World Food Prices Continue To Decline On Cheaper Cereal

And although the distribution includes bread, cereal and canned goods, there is increasing focus among church food banks to supply fresh vegetables and meat for the good health of those in need. Fresh food thats the key to lowering high blood pressure and diabetes, said Jeri Bailey, director of the food pantry at the Dupont Park Seventh-Day Adventist Church, who was at the food bank the same day as Nwaneri. We prepare bags for 130families a week that includes a meat, fresh greens, canned goods and other items, Bailey said. But the distribution of fresh food means extra attention must be paid to ensuring that the donated perishables dont spoil. Nearly 36 million tons of food were wasted nationally in 2011, said Nancy Roman, president of the Capital Area Food Bank. Roman recently helped organize a summit in Alexandria to address how local churches and organizations can reduce food spoilage. Participants included Ben Simon, founder of the Food Recovery Network at the University of Maryland; Elise H. Golan, director for sustainable development at the Department of Agriculture; Tom ODonnell, an environmental scientist for the Environmental Protection Agency; and Meghan Stasz, director of sustainability for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents such major brands as Kraft, General Mills and Nestle. Food waste is getting some attention from federal agencies, but [the summit] really connected it to people serving in the communities to begin a conversation that is needed in our region, Roman said in an interview. We are committed to fresh food and vegetables, but we have to pay attention to waste. As panelists talked about how more and more companies are allowed to give out food because of Good Samaritan donation laws, Gerri Magruder, coordinator of the food pantry at First Baptist Church of Capitol Heights , stood in frustration. I want real-life specifics. I would like to leave here with real solutions, said Magruder, who told the panel that there was a shortage of fresh produce when her volunteers recently went to the main food bank to pick up items for their weekly community giveaways.

While the most recent food price spike in 2011 was triggered by a lack of cereal supply, the recent declines in food prices are mainly due to higher expected supplies of corn this year. The FAO index averaged 199.1 points in September, 1% lower than in August and 5.4% lower since the start of the year. Global cereal production, which includes wheat and corn, is expected to be 8% higher over 2012s level, at 2.49 billion tons. The U.S., the worlds largest corn producer, is responsible for the bulk of the increase, expected to harvest a record crop of 348 million tonsthats 27% higher than the previous year. U.S. corn supplies have been tight since the size of last years harvest was hit by severe drought. But after high acreage seeded with corn this spring and largely favorable summer weather, the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts record U.S. corn output this year. That should push corn prices lower. Current levels mark a drastic turnaround since food prices soared to new heights in early 2011 amid global supply constraints for cereals, sugar and cocoa. Rising food prices helped spark the unrestknown as the Arab Springthat analysts say ultimately ousted the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

Best food markets around the world

+ reset Of course the owners of the nations 150,000 convenience stores are worried, as food stamps account for about $4 billion of their annual sales. Making it difficult for convenience stores to participate in the food stamp program could disqualify some important sources of nutrition for people that have little or no access to supermarket, says the National Association of Convenience Stores , the industrys trade association. House Republicans railed this year against rising spending on food stamps, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. They are demanding $40 billion be cut from the program over 10 years by denying benefits to those who are not working or in government job-training courses. Thats 10 times the comparably meager $4 billion in cuts included in the Senate farm bill. They point to the programs dramatic growth to $80 billion in 2012, up from to $35 billion in 2007. Whether significant cuts to SNAP are needed remains a hotly debated subject, but there is little argument over the need to reduce fraud in the program. Especially not after the USDAs report , released in August, found retailers willing to pay cash in return for the government food credit stole $858 million annually from government coffers from 2009 through 2011. Thats nearly triple the $330 million stolen annually from 2006 through 2008. Only about 15% of all the food stamps used by shoppers in the U.S. are spent at small stores, but they are also the source of 85% of the fraud, according to the USDAs report . The USDA report is essentially a follow up to a Government Accountability Office report released several years ago that told the USDA it needed to focus on small convenience and grocery stores in order to cut down on food stamp fraud. USDAhas good reason to see these small-scale, privately owned stores as a significance source of food stamp fraud.

The next front in the food stamp war

Food stamps are pictured. | Reuters

Mercado Municipal, Sao Paulo: Opened in 1933, Mercado Municipal in Sao Paulo is both an architectural marvel and home to various vendors selling produce, poultry, seafood, pastas, sweets, and unique spices from around the world. The building features vast domes and stained glass, an example of industrial architecture. The market, which employs 1,500 people and handles more than 450 tons of food per day, is home to both vendors and small restaurants selling local items. Flickr/c.alberto Fullscreen 12. La Vucciria, Palermo, Italy: La Vucciria may be in Italy, but the atmosphere of this market is more Middle Eastern than European. Musicians play drums and sing Arab ballads while shoppers peruse the ethnic foods available. The name comes from the French word for “butcher’s market,” and while there are many types of meat like barbecued sausage and kebabs available, there are also fruits and vegetable vendors. Flickr/u m a m i Fullscreen 13. Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo: Tsukiji Fish Market is the most famous wholesale fish market in Tokyo and one of the largest seafood markets in the world. The market handles more than 2,000 tons of seafood a day and also supplies fruits, vegetables, and flowers to the Tokyo area. The market hosts a tuna auction in the morning that has become a popular destination for tourists wishing to catch the action (although generally, it is not open for public viewing). Flickr/twm Fullscreen 14. Kreta Ayer Wet Market, Singapore: This Chinatown market is known for being spotlessly clean. It is called a “wet market” because it is regularly hosed down for hygienic purposes. The fare includes a wide range of unique animals, like turtles, frogs, eels, and snakes. The market also sells local items, like Chinese herbal remedies and Asian vegetables like bok choy. Flickr/wgossett Fullscreen 15.