This year, as usual, it seemed that you couldn’t get away from food news raving about the newest “trend” — some for better and some for worse, including KFC’s double down chicken sandwich which actually replaces the bread with more chicken; the seemingly inexplicable use of bacon in just about everything including bacon ice cream and bacon coffee; and food trucks with every type of food imaginable rolling down streets in cities across the US.
Here’s a sampling of some of the top stories of this year.
The emphasis on healthy school food finally reached the highest levels of government, due in large part to First Lady Michelle Obama, whose efforts to reform school lunches included her Let’s Move Initiative, designed to reduce childhood obesity. Not only does it focus on movement, but better food via fresh produce, including using the White House Garden as a living, demonstration garden and the linking of farmers’ markets to healthy eating.
Her work helped lead to the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which includes the provision to increase lunch reimbursement rates, expands the After School Meals Program to all 50 states, and aims to address the national childhood obesity epidemic by improving nutritional quality of school meals and reducing junk food in schools.
The First Lady’s involvement in healthy food for kids wasn’t the only high profile one that caught our attention this year. Most notably, chef Jamie Oliver and his Food Revolution went to the small town of Huntington, West Virginia to reform school lunches there and start a healthy food “revolution.”
Another big trend this year was a campaign to encourage people to eat less meat, led by the Meatless Monday Initiative. This is a non-profit health initiative led in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health encouraging people around the world to go meatless one day a week “for their health and the health of the planet.” The goal is to reduce meat consumption 15 percent.
In August, in one of the largest food recalls ever, a national outbreak of salmonella in eggs sickened hundreds of people, and was spread to about 380 million chicken eggs all distributed by Wright County Egg, one of the top egg producers in the United States.
This massive recall no doubt led to what is perhaps the biggest food story of the year; the passage of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act at the end of year. Not only was it one of the biggest stories of this year, but in decades. It finally gives the FDA the powers that everybody thought they already had, and that is the authority to recall certain tainted foods. It also requires the FDA to create new regulations for fruits and vegetables, and provides new regulations for food facilities, grocery stores and farms. However, there is concern about how the Act will ultimately affect local food and small farms. There will be more discussion of this issue as the details of the bill are ironed out.
This brings up a good point that Daily Yonder brings up about food stories of the year. This is that the top news stories don’t seem to focus enough attention on the areas where our food is actually produced, and where the battle to produce it takes place, because many issues impacting rural areas are not reported on as frequently.
As they say, this includes the tragedy that our small dairy farmers are facing as the dairy industry is virtually collapsing and as small dairies go out of business and are being replaced by mega-farms, and the issue of control of seeds since as they say the Monsanto Company “has control of most of the corn, soybean and cotton planted in the country. Farmers have been agitating for years against the virtual monopoly Monsanto has in these markets. Now the government is interested.”