Food

KUT News

Almost one out of five Texas households is at risk of hunger, according to a new report by the United States Department of Agriculture.

The USDA says 18.5 percent of Texans households experienced “low or very low food security” from 2009 to 2011. The Texas rate exceeds the national average by almost four percent and is the third highest rate of “food insecurity” in the country.

The USDA considers a family “food secure” if it has enough nutritious food to eat without having to rely on emergency food supplies, scavenging or stealing food. The USDA has used food insecurity as a measure since 2006 because it says “hunger is an individual-level physiological condition” which is more difficult to track.

KUT News

A Stanford University study published today doubting the health benefits of organic fruits, vegetables and meats has some Texas farmers raising questions.

The study, authored by Dena Bravata, MD, MS, was published in today’s issue of Annals of Internal Medicine. It found no consistent differences in the vitamin content of organic food versus the cost-cutting, conventionally grown alternative.

“That study doesn’t really look at a lot of very important factors,” says Judith McGeary, founder of the Texas-based Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance. “Vitamin content isn’t the only issue, even for adults. One issue is the exposure to pesticides, which are to be blunt, poison. And the study did show that there was significantly less exposure to pesticides from organic produce than from conventional."

Todd Wiseman / Julie Jordan Scott, Texas Tribune

As Congress debates proposed cuts to programs that help feed needy families and school children, some school officials and advocates for low-income families are concerned about how the changes could affect Texans who rely on food stamps and reduced price school lunches.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, provides food for 3.6 million Texans each year. But some lawmakers argue that the program has grown too large and become too expensive, and they are looking for ways to cut SNAP in the 2012 Farm Bill.

"A lot of Texas families rely on SNAP, especially now," said Jonathan Lewis, food policy specialist for the Center for Public Policy Priorities, an Austin-based liberal think tank. "Families that already are having trouble paying for their electrical bill, rent and the gas in their car could struggle even more." 

Photo courtesy flickr.com/USDAgov

The Austin Independent School District will be feeding free breakfast and lunch to children starting today. The summer food service program is in place at more than two dozen campuses.

Students don’t have to apply for the program. The free meals are open to any child ages one through 18 regardless of family income.

Photo by Mose Buchele for KUT News

Traditional chicken al carbon – chicken grilled over a charcoal-fired flame – has gotten a makeover. 

Austin-owned Fresa's Chicken al Carbon – an upscale take on the Mexican street-food staple found at modest establishments like El Pollo Rico – opened this April.

"I'm a big fan of El Pollo Rico, which is an existing concept in East Austin, and I thought it would be really wonderful to provide a similar product," said Margaret Vera, one of the restaurant's three partners. 

FDA Rules Corn Syrup Can't Change its Name to Corn Sugar

May 31, 2012

Corn-based-sweetener manufacturers may be singing a sour tune today. The Food and Drug Administration just ruled that the ubiquitous high fructose corn syrup that sweetens many of our candies, sodas and snacks cannot be called "corn sugar." But much like Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator character, they'll probably be baaack.

KUT News

Biking this week will save you more than just gas money. Bike-to-Eat Week (BTEW) is a project giving cyclists discounts at certain locally owned restaurants in Austin. All you have to do is show up on a bike to automatically receive a 10 percent discount on any of these restaurants.

“The idea is to bring restaurants which are part of the local community, the Austin community, on the radar of the cycling community,” says Christopher Stanton, executive director and founder of the Ghisallo Foundation, which created Bike-to-Eat Week. “This will as a result bring the idea of engaging with that cycling community at large to the restaurant.”

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

After four decades in business, local pizza purveyor Gatti’s Pizza is closing its campus location on Martin Luther King Boulevard this Monday, May 28.

The location is currently Austin’s oldest continuously running pizza place. The restaurant is closing its doors after it lost its lease with the landlord of the property.

The restaurant is somewhat of a fixture in the campus area, it’s buffet having filled untold numbers of undergraduate bellies since its founding in 1972. When KUT News visited this afternoon, the line was stretching out the door. (It doesn’t hurt that from now until closing, all buffet customers pay the “kid’s price” of $5.49.)

Photos by KUT News

Vote Anywhere During November's Presidential Election?

The Travis County Commissioners are meeting this morning to talk about using vote centers for the November 2012 Presidential election.

Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir says vote centers, or countywide polling places, give all registered Travis County voters the option to vote at any polling location in the county on election day. Right now, that’s only allowed during early voting.

A Michigan teen says he got a taste of more than just roast beef when he bit into his Arby's sandwich last week. Ryan Hart was nearly finished with his meal when he tasted something chewy — an employee's finger.

The Jackson Citizen Patriot reports:

"'I was about to puke... It was just nasty.'

"The piece appeared to be the back of a finger, including the pad and extending beyond the first knuckle. ...

If you're already a kale and lentils kind of person (we know there are a lot of frugal foodies out there) — you won't be surprised by this finding: According to a new study from some economists at the USDA, eating a healthy diet isn't necessarily more expensive than a diet loaded with sugar and fat. In fact, fruits and vegetables are often cheaper when you calculate the cost in a smarter way.

Photo courtesy of Austin Food & Wine Festival

Andrew Zimmern, the host of Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods (where he's made a name for himself eating exotic things like fermented beetle anus), heaped some praise on the local food scene at the Austin Food Festival this weekend. But while Zimmern is fond of many Austin chefs, farmers and restaurants, he saves the highest praise for Austinites themselves.

KUT: So tell us why you're here at this food festival in Austin.

Andrew Zimmern: "I think Austin has a very special food community in terms of diners. It's the diners and the Austinites that have created the atmosphere for all this amazing food here to flourish.

Every single person I've spoken to here at this festival, I think, gets it all wrong about Austin. Everybody puts the food and chefs first, and I think it's not chicken or egg, it's very matter-of-fact: the audience here in Austin is unique. They are willing to be experimented at, and they do not hold grudges against chefs that make mistakes or have failures, as long as that chef is willing to get back on their bicycle and start pedaling again.

Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Thousands of gourmets and tipplers gathered at the Austin Food and Wine Festival this weekend. 

There was, of course, wine, but there was also sushi, macaroons and even Frito pie. And there was a scene you’ll have a hard time finding again: 200 charcoal grills all fired up at once on the shores of Lady Bird Lake. The coals were burning for Fort Worth chef Tim Love's "Grills Gone Wild" hands-on demo, where attendees learned the art of searing, resting and slicing a steak.

"Now I cook them medium rare. Cause I’m an American. Not only am I an American, I’m a ... Texan. So remember that," Love said as he whipped up the crowd. 

KUT News

Austin has made yet another “best of” list. This time, it’s Austin-Bergstrom International Airport that’s getting the accolades — or more precisely, the ABIA outpost of The Salt Lick.

That’s right — the website Food Republic ranks The Salt Lick at ABIA as Number Four on its list of “The World’s Best Airport Restaurants.”

The website says:

Texas barbecue doesn’t get much better than Salt Lick BBQ and an outpost of the preternaturally popular 800-seat restaurant in Driftwood is located in the West Terminal (but fills the entire airport with the bewitching scent of brisket). Try a sloppy, but satisfying, pulled pork sandwich topped with slaw and Original Recipe barbecue sauce for a taste of Hill Country on the tarmac.

The fallout from the consumer backlash to so-called "pink slime" continues to hurt meat sales. Now, some companies are taking steps to label the product they call "lean, finely textured beef" in hopes that they can earn back consumer trust.

Tyson and Cargill, two multinational firms that sell ground beef containing the processed trimmings, say they have submitted labeling requests to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in hopes that some customers will feel better about buying ground beef containing LFTB if it's labeled.

Image courtesy dailytexanonline.com

Texan Issues Formal Apology for Trayvon Martin Cartoon

The editors from The Daily Texan issued an apology regarding the controversial Trayvon Martin cartoon the paper published on Tuesday.

The cartoonist, Stephanie Eisner, no longer works for the paper.

In their apology, the student editors admit to showing “a failure in judgment.” Yesterday the editors of the Texan met with angry students and protestors to discuss the paper’s decision to publish the cartoon and the editorial team’s oversight in recognizing the sensitive nature of the cartoon.

Photo courtesy flickr.com/mommamia

A resolution on the Austin City Council agenda this Thursday has the city buzzing.  

Item 19 seeks to protect Austin bees, by essentially codifying a long-standing but informal practice of relocating wild colonies instead of exterminating them.

Joe Staudt, program supervisor for Health and Human Services’ Environmental Health Services department, said that every spring bees start thriving in Austin. People end up calling pest removal companies and have them eradicate the bee hives – which could prove detrimental in the long run.

The resolution before council is “just putting into writing essentially what we’ve been doing for years,” Staudt tells KUT. When someone calls the city to report a feral hive or bee swarm, they’ll be advised that it’s preferable to relocate the bees instead of destroying them, and then they’ll be provided a list of companies that can help.

There has been a lot of talk about what's wrong with food deserts. First lady Michelle Obama, for one, says far too many people can't access the fruits and vegetables they need to be healthy.

Photo courtesy flickr.com/cbroders

A new farmers’ market opens on Austin's eastside tomorrow. And aside from offering fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses, the market offers a special incentive for families needing food assistance.  

The market, located at the YMCA East Communities Branch will be run by the Sustainable Food Center (SFC). It’s the fourth farmer’s market the SFC operated in Austin.

But SFC community relations director Susan Leibrock notes that this center is different: shoppers using a SNAP, Lone Star or WIC benefits card will have their fruit and vegetable purchases matched, up to $10 each week, by the market.

Below is an excerpt from Adam Davidson's latest New York Times Magazine column, "Don't Mock the Artisanal-Pickle Makers" Read all of Davidson's Times Magazine columns here.

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