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.

 

Fantasy farming gives high school students from western Illinois a chance to learn firsthand about the guesswork and gambles that farmers make every year.

 

“It’s almost like picking a fantasy football team,” said Troy Coziahr, Manager of the Monsanto Learning Center, a 480 acre research farm just south of Monmouth.

“They’re drafting their team and the hybrid is like the quarterback, right? That’s the first choice you‘re going to make. Nitrogen is kind of like the running back. That’s carrying the load.”

He was Russia's Mad Monk. A pale, bearded, wiry, horny, green-eyed debauch who was the preeminent power broker of the Romanov dynasty in its waning years. A party fiend, a drinker, a healer and a prophet who was poisoned, shot, drowned, and burned by his enemies.

But was he really?

Mika Peck, a conservation ecologist at England's University of Sussex, was frustrated. He'd been researching and publishing papers for years on the near-extinction of the Ecuadoran brown-headed spider monkey, and not much was happening to change the primate's extremely threatened status.

Not much, that is, until he started connecting the monkeys to gourmet chocolate.

A muted statue of the Virgin Mary received the revelers, a few hundred of New York City's fortunate elite, as they navigated the recesses of the dark, cool caverns underneath the Brooklyn Bridge on the Manhattan side. An orchestra struck up the first chords of the "Blue Danube." The ladies were careful not to lean against the slanted, peeling walls and the men minded their coattails. Amidst the stacks of wine crates stamped ANTHONY OECHS & CO., couples began to waltz. A bottle of fine champagne was passed around as a waiter produced a tray of crystal glasses.

Can New DNA Science Help Keep Our Fish Safe?

Jan 29, 2017

Biologist Shaun Clements stands in the winter mist in a coastal Oregon forest, holding a small vial of clear liquid.

"We should be safe mixing it now, right?" he asks his colleague, Kevin Weitemier, above the sound of a rushing stream a few feet away.

Weitemier brings a second vial, full of stream water. In deliberate, seemingly choreographed movements, they pour the liquid back and forth between the small containers, mixing two, then three times — never spilling a drop.

Oxford, Miss., is a town steeped in Southern identity.

"In many ways this is an archetypal Southern town," says John T. Edge, director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, which is based in Oxford. "There's a courthouse square at the center, there are beautiful homes with rolling lawns framing it."

And there's the University of Mississippi, known as Ole Miss, a campus once rocked by deadly riots over racial integration. To some, Oxford might seem an unlikely place for a native of India to achieve star status as a chef.

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If you've bought milk since 2003, you might be entitled to part of a $52 million class action lawsuit. It's the result of a battle between an animal rights group and the dairy industry over price fixing. Here's Elizabeth Kulas of our Planet Money podcast.

The fireplace is on. A couple of westies are running around excitedly. And two tables are set in the dining room.

The dinner party on this brisk winter night in Maplewood, N.J., has a distinctly foreign flare: chicken shawarma and falafel are on the menu. And while the conversation includes typical talk about work — it also deals with war.

"Every day is becoming terrible," explains Hayder Alqaysi, who fled Baghdad with his mother and sister. "You understand what I mean? I cannot live there."

For the first time, a U.S. team walked away with top honors at the prestigious Bocuse d'Or chef competition, seen as the Olympics of cooking.

The U.S. team was led by chef Mathew Peters and commis, or assistant, Harrison Turone. Norway took silver, and Iceland took bronze.

The competition pits 24 chefs against each other and is billed as the "most demanding and prestigious reward in world gastronomy," started by legendary French chef Paul Bocuse. The U.S. has long been an underdog: It has only stood on the podium once before, when it took silver in 2015.

President Trump's nominee to be the next Labor secretary, Andrew Puzder, runs a fast-food empire. Now, as he awaits his confirmation hearings, current and former workers of CKE Restaurants — which operates chains like Carl's Jr. and Hardee's — are filing complaints alleging employment-law violations at his company.

Ceatana Cardona says she was sexually harassed by her shift manager when she worked nights as a cashier at a Hardee's in Tampa, Fla.

The story of Sri Lanka's most beloved sweetener starts with the kithul, or fishtail, palm tree and a tapper, like 58-year-old Amuvita Gamage Dayasena.

Tom Coleman is busy pruning branches off pistachio trees that aren't budding at an orchard just north of Fresno, Calif. He farms and manages more than 8,000 acres of pistachios across the state.

"Here's an example of some hanging down nuts from last year that just wouldn't come off because of the position on the tree, so we want to remove that," says Coleman.

In a monastery tucked away in a quiet back lane of Bangalore, India, Benedictine monks of the Vallombrosian Order are using their European connections to meet rising demand for fresh, Italian-style cheese in this South Asian country.

Down Times In Farm Country, But Not Yet A Crisis

Jan 24, 2017
HPM

Farmers across the Midwest are trying to figure out how to get by at a time when expected prices for commodities from corn, to wheat, to cattle, to hogs mean they’ll be struggling just to break even.

On a frigid winter night, a man wearing two coats shuffles into a brightly lit brick restaurant in downtown Madrid. Staff greet him warmly; he's been here many times. The maître d' stamps his ID card, and the hungry man selects a table with a red tablecloth, under a big brass chandelier.

The man, Luis Gallardo, is homeless — and so are all the diners, every night, at the city's Robin Hood restaurant. Its mission is to charge the rich and feed the poor. Paying customers at breakfast and lunch foot the bill for the restaurant to serve dinner to homeless people, free of charge.

Last week, as official Washington obsessed over the Coming Of Trump, there was a gathering in our nation's capital that had almost nothing to do with the inauguration or politics.

It took place at a sleek and stylish restaurant/brewery called Bluejacket, built inside the walls of an old factory. It's a striking and airy space, the dining room framed by tall fermentation tanks made of gleaming steel.

It is a very attractive truffle.

It's made of the usual ingredients — cocoa butter, sugar, chocolate — with a not-so-typical addition. Thirty grams of dried tomatoes from Nigeria.

And it was served at the World Economic Forum last week in Davos, Switzerland, with a very specific goal in mind: "to raise awareness on food waste and hunger," as stated in a press release.

That's a big job for a bonbon — and it's the reason for the tomatoes.

Every day, Border Grill restaurant at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas uses a case of tomatillos and at least a case of cilantro. The tomatillos go into dishes like the pozole verde, a spicy stew with chicken and hominy. The cilantro goes into the green rice, the guacamole, the Yucatan pork roasted in banana leaves and just about everything else.

Woman shopping produce at Farmer's Market
NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Lindsay Record has been Executive Director of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance for more than a decade.  Her tenure witnessed a renewed interest on local food and sustainability.  And one of the places that was most visible was at farmer’s markets.

But the crowds have begun to taper off, at markets in Springfield and other locations in the state. 

In the Central Valley, there's a bumper sticker you see all over the place. It's shaped like California, and reads "My job depends on Ag." In California, that agriculture depends on immigrant labor.

Many farmers in the state supported President Donald Trump despite his hard-line stance on immigration. So as the new Trump administration takes office, what's the thinking of those involved in the region's biggest industry?

Last year, Georgia's former governor, Sonny Perdue, called up a farmer named Gary Paulk for some advice about planting blackberry bushes. Paulk thought it was a prank.

"I picked up the phone and he said, 'Gary, how you doing? This is Sonny Perdue,' " Paulk recalls. "And I said, 'Yeah right, and I'm Mickey Mouse.' " Paulk says he apologized when he realized it actually was Perdue on the line.

Perdue is now Donald Trump's pick for secretary of agriculture, and Paulk expects that he'll keep calling farmers for advice, and maybe just conversation.

For many pregnant women, understanding what seafood is safe and healthy, and what should be avoided because of mercury concerns comes with a lot of hand-wringing. In part, that's because the federal government's advice on the matter, first issued in 2004, has long been criticized as unclear.

That guidance has included advice on how much seafood to eat, and which species pregnant and nursing women should avoid over concerns about mercury contamination.

Are There More Than Five Basic Tastes?

Jan 19, 2017

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Five Senses

About Nicole Garneau's TED Talk

Scientists have long believed we have just five tastes - salty, sweet, bitter, sour and umami (or savory). Geneticist Nicole Garneau argues we might be able to taste a sixth — fat.

About Nicole Garneau

On a chilly winter morning, dozens of truck driver trainees file into a classroom at the headquarters of Prime Inc., a trucking company based in Springfield, Mo.

At the front is Siphiwe Baleka, an energetic former swimming champion in his mid-40s. He delivers grim news about trucker health to the new recruits.

"If you haven't started to think about this, you need to start right now," Baleka says. "You are about to enter the most unhealthy occupation in America."

Why America Is Growing The Most Sweet Potatoes Since WWII

Jan 19, 2017

Sweet potatoes are undergoing a modern renaissance in this country.

While they have always made special appearances on many American tables around the holidays, year-round demand for the root vegetables has grown. In 2015, farmers produced more sweet potatoes than in any year since World War II.

War Effort

"A lot of things were hard to get during World War II, and potatoes were easier to raise than some of the other vegetables," my grandmother Joyce Heise tells me.

It took years of heated debate, but the federal government has finally decided just how much living space an organic chicken should have.

It's part of a new set of rules that cover many aspects of animal welfare in the organic food industry. But the biggest impact of the rule will be felt in the organic egg industry.

Chances are you or somebody you know has recently become the owner of an Instant Pot, the multifunction electric pressure cooker that can produce fork-tender pot roasts in less than an hour, as well as brown meat, cook beans without soaking, and even do the job of a rice cooker or crockpot.

Chamoy Is Mexico's Flavor Fiesta Condiment, Courtesy Of China

Jan 17, 2017

The first time I tasted chamoy was in the Mexican border town of Eagle Pass, Texas. At a street cart vendor, chamoy apples sat alongside elotes and tamales. The tart Granny Smith was rolled in a thick paste that was sweet, salty, spicy and sour all at once.

As I took the first bite, I thought: "There is no way this is gonna work." But it did, and after that, the mere thought of chamoy made me salivate like a Pavlovian dog. I had to learn more about it.

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