UC Food Blog
All California growers, ranchers, farm labor contractors and ag supervisors are invited to complete a short survey about their experiences addressing COVID-19 in the workplace. The survey is being conducted by the UC Davis Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety.
The survey is anonymous, should take less than 10 minutes to complete, and is available in English and Spanish at https://bit.ly/agCOVIDsurvey.
“At the UC Davis Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety, we are working to respond to the COVID-19 crisis with practical resources for growers, ag employers, and farmworkers,” said Heather E Riden, agricultural health and safety program director. “The goal of this survey is to understand what practices farms are implementing to prevent COVID-19, where they have seen success, and where there may be challenges. We will take this information to assess whether there are new resources, trainings, or information that we can provide.”
Respondents are given the opportunity to share their contact information at the end of the survey.
“We plan to share any findings as well as new materials with anyone who expresses interest,” Riden said. “We will also summarize the results and post them on the WCAHS website.”
For more information about the survey, contact email@example.com.
Visit https://aghealth.ucdavis.edu/covid19 for COVID-19 training resources and employer guidance. The center's COVID-19 website offers farmers many resources, including an employer checklist and tailgate training discussion guide.
Now more than ever, California is full of heroes: front-line workers in our hospitals, farm fields and essential businesses. And even though schools are closed, they are full of heroes, too: teachers implementing distance learning and kitchen workers who have stepped up to the heroic task of providing meals for children in their communities, despite the challenges that have come with the COVID-19 pandemic.
School nutrition professionals continue to provide nutritious food that meets dietary standards, the kitchens provide employment, and the hungry students provide a multi-million dollar market for California's agricultural products.
Researchers at UC Agriculture and Natural Resources's Nutrition Policy Institute received an email earlier this spring with a subject line that simply said, “HELP!!!” Local community groups had learned that some Central Valley school districts would not be providing meals over spring break. Even though that might not be cause for alarm some years, this year it would hurt. In the eight-week period between March 14 and May 14, 2020, the California Employment Development Department processed 4.7 million unemployment benefit claims – nearly seven times more claims than over a two-month period at the height of the 2008 recession. EDD estimates that California unemployment reached nearly 25% by mid-May.
That is why school meals are more important than ever.
On receiving the request for HELP!!!, the Nutrition Policy Institute teamed with a Stanford pediatrician to distill critical information from USDA and the California Department of Education. Connecting with child nutrition professionals throughout the state, they gleaned tips and best practices, and added COVID-19-specific resources from the Community of Practice convened by LunchAssist and the Center for Ecoliteracy. The team produced informational flyers targeted to California school district officials and food service directors:
- Child Hunger Doesn't Take a Spring Break (2-pager)
- Calling all Districts! USDA Summer Meals Can Keep Kids Healthy (4-pager)
The resources provide explanations and resources for operating school meal programs during non-instructional periods through either the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) or the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).
New report explores long-term effects of COVID-19 on state's cattle, dairy, produce, strawberry, tomato, nut and wine industries.
COVID-19 continues to affect parts of California agriculture in different ways. A new report from agricultural economists at the University of California examines the current and long-term impacts on California's leading agricultural industries.
Profiles in the report illustrate the different ways the pandemic has impacted dairy, beef and produce – industries that have scrambled to repurpose products from foodservice to retail – and tree nuts, an industry that saw a temporary spike in sales as consumers hoarded storable goods. The report includes expert assessments of what the future holds for California's cattle, dairy, produce, strawberry, tomato, tree nut and wine industries.
The studies are contained in a special coronavirus issue of ARE Update, a bimonthly magazine published by the University of California Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics. Contributors include several experts from the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
In addition to industry profiles, the report includes three articles addressing the effect of the pandemic on farm labor, food security, and traffic and pollution in California. The authors conclude that farm labor supplies are likely to be reduced due to the pandemic, hastening the trend toward mechanization. Authors of the study on federal nutrition assistance programs expect participants in these programs to face unprecedented economic hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They suggest specific policy responses to reduce the impact. The study on vehicle traffic (and associated pollution) in California shows that travel dropped dramatically—by 40% to 60%—in California following the stay-at-home order, but then began increasing in mid-April, long before any restrictions on the stay-at-home order were lifted.
“Although the coronavirus pandemic continues to afflict most parts of the world, states and countries are attempting to reopen their economies and assess the damage that has been wrought,” said Richard Sexton, UC Davis distinguished professor and co-editor of ARE Update. “We look at the impacts on California agricultural industries and the implications for the environment and consumers, especially the most vulnerable among us.”
COVID-19 and farmworkers
No state relies upon agricultural labor more than California, where employment peaks seasonally in June. When stay-at-home orders were issued in March 2020 to slow the spread of COVID-19, farmworkers were deemed essential and expected to continue working.
As California's farm employment climbs toward its June peak, sick farmworkers, closed schools and uncertainties surrounding the H-2A guest worker program could reduce the supply of farmworkers, accelerating trends already underway such as mechanization.
Full article can be found at https://s.giannini.ucop.edu/uploads/giannini_public/c8/0a/c80aa637-6775-4bfa-9a64-bd680cc2dbce/v23n5_2.pdf.
Nutrition assistance programs
Processing plant closures, consumer stockpiling of key staple foods and other supply chain disruptions have raised serious questions about food security in the U.S. Enrollments in CalFresh, for example, are up as much as 80% in California from last year at this time.
The authors address the role policymakers, food banks and food assistance programs like the National School Lunch Program and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) can play in meeting food-security challenges now and in the future.
Full article can be found at https://s.giannini.ucop.edu/uploads/giannini_public/75/3d/753dcb99-8d44-4bd9-a668-b277a45456eb/v23n5_3.pdf.
Traffic, travel and pollution
Near real-time data can give key insights into how the pandemic and economic shutdown have impacted behavior in California. Using Caltrans traffic sensor data and Apple data, economists show that travel in California dropped precipitously when the stay-at-home orders were issued—down 40% to 80%, depending on the data source—but the rate of decline varied considerably by regions within the state.
While the stay-at-home order did reduce travel, the report found that the shutdown had no effect on fine particulate concentrations, a key contributor to air pollution.
Full article can be found at https://s.giannini.ucop.edu/uploads/giannini_public/30/4c/304cd12d-bcae-4ebb-8f5c-288695030eca/v23n5_4.pdf.
To read ARE Update's Special Issue: Implications of the Coronavirus Pandemic on California Food, Agriculture, and the Environment, visit https://bit.ly/ARECOVID19impact or https://s.giannini.ucop.edu/uploads/giannini_public/d4/e0/d4e0d72d-648c-4a0e-9048-cef6d9f2ba77/v23n5.pdf.
Commodity profiles can be found at
Americans' interest in traditional homemaking activities – gardening, cooking, baking bread and canning – has risen dramatically over the last few months, according to Google Trends.
Getting reliable information is particularly important when it comes to home food preservation. But internet search results don't always display research-based information at the top. Using the wrong procedure won't qualify as a hilarious Pinterest Fail; it can be fatal.
To make reliable home food preservation how-to videos easy to find, a team of UC Cooperative Extension professionals and volunteers reviewed and aggregated research-based food preservation videos produced by Cooperative Extension programs across the nation on one website – http://ucanr.edu/MFPvideolibrary.
“As far as we can tell, this site is the only website with a full collection of food safety and food preservation videos from the Cooperative Extension system,” said UCCE Master Food Preserver coordinator Sue Mosbacher. In partnership with states, counties and universities, the USDA's Cooperative Extension system provides higher education to farmers, ranchers, communities, youth and families. In California, UC Cooperative Extension is part of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.
The videos are divided into 10 categories: food safety, food preservation methods, jam & jelly, pickle & ferment, dehydrate, refrigerate & freeze, can fruit, can tomatoes, can vegetables and preserve meat & fish.
The UC Cooperative Extension Master Food Preserver Program trains and certifies volunteers to teach the public about food preservation techniques and safety. Certified UC Master Food Preservers typically hold community classes to extend the information. During the COVID-19 crisis, in-person classes have been canceled, so video-based learning is critical to educating families who are interested in the craft.
Dustin Blakey, director of UC Cooperative Extension in Inyo and Mono counties and coordinator of the local Master Food Preserver volunteers, created one of the videos in the collection. In seven minutes, Blakey outlines the process of preserving dry beans. (View the video below.)
“Right now, with people losing their jobs, if you have a pressure canner, you can buy a five-pound bag of beans for $5 and make 16 cans of beans,” Blakey said. “If you have the equipment and jars, it's a great way to preserve the food and then this summer, you have it ready to go.”
Blakey said he and his team will be producing more home food preservation videos in the future.
At the end of February, before COVID-19 disrupted normal life, members of the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indian Tribe, in a remote area of Riverside County, gathered to plant vegetables and herbs in the A'Avutem (elders) garden.
Six raised garden boxes were installed several years ago with funding from the California Rural Indian Health Board, but stood empty. UC Cooperative Extension nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor Chutima Ganthavorn and vegetable crops advisor Jose Aguiar obtained approval from the Tribal Council to engage the Youth Council in planting a new garden with seniors.
This intergenerational group planted chili peppers, bell peppers, onions, cherry tomatoes, tomatoes, corn, mint, basil and lemon grass Feb. 27. Select tribal members, including three youth and six seniors, harvested produce on the morning of May 12. While wearing masks and practicing social distance protocols, they harvested three boxes of tomatoes, onions, bell peppers and chili peppers.
"It is really nice to see the fruit of their efforts," Ganthavorn said.