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Weekly food dispatch

California


Healthy fast food coming to California
A pair of celebrity chefs plan to open healthy fast food restaurants in L.A. and San Francisco communities where there is limited access to affordable, healthy food options. “Don't tell me we don't want great delicious cheap fast food,” said chef Roy Choi, who's opening the chain with partner Daniel Patterson. “We destroy our youth and our neighborhoods with corporations that serve addictive poison.” Colorlines

Food banks cope with growing need
San Joaquin Valley farmworkers are flooding local food banks because of the drought, said the manager of Fresno's Catholic Charities. The organization has set up mobile sites to serve families who can't afford to buy gas to get to town. The Community Food Bank in Fresno said its organization added five distribution sites to serve those affected by the drought. “People start lining up at 5 a.m.,” the food bank director said. National Catholic Reporter

California farmers turn to social media to reduce food waste
A Northern California social media venture is trying to reduce food waste and keep small farms in business by forging connections on the Internet. CropMobster.com, currently active only in the Bay Area, sends instant alerts to spread the word about local food excess at any supplier in the food chain. The idea is to get the food to those in need and help local businesses recover costs. Free Speech Radio News

The nation


USDA challenges Americans to stop wasting food
Americans waste enough food every day to fill a 90,000-seat football stadium, reported USDA. Much of this “waste” is actually safe, wholesome food that could feed millions of Americans. Excess food, leftovers and scraps that are not fit for consumption can be recycled into a nutrient-rich soil supplement. The USDA is joining with the EPA to launch a national Food Recovery Challenge. USDA

Nearly 50 million Americans are food insecure
One in 7 Americans have uncertain or inadequate access to food, according to 2014 Hunger in America, a study conducted by a network of food banks. Nearly 29 percent of those getting meals from food banks are children; 42 percent of recipients are unemployed and not looking for work because they are retired, disabled or in poor health. Christian Science Monitor

Food companies give the FDA keys to the vault
Grocery Manufacturers Association announced a major initiative that will give the FDA access to a large database of safety information about chemicals used in processed foods. The database will focus primarily on new ingredients or new ingredient uses, but will also include some that are currently used in the market. Parts of the database will be made public, but the bulk of the information will only be accessible to FDA officials and GMA members. Politico

Hawaii's GMO law ruled invalid
A U.S. magistrate in Hawaii ruled in favor of four seed companies who sued to stop a new disclosure law from going into effect in Kauai. The law would have required companies to disclose their use of pesticides and GMOs and provide buffer zones around sensitive areas like schools and hospitals. “If they were good neighbors, they would just comply,” said the ordinance's author. Fresno Bee

The world


Ebola crisis prompts food crisis
The UN World Food Program is scaling up operations in West Africa to provide food to Ebola patients, their relatives and others in quarantined areas. Farmers are abandoning crops, travel and trade are inhibited, and hunting for bush meat has been banned. Observers have seen dramatic food price increases in affected countries. USA Today

Too much junk food rewires the brain
Eating high-calorie, high-fat food with loads of sugar and salt rewires the brain's reward mechanism, reported researchers at the University of New South Wales Australia. The study, conducted with rats, found that junk food makes them fat and also reduced their desire for novel foods. The study helps researchers understand why people know about nutrition, but still eat indiscriminately. Newsweek


A compilation of news from the World Wide Web relevant to the UC Global Food Initiative, which aims to put the world on a path to sustainably and nutritiously feed itself. By building on existing efforts and creating new collaborations among UC's 10 campuses, affiliated national laboratories and the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the initiative will develop and export solutions for food security, health and sustainability throughout California, the United States and the world.

 

Posted on Friday, August 29, 2014 at 8:52 AM

UC Davis tomatoes provide year-round healthful eating for college students

Chef Bob Walden, right, and Arnulfo Herrera, a cook, show off roasted tomatoes at UC Davis. (photo: Gregory Urquiaga / UC Davis)
Today's dorm food is far superior to the tasteless, over-processed foods of decades past. No more mystery meat or mushy vegetables. Campus dining services across the country are providing a diversity of fresher and healthier foods, much to the delight of food-savvy students who want variety, flavor, and nutritious choices. Well... being students, they don't always make the healthiest choices, but educational programs at campus dorms are turning the tide toward more-healthful eating.

At the same time, chefs and food buyers at universities, particularly the University of California, are selecting for high-quality fruits and vegetables, produced locally and sustainably. Universities with strong food sustainability programs are rightfully proud of what they're doing to educate students about food production, health, and nutrition. UC Davis Dining Services prioritizes the purchase of locally grown food (ideally within a 50-mile radius of campus). Most University of California campuses have similar programs.

At UC Davis, fresh roma tomatoes are picked each August from the 300-acre Russell Ranch, part of the campus's Agricultural Sustainability Institute, then processed within hours by campus Dining Services to provide year-round tomato sauce for pizza, pasta, and ratatouille. All told, 10,000 pounds of tomatoes are processed during a two-week period in August. About 29 percent of the total food served in the campus's residential dining halls is from local, organic or sustainable sources.

(courtesy photo: UC Davis Agricultural Sustainability Institute)
The tomatoes grown at Russell Ranch are part of a long-term academic research project that examines factors such as farming methods, irrigation needs, crop rotations, yield, and nutritional content. At the end of the growing season, some of the many tons of tomatoes are purchased by Dining Services at market value.

Emma Torbert, an academic coordinator at the UC Davis Agricultural Sustainability Institute, noted, “Connecting the food system to the research is really interesting. A lot of times there is confusion about where our food is coming from. The more people are educated, the more educated decisions they can make.”

Many UC Davis faculty and staff are so impressed with the food choices at the dorms that they purchase individual meal tickets and enjoy lunches made with the campus-grown tomatoes, herbs, and other vegetables, all of which are part of the daily food array. Public dinners are also offered periodically at the dorms so that community members can sit amongst students to taste and learn about the sustainability programs in the dorms.

Additional Information:

  • Video: Farm to Table, UC Davis Tomatoes; 2010
  • Slide show of this year's UC Davis tomato harvesting and processing system; 2014
  • Sustainable Foodservice Progress Report 2014, UC Davis Dining Services
  • Two videos of UC Davis students who work at the Student Farm to produce food, including one on tomato sauce production
  • “Tomatoes: Safe methods to store, preserve, and enjoy.” UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, free publication
Posted on Wednesday, August 27, 2014 at 11:11 AM

Tips for cattle health and safety during dry times

Cattle need special care in times of drought.
Long before Governor Brown declared an official drought for the state, many of California's ranchers knew this would be a tough year. Drought can increase the risks of animal poisonings and nutritional imbalances, and necessitate additional vigilance to assure cattle health and productivity. Veterinary toxicologists Robert H. Poppenga and Birgit Puschner, with the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, provide this critical information to dairy and beef producers to keep their livestock healthy during the drought. Key threats to cattle include:

Water quality — Water is the most critical factor in the diet of food animals. When cattle don't drink enough clean and safe water every day, feed intake and productivity declines. Drought conditions can potentially affect all sources of water, including groundwater, but surface waters are especially vulnerable. It is important to frequently monitor water quality, especially as quantity becomes more limited, and test for basic water quality parameters such as total dissolved solids, sodium, sulfates, and nitrates/nitrites. Blooms of blue-green algae in water are also an issue. These cyanobacteria can produce toxins that can affect the liver and nervous system. Depending on the specific toxin and amount ingested, animals may die suddenly, or suffer from weakness, staggering, or photosensitization. 

Feed quality and nutritional deficiencies — Drought conditions frequently result in the need to feed poor quality forages or to switch to alternative feed sources. Both can affect animal nutrition and increase the risk for intoxications. Use of poor quality forages can cause or exacerbate deficiencies of important minerals such as selenium, copper, and phosphorus and vitamins such as vitamins A and E. In addition, drought affected forages are often deficient in energy and protein. Even in non-drought years, deficiencies in selenium and copper are common in California cattle, particularly beef cattle. Copper deficiency causes reduced production, diarrhea, decreased resistance to infectious agents and parasites, poor vaccine response, loss of bone strength in calves, weakness and wobbling in neonates, reproductive failure, and sudden death of adult animals. Selenium deficiency also results in less resistance to infectious agents and parasites, and causes white muscle disease of skeletal and heart muscle resulting in stiff gaits, slow movement, heart damage and weak neonates. Primary vitamin A deficiency occurs in beef cattle on dry range pasture during periods of drought. Clinical signs include night blindness, dry eye, retarded growth rate, reproductive failures, and increased mortality. Maternal deficiency of vitamin A can cause abortions, stillbirths, or calves born alive but blind and weak that die within 1 to 3 days. Cows should be given an injection of vitamin A (and D) about 30 days prior to calving and calves should be given a vitamin A injection at birth.

Increased incidence of plant poisonings — Cattle will seek out and consume plants that they would not otherwise find palatable during drought conditions. Nitrate poisoning is one of the most common plant associated intoxications diagnosed by the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory. The potential for nitrate poisoning to occur is increased when livestock water sources also contain elevated concentrations. The first sign of nitrate poisoning is often the sudden and unexplained deaths of one or more animals. Other clinical signs include drowsiness, weakness, muscle tremors, increased heart and respiratory rates, staggering, and recumbency. Signs can develop with several hours of ingesting a toxic amount. Nitrate concentrations can be easily and cheaply determined from samples submitted to a veterinary diagnostic laboratory for testing. 

During periods of drought, cattle producers should be especially careful about the quality of feed and water available for their animals. Sick animals should be tested for various nutritional deficiencies and dead animals can undergo necropsies to determine cause of death so that other animals in the herd can be treated appropriately. Additional information and testing is available at the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System. For laboratory location and contact info, visit www.cahfs.ucdavis.edu. A longer, more detailed version of these tips may be found here.

Robert H. Poppenga and Birgit Puschner, veterinary toxicologists with the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, contributed to this article. 

 

Posted on Tuesday, August 26, 2014 at 7:34 AM

Alfalfa/Forage Field Day to Feature Pest Management, Varieties, Sorghum & Grain Forages and Subsurface Drip Irrigation

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Current research and timely recommendations for producing alfalfa and forages will be covered during the annual Alfalfa and Forage Field Day at the Kearney Agriculture Research and Extension Center on Friday September 12.  The program begins...

Posted on Monday, August 25, 2014 at 4:01 PM

Weekly food dispatch

California


Lake County residents suffer poor ‘health outcomes'
California's Lake County was found to have the lowest “health outcomes” in the state, according to a recent study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin. The Lake County population has the shortest length of life and, in terms of physical health, the lowest quality of life compared to other counties in California. Lake County Tribal Health Consortium is trying to change the ranking. HealthyCal.org

Industry influence kills labeling bills
California lawmakers considered four bills this year that would give residents more information about their food and beverages. Two of them, one that would have required labeling of GMO foods and the other the addition of warning labels on non-diet sodas, died in the face of industry opposition. “There is definitely a dynamic at play where the lobbying resources make a difference,” said Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel). Sacramento Bee

The nation


Food costs buoy inflation
The rising cost of food U.S. is behind a persistent 2 percent (annual) inflation rate in the last four months. Core inflation, which disregards food and energy, is at 1.9 percent per year. The Washington Examiner

Extra! Extra! Tofu scramble and Asian kale
The city of Chicago is converting four defunct newsstands into kiosks that sell fresh, healthy food. The new “e.a.t. spots” (which stands for education, agriculture, technology) features food items developed by local chef Shaw Lash to provide quick, easy access to healthful food. Chicago Tribune

Cupcakes, conversation hearts and chocolate banned
All school parties – including birthdays, Halloween and Valentine's Day – will be free of food, candy and beverages (except water) in a suburban Illinois school district, a committee of parents and staff decided. Furthermore, elementary school students' snacks will be limited to fruits and vegetables; middle school children's snacks may also include cheese and yogurt. The strict policy was instituted to reduce allergic reactions. Chicago Sun Times

The world


Ten companies control the world's food
A relatively small number of companies wield an enormous amount of influence on agriculture and world food production. All had revenues in the tens of billions of dollars in 2013. With such scale, many of the company policies have a significant impact on millions of lives. The largest of the 10 companies, Nestle, had sales exceeding $100 billion and employed 333,000 people in 2013. Huffington Post

Nestle pushes suppliers to improve animal welfare
One way Nestle is exerting its power is by adopting animal welfare standards that will affect its 7,300 suppliers around the globe. Under the new standards, Nestle will not buy products derived from pigs raised in gestation stalls, chickens in barren battery cages, cattle that have been dehorned or had their tails docked without anesthesia, and animals whose health has been damaged by drugs that promote growth. New York Times

They're great!
Another of the 10 largest food companies in the world, Kellogg's, has pledged to use responsible sourcing and new natural resource conservation efforts to address climate change. Examples of its sustainability achievements, shared in a news release, include “helping wheat farmers in the United Kingdom improve soil health, supporting a women's cooperative of more than 600 farm families in Bolivia, and promoting new rice growing methods in Thailand that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” Kellogg's


A compilation of news from the World Wide Web relevant to the UC Global Food Initiative, which aims to put the world on a path to sustainably and nutritiously feed itself. By building on existing efforts and creating new collaborations among UC's 10 campuses, affiliated national laboratories and the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the initiative will develop and export solutions for food security, health and sustainability throughout California, the United States and the world.

Posted on Friday, August 22, 2014 at 9:20 AM

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