Welcome to FERN’s Friday Feed (#FFF), where we share the stories from this week that made us stop and think.
The Washington Post
A new study from Temple University found that 36 percent of students at 66 universities don’t have enough to eat, and struggle to meet other housing and utility costs. “More low-income students are enrolling in college, thanks to expanded needs-based scholarship and grant programs, a move away from standardized test scores as part of the application process, and other initiatives designed to recruit more diverse students,” Caitlin Dewey writes. “But once they get on campus, low-income students often find that the patchwork of grants and scholarships they’ve assembled are not enough to cover all of their expenses.” Schools are attempting to address the problem with lower-cost meal plans, food pantries, and dining hall vouchers.
Los Angeles Times
In a February raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the Central Valley, at least 26 farmworkers were arrested. “While many immigrants have been on edge since President Trump vowed a crackdown on illegal immigration, the recent sweeps have been particularly concerning because they included the arrests of people not specifically targeted by ICE,” Andrea Castillo writes. “The concern extends to farmers, who fear more sweeps will drive away labor at a time when some are struggling to get enough workers to pick the crops.”
The department’s long flirtation with the “latest and greatest DNA manipulation technologies” ended with the announcement this week that certain gene-edited plants can be developed and sold without regulation. It’s a move that will shave “years and tens of millions of dollars off the cost of developing a designer plant … enabling smaller startups and public institutions to enter the market,” writes Megan Molteni. “[S]pecialty crops, even ones with teeny tiny markets, are suddenly worth developing. You no longer have to be a Monsanto or a Dow DuPont Pioneer to take your custom cultivar into the grocery aisles of America.”
The New York Times
China’s inclusion of U.S. wine on the list of products it will hit with tariffs, in retaliation for President Trump’s tariff threat, would spoil years of work by American vintners to cultivate China’s fast-growing wine market. “China’s imports of American wine reached $82 million last year—not including bottles entering duty-free through Hong Kong—a sevenfold increase in the last decade,” writes Natalie Kitroeff.
The Washington Post
When Michelle Obama planted an organic garden on the White House lawn in 2009, she hoped it “would help begin a conversation […] about the food we eat, the lives we lead, and how all of that affects our children.” Instead, it became a “political football,” writes Anastasia Day, one that both spotlights and obscures the ongoing fight in America over the food we eat and how that food is produced.