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Fight Over Food Stamps

Food Stamp Debate Gets Personal In Hawaii

Still other food labels read “best before,” which implies that the item can still be eaten after the printed date, though it might not taste as good as it should. The issue, according to the NRDC, is that these labels are “both poorly understood and surprisingly underregulated, such that their meanings and timeframes are generally not defined in law.” What that means is that any producer can pretty much put any date or no date at all on its products, and consumers follow these dates without really knowing what they mean. There is no comprehensive research on the amount of food waste generated by labeling systems (or lack thereof), but talk to any chef or market owner, and they’ll tell you it’s a big issue. Photo by Mark Turnauckas Eggs are notorious for “expiring” weeks before they’re actually unsafe to consume. “It’s the biggest rip-off there is,” says Peter Basralian, controller, administrator and part-time chef at Phoenicia Foods . I had phoned Phoenicia to get in touch with the operations manager there, Raffi Tcholakian, but Basralian, who answered the call, was happy to give me an earful about the chaotic state of food labeling in America “Expiration dates are premature from the actual dates they expire,” Basralian says, echoing the findings of the NRDC. “We have to throw out so much food because of those dates.” Legally, restaurants and other businesses that sell food cannot use or sell consumables that are past their expiration, use-by, or sell-by dates, even if the food is clearly still safe for human consumption. When I did talk to Tcholakian, he confirmed what Basralian had said. He noted that at Phoenicia they don’t really encounter issues with labeling their own fresh products, as most of it is off the shelves and replaced by new sandwiches or deli meat within a day or two. “The issues we have are regarding the products we use,” Tcholakian says. “I’ve eaten a lot of expired stuff myself that we can’t sell, and it’s still good. We give it away to homeless shelters and other organizations because we just can’t sell it.” This practice is helpful to the shelters, of course, but it costs restaurants and businesses. Worse, though, is the effect that excess food production has on the environment. According to the NRDC’s report, a 30 percent decrease in consumer waste could save an estimated 100 million acres of cropland. The report also points out that the production of wasted food in the U.S.

Texas Food Fight Caught on Students’ Cell Phones

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The food fight between OConnor High School and Brandeis High School happened after Brandeis football team defeated OConnor 12-10 on Saturday night. Students from both schools headed to Whataburger where the wild food fight broke out. Cell phone video showed food, drinks and trays flying through the air as students ducked and screamed. Some students could be facing suspension for their actions, according to ABC News San Antonio affiliate KSAT-TV . Campus administrators will review videos to identify students who will face appropriate consequences including suspension from school, Northside Independent School district spokesman Pascual Gonzalez said in a statement to KSAT. NISD will also cooperate with law enforcement and restaurant management in pursuing criminal charges if warranted. (Credit: Steven Perez/FLickr) A spokesman for Whataburger said they will not be seeking criminal charges. The principals from both Brandeis and OConnor high schools have reached out to Whataburger to offer their sincere apology for the food fight, Whataburger Corporate Communications said in a statement to ABC News. In addition, students from both schools, whether they were involved or not, have come to our restaurant and apologized, and we greatly appreciate the outpouring of support. The burger chain said they understood that it was an emotional moment between small groups of students that were not representative of the entire student population. The Whataburger team will continue to welcome Brandeis and OConnor students at our restaurants and were also committed to continuing the partnership and support of both high schools, the statement said.

— Paul Thornton, letters editor Altadena resident J.H. Benson questions the GOP ‘s morality: “House Republicans are badly in need of a moral compass. Their hypocrisy is only surpassed by their cruelty. “The GOP says that the 4 million Americans who will be kicked off SNAP are capable of helping themselves. I hope that our very capable farmers aren’t being subsidized while this assistance to the poor is deemed too expensive.” Long Beach resident Matthew Black points out more pressing spending concerns: “The GOP has truly hit a new low. After increasing annual defense spending by more than $300 billion since 2001, spending $2 trillion on unnecessary wars and passing $1.7 trillion in tax cuts between 2001 and 2003 that primarily went to the wealthiest Americans, Republicans need to save $40 billion on food stamps. “Way to go. Why do I feel I’m reading a Charles Dickens novel? “And for those who might reply that Democrats should put their money where their mouths are, this week I donated another $250 to a local food bank. I contribute 5% of my disposable income to food banks.” Frances Terrell Lippman of Sherman Oaks picks up on the Dickens reference: “I guess those Scrooge-like, coldhearted House Republicans thought of an early holiday surprise. How generous of them to think it would be appropriate just to remind people who are hungry and struggling that it would get a little more impossible for them to feed their families. Their apathy is only exceeded by their cruelty. “Being hungry and homeless in America is this country’s greatest shame, and yet our so-called leaders in Washington couldn’t care less and only serve to exacerbate this terrible and fixable situation. Watch out for that karma.” Oxnard resident Steve Binder says The Times should give this issue more attention: “Friday morning, I couldn’t wait to read The Times’ article about the Republican-led House voting to cut off food stamps for children, senior citizens, the disabled and especially our veterans. Too bad it was buried inside the paper.

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“But we need to make sure it’s going to people truly in need.” At its core, the Republican roll-back effort raises the question of whether states like Hawaii went too far in trying to help people during hard times. About 40 states, in all, have made it easier for people to get food stamps. The actual cost of food stamps nationally has quadrupled from $20 billion in Fiscal Year 2000 to $80 billion in Fiscal Year 2012, according to the Heritage Foundation. The House bill would, among other things, impose a work requirement even in high unemployment areas and in states where there are no jobs programs in place to facilitate employment for food stamp recipients. It would also eliminate steps that states have taken to expand eligibility for the program. However, opponents of the bill including Hawaii’s House delegation say the states only modestly expanded the program to include people who barely made too much to qualify for help. Scaling back food assistance for such families would, according to the Congressional Budget Office , knock 4 million people off the program’s rolls in 2014, and the number of people receiving food stamps in a typical month in 2023 would be 14 million fewer than today. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who voted against the food stamp-limiting measure, said in a statement on Friday, This mean-spirited bill would have devastating impacts on our nations most vulnerable populations … Most [Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program] families with children are working if they are able, but do not earn enough to put food on the table when they have other pressing expenses like rent and medical bills. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who also voted against the bill, said in a statement, SNAP is a critical tool to fight hunger in the U.S. … There is no question we must continue to work to address fraud and abuse within the system, but this bill is not the way to do it. Beyond the efforts to shrink the food stamps rolls, the actual monthly payments for those who receive them in Hawaii and elsewhere could drop by $29, when a temporary increase built into the 2009 stimulus package runs out at the end of October. Changes Too Harsh?