NYC Food Policy Center October Food Flash

by Deirdre Appel
October Food Flash

A Roundup of Food Policy Topics

By Melissa Gallanter, RD

What’s Hot: USDA Launches Economic Development Initiatives to Support Rural Communities

On October 22, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the launch of the Centers of Community Prosperity (CCP). This initiative is designed to address the challenges facing rural and underserved communities throughout the United States, to develop solutions and connect them to resources. The CCP will bring together local, state, and federal stakeholders, land-grant universities, tribal colleges and universities, historically black colleges and universities, national development organizations, non-profit organizations, veterans and youth organizations. 

Working with local partners, the Centers will host Community Prosperity Training Summits and locally-driven workshops for individual communities to address the challenges within their region and focus on opportunity, asset building, and creating solutions. 

To date, the USDA initiative has brought together more than 1,000 community and educational partners as well as the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and other federal agencies, to create grants and leadership development within the communities they serve. 

Two days after the CCP launch, USDA Deputy Under Secretary Donald LaVoy and U.S. Department of Energy Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two departments to promote rural energy and technological advances within these rural communities by optimizing program resources, providing technical assistance, and helping rural businesses to export manufactured goods around the world. 

Food Policy Watchdog: SNAP Changes Continue to Build as Lawsuits Bring Attention to Unlawful Rule

For the third time in 2019, the USDA proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Program that are likely to cause cuts in enrollment. Earlier this month, the USDA announced a proposal that is expected to take SNAP enrollment away from 8,000 households and reduce payments for one in five families (although it is also expected to increase payments to 16 percent of families). Changes this month include victories for lawsuits fighting against this summer’s changes to SNAP.

Rewind to Christmastime last year, when the Trump administration announced it would enact stricter requirements for eligibility. This change was estimated to impact an estimated 775,000 people by 2020. Then, over the summer, the USDA moved to make additional changes. In August, the Department of Homeland Security published a final version of the rule that instructed immigration officers to consider a “safety net” (including SNAP) when processing green card applications. 

In short, with SNAP newly considered a “public charge,” immigrants who are in the U.S. legally and who use SNAP could become ineligible for greencards. Lawsuits have argued that the new “public charge” definition could cause increased harm to the well-being of immigrant families by leading many to abstain from seeking the public benefits that they or their children need. 

An interim final rule, effective October 15, holds that those who seek a visa must validate that they are not likely to become a ‘public charge’. But as the courts’ decisions are rounded up across the board, the public charge rule has been identified as “likely unlawful” because of the administration’s efforts to reduce immigration through penalizing the use of SNAP as a health benefit. The watchdog will continue as the administration continues to limit immigration through health-based initiatives and SNAP benefits remain in jeopardy. 

Quote of the Month: 

“Companies like ourselves no longer have a choice… It falls on us to play the role we need to play and take responsibility here.”  – Chris Daly, Vice President of Sustainability, PepsiCo, interview with FoodNavigator 

The food sector as a whole urgently needs to make changes that will reduce the effects of climate change and plastic pollution. Our world can’t afford their doing nothing. A recent report has revealed that, of the world’s plastic litter, Coca-Cola, Nestle, and PepsiCo are the world’s biggest literrers. The report, called Break Free From Plastic, is calling on these top polluters to lead the way in reducing the quantity of single-use plastics produced and changing the food system. The big takeaway is that it’s crucial to make changes  on an individual level, but large, international companies have the opportunity, and the responsibility, to make a serious impact.  

PepsiCo is developing its sustainability goals on a company-wide basis by focusing on more sustainable agriculture, packaging and water while also improving its products.  A recently released sustainability report announced the company’s goal to use 25 percent recycled content in plastic packaging by 2025 and to reduce its use of virgin plastic across the board by 35 percent. 

As consumers, it’s important  to make sure the companies we support are focusing on and making strides toward greater sustainability. Climate change cannot be reversed quickly, and what’s important now is to support companies that are working to create a more sustainable food system. As Daly put it, “The only way this works is by acting together in a real sense of collaboration…to stand up to our sustainability commitments.”

Fact Check: Does An Apple A Day Keep The Doctor Away?

October is the month for apple picking,  but also the beginning of cold and flu season. Can enjoying the fall’s favorite fruit help fight off seasonal sickness? 

Disappointingly, a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine concludes that, no, an apple a day isn’t associated with ‘keeping the doctor away’. The study concluded that the relationship between apple-eating and keeping the doctor away was not statistically significant after adjustments for sociodemographic and health-related characteristics. 

However, the small fraction of adults who do eat an apple every day appear to use fewer prescription medications. Also, eating fruit on a daily basis  is widely understood to have significant health benefits. 

Apples provide a complete package of nutrients,including  soluble fiber to prevent cholesterol buildup, potassium to help regulate blood pressure, flavonoids for cancer prevention, and high water content by weight to keep you full without a lot of calories. 

In addition, new research published in Frontiers of Microbiology reveals that organic apples harbor a “more diverse and balanced bacterial community,” and, as the study noted, better gut health is associated with more bacterial diversity in the diet. Although the bacterial makeup of apples is specific to each variety and more research needs to be done, this research suggests that the bacterial diversity in organic apples could make them less prone to food-borne pathogens, better for the environment, tastier and healthier for our guts. 

So, the benefits of apples may be worth a daily bite after all. 

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