?

One of Friedman’s great strengths is our integrated approach to food. Friedman extends into every corner of the food system, from cutting edge nutritional science, consumer behavior, and food policy economics, to the environmental impacts of agriculture. Our system-wide approach enables Friedman to engage one of the most complex challenges on the planet: how to feed ourselves. But there is a realm where our reach rarely extends: labor.

I came to Friedman in part because we ask questions like “Is this tomato that is grown in nutrient-rich biodynamic soils healthier than a conventional tomato? Is it healthier for our bodies? Is it healthier for the land and for the sustainability of agriculture?” I’m thrilled that my education is helping me answer and provide insight to those questions. I’m less certain where on this campus we can ask: “Is this tomato that was grown by an equitably-paid farmer who has access to healthcare, leisure time, and education, as healthy as a tomato grown by a farmer who works 12-hour days, sees her children only briefly at dawn and night, and lacks a nutritious diet, time for education, and access to medical attention?”

Can healthy food come from an exploited workforce?

Second-year students from Friedman’s Agricultural Science & Policy II course recognized this gap in our education and knowledge. We do not feel equipped to evaluate and understand the impact of California’s new law in the grander context of the food system. As policy students we frequently discuss the “inputs” that go into our food: technology, land, and fertilizers. Labor is another input. But labor is people. We need a different set of tools to consider the migrant harvesters, the meat processors, the truck drivers, and the line cooks—the people without whom nutrition students would have nothing to study in the first place.

Fortunately we have a supportive faculty who has recognized the hole, and are working alongside us to bridge the gap. In fact, the entire Friedman community is invited to help bridge the gap:

  • In October the Friedman Seminar Committee will meet to determine Spring 2017 Seminar speakers and they will consider agricultural labor experts. To that end, students are invited (as they always are) to send speaker suggestions to Christian.Peters@tufts.edu.
  • Due to student requests, two AFE core courses (Nutr215 and Nutr333) will dedicate classroom time to address farm labor and the new California law. Interested students are invited to attend those lecture and discussion dates, and can email Timothy.Griffin@tufts.edu for more information.
  • As Friedman administration seeks to hire new faculty, we urge consideration of candidates with expertise in farm labor, food system law and justice.
  • Second-year AFE student Caitlin Joseph is spearheading a student-directed course on Agricultural Labor Policy and Justice in Spring 2017. Students interested in joining should contact her at Caitlin.Joseph@tufts.edu.

California AB 1066 did not materialize out of nowhere. How does its signing fit into the broader picture of dismantling inequality in the food system? As Friedman students and faculty, can we satisfactorily discuss nourishment if we are not equally concerned with the welfare of those who bring food to our table? What models exist to dismantle this systemic oppression? What impacts will those models have on the environment, on the economy, on nutrition, on academia, and mostly pertinently, on the labor force? And how can we integrate those models into the Friedman curriculum?

Julie Kurtz is in her second semester of the AFE program. She landed at Friedman after acting professionally in San Francisco, practicing Emergency Medicine in Minnesota, and farming in Bolivia.

 

Coming to a Presidential Candidate’s Plate Near You

by Carla Curle

With the presidential race narrowing down and the delegate counts ratcheting up for the top candidates, it still seems that food and agriculture policy are missing in the stump speeches and media interviews.

Even as the candidates campaigned in top agricultural states such as Iowa, Nebraska, and Illinois, the discussion of national food policy initiatives never seemed to make it to the forefront of the discussions. Instead, the Renewable Fuel Standard loomed large as a top issue for many agriculture voters in these states, so much so that fuel-based agriculture was one topic they were grilled on.

This is unfortunate, not only for Friedman School students, but for the entire country, which is plagued by rising rates of diet-related disease, proliferation of non-sustainable farming practices, and limited access to healthful foods. Grassroots efforts at local and regional levels such as Food Policy Councils and Farm to School activities are popping up all around the country, signifying a growing desire for positive changes to our food system. And according to a recent nationwide poll by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, public support for food sustainability is high and crosses party lines. Of the 800 respondents, 92% believe that producing food in a sustainable way is a high priority and 79% want scientists — not politicians — to set the dietary guidelines.potu

In order to highlight this broken food system in the presidential race, the Plate of the Union Initiative was launched through a collaboration by the Union of Concerned Scientists, Food Policy Action, and the HEAL Food Alliance. This initiative includes a petition to our next president that can be signed by anyone with access to the Internet and an interest in the American food system, and includes the following statement:

Our food system is out of balance, and it’s time to take action. Current food policies prioritize corporate interests at the expense of our health, the environment, and working families. This has led to spikes in obesity and type-2 diabetes, costing taxpayers billions of dollars each year.

If you are elected president, I urge you to take bold steps to reform our food system to make sure every American has equal access to healthy, affordable food that is fair to workers, good for the environment, and keeps farmers on the land.

The Plate of the Union Initiative also includes an Activist Toolkit (coming soon), which will allow users to download a toolkit with resources and ideas to help individuals get involved in reforming our current food system.

The Obama Administration has made significant strides in improving American nutrition, thanks largely in part to First Lady Michelle Obama. Over the past 8 years, changes to nutrition policy have been met by Republican opposition and significant industry pushback. Despite all of the hurdles, there have been meaningful improvements made to the school lunch program and WIC through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The next administration must build on these successes and continue to address the numerous food system issues that exist in this country.

Where do the current five candidates stand on food and farm policy?

Democratic Candidates:

Secretary Hillary Clinton’s policies focus on strengthening rural economies by investing in infrastructure and expanding access to credit, promoting clean energy and stewardship of the land, and increasing agricultural production and profitability for family farms. During her time as a senator from New York, Clinton worked to connect and bridge the divide between her lower-income urban constituents with upstate farmers through her “Farm to Fork” program.

Senator Bernie Sanders’ rural economy policy platform focuses on expanding support for young and beginning farmers, producing a nutritious and abundant food supply, and encouraging farmers to act as partners in promoting conservation and combating climate change. Sanders has also endorsed local food production and is worried about the “dangerous concentration of ownership that exists in agriculture and the food industry.”

Republican Candidates:

Senator Ted Cruz’s food policy positions stem from his belief in limited government. Cruz voted against the 2014 Farm Bill, mainly because of its food stamp provisions and issues with the crop insurance program that he felt needed reform. He believes that agricultural subsidies should be focused on smaller and lower income farmers rather than “large conglomerate agricultural operations.”

The Ohio Farm Bureau named Governor John Kasich a “Friend of Agriculture” in 2014 for his support of the public policy goals that align with maintaining Ohio’s agricultural economy. Kasich has worked with environmental organizations and farmers to pass legislation to reduce nutrient runoff from agricultural operations. Kasich is the only Republican candidate who believes that humans contribute to climate change, but he does not want to end the use of fossil fuels entirely.

Little is known about Donald Trump’s stance on food or agriculture policy, but a few enlightening moments on the campaign trail may offer us some information. He doesn’t believe in climate change, calling it a “hoax” on multiple occasions, which doesn’t bode well for the mitigation and adaption that world leaders are calling for. In terms of food stamps, he believes something is “clearly wrong” when half of food stamp recipients have been receiving benefits for almost a decade.

Act Now:

It’s up to voters to demand answers from the candidates on the issues that matter to all of us: sustainable agriculture, improved animal welfare, access to healthy and affordable food, and fair working conditions. What can you as a food voter do? Sign the petition, research the candidates’ positions and voting records, and make sure you vote in the primaries and the general election in November.

Carla Curle is a second-year AFE student. She is also involved in the interdisciplinary Water: Systems, Science and Society (WSSS) program and is a firm believer that systems approaches to addressing problems will be the wave of the future. Also a co-chair of Slow Foods Tufts, you can find Carla nerding out over coffee, fermented items of any kind, and locally grown veggies. You can contact Carla at carla.curle@tufts.edu.

FNS Proposes Stricter Standards for SNAP Retailer Eligibility

by Emily Nink

A proposed rule by the Food and Nutrition Service aims to close loops in retailers’ eligibility to accept SNAP benefits. Public comments on the rule are open until April 16, 2016.

On February 17, the federal Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) filed a proposed rule to change retailer eligibility for participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The new ruling seeks to close loopholes and encourage healthier options at stores that accept SNAP benefits.Store_EBT

When applying for SNAP eligibility, retailers group their stock by first ingredient into four categories based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines:

  1. Fruits and vegetables
  2. Breads and cereals
  3. Dairy
  4. Meat, fish and poultry

Under the new guidelines, retailers accepting SNAP benefits would have to:

  • Increase the number of stocked varieties in each of the staple food categories above from three to seven, and maintain six units per variety stocked at all times
  • Increase the number of categories in which perishable food varieties are stocked from two to three
  • Exclude foods with multiple ingredients (such as TV dinners and frozen pizzas) toward their stocking counts for staple foods, according to a new definition for staple foods (these items would still be eligible for purchase under SNAP, they just wouldn’t count toward a retailer’s eligibility)

The rule would not affect farmers’ markets or stores that specialize in a single staple food category (meaning 50 percent or more of their revenue is generated within a single category). FNS would also publicly disclose information on retailer disqualification for SNAP eligibility, in an effort to improve transparency and deter SNAP fraud.

The language of the proposal reveals the juggling act of regulating food retail to improve healthy food access. On one hand, FNS wants to encourage both a large number and wide range of retail options to accept SNAP benefits in their stores, acknowledging the importance of SNAP retailers in underserved areas. On the other hand, one of the best ways to improve healthy eating among SNAP recipients may be to regulate retailers rather than the individual beneficiaries, making eligibility more restrictive so that retailers expand their healthy food offerings.

One concern is that the rule might cause retailers to abandon their SNAP eligibility altogether, though, FNS doesn’t foresee this happening. Retailer authorization has been rising steadily—and the proposed rule is not intended to counteract this trend, but to incentivize owners to expand healthy options instead. To make sure the proposed rule doesn’t undermine healthy food access as a whole, the agency is requesting comments on other considerations for retailer eligibility. FNS could “consider factors such as distance from the nearest SNAP authorized retailer, transportation options to other SNAP authorized retailer locations, the gap between store’s stock and SNAP required stock for authorization eligibility, and whether the store furthers the purposes of the Program,” according to the proposed rule.

Balancing these two competing goals—broad access to SNAP retailers and healthy food availability at stores—is a policy puzzle on its own. Yet, the agency must also attempt to limit its own administrative burden, limit the cost of the change to retailers, and comply with other federal statutes, including the 2014 Farm Bill.

Ultimately, the proposed change is aimed at improving consumers’ eating habits—but by cracking down on retailers. The rule is a political stick, not a carrot. And that’s why retailers have taken advantage of loopholes in the past to increase their revenue through clever maneuvering. For instance, restaurants have split their businesses into two components (serving hot and cold foods) in order to gain SNAP eligibility for the portion of the business that sells cold foods that are ready to serve. And other businesses have heated food on-site after the point of sale, essentially serving restaurant food purchased with SNAP benefits. The new rule would close these loopholes for good.

The hope of FNS is that rather than losing eligibility (or finding new loopholes), retailers would expand their healthy offerings, ultimately improving the availability of healthy food overall. Of course, these eligibility requirements intervene only in the availability of healthy food, without addressing utilization. Will having seven varieties of type of staple food really increase the amount of healthy food purchased with SNAP benefits? Will six items in each variety suffice as a neighborhood source of healthy food? Or will the healthy options just sit on the shelves (an especial concern now that perishability is being emphasized)?

The public comments received via FNS’ request for information (preceding the proposed rules) reveal the myriad of potential details affected by the changes, and level criticisms ranging from minute to sweeping. Some are clearly aimed at protecting retailers from a perceived attack on profits. Others are rightly concerned with equity and sustainability.

Personally, I think that shifting the numbers slightly is unlikely to affect healthy food utilization much, when corner stores are only incentivized to do the bare minimum. Here’s the “fruits and vegetables” options at the corner store near my house:


potatoes

Incidentally, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Healthy Eating Research program recently released its own version of healthy food stocking guidelines for small retailers.

The new public comment period for the proposed rule ends April 16, 2016.

Emily Nink is a MS candidate in the Agriculture, Food and Environment program and a Policy Associate at the Public Health and Tobacco Policy Center.

Expired Milk, or Is It? Whimsical Expiration Dates and Real Life Food Waste

by Ally Gallop, RD, CDE

Every year in the United States roughly 40 percent of the food and beverages produced go to waste. Not only are perfectly fine items being trashed, households are losing on average $1,560 to $2,275 annually! In 2013, the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) and the National Resources Defense Council co-published a comprehensive report outlining American food waste secondary to arbitrarily set food and beverage expiration dates. Three years later, the FLPC released a brief video appealing to the masses on the same topic. So do you know what the expiration dates on your foods really mean?

First off, entertain yourself with John Oliver’s take on food waste:

Now that you’re primed on the topic, complete this pop quiz on expiration dates and food waste:

  1. How many days after milk pasteurization occurs may pasteurized milk safely be consumed?
    a. Only up until the date stamped onto the container
    b. Regardless of the stamped date, 17-20 days
    c. Regardless of the stamped date, 21-24 days
  1. A food or beverage’s date label is determined by each U.S. state. What are these dates generally based on?
    a. Optimal food quality and freshness
    b. Strict food safety guidelines
    c. A specific number of days after packaging
  1. If food waste was a country, how would it rank as a global carbon-emitter?
    a. The worst
    b. The second worst
    c. The third worst

Why milk?

Ninety percent of Americans admit to throwing out foods and beverages past their date, thinking the items are unsafe for consumption. Ultimately, an estimated 160 billion pounds of food are thrown out annually.

Speaking to the FLPC, milk was chosen for their consumer video for the very reason that milk is a familiar grocery item. Milk waste is also visually impactful: Watching gallons of milk being poured down the drain due to arbitrary expiration dates is unsettling. But that’s the point. Rather than spit out facts or fill endless pages of text, the FLPC aimed to create a short video swiftly outlining why food waste and its associated laws are a problem, all by using a relatable product: milk.

Expiration, best-by, sell-by dates, etc.: Who decides?

The variety of dates that exist on food labels is left to the discretion of individual states. Expiration dates are not federally regulated. In Massachusetts, and with a few food exceptions, only packaged perishable or semi-perishable foods require dates.

The FLPC’s video is based in Montana, chosen for its strict “sell-by date:” Twelve days after milk is pasteurized, sales and donations of the milk are prohibited—any milk at grocery stores or any other establishment must be discarded. Yet other states allow for milk to be sold 21 to 28 days!

Montana’s prohibited laws are misguided likely due to the fear and misinformation that old milk makes people sick. But the science doesn’t support this. Here’s really why milk curdles, sours, and smells:

  • Curdled milk: Over time, milk becomes more acidic allowing proteins like casein to clump together.
  • Sour milk: The milk’s ever present and naturally occurring lactic acid bacteria ferments lactose.
  • Smelly milk: This is caused by microbes entering the milk when the container is repeatedly opened and duplicating at room temperature, bacteria breaking down milk proteins and butterfat, and molds that act on lactic acid and proteins.

However, drinking past-its-prime milk won’t induce a foodborne illness! Since milk is pasteurized, it does not contain harmful bacteria like Salmonella or E. coli commonly responsible for illness.

The future in food expiration date labels

Current date labels are more often related to the product’s sensory quality than its safety for human consumption. Yet if dates were extended then less milk in the U.S. would likely be produced and sold, which would be bad for dairy farmers and a state’s gross domestic product. This is reason enough for the federal government to step in with an all-encompassing regulation.

Ideally, the FLPC envisions federally mandated expiration dates be supported by scientific research. Consistency in labeling would be ideal for consumer understanding and education campaigns. The FLPC proposes only two unambiguous labels to be present on foods and beverages:

  1. “Best if used by” (optional): Indicates best quality before the date and to use best judgment thereafter.
  2. “Expires on:” For items requiring a safety-based label (e.g., deli meats).

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) added political support last month by introducing legislation standardizing date labeling and those that are based on science.

Current consumer food trends are towards increased demand for fresh foods, which likely doesn’t include past-date milk. However, the FLPC does suggest providing financial incentives or discounted milk for product sold after the “best if used by” date. Or, retailers could choose to donate the product.

By now you’re likely dying to know the answers to the initial pop quiz. Here you go!

  1. C – see FLPC Op-Ed
  2. A – see FLPC fact sheet
  3. C – see Mother Jones

Learn more about the FLPC’s current initiatives

EXPIRED? FLPC food waste website and direct link to the video.

Facebook: Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic

Ally Gallop, RD, CDE is a second-year nutrition communication and behavior change student focusing in U.S. food and nutrition policy. She ignores expiration dates in favor of the smell test.

Coca-Colonization in Mexico: The Soda Tax that Almost Wasn’t

by Ally Gallop, RD, CDE

A year ago, I praised the Mexican government’s seminal 10% soda and 8% junk food taxes, which took effect January 1, 2014. The result? Soda consumption dropped by 6% and bottled water consumption increased by 4%. Yet nearly two years later, relentless soda lobbyists tried to cut the tax in half. Did you hear about that?

As someone who lacked a policy background prior to attending Friedman, I relied on the media to inform me about important nutrition policy issues; I didn’t seek these out. Of course, once at Friedman my interest level soared, and I began following nutrition policy. However, I realized that what initially makes the cut for national media attention isn’t always followed up.

Thanks to a prompt from Marion Nestle’s “Food Politics” blog, I found the follow-up I valued: Does anyone ever wonder what happened to the Mexican soda and junk food taxes passed in 2013? Let’s run through Mexico’s story together from the very beginning.

A 6-step guide through soda taxes in Mexico:

#1. 2006: The alarm sounded in Mexico

The release of the Mexican National Survey of Health and Nutrition instilled panic in the government: Between 1999 and 2006, the average waist size of adult women increased by 4.3 inches, childhood obesity increased by 40% in those aged 5-11 years, soda intake nearly doubled in adolescents and tripled in adult women, and the prevalence of diabetes had doubled (diabetes is the country’s leading cause of mortality). Furthermore, the top three sources of calories in the Mexican diet all came from high-calorie drinks.

Alarmed, the financial arm of the Mexican government consulted the Center for Research in Nutrition and Health at Mexico’s National Institute of Public Health. The Center’s solution was to cut sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption via an excise tax.

#2. 2012: The assistance of Michael Bloomberg

After Michael Bloomberg’s rejected soda tax in New York City, he continued to look for similar opportunities elsewhere. Industry money for lobbying was a major reason for his setback in New York, so in 2012 his foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, invested $16.5 million over a three-year period to match the Mexican soda industry’s anti-tax efforts. This investment allowed Mexico to fight on an even playing field against industry.

#3. October 2013: Mexico introduced a soda and junk food tax

The implementation of the Mexican taxes resulted from a unique set of circumstances. The government was looking for a swift way to prevent the continuous rise in diabetes and obesity. They were also looking for a means to raise money federally—the tax was hoped to raise $1.5 million per year. President Peña Nieto was in favor, but many in his party, the PRI, were not. The intra-governmental disagreement stemmed from close ties to soda: the PRI had previously accepted industry money, diabetes centers were funded by soda, and the industry had infiltrated both the country’s health secretary and the National Council on Science and Technology. All spoke out against the tax in favor of educating the public and promoting physical activity.

In a rare move of assessing public support, the government polled its citizens: 70% were in favor of the tax if revenue was directed to investing in water fountains in public schools.

The tax passed. Taking effect on January 1, 2014, the taxes would result in a one-peso-per-liter (10% or $0.08) tax on SSBs and an 8% tax on junk food supplying more than 275 calories per 100 grams. The tax neglects bottled water, flavored milk, and diet sodas. However, a VAT tax of 15% remained on these items.

#4. May to September 2015: Mexico drank less: Research showed the tax had been effective

Research out of the Mexican National Institute of Public Health, the University of North Carolina, and Euromonitor showed that during 2014:

  • Sales of SSBs fell by 6% overall
  • Sales of bottled water increased by 4%
  • SSB consumption dropped from 163 to 136.6 liters per person per year, declined by 10% in the first three months of 2014 (compared to the same period in 2013), and across all socioeconomic groups
  • The tax disproportionately affected the poor with SSB reductions of 9%. Yet diabetes also disproportionately affects the poor, who are less likely to have insurance to cover the disease’s medical costs

Further, the tax resulted in $1.2 billion USD in government revenue with $900,000 USD authorized for the installation of water fountains in schools. There were also 1,700 job cuts from industry due to decreased sales.

#5. October 2015: The soda industry fought back

Unsurprisingly, these victories made the soda industry unhappy. News broke in early October that the Mexican government’s lower house passed an amendment to cut the 10% tax in half for SSBs providing less than 5 grams of sugar per 100 milliliter. The reduction was aimed at providing industry incentive to reformulate its products to contain less sugar. The PRI apparently negotiated with FEMSA (the world’s largest bottling company located in Mexico) to reduce the tax.

However, once the public became aware of this, government parties scrambled and denied that they were ever in favor of the amendment.

#6. November 2015: The government’s change of heart

Ultimately, the senate overturned the amendment. The original taxes remain.

Ally Gallop, RD, CDE is a second-year nutrition communication and behavior change student focusing in U.S. food and nutrition policy. She prefers to sip on Americanos.

Food Waste: Is Source Reduction Being Overshadowed by Food Recovery Efforts?

by Emily Nink

To prevent food waste, strategies should examine both social and environmental outcomes at all stages of the food recovery hierarchy, avoiding using food insecurity as a convenient rhetoric while protecting a culture of wasteful overconsumption.

Every year, about 40 percent of food, or roughly 133 billion pounds, is wasted from stores, restaurants, or homes in the United States. At the same time, 1 in 7 Americans are food insecure.

This urgent issue is getting more attention than ever before—and the social safety net is a large part of the national conversation. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (UDSA) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently joined forces in setting an ambitious goal to halve food waste by the year 2030.

And the link between food security and food waste isn’t lost on legislators.

“If we reduced the amount of food waste by 15 percent, and redirected it, we could feed half of the people who are currently in need,” says U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME).

Pingree is currently drafting a comprehensive food waste bill, in part aimed at addressing food insecurity through Good Samaritan tax policies that encourage food donations.

Many organizations across the country are stepping up to glean food from farms, link stores to food pantries, create new mobile phone apps for reducing individual waste, and recover leftovers for donation to the hungry in hopes of serving both environmental and social goals.

Grocery shoppers also care about food waste, more so than other prominent issues such as climate change and genetically modified foods, according to one recent poll.

Yet despite the best efforts of the national food recovery network—from the federal government to community composters—97 percent of food waste still ends up in the landfill. Lots of talk doesn’t necessarily translate into action, let alone make a dent in the persistent American problem of food insecurity.

And to some analysts, a focus on food recovery for donation isn’t a sufficient mechanism of addressing the root causes of food insecurity in America.

Food author Mark Winne writes that “the waste diversion fervor associated with feeding the hungry seems at times like a sanctimonious distraction from the more critical task of a moral society: ending hunger.”

Winne advocates for reducing waste upstream while focusing food security efforts on the more systemic problems of economic inequality and chronic hunger, acknowledging that this is a tall order.

While the goal to halve food waste by 2030 is laudable, and food recovery for donation should certainly play a large part in achieving this reduction, there may also be unintended consequences of increased government involvement in food recovery.

In California, for example, increased efforts to recover food resulted in stricter policies for food safety, resulting in traceability and approved source requirements that were too burdensome for food recovery networks and gleaning organizations. Nationally, as food recovery programs increase in number and scale, food safety will continue to be a concern, as will efficient distribution of resources and economic incentives through Good Samaritan tax policy.

Furthermore, food justice or equity is rarely a part of the conversation about upstream reduction of food waste. Yet these important strategies—which occur before food recovery to prevent the existence of waste in the first place—certainly have widespread implications for improving community food security.

Source reduction strategies focus not only on the production and manufacturing stages, but also include efforts to reduce portion sizes at restaurants, reduce food packaging, educate consumers on sell-by dates, and improve infrastructure for cold supply chains. These strategies should be the highest priority for preventing the existence of food waste in the first place, according to the EPA, because they save natural resources associated with food production.

This environmental argument for source reduction of food waste misses an important point. By reducing food waste at the source, these strategies can avoid a potential equity problem: shifting the burden of food waste from privileged areas to low-income communities and already strained emergency food networks.

The ability to absorb more perishable food and deal with an ever-increasing number of donors and food types may be a burden for pantries, and these efforts, while important, shouldn’t overshadow the need to limit overbuying, prevent waste in restaurant kitchens, and improve supply chain logistics. Despite the national strategy’s best intentions to reduce waste at all stages, from farm to fork, many stories highlighted in the news focus on recovery—from imperfect produce donations to apps that simply divert leftovers to existing food pantries.

Ultimately, all strategies are aimed at preventing food waste from reaching the landfill stage, a goal that certainly affects community health and environmental justice. For instance, effective composting models can provide communities with a valuable resource for urban farming and gardening, improving food justice through community ownership of food scraps in the form of compost.

Marginalized populations are historically more susceptible to toxins from waste incinerators and landfills. In fact, this issue was a large part of the origin of the environmental justice movement, providing early milestones for racial justice in environmental policymaking. Yet community composting, urban farming, and the geography of waste are less often part of the food waste conversation.

To actually prevent food waste and its associated natural resource use, strategies should examine both social and environmental outcomes at all stages of the food recovery hierarchy. Initiatives should avoid using food insecurity as a convenient rhetoric while protecting a culture of wasteful overconsumption.

Emily Nink is a second-year student in the Agriculture, Food and Environment program and a researcher for Food Tank.