FERN’s Friday Feed: It takes a village … to pay for school lunch

Welcome to FERN’s Friday Feed (#FFF), where we share the stories from this week that made us stop and think.

Crowdfunding campaigns to address ‘lunch shaming’


School districts have struggled to keep up with rising debts from unpaid school lunches, even resorting to collection agencies to recoup fees from families. As a result, communities are taking to crowdfunding campaigns to pay off students’ school lunch debt. But the generosity of neighbors alone won’t solve the problem, Nadra Nittle writes: “[A]s economic issues like food insecurity, unemployment, and a lack of affordable housing remain concerns nationally, the problem of student lunch debt is likely to persist.”

Europe deems these food additives dangerous, while the U.S. just shrugs

The New York Times

This primer, by Roni Caryn Rabin, illustrates the radically different attitudes toward food safety in Europe and the U.S. For instance, potassium bromate, added to flour to make dough rise faster, is banned in Europe because the International Agency for Research on Cancer considers it a likely carcinogen. In the States, though, it’s used in everything from cookies to pizza. The flavor enhancer/preservative BHA is “reasonably anticipated” to be a human carcinogen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Yet while Europe severely restricts its use, food manufacturers here use it in a wide range of products.

Using food to bridge divides and build communities

NPR’s The Salt

For refugees and immigrants all over America, cooking native dishes is a way to soothe the pain of homesickness. In Memphis, where the immigrant community is growing quickly, Sabine Langer is harnessing this universal coping strategy to create jobs and help the city’s newcomers and longtime residents get to know one another. Langer launched Global Café, an international food hall that “serves as a gathering place, helping members of the community break bread together while learning about other cultures,” writes Kelsey Ogletree.

The perfect flour tortilla

The New York Times

At a taqueria in Los Angeles, Samin Nosrat finds the perfect flour tortilla made with flour from Sonora, Mexico. “My favorite afternoon snack as a child in San Diego was a still-steaming flour tortilla purchased at the taqueria down the street from my school, and I’ve yearned for them ever since I moved away,” writes Nosrat. “But I’ve never found a reliable source, which breaks my heart, not only for myself but also for everyone else who knows flour tortillas as little more than bland, monotextured wrapping paper for burritos.”

Like their U.S. counterparts, Mongolian dairy farmers struggle to stay afloat

Civil Eats

Mongolian dairy farmers are facing extreme climate events that threaten their nomadic, agricultural way of life. As a result, farmers and the government are searching for ways to sustainably revive local agriculture. Their constraints and solutions mirror, in some ways, those faced by American dairy farmers. “Milk and cheese from grass-fed cattle fetch higher prices that can keep family farmers afloat who have been squeezed out by the rise of Big Milk,” writes Kathleen Willcox. “In both countries, pasture-based practices might ensure a brighter future for cheese.”