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.

Tilahun Liben thought he was seeing things. Surely that mound of orange orbs under those trees near his church couldn't be oranges. Could they?

It was 2010, and Liben had just arrived in Tucson, Ariz., as a refugee from Ethiopia. He had been a musician, playing saxophone in nightclubs, but that life ended abruptly in 1999 when an oppressive regime imprisoned him for three months for his political dissent. After Liben's release, further persecution forced him to flee his homeland: He ended up at the Kakuma refugee camp, in Kenya, where he waited 10 years to be resettled.

The Rise Of Halal Cuisine In An Age Of Islamophobia

Oct 26, 2017

It's an evening late in the spring, and the sun is perilously close to setting. I'm getting nervous. Ramadan brings out the Muslim rush when it's time to break our fast, which puts me among the throng outside of Bantam King, a Japanese restaurant in D.C.'s Chinatown where we've all congregated. That's because Bantam King announced on Facebook that it was only serving halal food during the holy month.

A friend enters the shop and greets me. "Hey, assalamu alaikum," she says. Gesturing to the people around us she remarks, "I guess everyone came to try the halal ramen."

Water spinach goes by many other names. A staple among some Asian-American families for stir-frys and soups, this stalky vegetable with arrowhead leaves and hollow stems is known as ong choy in Cantonese and rau muống in Vietnamese.

But in a Cambodian-American community tucked down the gravel roads of Rosharon, Texas — about a half-hour south of Houston — most people call it by its Khmer name, trakoun.

In a normal year, Kevin Bradley, a professor of weed science at the University of Missouri, would have spent his summer testing new ways to control a troublesome little plant called water hemp.

This has not been a normal year.

On the coastal edge of Georgia sits a small, dwindling community known as the Gullah Geechee. The people in the community are direct descendants of enslaved West Africans who settled on the barrier islands there. The Gullah Geechee's unofficial historian and vocal advocate for the preservation of the community, Cornelia Walker Bailey, has died. She was 72.

Candy is not a food known for its use of wholesome ingredients. In fact, it barely qualifies as a food at all. But Jami Curl, the confectioner behind Portland's Quin candy shop, is trying to change that.

There's a genetic technology that scientists are eager to apply to food, touting its possibilities for things like mushrooms that don't brown and pigs that are resistant to deadly diseases.

And food industry groups, still reeling from widespread protests against genetically engineered corn and soybeans (aka GMOs) that have made it difficult to get genetically engineered food to grocery store shelves, are looking to influence public opinion.

World wine production is having a historically bad year.

Europe, home to the world's leading wine producers, is making wine at significantly lower levels than usual – and that's because of "extreme weather events" such as frost and drought that have damaged vineyards, according to the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV).

There’s a genetic technology that scientists are eager to apply to food, touting its possibilities for things like mushrooms that don’t brown and pigs that are resistant to deadly diseases.

And food industry groups, still reeling from widespread protests against genetically engineered corn and soybeans (aka GMOs) that have made it difficult to get genetically engineered food to grocery store shelves, are looking to influence public opinion.

Some might consider the scraggly vines often spotted snaking up porch trellises in New York's Schoharie County a nuisance.

But there are some vine-like plants in this region that have a deep importance to the area — and signify promise for the future of local agriculture.

Hops helped make vast fortunes for farmers and brewers in New York state in the 19th century. Then, around 1910, a mildew blight ushered in their swift demise. There have been unsuccessful attempts to revive them ever since Prohibition ended in 1933.

Plant breeder Jessica Barb is on a mission to improve how sunflowers self-pollinate, a trait that'll be increasingly important to farmers are wild bee populations diminish. Her research tool of choice: a paper towel. 

Here's something that may sound like a contradiction in terms: low-fat pigs.

But that's exactly what Chinese scientists have created using new genetic engineering techniques.

In a paper published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists report that they have created 12 healthy pigs with about 24 percent less body fat than normal pigs.

What counts as dietary fiber? That's up for debate.

The Food and Drug Administration is reviewing 26 ingredients that food manufacturers use to bulk up the fiber content of processed foods to determine if there's a health benefit.

If you're a nutrition-label reader, the list includes some familiar-ish sounding ingredients — such as inulin, which is often sourced from chicory root.

The Coliseo is the biggest concert hall in San Juan, Puerto Rico. But since Hurricane Maria devastated the island a month ago, it's become the center of a massive effort to feed tens of thousands left hungry by the storm — an effort led by celebrity chef José Andrés.

"We're about to reach the million and a half [meals] served — a vast majority of them hot meals," says Andrés, who is known for his upscale restaurants in Washington, D.C., and for canceling his plans to open one in Donald Trump's D.C. hotel.

Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

At some point or another, we've all cringed at the videos: lame cows struggling to stand; egg-laying hens squeezed into small, stacked cages; hogs confined to gestation crates, unable to walk or turn.

Excerpt from Oysters: A Love Story

Oct 20, 2017

Excerpt from Tejal Rao's article, "Oysters: A Love Story," originally printed in the Eat column of The New York Times Magazine. Read the full article here.

The Key 3: Gail Simmons

Oct 20, 2017

For more than 10 years, Gail Simmons has decided the fate of hopeful chefs from all over the country as a judge on the show, Top Chef. She's also the author of the new cookbook, Bringing It Home. We asked Simmons to be part of our Key 3 series, in which we ask chefs, food writers, and celebrities to tell us about their three most go-to dishes. She told us about two of her favorites, chicken wings and butterscotch pudding.

Acid trip: searching the world for unique vinegars

Oct 20, 2017

Acidity is a key component to skillful cooking. Chefs are always talking about how a splash of acidic vinegar is what elevates a dish. Michael Harlan Turkell has spent his entire career around chefs, first as a cook himself, and then as a photographer and writer. During the time it took write and research his new book, Acid Trip, he’s become an expert on vinegars.

Sous vide basics with America’s Test Kitchen

Oct 20, 2017

Sous vide is a wonderfully easy cooking technique. Essentially, you create a warm water bath in which to slow-poach food that has been sealed in a plastic bag. Thanks to modern technology, most sous vide equipment is now lighter in weight, more precise, and – most importantly – affordable. So, it’s no surprise that the process is catching on with home cooks. For more insight into this low-maintenance cooking method, Francis Lam talked with Molly Birnbaum, executive director of science at America’s Test Kitchen.

For more than a week, Marisol Paniagua has been living at an evacuation center. She had been scheduled to pick grapes at a vineyard near the city of Santa Rosa, Calif. But that work was canceled because of the wildfires ravaging Northern California.

"It's very difficult right now because we just have a little bit of gas left in our car. That's how we are still able to drive around," said Paniagua, 37. "But the fact is, we have nothing."

In Northern California, two intoxicants are king — wine and weed.

Both products drive the $3.2 billion-a-year tourism industry in Napa and Sonoma counties. But as wildfires continue to rage through the region this week, marijuana growers and winemakers are struggling to keep their crops safe.

Jason Parrott/Tri States Public Radio

Two cases of Legionnaires' disease have been reported at a western Illinois veterans' home more than two years after an outbreak killed 12 people and sickened 54 at the facility.

In 1620, the Rev. George Thorpe sent a letter from a plantation near Jamestown, Va., to England describing a "good drinke of Indian corne" that he and his fellow colonists had made. Historians have speculated that Thorpe was talking about unaged corn whiskey, and that his distillation efforts on the banks of Virginia's James River might have produced America's first whiskey.

It's a bright fall morning in Santa Cruz County, Calif., and the tennis area at Brommer Street Park is overrun with dozens of people. But they aren't here for tennis. Instead, cadences of pick-pock sounds fill the air as doubles players — many in their 50s and older — whack yellow Wiffle-like balls back and forth on eight minicourts.

This recreational craze, which has an estimated 2.8 million players nationally, has a quirky name: pickleball.

Rasika, an Indian restaurant in Washington, D.C., has won just about every recognition possible. The Washington Post called it the No. 1 restaurant in the city. The chef has won a James Beard award — basically the Oscars of the food world. President Obama celebrated his birthday there — twice. And though the place has been open for more than a decade, it is only just now coming out with a cookbook.

Pez diablo: "devil fish." That's what locals in the Mexican state of Tabasco call the armored catfish that has invaded their waters.

Also known as suckermouths, the species is popular with aquarium owners because the fish eats the algae that pollute tanks. But in the wild, that same behavior erodes shorelines and devastates underwater plant life.

A Mexican social enterprise called Acari is trying to do something about it — by creating a taste for these aquatic terrors.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

One-third of all the food produced each year for human consumption is never eaten. That adds up to about 1.3 billion tons of waste per year. That unappetizing fact is the inspiration for a new documentary, Wasted! The Story of Food Waste, which was released on Oct. 13 in theaters and on demand.

$1.25 million.

That’s the size of the bill that could have shuttered the only public hospital in rural Pemiscot County, Missouri in August 2013.

$750,000 for payroll. $500,000 for a bond payment. $1.25 million total. One August day in 2013, the hospital’s CEO Kerry Noble had to face facts: The money just wasn’t there. It took an emergency bailout from a local bank to keep their doors open. For now.

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