Tag Archives: food

Senator Debbie Stabenow, the incoming Senate Agriculture Committee chair, this week urged the Department of Agriculture to implement the bipartisan worker protection provisions in the COVID-19 assistance package.

The Michigan Democrat says, “In order to repair our food supply and feed families in need, USDA must prioritize safety in addition to food purchases.” In the recently passed COVID-19 assistance package, Congress provided no less than $1.5 billion to fund food purchases for distribution to those in need, provide worker protection measures, and retooling support for farmers, farmers markets, and food processors.

The provision was inspired by Stabenow’s bipartisan Food Supply Protection Act to help protect the food supply after the COVID-19 crisis put an unprecedented strain on farmers, workers and food banks. USDA recently announced funding for food purchases through the Farmers to Families Food Box program, but has yet to commit additional funds to protect workers and ensure the continuity of the food supply chain.

The Department of Agriculture this week announced the continuation of the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says USDA will purchase an additional $1.5 billion worth of food nationwide through the fifth round of the program.

Set to expire at the end of 2020, the recent coronavirus aid package provided more funding for the program. In total, USDA has distributed more than 132 million food boxes in support of American farmers and families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Secretary Perdue says this new round will “go a long way in helping American families access nutritious and healthy meals.”

USDA will again purchase combination boxes to ensure all involved recipient organizations have access to fresh produce, dairy, meat products, and seafood will also be included in this round. Contract awards are expected to be made by January 19. Deliveries will begin shortly after awards and continue through the end of April.

MANHATTAN, Kan. – When a grocery store closes, the local community suffers. The Rural Grocery Initiative is addressing this problem with a free, online webinar series aimed at preventing such closures in the first place.

The eight-part series, “Keeping Groceries Alive: Successful Ownership Transitions for Rural Grocery Stores,” will kick off in late January to help grocers plan ahead so that their stores remain open, even after the owners retire or exit the industry.

The Rural Grocery Initiative is a program supported by K-State Research and Extension to provide resources and help sustain independently owned rural grocery stores.

David Procter, co-founder of the Rural Grocery Initiative and professor of communication studies at Kansas State University, said that without transition plans in place, grocery stores often abruptly close, leaving local communities with limited access to healthy food.

“Over a ten-year period, from 2008 to 2018, we tracked 54 rural grocery store closures,” Procter said. “We’ve learned that if a community can transition ownership and keep their store open during the process, the store is set up for success.”

Keeping Groceries Alive is presented in partnership with NetWork Kansas, the Kansas Rural Center, the Kansas Center for Business Transition, the Food Co-Op Initiative, and K-State Research and Extension. It is sponsored by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation through the Heartland Challenge.

Upcoming webinars include:

  • Jan. 28 – Grocery Business Transition Planning: An Overview
  • Feb. 4 – Understanding Grocery Ownership Models
  • Feb. 11 – Preparing for Business Transition
  • Feb. 18 – Assessing Markets and Community Needs
  • Feb. 25 – Planning your Business
  • Mar. 4 – Funding the Transition
  • Mar. 11 – Recruiting Store Managers
  • Mar. 18 – Mastering Grocery Store Nuts and Bolts

Erica Blair, a program manager with the Rural Grocery Initiative, said making a business transition plan is in the best interest of grocers,

“Especially as grocers near retirement, developing an exit strategy is an important step toward securing financial stability,” she said. “Many grocers also want to see their businesses continue to flourish so that their legacies and communities live on.”

Rial Carver, a program manager with the Rural Grocery Initiative, says the webinar series will explore various community-supported grocery models. In many cases, according to Carver, some form of community ownership can be a viable option for maintaining a healthy grocery store.

“Communities across Kansas recognize that grocery stores are critical assets, both for the economy and quality of life. When communities are involved in the transition plan for a grocery store, innovative ideas arise,” she said. “We’ve seen several rural communities have success with public-private partnerships, cooperatives, and even school-based grocery stores.”

The webinar series is free and open to the public. Grocers, prospective grocers, and community stakeholders are encouraged to attend. To reserve a spot and receive the Zoom link, individuals can register online at www.ruralgrocery.org.

“We are pleased that the Kauffman Foundation is investing in rural communities and rural entrepreneurship,” Procter said, “and we are very pleased to be working with such a great group of partners on this important project.

The USDA and the Health and Human Service Department released the 2020 edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The Hagstrom Report says the guidelines will be in place for five years.

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says, “The theme of the guidelines is ‘Make Every Bite Count.’” In a news release, the two agencies say they didn’t deal with the most controversial recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which was a specific limit on alcoholic beverages for men and added sugar intake.

The release says, “Steeped in scientific evidence, the key recommendations look similar to those of the past and address two topics that garnered much attention throughout the development of the guidelines – added sugars and alcoholic beverages.”

Tom Stenzel, CEO of United Fresh, says, “Today’s reality of facing the COVID-19 pandemic brings greater urgency than ever before. No longer are we just thinking about poor diets leading to long-term chronic disease; now, we see clearly that healthy eating is a critical defense against communicable diseases such as coronavirus.” He says the Dietary Guidelines mostly repeat what we already know about healthy eating.