North Carolina’s “food deserts” take center stage this afternoon as legislators hold their second meeting to discuss how to make healthy, fresh food more available in rural areas and in communities where transportation is a barrier.
Among those testifying is Demetrius Hunter, who runs Grocers on Wheels. Hunter is profiled in today’s News and Observer where he discusses how mobile produce markets may be one solution for low-income residents in Wake County.
Rep. Yvonne Holley is hoping these hearings build support for her proposal that would offer tax credits to businesses that open or expand operations that sell nutritious food in the state’s food deserts zones.
Do you live in one of these desert? To find out, check out the recent graphic (above) by the good folks at the NC Budget & Tax Center.
Also on the subject of food insecurity, visit PBS News Hour for an eye-opening photo essay: Picturing Hunger in America.
Finally, we have two additional infographics for you to digest today. First, Mother Jones explains why California’s drought is quickly becoming everyone’s problem. And we’ll leave you with this fascinating graphic from Yes! Magazine on Why Corporations Want Our Public Schools. (Click on either image below to see the full-size original.)
Representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency hold a community briefing in Eden this evening, providing residents with the latest information on water quality following the massive coal ash spill into the Dan River.
Tonight’s meeting comes just hours after John Skvarla, Secretary for the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) defended his agency’s handling of Duke Energy’s coal ash disaster.
Skvarla told reporters that environmentalists who have criticized the department in recent days don’t have all the facts:
“It had become very clear … their desired outcome was what I call one size fits all,” Skvarla said. “The only acceptable remedy was dig them up, move them to lined landfills and cover them. … I can assure you it’s not that simple.”
The hour-long press briefing did little to quiet the controversy. The U.S. Attorney in Raleigh is expanding its criminal investigation of the coal ash spill at Duke Energy’s Dan River plant to include spills at other company plants.
The North Carolina Conservation Network is urging legislators and the Governor to pass legislation this year that would bring an end to the unsafe storage of coal ash.
Grady McCallie with the Conservation Network joins us this week on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon to discuss the the massive coal ash spill on the Dan River and DENR’s efforts to hold Duke Energy accountable. For a preview of their interview, click below:
Tonight’s community briefing in Eden will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Eden City Hall Council Chambers, 308 E. Stadium Drive
There will also be a second community briefing for South Boston, VA on Thursday, February 20th from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Washington Coleman Community Center, 1927 Jeffress Blvd.
As you sit down to lunch today, here’s some food for thought: Military families’ reliance on food stamps hit a record high last year.
Think Progress reports that food stamp spending by servicemen and women exceeded $100 million in 2013:
‘Food stamp usage at the stores has more than quadrupled since 2007 as the recession compounded the already difficult financial situation faced by military families. New soldiers with a child and a spouse earn $20,000 per year in pay, according to CNN Money, and the frequent relocations and disruptions inherent to the lifestyle of a military family make it harder for military spouses to find jobs and bring in supplementary income. The unemployment rate for young military spouses was 30 percent in 2012. Retired military servicemen and women who joined up after 9/11 have a 10 percent unemployment rate, which also contributes to the elevated food stamp figures at DOD commissaries, and nearly a million working-age veterans lived in poverty in 2010.’
And the recent cuts to food stamps have impacted more then just veterans. Alan Briggs, executive director of the NC Association of Food Banks, tells Policy Watch prolonged unemployment, reduced hours, and stagnant wages have more North Carolinians turning to the state’s food pantries to make ends meet.
You can hear Briggs’ full radio interview here with Chris Fitzsimon, or watch a short video excerpt of that segment below:
One step forward, one step back? WRAL.com reports that the number of backlogged food stamp cases is on the up-tick again, just a week after the first federal deadline to clear the majority of delayed cases. The NC Department of Health and Human Services is facing an additional March 31 deadline to clear its remaining backlog of cases.
While we’re on the subject of struggling families, be sure to join the NC Justice Center this evening for a free screening of Inequality for All, a new documentary addressing widening income inequality in the United States presented by American economist and former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich.
Reich takes on the enormous question of what has been happening to our economy – distilling the story through the lens of widening income inequality. He explores what effect this increasing gap has not only on our economy but our democracy itself.
Tonight’s doc will be shown from 6:00-8:30 p.m. at William Peace University’s Browne-McPherson Music Building in Raleigh.
Finally we’ll close out today’s lunch links with Scott Bradlee and Postmodern Jukebox. Their rendition of Sweet Child O’ Mine has gone viral over the past few days. All we can say is step aside Axl Rose, blues diva Miche Braden steals the show:
North Carolina’s wintery blast may be dominating local news coverage, but it’s far from the only environmental story that needs to be on your radar this week.
Make time today to read Policy Watch reporter Sharon McCloskey’s latest piece - Reverberations of a coal ash spill – that clearly explains how we got to the Dan River coal ash problem. Rob Schofield explains in his Weekly Briefing – The tip of a very large and dangerous iceberg – why North Carolina needs a complete 180 on its environmental policy.
If you missed it earlier this week, take six minutes to watch Rachel Maddow’s segment on the coal ash spill and the state’s pattern of blocking environmentalists from challenging the utility company in court:
Finally, mark February 27th on your calendar. That’s the date for our next Crucial Conversation luncheon in Raleigh with very special guests Amy Adams of the group Appalachian Voices and State Rep. Pricey Harrison. Register here.
The Tar Heel state is not broke, and let’s not forget decisions made in 2013 - http://t.co/hFgZ6Vekr7 #ncga #ncpol2 days ago
DHHS: No cost estimate for closing ENC early intervention offices that help disabled babies, toddlers - http://t.co/bB0ojfmNRG #ncga #ncpol2 days ago