The Leading Voices in Food podcast series features real people, scientists, farmers, policy experts and world leaders all working to improve our food system and food policy. You'll learn about issues across the food system spectrum such as food insecurity, obesity, agriculture, access and equity, food safety, food defense, and food policy. Produced by the Duke World Food Policy Center at wfpc.sanford.duke.edu.
Results from a national consumer attitudes survey on dollar stores
Dollar stores are the fastest growing food retailer in the United States, both by sheer number of stores and consumer food purchases. Just two corporations, Dollar General and Dollar Tree, which also owns Family Dollar, operate more than 35,000 stores across the country. However, a growing body of research reveals that dollar stores offer limited healthy food options. Dollar stores shape the food environments of communities, especially in the South and Midwest regions and communities in rural areas with substantial shares of Black and Latin people and households with limited financial resources. What do we know about the impact dollar stores have on these communities and the overall wellbeing of community members? The Center for Science in the Public Interest conducted a national survey to understand how people perceive and actually use dollar stores. Today we will talk with lead author of this study, Senior Policy Scientist Sara John.
My first question is what do we know about dollar stores and healthy food access?
There are more than 35,000-dollar stores across the country. So, to put that large number into context for people like me who have trouble processing them, that's more dollar stores than McDonald's, Starbucks and Walmarts combined. As you also mentioned, just two companies, Dollar General and Dollar Tree, control nearly all of them. Dollar stores really play a large role in food acquisitions for households. They can be especially important for households with limited incomes and those living in rural communities. These smaller store formats are much smaller than your typical grocery store or supermarket and tend to stock fewer fresh and healthy items. So, the body of evidence is still growing and we're still trying to figure out really how dollar stores interact with the food environment, whether or not they're driving out existing or potential new grocery stores or whether they're filling important food gaps in communities that otherwise lack food access.
I am really blown away by the number. I must admit I did not appreciate that they have 35,000 stores across the US. I know that there is a growing body of literature, as you suggested. One of our colleagues, Sean Cash at Tufts has been working in this space along with others in various disciplines have been thinking about the role of dollar stores. I'm interested to understand why CSPI conducted a national survey of those or perceptions, and what were some of the key findings?
As I mentioned, there's a lot of outstanding questions we still don't know. There have been more than 50 communities across the country that have already passed policies at the local level to ban or improve new dollar stores in their communities. But we don't understand community perceptions, usage and just I guess more plainly what people want from dollar stores. So, CSPI really wanted to take a stance to make policy, corporate, and research recommendations on this very quickly and growing retail format. But before doing so, we wanted to really make sure that we're centering our recommendations around what community members really want from dollar stores. We decided to conduct a national survey. We ended up having over 750 respondents from across the country of people with limited financial resources that lived near a dollar store. I have to say we were pretty surprised by our findings, especially given this popular sentiment that we have seen in the news media and with a lot of the local policy action. I would say that we found overall positive dollar store perceptions that people really are relying on dollar stores for food. But I would say just as many people want them to make healthy foods more available, affordable, and accessible.
Could you help me understand how did people find them beneficial? What were some of the things that you discovered, in terms of the benefits? But I'd like to also hear what were the points of contention? Where did they w
From Label to table: Regulating Food in America
How did the Nutrition Facts label come to appear on millions of food products in the U.S.? As Auburn University historian, Xaq Frohlich, reveals in his new book, "From Label to Table: Regulating Food in America in the Information Age," these seemingly innocuous strips of information reveal the high stakes politics that can help determine what we eat and why. In today's podcast, Frohlich will explore popular ideas about food, diet, and responsibility for health that have influenced what goes on the Nutrition Facts panel and who gets to decide that.
I'm really happy to have you on today's podcast. So, why don't we just jump right in. What would you say are the key historical moves in the food policy arena with respect to labeling?
One of the things I talk about in this book is an informational turn in food politics. And what I'm specifically referring to there is a shift since the 1970s from an older way that the Food and Drug Administration approached regulating the market to its current focus on informative labeling. So, at the beginning of my book and at the beginning of the story, in the 1930s, 1940s, the FDA was trying to handle this big market full of lots of different products, especially packaged and processed foods. And under the legislation in the 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, authorized food standards. And the idea was that for any mass-produced food, they would hold hearings. People would say, "This is what we think the food should look like." They would then publish the standards, which would look kind of like a list of ingredients and ranges of the ingredients they could use, and then say, "Okay, all foods have to be the standard form of food. If not, we will either remove them from the market or call them imitation." And this was a system they used for decades, and it created a lot of problems. Then, late 1960s people started to get unhappy about this. There was this big turning point connected to the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health where Nixon administration brought together lots of nutrition scientists. And one of the conclusions that came out of that is we need to change the FDA's system. And so, in the early 70s, the Food and Drug Administration says, "We're going to pivot away from these food standards and start focusing on informative labels." This is when you get the requirement of ingredient labeling on all foods, including standard foods, and you also get the first voluntary nutrition information label. My book looks at this change in strategies away from standardizing foods towards standardizing information about foods and creating these kinds of consumer-oriented information labels.
I love the fact that you helped us understand this idea of the information age, because once you read that and think, "Oh, well you're talking about something about the internet," but it's even more foundational about how we communicate what is a product. I found it really fascinating to read in your book where you talked about what I perceive to be really laborious conversations around what exactly is peanut butter or some other product. I mean, it seems like that took up a lot of space. Do you think that was ultimately productive? Is that the reason why we see this information change? Or was there something important about that effort on its own?
So, there were advantages and disadvantages of the old food standards approach. One of the advantages is that everybody who wanted to raise an issue was invited to attend those hearings. This meant that you could have really colorful exchanges. There is one woman who ran a homemaker's association who would show up and she would get a lot of attention because she was very colorful in her criticisms of proposed standards. It could be a very democratic space in that sense. On the other hand, they could run on for years. And there were contentious hearings where you would have dozens of lawyers from differen
Code for America’s Summer EBT Playbook for State Implementation
In 2022, Congress established Summer EBT, the first new permanent federal food assistance program in almost 50 years. The authorization of Summer EBT represents a historic investment in the nutrition and wellbeing of almost 30 million children who will qualify for the program. But states that piloted Summer EBT, or operated Pandemic EBT programs in the early years of the COVID-19 pandemic know that getting these benefits into the hands of families will involve overcoming complex challenges related to data and technology. That's why Code for America and No Kid Hungry, a campaign of Share Our Strength joined forces to create the Summer EBT Playbook, a comprehensive free resource designed to help state agencies plan for and implement a human-centered Summer EBT program. Today we will talk with Eleanor Davis, director of Government Innovation on the Safety Net team at Code for America. In her role, she helps government agencies adopt best practices for human-centered digital benefit delivery.
Why is Summer EBT significant?
Well, I think you gave us a good intro. Summer EBT is a brand-new benefit program and it's designed to reduce childhood hunger during the summer months by providing families with a monthly grocery benefit to feed their kids when they're not receiving meals at school. So, almost 30 million kids in the US receive free or reduced-price meals at school, but during the summer many of them struggle to access nutritious food because they're not receiving those meals at school. School is out of session. Summer EBT is designed to give families $120 per child in the summer to help them buy groceries and it really has the potential to dramatically reduce childhood hunger. It's a tremendous moment because Summer EBT is the first new permanent federal food assistance program in almost 50 years. For those of us in government or in the food access space, this is really I would say, a once in a generation opportunity to shape the implementation of the program to make sure it really meets the needs of families and children.
So, why did Code for America and Share Our Strength develop the Summer EBT Playbook? What was the challenge?
Code for America is a 501 C3 nonprofit organization. We partner with government at all levels to make the delivery of public services more equitable, more effective, and more accessible using technology and data. And we've spent the last decade helping states deliver safety net benefit programs in more human-centered ways. The Summer EBT program, as we mentioned, has immense potential, but we also know that states are going to encounter many challenges in implementing this program in 2024 and beyond. I think standing up a brand-new benefits program is a huge undertaking generally, but Summer EBT will present some really specific challenges to states and we learned a lot about this back in 2020. So, at the start of the pandemic, Congress authorized an emergency response program called Pandemic EBT, that was very similar to Summer EBT in many ways. It was the same idea, really sort of providing families with a grocery benefit while schools are closed because of COVID-19. And so, in 2020 and 2021, Code for America worked directly with about a dozen states to help them deliver Pandemic EBT benefits. And through that process we saw very up close what made that program so hard to implement. Delivery of the program really relies on effective data and technology systems. So, really being able to find the right data in state systems and use that data to deliver benefits. And a lot of these challenges will also be true for Summer EBT, right? It's a very similar delivery process. So, states really needed help planning for Summer EBT and really designing systems and processes that will help them operationalize this brand-new program so that it can really live up to the promise spelled out in the policy. So, that's why we partnered with the No Kid Hungry Campaign. We really want
Big wins through the North Carolina Farmers Market Network
In 2022, more than 6 million people visited farmers markets across North Carolina. Today, we're talking with a team of people who are the driving force behind the North Carolina Farmers Market Network: Maggie Funkhouser, Catherine Elkins, and Nora Rodli. The goal of the North Carolina Farmers Market is to create and support a thriving network of marketplaces for the state's local food and farm products. The nonprofit network, which was recently awarded a USDA Farmers Market Promotion Capacity-building grant, will provide education, programming, and partnership development assistance to farmers market managers, including resources to support historically underserved populations.
I would like to take a moment to actually get to know you all a little bit better. Tell us a little bit about how you got involved in farmers markets. Catherine, let's start with you.
Catherine - Sure. I've been doing this for the longest, I suppose. I went with my mom many times to Amish markets in Pennsylvania where I grew up. She was not a very good gardener. But we could buy everything that she liked at the market. I also worked a bit at the Carrboro Farmers Market, and I then got an opportunity to work with the Morehead City Saturday Market, a one-year lifespan. And the Old Beaufort Farmers Market we started up the next year, that's now in its 10th year. That makes me proud. I liked that market a lot. Managed it for two years, and I'm still one of those devotees that go on vacation and have to look up the closest farmers market just to check out new stuff.
Maggie - Like most managers, I did not go to school to be a farmers market manager. It kind of found me, I guess you could say. I went to graduate school directly after undergrad for classical languages. Then when I moved back to the Triangle, I just sort of started getting involved more and more with local food. I worked in restaurants, I worked in coffee shops, and one time I worked in an artisan bakery; I managed a culinary garden, and I just kind of kept getting drawn into different parts of the community in our local food system in the Triangle. In 2019, I applied for and was offered a job at the Carrboro Farmers Market as the assistant manager. I worked there for about a year. Then in 2020, I took over as the manager, and I've been here ever since.
Nora - So, I actually come to farmers markets as a farmer. For the past 25 years, I've farmed in various places around the country, mostly New Mexico and Hawaii and now North Carolina. That has given me the ability to see and experience farmers markets in a lot of different manners, whether it be a small market or a large market, and urban versus rural settings. I feel like I am uniquely on board as a cheering squad for farmers markets.
Thank you. We all need a cheerleader on our side, so it's good to hear that. I really would love to ask each of you more questions about your past because there are some interesting connections that I hear. Catherine, the Marine Lab is in Beaufort, and I'm intrigued to know more about how those relationships develop. Maggie, I would love to talk more about your training as someone in the classics has influenced the way you think about this. I mean, this idea of food and agriculture is deeply within that literature, and so that's really fascinating. And, Nora, I just can't wait to learn more about Hawaii. But I can't do that right now. We have other things to focus on. However, if those answers come up in your other responses, please feel free. I'm intrigued to talk to you all a little bit more about the North Carolina Farmers Market Network. What is it and who does it serve?
Maggie - I'll kind of kick us off talking about the network a little bit, and maybe my colleagues can chime in. So, we incorporated this year as a 501 nonprofit under the name North Carolina Farmers Market Network. NCFMN, for short. That's our kind of alphabet-soup title tha
Hope for regeneration: photographic documentary of rangeland conservation
It has been said many times that a picture is worth a thousand words. Our guest today is documentary photographer Sally Thomson, the creative genius behind the book "Homeground." She hopes her photos of 24 ranchers and land managers can broaden people's understanding of the impact conservation ranching has on the health of the land, the animals, and the people who live, work, and recreate in Southwestern and Rocky Mountain rangelands. Her book also includes rancher quotes and essays from land managers working to address challenges of climate change and diminishing resources and to find sustainable land management solutions.
I was especially interested in doing this podcast because we've had a lot of people on to talk about regenerative agriculture and there have been farmers and ranchers, some of whom we both know in common. There have been scientists who work on this, people who work with NGOs trying to promote this work, and even some policy makers, but never a photographer. It's going to be really interesting to hear from you and I look forward to what you have to say. So, we have spoken to chefs and filmmakers before who've used their arts to shape and change the food system. But as I say, you're the first photographer we've spoken to. Let's go back to the beginning. What got you interested in photography in the first place, and how can photography be used as a social or political statement?
Well, I didn't start out to become a photographer. I took a art class in college and that is really what first introduced me to photography. I was gifted a used cannon camera and a couple of lenses and I started experimenting with the camera. And I was immediately drawn to the medium. Especially watching the images kind of emerge in the dark room was just fascinating and kind of magical. But it never really occurred to me to consider photography as a career. I eventually went on to graduate school and I studied landscape architecture following my interest in environmental design and planning. I figured this would also give me the opportunity to incorporate photography into my creative process. I practiced landscape architecture for many years. But it wasn't until much later that I realized the power photography can have in storytelling, and raising awareness, and connecting me with people in places that, you know, I wouldn't have otherwise thought possible. So, up until about this point, I had used photography more for documenting my work. I had worked for a conservation organization in the Amazon Rainforest, and in order to communicate their message, I felt that photography was extremely useful in doing that. That's really what caused that shift in my thinking of turning to photography. In 2008, I created On Focus Photography, which was an effort to highlight the work of various underrepresented environmental cultural NGOs. I set about trying to learn everything I could about documentary photography at that point. That sort of led me to where I am today. What I do today is primarily divide my time between freelance assignment work, fine art and documentary photography.
Thanks for that background. It's really helpful to understand how you got to where you are now. So, let's turn to your book, "Homeground" brand new. Can you provide an overview of the book and what are some of the key things that you're hoping to convey?
Well, Homeground, of course, is a visual narrative. It explores the endangered rangelands of the American Southwest and the Rocky Mountains, and the people and the practices that are involved in restoring and sustaining these landscapes. I think one of the things that was kind of startling to me was the account of our rangelands, and I just wanted to talk about that briefly. Rangelands account for the largest share of the nation's land base. They cover more than one third of the land service in the continental US and that's according to USDA data. Unlike pastureland, rangelands
Efficient Food Rescue and Waste Prevention - a Business Strategy
Our guest today is Jasmine Crowe-Houston, social entrepreneur, and founder of Goodr.co. Jasmine started her journey cooking soul food for hungry unhoused people in her kitchen in her one-bedroom apartment in Atlanta. She fed upwards of 500 people a week for years with pop-up kitchens and parks and parking lots. Then in 2017, she founded Goodr, a technology-based food waste management company that connects firms with food surpluses to nonprofit organizations that can use the food. She has worked with organizations that have food waste issues, such as the Atlanta International Airport, Hormel Foods, and Turner Broadcasting. Today, Goodr has expanded nationwide and sponsors free grocery stores and schools. She has combined charity, innovation, and market-based solutions into a for-profit waste management company that Inc. Magazine called a rare triple win.
This episode is in collaboration with Policy360, a podcast of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University.
Would you describe what Goodr is today?
Goodr is a blessing. We are a sustainable food waste management company that leverages technology to connect businesses that have excess food to non-profit organizations that can use that food. And at the same time, we have a line of business, which is Hunger Solutions, and we're helping brands and government and other municipalities rethink how hunger is solved in their communities. We believe that hunger is not an issue of scarcity. It's really a matter of logistics. And so, we are using technology and logistics to drive out hunger and food waste. We've built technology that includes our mobile app and portal. Imagine you are using an Uber Eats or DoorDash app. You go onto your favorite restaurant; you click the item that you want. Similar experience for our users. So, for example, a restaurant in the airport. Their menu is in our system. They click chicken sandwich; they tell us 50. Our platform is going to calculate the tax value of those sandwiches, the approximate weight of those sandwiches, and our algorithm is automatically matching those sandwiches with the non-profit that is serving 50 or more people that can take those items and then get it distributed to people in need. Another big thing that our technology is capturing is the poundage that we're keeping out a landfill. So, it's really important because we're able to tell our clients we have kept 2 million pounds of food from landfills. This is equal to this much CO2 emissions that you've helped to prevent. We do a lot of fun gamifications as well, but we're data-driven and we believe that you can't manage what you don't measure. And for too long, people have thrown everything away. They've never measured it. And now we're giving them real insights and they're seeing things like, wow, my number one wasted thing is pork. Why am I making pork so much? Maybe people here at our offices don't eat pork. Start to make changes. So, we really work on the source reduction, but the number two on the EPA is the food hierarchy chart is feeding hungry people. And so that's really where we are.
Wow, that's amazing. I want to ask because I've seen this in the food waste and food donation world, that sometimes food that's donated isn't appropriate or fit for human consumption. What happens to those food products?
Traditionally, they end up in landfills. One of the big things that we have to do at Goodr, and I'll tell you too, that change is by county. So, think of not by city, not by state. Wake County and Durham County probably have different rules because it's based off the health department in each city. So, a good example is when we were working in Florida, what we do in Miami is absolutely illegal in Fort Lauderdale. They're 10 minutes away from each other. Broward County and Dade County have different rules. So, we spend a lot of time, our R&D team, creating quality assurance checklists. And we know this food is goin
I love this podcast!
The topics and guests are very interesting. I learn so much about the community and food policy.
The topics are spot on and the discussions very interesting and authentic. I love that the guests on the show are in the thick of the work making change happen.