food issues & policy

Amy Mayer/IPR

The smell of baking dinner rolls fills the kitchen at Decorah High School in northeast Iowa. As two kitchen workers mix a fresh broccoli salad, another, Chad Elliott, ladles tomato soup from a large metal pot on the stove into white plastic buckets for delivery to the town’s elementary schools.

Elliott says most of the food served in the district is made from scratch and many ingredients come from local farms and dairies.

Jeremy Bernfeld/Harvest Public Media

Farm stands and farmers markets remain really important for many local farmers, but U.S. consumers barely buy any food directly from farms. That’s why local farmers are trying to crack in to the big institutional markets such as grocery stores, work cafeterias, schools and hospitals.

Courtesy National Archives

When President Obama signs the long-overdue Agriculture Act of 2014 – the new farm bill – into law Friday, both farmers and food stamps advocates will be sighing in relief. This farm bill process was fraught with ups and downs and the loose coalition tying nutrition and farm programs seemed barely able to survive.

Durrie Bouscaren / Iowa Public Radio

The holiday season is always a busy time for Iowa food pantries, but federal cuts have led to an increased need this year. As Iowa Public Radio’s Durrie Bouscaren reports, they’re expecting even harder times ahead.

As workers pack a van destined for a food pantry in North Liberty, food reservoir director Amanda Pieper walks the aisles of the distribution center that supplies 89 food pantries in Eastern Iowa.

"You see a lot of empty shelves… It's a good problem and a bad problem to have. It's good that it’s moving, bad that it’s not coming in."

International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center

Today is World Food Day.  Observed every year since 1981, it focuses on the problem of hunger around the globe.  Also, this week is the World Food Prize Symposium in Des Moines and some of the most innovative thinkers in the fight against hunger have come to Iowa.

I-5 Design & Manufacture

Recent movements addressing the obesity epidemic or industrial agriculture's dominance attempt to change how Americans eat.  Tracie McMillan sets out to understand the American food system from the bottom-up in  her book, “The American Way of Eating: Undercover at WalMart, Applebees, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table.”  Host Charity Nebbe asks McMillan where our food comes from and how we can eat healthier. 

John Pemble / IPR

The 2013 World Food Prize is honoring Marc Van Montagu, Mary-Dell Chilton, and Robert T. Fraley, three scientists whose individual discoveries led to the creation of genetically modified crops. 



Consumers can rest assured that even with the government shutdown that went into effect on Tuesday, all of the meat, poultry and eggs bought from the grocery store will be inspected as usual by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

But that’s not necessarily the case for other foods -- like cheese, produce and boxes of cereal. Inspections for these products fall under the purview of the Food and Drug Administration, which had to furlough 45 percent of its staff on Tuesday.

Photo submitted by

Floyd Hammer and Kathy Hamilton of Union Iowa were recently recognized for their work fighting global hunger.  Their work involves getting packaged meals to hungry children in Africa and many other places.  Floyd and Kathy talk with host Ben Kieffer about their work and what is ahead for them.

In the second half of the show, hear from Iowa author John Price about his new memoir "Daddy Long Legs."


In a stunning move, the U.S. House voted against approving farm bill legislation Thursday, leaving the bill's future up in the air.

The House rejected the farm bill on a final tally of 234-195 after a day of dramatic, tight votes on amendments to the bill.

the National Museum of American History--Smithsonian Institution / Flickr

The farm bill is legislation is worth more than $90 billion. It deals with everything from farm subsidies to crop insurance; but over 80% of this massive outlay goes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP,) which was once called food stamps.  More than 45 million people depend on SNAP, especially since the economic downturn.  However, in the current versions of the bill both Democrats and Republicans are discussing cutting funds from the program. 

Flickr / nguyenduong

New safety rules from the Food and Drug Administration may affect those of us who buy our food at farmer's markets and will certainly affect those who sell their produce at these markets.  Angela Shaw, Assistant Professor of Food Safety from Iowa State University, will explain these new rules.  We also talk about food safety precautions for home gardeners.  Horticulturist Richard

Iowa's "Food Deserts"

Jan 17, 2013
Christian Cable / Flickr

Here in Iowa, we live in one of the top food producers in the nation. Yet, some Iowans still have trouble accessing healthy foods. Host Ben Kieffer talks with experts across the state about people who live in areas with low access to healthy food…areas often referred to as “food deserts”. We find out why people in these areas have trouble accessing healthy food, and what efforts are being done to help these residents.

Amy Mayer/IPR

New food safety regulations are about to be announced by the Food and Drug Administration and they apply to commodity grains.

Two girls in traditional clothing smiling and eating
U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr

Approximately one out eight people in the world go hungry every day. The odds are good that you are not one of those people, but what you choose to put on your table can impact people everywhere. Talk of Iowa explores Oxfam America's GROW Method - 5 simple changes to how we buy, store and prepare our food that can improve food security around the world.

Produce industry struggles to trace food from farm to table

Oct 18, 2012

Technology is giving the food industry better tools for detecting problems in the food supply, such as e coli or salmonella contaminations. That’s partly why food recalls have increased in recent years. But quickly finding the source and final destination of unsafe food -- that’s a little more complicated. A recently enacted law requires the produce industry to come up with a system for tracking fruits and vegetables from field to fork, but as Harvest Public Media’s Abbie Fentress Swanson reports, there’s a big holdup.

Shannon Miller

The manager at an Iowa Egg Farm implicated in a national salmonella outbreak will admit he tried to bribe a federal official to sign off on unsafe eggs.

In 2010 a salmonella scare spread across the country—500 million eggs were recalled and 2,000 people fell sick.

Now a federal prosecutor says the manager of the farm the bacterial outbreak was traced back to—Tony Wasmund—has agreed to plead guilty to attempting to bribe a public official. Wasmund apparently offered $300 to a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector to let eggs that didn’t pass muster go to market.