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Data Specialist Retail Program at Feeding America

Data Specialist – Retail Program

Work. Serve. Thrive.
Imagine a place where your talent can make a meaningful difference in peoples’ lives. Working at Feeding America is a uniquely rewarding experience in which our employees work together as vital parts of a much larger mission. We are innovative, mission-focused, diverse, collaborative, values-driven and focused on results.

We are a national, nonprofit organization and the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief charity. Located in the heart of downtown Chicago, our mission is to feed America’s hungry through a nationwide network of member food banks and engage our country in the fight to end hunger.

The Opportunity
The Data Specialist will indirectly support the continued growth of the retail store donation program (currently over $ 1B pounds annually) by developing and implementing processes to collect, manage, mine and analyze retail store donation program data; Develop insights and recommends strategies to drive incremental value through the retail channel.

Responsibilities
· Supports the continued growth of the retail store donation program by managing program data and statistics that are disseminated to donors, food banks and internally within Feeding America.
· Reviews and analyzes general industry and internal data to identify new opportunities for retail program growth and expansion.  
· Supports the development of the retail program strategy through data management and analysis.  Strategy to focus on: a) identifying areas of program underperformance, b) identifying major opportunities for new growth, and c) creating insight as to how to capture incremental value from both scenarios.
· Identifies processes to more effectively collect, store, and mine retail program data.
· Develops and manages communications on program performance to key donors on monthly basis (including store level program reporting, key exceptions, areas for intervention, etc.).
· Works with food bank members to increase accuracy and timeliness of retail program data reporting through recurring communication on performance, scorecard development, issue troubleshooting, and reporting tool generation / upgrades.
· Generates quarterly updates for senior level audiences (both internal and external) on performance of program.

Requirements
· BA/BS required; focus on statistics and/or research desirable
· 2+ years’ experience in developing quantitative models and working with large data sets, preferably in a research-based environment.
· 2+ years’ experience working with databases and manipulation of data.  Experience structuring and driving strategic initiatives strongly preferred.
· Experience in food retail industry preferred.
· Experience extracting data from databases and writing reports based on results to meet business requirements.
· Strong analytical skills.
· Experience with food security or food waste issues preferred.
· Excellent presentation skills, in addition to oral and written communication skills.
· Ability to think creatively and strategically as part of a team and within broad coalitions.
· Strong acumen in MS Office applications, particularly Access, Excel and PowerPoint.
· Committed to organizational mission of ending hunger.

Please click here to apply

Supermarket News

Rancho Feeding Criminal Trial Being Pushed Into Next Year

A trial date for the federal criminal prosecution of the former co-owner of now-defunct Rancho Feeding Corporation and two former employees won’t be set until Dec. 17, according to U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Breyer.

Breyer delayed setting the trial date at a status hearing Wednesday in San Francisco that marked the first court appearances for former Rancho co-owner Jesse “Babe” Amaral Jr., 76, former foreman Eugene Corda, 65, and former worker Felix Cabrera, 55. The three men were released on bail after their felony indictment in mid-August.

Amaral and Corda are both residents of Petaluma, CA, and Cabrera lives in nearby Santa Rosa.

The U.S. District Court for Northern California will conduct the trial, which likely will not begin until early 2015.

The trio is charged with participating in a scheme that occurred at a Petaluma slaughterhouse from mid- to late 2012 through January 2014 to process cattle that should have been condemned for “bovine ocular squamous cell carcinoma” (commonly called cancer eye). Instead, the diseased cows were slipped past USDA inspectors, slaughtered and processed for human consumption.

Rancho Feeding Corp., which owned and operated the slaughterhouse for many years, was forced to shut down and recall about 8.7 million pounds of beef products once USDA caught onto the scheme. The slaughterhouse was allowed to reopen to serve the Nevada and Northern California beef market, but under a new ownership group.

Amaral and the two former Rancho employees are each charged with eight to 11 felonies, including the distribution of adulterated and uninspected meat, conspiracy and mail fraud. Amaral is further charged with mail fraud conspiracy for defrauding farmers and ranchers by means of false invoicing.

At this week’s hearing, defense attorneys agreed to review the charges and categorize the relevant discovery they will need for the case to go forward. Cabrera, who managed animals in the pens for Rancho, is going to be assigned a different public defender, but his counsel released the Spanish interpreter who was present for this week’s hearing until further notice.

Separately, government prosecutors have a plea agreement with Robert Singleton, 77, who co-owned Rancho with Amaral. He has pleaded guilty to one count of distribution of adulterated, misbranded and uninspected meat in exchange for his testimony when the trial does begin. Singleton will presumably be eligible for consideration at sentencing.

For the others, multi-count convictions at trial can add up to a painful set of penalties, especially jail time. According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, the maximum statutory penalties for conspiracy to distribute adulterated meat are 5 years imprisonment, 3 years supervised release, a $ 250,000 fine and a $ 100 special assessment.

The maximum statutory penalties for fraudulent distribution of adulterated meat are 3 years imprisonment, 1 year supervised release, a $ 10,000 fine and a $ 100 special assessment. The maximum statutory penalties for mail fraud and mail fraud conspiracy are 20 years imprisonment, 3 years supervised release, a $ 250,000 fine and a $ 100 special assessment.

Defense attorneys in the case are Hanford, CA-based Michael Anthony Dias for Amaral, Federal Public Defender Edward J. Hu for Cabrera, and Fresno, CA-based Mark Wade Coleman for Corda. Hartley M.K. West, assistant U.S Attorney for Northern California, is the lead prosecutor in the case.

The pending counts for the defendants are:

Amaral

  • 18:371 – Conspiracy to Distribute Adulterated, Misbranded, and Uninspected Meat (1)
  • 18:1349 – Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud (2)
  • 21:610(c) and 676(a) – Distribution of Adulterated and Misbranded Meat (3-8)
  • 18:1349 – Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud (9)
  • 18:1341 – Mail Fraud (10-11)

Corda and Cabrera

  • 18:371 – Conspiracy to Distribute Adulterated, Misbranded, and Uninspected Meat (1)
  • 18:1349 – Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud (2)
  • 21:610(c) and 676(a) – Distribution of Adulterated and Misbranded Meat (3-8)

Food Safety News

Next Action in Rancho Feeding Corp. Criminal Case Delayed to Sept. 24

Except for finishing up the arraignment of the defendants, who are being freed on bail, the criminal case involving the former owners and employees of the Rancho Feeding Corporation won’t really get underway until Sept. 24. Federal Judge Charles R. Breyer continued the “initial appearances” in the case until that date, and, under agreement with both the prosecution and the involved defense attorneys, the U.S. District Court for Northern California won’t start the speedy-trial clock until then.

Breyer, who was appointed in 1997 to the federal bench in San Francisco by then-President Bill Clinton, has also signed an order connecting the government’s Aug. 14 indictment against Rancho owner Jesse “Babe” Amaral Jr. and two employees with the plea bargain it has with the other former Rancho owner, Robert W. Singleton.

The delay to Sept. 24 for the first status hearing in the case came about due to scheduling conflicts among the various lawyers and the court’s schedule.

The Aug. 14 indictment, unsealed four days later, stems from an eight-month-long federal investigation of the Petaluma, CA, slaughterhouse that was previously owned and operated by Rancho. Various units of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) were involved in the federal probe, including the Inspector General (IG); the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS); Investigations, Enforcement and Audit, and Compliance and Investigations.

In addition to Amaral, 76, two former slaughterhouse employees were also charged in the indictment. They are Eugene Corda, 65, and Felix Cabrera, 55. Amaral and Corda are both residents of Petaluma, and Cabrera lives in nearby Santa Rosa.

Separately, and the lightest charged, is Singleton, 77, who is accused of just one count of distribution of adulterated, misbranded and uninspected meat. He is cooperating with prosecutors against his former partner and their ex-employees. Singleton will make his initial appearance before a magistrate judge this morning in San Francisco.

Amaral and Corda were immediately freed on secured bonds of $ 50,000 each. Cabrera’s release pending trial was also expected no later than today. The docket for his case indicates that a Spanish interpreter assisted the defendant during the legal proceedings.

Amaral and the two former Rancho employees face a package of federal felony charges, including multiple counts of distribution of adulterated, misbranded and uninspected meat, along with mail fraud and conspiracy.

The indictment alleges that Amaral and Singleton directed Cabrera and Corda to circumvent USDA inspection for cattle showing signs of disease, including eye cancers.

Earlier, the USDA investigation brought about the recall of almost 9 million pounds of beef produced at the facility during the previously year.

Food Safety News

Next Action in Rancho Feeding Corp. Criminal Case Delayed to Sept. 24

Except for finishing up the arraignment of the defendants, who are being freed on bail, the criminal case involving the former owners and employees of the Rancho Feeding Corporation won’t really get underway until Sept. 24. Federal Judge Charles R. Breyer continued the “initial appearances” in the case until that date, and, under agreement with both the prosecution and the involved defense attorneys, the U.S. District Court for Northern California won’t start the speedy-trial clock until then.

Breyer, who was appointed in 1997 to the federal bench in San Francisco by then-President Bill Clinton, has also signed an order connecting the government’s Aug. 14 indictment against Rancho owner Jesse “Babe” Amaral Jr. and two employees with the plea bargain it has with the other former Rancho owner, Robert W. Singleton.

The delay to Sept. 24 for the first status hearing in the case came about due to scheduling conflicts among the various lawyers and the court’s schedule.

The Aug. 14 indictment, unsealed four days later, stems from an eight-month-long federal investigation of the Petaluma, CA, slaughterhouse that was previously owned and operated by Rancho. Various units of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) were involved in the federal probe, including the Inspector General (IG); the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS); Investigations, Enforcement and Audit, and Compliance and Investigations.

In addition to Amaral, 76, two former slaughterhouse employees were also charged in the indictment. They are Eugene Corda, 65, and Felix Cabrera, 55. Amaral and Corda are both residents of Petaluma, and Cabrera lives in nearby Santa Rosa.

Separately, and the lightest charged, is Singleton, 77, who is accused of just one count of distribution of adulterated, misbranded and uninspected meat. He is cooperating with prosecutors against his former partner and their ex-employees. Singleton will make his initial appearance before a magistrate judge this morning in San Francisco.

Amaral and Corda were immediately freed on secured bonds of $ 50,000 each. Cabrera’s release pending trial was also expected no later than today. The docket for his case indicates that a Spanish interpreter assisted the defendant during the legal proceedings.

Amaral and the two former Rancho employees face a package of federal felony charges, including multiple counts of distribution of adulterated, misbranded and uninspected meat, along with mail fraud and conspiracy.

The indictment alleges that Amaral and Singleton directed Cabrera and Corda to circumvent USDA inspection for cattle showing signs of disease, including eye cancers.

Earlier, the USDA investigation brought about the recall of almost 9 million pounds of beef produced at the facility during the previously year.

Food Safety News

Feeding fandemonium

Supermarkets are aligning with the hometown team as part of a play to drive game day sales. Take Publix Super Markets, which builds excitement during football season through sponsorships of the Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars. “For every home game, we try do something in-store and at the stadium,” Publix spokeswoman Maria Brous said of the strategy in Jacksonville, Fla., where Publix signed on as the official supermarket of the …

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Supermarket News

‘Neighbor-plants’ determine insects’ feeding choices

TGF-FruitImageInsects are choosier than you might think: whether or not they end up feeding on a particular plant depends on much more than just the species to which that plant belongs. The quality of the individual plant is an important factor as well. As is the variety of other plants growing around it. But what, ultimately, makes an insect choose one plant over another?

It’s a question ecologists have struggled with for decades, and the answer could have a major impact on attempts to use insects for controlling crops or attacking outbreak species such as ragwort. Ragwort (Jacobaea vulgaris) is native to the Netherlands but its abundance in areas such as ex-arable fields can make it a pest, as it is toxic to horses and farmers can’t use fields where it grows for hay.

In her PhD thesis, Olga Kostenko uses ragwort as an example to show that the ‘neighborhood’ in which a plant grows is more important for insects in the end than how the plant tastes. If, for instance, ragwort plants grow in a plant community with many tall neighbors, insects will not even notice them. Consequently, the effectiveness of using insects to control such plants is limited.

Field experiments

But before she could weigh the importance of these factors, Kostenko first had to do some pioneering research into plant quality in particular. Most knowledge about the role of plant quality so far had been based on controlled laboratory experiments. Whether it would still be as important a factor under natural conditions was unknown.

Kostenko took up the challenge, planting no fewer than 1750 plants on ex-arable fields at Mossel (Ede, the Netherlands), with remarkable results. Not only did she find that plant quality wasn’t the most important factor, she also discovered that the way the plants tasted to insects was actually affected by the neighborhood in which they grew.

And not just the present neighborhood: even plants and insects that inhabited the same spot in the past had an effect on the chemical composition of the next generation of plants. These changes in turn affected the number and the performance of insects feeding on an individual plant.

So for ragwort, having good — or bad — neighbors is literally a matter of life and death.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Beef Producer Announces Own Recall in Connection to Rancho Feeding Corp

LeftCoast GrassFed is recalling all its beef processed in 2013, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s investigation into Rancho Feeding Corporation – the facility that processes many of the company’s cattle.

Rancho Feeding Corporation of Petaluma, CA, recently recalled approximately 8,742,700 pounds of beef because it processed diseased and unsound animals and carried out these activities without the benefit or full benefit of federal inspection.

LeftCoast GrassFed said it had contracted with Rancho to process cattle “on a handful of days” in the summer and fall of 2013. “While we have been provided no evidence that our product has been compromised and there have been no reported illnesses from the consumption of our product, the safety and health of our customers is our utmost concern,” read a statement on the company’s website.

“We are sorry for this inconvenience and saddened by the waste of millions of pounds of meat, some of which, like ours, was raised with meticulous care and attention to the health and well-being of the animals that produced it.”

LeftCoast GrassFed is asking customers how purchased the recalled product to return it for a full refund.

Food Safety News

Class 1 – High Risk Recall of 8,742,700 Pounds of Beef from Rancho Feeding Corporation

Rancho Feeding Corporation of Petaluma, California is recalling approximately 8,742,700 pounds of beef because it processed diseased and unsound animals and carried out these activities without the benefit or full benefit of federal inspection. Thus, the products are adulterated, because they are unsound, unwholesome or otherwise are unfit for human food and must be removed from commerce, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

The following Rancho Feeding Corporation products are subject to recall:

• “Beef Carcasses” (wholesale and custom sales only)

• 2 per box “Beef (Market) Heads” (retail only)

• 4-gallons per box “Beef Blood” (wholesale only)

• 20-lb. boxes of “Beef Oxtail”

• 30-lb. boxes of “Beef Cheeks”

• 30-lb. boxes of ” Beef Lips”

• 30-lb. boxes of “Beef Omasum”

• 30-lb. boxes of “Beef Tripas”

• 30-lb. boxes of “Mountain Oysters”

• 30-lb. boxes of “Sweet Breads”

• 30- and 60-lb. boxes of “Beef Liver”

• 30- and 60-lb. boxes of “Beef Tripe”

• 30- and 60-lb. boxes of “Beef Tongue”

• 30- and 60-lb. boxes of “Veal Cuts”

• 40-lb. boxes of “Veal Bones”

• 50-lb. boxes of “Beef Feet”

• 50-lb. boxes of “Beef Hearts”

• 60-lb. boxes of “Veal Trim”

Beef carcasses and boxes bear the establishment number “EST. 527″ inside the USDA mark of inspection. Each box bears the case code number ending in “3” or “4.” The products were produced January 1, 2013 through January 7, 2014 and shipped to distribution centers and retail establishments in California, Florida, Illinois and Texas.

On January 13, 2014, Rancho Feeding Corporation recalled 41,683 pounds of meat products. On January 16 that recall was expanded to include an additional 420 pounds of product that was produced without the benefit of full federal inspection, making it unfit for human food.  The following Rancho Feeding Corporation products were subject to the recalls:

30-lb. boxes of “Book Tripe”

50-lb. boxes of “Beef Feet”

20-lb. boxes of “Beef Oxtail”

50-lb. boxes of “Beef Hearts”

60 and 30-lb. boxes of “Beef Liver”

30-lb. boxes of “Beef Cheeks”

60-lb. boxes of “Beef Tripe”

30-lb. boxes of “Beef Tongue”

All products bear the establishment number “EST. 527″ inside the USDA mark of inspection. Each box bears the case code number “ON9O4.” The products were produced Jan. 8, 2014, and shipped to distribution centers and retail establishments in California.

Food Safety News

Feeding by tourists compromises health of already-endangered iguanas, study finds

TGF-FruitImageDec. 5, 2013 — Feeding wildlife is an increasingly common tourist activity, but a new study published online today by the journal Conservation Physiology shows that already-imperilled iguanas are suffering further physiological problems as a result of being fed by tourists.

Charles Knapp, PhD, of the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and colleagues compared the differences in physiological values and endoparasitic infection rates between northern Bahamian rock iguanas inhabiting tourist-visited islands and those living on non-tourist-visited islands. They took blood and faecal samples from both male and female iguanas over two research trips in 2010 and 2012. The Bahamian rock iguana is among the world’s most endangered lizards due to habitat loss, introduced mammals, illegal hunting, threats related to increased tourism, and smuggling for the illicit pet trade. They are listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.

While the two groups of iguanas did not differ in body condition, indicators for dietary nutrition differed. Both male and female iguanas from the islands frequently visited by tourists showed notably different levels of glucose, potassium, and uric acid. Male iguanas from the tourist areas differed in levels of calcium, cholesterol, cobalt, copper, magnesium, packed cell volume, selenium, and triglycide concentrations. Meanwhile, female iguanas from tourist areas differed significantly in ionized calcium. Among both males and females from tourist areas there was a 100% endoparasitic infection rate. Tourist-fed iguanas also displayed atypical loose faeces.

Dr Knapp says, “Both sexes on visited islands consume food distributed by tourists, although male iguanas are more aggressive when feeding and eat more provisioned food. Consequently, they may be more impacted by provisioning with unnatural foods, which could explain the greater suite of significant physiological differences in males between populations.”

Iguanas on visited islands predominantly eat grapes that are provided by tour operators on a daily basis. The higher concentrations of glucose found in tourist-fed iguanas may be a result of being fed too many sugary fruits, such as grapes. An overabundance of grapes in those iguanas’ diets could also explain the excessive diarrhea observed during the study. Grapes are also inherently low in potassium, possessing 3-10 times less potassium than the most common plants occurring on the islands. Both male and female iguanas from the tourist areas showed notably lower levels of potassium than the non-visited iguanas.

The male tourist-fed iguanas have raised cholesterol concentrations, which may indicate the introduction of meat to their diet. Similarly, the higher uric acid levels in male and female iguanas could be the result of animal protein, such as ground beef, being fed to iguanas by tourists. Furthermore, food provisioning by tourists on beaches has encouraged the iguanas to spend disproportionate amounts of time foraging in the area, rather than further in the island, resulting in higher levels of marine life being ingested.

Dr Knapp says, “The biological effects of altered biochemical concentrations may not be manifested over a short time period, but could have deleterious effects on long-term fitness and population stability.”

While the researchers acknowledge that increased population density as a result of tourist-feeding can be beneficial for endangered species, they warn that unnaturally high densities and excessive reliance on tourists for food may prove problematic if food supplementation is discontinued for any reason. Further, plant community dynamics can be disrupted by changed feeding patterns in the iguanas.

Dr Knapp says, “The complete restriction of feeding by tourists may not be a realistic option. Instead, wildlife managers could approach manufacturers of pelleted iguana foods and request specially-formulated food to mitigate the impact of unhealthy food. Tour operators could offer or sell such pellets to their clients, which would provide a more nutritionally balanced diet and reduce non-selective ingestion of sand on wet fruit.

“We also endorse a broad education campaign and discourage references to feeding iguanas on advertisements. We urge serious discussions among wildlife managers and stakeholders to identify tactics that mitigate the impacts of current tourism practices without compromising an important economic activity.”

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

Meijer celebrates five years of feeding hungry families through Simply Give program

Meijer will double match every customer’s $ 10 Simply Give donation made Nov. 15-16 to celebrate five years of feeding hungry families through its program that aims to restock the shelves of food pantries in the communities it serves.

5yr“This holiday season marks a milestone for the Simply Give program,” Co-Chairman Doug Meijer said. “We’ve been feeding hungry families in the communities we serve for five years, thanks to the continued support and generosity of our customers, team members and pantry partners. We are pleased this program has helped fill a void by providing 39 million meals to our hungry neighbors.”

The Grand Rapids, MI-based retailer began its Simply Give program in November 2008 as a way to help local food pantries throughout the Midwest achieve their missions of feeding hungry families.

Since then, the program has generated more than $ 6.5 million, which equals 39 million meals for those partners to distribute to hungry families. And, more importantly, those meals stay local, said Janet Emerson, executive vice president of retail operations for Meijer.

“We know how important it is to our customers that their generous donations remain in their local communities,” Emerson said. “That’s why each of our stores partner with a local food pantry during the Simply Give campaign.”

“Hunger is a problem that continues to increase in all of our communities,” Meijer said. “The Simply Give program gives everyone a chance to work toward ensuring no one has to go to bed hungry.”

During each Simply Give campaign, customers are encouraged to purchase $ 10 Meijer Food Pantry Donation Cards that are then converted into Meijer food-only gift cards and given to the food pantry selected by the store. The Simply Give program runs three times a year; the holiday campaign will run through Jan. 4.

Simply Give Double Match Days held Nov. 15-16 will stretch those donations even further: For every $ 10 donation card purchase, Meijer will give $ 20 to the program, resulting in a total $ 30 donation. 

Customers can find the donation cards on fixtures near the checkout; they will also be near the Meijer Taste of the Holidays in-store sampling stations Nov. 16. The sampling events, which are held at each Meijer store, will feature a variety of Thanksgiving menu items.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines

‘Grassroots action’ in livestock feeding to help curb global climate change

Sep. 13, 2013 — In a series of papers to be presented next week, scientists offer new evidence that a potent chemical mechanism operating in the roots of a tropical grass used for livestock feed has enormous potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Referred to as “biological nitrification inhibition” or BNI, the mechanism markedly reduces the conversion of nitrogen applied to soil as fertilizer into nitrous oxide, according to papers prepared for the 22nd International Grasslands Congress. Nitrous oxide is the most powerful and aggressive greenhouse gas, with a global warming potential 300 times that of carbon dioxide.

“Nitrous oxide makes up about 38 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture, which accounts for almost a third of total emissions worldwide,” said Michael Peters, who leads research on forages at the Colombia-based International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), a member of the CGIAR Consortium. “BNI offers what could be agriculture’s best bet for keeping global climate change within manageable limits.”

Scientists at CIAT and the Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS) have researched BNI collaboratively for the last 15 years.

“This approach offers tremendous possibilities to reduce nitrous oxide emissions and the leaching of polluting nitrates into water supplies, while also raising crop yields through more efficient use of nitrogen fertilizer,” said G.V. Subbarao, a senior scientist at JIRCAS.

As a result of recent advances, scientists have developed the means to exploit the BNI phenomenon on a large scale:

  • CIAT researchers have found ways to increase BNI through plant breeding in different species of Brachiaria grasses. The new techniques include methods for rapidly quantifying BNI in Brachiaria together with molecular markers, which reduce the time needed for field testing.
  • Center scientists have also just gathered evidence that a maize crop grown after Brachiaria humidicola pastures gave acceptable yields with only half the amount of nitrogen fertilizer normally used, because more nitrogen was retained in the soil, thus reducing nitrous oxide emissions and nitrate leaching. The researchers determined that BNI had boosted nitrogen-use efficiency by a factor of 3.8.
  • In addition, scientists have developed hybrids of Brachiaria humidicola and delivered these, with support from the German government, to farmers in Colombia and Nicaragua for productivity and quality testing. Previous grass hybrids have increased milk and meat production by several orders of magnitude, compared to native savanna grasses, and by at least 30 percent, compared to commercial grass cultivars. Based on evaluation of the new hybrids and with the aid of simulation models, researchers are studying where else the hybrids can be introduced and on how large a scale.

“Livestock production provides livelihoods for a billion people, but it also contributes about half of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions,” Peters explained. “BNI is a rare triple-win technology that’s good for rural livelihoods as well as the global environment and climate. It defies the widespread notion that livestock are necessarily in the minus column of any food security and environmental calculation.”

“The problem is that today’s crop and livestock systems are very ‘leaky,’” said Subbarao. “About 70 percent of the 150 million tons of nitrogen fertilizer applied globally is lost through nitrate leaching and nitrous oxide emissions; the lost fertilizer has an annual estimated value of US$ 90 billion.”

“BNI has huge possibilities for reducing nitrogen leakage,” said CIAT scientist Idupulapati Rao. “Grassland pastures are the single biggest use of agricultural land — covering 3.2 billion hectares out of a global total of 4.9 billion. In Brazil alone, 11 million hectares of grassland have been converted to maize and soybean production, and another 35-40 million could be shifted to crop production in the near future. Instead of more monocropping, developing countries need to integrate Brachiaria grasses into mixed crop-livestock systems on a massive scale to make them more sustainable.”

Originally from sub-Saharan Africa, Brachiaria grasses found their way to South America centuries ago — possibly as bedding on slave ships. Improved varieties of the grass are widely grown on pasturelands in Brazil, Colombia, and other countries, and they have recently been taken back to Africa to help ease severe shortages of livestock feed.

In a major breakthrough, JIRCAS scientists discovered several years ago the chemical substance responsible for BNI and developed a reliable method for detecting the nitrification inhibitor coming from plant roots. Scientists at CIAT then validated the BNI concept in the field, demonstrating that Brachiaria grass suppresses nitrification and nitrous oxide emissions, compared with soybean, which lacks this ability.

Other research has shown that deep-rooted, productive Brachiaria grasses capture large amounts of atmospheric carbon — on a scale similar to that of tropical forests — a further plus for climate change mitigation.

“Our work on BNI started with a field observation made by one of our scientists in the 1980s — back then it was nothing more than a dream,” said Peters. “But now it’s a dream with an action plan and solid scientific achievements behind it.”

BNI research forms part of a larger initiative referred to as LivestockPlus, which proposes to deliver major benefits for the poor and the environment through innovative research on tropical forage grasses and legumes.

The LivestockPlus initiative takes place within the global framework of the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish, led by the Kenya-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). The program aims to increase the availability and affordability of meat, milk and fish for poor consumers and raise the incomes of smallholders producing these commodities.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

Duda teams with Sony to donate 64,000 pounds of fresh produce to Feeding America

Duda Farm Fresh Foods is teaming with Sony Pictures Animations’ comedy, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2,” and other leading fresh produce companies, including California Giant Berry Farms, Grimmway Farms and Cal-Organic in a campaign to support Feeding America’s Hunger Action Month.

image002The campaign includes a series of donation events held simultaneously in Los Angeles, Boston, Atlanta, Detroit and Phoenix. The produce will be donated on Sept. 9 to Feeding America’s nationwide network of food banks and its 61,000 agencies, including food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters.

At the flagship event in Los Angeles, Bill Hader and Anna Faris from the film are expected to attend and help spread the word about Hunger Action Month. Hunger Action Month is dedicated to raising public awareness of the more than 50 million people who struggle with hunger in the United States, and urging individuals to take action in their communities to help fight hunger.

Each event will have activities for the whole family, including a chance to create your own “Foodimal” star (based on the characters in the film) out of fresh produce, face painting and appearances from local celebrities. Semi-trucks featuring graphics of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2″ and Duda Farm Fresh Foods will load the produce in to each event in the four cities.

Duda is donating a total of 64,000 pounds of fresh produce to the following food banks across the nation: Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, the Greater Boston Food Bank, Atlanta Community Food Bank and Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan in Detroit.

“This opportunity allows Duda Farm Fresh Foods to support Feeding America’s Hunger Action Month and help end hunger in local communities,” Dan Duda, president and chief operating officer of Duda Farm Fresh Foods, said in a press release. “We are committed to carrying out our family’s 87-year commitment of giving to those in need.”

As part of the campaign, specially marked packages of participating Dandy produce will be tagged with “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2″ artwork and a QR code linking consumers to Cloudy2win.com. There, consumers will find useful information, including recipes, information about the film and how they can help by making a donation to Feeding America. The film opens in theaters nationwide on Sept. 27.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines