Food Policy Roundup from Serious Eats

I am a devout follower of Serious Eats. I love their style, their recipes, their food porn, and their wit. In fact, one of my dream jobs would be to work at the Serious Eats headquarters where I’d engage in taste tests, interview bartenders and chefs, write about food, and play with dogs.  Today I’m sharing their post on recent food policy events:

In Food Policy This Week: 5 News Bites

Posted by Leah Douglas, May 7, 2012 at 6:00 PM

  • Researchers think they have found the cause of hive collapse, which has resulted in a 30 to 90% loss of honeybee colonies in the U.S. since 2006. Imidacloprid, an extremely common pesticide, was implicated as a deadly toxin that resulted in nearly complete population loss in a 23-week experiment. Some bees ingest the pesticide through pollen, while others may be fed with high fructose corn syrup derived from treated corn. The toxin can make the bees more susceptible to disease as well as scramble the complex navigation system that helps them return to their hives. Bees are responsible for the pollination of nearly one third of agricultural crops.
  • The New York Times checks in on some key pieces of food legislation that are currently stalled in Congress. The Food Safety Modernization Act, signed in January 2011, would require more stringent measures from food producers to prevent outbreaks of foodborne illness, but are not yet open for public comment. Last April, an interagency committee drafted a set of nutritional regulations for foods marketed to children under 18, but no action has been taken to implement those regulations. And in 2010, the FDA issued guidelines for food service operations to list the caloric content of food items on menus, but has not followed through. These conversations may be on hold due to the election season, or perhaps due to strong pushback from the food industry.
  • Reuters has a fascinating analysis of the current state of the food and beverage industries’ relationship with Congress and the White House. The industries have doubled their lobbying efforts over the last three years, with almost $50 million spent on lobbying in 2011 alone. The $1.5 trillion food and beverage industry insists it can regulate itself and resists regulatory initiatives from Congress. This resistance has resulted in backpedaling on programs and legislation related to childhood obesity and nutrition. This piece is lengthy but full of fascinating and revealing information about the behind-the-scenes of food policy.
  • The state of New York funded nearly 50 food access programs in this year’s round of FreshConnect grants. The FreshConnect program works to improve healthy food access among low-income or low-access communities. Some funded ventures for this year include subsidized CSA programs, farmers markets looking to accept EBT payment, and youth-led produce stands and businesses. Nearly all of the funded programs also have a food donation component, which doubles their community impact. Almost $300,000 in funding was distributed through the FreshConnect program this year.
  • new study for the journal Pediatrics suggests that children from food-insecure households may develop unhealthy eating habits when they are unsure where their next meal will come from. The study found that mothers of low-income households encouraged children to continue eating even when they were full, or withheld food when the children were still hungry. These inconsistencies could set the stage for obesity later in life, as children haven’t learned to monitor hunger triggers. The study is an interesting perspective on the childhood obesity trend among low-income populations.

About the Author: A student in Providence, Rhode Island, Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her work has also been featured in Rhode Island Monthly Magazine.

Weddings ain’t cheap

Because we haven’t actually had our wedding yet, I don’t feel comfortable giving all the figures. Instead I’ll talk about our decision making process with some occasional figures dropped in.

Mike and I got engaged about a year ago. When we first started talking about what we wanted our wedding to look like it went something like this:

  • Elopement 
  • Small wedding
  • Elopement
  • Elopement abroad
  • Small wedding abroad
  • Small wedding in California
  • Small wedding on the East Coast 

Bah!!! So many choices!!!!!!!

It basically came down to cost and how much work we were willing to take on.

Mike’s family lives in California and that’s where we met and got engaged. We love it there! The weather is perfect, everything is beautiful but go figure, that comes with a sizable price tag. On top of that, we would have had to plan it all from the East Coast – uh…no, not so likely.

Eloping was my idea and I fought for it until the bitter end. My belief was that all the money we were going to spend and our families were going to spend could just as easily and nicely go towards my massive student debt.  Mike however is 10 years my senior and was pretty clear that he wanted a wedding of some sort.

Fine! Okay, so obviously we’re having one since I’m writing about it in this post.

We settled on a manageable wedding in a small boutique hotel in D.C – the deposit was pretty hefty but also comparable to everywhere else we looked in the DC/Baltimore area.

From the onset we knew our biggest cost would be feeding people. I had been to our venue several times for meals and loved their food! I adored the idea of not having to deal with a caterer and having a good idea of what to expect for the meal. We can have a maximum of 56 people in the venue — trust me, feeding and watering 56 people adds up, quickly!

Weddings also come with outfits which the Wedding Industrial Complex (WIC) likes to sell to you for an arm and a leg. Seeing as I wanted to elope, making the inexpensive choice was easy for me. I bought my dress on Etsy, got a great deal on the shoes, and splurged for a custom hair flower. I’ll be getting my hair done but for me, makeup, mani/pedi…not so important. And I promise, I am not going to feel like I’m missing out.

What else? Oh yeah – flowers (if you want them; i’m not doing bouquets), marriage license, rehearsal dinner (We’re doing one at a local brewery but that’s because we wanted to give out-of-town family another opportunity to hang out).

We are very lucky – Our families are able to help out with most of the cost but we have taken on quite a bit ourselves as well. We decided to pay for all of the deposits – venue, rehearsal dinner caterer, rehearsal dinner venue. We’ve paid for our outfits, flowers, anything misc. The money our folks have given us will probably cover the food and booze … probably.

By the end of it, I think we’re going to come in just under $10,000. One can hope anyway.

Let me tell you, when I first started planning, I wanted to spend $3,000, tops. And I know it’s possible. People talk about it at A Practical Wedding all the time. But you’ve got to be smart from the onset and it helps a lot if you know people who can help you along the way.

Budgeting I: Food & Booze

Something I’ve already learned about starting a series on a blog — don’t announce on a Thurs. that round 1 will begin on Friday. I’ll get it right next time!

But I’m sticking to it and talking about how we budget for food and booze. Or at least how I’d like for us to.

The wine is sacrosanct in our house – it’s not one of those things we feel willing to cut out entirely, or even in half.

I’ve mentioned before that both of our families are entertaining families with savvy backgrounds in beer and wine. I will readily admit that since graduating from my Master’s program, I drink A LOT less. Which is great for both my liver and our budget. However, now that we are entertaining regularly, we’ve started exploring with cocktails so our “bar” requires a bit more specific maintenance and upkeep.

When Mike and I met he was living in Sonoma County. I think it’s perfectly reasonable that we belong to one wine club. This costs us close to $200 every six months. When we lived in DC, we could readily go to Trader Joe’s to restock on wine for very little money. Since we drink less and TJs isn’t as easy of an option, we buy a lot less wine. But it’s summer and it’s frickin’ hot outside so beer is a bit more in right now! Excluding bar maintenance (hard liquor) we spend on average, $100 per month on beer and wine for the house.

Food used to be a lot more variable but we’ve found great ways to reduce costs. I know people grocery shop in tons of different ways. We having a Saturday morning ritual where we scour our cookbooks and the internets for great recipes. We pick 5 or 6, depending on what our plans are and jot the ingredients down from those. Otherwise we have a few staples. I’m a coffee drinker and I need my half and half. For breakfast we’ll alternate between bagels and cereal. In a perfect world we spend less than $150 per week on groceries (excluding alcohol). Food is very important for us and we love to cook! Eating out is rarely an unplanned affair so I know we won’t break the bank (at least not all the time) without meaning to.

In order to do get under the $150 we make 2 grocery store stops. The bulk of our shopping is done at Whole Foods. I prefer their produce and find prices to always be comparable when you purchase their store brand. Meats, for the most part, are bought at Safeway or Giant, depending on what it is we want to eat that week.

I find that we go over budget when we have to buy pantry items – oils, vinegars, baking ingredients etc.

Once I actually allotted a figure to our budget, we could find ways to keep to it! We also try to drastically limit middle of the week shopping trips or make sure there’s room for them in our grocery budget.
I know I’ve talked about Mint before. Seriously, go use it. It’s how I make sure we aren’t going over in any of the budget categories.

How much do you allot for food? booze?

If you’re think we’re crazy for spending as much as we do, what do you spend this kind of money on instead?