The Next Front In The Food Stamp War

Food stamps are pictured. | Reuters

And although the distribution includes bread, cereal and canned goods, there is increasing focus among church food banks to supply fresh vegetables and meat for the good health of those in need. Fresh food thats the key to lowering high blood pressure and diabetes, said Jeri Bailey, director of the food pantry at the Dupont Park Seventh-Day Adventist Church, who was at the food bank the same day as Nwaneri. We prepare bags for 130families a week that includes a meat, fresh greens, canned goods and other items, Bailey said. But the distribution of fresh food means extra attention must be paid to ensuring that the donated perishables dont spoil. Nearly 36 million tons of food were wasted nationally in 2011, said Nancy Roman, president of the Capital Area Food Bank. Roman recently helped organize a summit in Alexandria to address how local churches and organizations can reduce food spoilage. Participants included Ben Simon, founder of the Food Recovery Network at the University of Maryland; Elise H. Golan, director for sustainable development at the Department of Agriculture; Tom ODonnell, an environmental scientist for the Environmental Protection Agency; and Meghan Stasz, director of sustainability for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents such major brands as Kraft, General Mills and Nestle. Food waste is getting some attention from federal agencies, but [the summit] really connected it to people serving in the communities to begin a conversation that is needed in our region, Roman said in an interview. We are committed to fresh food and vegetables, but we have to pay attention to waste. As panelists talked about how more and more companies are allowed to give out food because of Good Samaritan donation laws, Gerri Magruder, coordinator of the food pantry at First Baptist Church of Capitol Heights , stood in frustration. I want real-life specifics. I would like to leave here with real solutions, said Magruder, who told the panel that there was a shortage of fresh produce when her volunteers recently went to the main food bank to pick up items for their weekly community giveaways. Marian Peele, senior director of partner relations and programs for the Capital Area Food Bank, said that although the system isnt perfect, the food bank has worked hard to improve the quality of what it distributes. Some people think that this entire system is antiquated and that we need to focus on the systemic problems of poverty: education and unemployment, Peele said. But having a strategy to combat hunger isnt going to help somebodys child that is hungry today. On Monday, Magruder was back at the food bank picking up items for her Tuesday and Thursday distributions.

USDAs Food and Nutrition Service, in a statement posted with the agencys call for public input on the trafficking problem, says it is concerned that there are a large and growing number of authorized retailers that do not provide healthful food offerings to SNAP recipients and that engage in fraud. These retailers represent a management challenge for the program that must be balanced against the need to ensure effective access to healthful, nutritious food for SNAP households. Forcing convenience and small grocery stores to stock up on foods, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and meat, would be acceptable to most widespread convenience store chains like 7-Eleven, say lobbyists for the industry. They say the convenience store chains are willing to work with federal officials to stem food stamp fraud and arent arguing with USDAs concerns with depth of stock at retailers. However, what convenience stores could not abide by is a provision that lawmakers included in the 2012 versions of both the Senate and House versions of the farm bill that would have made stores ineligible if more than 45% of what they sold was alcohol and tobacco. It is of little concern to SNAP clients whether the customer behind them in line is purchasing a case of beer or a pack of cigarettes, the National Association of Convenience Stores says in its draft of a letter it is preparing to send to USDA, a copy of which was provided to POLITICO. Lobbying efforts escalated last year after that provision was placed in the Senate and House bills and the farm bill versions approved this year do not contain it. The current legislation dealing with food stamp reform in the House, if approved, would allow the USDA to ban some retailers based on unspecified criteria established by [the USDA] secretary as well as assign new identification numbers to retailers in order to catch fraud perpetrators. The Senate farm bill asks USDA to consider how much food a stores keeps in stock before approving it to accept food stamps. The USDA had hoped Congress would address food stamp fraud last year in a new five-year farm bill, but lawmakers failed to pass the legislation in 2012 and a sharp divide over how much to cut overall food stamp funding threatens to scuttle plans to produce a farm bill this year. Whatever USDA does, Leo Vercollone, president of Verc Enterprises – a company that operates 23 convenience stores in Massachusetts and New Hampshire – said hes concerned about any potential new rules that would restrict his stores from accepting food stamps. Who wants to lose part of their customer base? Vercollone said, stressing that many of his customers shop at his stores because they are nearby, while larger supermarkets are out of reach.

New Age Fusion Food: The latest trend to hit Mumbai

His dessert menu in fact pushes home the point. The humble Samosa is transformed here into a chocolate and mint molten lava. I have taken the samosa and created my version of the gooey molten lava. The filling is soft, chocolate-minty and devoid of cake and egg, he says. Global village Indeed the mash-up trend seems to have gone viral, helped along the way by each chef or restaurateurs personal background. Chef Dharmesh Karmokar for instance, is half Gujarati, half Bengali and this influences his cooking style at Nom Nom, where he is employed. Fusion food often has a negative connotation, but if you leave it to a chef, he will create something a lot more sensible. At Nom Nom, I serve my version of the popular Parsi dish, Patra Ni Machi. It is basically steamed fish, stuffed with South East Asian herbs, topped with Prawn Crackers in Honey Chilli sauce. I call it new-age cuisine where I only use a particular cuisine as a roadmap to create something more independent or global, says Karmokar, adding, This is only the beginning. People marrying outside their culture is going to result in evolution of such foods. Kids are going to grow up eating sushi and butter chicken, and this will influence their cooking habits. Fusion, confusion?