NYC Food Policy Center August Food Flash

by Melissa Gallanter, RD
A roundup of food policy topics

What’s Hot: USDA Announces an Expanded List of Eligible Commodities for CFAP

A press release from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) on August 11th notes that additional commodities are now covered by the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) and the deadline to apply to the program has been extended to September 11. 

In response to comments and public data received, the USDA has expanded the commodities eligible for CFAP. Nearly 60 additional commodities were announced this month that are now eligible for CFAP, including specialty crops such as bananas, endive, turnips, and yuca, non-specialty crops, and livestock such as frozen eggs and sheep, aquaculture including crawfish, trout, and catfish, and nursery crops and cut flowers. 

CFAP provides financial assistance to agricultural producers who have suffered a five percent or greater price decline or who have experienced significant profit loss due to the market supply chain disruptions caused by Covid-19. 

Farmers can apply for CFAP online, or manually complete applications and send to the USDA.  

Food Policy Watchdog: What Will Happen to School Food?

Before the pandemic, nearly 30 million American children relied on free food served at schools for at least one meal a day. In New York, nearly 75 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches. Families with income less than 130 percent of the federal poverty line qualified for free school meals. As the virus spread and jobs and finances lost security, so did many families’ food security. In response to the pandemic, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act allowed the USDA to issue nationwide waivers, making it easier for children to receive school meals while schools were closed. Meals no longer had to be eaten on-site, and pick up by parents or family members for students was newly allowed.

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), a federally funded, state-administered program that reimburses programs that serve free, healthy meals and snacks to children and teens had waivers approved to enable non-congregate meals as well as meal delivery, and pick-up for multiple meals at a time. 

Now, as summer comes to a close, school districts across the country are making decisions about in-class learning, distance learning, and the many hybrid models in between. These complicated and infection rate-contingent schedules make school meal operations even more of a challenge to operate. School nutrition departments must consider the schedules, the federal regulations, and the limited number of nationwide waivers currently available while aiming to feed their districts’ students. 

If a state agency has not elected to participate in the Nationwide Waiver to Allow Non-congregate Feeding in the Child Nutrition Programs (Extension #2), then schools participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) are subject to the congregate feeding requirements. For state agencies that elected to use the waiver, meals must be offered to students on-site as well as students participating in offsite virtual instruction. 

The waivers of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act vary state-by-state. More information about the meal service options for the 2020-2021 school year are highlighted by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service and No Kid Hungry.

Quote of the Month:

This pandemic has revealed many failures of leadership across American life, but the failure of CEOs to support the hardworking men and women who are keeping their businesses afloat is particularly jarring. Our corporate leaders — especially those who lead America’s largest grocery companies — must take concrete and immediate steps to keep their workers safe and fairly compensate them for the serious health hazards they face. For these brave men and women who continue to be on the frontlines of this crisis, our country should demand nothing less.” 

– Kamala Harris, US Senator for California, Vice President Candidate and Marc Perrone, President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union

On August 19th, Senator Kamala Harris accepted the Democratic Party’s vice-presidential nomination. Just four days before Senator Kamala Harris became the first woman of color as a major U.S. party’s nominee, she wrote an op-ed in CNN with President of the of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, Marc Perrone, calling on grocery store chains across the country to reinstitute hazard pay for their essential, frontline workers. This shows to be just one of the many ways that Senator Harris fights for and focuses on food justice

In May, Harris introduced the Closing the Meal Gap Act of 2020, which expands SNAP benefits for Americans during the pandemic, and the FEMA Empowering Essential Deliveries (FEED) Act, allowing the federal government to cover costs needed for states to partner with restaurants in order to prepare nutritious meals for vulnerable populations within their communities. 

Harris has sponsored legislation before to improve working conditions for farmworkers, protect the environment, and expand access to food and water. The United Farm Workers published a statement in response to Harris’s vice-presidential nomination, applauding Biden’s choice and celebrating her previous lobbying and direct work with the UFW as well as current endorsement of reform and support for farmworkers

Fact Check: Can you get COVID-19 from frozen food?

Earlier this month, consumers across the globe worried about the spread of Covid-19 through frozen food, after frozen chicken wings imported from China to Brazil had tested positive for the coronavirus

With a new outbreak and another lockdown in New Zealand, officials considered the possibility that the virus reentered the country through frozen, imported products. 

The maintained guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that “there is no evidence to suggest that handling food or consuming food is associated with Covid-19.” The virus is mainly spread from person to person, through sneezing, coughing, speaking, or breathing. 

It is possible that touching an object, such as food packages, and then touching your mouth or nose could transmit the virus; however, it is much more likely that the virus is spread through the air. Also, according to the CDC, there is “poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces,” which leads to even lower risk of spreading the virus from food products or packaging. 

Cornell University’s Institute for Food Safety adds that the time needed to freeze and thaw food and food packaging makes contamination even more unlikely. 

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