Tom Laskawy

A 17-year veteran of both traditional and online media, Tom Laskawy is a founder and executive director of the Food & Environment Reporting Network and a contributing writer at Grist covering food and agricultural policy. Tom's long and winding road to food politics writing passed through New York, Boston, the San Francisco Bay Area, Florence, Italy, and Philadelphia (which has a vibrant progressive food politics and sustainable agriculture scene, thank you very much). In addition to Grist, his writing has appeared online in The American Prospect, Slate, The New York Times, and The New Republic. He is on record as believing that wrecking the planet is a bad idea. Follow him on Twitter.

Philly Phights Back

Philly’s universal school lunch program lives on — for now

Sometimes sanity prevails. Philly’s Universal Feeding school lunch program–whose announced cancellation caused an uproar the other week–just got a reprieve, at least until 2010. The Philly Inquirer has the story: The U.S. Department of Agriculture has decided not to discontinue a Philadelphia school breakfast and lunch program that provides free meals to poor students, members of the city’s congressional delegation announced yesterday. Democratic Sens. Bob Casey and Arlen Specter and Rep. Chaka Fattah said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack had reversed an agency plan to end the program, which allows more than 120,000 students in poor schools to eat free meals …

While the West will have to eat less meat, Africa might have to eat more

Jim Motavalli of E/Environmental Magazine has a piece in Foreign Policy (!) on the difficulties we face in lowering meat consumption on any significant scale: …Giving up meat is tough, and arguing people into it is probably a losing proposition. Even with all the statistics out there about the dangers of meat, there are fewer vegetarians in the world than you’d think. A Harris poll conducted in 2006 for the Vegetarian Resource Group found that only 2.3 percent of American adults 18 or older claim never to eat meat, fish, or fowl. A larger group, 6.7 percent, say they “never …

Anti-CAFO ads running in DC Metro

File this under intriguing. From Ag Professional (via a press release, I think) A new ad campaign is asking area commuters and people visiting Capitol Hill “Who’s hogging our antibiotics?” The series of ads, revealed in D.C. Metro stations and trains this week by the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming, is part of the project’s national effort to end the misuse of antibiotics in food animal production. The group says up to 70 percent of human antibiotics are being fed to animals on factory farms, promoting the development of deadly strains of drug-resistant bacteria that can spread …

Humm-dinger

Advice for the Chinese manufacturer who just bought Hummer

Tough enough to drive over the Great Wall?GM.comI can’t say as I know exactly what’s going through the minds of the top executives at Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Company Ltd. who have reportedly just purchased the Hummer brand from GM. I’ll say one thing, though. I’m pretty sure they’re not Peak Oilers. Still, give them credit for some much-needed greenwashing: [Hummer spokesman Nick] Richards said the buyer planned to continue selling Hummer’s current lineup as it developed “more efficient” vehicles. The brand will eventually sell trucks fueled by diesel, ethanol and other alternative fuels, he said. That’s the spirit! …

Sugary surprise

Would you like some GMOs in your coffee?

One cube or two? Jill Richardson made a good catch on the GMO crop front the other day. She dug up an article from a Boulder, CO newspaper that detailed the debate over local sugarbeet farmers’ request to plant GM seeds within the city limits. The farmers claim that without GM sugar beets, they’ll be unable to meet their Western Sugar Cooperative quota. But that’s not the reason I’m telling you all this (nor is it for the useful fact that sugarbeets have been a staple crop in Boulder for a century). I’m telling you all this because the article …

Lunch drunk

Why the USDA’s squashing of Philly’s universal school lunch plan bites

The outcry over the USDA’s announced end to Philly’s excellent Universal Feeding program–a program that automatically enrolls poor children in the federal free school meal program and which I wrote about the other day–is getting louder. And the ironies are coming faster, as well. From today’s Inquirer: Sen. Arlen Specter and Gov. Rendell are protesting the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision to end Universal Feeding here – a program wanted by New York and Los Angeles – and go with a plan that would cost the district $1 million more annually in paperwork and likely deprive meals to thousands of …

Who's king now?

King Corn, meet Big Oil

Drilling for oil in a corn field: will Big Oil squeeze out King Corn?Back in March, Tom Philpott flagged some moves from Shell Oil and Valero Energy (the largest U.S. oil refiner) that indicated Big Oil was falling for biofuels. Now, the NYT shows Tom had it right with a piece detailing the increasing amount of money Big Oil is spreading around to biofuel startups. This comes despite Big Oil’s historical hostility to the ethanol industry. In fact, their objections to conventional ethanol might sound strangely familiar: For decades, the big oil companies and the farm lobby have been fighting …

Can the Internet help small farms act big?

Wired Science has a good piece on the potential for tech startups to play a “disruptive” role in commercial food distribution. The post looks at several web services that are trying to replicate the restaurant supply chain system dominated by produce distribution giant Sysco and its ubiquitous trucks via a network of small farmers, iPhones and the Internet: The food supply industry is ripe for ‘disintermediation’ because of the internet,” said Alistair Croll, a startup consultant working with FarmsReach. In other words, middlemen beware: Food could undergo a transition like the one that swept through classified ads, air travel and …

Cooking the books

UPDATE: Washington State University reinstates freshman reading of ‘Omnivore’s Dilemma’

Too hot for freshmen? EVEN MORE UPDATES: Now that the NYT has weighed in, I guess it’s fair to say this story broke through to the mainstream. I’ll spare you all the assurances from WSU that this Bill Marler-funded resolution proves that the driving issue really was financial. In my view, Marler graciously provided a fig-leaf to a university administration that was very much caught by surprise that anyone would have ever noticed what they’d done. There remain too many bits of evidence that the book was originally canceled due to political pressure. Indeed, Spokane’s newspaper even claims to have …

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