Tag Archives: Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” *

A recent issue of Access Press overflows with both information and reminders.  Front page information is that Stuart Holland who has managed the Minnesota Radio Talking Book Network since 1986 is retiring.  His retirement prompted the newspaper to published a great review of the RTB history written by Jan Willms.  It’s a good read and a good reminder.  http://www.accesspress.org/blog/2017/09/08/retirement-awaits-new-chapter-for-radio-talking-books-holland/

But don’t stop there, subscribe to Access Press online or pick up a free copy at a convenient newspaper rack.  AP is a timely and indispensable source of information about what’s happening in the disabilities community – a tool for anyone who has a disability or who is in a position to share the news with friends, family, patrons, the faith, academic or other community.  So many resources, so many opportunities to share the word!  Much more about the mission, content and programs of Access Press here: (http://www.accesspress.org)

“Feast” is the theme of Interact Visual Artists’  exhibit (https://interactcenter.org/artists/visual-arts/) open through October 8 at Birchwood Café in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis. (http://birchwoodcafe.com)  The exhibit explores the subject of food and the relations and perceptions of food and art.  Individual artists assume varying relationships with food by exploring different ethnic foods and approaching the issue in a variety of media and styles.

October 5 – Talk of the Stacks features journalist and food industry authority Larry Olmsted, 7:00 PM at the Minneapolis Central Library, 300 Nicollet Mall.  Olmsted’s book, is entitled Real Food Fake Food: Why you don’t know what you’re eating and what you can do about it…. The event is free, doors open at 6:15; programs begins at 7:00 PM

October 12 – The City of Minneapolis is offering a class for group that are interested in creating a cooperative.  Sessions run October 12-December 7.    Details here:  http://webbercamden.org/2017/09/27/city-of-minneapolis-free-class-on-creating-a-cooperative/   To learn more about the history and present state of coops check this recent talk given by Tom Pierson at the Seward Coop –https://seward.coop/posts/1048

October 18 – The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) announces the Autumn Open House, 5:30 – 7:30 PM at the historic Crosby Mansion, 2105 First Avenue South.  RSVP by Friday, October 14 at iatp.org/open-house.  Speakers include IATP ED Juliette Major and Tara Ritter, Senior Program Association for Climate and Rural Communities.  Free and open RSVP by 9/14. (https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/15ed34ccdaf2ec36 .  IATP is also developing a robust distance learning component, including an informative podcast series on NAFTA(https://www.iatp.org/blog/201709/trade-ag-your-ears-our-new-podcast-uprooted)  Take time to explore the many facets of IATP, a robust and timely resource essential in this world of global/corporate economic flux. (https://www.iatp.org/nafta-portal)

October 20 – Insurgent knowledges: Book talk with Damien Sojoyner and Sabrina Vaught.  Sojoyner is the author of First Strike: Educational enclosures in Black Los Angeles (U of M 2017) and Vaught is the author of Compulsory: Education and the dispassion of youth in a prison school, U of M Press 2017,7:00 PM at the East Side Freedom Library, 1105 Greenbrier Street in St. Paul.  Details online.

October 21 – A Resister’s Handbook: A benefit performance for East Side Freedom Library.  Xavier Morilla, described as “a labor leader, activist, podcaster, writer and storyteller” – not to mention President of SEIU Local 26.  Working with Levi Weinhagen, Morilla has created the presentation in which Morilla will share his “wit and optimism” with ESFL supporters at a fundraiser event, 5:30-7:00 PM.  A minimum tax-deductible gift of $25 is requested at the door.

November 2-  ESFL will also co-sponsor a timely presentation, The Origins of the Radical Right and the Crisis of Our Democracy, a talk by Nancy MacLean, Professor History and Public Policy at Duke University.  The event is sponsored by ESFL, ISAIAH-Minnesota and the U of MN History Department.7:00 PM at ESFL 1105 Greenbrier Street in St. Paul, 651 230 3294. http://eastsidefreedomlibrary.org

A recent study by the Pew Research Center reports on details of the digital divide.  Data re the Minneapolis-St Paul-Bloomington area are above average, with plenty of room for improvement.  Broadband access in households with income under $20K was 55.5% while 86.6% of 20K+ households enjoy broadband access.

The latest greatest fad at Eat My Words bookstore is Squibs. Squibs are short one-to-ten-page writing pieces – with or sans visuals – described by Squibs hosts as “mini-stories with a beginning, middle and end.”  They can be about any topic that helps get the writer writing.  To follow the EMW muse to a new life of squibbing, join a Squib writing session, Saturdays Noon-1:00 PM at EMW Bookstore, 214 13th Avenue NE (new location) 651 243 1756 or more at www.eatmywordsbooks.com.

Note to out-of-control bibliophiles: Help is at the ready:  https://www.bustle.com/articles/183327-9-things-book-lovers-do-in-the-fall-because-autumn-is-the-perfect-season-for-reading

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As we plunge into the season’s political melee, it might be a good time to catch up on some basics of the democracy.  Following are some tools to help us review and put in contemporary context some of the basics:

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  * Quote from  L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

 

Leadership, local economy and lunch shape Farm to School Curriculum

Poking around is a persistent addiction.  Though the geography and focus shift with time, exploring new terrain simply expands the possibilities.  Thus, in my quest to spread the share the message of open government, I have had the privilege to meet with scores of great people who are doing amazing work on issues that include sustainable agriculture, the rural economy, the environment, children’s health, food safety,  family farms, ethnic diversity —  always looking for the open government thread that runs through just about everything – once you start looking for it.

All of this poking around reinforces my quest for practical examples of creative approaches to systemic thinking about critical issues – including creative thinking  about the confluence of healthy food and sustainable agriculture.  Thus my delight at the discovery of a treasure from a somewhat unlikely source – the new Farm to School Youth Leadership Curriculum recently released by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP).  It’s fresh, fun and online for all to adapt and apply.

Farm to School offers a promising approach to engaging 11th and 12th graders to build leadership skills by working in partnership with food service staff, farmers and local food sources to re-think their own local food system —  to possibly take a hand in forging links between local farmers and the breakfast and lunch programs that both fuel and forge healthy habits in young learners.

The curriculum offers six lessons that may be taught consecutively over a semester or as single lessons or activities to complement other classes.  In order to make its way into the classrooms, Farm to School fulfills national and state curriculum requirements.  The goals range from promoting children’s health and “food literacy” to “strengthening local economies by expanding markets for small and mid-size agricultural producers and food entrepreneurs whose products have typically been unavailable in school meal programs.”

Erin McKee Van Slooten, who worked on the curriculum design, notes that “despite the rapid growth of Farm to School programs around the country, the legwork of connecting with farmers and sourcing local foods can often be difficult for school staff on top of their day-to-day work.  Our curriculum puts that work in students’ hands, while teaching them about their local food scene.”

Labeled a “youth leadership” project, the IATP curriculum is just that.   Natasha Mortenson helped construct the curriculum.  Reflecting on her experience as an ag educator and FFA advisor at Morris Area High School Mortenson  says that her “students have taken ownership of the Farm to School program in our school, and have developed leadership and team building skills as they completed tasks in learning about our local food system and seasonal availability.”  The goal, she says, is dual:  about implementing Farm to School and about “growing young leaders that understand how to build a program from the ground up.”

The Farm to School Youth Leadership Program was funded by the Center for e Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, the John P. and Eleanor R. Yackel Foundation, the Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

Whatever your memory of or interest in your own experience, your business or your kid’s or grandkid’s school lunch you’ll find the IATP approach a departure from past experience.  Forget what was then, take a look at the full package on the IATP website – lots of background, great graphics  and tips on promoting the Farm to School concept and curriculum.

As we haggle over nutrition and costs,  and wring our hands about how some needy families have been mistreated by the present system,  take time to step back, grab a nutritious locally grown snack, and, with the help re-think the whole approach to a tired tradition with which the folks at IATP have had the grit to grapple.

Learn more on the IATP website

http://www.iatp.org/documents/farm-to-school-youth-leadership-curriculum-all-lessons-and-worksheets

 

Food Policy: Making a Place at the Table for Information

In recent months readers of Poking Around have quietly endured my efforts to grasp the anomaly of hunger in a world of plenty – the struggle to connect the dots between world hunger and overproduction, to get a grip on the politics that tolerate hungry families in our community, to comprehend what it means to embrace the right to food as a human right.  Because my predisposition is to view every issue through the prism of open government, my mind wants to create a holistic approach to thinking about hunger in lay terms.   Flailing in an unfamiliar world of ambiguity and complexity, my only tool is a structured approach to gathering and organizing information till it makes sense.

As usual, help is at hand.  Next week’s appearance of Anna Lappe at the Westminster Town Hall Forum offers a start.  The straightforward presentation of issues that she and her mother, Frances Moore Lappe,  offer on their Small Planet Institute website are digestible

The documentary film, A Place at the Table, is also getting the conversation started with some good information and the star quality that grabs the public attention and positions the issues at the micro level.

The information imperative leaves me to the work of scholars and policy analysts at the University of Minnesota Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy who study food issues from the macro level.   An article by Allen Levine, published in the Star Tribune some months ago, gave me a template for understanding “Global hunger – the Minnesota Connection” – not so much the answers but a frame of reference and a sense of relevance.

Levine writes that “as Minnesotans, it’s easy to dismiss global hunger as a problem that doesn’t directly affect us. And with a quarter of our state’s residents now considered obese, not having enough food may seem like the least of our worries.  But we should worry.  Demographers predict that by 2050, the world’s population will reach 9 billion; a high percentage of those people will live in cities or climate- challenged areas where they can’t grow their own food….As their incomes increase, people will expect not just food, but more nutritious (and thus, more expensive) food….Our farmers, our agribusiness, our nonprofits and, yes, our universities, all play key roles in global hunger prevention.…We have no choice: Minnesota must be part of the solution.”

Levine’s cogent proposal has five steps to reaching the goal of sustainably feeding everyone – five steps that I can count on one hand if not fully comprehend.  His construct refines my mental prism for assessing macro steps from a micro perspective – a handy guide for the lay person. The steps are straightforward and plausible:

  1. Support funding of agricultural research and development.
  2. Be vigilant about the effects of climate change, disease and drought.
  3. Accelerate the shift toward second- and third-generation biofuels such as algae and cellulosic material.
  4. Concentrate efforts on small-scale farmers, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia, where many of the world’s poorest people reside and where much of the population growth will happen.
  5. Recognize that simply having enough food isn’t enough.

Another paper published just this week by the IATP has helped me get to the next plateau.  Karen Hansen-Kuhn of IATP asks the question “Who’s at the Table? Demanding Answers on Agriculture in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”  Trust me, I would not have paid attention to the TPP discussions until I read this paper where I learned that “The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has the potential to become the biggest regional free-trade agreement (FTA) in history, both because of the size of the economics participating in the negotiations and because it holds open the possibility for other countries to quietly ‘dock in’ to the existing agreement at some point in the future.”  In other words, it’s a Big Deal.  And the U.S. and other countries are just getting on the food wagon.

This is where the transparency issue really comes into play.  Hansen-Kuhn’s work caught my attention when she writes that “it may be that governments, particularly the U.S. government, think they’ve been burned by transparency in the past.”  She goes on to ask the question, “Is it that the trade deals can’t withstand the light of day?”  Trade policy, she writes “should start from such goals as ending global hunger, enhancing rural and urban incomes and employment, and encouraging a transition to climate friendly agriculture.  The burden of proof should be on governments to demonstrate that the commitments being negotiated in the TPP will advance the human rights to food and development.  Given the stakes for agriculture and food systems in all of the countries involved, they should include all sectors in a frank discussion of the trade rules that are needed to ensure that food sovereignty, rural livelihoods and sustainable development take precedence over misguided efforts to expand exports at any cost.”

March is Minnesota FoodShare Month, a time to think about and act on the issue of hunger in our midst..  My hope is that we take time as individuals, organizations, faith groups and families to think about the root causes and the long-term solutions to what is, after all, a solvable problem.

Open access to good information wisely wielded by informed people of conscience can make a difference.  We must make a place at the table for good information, sound judgment, and justice.