The Jew And The Carrot

Three Months After the Farm Bill, Where's the Kosher Food?

By Hody Nemes

Courtesy of Masbia

Buried deep in the Farm Bill are provisions to increase the amount of kosher and halal food the government sends to soup kitchens and food banks. But three months after the bill’s passage, kosher and halal-friendly food agencies are still waiting see whether the USDA’s new program will be effective.

The kosher and halal provisions of the farm bill target the USDA’s Emergency Food Assistance Program, which buys food in bulk and distributes it — free of charge — to food banks and soup kitchens across America. Under the new law, the agency is required to purchase certified kosher and halal products — as long as they cost the same as uncertified food. It must also start tracking the kosher and halal products it buys to ensure the food ends up in places where it is most needed.

“For any family that stands in a soup kitchen line that relies on kosher or halal food, this is a big deal,” said Triada Stampas, senior director of government relations at the Food Bank For New York City, an emergency food provider that serves the more than 1.3 million New Yorkers who don’t have enough to eat. “This carries the potential for greater variety and quantity” of kosher and halal food available at soup kitchens and food banks, she said.

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Lawmakers Rush To Finish Farm Bill Extension

By Reuters

The U.S. House and Senate agriculture committees are working on a short-term extension to the expired U.S. farm bill, and plan to vote on the extension by Monday, the final day of 2012, lawmakers and aides said.

The proposed extension to farm legislation that expired in September could be for six months to a year.

If an extension is passed the United States would avoid reverting to 1949 “permanent law” and a potential spike in the retail price of milk to as much as $8 a gallon in 2013.

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Not Outraged? You're Not Paying Attention!

By Jonathan Zasloff

If you’re Jewish, and into food, and not outraged, then you’re not paying attention.

Americans like to think of ourselves as a generous people, and we are – even though special interests transform much of our international food aid programs into a wasteful boondoggle that undermines the abilities of communities and countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to feed themselves. And that’s what’s happening now. Food aid is critical and important, but for it to work, it needs to work right, and right now, not enough of it is.

Here’s why: if children are starving in part of Ethiopia, it makes sense for US aid dollars to buy food from farmers close by in other parts of Ethiopia or neighboring countries. Buying locally develops and sustains local agriculture, and gets the food to those in need quickly. But instead current US law requires virtually all food aid to be bought from heavily subsidized US agribusinesses and shipped overseas. That means that more than half of every food aid grain dollar is wasted in subsidizing large companies and shipping costs and takes up to 14 weeks longer to reach hungry people than buying food locally. And it’s even worse than that, because sending free or subsidized US grain to developing countries such as Haiti can undermine local agriculture in the long-term, making future famines more likely, as communities are no longer able to feed themselves in the face of future shocks such as drought. Communities in which I have worked as a volunteer with American Jewish World Service are now far more vulnerable to hunger are a result of of subsidized US food dumped into their countries.

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Mixing Bowl: Pastrami Knish; Farm Bill

By Devra Ferst

iStock

Catch a sneak peak of “The Mile End Cookbook,” which has a whole section on DIY deli. We’re getting hungry just thinking about it. [Grub Street]

This week the Senate passed the farm bill. Now, on to the House! [New York Times]

When it comes to food labeling, it looks like kosher is king. [NPR]

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Story of a Fishpond in Rural Mexico

By Lev Meirowitz Nelson

Photo By Brendan Hoffman
Rabbis on Capitol Hill as part of Lobby Day

This is the story of a fishpond.

Not just any old fishpond, but a fishpond in Muchucuxcah (Pronounce the x like a sh), Mexico, four hours west of Cancun.

I was in Muchucuxcah for ten days in January with American Jewish World Service’s Rabbinical Students Delegation. We were there to learn about global poverty, to see quality development work firsthand and to work on said fishpond.

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Advocating for a Just Farm Bill on Capitol Hill

By Ilan Caplan

Wikimedia Commons

“This just makes common sense, and—I think—it makes Jewish sense.”

That is how Timi Gerson of the American Jewish World Service (AJWS), closed the House of Representatives policy briefing organized by the Jewish Working Group for a Just Farm Bill.

I was privileged to watch this briefing in action. The panelists, Barbara Weinstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (the RAC); Josh Protas of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA); Mia Hubbard of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger; and Timi Gerson of AJWS, had addressed an audience earlier that day in the one of the Senate conference rooms: a spacious, red-carpeted room bedecked with large portraits of senators past and present. This second briefing was in a smaller, more intimate room, not substantially different from the Multi-Purpose Room of my childhood synagogue in suburban New Jersey.

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Mixing Bowl: Best Egg Creams, Smoked Meat How-to

By Devra Ferst

iStock

Taim, our favorite falafel shop in New York, is getting a second location. [Grubstreet

A how to guide for how to make Montreal-style smoked meat. Mmmm, our mouths are watering. [Serious Eats]

A restaurant in Lviv, Ukraine touts itself as a “Jewish themed” dinning experiences where hats with peyes are given to its guests, chopped liver is served and diners are asked to haggle over the price. This is perhaps the strangest and one of the more disturbing interpretations of Jewish food we’ve heard about. [Tablet]

The 10 best egg creams in New York. [The Daily Meal]

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Crying Over Spoilt Onions

By Shuli Passow

Photo By Andrew Scheer
It was the pile of onions that made me cry.

Not in the way you might think—I wasn’t standing over a cutting board, knife in hand, sobbing my way through an extended dicing activity. The onions that made me cry were whole, bagged and stacked about 5 feet high, in a small village in Western Senegal, where I was travelling with American Jewish World Service.

I cried because of the story behind this stack of onions, a story of thwarted ambition, injustice, and our broken global food system. Working with a local Non-Governmental Organization called GREEN Senegal, farmers from this village had implemented new farming practices, such as drip irrigation that vastly improved their efficiency and productivity. With much less time and effort, they had increased the quantity and quality of their onion crop, and were ready to bring their goods to market. In addition to the economic gain the villagers hoped to see through their efforts, the new efficiencies had the side benefits of allowing children to spend more time in school, rather than in the fields helping with the harvest, and mothers to spend more time in the home caring for their families.

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Jews vs. The Farm Bill

By Leah Kaplan Robins

Photo By Evan Abramson
AJWS’s Ruth Messinger supporting local agriculture in Kenya.
The issue inspiring the latest Jewish political movement won’t surprise readers of this blog—but it might cause some head scratching among the rest of the Jewish community. It isn’t Israel or the 99%. Nope, it’s… the U.S. Farm Bill!

While it may seem like an unlikely target for a swell of Jewish activism, the Farm Bill—which dictates U.S. law on everything from agriculture to food stamps to biofuels—is packed with policies that go against the grain of Jewish ethics. The bill is up for debate and reauthorization this year, and six Jewish organizations are seizing the opportunity to call for reforms that they feel will go a long way toward achieving their Torah-inspired visions of food justice. Even though they’re each tackling a different aspect of the bill, they’ve recently joined forces to maximize their power and mobilize their constituents toward a common goal.

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Mixing Bowl: Hanukkah Recipes; The Farm Bill

By Devra Ferst

iStock

Sufganiyot get a 21st century makeover. Check out the Mexican hot chocolate glazed ones with fluff filling. [Chow]

If you’d rather buy your sufganiyot, stop by Mile End for some raspberry filled poppers. [Fork in the Road]

What happened at the Farm Bill Hack-a-Thon? [Grist]

Get your fry on with these recommendations for how to fry perfectly for Hanukkah. [Epicurious]

Left over corned beef from the deli can be transformed into this deliciously rich corned beef hash. [Serious Eats]

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Food Fight: Food Policy and the 2012 Election

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

With the next Presidential election a year away and the new Farm Bill scheduled to move through Congress in 2012, it is time to take stock of President Obama’s record on food policy, and to see what the Republican presidential candidates have said and done so far on the subject.

We are well passed those heady days for food progressives when Michael Pollan wrote an open letter to the “Farmer in Chief” (actually, the President Elect) about the interconnectedness of the environment, healthcare costs and the oil and food industries. It seems ages ago that Alice Waters put forth names of candidates for Secretary of Agriculture, and Ruth Reichel made suggestions for the White House chef. The excitement around Michelle Obama’s planting the White House’s organic vegetable garden with local school children is by now a long-forgotten memory. (Though she has a cookbook coming out soon.)

So how has the President lived up to expectations in the eyes of those who care about food policy, and what can we expect from the competition? Here’s what they have had to say about food so far.

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A Closer Look at the 2012 Farm Bill

By Aliza R. Wasserman

Hazon

While headlines about the Farm Bill focus on the role of commodity subsidies in creating the ubiquity of processed foods in the U.S. (and increasingly in the global) food system, on the final day of the 2011 Hazon Food Conference, some of the most passionate and committed members of what some are calling the “new Jewish food movement” got a deeper look at the details of the policy landscape that shapes the way the U.S. food system functions and influences the rest of the globe.

At the “Farm Bill 2012: How the Jewish community and you can make a difference” workshop, presenters Oran Hesterman of the Fair Food Network and Dahlia Rockowitz of American Jewish World Service provided a background into why our policies look the way they do — the intentions with which they were designed, and how we can change them. Illustrating the critical role played by many of the Farm Bill’s sections other than the commodity payments, both presenters raised some serious questions for the audience, and pointed us in the direction to begin to use our voices as citizens and voters to answer them:

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Hazon Goes to the White House: Food Justice and the Farm Bill

By Liz Kohn

Kristian Whipple
Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama, addresses the group.

Last week 12 excited Hazon representatives and 160 other Jewish participants gathered in Washington D.C. as part of the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable (JSJRT), a collection of 21 nonprofits supporting social justice as an essential component of Jewish life. The two-day affair began on Thursday, July 28th with congressional meetings and culminated the following day with the White House Community Leaders Briefing Series, a unique summer-long opportunity for grassroots leaders to engage White House officials and voice issues close to our hearts.

Jon Carson, deputy assistant to the President and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, succinctly articulated the purpose of the series: “I’m not here to talk,” he said. “I’m here to listen about what you’re seeing across the country.” For many in Hazon’s cohort and millions of American Jews, this issue is food justice.

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Building a Jewishly Informed Farm Bill

By Liz Kohn

Courtesy Fair Food Network/USDA

Fair Food Network’s Oran Hesterman and Kate Fitzgerald co-hosted Hazon’s first Farm Bill webinar on July 20th. Twenty attendees from Florida to California watched an informative presentation about Farm Bill history, implementation and impact and participated in a question and answer session touching on issues from kashrut to conservation.

Fitzgerald first discussed the early years of Farm Policy, beginning with the establishment of an independent Department of Agriculture in 1862 and moving into the Depression era and its long-term effects. She then discussed the farm bill’s evolution and its 15 varied and complex titles (or sections), revealing what the bill does and does not cover. We learned that the bill contains billions of dollars in funds for agricultural subsidies and farm relief programs, hunger relief and emergency food aid, environmental conservation programs and many other government programs.

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