Food

Food waste talk gives ag breakfast attendees plenty to chew on

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Clean your plate. If only the solution to food waste was that simple. As Brian Roe, a professor in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics of Ohio State University, neither the problem nor the solutions are simple. Roe was the speaker at the Northwest Ohio Ag-Business Breakfast Forum Thursday presented by CIFT at the Ag Incubator on Route 582. The problem is global, he said, though the details differ. In developing countries the waste comes earlier in the supply chain. Once the food reaches the consumer, it gets consumed. In the United States and other developed countries, the problem is focused the closer the food comes to reaching the kitchen. The cost of the problem is “staggering,” Roe said. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates 31 percent of the world’s food production is lost. In the United States, the USDA estimates that percentage of loss is experienced on the retail and consumer levels in the United States as well. That means in 2010, 133 billion pounds of food were wasted at a cost of $162 billon. That waste of past-date milk, shriveled produce, and stale cereal, represents a waste of the resources that go into producing those products – the water, land, and labor. This also costs households money for products that they buy and then throw away without using. And that food, Roe said, could help feed the one in six American children who live in households that experience food insecurity. Feeding America, estimates there is 48 million pounds lost before the food even gets to market and another 22 billion pounds at local markets a year. This is usable food, Roe said. Once that food is discarded the problems continue. About 20 percent of what goes into the nation’s overstuffed landfills is food waste. As it decomposes, it forms methane gas. Only the United States and China account for more greenhouse gases than what food waste produces. Two-thirds of the food wasted in the U.S. is lost in the home. Roe said that confusing labeling of food is a particular problem. Terms such as “sell by,” “best used by,” and “expires on” are not as precise as they may seem and often lead consumers to throw out still edible food. An experiment conducted at…

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Food truck discussion takes sweet and sour twist

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The discussion over food truck rules in Bowling Green erupted into a verbal food fight Wednesday evening. But when it was over, rules allowing food trucks to operate in the city were ready to move on to City Council. On one side of the dispute was council member Bill Herald, who had spent countless hours covering every possible angle of the mobile food truck issue in a 180-page slide presentation. On the other side were council members Sandy Rowland and John Zanfardino, who wanted to move along the process, stop reviewing the slide presentation, and instead discuss a one-page food truck permit proposed by Rowland. “We talked about the size of this report,” Rowland said to Herald, referring to council members asking the committee to move along the process. “It’s taken far too long at this point.” While the committee has held eight meetings, they took place over a condensed space of less than two months, Herald said. He stressed that the one-page permit proposal “isn’t as rich with detail,” as his 180-page report. Herald asked his fellow council members to give him a half hour to get through his executive summary of 21 pages. “I think we’ve been thorough. We’ve been comprehensive,” Zanfardino said. “I don’t mean to be argumentative up here,” Zanfardino said, but added that he wanted Wednesday’s meeting to end with a plan that council as a whole could review. Rowland agreed, and pushed for a product that could go before City Council soon. But both agreed to let Herald start through his executive summary. As they studied the slides, Rowland and Zanfardino pointed out unnecessary specifics or redundancies. For example, there was no need to stipulate that the food sold has to be legal, or to identify the type of vehicles allowed. The locations where food trucks would be permitted was narrowed down to not allow the vehicles on Main Street, Wooster Street or any of the sides streets one block off of those. Those restrictions are due to safety on the state routes, which don’t have much spare room. “It’s just not made for it,” Herald said of the downtown streets. Rowland and Zanfardino agreed. “I’m personally trying to strike a balance” between local concerns and mobile food vendors, Zanfardino said….


Food truck talks continue to simmer in slow cooker

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The food truck discussions in Bowling Green may be cookin’ but they are still far from complete. During the seven meetings held so far on the topic, there’s been talk about peeling back the layers of an onion, putting meat on the bone, taking the issue off the back burner, and peppering the ordinance with certain language. Yet, the food truck issue remains simmering in a slow cooker. “It’s just the nature of Bowling Green to be cautious,” said City Council member Sandy Rowland, who is working with council members Bill Herald and John Zanfardino on the food truck regulations. But time is running out if the city wants food trucks to operate in the community this summer. “I think seven meetings is an awful long time,” Rowland said during last week’s food truck meeting. Rowland suggested that an ordinance be drafted by the city attorney and presented at next week’s City Council meeting. But Herald balked at that idea. “We’ve been meticulous, we’ve been balanced,” Herald said, urging his two fellow committee members to resist rushing to the finish line before the ordinance is ready. The varying work styles of committee members became even more apparent last week, with Herald referring to his 168-page report, and Rowland presenting a one and a half page draft permit for food truck vendors. “I’m hoping we can do something to attract them before 2019,” Zanfardino said, with some frustration. “I believe in the benefit they bring to the entire city.” But Zanfardino echoed Rowland’s description. “Bowling Green is very cautious and very slow to move,” he said. During last week’s meeting, like the six before, the council committee members listened to concerns from food truck vendors, brick and mortar restaurant owners, and citizens. Max Hayward questioned why the food truck proposal did not allow vendors to set up anywhere along Main or Wooster streets in the downtown area. He called that an “unnecessarily restrictive rule” that could doom food trucks to failure. Bowling Green is being “needlessly conservative and cautious,” Hayward said. Phil Barone, who owns a food truck and the restaurant, Rosie’s Italian Grille, said hiding food vendors will not work. “Food trucks need to be seen,” he said. But Herald said there is not enough room and…


Food truck discussion continues to cook up controversy

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The idea of inviting transient food truck businesses into downtown Bowling Green leaves a bad taste for a stalwart member of the downtown business community. Floyd Craft, owner of Ben Franklin, Ace Hardware and other downtown buildings, said existing downtown businesses pay taxes into a Special Improvement District that supports items such as street cleaning, flower planting and watering, snow cleanup, and weekend trash pickup. Craft pays the SID anywhere from $200 to $1,049 a year, depending on the property. My main concern is the downtown,” Craft told the three council members – Bill Herald, Sandy Rowland and John Zanfardino – charged with coming up with regulations for food trucks. “I’m very much against having outsiders in our downtown” – people who don’t pay property taxes and would only have to pay a relatively small permit fee, he said. “We can barely cover our expenses as it is,” Craft said of the downtown district. But Craft also noted that he was one of the people behind the start of the Black Swamp Arts Festival, which allows food trucks to set up in a city parking lot for a weekend. The fee charged for that is quite high, he added. The discussion at the previous meetings on food trucks has focused on allowing the vendors downtown for special events – not on an ongoing basis. Nadya Shihadeh, owner of Qdoba in the downtown, said parking is already a problem for downtown restaurants. However, if the city sets specific rules for the location and hours of operation, Shihadeh said she could get behind the idea. “I think food trucks are cool, totally,” she said. “I’m not against food trucks,” as long as they are regulated, Shihadeh said. Garrett Jones, owner of Reverend’s, said the city needs to limit the number and the size of the food trucks. “Some of these vendor trucks are massive,” and would take up too many valuable parking spots, he said. Rather than focusing on the downtown, Jones suggested that the city look at the mall parking lot on the north edge of the city for food trucks, and maybe for the weekly farmers market. “There’s not much going on there at all,” and the site could benefit from some revitalization, he said. Jones also…


City trying to digest on all sides of food truck issue

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A downtown restaurant owner suggested last week that Bowling Green focus more on keeping its existing restaurants busy than on bringing in new competition. During the fifth public meeting of the City Council committee working on food truck regulations, Garrett Jones, the owner of Reverend’s at 130 E. Wooster St., said some brick and mortar restaurants are struggling now. Rather than the city working so hard to come up with provisions for food trucks, the community should patronize the brick and mortar restaurants that are already here, he advised. “Instead of bringing more competition, you should support local businesses as it is,” Jones said. City Council member Sandy Rowland said food trucks have helped restaurants in other communities. “More people go out to eat when there’s more to choose from,” she said. But Jones said the downtown parking is already difficult enough without adding more congestion. “I’ve got customers who tell me they drove around 15 minutes looking for a spot,” he said. Bowling Green resident Kathy Pereira de Almeida asked if it might be helpful to allow the downtown brick and mortar restaurants to set up some tables outside on the sidewalk. But Jones said that would require restaurants to hire more staff and would be a strain on their kitchens. “I was just thinking it might satisfy some restaurants downtown,” Pereira de Almeida said. The council committee working on the food truck issue – made up of Bill Herald, John Zanfardino and Rowland – continued looking at questions that must be resolved. Should the food truck rules cover food vendors and farmers selling produce from trucks? Should the types and size of vehicles be restricted? Where can the vehicles sit? How close can they be to restaurants? Can they be on residential streets, along Main Street, along Wooster? What hours will they be allowed to operate? What type of noise restrictions are needed? How will litter be handled? Can they set up seating for eating areas? “We don’t want structure to get in the way of creativity. And we don’t want creativity to get in the way of structure,” Herald said. The goal is to perform a “balancing act” so the city allows food trucks and retains a vibrant downtown, he said. The food trucks…


Climate change poses threat to coffee business

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Climate change may increase the cost of your morning coffee. Kelly Wicks, who owns Grounds for Thought in Bowling Green with his wife, Laura, was quoted in a recent Business Forward report saying that climate change is “adversely affecting the long term outlook for coffee, putting additional burdens here at home and putting small farmers in potential financial peril in all the major growing regions worldwide.” Early this year, the Wicks family and a couple key employees traveled to the Siles Farm in Matagalpa, Nicaragua to get a first-hand look at how their main product is grown, and the challenges facing the  farmers, small business owners like the Wicks family, who provide it. Coffee growers, Wicks said, are battling “rust,” a pathogen that can have devastating effects on a coffee plantation. The disease thrives at warmer temperatures. Even a temperature increase of a couple degrees can promote the disease and that can reduce the crop dramatically. The Siles farm is large enough with several thousand acres, that the growers can, for now, combat the spread of the disease by moving production to higher elevations, where the trees are less susceptible. “They have some ability to combat the challenge from climate change,” Wicks said. Siles also has its own dairy herd. The whey is used to produce a material to help protect the trees from rust. The milk is given to their employees. “It’s small growers who have no option.”  While Siles produces thousands bags a year, a small farmer may produce 20-30 bags. “They can’t say we’re just going to go up the mountain,” he said. “And if their well runs dry, they’re out of luck.” While rust is a problem wherever coffee is grown, it is a particular issue in Central America. Should the region’s coffee crop be devastated, that would put a million people out of work, Wicks said. Coffee harvesting and processing is still a labor intensive process, Wicks said. “It’s labor intensive hands-on commodity.” The crew from Grounds got to experience that first hand, getting up before dawn to head out to pick the fruit that contains the beans from the trees. They did so under the watchful eye of the experienced hands at Siles Farms. The coffee fruit that look like mini crab apples, must be…


Public hungry for solution as food truck talks continue

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green officials hope to recreate the winning recipe used by other communities where food trucks co-exist with brick and mortar restaurants. A group of three council members – Bill Herald, Sandy Rowland and John Zanfardino – has now held four meetings on the topic of food trucks. The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, at 4 p.m., in the city council chambers. “I really would like us to start to put some meat on this,” Herald said about food truck regulations. During last week’s meeting, Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter explained the city’s current process for allowing food trucks on private property. At the committee’s request, Tretter also outlined public owned lands, such as city parks and parking lots – areas that could potentially be used for food trucks under new regulations being considered. Tretter also outlined the city’s special event permits, such as those used for food vendors at the annual Black Swamp Arts Festival. The 14-page permit is extensive, and sets requirements on insurance, litter control, security, locations, host organizations, parking and other issues. The Wood County Health Department inspects the actual food service operations. “This is a very extensive permit process,” Tretter said. “This is like gold,” Herald said. “It’s so comprehensive, there’s nothing left out.” Zanfardino questioned if the food vendors will have to avoid the downtown area, due to concerns from brick and mortar restaurant owners. He also suggested some pilot projects, “to see if it truly works for vendors who want to serve Bowling Green.” Both Zanfardino and Rowland pointed to food truck information from the National League of Cities. “There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel,” Rowland said, suggesting that Bowling Green also build on the success of communities like Perrysburg and Toledo that allow food trucks. “We know there were trials and tribulations at the beginning, but it works well now,” Rowland said. Rowland pushed back at the idea that food trucks should avoid the downtown area. “I’m bothered to think that nothing will work downtown,” she said. “I hear everywhere I go that people want food trucks,” and that those same customers will still continue patronizing downtown restaurants. Herald suggested the food truck committee build on the city’s existing permit process – with the rules covering four main…