Friday, February 12, 2016

DeLauro Statement on Menu Labeling and the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2015

WASHINGTON, DC —Today, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) released the following statement regarding menu labeling and the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2015.

“When Congress passed standardized menu labeling in 2010, the goal was to arm Americans with the information they need to make informed nutritional decisions for themselves and their families. The language was built on consensus and compromise and worked out between a wide variety of interests, including many industry partners. Scott DeFife, executive vice president of the National Restaurant Association, praised the law, stating that ‘it sets a clear national standard across the country.’ However, now certain sectors of industry want to tear down the progress we have made.

“The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2015 would weaken this crucial step to combat the obesity epidemic in the United States. The bill increases consumer confusion, denies consumers the right to nutritional information, and weakens enforcement and consumer protection. In a time when Americans are eating nearly half of their meals and snacks outside the home, this bill does a major disservice to the American people who want to make health conscious decisions.

“Today, more than one-third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese. And children eat almost twice as many calories at a restaurant than they do at home.  The impact on our children alone should be reason enough to oppose any measure that undermines a consumer’s ability to make informed, nutritious choices at meal time.”

Bread-and-butter issue: Kansas State University study finds food availability a problem in smaller urban cities, despite dense populations

MANHATTAN — Average neighborhood income may play a role in creating food deserts in cities of all sizes, according to a Kansas State University study.

Michael Miller, doctoral student in sociology, Topeka, found food stores are largely unavailable in the most densely populated inner-city, low-income neighborhoods of smaller urban cities. The study, "Food Availability in the Heartland: Exploring the Effects of Neighborhood Racial and Income Composition," is published in Rural Sociology. Article co-authors include Kansas State University sociology faculty members Gerad Middendorf and Spencer Wood

"The problems and dynamics happening in large metropolitan areas also are happening in smaller cities like Topeka, Kansas," Miller said. "Inner-city neighborhoods are severely lacking in food stores, and race and income seem to be important factors of that."

Miller used U.S. Census tract data to map neighborhoods in Topeka according to racial composition and income. Each tract contained around 3,000 people. Miller found that the geographic size of each tract was smaller in the inner-city areas and larger toward the city limits, suggesting a greater population density in the center of the city. Then he looked at racial composition of the primary head of household and average household income of those tracts.

"The neighborhoods with more racial minorities in the inner-city tracts — inner-city neighborhoods — tended to have lower incomes," Miller said. "Then as you move away from the inner city, we see incomes go up to the middle and high categories, neighborhoods get much wider and as you get to the large tracts on the outskirts, there are high incomes and a very, very high distribution of white households."

After exploring the income and racial composition of Topeka's nearly 130,000 residents, Miller located the food stores, overlaid them on the map of income and racial composition and found the majority form a horseshoe around the inner-city neighborhoods.

"The very people who need the stores close because they have low income and not much transportation find themselves further away from the stores," Miller said.

According to Miller, many complicated social factors cause food deserts and food insecurity in the U.S. Among the social factors, Miller said, is neighborhood disinvestment or lack of a foreseeable profit in the area.

"Just being around Topeka, you can see pretty clearly where the investment is and where the growth is," Miller said. "Business and commerce are directed away from those inner-city areas."

According to Miller, the solution to this problem is not as simple as dropping a store in the middle of a low-income neighborhood and expecting customers to purchase food there. The store has to appeal to the customers.

"Part of food security is having culturally appropriate foods available," Miller said. "If you open an organic food store in the middle of a low-income neighborhood, people may not go in and buy the food because they are not used to it. Food patterns and buying practices are really engrained in a lot of families."

Miller said infrastructure and planning is another roadblock that can affect access to food stores in inner cities.

"Three miles is not that far to walk, but if you have to cross highways and dangerous neighborhoods where the crime rate is high, that's going to make it more difficult," Miller said.

Miller intended the study to be a preliminary look at how food is distributed and how it shapes our society, neighborhoods and health outcomes so solutions can be explored.

"It is a complicated problem so no one is to blame," Miller said. "I think the solution is dependent on what people think the roles of the city and the community are and what have been the successful interventions to make healthy food more accessible in other cities."

The sociology, anthropology and social work department is in Kansas State University's College of Arts & Sciences.

NGA Praises House Passage of Common Sense Menu Labeling Legislation

Arlington, VA – The National Grocers Association (NGA) today commended the U.S. House of Representatives for the passage of the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2015 (H.R. 2017), a bipartisan bill that clarifies the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) final rule regarding menu labeling at restaurants and similar retail food establishments. The bill, sponsored by U.S. Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), passed the House floor with a bipartisan vote of 266 to 144.

“Independent supermarket operators are on the forefront of meeting consumer demands with a variety of innovative approaches, often tailoring their offerings to reflect the communities they serve. H.R. 2017 contains important regulatory fixes and provides flexibility for supermarkets to continue serving their consumers with local and unique food choices while ensuring consumers receive clear nutritional information,” said NGA President and CEO Peter J. Larkin. “NGA thanks Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) for their work on this bill and look forward to working with Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Angus King (I-ME) and their colleagues in the Senate to advance this common sense legislation.”

The FDA finalized menu labeling regulations at the direction of the Affordable Care Act in November of 2014. The regulations require that chain restaurants, similar retail food establishments and vending machines with 20 or more locations list caloric information on their menus and menu boards. NGA has actively engaged with Members of Congress and the FDA throughout the regulatory process to ensure a workable solution for supermarkets.

USDA Makes $1.85 Million Available to Improve Alfalfa and Forage Crop Research, Best Practices

WASHIGNTON, Feb. 12, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the availability of $1.85 million in funding for the Alfalfa Forage and Research Program (AFRP). This program, administered through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) funds research and extension programs that improve alfalfa forage and seed yield and trains producers to apply best practices.
“Research into critical agricultural science areas like this reach their full potential when coupled with extension activities. Applicants for these grants should keep in mind the importance of reaching out to producers and farmers to share information and apply research findings,” said NIFA Director Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy. “Integrating these two important functions is how agricultural solutions move from the lab to the farm and vice versa.”
Alfalfa and other forage crops are essential to sustainable agricultural systems and are economic engines for rural communities. These crops are valued for their soil conservation, nitrogen fixation, energy savings, crop rotation and wildlife habitat attributes.. However, to provide these societal benefits, the production of forage crops must be profitable to farmers so they will be willing to maintain or expand base acreage.
The Alfalfa and Forage Research Program (AFRP) supports integrated, collaborative research and technology transfer to improve the efficiency and sustainability of conventional and organic forage production systems. The program encourages projects that establish multi-disciplinary networks to address priority national or regional science needs of the alfalfa industry. By bringing together expertise from multiple organizations and states, these projects will have greater impact and enhance the effectiveness of limited state, federal and industry resources.
The goals of AFRP are to improve alfalfa forage yield and seed yield through better nutrient, water, and/or pest management; improve persistence of alfalfa stance by lessening biotic or abiotic stresses; improve alfalfa forage and seed harvesting and storage systems to optimize economic returns; improve estimate of alfalfa forage quality as an animal feed to increase forage usage in animal feeds; and use breeding to address biotic and abiotic stresses that impact alfalfa forage yield and persistence and the production of seed for propagation.
Applications are due April 13. Please see the request for applications for specific program requirements.
Past projects include University of California research into ensuring the sustainability of Western U.S. alfalfa production by characterizing deficient irrigation strategies, developing the capability for Subsurface Drip Irrigation (SDI), and evaluating current and developing future alfalfa varieties and germplasm which are compatible with drought and SDI. A recent project from Mississippi State University will build on recent successes in promoting alfalfa use on farms, as well as evaluating microbial technologies that can improve alfalfa-grass baleage that will benefit farmers producing this forage.
Since 2009, NIFA has invested in and advanced innovative and transformative initiatives to solve societal challenges and ensure the long-term viability of agriculture. NIFA’s integrated research, education, and extension programs, supporting the best and brightest scientists and extension personnel, have resulted in user-inspired, groundbreaking discoveries that are combating childhood obesity, improving and sustaining rural economic growth, addressing water availability issues, increasing food production, finding new sources of energy, mitigating climate variability, and ensuring food safety.   To learn more about NIFA’s impact on agricultural science, visit, sign up for email updates, or follow us on Twitter @usda_NIFA, #NIFAimpacts.