Maple Syrup Switch, USDA's Pizza Stats, and More in Food Policy This Week

In Food Policy This Week: 5 News Bites

A roundup of news clippings we're reading that affect the way we eat.


Soon with a new label! [Photograph: Kathy YL Chan]

SNAP Incentives in Farm Bill Encourage Recipients to Buy Produce

As you may have heard, the Farm Bill finally passed last week in both the House and Senate. A provision of the Bill that has many food activists talking is the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive program, which provides cash incentives for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients to use their benefits on healthy food. This kind of incentive has already been pioneered on a smaller scale by non-profits and local governments across the country. Typically, SNAP recipients get more product or additional cash when they purchase produce, food-producing plants, and other healthy items from farmer's markets. The FINI program will fund a wider range of food retailers to give cash incentives, including large supermarkets and agricultural cooperatives. Some are critiquing this approach, saying that the program could have greater impact by limiting incentives to local food purveyors. The $100 million in available grant funding still must go through the rulemaking process, so it remains to be seen how SNAP recipients will benefit from the extra cash.

California's Cottage Food Law Has Generated Over 1,000 Jobs

In August 2012, California policymakers passed the California Homemade Food Act. This bill allows small business owners who produce 'cottage foods' out of their home kitchens to sell their products at farmer's markets, to retailers, and from home. Foods that qualify as 'cottage foods' in California include breads, jams, candies, nut butters, mustards, and more. Producers must pass a food safety class, and are not allowed to sell any product that contains meat, dairy, or seafood. Many home cooks are working within those limitations. Since the law passed, over 1,200 home-based food businesses have been approved. Many other states also have such laws, making it easier to become a food entrepreneur.

Vermont to Change Maple Syrup Labeling System

If you're not familiar with how maple syrup grades are assigned, then you might assume that a Grade A syrup is superior to a Grade B. As it turns out, Grade B syrups are darker and can have a richer flavor than Grade A, making them more appealing to bakers and syrup enthusiasts. Vermont maple producers want to popularize their darker syrups, knowing that the intense flavors are often appreciated by consumers. So they're switching to a new labeling system where all syrups will be classified as Grade A and contain a necessary descriptive label detailing each syrup's particular flavor (e.g., 'Grade A Golden, Light Taste'). While the labeling switch may be onerous for some producers, the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association is confident that the measure will reap rewards in the long run.

USDA Releases Report on Pizza Consumption

Curious about how popular pizza is across the country? The USDA just released a report with statistics about "the world's most popular food." Overall, 13% of the U.S. population eats pizza on any given day, but that number shoots up to 26% in the 12-19 age range, which could be attributed to the popularity of pizza in school lunch programs. When consumed, pizza contributes about 35% of the eater's daily sodium requirement and about 27% of daily energy requirements (measured in kilocalories). Among adults, whites were more likely to eat pizza than Hispanic or black adults, but there was no difference along race/ethnic lines among children. Just a little food for thought!