Farewell to Hostess

Hostess Brands is dissolving the company.  The refusal of union workers to take a pay cut was the last straw, but the company was already in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Losing their jobs will be 18,500 employees at 33 factories and 500 stores. But at least they didn’t have to take a pay cut!

Hostess made products that became icons of American culture:  Twinkies, Wonder Bread, Snow Balls, Ding Dongs, Ho-Hos, and (my favorite) Hostess Cupcakes.   Other Hostess brands include Nature’s Pride, Butternut, Drake’s, Home Pride, and (my favorite) Dolly Madison.  (No more of those white powdered donuts?)

Remember the “Twinkie Defense,” in which an accused murderer pleaded that he was not responsible for his actions because he ate too much junk-food, being in a state of sugar intoxication when he killed his victim?  That didn’t work.  For other examples of Twinkies in American culture, read this.

Apparently, America has been giving up that soft, pillowy, white bread in favor of hard, wheaty, textured bread, and cutting back on sugary treats with cream filling in favor of healthy, locally-grown snacks.  (Well, that part’s unlikely.  So what happened to these products?)

They were certainly fixtures of my childhood.  I remember pondering how Hostess got that filling into the cakes!  And how can I have Thanksgiving without turkey leftovers on that soft Wonderbread?

A petition has been started asking the White House to bail-out the company.  Hostess is too delicious to fail!  Meanwhile, Twinkie hoarding has begun.  A box of ten is going for as much as $229.99 at E-bay.

But surely, for the sake of America and all that is sweet and soft and gooey, as Hostess liquidates and sells its assets, surely  some other company will buy the rights to the Hostess icons.

Twinkie maker Hostess moves to wind down operations, lay off its 18,500 workers – The Washington Post.

How Christians can live in a non-Christian culture

Yesterday we discussed a post from my colleague Mark Mitchell:  The Culture of Hospitality | Front Porch Republic.  I’d like to focus on one line that he cites from the Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus written in the 2nd century A.D. (or maybe even earlier).  It describes how the very earliest Christians lived in the Roman Empire:

“they marry, as do all [others]; they beget children but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed.”

Isn’t this the same thing Christians are called to do today against the same cultural pressures?  Get married; back then even the Roman pagans did this, and that might change.  But whatever happens, Christians will still practice marriage and cultivate families.  Beget children and do not destroy them; that is,  don’t get abortions. Don’t have “a common bed”; that is, don’t be sexually promiscuous.  But do have “a common table”; that is, be hospitable to all, inviting even non-believers into your home so as to get to know them and so they can get to know you and your faith.

Keeping these simple distinctives, Christians would eventually win over the Roman empire.  Maybe if we did the same things, Christians might eventually win over the American empire.

The children’s conservative revolution

First lady Michelle Obama has joined with food activists to push through changes in  school lunch menus as a way to combat childhood obesity and promote better nutrition.  But children are rising up in revolution.  A new generation of anti-big government, anti-nanny state meddling, is born!  The Tea Party is passing its generational torch to the School Lunch Party.

A new product has popped up on the city’s black market and it’s selling in an unexpected place: Greater New Bedford Vocational-Technical High School, which has become ground zero for a new underground economy based on trade in chocolate syrup.

Students said some of their peers are buying the contraband liquid for 50 cents and squeezing it into cartons of white milk to give it flavor. It’s their way of coping with a ban on flavored milk — and a long list of other items — that took effect Aug. 1.

“Of course they got rid of dessert, (but) flavored milk … I don’t understand why we can’t have that,” said Paige Lame , 17, of New Bedford. She added that she thought the nutritional difference between white milk and chocolate, strawberry or coffee flavored milk was too minimal to have an important impact on health.

The changes reflect stricter nutrition standards imposed in January by the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was championed by Michelle Obama and her “Let’s Move” initiative.

They are also part of a law passed by the state Legislature in 2010 as a step toward combating childhood obesity. That law states that milk with more sugar than nonfat or 1 percent white milk may not be served a la carte starting in August 2013.

The rules, which apply to schools across the state, also reduce the amount of protein served to high schoolers, and increase servings of fruit and vegetables — going so far as to specify how many servings of green vegetables, legumes, and red/orange vegetables should be consumed each week. . . .

The changes are especially hard at the elementary school level, where hummus and black bean salad have been a tough sell, said Nancy Carvalho, director of food services for the New Bedford Public Schools, adding that bowls of chili served Wednesday to comply with the legume specifications were “not a very good decision.” . . .

At Voc-Tech, the changes have produced complaints from some students that portions are too small — particularly since the price of lunch has increased 10 cents to $1.95, again due to a federal mandate.”How do they expect us to go through the day and work hard when they give us smaller portions and we’re hungry?” said Ashley Chaneco, 13, of New Bedford.

“You’re paying more for less,” said Erik Cortez, 16, of New Bedford. “I get it, but why should they have the right to tell you what you can and can’t eat?”

via Healthy food policy at school jumpstarts chocolate syrup trade | SouthCoastToday.com.

Imagine trying to get elementary school-aged kids to eat humuus!

Hungry school children are now bringing their lunches and eating more snacks.  See this report.

And this new rising generation of radicalized students, newly opposed to big government and nanny-state meddling, are battling the oppression with the tools that they have.  Not only setting up black markets for chocolate syrup and other newly-controlled substances, but using the new information technology to promote the cause.   Consider this very creative video they made, which has now, of course, gone viral:

Did Chick-fil-A back down–or not?

Reports are circulating that Chick-fil-A has abandoned its practice of supporting groups that oppose gay-marriage.  But the company is denying any change of policy.

The first story:

Chick-fil-A stopped funding traditional-marriage groups in an effort to open a new Chicago restaurant, but the company initially kept quiet about the decision, prompting gay rights groups to speculate that the company feared a backlash from conservative customers.

The Christian-rooted fast food restaurant agreed to stop funding groups such as Focus on the Family that oppose same-sex marriage in a meeting with the Chicago politician who had been blocking the company’s move there. Chick-fil-A wrote a letter to Alderman Joe Moreno affirming this, according to his spokesman, Matt Bailey, but the company initially wouldn’t allow his office to release the letter to the public. Three weeks later they relented.

“There was concern from them,” said Anthony Martinez, executive director for the Civil Rights Agenda, the Illinois lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender group that negotiated with both Chick-fil-A and the alderman to stop funding for so-called anti-gay groups. “They really didn’t want to announce it, really, but, of course, the alderman needed to clarify why he was changing his stance on them opening a restaurant within his ward.”

Chick-fil-A did not returns requests for comment, and has previously said it will not discuss the issue with the media.

Mr. Martinez said Chick-fil-A told the alderman they will no longer fund groups that support traditional marriage through their charity arm, the WinShape Foundation, and will instead use that money toward educational programs and food donations.

“The WinShape Foundations is now taking a much closer look at the organizations it considers helping, and in that process will remain true to its stated philosophy of not supporting organizations with political agendas,” Chick-fil-A wrote in the letter.

The second story:

Following reports that Chick-fil-A had agreed to stop funding certain traditional family groups in order to get approval for a new Chicago restaurant, company President Dan Cathy said Friday the restaurant made no concessions and “we remain true to who we are.”

Cathy’s statement, posted on Mike Huckabee’s website, came one day after the company released its own statement saying that its corporate giving has “been mischaracterized” for many months and that it will continue to fund programs that “strengthen and enrich marriages.”

Said Cathy, “There continues to be erroneous implications in the media that Chick-fil-A changed our practices and priorities in order to obtain permission for a new restaurant in Chicago. That is incorrect. Chick-fil-A made no such concessions, and we remain true to who we are and who we have been.”

Focus on the Family President Jim Daly — whose organization supposedly had been de-funded by Chick-fil-A — also has spoken up for the company. And gay activist groups — who initially applauded Chick-fil-A’s supposed move — now are criticizing the restaurant once again.

HT:  Grace

UPDATE:  Tiffany Owens at  World Magazine does a good job of sorting this out (registration required).

The great soda grants

George Will describes how a stimulus program that became part of Obamacare shelled out millions of dollars worth of grants to lobby lawmakers against soft drinks:

Because nothing is as immortal as a temporary government program, Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW), a creature of the stimulus, was folded into the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, a.k.a. Obamacare. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), working through the CPPW, disbursed money to 25 states to fight, among other things, the scourge of soda pop.

In Cook County, Ill., according to an official report, recipients using some of a $16 million CDC grant “educated policymakers on link between SSBs [sugar-sweetened beverages] and obesity, economic impact of an SSB tax, and importance of investing revenue into prevention.” According to a Philadelphia city Web site, a $15 million CDC grant funded efforts to “campaign” for a “two-cent per ounce excise tax” on SSBs. In California, an official report says that a $2.2 million CDC grant for obesity prevention funded “training for grantees on media advocacy” against SSBs. A New York report says that a $3 million grant was used to “educate leaders and decision-makers about, and promote the effective implementation of . . . a tax to substantially increase the price of beverages containing caloric sweetener.” The Rhode Island Department of Health used a $3 million grant for “educating key decision-makers to serve as champions of specific . . . pricing and procurement strategies to reduce consumption of” SSBs. In government-speak, “educating” is synonymous with “lobbying.”

Clearly some of the $230 million in CDC/CPPW anti-obesity grants was spent in violation of the law, which prohibits the use of federal funds “to influence in any manner . . . an official of any government, to favor, adopt, or oppose, by vote or otherwise, any legislation, law, ratification, policy, or appropriation.” But leaving legality aside, is such “nutrition activism” effective? . . .

Research indicates that overweight individuals have “reasonably close” to accurate estimates of the increased health risks and decreased life expectancy associated with obesity. Hence the weakness of mandated information as a modifier of behavior. A study conducted after New York City mandated posting calorie counts in restaurant chains concluded that, while 28 percent of patrons said the information influenced their choices, researchers could not detect a change in calories purchased after the law.

Other research findings include: A study of nearly 20,000 students from kindergarten through eighth grade found that among those with easy access to high-calorie snacks in schools, 35.5 percent were overweight — compared with 34.8 percent of children in schools without such snacks. Nutrition policy is replicating a familiar pattern: Increased taxes on alcohol and tobacco mostly decrease consumption by light users, not the heavy users who are the social problem and whose demand is relatively inelastic.

The robust market in diet books, weight-loss centers, exercise equipment, athletic clubs, health foods — between 1987 and 2004, 35,272 new food products were labeled “no fat” or “low fat” — refutes the theory that there is some “market failure” government must correct. But as long as there are bureaucrats who consider themselves completely rational and informed, there will be policies to substitute government supervision of individuals for individuals’ personal responsibility.

As the soft paternalism of incentives fails, there will be increasing resort to the hard paternalism of mandates and proscriptions. Hence the increasing need to supervise our supervisors, the government.

via George Will: Why government needs a diet – The Washington Post.

Another thing, besides it being illegal for the government to fund efforts to lobby the government.  Who is getting these grants, and how are they spending that $15 million?  Educating  policymakers should require some handouts, a PowerPoint set up, and maybe some coffee and doughnuts.  How could that cost $15 million?

We waste 40% of our food

Our food supply is so cheap and abundant that we can afford to throw 40% of it away.   Then again, it’s not so cheap and abundant everywhere and for everyone.

Each year, about 40 percent of all food in the United States goes uneaten. It’s just tossed out or left to rot. And that’s a fairly large waste of resources. All that freshwater and land, all that fertilizer and energy — for nothing. By one recent estimate, Americans are squandering the equivalent of $165 billion each year by rubbishing so much food. . . .

1) Farming: Roughly 7 percent of the produce that’s grown in the United States simply gets stranded on fields each year. Some growers plant more crops than there’s demand for, to hedge against disease and weather. Some produce goes unpicked because it doesn’t meet standards for shape and color. At times, perfectly fine crops go unharvested after food-safety scares, such as the FDA’s salmonella warning in 2008. Fluctuating immigration laws in states like Georgia can also create shortages of farmworkers, which can leave food unpicked.

2) Post-harvest and packing: After crops have been gathered from the fields, farmers tend to cull produce to make sure it meets minimum standards for size, color, and weight. “One large cucumber farmer,” the NRDC report notes, “estimated that fewer than half the vegetables he grows actually leave his farm and that 75 percent of the cucumbers culled before sale are edible.” If there’s a culprit here, it’s our high aesthetic standards for food.

3) Processing and distribution: Plenty of food gets trimmed in the manufacturing stage, though much of it is inedible anyway. Still, there’s also a fair bit of avoidable waste. Technical malfunctions in processing and refrigeration are one big factor. Food can sometimes sit too long at improper temperatures and spoil. Another issue is that stores often reject shipments — and it’s often difficult for distributors to find a new taker. After all, it’s not as if food banks can always find a home for a truckload of rejected beets.

4) Retail and grocery stores: Grocery stores are another huge source of rubbished food — with the USDA estimating that supermarkets toss out $15 billion worth of unsold fruits and vegetables alone each year. But waste is also seen as the cost of doing business. Stores would rather overstock their shelves and throw out the remainder than look empty. Supermarkets will also winnow out produce that’s in subpar condition, since few shoppers want to buy an apple that’s all bruised up.

There’s also the issue of “sell by” expiration dates. The report cites one industry estimate that each store throws out, on average, $2,300 worth of food each day because the products have neared their expiration date. Yet most of this food is still edible. In many states, it’s still perfectly legal to sell food past its expiration date. Many stores would just prefer not to — it looks bad. “Most stores, in fact, pull items 2 to 3 days before the sell-by date,” the NRDC report observes.

5) Food service and restaurants: About of all wasted food comes from households and food-service establishments. In restaurants, a good chunk of food is lost in the kitchen. And, on average, diners leave about 17 percent of their food uneaten. The report notes that portion sizes are a big reason for this, as portions have ballooned in the past 30 years. Restaurants also try to keep more food than they need on hand to make sure that everything on the menu is available. What’s more, chain restaurants have inflexible rules that require perfectly good food to be tossed. McDonald’s, for instance, requires fries to be thrown out after seven minutes. About one-tenth of fast food gets junked this way.

6) Households: This appears to be the big one. According to various estimates, American families throw out between 14 and 25 percent of the food and beverages they buy. This can cost the average family between $1,365 to $2,275 annually. A big factor here, the NRDC report notes, is that food has become so cheap and readily available. So, most people reason, what’s the big deal if some of it gets tossed? The report also notes there’s a great deal of confusion around expiration labels, which tend to be confusing and often prompt people to throw out food prematurely. (The British government has recently moved to revise these standards to make them less perplexing.)

7) Disposal: Not all discarded food is equal. The report estimates that only 3 percent of thrown-out food in the United States is composted. Most end up in landfills, where they decompose and release methane, a powerful heat-trapping greenhouse gas. In fact, about 23 percent of U.S. methane emissions comes from landfill food. Composting or even technologies to capture methane could reduce that.

via How the U.S. manages to waste $165 billion in food each year.

Is our practice of wasting so much food a sign of prosperity or decadence?  abundance or irresponsibility?  Wasting things has always been seen as a vice.  What if that 40% were put to use?  If vegetables aren’t pretty enough for the grocery shelves, maybe we could at least make ethanol or something out of them!


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