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Food Policy Opinion

How Donald Trump’s Presidency Has Affected Our Food

Photos: Sonder Quest on Unsplash and the White House Archives

After a tumultuous and chaotic four years, Donald Trump’s presidential run is coming to an end as Joe Biden assumes the presidency.

Four years of policymaking by the executive branch in that timeline has altered the food landscape in numerous ways. As we take a look back at Trump’s term and what he did to the world of food, we also can see the challenges Biden will have to overcome in that industry and field as he steps into the Oval Office. 

Overall, the numbers paint a more bleak picture for how food is made, its cost, and access to nutrition compared to four years ago. Below are some of the ways the food world has changed with Trump at the country’s helm.

The cost of food increased over the last four years, leading to rises in food insecurity

Photo: Motion Array

One of the key economic measures folks can look at for the cost of food comes from the Consumer Price Index. That chart shows that the cost of food went up 4% in the last year, and had additional increases ranging from 1.6-1.8% in each year of Trump’s presidency. This is compared to small increases of less than 1 percent, or even decreases, in the cost of food in the years prior.

As the cost of food has climbed, so has food insecurity, or the ability to access food by the general population. Prior to the 2020 pandemic, food insecurity had been dropping, and was at 15.7%. Conditions exacerbated by the lengthening of the pandemic, however, cause food insecurity to double overall, and triple amongst families with children. 

As Joe Biden takes office, bringing the cost of food down to help make it affordable, while improving economic livelihoods to decrease food insecurity, will need to be a priority as we emerge from the pandemic in the months to come. 

The power of Food Stamps and SNAP has significantly decreased, the program was almost gutted

Photo: Jeff Bukowski // Shutterstock

Food stamps were a program targeted for cuts early on in the Trump Administration, and in 2019, they finally got their wish. Regulations were enacted that restricted the number of people eligible for food stamps, with up to 3.7 million potentially being impacted by the new rules. 

While one could argue that an improving economy prior to the pandemic was dropping the number of those enrolled, numbers skyrocketed once COVID-19 hit. 38 million people were on food stamps in 2019, and that number jumped to 43 million in early 2020. 

The recent stimulus package passed by Congress did loosen eligibility requirements for food stamps, and benefits were also expanded. In a challenging economy caused by COVID-19, we can expect numbers to go up, but hopefully, as jobs come back, numbers of those who need food assistance will decrease naturally.

Food became more unsafe, less inspected, had more outbreaks and more at risk to more contamination

Photo: Aleksander Malivuk // Shutterstock

The FDA under the Trump Administration cut back warning letters sent to facilities by a third, meaning that enforcement and regulatory warnings to help prevent contamination were limited at a similar rate. 

The pandemic also led to the suspension of routine inspections of food processing facilities domestic and abroad. The amount of potential fraud and contamination that could arise is alarming, but we have yet to see any measurable data in that regard.

What we have seen, however, is a measurable rise in foodborne pathogen illnesses. Comparing data from 2016-2018 to just 2019, every single one of the eight most common pathogens saw an increase in reported cases. Produce and chicken, which the USDA just allowed to raise processing speeds on, were the most common causes, and even the CDC says that progress in controlling the pathogens has “stalled.” 

Increasing food safety inspections is a tough ask to do during a pandemic, given the risk of spreading infection to all of those involved. Improving food safety technology and getting inspections to above normal rates should help in the long run, however.

Racism targeting the food industry rose steadily, but so did pushback

Photo: Shutterstock

Maybe this was just due to claims made by the president that exacerbated hatred against Asian-American and more specifically, Chinese-American communities, or it could have been increased exposure to incidences on social media. Nonetheless, racism within the food industry was continually exposed over the last 4 years, and during the pandemic, Asian-American business owners were hit hard. They saw a 26 percent drop in business compared to 22 percent for other businesses. 

Issues of equity in the food, food media, and restaurant industries are nothing new. But during the Trump presidency, private businesses took it upon themselves to do better, even if the country’s leader was still being blatantly racist towards many groups. Many major firms, including Bon Appetit and the Los Angeles Times, expelled or took corrective actions against those who were racist to others in the company.

Of course, there’s still a long way to go in that regard.

School lunch nutrition, and children’s nutrition in general, took a massive hit

Photo: Motion Array

One of the first actions the Trump Administration took was to limit the guidelines set in place by Michelle Obama that improved the quality and nutrition of childrens’ school lunches. The Trump Administration started by allowing for more sodium and flavored milks while decreasing whole grains required for kids.

That was initially rebuffed by a federal judge in 2017, but the Trump Administration continued by limiting the amount of fruits and veggies schools had to serve to kids. The administration is also taking another run at the initial limitations they desired, but a final rule never materialized before Joe Biden’s inauguration. 

This comes as labeling requirements to point out added sugars and other changes have been indefinitely delayed, meaning that parents and kids may not have access to all of that info on all products they buy at the store. 

Whether the Biden administration chooses to lift that indefinite delay and restore school nutrition policies remains to be seen, though many experts predict it will happen with his first 100 days as president.

Price fixing scandals within the industry have been caught and halted

Photo: Motion Array

Across the meat, poultry, and seafood industries, executives have been consolidating and artificially inflating prices. This was proven in both the poultry and seafood industries, where the Department of Justice has levied fines or indicted individuals and companies in both groups. 

Companies where employees were charged included StarKist, Bumblebee, Tyson, Pilgrim’s Pride, and Claxton Poultry Farms. 

The Trump Administration is also actively investigating the meat/beef industry, although no charges or fines have yet to be levied. The investigations that the Justice Department started will continue and be handed over to Biden Administration officials.

Farmers are relying on the government more than ever to survive: well, big farmers at least

Photo: Motion Array

The government has long been subsidizing farmers to help keep the costs of produce down. Due to Trump’s trade war with China that sharply elevated prices, that amount of subsidy increased, to the amount where farmers could be getting up to 40 percent of their income from the government. That’s not sustainable for a business to survive on in the long run.

What makes matters worse is that most of that funding is being used to subsidize major farm and production corporations, rather than small farms. Two-thirds of the above payments went to the top 10 producers, while small farms and those with diversified operations were largely shut out.

This all comes as the country continues to see an exodus of small farms that has continued over the past 40 years. While small farms used to constitute half of all farming in the 1980s, they now only consist of just a fourth of farming. Over 1,000 dairy farms have also closed in just the past year in Wisconsin, and even agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue acknowledged the issue, saying “In America, the big get bigger and the small go out.”

Could the United States go further and privatize farming to guarantee incomes? Or will improved trade deals and economic conditions mean that they will have to help farmers less? That’s something the Biden Administration may have to decide in the coming years as they navigate issues surrounding farmers, including climate change and the current trade war with China.

GMOs got updated labeling requirements, but new nutrition labels have yet to be enforced

Photo courtesy of the FDA

Good news, America: You’ll now be able to see if a product contains GMOs based on labels that were passed into law in 2019. President Obama signed the requirements into law in 2016, and the industry is starting to have to comply, with everyone needing labels by 2022. 

Bad news, though: the updated nutrition label laws that show added sugars, make calories bigger, and implement other changes that are required at restaurant chains, are indefinitely delayed. While many companies took it upon themselves to institute the changes anyway, the Trump Administration chose to keep pushing the enforcement date back on them. Eventually, they chose to just indefinitely delay it in response to pressure from trade groups.

Biden may choose to end that delay and push them into effect, which would bring everyone up to date on nutrition labelling nearly 5 years after legislation was passed requiring them. Industry lobbyists, however, could still prevail.

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Celebrity Grub Fast Food Now Trending

Clemson Football Wins National Title And All The White House Gave Them To Eat Was Fast Food

The classic challenge coaches give us when playing sports is that if we can pull off the impossible, they’ll treat us to a steak dinner of some kind. It carries a level of achievement because we get to feast on an expensive, tasty cut of meat to reward our athletic feats.

That’s almost completely the opposite of what Clemson University got during their recent trip to the White House.

Maybe it was because of the government shutdown tightening budgets, or maybe it was because the President thinks that fast food is an actual reward. Whatever the case, the Clemson football team got a massive serving of fast food staples as their reward for winning a national title and getting to meet the President.

According to Reuters reporter Roberta Rampton, the President paid out of pocket for the fast food feast because most of the White House residence staff were furloughed as a part of the shutdown. That meant that Clemson football got to snack on Filet-o-Fishes, fast food salads, Wendy’s burgers, and McDonald’s Quarter Pounders, based on photos that Rampton took.

This is Clemson’s second national title (and White House visit) in the past 3 years. Last time, The Morning Call reports that they were treated to “the best finger food I ever had,” as one player in attendance put it. Shrimp were among the delicacies offered back then, so for any returning Clemson football players, the spread of McDonald’s and Wendy’s was clearly a step down of what they were used to.

Not the feast you dream of when getting to go to such an illustrious place as the White House. Apparently, Clemson’s team ate most of what was available though, so at least they didn’t leave the tour hungry.

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News Opinion

Trump Stamps Out SNAP Production for Unfinished Proposal

With the newly proposed budget for the 2019 fiscal year, President Donald Trump is attempting to steer America’s hungry population down a road with no pavement, speed limit, or direction.

The newly proposed, “America’s Harvest Box” project, aims to deliver all that a family would need, in terms of nutrition, without the hassle of choosing your food for yourself via food stamps. It seems making America great again means controlling even the most basic of human functions — finding your own food.

By taking that one factor of agency away from the people that might need that freedom the most, Trump is effectively force feeding a nation with these “Harvest Boxes.”

Fiscally, it’s fraught with doublespeak and underlying costs.

Reducing the Department of Agriculture’s budget by nearly 30 percent, or over $200 billion, in the next 10 years, with only four pages of text is reckless. Changing the way people eat their food should take a little longer than a college newspaper’s length to be deemed a considerable amount.

The idea alone seems Orwellian; having a pre-packaged box of food delivered to your doorstep instead of being able to choose for yourself makes the recipients seem like inmates.

Recipients of food stamps have long since adjusted to the workings of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), yet the entire system is up for a rehaul with this new proposal.

While SNAP doesn’t live up to its idealistic standards, it got the job done. One of the problems with SNAP was the restrictions on what families can and can’t buy from certain stores. Things like diapers or other hygienic household supplies seem to be missing from the list of available purchases for these families.

However, that one problem doesn’t require a complete overhaul of a system that’s been helping families survive and thrive. Such families were still able to buy what foods they personally needed, accounting for allergies and certain nutritional needs.

But with the Harvest Box, these particulars are dismissed entirely. Each house will be receiving the same box full of, “shelf-stable milk, juice, grains, ready-to-eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans, canned meat, poultry or fish, and canned fruits and vegetables,” according to the USDA.

It seems President Trump’s already assumed detached perception of reality is verified as he sees the over 16 million households to be identical in their diets.

The idea, as quoted by the White House OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, is akin to that of the Blue Apron program, whose stocks fell lower than Trump’s approval ratings in 2017, and hasn’t been able to keep a customer longer than 2 years.

With more than 41 million people eligible for the box, this plan needs to get some fine tuning and have some questions answered, like whether or not the shipping costs will be covered, or whether or not it can accommodate food allergies or religious specificities.

Though the nutritional and food security these SNAP recipients have been granted thus far hasn’t been stellar, it still has been working for them.

Seeing as the amount of people receiving SNAP benefits has lessened since 2016 shows that despite controversy, the program is helping those in need of it, and that’s something to be optimistic about.

The administration posits that the change is due in part of the rate of fraud going on with the cards that SNAP recipients use. However, the rate of fraud in these cases is less than 2 percent, or less than $3 billion, according to the USDA.

With no consideration to specifics or attention to the public, these changes are nothing more than the transcribed pontifications of an old, delusional and out-of-touch President.

Thankfully, this proposal is just that, a proposal, and any chance of it actually coming to fruition lays in the hands of Congress, which hopefully has enough sense to see through this feckless idea.

Photo: Salvation Army USA West // Flickr

 

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Fast Food Humor Now Trending

KFC Trolls McDonald’s While Reminding Us We All Might Die Soon

There’s nothing like a restaurant using the real-life threat of nuclear war to put up a perfectly timed tweet that not only takes shots at a major competitor, but conveniently advertises its menu.

KFC UK and Ireland took direct cues from a President Donald Trump tweet where he basically told North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un that the U.S. has bigger nukes than they do, in the most terrifying game of chicken you’ll ever see.

Aside from making light our certain dystopian future, KFC used Trump’s tweet format to take a shot at McDonald’s, saying:

“McDonald’s leader Ronald just stated he has a “burger on his desk at all times”. Will someone from his big shoed, red nosed regime inform him that I too have a burger on my desk, but mine is a box meal which is bigger and more powerful than his, and mine has gravy!

McDonald’s has not responded to the tweet because they either feel they don’t need to, or they’re afraid of an attack from KFC, led by Colonel Sanders and his military prowess.

There’s nothing like memes and gravy to diffuse a nuclear situation.

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Alcohol News Now Trending Restaurants

DC Bar Selling ‘You’re Fired’ Happy Hour Drinks Every Time Trump Fires Someone

A post shared by Charles Clymer (@cmclymer) on

Regardless of how you may feel about our current political situation, you can still drink to celebrate or gripe over recent events. One bar aims to help you out there with its “You’re Fired” happy hour special.

The Bird, a bar in Washington D.C. that has some legit fried chicken, recently started offering the drink special. Every time the President fires a White House official, happy hour drinks will be available for $4 each. This marks a 50% slash in prices from their normal happy hour, which occurs weekdays from 4-7 pm and weekends 3-6 pm. The bar’s first “You’re Fired” happy hour occurred this past Friday, when white nationalist adviser Stephen Bannon was shown the door. Judging from Twitter photos of the event, the happy hour is going to be a success for ages to come.

Of course, Twitter had several questions for The Bird following their first rendition of the happy hour. What would happen if two officials were canned on the same day? Furthermore, what if the President himself resigned?

While we don’t know answers to those questions, we can definitely get behind this hilarious drinking deal.

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Ben & Jerry’s Rips Donald Trump For Pulling Out Of The Paris Climate Accord

Yesterday, Donald Trump announced that he was pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord, making us just one of three nations worldwide no longer actively taking steps to combat climate change.

Since then, many have called out Donald Trump on his fallacious decision, but nobody has been as harsh on him as Ben & Jerry’s has. The ice cream company launched a scathing satirical post entitled “6 Reasons Pulling Out of the Paris Climate Agreement Was Totally, Definitely the Right Move” that hammers Trump by highlighting the consequences of turning his back on global climate change efforts. One of the harshest parts of the article include ingredient replacements like “human despair,” “penguin meat,” and “covfefe” for when climate change wipes out the ability to cultivate cocoa or vanilla for our most beloved ice cream flavors.

Ben & Jerry’s didn’t stop at that post. An open letter from CEO Jostein Solheim published in the Huffington Post calls out Trump for putting the US on the “wrong side of history” and noting that the global economy is moving towards clean, renewable energy, even if the so-called leader of the free world is refusing to head in that direction.

The overall message that Ben & Jerry’s gets across is clear: Despite Donald Trump’s misguided actions to damage our global reputation as a leader in the fight against climate change, the world won’t halt its efforts to reduce pollution and emissions that our country was instrumental in producing. And neither will many of the companies within the United States that have taken up that fight as well.

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Alcohol News

Bar Puts Up A Wall And Hands Out ‘Green Cards’ For Cinco de Mayo

Dear God, this stunt couldn’t have been any dumber unless the bar had an ICE truck on standby.

Paul Hennessey of Hennessey’s Tavern in Dana Point, California thought he’d make a statement on immigration by putting up an inflatable wall for guests to climb and grab a “green card” at the top. The green card was a voucher for one free drink on May 5 and had “Citizenship in progress,” printed on it.

 

 

Whose mans is this?

Hennessey claimed that it was a way to protest Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall, but very few people saw it that way, and let their disapproval be known through Hennessey’s Facebook and Yelp page.

The hate got so bad that Yelp posted an “Active Cleanup Alert,” as the hate was pouring in and affected the bar’s rating.

Hennessey tried defending himself, whitesplaining the publicity stunt, and saying that their intentions were misinterpreted — but what about in 2015, when they posted this Cinco de Mayo picture of a white woman in a sombrero and fake mustache? What a fantastic representation of Mexican culture:

I’m not saying this guy hates Mexicans, but these attempts at celebrating Cinco de Mayo are tasteless, and on the same level as frat kids who think it’s funny to play dress up and pretend to be Mexican for a day.

Whether his heart was in the right place or not, this was absolutely the wrong approach to a sensitive issue, and it doesn’t look like he realizes that with his half-assed Facebook apology.

This might blow over, and he might continue to run his bar, living his life like normal, but Mexicans will still be unjustly discriminated against, killed, and jailed. Hennessey’s micro-aggressions will do nothing to fix that.

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Hit-Or-Miss Humor Now Trending

Watch This Guy Try To Stop Actual Violent Protest With Pepsi

Just a few weeks back, Pepsi released an uninspiring and tone deaf video where superstar model Kendall Jenner stops a potentially violent protest with a can of Pepsi.

In that same spirit, when hundreds of protesters got rowdy during a “Patriots Day” rally in Berkeley, Calif., one brave soul sought to end the violence with cans of Pepsi in hand.

YouTuber Vito Gesualdi was literally in the middle of the protest, as there were Oakland PD in riot gear, violent fights erupting, and items being thrown left and right. Someone had to stop the madness, so walking through all this tensed-up rioters, Gesualdi offered the cans of soda to anyone and everyone he could.

This guy was literally walking up to fights on the floor, and geared-up police officers, all for the sake of making a beautifully constructed video, which perfectly illustrates just how stupid the original Pepsi ad was.

Thankfully Gesualdi didn’t get hurt with this comedic stunt, but he also didn’t stop the violence, which is a bummer.

Peep the full video below:

h/t brobible