Souper Bowl of Caring raises more than $1.7 million (so far) to help fight hunger

logoEach Super Bowl season the charity organization Souper Bowl of Caring mobilizes to raise money to help fight hunger. The group came together in 1990, driven largely by the energy of young people collecting donations and sending the money directly to local charities like soup kitchens and food banks. More than $100 million has been raised over the last 26 years, including more than $1.7 million (and going up) this year.

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The Super Bowl and chicken, joined at the wing

Super Bowl - Chicken

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Meet a former NFL player who chose farming instead – from CBS News

This is a profile in 2014 of Jason Brown, who walked away from an NFL career to become a farmer with a commitment to feed the hungry.

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Converting Feed to Dairy Foods, illustrated


Link to California Dairy Research Foundation

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New central kitchen for Oakland schools to provide fresh, locally sourced meals – from

Hilda Yanez, left, and Carmen Cerrato assemble hamburgers as part of school lunches at the Prescott Central Kitchen in Oakland. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group)

Hilda Yanez, left, and Carmen Cerrato assemble hamburgers for school lunches in Oakland. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group)

(NOTE – a related video follows this story)

By Joyce Tsai

Fourth-grader Kali Jefferson sat in the Prescott Elementary School lunchroom surrounded by a coterie of friends, the only one among them who hadn’t brown-bagged it that day.

“It smells better today,” she said, wrinkling her nose, as she poked her fork into a school cafeteria-prepared Styrofoam tray of barbecue chicken and brown rice, accompanied by a small side salad — both shrink-wrapped with plastic. She only ate half her meal, while her friends wolfed down their home-prepared lunches.

“Children are picky,” said her mom, Nailah Watkins. “A lot of times, she’ll eat an orange at lunchtime, and trash the rest. I’ll go into the lunchroom and see food half-eaten and (in the garbage). There’s so much food wasted.”

But change is coming.

An ambitious plan by the Oakland Unified School District to build a $40 million central kitchen, instructional farm and education center at the corner of 29th and West streets in West Oakland will transform how school meals are made throughout Oakland.

The state-of-the-art kitchen is the district’s attempt to invest more in the growing farm-to-school movement. A central hub will feed a constellation of local finishing kitchens at every district school site that will cook a steady stream of fresh, healthy, locally sourced meals every day.

One of the first of its kind in the nation, the 48,000 square-foot center will provide learning opportunities in the culinary arts and agricultural instruction, and help urban school kids learn where their fruits and vegetables come from and how food is prepared. Construction starts this winter, and the center should be up and running by the 2017-2018 school year.

“The project will help us radically change the food that we serve in the district, because right now, we can only serve individually prepackaged foods,” said Jennifer LeBarre, OUSD’s executive director of nutrition services.

The entire school district is served by two central kitchens, one at Oakland High and another at Prescott Elementary. Together, those facilities prepare more than 30,000 meals a day — more than 7 million meals a year. Both are too small and outdated to act as a central location for fresh, locally sourced food to be delivered and prepared daily. The prepackaged meals they produce are often heated up at individual school sites with microwave ovens.

The concept for the Central Kitchen came about after the district partnered with the Berkeley-based Center for Ecoliteracy and the TomKat Charitable Trust. The groups were looking to partner with a school district to launch a plan that would address how caring for children’s nutritional and physical well-being would help them better succeed in the classroom and in life, said Zenobia Barlow, the Center for Ecoliteracy’s executive director.

“Oakland is a place where there is really significant hunger,” she said. About 73 percent of the district’s students are eligible for free and reduced meals. And research also shows that when students have access to healthy meals — real, not processed food — those students perform at higher levels.

The project is not without its detractors. Some residents think the center doesn’t belong in a residential neighborhood. It is being constructed on the site of the former Marcus Foster Middle School, which was designed by Robert Kennard, a prominent African-American architect who won an award with his colleagues for its open space design in the 1970s.

The middle school closed some time back, but the campus until recently housed special education programs and community basketball courts. Demolition of the school, ironically, started on Martin Luther King Day, further upsetting its opponents.

Plans to build on the site have been in the works since 2011, even though the community was only notified early last year about the project, said Lynne Horiuchi. She pointed out that the Foster-Hoover neighborhood has a history of having its wishes ignored.

“The imposition of the Central Kitchen development on this historically black community is an environmental injustice,” she said.

“Something like this would never happen above (Interstate) 580 in Temescal or Rockridge,” said resident Madeline Wells. “It will change the community forever.”

School trustee Jumoke Hinton-Hodge acknowledges the community engagement on the project could have been better, but she said the project is about social justice for students districtwide.

In Oakland, “families are working class, working poor and living below the poverty line,” she said. “And we know these kids don’t learn because they are malnourished … so I feel really good about the value this project will bring to the overall community.”

Link to article


In 2013 CDFA produced a video as part of its “Growing California” series showing the benefits of a central kitchen approach in the Riverside Unified School District.

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California snowpack update from the National Weather Service


Link to National Weather Service

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UC Davis experts evaluate water year, so far

From the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences

January 2016 (was) much wetter than the previous Januaries during this drought. Precipitation is modestly above average, as is snowpack, and climatic conditions remain promising. The largest reservoirs are mostly fuller than a year ago, although not nearly to average conditions for this time of year. Groundwater is likely to be recharging, as it should this time of year in most places, but we still sit atop a large hole.

California remains in a drought. Precipitation and snowpack are now mostly above average for this time of the water year (the 2016 Water Year began October 1, 2015). So far, El Nino is delivering a somewhat above normal water year. But, overall 2016 droughtrescond conditions are likely to remain unclear until March.

The California Department of Water Resources’ California Data Exchange Center (CDEC) does a great job assembling data that give insights on water conditions. They update this every day at

Here are some recent highlights, with links.

Reservoir and Groundwater Storage Conditions

Most major reservoirs in California have more storage that at this time last year, but still have only about 60% of historical average for this time of year.  Folsom Lake is now at 100% of average for this time of year, rising from a record-low level in November. But California’s reservoir storage remains about 7 maf (about 7 full Folsom reservoirs) less than average for this time of year.

Groundwater statewide is harder to assess, but is doubtless making some recovery from last year’s levels. It still has a long way to recover from the drought in many places.

The drought so far has depleted total storage in California by about 22 maf cumulatively or nearly a year’s worth of water use in agriculture. Soil moisture conditions were also unusually dry following 2015, diverting and delaying some runoff from early storms.

Precipitation and Snowpack

January Precipitations 2016

December and January storms have helped, with precipitation and snowpack mostly a bit above average for this time of year. We seem to have overcome the Curse of Zero Januaries; January precipitations for the last three years was nearly zero.   This January precipitation in the Northern Sierras is above average and exceeds the sum of all January precipitation for the last five years!

Snowpack in California is mostly above average for this time of year and already greatly exceeds last year’s snow accumulations. There is a ski season.

Is it El Nino yet?   Apparently, yes. But it is giving us slightly better than average conditions, which so far are much better than the last four years. No major floods yet. So far, the forecast for February looks good.

Snow Feb 2016




Concluding thought

Steady, above average precipitation and a decent snowpack, so far. Much better than the last four years. Let’s hope it continues, but remain prepared for another drought year, or at least lingering drought effects even if conditions are modestly wet this year.

Wonks might be interested in UC Davis’ ongoing seminar series on drought impacts and policy (most Mondays at 4pm on the UC Davis campus). The public is welcome and videos are posted some days after each talk. Details at:  This Monday we’ll hear from Peter Moyle (UC Davis) and Jay Ziegler (TNC) on ecosystem impacts and management during the current drought.

Link to blog post


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Women expand their home on the range – from the Washington Post


By Elizabeth Zach

Although Laura Jean Schneider comes from four generations of Midwest farmers, she is uncertain sometimes about her agricultural acumen.

For the past two years, she has ranched cattle across 100,000 acres on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in southern New Mexico with her husband. It is, she says, dangerous work compared with the farming she once did in Minnesota with her family. For one thing, should either she or her husband need immediate medical care, it would be a hard ride over 27 miles of uneven dirt roads that flood during monsoon season.

And at age 31, she suffers from debilitating migraines, back pain and ongoing dental work following a near-fatal car accident a decade ago. There are bank loans, and the West’s ongoing drought, that weigh on her. Yet she’s learned the ropes, as it were, keenly observing how cattle learn the landscape they live in, and how not all of them are naturally good at rearing their young.

“I rope, ride and build fence,” she says matter-of-factly. “This is what I do. It’s my job.”

As unique as Schneider seems, she is far from alone. According to the U.S. Agriculture Department, the number of women-operated farms increased from 5 percent to 14 percent between 1978 and 2007. Today, counting principal operators and secondary operators, women account for 30 percent of all farmers in the United States, or just under 1 million.

As striking as those numbers are, particularly when considering the financial risks and physical demands that accompany the work , researchers say they would like to learn more about the full contribution these women make, and what it means for the future of farming and ranching in the United States.

Researchers have observed some possible reasons why more women are farming and ranching. Some women regard themselves less as entrepreneurs and more as gentle stewards of the land, or bulwarks against corporations overtaking family farms and developers sweeping in with seductive offers. Others are drawn to the farm-to-fork movement, where locally grown produce and meat hold much greater appeal. Also, more women are inheriting farms and ranches.

Downsizing and mechanization have also made the work more affordable and less physically demanding — although “smaller parcels tend to require more physical labor because they are typically managed using hand tools and practices,” said Breanne Wroughton, program assistant for the California Farm Academy at the Center for Land-Based Learning in Winters, Calif.

To that end, Green Heron Tools in New Tripoli, Pa., is part of a burgeoning niche industry that customizes farm equipment for women, including a tractor rapid hitch, because the traditional tool for attaching and detaching parts “is at best difficult and at worst impossible for women (and many men) to safely manage on their own,” according to the company’s website.

None of this much matters, however, to Megan Brown, as she leans over her squealing Red Wattle pigs with a fork in her hand so that she can poke and stroke their backs, which, she claims, soothes them and stimulates their appetites. Born and raised on her parents’ sprawling ranch at the base of Table Mountain near Oroville in northern California, Brown, 34, has made a name for herself raising her heritage pigs and selling their savory meat to local residents and gourmet San Francisco restaurants.

With a swashbuckling demeanor that has attracted a loyal following to her Twitter account (@MegRaeB) and made her a regular fixture at agriculture conferences, she emphatically calls for more women to, so to speak, enter the field.

“My mother taught me to develop as many marketable skills as possible, so it’s not just the ranching with me,” said Brown, as she swerved her Polaris ATV across the rocky plateau skirting her parents’ ranch. “I cure olives, make beef jerky. I’ve planted tobacco, I can skin my own deer. I got a tractor, and I can lift heavy things with it myself. . . . I really believe any woman can do what I’m doing.”

According to the USDA, the women who identified themselves as earning their primary income from farming or ranching run the gamut in terms of what they produce. They raise cattle, sheep, poultry, pigs and goats in the West and Midwest. They are viticulturists — or, as they refer to themselves at times, “vit-chicks” — who nurture malbec and pinot noir grapes in California, Washington and Oregon. They grow lavender, melons and seemingly every other delicacy under the sun.Some have taken on teaching roles and find that more and more women are joining their ranks.

“[Women’s] enrollment in the classes has been fairly consistent throughout the last four years of the program,” said Wroughton, “and 51 percent of our graduates have been women.”’

And then there are women like Donna Schroeder, who at 77 was never schooled in ranching but was clearly born to the land and still ranches it in Shonkin, Mont.

She says she has no plans to retire, despite admitting to a small profit margin along with plenty of bank debt and machinery upkeep. “If someone wants to do ranching these days,” she said, “basically someone has to get out so you can get in. There’s only so much to go around.”

One of the few women to be inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, Schroeder is wizened and walks with a slight limp. Her husband died more than 30 years ago; neither of her two children live nearby nor plan to take over the ranch when she no longer can run it.

Cheryl Cosner, 52, who runs a sheep and cattle ranch with her husband in northeastern Oregon, speculates that one of her two daughters could eventually take the reins. She studied agriculture economics and animal science at a time when, she estimates, about only 30 percent of her fellow students were female. She later taught business administration in China and took art classes that proved helpful when she started marketing her farm products.

Last year, Brenda Kirsch Frketich prepared to take over her family’s Oregon farm. When her father retired, he appointed her to carry the torch at this 1,000-acre Willamette Valley farm that’s been in the family for four generations.

She’d proven her mettle: When she was pregnant with her first child, she was out in the fields — long days, long nights, she recalled, when she had to swath and cut the grass into rows so that the dew would hold the seed on the straw stems for when the combine came through. She is now 32 and has a business degree. In taking over the farm, she oversees three employees, seasonal workers and the planting and harvesting of perennial rye and tall fescu grass, wheat, crimson clover, hazelnuts, green beans, Swiss chard, peas, cabbage and radishes.

“When I started with all this, I was 11 years old,” she said. “My feet couldn’t reach the tractor pedals.”

While moving some records and files into her new makeshift office, she came across a weathered leather-bound ledger book, with orderly figures and notes marching across the pages. She marveled at the detailed, pristine penmanship, now fully aware of her grandmother’s essential role in the family’s business and legacy.

“You can learn the dirt, learn the soil, you can learn the tools,” Frketich said, “but you also need to understand the business. She did.”

Elizabeth Zach is a fellow at Stanford University’s Bill Lane Center for the American West

Link to article


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World Economic Forum commits to reducing food waste

World economic forum

At the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, a coalition of 30 leaders – Champions 12.3 – launched a new effort to inspire ambition and mobilize action to reduce food loss and waste globally. This leadership group aims to accelerate progress toward meeting Target 12.3 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which seeks to halve per capita food waste and reduce food losses by 2030.

Globally, a third of all food is lost or wasted between the farm and the fork. Reducing food loss and waste can be a triple win: It can save money for farmers, companies, and households; wasting less can feed more people; and reductions can alleviate pressure on climate, water, and land resources.

The Champions include CEOs of major companies, government ministers, and executives of research and intergovernmental institutions, foundations, farmer organizations, and civil society groups. These leaders will work to create political, business and social momentum to reduce food loss and waste around the world.

The Champions will inspire action by:

  • Leading by example on how to reduce food loss and waste;
  • Motivating others to meet SDG Target 12.3;
  • Communicating the importance of food loss and waste reduction;
  • Showcasing successful food loss and waste reduction strategies; and
  • Advocating for more innovation, greater investment, better information, and increased capacity to reduce food loss and waste.

Food loss and waste has significant economic, social, and environmental consequences. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), food loss and waste amounts to $940 billion in global annual economic losses. It contributes to hunger. And lost and wasted food consumes about one quarter of all water used by agriculture, requires cropland area the size of China, and generates about 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Champions 12.3 will complement and build upon ongoing successful UN programs to reduce food loss and waste including SAVE FOOD and Think.Eat.Save, efforts such as EU FUSIONS and the global Food Loss & Waste Protocol, private sector action like the Consumer Goods Forum’s Food Waste Resolution, and other initiatives.

The Champions effort supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals adopted in September 2015. SDG 12 seeks to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. Target 12.3 specifically aims to halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer level, and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses, by 2030.

Inspired by the “No More Food to Waste” conference in The Hague in June of 2015, the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands formally called for the coalition’s formation in September 2015, and is providing secretariat support for Champions 12.3, along with World Resources Institute.

See the full list of champions and get more information at:

Link to news release

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California Agricultural Mediation Program a new resource to help farmers resolve problems


Farmers and ranchers are a self-reliant group. They can tune and service tractor engines, repair irrigation systems, and find a way to fix all kinds of broken farm equipment. But there are other kinds of problems they face where they can use some outside assistance – issues with loans, creditors, and USDA agencies. The California Agricultural Mediation Program (CALAMP) is a new service that provides free mediation to the agricultural community in California on a variety of issues.

Mediation is a way to resolve all kinds of problems by utilizing a neutral person to keep the dialogue constructive, overcome challenges in communication, help the parties develop options, evaluate those options, and reach an agreement. Unlike arbitration or the court system, mediation is voluntary. The mediator doesn’t make an order or impose a solution on the parties. If you don’t like any of the options discussed at mediation, you can simply walk away and be in the same situation as you were prior to the mediation.

CALAMP is certified by CDFA and the USDA as the official agricultural mediation program for California. The most common issues where CALAMP can help involve adverse decision letters or other compliance issues with USDA agencies such as NRCS, farm loans regardless whether the lender is FSA, a Farm Credit System bank, or a private lender, and credit issues.

CALAMP’s director Matt Strassberg anticipates that in particular they will be able to help many small and medium sized farms with credit issues. According to Matt Strassberg, “farms that are behind on accounts are often charged interest and after awhile that interest really adds up. CALAMP can help the parties reach an installment payment plan that is affordable and acceptable to the creditor. Even though the creditors often make some compromises, they are usually willing to enter into settlement agreements because they know they will be paid.”

For more information about CALAMP, their website is, or (916) 330-4500 ext 101 or


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