Friday, September 18, 2009

Weekly Food Roundup - Canstruction and Inside the Beltway Initiatives

*Weekly Food Roundup is a weekly recap of local, national and global food issues as they play out online, in print and in our everyday lives. Check back every Friday for new installments.*

Our "Share the Surplus" food drive ended last Friday at the home football game here, where we rewarded anyone who brought canned and fresh foods with raffle tickets for prizes from local businesses. We collected 172 lbs. of food from the game alone, and added that to our larger total of 750 lbs. donated throughout the two-week period. In the end, 991 cans, boxes and bags of food, some 14,500 oz., were collected at the end of the day, bringing the end donation to 906 lbs. of food for our local food pantries. We consider that a success.

To add some fun to the whole process, Tyler (an Ohio Campus Compact VISTA here at W.C.) organized a can sculpture building of the bell-tower on campus. We used everything from fresh string beans, bags of pasta and canned corn to recreate the tower, leading us well into the night before we finished.



The "canstruction" rounded out our project for the 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance. Though the United We Serve initiative has thus come to a close, the broader concept of national service can't be summed up in a press-release or confined to a 6-month window: it's an everyday way of life.

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The surprisingly pro-active USDA keeps rolling out exciting announcements and initiatives from inside the beltway, and this week was no exception. On Tuesday, September 15, Ag Secretary Vilsack and Deputy Secretary Merrigan announced the "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" initiative, "to connect consumers with local producers and to create new economic opportunities for communities."

Among the more exciting aspects of this announcement is some $50 million allocated for states to invest in school-lunch reform, and the creation of Farm to School Tactical Teams, a menacing sounding name for a traveling group of surveyors who will visit our nation's schools to offer help and advice to school administrators. The "Know Your Farmer..." initiative will invest a total of $65 million into local and regional food systems. Sec. Vilsack has been championing local agriculture almost daily for the past few months, only now backing it up with tangible funds for the otherwise overlooked segments of our local economies. Here's what Deputy Secretary Merrigan had to say:
"Americans are more interested in food and agriculture than at any other time since most families left the farm," said Merrigan. "'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' seeks to focus that conversation on supporting local and regional food systems to strengthen American agriculture by promoting sustainable agricultural practices and spurring economic opportunity in rural communities."

Hopefully the red tape and sluggish pace that normally plagues federal funding will be sidestepped in this process, but only time will tell. And hopefully the upcoming cold months won't slow the pace of this new initiative. Again, we wait to see.

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