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Farm Animals Actually Eat People’s Leftovers — And It’s Good For The Planet

Wed, 2016-09-28 14:59

When restaurants and grocery stores end up with scraps and other leftovers that cannot be donated to food banks, what happens to them?

A lot end up in landfills, contributing to the already massive amounts of food waste that emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas, as it breaks down. But a growing amount is being used to feed farm animals.

As the EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy specifies, this strategy is one of the most effective ways to deal with food waste that cannot be used to feed people.

The practice is an age-old one that fell out of fashion in the 1980s due to a number of disease outbreaks that were linked to animal feed. 

Today, however, it appears to be having a comeback as interest in food waste reduction efforts is rising dramatically, evidenced by a range of efforts across the food industry.

In general, this is how it works: Leftovers such as kitchen scraps and plate waste are collected, treated and processed into an oat-like consistency, then are fed to livestock such as pigs and cows. Even zoo animals can benefit from this type of feed.

Darden Restaurants is among the companies getting on board.

In 2014, Darden, which owns national chains including Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and The Capital Grille, launched an organics recycling pilot program. The company sends scraps and other food waste that cannot go to food banks to be converted into animal feed, and composts other waste through the program.

The nascent program still represents just a small percentage — 0.53 percent, according to a company report — of Darden’s overall recycling efforts and is only taking place in a limited number of locations, the exact number of which a company spokesman declined to disclose.

Still, Darden appears to be alone in its food recycling efforts (the company has also been accused of underpaying and discriminating against workers.)

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Some university dining halls, like facilities at Rutgers and University of California at Berkeley, have also instituted similar programs. Rutgers diverts about 4 million pounds of waste from landfills per year this way, saving the university’s dining services division about $100,000 annually in waste-hauling costs.

Grocery stores have also embraced the concept.

Quest Resource Management Group helps grocers and other companies reduce the amount of waste they generate. The largest portion of Quest’s business comes from its work helping grocery stores reduce their food waste, mostly by donating scraps to farms.

According to Hatch, the company helped divert over 600,000 tons of scraps from the waste stream last year, 60 percent of which was used to feed animals, while 35 percent was composted and another 5 percent was converted into a renewable energy source by going through anaerobic digestion.

“Those tons, before we came along, were all going to the landfill,” said Ray Hatch, the company’s CEO. “Everything went in the dumpster.”

The company works with four of the top 10 national food retailers, including Walmart, and three large regional chains, according to Vanessa Lepice, its vice president of marketing and new business development.

All told, they are working with about 6,000 grocery stores throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico. They train partnering stores’ employees how to properly separate scraps that can be donated to local farms and processed into animal feed from types of waste that are not safe for the animals to eat, like plastic packaging and raw meat. 

It appears to be working. The amount of food waste the company has diverted has grown fivefold since the program was first rolled out in 2010, including about 20 percent each of the past two years, Quest said. 

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But perhaps it’s not growing fast enough. The practice still hasn’t caught on in a way that would make a more significant dent in the 60 million tons, or $218 billion worth of food, that the U.S. wastes each year.

Zhengxia Dou, a professor of agricultural systems at the University of Pennsylvania, believes she knows why progress is lagging. She, along with several colleagues, explored the topic in a paper published earlier this year in the academic journal Global Food Security.

According to Dou, the strictness of health-related regulations concerning the practice is a big factor. Federal law mandates that scraps must be heated to 100 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes before being fed to pigs, for example. An incompatibility with the precision feeding techniques typically preferred on today’s farms, particularly larger ones, is another.

Technological innovation will be necessary in order to overcome these barriers, Dou said. She hasn’t seen much evidence of that happening quite yet.

“As an academic, I don’t know much how to make it happen, from an idea to a feasible technological solution and to a successful business,” Dou said in an email.

Another likely reason is that the regulations concerning the use of food scraps as animal feed vary widely from state to state.

A new report from Harvard University and University of Arkansas researchers published last month aims to address any confusion about the practice by laying out all of the federal- and state-level rules and suggesting best practices for safe and effective implementation.

“We want to show people that this is what you can do and this is how you do it, to encourage people to start this process again,” said Christina Rice, a clinical fellow at Harvard’s Food and Policy Law Center and one of the report’s authors.

Rice believes that the practice will continue to become more common, and as that happens, she is confident many current obstacles will dissipate.

“This got taken out of the conversation for a while, but it can happen again,” Rice added.

Lepice agreed, pointing out that states like Minnesota and California have instituted tougher commercial recycling regulations, which will encourage firms to get more creative in addressing their waste issues.

They may, she believes, turn to animal feed diversion as a solution. She expects consumer pressure will aid in that progress.

“Consumers are driving this, too. They’re asking what companies are doing with food waste,” Lepice added. “I firmly believe we’re on the right path.”

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How Much Education Funding Comes From The Illinois Lottery?

Wed, 2016-09-28 10:34

Lottery proceeds to the state's main education fund increased by roughly $13 million last fiscal year, according to an analysis of unaudited monthly financial reports.

In total, the Illinois Lottery transferred $691.6 million to the Common School Fund during fiscal year 2016, accounting for almost 15 percent of General State Aid appropriations for K-12 education.

Over the past decade, the lottery has transferred an average of $650 million to the Common School Fund each year, with annual contributions rising from $670.5 million to more than $691 million during that time.

The lottery was established in 1974 with the notion it would adequately fund public education. While nearly $19 billion has been transferred to the Common School Fund since then, some have criticized the program for not covering as much school funding as originally planned.

Proceeds from lottery sales typically make up between 13 percent and 15 percent of General State Aid appropriations for K-12 schools, but how do these hundreds of millions of education dollars compare to the billions in revenue the lottery brings in each year?

We've created an infographic showing the lottery's total revenue and expenses since 2006, and how much has been transferred to the Common School Fund during that time.

At the bottom of the graphic is a pie chart that shows CSF transfers as a percentage of lottery revenue and General State Aid appropriations. Hover over the data points to see exact amounts and click on the years to see the lottery's finances for that fiscal year.

The infographic can be found here.

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Guarding Against Damaging Implicit Racial Bias -- Even In Our Preschools

Tue, 2016-09-27 21:30
In 2014, California author and mother Tunette Powell wrote a piece for the Washington Post that as an educator and parent continues to shock.

In it, the African-American mother of two recounted the details of her sons' preschool experiences.

Both boys -- ages 3 and 4 at the time -- had been suspended from preschool, multiple times, for inappropriate behavior such as throwing a chair and hitting a staff member on the arm.

If the idea of suspending a preschooler -- so young as to be unable to tie his shoes or brush his own teeth -- is baffling, wait until you hear the rest of her story.

Powell and her husband wondered what they were doing wrong, until they brought the subject up at a child's birthday party. Mostly White parents of her sons' classmates were in attendance.

One after another, White mothers confessed the trouble their children had gotten into. "Some of the behavior was similar to [Powell's oldest son]; some was much worse," Powell said in her Post commentary. "Most startling: None of their children had been suspended."

Powell was startled by that revelation. Maybe you are too.

Uneven treatment of Black and Brown children has a long history.

But the sad fact is that this kind of uneven treatment of Black and Brown children has a long history -- and is more than just anecdotal. It continues to be proven by unassailable research.

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights reported recently that Black children represented 19 percent of preschool enrollment, but 48 percent of those receiving more than one out-of-school suspension.

And new research by the Yale Child Study Center, released Tuesday, shows that preschool teachers and staff show signs of implicit bias in administering discipline and that the race of the teacher plays a role in the outcome.

The research used high-tech eye-tracking technology and found that preschool teachers "show a tendency to more closely observe Blacks and especially Black boys when challenging behaviors are expected." Moreover, Black teachers, the study said, were even more likely to hold Black students to a higher standard of behavior.

The study explores many reasons why this might be the case: Black educators are trying to prepare Black children for a harsh world, is one hypothesis.

Whatever the impetus, this kind of implicit bias is detrimental to the growth and well-being of Black children, whether the discriminators share their skin color or not. What we believe about a person  --  or a group of people  --  translates into how we act toward them, and, worse, what those people start to believe about themselves. That translation of beliefs into actions, and guiding thoughts, is pervasive in our society and it is dangerous. And many of us are painfully aware of the reasons the Black Lives Movement became a salient part of the American narrative.

This kind of implicit bias is detrimental to the growth and well-being of Black children, whether the discriminators share their skin color or not.

This narrative for the very young was captured, for instance, in the doll preference studies from the 1940s. Psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark conducted a now famous series of experiments to study the psychological effects of segregation on African-American children. The study became an important basis for the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.

Using four dolls, identical except for color, children between the ages of three to seven were asked to identify both the race of the dolls and which color doll they preferred. A majority of the children preferred the white doll and assigned positive characteristics to it. The researchers concluded then that "prejudice, discrimination, and segregation" created a feeling of inferiority among African-American children and damaged their self-esteem. In other words, Black children internalized the stereotypes they gleaned from growing up in a society that devalued them, discriminated against them and dismissed them as inferior.

Sadly it would seem, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Implicit bias is the tendency for our subconscious selves to feel or exhibit a bias toward certain groups of, or characteristics in, people  --  in part because we've been bombarded by negative images and messages. It was as prevalent in the 1940s as it is now -- even in our preschools.

But the good news is, it doesn't have to be this way.

"We know that implicit bias can be reduced through proper training and should be a core component of early childhood teacher education," said one of the Yale study's authors, Dr. Walter S. Gilliam, director of The Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy and Associate Professor of Child Psychiatry and Psychology at the Yale Child Study Center.

That's exactly what we know to be true at NUA. And it's precisely why we partner with school-based educators to do what we do in school systems across the country.

Working with teachers in a true partnership, we check, challenge and change deep-seated beliefs that can be barriers to effective teaching and learning. We model and demonstrate effective best practice in classrooms led by educators --  with science, data and meaningful interactions with students and communities  --  that all students have the capacity to think and achieve at high levels, extend beyond their current boundaries and reach their full potential.

We establish with teachers that neuroscience continues to suggest that all students have 86 to 100 billion neurons capable of adjusting to the environmental challenges that poverty, segregation and discrimination have on learning.

Even 4-year-olds.

Especially 4-year-olds.

We should be nurturing our youngest members of society, not harshly punishing them. When we increase opportunities for teachers to confront their biases, learn culturally responsive pedagogies and begin to appreciate the strengths and capabilities of all their students, we increase self-esteem, academic performance and upward mobility.

We should be nurturing our youngest members of society, not harshly punishing them.

Implicit bias is a dangerous weapon. It can come to dominate and damage a national socio-cultural-psychological and political discourse. Used appropriately, education can establish a shield for Black, Brown, White, Asian and Indigenous peoples, so that life trajectories can be improved and sustained.

There is no more important national priority for our diverse nation than that.

Eric J. Cooper is the founder and president of the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education, a nonprofit professional development organization that provides student-focused professional development, advocacy and organizational guidance to accelerate student achievement. He can be reached at He tweets as @ECooper4556.

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Road Lockbox Amendment Vote Could Send Us Careening

Tue, 2016-09-27 16:47
Opinion by Reboot Illinois' Madeleine Doubek


It's rough riding out there in Illinois. Dodging the potholes is like running an obstacle course. Plenty of our train and el cars look worse for wear. And do you ever kind of hold your breath when you start to cross a bridge?

Well, now there are organizations and citizens trying to do something to fix that.

On Nov. 8, Illinois voters will get to have their say on something that's being referred to as the transportation lockbox amendment. In a nutshell, it will ask if the Illinois Constitution should be amended so that gas taxes, airplane fees, vehicle sticker fees and the like - collected for years in the state's road fund - should be restricted so that the money can be used only to fix roads and rebuild bridges and finance runways and replace railroading track and so forth.

A coalition of citizens and organizations called the Citizens to Protect Transportation Funding just spent $1 million to produce and air a 30-second ad that will be airing statewide to convince you to vote for this ballot question.

The ad says our roads and highways are crumbling and 4,200 bridges are in "poor condition." It says nearly $7 billion in transit-related taxes and fees have been swept from the state's road fund over 12 years to be used for other purposes, including $500 million last year.

Mike Sturino, president and CEO of the Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association, said the group pushing passage of the amendment has collected more than $2.5 million for its campaign and will have another ad out before Election Day.

He said 34 other states have amended their constitutions to protect transit funds, with Wisconsin being the latest in 2014. So why not us?

Sturino argued a constitutional amendment would bring overdue accountability to part of state government. "It kind of goes to greater accountability for the folks in Springfield to do what they said they were going to do," he said. "They do have a problem with broken promises."

That they certainly do. Hundreds upon hundreds of funds get raided regularly whenever things get tough in Springfield. And, Sturino added, everyone benefits from a safe transit system.

It's tough to argue with any of that unless, of course, you have loved ones in public schools or you're owed a public pension, or you benefit from or work in any of scores of human service fields.

This is the problem in Illinois right now. Everyone is owed something because we've been living beyond our means.

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that public pensions were a constitutionally protected right. Their benefits, once promised, cannot be "diminished or impaired." That exact wording was in the constitution. And if the transportation lockbox question passes, transit funding could be just as untouchable as public pensions.

Because of that constitutional language, Illinoisans are going to have to find $116 billion to pay off our pension debt. And then there's the $8 billion in other unpaid state bills. But if this question passes Nov. 8, we won't be borrowing any more from the road fund to cover any of those debts.

We don't even have a budget now. When we do, it will be only so big. And if we cut off a slice for pensions and we cut off a slice for transportation and we cut off a hunk for interest on overdue bills, well, you get the picture: We'll be pie-less before we get to anything else.

Only four members of the 177-member General Assembly voted against the amendment. One of them was Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook.

Nekritz said she supports transportation, "but this, I thought, tied our hands and takes away a lot of flexibility."

"We don't do that for education, we don't to that for funding for the disabled, we don't do this for prisons or any other government function," Nekritz added.

Sturino said the transit question was a way for Illinoisans to tell elected officials "enough" with their "self-inflicted" financial problems.

But Laurence Msall, president of the public finance watchdog Civic Federation, strongly disagreed.

"It is incongruity that we would seek to amend our constitution, not to provide the savings and the unfunded liability of our pensions, not to provide equal protection for school children, not to provide a more fair and equitable way to draw legislative maps, but to protect one interest group," he said. "The teachers, mental health advocates, people who care about education and higher education need to think very clearly" about this constitutional change.

It's one that could have us careening into an even deeper ditch.

Recommended: Federal judge blocks same-day voter registration in Illinois -- for now

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I ON EXCEPTIONAL LIVING - Gustavo Bilbao & Qatar Airways Chicago Beach Polo Cup

Tue, 2016-09-27 05:32


Long known as the stronghold for polo in North America, Chicago recently hosted the first ever Qatar Airways Chicago Beach Polo Cup. The tournament's founder, Gustavo Bilbao, hoped the tournament would re-ignite interest in the century old game in the United States.

"Growing up in Argentina, I used to hear about the US Polo Open taking place in Chicago," Bilbao said. "Polo and Qatar Airways both offer an exceptional and aspirational lifestyle experience."

"Together, we have brought entertainment and excitement to the city and put Chicago back on the polo map, where it belongs."


The origins of polo in Chicago date back to the 1950's when the U.S. Polo Open Championship was played at the Oak Brook Polo Club. The American interest for the sport revived during the 1960's and eventually in 1967, the USPA (United States Polo Association) moved its headquarters from New York, to Illinois.

By all accounts the event held at North Avenue Beach was an unbridled success, and the organizers are looking to continue the polo cup in 2017.

The Chicago Beach Polo Cup was held over the course of three days, September 9th through the 11th, with co-ed teams competing from six countries descending on Chicago.

The Royal Wales Polo Team walked away from North Avenue Beach with the event's first ever cup trophy, and will be ready to defend their title next summer.

The event was organized to re-introduce the North American audience to the game of polo. Known as the "Sport of Kings", polo is a game often connected to royalty. However, Bilbao and company are attempting to bring the game to a wider audience by setting up tournaments on custom-built polo grounds.


Players rode their horses up to 30 miles per hour during the games as they attempted to score goals to win the tournament's trophy. A traditional polo field is about 300 yards by 160 yards. However, the ground on North Avenue Beach was slightly smaller than the size of an NFL field, giving spectators a far more intimate view of the players in action.

Over the course of the weekend as title sponsor, Qatar Airways hosted a variety of events that took place alongside the polo action. The Doha-based airline provided a VIP lounge throughout the weekend for fans and many of the area's well-known guests in attendance. Prior to each day's matches, team captains met at the Lounge to shake hands with a Qatar Airways representative, who was then given the honor of throwing out the first match ball of the day. Qatar Airways Country Manager, USA, Richard Oliver kick started proceedings on the first two days of the tournament, while Mr. Saurwein inaugurated the final day of competition and presented the champion's cup to the winners on Sunday evening. Also participating in the festivities were several Chicago area politicians and members of City Hall.

All proceeds of the tournament went to the Sentebale Foundation. The charity was founded by Great Britain's Prince Harry and strives to help vulnerable children in Lesotho, South Africa.
With this year's Chicago Beach Polo Cup such a success, next year's event should be even bigger.

Now that Chicago is back on the map for the international game that is polo, fans will have to wait and see if the Royal Wales Polo Team can retain its trophy in 2017.

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