Tag Archives: food

Sub kills bills on fluoride in water, genetically modified food

In its final meeting, the House Agriculture Subcommittee killed bills to put new restrictions on fluoride in drinking water and to require labeling of food from genetically modified plants.

The fluoride bill would impose new requirements on water systems for reporting the amount of fluoride they add to water to officials — or that naturally occurs — and providing notice to consumers. The bill specifies that the notice include a warning that “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that children aged birth through eight (8) years are at risk of developing dental fluorosis by consuming fluoride during the time when teeth are forming under their gums.”

Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Old Hickory, sponsor of HB949, said it would simply mean “informed consent” for consumers and “all we’re asking for is disclosure.”

But critics said the measure would discourage use of fluoride, which has proven benefits, and the language used in the legislation makes inaccurate statements. TennCare officials, the panel was told, suggest the “overregulation” of fluoride would prompt many water systems to discontinue use, leading to a 16 percent increase in tooth decay that would cost TennCare’s dental program $24 million.

The measure was killed on voice vote with no member recorded as supporting it — though Rep. G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis, voiced some support during the brief debate.

Rep. Joe Towns, D-Memphis, brought two bills before the subcommittee dealing with labeling of products.

HB1217 would require that plants and seeds sold in Tennessee be labeled to indicate open pollination, genetic modification, and hybridization.

HB1218, entitled the “Genetically Engineered Food Labeling Act,” would require foods from genetically modified plants be labeled as such.

“We just want people to know what we’re putting in our bodies,” Towns said. “That’s all this is.”

But Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, said such legislation is “unfounded and baseless” and told Towns “you’ve eaten this (genetically modified food) every day of your life for the last eight or 10 years.”

Vermont enacted similar legislation, Holt said, costing “millions” to be spent unnecessarily.

The first bill failed when Towns could not get the necessary seconding motion for passage from a subcommittee member. The second got a seconding motion, then was killed on voice vote.

150,000 Tennesseans could lose food stamps

By Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — An estimated 150,000 Tennesseans could lose food stamp benefits on April 1 if they don’t meet work requirements that were waived for several years because of the Great Recession.

Tennessee Department of Human Services spokeswoman Stephanie Jarnagin said the agency began sending out notices earlier this winter to people who could lose benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, as the federal program is officially known.

The program requires able-bodied adults ages 18 through 49 who have no children or other dependents at home to work, volunteer or attend education or job-training courses at least 80 hours a month. If they don’t, their benefits are cut off after three months.

The work requirement was waived during the recession but the waiver ended in at least 21 states, including Tennessee, on Jan. 1. That triggered the three-month limit for recipients to comply with work requirements. If they don’t, they lose their food stamps on April 1.
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TRICOR CEO quits; sees privatizing of prison food service

Patricia Weiland will retire Feb. 8 as CEO of the Tennessee Rehabilitative Initiative in Correction, TRICOR, an organization that provides jobs for inmates and subsequently sells the goods produced by the inmates, according to a news release.

Further, from The Tennessean:

Although a news release about her retirement didn’t note specific reasons for the timing, Weiland clearly blames state lawmakers for her departure.

“Despite our many accomplishments and contributions to the taxpayers, I am compelled to do this because the recent legislative hearings have been used to lead an orchestrated campaign to misrepresent facts surrounding our audit and TRICOR as well as a personal character attack on me by some members of the general assembly,” Weiland wrote in the letter, dated Tuesday.

“After both hearings one can only conclude that select legislators are building a case in support of privatizing corrections food service to which they fear TRICOR may stand in the way.”

Weiland is referring to an audit released by the Tennessee comptroller last fall. The audit criticized numerous aspects of TRICOR leadership, especially its handling of the prison food program known as Cook Chill. The audit noted that TRICOR and the Tennessee Department of Correction never had a contract for the multimillion-dollar program, leading TRICOR to operate the program at a $4 million deficit.

…After a heated legislative hearing earlier this month, state Sen. Ken Yager, R-Kingston, essentially called on Weiland to resign.

“I don’t have any confidence in her ability to clean up this problem that has been created under her watch,” Yager said.

Weiland brushed off the comment when asked about it after the hearing, but continued her offensive on lawmakers in her retirement letter.

“I am being retaliated against for information that was presented in the audit response and shared with select legislators. I will not subject myself to further hearings where legislators are exercising an abuse of power in a public forum to intimidate me and malign my reputation, the reputation of the board of directors and that of TRICOR.”

UT’s forced food fee draws scrutiny

Excerpt from a New York Times article earlier this month on the University of Tennessee’s new $300 food fee:

For the first time this year, the University of Tennessee imposed a $300-per-semester dining fee on Mr. Miceli and about 12,000 other undergraduates, including commuters, who do not purchase other meal plans. The extra money will help finance a $177 million student union with limestone cornices, clay-tiled roofing and copper gutters, part of a campus reconstruction plan aimed at elevating the University of Tennessee to a “Top 25” public university.

Tennessee’s contract with its dining vendor, Aramark, is just one example of how universities nationwide are embracing increasingly lucrative deals with giant dining contractors, who offer commissions and signing bonuses to help pay for campus improvements and academic programs. It is part of a new model of raising money through partnerships with private vendors, officials say, and with state funding for higher education still below pre-recession levels, a way to replace lost revenue.

Under its contract, which runs through 2027, Tennessee will get 14 percent of all food revenues plus $15.2 million in renovations to dining facilities.

In exchange for signing a 20-year contract that runs through 2034, the University of Virginia recently got a $70 million contribution from Aramark, based in Philadelphia — in addition to $19 million in renovations and annual commissions increasing to $19 million a year.

…Universities frequently announce the windfalls with great fanfare, but critics say the cost gets passed on to students and contributes to the expense of college.

…Administrators here at the University of Tennessee, where a $1,899-per-semester meal plan is mandatory for freshmen who live on campus, first floated the requirement that other students buy a $300-per-semester meal plan at a meeting two years ago. Grant Davis, a student who attended the meeting, at which Aramark served lobster ravioli, said, “We knew we were being greased.”

Students protested the plan, garnering more than 1,000 signatures practically overnight on a petition titled “Don’t Force Feed Us.”

Phase 1 of the new student union building, heralded as the cornerstone of a campus transformation, opened this year, with a Chick-fil-A, Subway, Qdoba Mexican Grill, Starbucks and several other restaurants.

Students can get refunds if they do not eat the food, but experience at other schools shows that most succumb to the fast-food temptations.

Mr. Miceli, a senior from Dandridge, Tenn., intends to ask for a refund. Even so, he said, he regards the money as a loan to the university that he could not afford.

Former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe, in his Shopper-News column, offers some commentary after citing the article:

One has to wonder about the fairness of charging students and adding to their college costs for services they do not seek or use.

…The state Legislature may decide to enact a ban on mandatory fees for unwanted meals. It is not a lot different from workers at a plant who do not belong to a union being required to pay the equivalent of union fees. That triggered Tennessee’s right to work law many years ago.

TRICOR stops providing prisoner meals, moves on

The leader of a recently criticized inmate rehabilitation organization tells The Tennessean that it will not be seriously impacted by termination of a contract for providing meals to Tennessee prisons.

The decision to eliminate the multi-million dollar program won’t be drastic for the Tennessee Rehabilitative Initiative in Correction, or TRICOR, said CEO Patricia Weiland. Instead, it’s one of a number of decisions aimed at improving the organization’s business model and bolstering a reputation earned through 17 years of success, Weiland argued.

“You asked why legislators should keep TRICOR going? My question is why would they even think of not?” Weiland said Friday, during an extensive interview with The Tennessean.
No lawmaker has questioned the mission of the organization, but they have questioned its financial management.

TRICOR provides jobs for people incarcerated in Tennessee. For the last five years TRICOR has employed roughly 60 inmates to run the Tennessee Cook Chill program — named for the process of producing and chilling food before it is shipped to its final destination — that has created millions of meals for the Tennessee Department of Correction.

The inmates working at Cook Chill account for a small portion of the roughly 1,250 to 1,350 offenders working in various TRICOR operations at any given time, Weiland said. TRICOR also employs 122 people as state workers, with a roughly $5.3 million annual payroll. Although the Cook Chill program will be eliminated, Weiland said TRICOR plans to move those 60 positions to other parts of its business.

“We were very successful before Cook Chill, we’ll be very successful after Cook Chill,” Weiland said.

Alexander seeks to stall FDA menu-labeling requirements

U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray, the top lawmakers on the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, are leading a bipartisan effort to persuade the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to delay the menu-labeling requirements for a year, reports Michael Collins.

More clarity is needed on what types of foods are covered under the new requirements, and businesses need more time to budget and plan for the changes, the senators wrote in a recent letter to the FDA. The letter was signed by 30 other senators of both parties.

“Thirty-two senators of both political parties are saying to the FDA: Slow down a bit and provide more clarity so that thousands of restaurants and businesses that serve food have time to implement this rule and provide nutritional information in the least burdensome way possible,” said Alexander, a Maryville Republican and the committee’s chairman.

“Consumers want useful menu information,” Alexander said, “but the government needs to allow these establishments to respond to that need in a sensible, reasonable way.”

The menu labeling requirements, set to take effect Dec. 1, are a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — also known as “Obamacare” — which gave the FDA the authority to require nutrition labeling of standard menu items at chain restaurants and similar retail food establishments.

State officials, legislators to package food as part of ‘Campaign Against Hunger’

News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
NASHVILLE – Members of the Tennessee General Assembly, the Governor’s cabinet, and the Supreme Court will join the state’s constitutional officers and the Attorney General in a major effort to restock Tennessee’s food banks. The “Campaign Against Hunger” event, which is sponsored by state lawmakers in conjunction with Outeach, Inc, will take place on Friday, January 16 at 10:00 am in the War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville.

“As we prepare to tackle public safety, education and workforce development issues, it is important to remember that hunger is a factor,” said Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) who, as Chairman of the Council of State Governments last year, led national efforts to combat nutrition and food insecurity. “Food insecurity has been shown to be closely related to health problems, including an increased risk in the development of chronic diseases.

It can cause impairment of psychological and cognitive functioning among children and studies show that those who are seeking employment can be negatively affected in their search for work if they, or their family, are hungry. We hope that this project is only the beginning of widespread support by the public for addressing hunger in our state, which not only positively impacts the lives of individuals, but of our state as a whole.”

The group will package approximately 50,000 meals for food banks serving all 95 Tennessee counties. Norris said the event is timely as stock in the pantries is usually low after the holiday season.

“Second Harvest of East Tennessee is so grateful to the Tennessee General Assembly for organizing this event,” said Elaine Streno, Executive Director.

“We struggle with the number of individuals who need food in East Tennessee because not many people really realize the depth of the poverty. We are thrilled that we are getting this opportunity to let the state know there are hungry throughout our state and right here at home.”

Mark Norris: Wear orange for ‘Hunger Action Day’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris is calling on Tennesseans to wear orange on “Hunger Action Day.”

September is “Hunger Action Month,” a nationwide campaign mobilizing the public to take action on the issue of hunger.

Norris wants people to wear orange on Thursday to draw attention to the cause and launch the month-long effort.

Norris is also chairman of the national Council of State Governments, which has launched a nationwide focus on hunger.

The Collierville Republican organized a Legislative Nutrition Caucus in the Tennessee General Assembly this year and has organized three food packaging events since June in Memphis, Little Rock and Anchorage, with volunteers packaging more than 100,000 meals for those in need.

Dean bests Haslam in ‘food fight’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Nashville Mayor Karl Dean has won his “food fight” with Gov. Bill Haslam for the second year in a row.

The competition, which ran from Nov. 6 through Friday, pitches the two offices against each other for who can donate the most food to the Second Harvest Food Bank in Nashville.

The mayor’s office gathered 385 pounds of food per person, while Haslam staffers donated 345 pounds each.

Metro Nashville government workers collected a total of 122,000 pounds of food, which is enough to provide nearly 102,000 meals.

According to Second Harvest, more than 1 million Tennesseans find themselves in dire need of food.

Raw milk, semi-legalized in TN, blamed in eight cases of child illness

Raw milk is likely to blame for eight sick kids in East Tennessee, reports WPLN, and state health officials are using the small e. coli outbreak to warn against unpasteurized milk.

Several of the recent illnesses were traced back to the Knoxville-area farm of Marcie McBee, which supplies hundreds of families with raw milk. She acknowledges that several customers were showing flu-like symptoms. One girl remains very ill.

“We’re praying for her every day. We want her well,” she says. “But we have to remember there’s a lot of ways to get contamination here. I’m not in charge of the owners’ jars. I don’t clean them. I just put milk in them.”

As in many states, it is technically illegal to sell raw milk in Tennessee. But a law passed in 2009 creates a loophole allowing people to buy “shares” in a cow herd, giving them a legal way to obtain unpasteurized milk.

A press release from the state departments of Health and Agriculture says, “although it is legal in Tennessee for individuals to consume raw milk from their own animals, it doesn’t change the risk to their health.”

Note: The press release is posted below.
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