Food

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

When Employers Steal Wages from Workers

Posted By on Tue, Jul 26, 2022 at 1:00 PM

ILLUSTRATION BY MIGUEL GUTIERREZ JR., CALMATTERS; ISTOCK
  • Illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters; iStock
Some of the lowest wage workers are getting their livelihoods stolen by their own employers.

Employers deny workers overtime premiums, ask them to work “off the clock” or take their tips.

In California, workers lost nearly $2 billion from not being paid the minimum wage in 2015, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank.

Most often the victims of wage theft are women, immigrants and people of color, researchers say; many work in restaurants, construction, hotels, car washes, garment businesses, farms, warehouses, and nail salons. These workers are among those who bore the brunt of job losses during the pandemic and have the most ground to make up.

For years, California’s lawmakers have tried solving the wage theft problem by strengthening labor laws. Most workers who file wage theft claims wait months or years before getting a resolution; only a fraction who prevail get repaid lost wages.

Usually no one goes to jail for the theft.



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Wednesday, July 20, 2022

California Poised to Restrict Bee-killing Pesticides

Posted By on Wed, Jul 20, 2022 at 11:20 AM

A bee on a lavender plant. - KIMBERLY WEAR
  • Kimberly Wear
  • A bee on a lavender plant.
Widely used insecticides that harm bees and songbirds would face far-reaching restrictions in California under regulations proposed by the state’s pesticide agency.

The new limits would be among the nation’s most extensive for agricultural use of neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides used to kill plant-damaging pests like aphids. The highly potent pesticides have been shown to harm bees, birds and other creatures.

Aimed at protecting bees that pollinate crops, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s proposed rules would restrict four closely-related neonicotinoid chemicals: imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, clothianidin and dinotefuran.

Unveiled in February, the rules would limit when and how much can be applied, depending on the specific chemical, the crop and, in some cases, the presence of honeybees or other pollinators. California’s pesticide regulators are still evaluating public feedback and there is no specific timeframe for finalizing the proposal.

Neonicotinoids are the most popular insecticides in the world — although not in California, according to the state pesticide agency.

“Pollinators play a very important role in the ecosystem at large as well as for crops and being able to produce food in the state.”

Karen Morrison, California Department of Pesticide Regulation

More than a decade in the making, California’s reevaluation of neonicotinoids began in 2009, after the agency received a report from pesticide manufacturer Bayer CropScience that “showed potentially harmful effects of imidacloprid to pollinators.” A 2014 law set a series of deadlines for reevaluating their risks and adopting “any control measures necessary to protect pollinator health.”

In addition, a bill in the Legislature would ban use of neonicotinoids in homes, yards and other outdoor non-agricultural settings, starting in 2024. A variety of consumer products are registered for use in California, such as BioAdvanced All-in-One Rose and Flower Care Liquid Concentrate, which contains imidacloprid.

The bill trails other states, including New Jersey and Maine, that have already banned outdoor uses in gardens and residential areas. New Jersey’s ban extends to commercial landscapes, like golf courses, too.

The European Union banned several neonicotinoids for all outdoor uses because of the risks to bees. And other states already have some restrictions on agricultural use, largely by allowing the chemicals to be bought or used only by those with specific training. Rhode Island has also barred neonicotinoids when crops are blooming.

If finalized, California’s proposal to restrict agricultural use could “significantly impact when and how” neonicotinoid products can be used in the nation’s No. 1 agricultural state, according to an analysis by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

“This is critical,” said Karen Morrison, acting chief deputy director of the Department of Pesticide Regulation. “Pollinators play a very important role in the ecosystem at large as well as for crops and being able to produce food in the state.”

California regulators anticipate the rule would reduce neonicotinoids applied to plants and soil by 45 percent. Seeds coated in neonicotinoids — a major use of the chemicals — would not be restricted.

California growers say the restrictions could hamstring their power to protect crops and could ultimately lead to worse outcomes for pollinators.

Limiting the use of neonicotinoids could force the citrus industry, for instance, to use other pesticides that are “not necessarily what the state of California wants” and could require “multiple sprays, something that may pose more risk to bees,” said Casey Creamer, president and CEO of California Citrus Mutual, a trade association of citrus growers.

Almonds, cherries, citrus, cotton, grapes, strawberries, tomatoes and walnuts are major crops expected to be highly affected by the restrictions. These crops make up about half of the state’s agricultural exports and two-thirds of the acreage treated with neonicotinoids from 2017 to 2019. Fresno, Kern, Tulare, Monterey and San Joaquin top the list of counties where the most neonicotinoids were applied.

Some replacement chemicals may be more toxic to pests’ natural enemies — worsening infestations, the California agriculture department warned in its analysis.

Such alternatives like pyrethroids, for instance, are also “very toxic to bees, in that they hit the bee, the bee dies. If they're in the spray, they all die,” said Robert Van Steenwyk, a cooperative extension specialist emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley and one of the authors of the report. “So, that isn’t a great alternative.”



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Friday, February 25, 2022

Food for People's Eureka Pantry to Move

Posted By on Fri, Feb 25, 2022 at 2:12 PM

A map of Food for People's new temporary pantry home near Cooper Gulch. - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • A map of Food for People's new temporary pantry home near Cooper Gulch.
Delays in construction on Food for People's Eureka Choice Pantry are forcing the food bank to temporarily move to a new location near Cooper Gulch.

The existing location — 2112 Broadway — will close after March 24, and the new location at 1720 10th St., directly adjacent to the Eureka Skate Park and the Cooper Gulch Fields, will open March 29. Once open, the pantry will operate from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, closing from 12:30 to 1 p.m. for lunch.
Food for People Executive Director Anne Holcomb in front of the nonprofit's new temporary Eureka pantry. - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • Food for People Executive Director Anne Holcomb in front of the nonprofit's new temporary Eureka pantry.

"In the new location, Food for People will implement an order-ahead model as a new benefit to pantry users," the press release states. "Please contact pantry staff at (707)407-0447 for details or to make an appointment."

The nonprofit blames repeated delays on construction of its new facility for necessitating the move, but says construction is slated to begin next month and the pantry that serves 1,000 people each month expects to have a permanent home by next year.

See Food for People's full press release copied below.


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Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Food for People Receives $50K Grant

Posted By on Tue, Nov 23, 2021 at 2:41 PM

(Left to right) Green Diamond Manager of Forest Policy and Communications Gary Rynearson, Food for People Executive Director Anne Holcomb; Green Diamond General Manager and Vice President Jason Carlson and Food for People Development Director Carly Robbins. - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • (Left to right) Green Diamond Manager of Forest Policy and Communications Gary Rynearson, Food for People Executive Director Anne Holcomb; Green Diamond General Manager and Vice President Jason Carlson and Food for People Development Director Carly Robbins.
Food for People is closer to rebuilding its facility thanks to a Simpson Family Fund- Green Diamond Resource Company grant of $50,000.

“Food for People is grateful to the Simpson Family and Green Diamond for this generous grant. Green Diamond has been a consistent supporter of our annual programs, especially during the holidays. This grant will help us rebuild an upgraded facility to better serve the community now and into the future, and leaves us better positioned to respond in times of disaster,” said Food for People Executive Director Anne Holcomb.

Food for People's main facility was damaged in February of 2020 and sustained $80,000 in structural damage and $47,000 in food losses after a city sewer backup flooded the building.

Food for People determined the most cost-effective approach to providing Humboldt County with consistent access to nutritious foods was to rebuild.

According to the release, the new building will provide the much-needed expansion of space, and be flexible to meet future needs. Maximizing food storage capacity is a top priority. Areas may be shifted to accommodate a larger Eureka Choice Pantry, room for program expansion or emergency response, as appropriate.


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Wednesday, September 8, 2021

California Can Keep Thirstiest Crops, State Ag Chief Tells ‘State of Mind’ Podcast

Posted By on Wed, Sep 8, 2021 at 11:57 AM

Almond trees begin to blossom in Shafter on Feb 16, 2021. Almonds come from the pits of drupes which is the fruit grown from almond trees. They are in the same classification as peach trees. - PHOTO BY SHAE HAMMOND FOR CAL MATTERS
  • Photo by Shae Hammond for Cal Matters
  • Almond trees begin to blossom in Shafter on Feb 16, 2021. Almonds come from the pits of drupes which is the fruit grown from almond trees. They are in the same classification as peach trees.
The head of California’s agriculture agency said on the California State of Mind podcast that even devastating drought doesn’t mean the state must uproot its thirstiest crops.

Instead says Karen Ross, head of state Department of Food and Agriculture, improvements in water usage among some of the state’s biggest water consumers will help solve the problem.

“Yes, we can continue to grow almonds and these other (water-intensive) crops,” Ross said on the podcast’s newest episode. “We need to do even more plant breeding to be able to increase the drought resiliency of the varietals we grow.”

When tomato growers switched to drip irrigation, they reduced water use by 40 percent while increasing productivity by 50 percent, Ross said. Industries like dairy have also reduced water use.

“We must do that,” Ross said. “These resources are precious. We have to make sure we’re using every drop as wisely as possible.”

Also up for discussion: Agricultural multinationals use 80 percent of California’s water for its crops, a number that has drawn attention to the state’s resource management amid a devastating drought.

Listen to the “California State of Mind” episode, co-hosted by Nigel Duara and guest co-host Randol White, on Apple podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Follow @yourgoldenstate, @CalMatters and @CapRadioNews on Twitter to engage with our show every week and see the top California news of the day.

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Monday, August 30, 2021

Schools Across Humboldt Serving Free Meals to Students, No Application Needed

Posted By on Mon, Aug 30, 2021 at 11:42 AM

Schools across Humboldt County are serving free breakfasts and lunches to students at no charge this year.

No applications are required to qualify for the meals, which are extentions of the Seamless Summer Feeding Option program. For more specific information, parents or guardians can contact individual campuses, according to a news release from the Humboldt County Office of Education.

Read the full release and find a list of participating schools and districts below:

The following school districts/school sites have amended their policy for serving meals to students under the extended Seamless Summer Feeding Option for the 2021-2022 school year. All students will be served lunch and/or breakfast at no charge at the following sites:

Alder Grove Charter School, Arcata School District, Big Lagoon Union School District, Blue Lake Union School District, Bridgeville School District, Coastal Grove Charter School, Cuddeback Union School District, Cutten School District, Eureka City Schools Unified District, Ferndale Unified School District, Fieldbrook School District, Fortuna Elementary School District, Fortuna Union High School District, Freshwater School District, Fuente Nueva Charter School, Garfield School District, Humboldt County Office of Education, Hydesville School District, Jacoby Creek School District, Klamath-Trinity Joint Unified School District, Loleta Union School District, Mattole Unified School District, McKinleyville Union School District, Northern Humboldt Union High School District, Northern United Humboldt Charter, Orick School District, Pacific Union School District, Pacific View Charter School, Peninsula Union School District, Rio Dell School District, Scotia Union School District, South Bay Union School District, Southern Humboldt Unified School District, Trinidad Union School District, and Union Street Charter School.

Effective July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022, children are eligible for free meals at no charge.

Households are not required to submit an Application for the above mentioned school sites.

For additional information, please contact the school district where your student attends.

Nondiscrimination Statement

In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA.

Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g. Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.), should contact the Agency (State or local) where they applied for benefits. Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339. Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.

To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, (AD-3027) found online at: http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.html External link opens in new window or tab., and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by:

(1) mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20250-9410;

(2) fax: (202) 690-7442; or

(3) email: program.intake@usda.gov.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2021

The Megadrought is Just One Factor Driving Up the Price of Your Bread

Posted By on Wed, Jul 21, 2021 at 8:53 AM

A perfect storm of trouble—extreme dry conditions, a volatile commodity market, and climbing expenses—have millers and bakers passing on rising costs to customers.

Last spring, pandemic-related supply chain issues led to too little flour on supermarket shelves, just as cooped-up consumers turned to home baking for comfort. The problem was never a shortage of flour or wheat. Rather, the challenge involved a slow pivot to retail packaging, transportation and logistics delays, grocery store labor shortages, and panicked pandemic buying.

This year, there’s new trouble. Historic drought conditions have already destroyed or damaged crops in the West, Northern Plains, and Southwest, key U.S. growing regions for certain types of wheat. According to a July 6 report from the USDA, approximately 98 percent of the country’s spring wheat production is in an area experiencing drought conditions. 

Thanks to carryover inventory from 2020, there’s still plenty of wheat to go around. But the drought is just one of many factors playing havoc with the prices mills pay for wheat: Rising costs across supply chains, as well as volatile commodity grain markets exacerbated by drought conditions elsewhere in the world, are making flour more costly to produce. You may not see more expensive flour at the supermarket (though it’s possible). But you’ll likely pay more for loaves, pastries, and sweets at your favorite bakery. 



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Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Will California Public Schools Continue Free Lunches for All?

Posted By on Tue, Jun 8, 2021 at 5:17 PM

Food Service Manager Nakheu Saephanh hands out boxes of food to family members at La Escuelita in Oakland on June 7. Oakland Unified has been providing boxes for pickup or delivery — seven days worth of breakfast, lunch and snack — to all OUSD students since Spring of 2020. - ANNE WERNIKOFF/CALMATTERS
  • Anne Wernikoff/CalMatters
  • Food Service Manager Nakheu Saephanh hands out boxes of food to family members at La Escuelita in Oakland on June 7. Oakland Unified has been providing boxes for pickup or delivery — seven days worth of breakfast, lunch and snack — to all OUSD students since Spring of 2020.

Early in the pandemic, the only source of milk for some struggling families was from school lunches, recalls Stacy Johnson, director of nutrition services at Glendora Unified School District.

Even for families who weren’t as strained financially — or for families of picky eaters — getting meals during lockdown was something to get excited about: A chance to get out of the house, and to see teachers and friends.

And while the days of empty grocery store shelves and lockdowns have passed, for many, the benefit of meals at schools continues.  

At Sellers Elementary in Glendora, east of Los Angeles, that was evident by the busy meal service last Friday. At pickup time, parents walked younger students home carrying bags filled with food, enough to last through the weekend, while older students jammed the bags into their backpacks.

“My kids eat at school here during the year at the cafeteria when it’s open just because they love the experience of seeing other kids and going through the line,” Julie, a parent of students who asked to be identified only by her first name, said Monday.

Before the pandemic, in January 2020, the district served more than 35,000 lunches to students. In April 2021, with the return of in-person classes, 50,822 lunches were picked up. The district, where about 29% of the 7,200 students were eligible for free and reduced meals last year, continues to serve take-home lunches to students as it wraps up its school year. 

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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Restaurants Need Workers. Would an Employee Vaccine Mandate Bring Them Back?

Posted By on Wed, May 12, 2021 at 7:51 AM

As they struggle to rehire, owners are navigating whether to require, encourage or reward staff COVID vaccinations.

Before implementing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees at his 15 Chicago restaurants, Fifty/50 Restaurant Group co-founder Scott Weiner did his due diligence. He consulted a lawyer, discussed the idea with his staff, and developed a policy around the requirement. 

“I’ve been hearing for nine months across the industry and within my company that service industry employees don’t feel safe. One thing I can do at this point to make all employees and guests feel safe is require the vaccine,” Weiner said.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

'People and Planet Before Profit:' Post-Capitalism Conference Set to Kick Off

Posted By on Tue, Apr 20, 2021 at 2:00 PM

Can you imagine a world after capitalism? David Cobb can, and he wants you to join him.

“We need a system that puts people and planet before profit,” Cobb says in a recent phone interview with the Journal.

The good news, Cobb says, is that the core elements of the solidarity economy he and others believe will bring about a more equitable and just world don’t need to be imagined — they can be looked at, felt, experienced and replicated. And that’s one of the core messages of the Post-Capitalism Conference, a four-day virtual forum that begins Thursday and is hosted by Cooperation Humboldt, the nonprofit Cobb cofounded, and sponsored by Humboldt State University’s Native American Studies, Politics, Sociology and Environmental Studies departments, HSU’s California Faculty Association and the Environmental Justice/Climate Justice hub at University of California at Santa Barbara.

Cobb said the four-day event will focus on tangible solutions to pervasive problems, with discussions on universal basic income, worker-owned cooperative companies, community land trusts, public banking and food sovereignty designed to showcase work that’s currently being done to bring about a more equitable world.

“This is actually happening,” he said. “There’s a new economic system that’s being created right now but we don’t actually see it because it’s not being talked about.”

The conference is designed to meet people where they are, Cobb said, offering more detailed panel discussions — like Thursday’s “Regenerative Economic Development to Re-Indigenize” — for those already steeped in the concepts of decolonization and land trusts, alongside ones offering more broad-strokes introductions to larger concepts — like Thursday’s “From Where We Are to Where We Want to Be: How Do We Get There.” The idea, Cobb said, is to bring together a group of knowledgeable academics, theorists and practitioners to provide insight and information that will help guide people on their own paths to understanding the underlying ideas and putting them into practice.

The COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts on the conference are also profound, Cobb said. First, he said the virtual nature of the conference will allow people across the nation and world to participate free of charge, but it’s also allowed organizers to tap leaders at the forefront of various movements to participate from around the country. That means the conference will feature names like famed Marxian economist and author Rick Wolff, public banking pioneer Trinity Tran and Emily Kawano, the co-director of the Wellspring Cooperative Corporation in Massachusetts and coordinator of the U.S. Solidarity Economy Network.

“We have some really famous players — and also some people who frankly should be more famous,” Cobb said, pointing to Ramon Torres, who led the formation of Familias Unidas por Justicia, an indigenous farmworker labor union in Washington, and later founded a worker-owned cooperative berry farm.

But Cobb said the pandemic has also laid the nation’s gross economic disparities bare, leaving families struggling for food and housing, while the billionaire class has grown markedly richer. This, Cobb said, has increased the critical eye on the nation’s economic systems and how to change them.

“A decade ago, things like universal basic income and public banking weren’t — or didn’t seem — possible,” he said. “We now have an opportunity to dream big and think about systemic, transformational change.”

The conference will also put a spotlight on some issues of keen local interest — the food sovereignty movement, cannabis equity programs and the interconnectedness between white supremacy and capitalism. Cobb said he’s proud of the lineup that organizers have put together, noting it is “intentionally and deliberately multi-racial, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural,” with more female than male speakers.

Get the full schedule of events, presenter biographies and all the details on how to participate here. And check out the press release from HSU below

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