Health+Harvest

NPR Illinois Campus & Community Council identified the subject of food and health as important subjects for coverage in 2012.  Health+Harvest provides for community engagement on health and food issues along with reporting on farm, field and fuel.  From seed to plate, from farmer's markets to GMOs, central Illinoisans need to know how to stay healthy and what they are eating.  In 2013, NPR Illinois joined a consortium of public media in the Harvest Public Media network.  The network provides broader coverage to Midwest food issues.

By examining these local, regional and national issues and their implications with in-depth and unbiased reporting, Health+Harvest fills a critical information void.

Support for Health+Harvest coverage comes from Central Illinois Farm Bureaus, GenHKids, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  If you'd like to support this initiative, please contact Nick Reynolds at 217-206-9847.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Now, more on the SNAP program. Close to 16 million American households, nearly 14 percent of households, receive food stamps. That's 48 million Americans. Who are they and how would a cut affect them? Well, we're going to put those questions to Stacy Dean at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Welcome to the program.

STACY DEAN: Thanks for having me.

SIEGEL: What does that population look like? Who are those 48 million Americans?

Obesity. Diabetes. By now, we've all heard of the health risks posed by drinking too much soda.

But over in Appalachia, the region that stretches roughly from southern New York state to Alabama, the fight against soda is targeting an altogether different concern: rotted teeth.

The little plastic sample tray is empty, but the man behind the counter quickly replaces it with one full of a mooncake cut into teeny-tiny pieces. I grab a piece (OK, a couple) before the jostling crowd behind me can get to it. Samples are, after all, the only reason to visit Costco in the middle of a Sunday. There's a large display of square tins, each decorated with a painting of a Chinese man. I take one back to my mother and ask, "Can we get one?"

The House of Representatives is expected to take up a bill Thursday that would chart the course for federal nutrition programs for years to come.

The measure calls for $40 billion in cuts over a decade to the federal food stamp program, now known as SNAP. The measure's Republican backers say it attacks fraud, but advocates say it will hurt the poor.

For the past few weeks, the culinary arts students at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., have been working with some less-than-seasoned sous chefs.

One of them, Clinton Piper, may look like a pro in his chef's whites, but he's struggling to work a whisk through some batter. "I know nothing about baking," he says.

Melissa Block is in Olinda, Brazil where a street vendor teaches her the secret to making Brazilian-style tapioca.

This medical case may give a whole new meaning to the phrase "beer gut."

A 61-year-old man — with a history of home-brewing — stumbled into a Texas emergency room complaining of dizziness. Nurses ran a Breathalyzer test. And sure enough, the man's blood alcohol concentration was a whopping 0.37 percent, or almost five times the legal limit for driving in Texas.

There was just one hitch: The man said that he hadn't touched a drop of alcohol that day.

Tufts University announced Tuesday that one of its researchers broke ethical rules while carrying out a study of genetically modified "golden rice" in China.

Scientists claim they have evidence that explains why lifestyle changes known to be good for you — low-fat diets, exercise, reducing stress — can lengthen your life.

Based on a small, exploratory study, researchers say these good habits work by preventing chromosomes in our cells from unraveling. Basically, they assert that healthy living can reverse the effects of aging at a genetic level.

The French novelist Marcel Proust immortalized the connection between food and memory when the narrator of his novel Remembrances of Things Past bit into a madeleine and was transported to thoughts of his childhood.

But what if that madeleine were poisoned, so to speak?

That is the question underlying Russian American writer Anya von Bremzen's new memoir, Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking. Though it contains recipes, this is not a cookbook but rather, a history of a family and of Soviet Russia.

When critics of industrial agriculture complain that today's food production is too big and too dependent on pesticides, that it damages the environment and delivers mediocre food, there's a line that farmers offer in response: We're feeding the world.

It's high-tech agriculture's claim to the moral high ground. Farmers say they farm the way they do to produce food as efficiently as possible to feed the world.

Darrell Hoemann/The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

Last summer’s drought knocked the nation’s corn exports to the mat.  And while U.S. farmers may be getting up from that punch, it may take them longer to regain their footing in international markets.  

Horse Slaughter Divides Horse Lovers

Sep 10, 2013
Frank Morris/Harvest Public Media

Most Americans don’t eat horse meat, and they don’t like the idea of horses being slaughtered, but a handful of investors are struggling to restart a horse slaughter industry in the United States.

The investors argue that reviving horse slaughter plants would be both good for the horse business and more humane than the current situation. They’re hoping to open a new horse slaughter plant near Gallatin, Mo., but opposition has the project mired in the legal system. The issue cleaves horse owners into two camps: one that views horses as pets and another that see them as livestock.

Timothy Baker

Farmers across Illinois and other midwest states are worried about their berries, peaches and tomatoes thanks to a newly arrived pest.  

The spotted wing drosophila looks like an ordinary fruit fly but is way more deadly. It kills healthy fruit by making a tiny slit in a fruit’s skin and laying eggs inside. In two weeks, a female fly can lay more than 300 eggs. So a couple of adults can become thousands in a few months. Lincoln University’s Jaime Piñero says no soft fruit is safe.

droughtmonitor.unl.edu

The U.S. Drought Monitor has expanded the area in Illinois considered to be in "moderate drought." 

State Climatologist Jim Angel says exceptionally dry conditions over the last 60 days along with high temperatures has resulted in 39 percent of Illinois now experiencing a drought.  

Angel also says the drought appears to be impacting crops and yards more than water supplies.

plantcovercrops.com

Farmers across the country received more than $17-Billion in federal crop insurance  payouts after last year’s drought. A report by one environmental group blames farmers for not doing enough to shield the soil against the heat. 

My Farm Roots: Community Counts

Sep 3, 2013
Jeremy Bernfeld/Harvest Public Media

This is the thirteenth installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

Matt Pauly has traveled the world  – he’s lived in New York, Paris, South Korea – but he’s still a farm boy at heart.

Darrell Hoemann/ Midwest Center For Investigative Reporting

Farmers in the Midwest were devastated by a crippling drought in 2012. The federal crop insurance program paid out a record $17.3 billion. And in rural America, that money is still paying dividends. To understand the impact, Harvest Public Media reporter Bill Wheelhouse took a tour of Livingston County, Illinois. Farmers here received by far the biggest insurance payout in the nation.

On this sweltering day in mid-August, surrounded by healthy 8-foot tall corn stalks, Doug Wilson peels back the husks to see how his corn is looking. The verdict?

Farm Progress Show: Large Crowds, No Records

Sep 2, 2013
Bill Wheelhouse/Harvest Public Radio

Organizers of this year's Farm Progress Show say they'll wait to decide whether to keep an onsite annex when the nation's largest outdoor farm show returns to Decatur in 2015.  
This year's three-day show had about 600 vendors _ the most in its 60 year history. With so many vendors, organizers added an annex for new exhibitors.  

flickr/dabadoo

West central Illinois is now in what is being called a moderate drought.  That's despite a relatively cool and wet start to the summer.

The US Drought Monitor's latest map shows moderate drought for the western half of Sangamon County and farther west all the way into Missouri.  

The state's climatologist, Jim Angel,  says most droughts move slow and take 3-6 months to develop. However, sometimes they can move  fast if conditions are right, leading to the term “flash drought”. This situation appears to be developing west central Illinois.

Bill Wheelhouse/Harvest Public Media

Hot weather has been greeting visitors to this years Farm Progress Show in Decatur.  And as the show enters its final day Thursday, the head of a national trade group says weather is also on the mind of midwest farmers attending the event. 

Vineyards Face Threat From Herbicide Drift

Aug 26, 2013
Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

As Midwest vineyards move in next door to longstanding fields of corn or soybeans, they don’t always make good neighbors. Occasionally, herbicides like 2,4-D drift beyond their target, and for nearby vineyards the results can be devastating.

2,4-D is a common herbicide used by farmers because it kills weeds but doesn’t kill their corn. Landscapers and golf courses use it on lawns and fairways. Highway crews often spray 2,4-D on road ditches.

My Farm Roots: Born To Farm

Aug 26, 2013
Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

This is the twelfth installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

One sign that you have strong farm roots is when your rural road is named for your family.

Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media

Five years ago, Howard G. Buffett was at a meeting of an international food aid agency when he was told that feeding the millions of starving people in Africa was simple.

Just give them better seeds, someone said.

That advice might work on some philanthropists. But Buffett, son of billionaire Warren Buffett, happens to be an Illinois farmer.

“This guy was explaining to me how to farm and he’d never been on a farm in his life,” he said. “So it really kind of irritated me. I came home and said, ‘OK, I’m going to have data to show these guys.’”

Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

This is the eleventh installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

Danelle Myer owns a small vegetable farm and like many other small farmers, she’s passionate about the kind of operation she wants to grow: a small, local business.

State Fairs: A Summer Tradition

Aug 16, 2013
Bill Wheelhouse/Harvest Public Media

It’s August. The days are growing shorter, fall is approaching, but summer isn’t done just yet. All over the country folks are flocking to that ultimate summer tradition: the state fair.

Carnival rides and games, meat on a stick, livestock competitions – the Midwest does state fairs up right. And for many, summer in the Midwest isn't complete without a trip to the state fair. For others, a virtual visit will have to do.

Scott Stuntz

With Congress in its August recess, the farm bill is stalled and many are pessimistic about getting a new bill passed before the current extension expires on Sept. 30. Still, farm country legislators aren’t exactly giving up hope.
Republican Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock was asked about the farm bill at a town hall style meeting in in his district this week.
He said that he thinks the most likely outcome is that the House will pass a “food stamp bill,” to go along with a agriculture portion it passed in June. That could put the farm bill back on track.

Peter Gray/WUIS

The stakes are high for honeybees.

A survey conducted by the USDA shows apiaries continue to lose nearly one third of hives each year.

That has led some environmental activists to push for further restrictions on a pesticide used to treat seed corn.

My Farm Roots: Tough Guys In The Saddle

Aug 12, 2013
Frank Morris/Harvest Public Media

This is the tenth installment of the 2013 edition of My Farm Roots, Harvest Public Media’s series chronicling Americans’ connection to the land. Click here to explore more My Farm Roots stories and to share your own.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts the nation’s farmers will deliver a record 3.42 billion bushels of soybeans this year. The USDA is also forecasting that this year for the first time Brazil will overtake the United States as the world’s leading producer of soybeans. That means the pressure is on American soybean farmers like Brian Flatt, 41, to eke out even more soybeans from his fields.

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