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Sunday Forum: Co-op Values Are Superior; U.S. Food Aid Needs to Be Reformed

Co-op Values Are Superior

To the Editor:

Once again Jim Kenyon feels the need to bash the Co-op Food Stores (“Co-op & Competitor” June 4). I think I need to tell him some things about food.

Sometimes when I tell people that food is political, they look at me kind of strange. When it comes to our daily bread it does not get any more basic, and political. From public policy that forces corporate farms into chemically induced monoculture to the constant bombardment of advertising for products guaranteed to induce nothing less than an epidemic of type 2 diabetes, food is political.

This is where the Co-op is a breath of fresh air. Where else can you find in one place asparagus, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach and field-grown flowers all from the Upper Valley. These are your friends and neighbors, folks. Ask around and you will find out how many people you know are connected with these businesses.

According to an article by Jeff Milchen on the American Independent Business Alliance website, “Independent retailers return more than three times as much money per dollar of sales (to the local economy) than chain competitors.” So as Hannaford’s profits go not only out of state but out of the country, a portion of the Co-op’s profits are helping a family with college tuition and a school kid learn about nutrition; or go to the Haven, one of the Co-op’s community partners.

Yes, food is intensely economic and political. People work hard to put food on their tables. The fact that calories are cheap and “good food” is expensive is, to me, a national disgrace. This is not the Co-op’s fault. It strives to be a viable alternative. It has principles and roots in the community. Hannaford and the others have one principle: profit. That’s OK. But profit with the community in mind profits the community.

So I guess with Kenyon’s endorsement of the sugar cookie, he sides with obesity and nutritional ignorance. I’m going to vote for family farms and local ownership. It should not be this tough a choice.

Jamie King

Co-op employee

Grantham

Reform Food Aid

To the Editor:

We will always have natural disasters, for example, earthquakes in Haiti, typhoons in the Philippines. Historically, the U.S., either through private donations or more significantly, the federal government, has responded generously. The U.S. is the world’s largest food aid donor, supplying 60 percent of the total.

The largest U.S. food aid program was first authorized in 1961 under Public law 480, or Food for Peace. In fiscal year 2014, it was funded at $1.5 billion, but food-aid funding has decreased nearly 40 percent over the past five years because of budget cuts in Washington. This is unfortunate, because for every 5 percent decrease of income growth in developing countries, the likelihood of violent conflict or war increases by 10 percent within the next year.

To use these reduced federal dollars more effectively, our present laws need to be reformed. Currently, food destined for aid must be grown in the U.S. and thus shipped from the U.S.; this can actually have undesirable consequences. Some of the food aid is “monetized,” or donated to the poor country and then sold there. This can undermine regional farmers by depressing market prices. It would be better to purchase more food regionally or if possible, locally, supporting small farmers and saving money on shipping, and speeding delivery. Delivery time is crucial in disasters, especially during those 1,000 days of a woman’s pregnancy and through her child’s second birthday. Without proper nutrition, children who are malnourished will suffer poor health and will be disadvantaged educationally, socially and economically.

These reforms will allow more nutritious food aid to be delivered to more people, at less cost, in a timely fashion without a major impact on our economy.

Food aid accounts for less than 1 percent of net U.S. farm income. The impact on shipping would also be minimal, since in FY 2012 the USAID program shipped 1.5 million metric tons on U.S. flagged vessels out of a total of 1 billion metric tons shipped that year. If your live in Vermont, please contact Sens. Leahy and Sanders, and Rep. Welch; in New Hampshire Sens. Shaheen and Ayotte, and Rep. McLane-Kuster.

Paul Manganiello

Norwich