Health+Harvest

NPR Illinois Community Advisory Board 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 and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  If you'd like to support this initiative, please contact Nice Bogdanovich at 217-206-9847.

Wheat has been getting a bad rap lately.

Many folks are experimenting with the gluten-free diet, and a best-selling book called Wheat Belly has helped drive a lot of the interest.

"Wheat is the most destructive thing you could put on your plate, no question," says William Davis, a cardiologist in Milwaukee, Wis., who authored the book.

McDonald's Says Bye-Bye To Sugary Sodas In Happy Meals

Sep 26, 2013

Fast-food giant McDonald's has made a commitment to stop marketing sodas as a beverage option in kids' Happy Meals.

Instead, the chain has committed to market and promote only milk, water and juice with the children's meals.

Now, if parents order a Coke or Sprite with their child's Happy Meal, they won't be turned down. But sodas will no longer be marketed or promoted visually in any of McDonald's advertisements or in-store visuals.

Hash Browns To Soothe Any Homesick Midwesterner

Sep 26, 2013

Ten years ago, when Amy Thielen moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., she and her husband bemoaned the lack of hash browns in the city. She says there were ample breakfast places serving home fries or sliced potatoes cooked with peppers and onions — but no hash browns.

"My husband would often rail when we would sit down to a plate of home fries," Thielen says. "He would say, 'Where is the dividing line? Where do hash browns stop in the United States?' "

Let's face it: In the popular imagination, the stereotypical chef has a large gut protruding from under his white double-breasted coat. And that stereotype is often accurate — by some estimates, 70 percent of chefs in the U.S. are overweight. Weight gain seems to be par for the course when you're spending your day tasting food and your late nights unwinding after a stressful dinner service.

Lots of people think of fish as brain food. And there's good reason.

Many kinds of fish — think salmon, sardines, tuna — contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, a class of polyunsaturated fat, which have been shown to fight inflammation and improve the function of our neurons.

In Denmark, pigs outnumber people 2 to 1. No traditional Danish meal would be complete without something wrapped in, wrapped around, or topped with pork.

In 2012, the country exported close to $6 billion in pig meat, a figure that includes "carcasses" — which leads to the question: What does one do with a pig carcass?

All this is by way of explaining the hubbub that erupted following a recent headline: "Day Cares Ban Pork."

Sometimes we at Parallels see a story that's so compelling, we make an extra effort to chase down the facts. So it's in that spirit, this story from Reuters caught our attention:

Rooftop Farming Is Getting Off The Ground

Sep 25, 2013

From vacant lots to vertical "pinkhouses," urban farmers are scouring cities for spaces to grow food. But their options vary widely from place to place.

While farmers in post-industrial cities like Detroit and Cleveland are claiming unused land for cultivation, in New York and Chicago, land comes at a high premium. That's why farmers there are increasingly eyeing spaces that they might not have to wrestle from developers: rooftops that are already green.

Gravenstein Apples: The End Of Summer In A Fruit

Sep 25, 2013

In fall, my thoughts naturally turn to apples. Specifically, Gravensteins.

Frank Morris/Harvest Public Media

Congress is bitterly divided on food stamps and other issues contained in the farm bill, but both political parties agree on something: the $5 billion-a-year farm subsidy called Direct and Countercyclical Payments has got to go.

The program shells out to farmers and land owners regardless of need or loss. It’s a hold-out from a farm bill that promised an end to subsidies and it’s holding on only because Congress is so dysfunctional.  

Americans love bananas. Each year, we eat more bananas than any other fruit. But banana growers use a lot of pesticides — and those chemicals could be hurting wildlife. As a new study shows, the pesticides are ending up in the bodies of crocodiles living near banana farms in Costa Rica, where many of the bananas we eat are grown.

The Knowles gallery/flickr

Buying a new farm tractor costs almost as much as a new home in a decent suburb.  

Shelling out $200,000 or more for shiny new John Deere, Case IH, New Holland or other name brand horsepower to work the fields of a 21st century Midwestern farm isn’t unusual, farmers and dealers say.

What seems more unusual, to newcomers to farm economics at least, is that those shiny new models aren’t the hottest selling big iron on many dealers’ lots.  That would be the used tractors that were traded in when the new models rolled off the dealers’ flatbed trucks.

Obamacare Could Be Tough Sell In Rural Areas

Sep 24, 2013
Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

The Affordable Care Act, often called “Obamacare,” takes a big step forward Oct. 1 when new health insurance marketplaces open for enrollment. Rural families are more likely to qualify for subsidized coverage, but reaching them to sign up will be part of the challenge.

So, will farm country take advantage of new health insurance subsidies? That’s the question in Nebraska.

Almost 200,000 Nebraskans don’t have health insurance. Nearly half of them are spread across the state’s rural areas.

On a gorgeous night, some 4,000 people, dressed all in white, have come to dine in a public, yet secret place in New York's Bryant Park.

They have come for Diner en Blanc, an unusual pop-up event that takes place in 20 countries. The guests eat in splendor at a location they only learn about minutes before they arrive. The thousands wave white napkins to signal the beginning of the event.

The world's No. 2 hamburger chain is rolling out lower fat, lower calorie french fries Tuesday.

Burger King says it hopes its Satisfries will attract health-conscious customers who have cut back on fries.

A small order of the new crinkle-cut fries has 270 calories, compared with 340 calories for a small order of regular fries.

Executives at the company say that except for the shape, customers won't be able to tell that Satisfries are lower in calories.

Chicago-based singer-songwriter Susan Werner has worked on concept albums before – from jazz standards to pop classics to Gospel music for agnostics. But now she's turned to her farm roots for inspiration.

Werner, who's currently touring in the Midwest, desribes her new CD, Hayseed, as "egg meets art," celebrating agriculture through music.

Sea urchins are considered a culinary delicacy in many parts of the world, including Japan and the United States. The market for this "foie gras of the sea" is growing rapidly — so fast that supply can't keep up with demand.

But a scientist in Birmingham, Ala., says he's found a solution: He's built a sea urchin farm in his lab and has even developed a food for them to make them taste better. Now, he wants to take his tasty urchins out of his farm and into restaurants across the country.

Sandwich Monday: The Woody Allen

Sep 23, 2013

So many great sandwiches have been named after great directors: the reuben, named for the great Ingmar Reuben, and the cheese sandwich, named for James Cameron. The Carnegie Deli in New York created the "Woody Allen," and our own Eleven City Diner here in Chicago copied it "oh so close." It's a double-decker corned beef and pastrami on rye.

Ian: Boy, the pastrami at this place is really good. And in such large portions!

Bill Wheelhouse/Harvest Public Media

On a hot August day in late August, Kevin Bien stands in the shade of a large gray piece of farm equipment.  The brand marketing manager for Gleaner Combines gives his best spiel to a group of farmers attending the Farm progress Show  in Decatur.   Torque, efficiency, and new technology are among his key points for the prospective buyers of the large machines that can run anywhere from $300,000 to $500,000.    

And farmers are buying. Frequently.

The French, it seems, aren't eating bread the way they used to. The average French person consumes just half a baguette a day, down from a full baguette 40 years ago.

Those statistics worry the French bakers' lobby, the Observatoire du Pain.

Bernard Vallius, who heads the group, says it used to be that people ate a sit-down lunch and dinner with family or friends every day. Now people — especially the young and those who live in cities — eat sandwiches or skip lunch altogether and snack, he says.

Every year, the trade magazine Drinks International puts out a list of the top-selling alcohols in the world, and in the category of spirits, there is one brand that more than doubles the sales of its closest competitor every year. Smirnoff, Jack Daniel's and Bacardi don't even come close.

There's a certain kind of joy in breaking the overnight fast by biting into a bagel: crackling crust, chewy center, smooth and silky cream cheese, sharp smoked salmon. For some, capers and onions join the ritual.

But just who invented this breakfast staple, which has become as American as apple pie?

Here's some food for thought: One-third of the world's food goes to waste every year. In the U.S., about 40 percent of our food gets thrown out. It's happening on the farm, at the grocery store and in our own homes.

Backing a losing NFL team isn't just bad for your pride.

It's bad for your waistline.

A study that links sports outcomes with the eating behavior of fans finds that backers of NFL teams eat more food and fattier food the day after a loss. Backers of winning teams, by contrast, eat lighter food, and in moderation.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted Thursday to slash $40 billion from the federal food stamp program.

GOP lawmakers cited what they said was widespread abuse of the program, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, which is intended to help poor individuals and families buy groceries.

The vote to cut food stamps came on a party line vote of 217-200.

"It's wrong for working, middle-class people to pay" for abuse of the program, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said.

In the quirky little college town of Yellow Springs, Ohio, home to many unconventional ideas over the years, there's now a small insect factory.

It's an unassuming operation, a generic boxy building in a small industrial park. It took me a while even to find a sign with the company's name: EnviroFlight. But its goal is grand: The people at EnviroFlight are hoping that their insects will help our planet grow more food while conserving land and water.

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.

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