Food in the News: Volcano Troubles, Energy Sources and School Lunches

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A few interesting items of food-related news making headlines recently:

1) The Icelandic volcanic eruption disruption (sorry, couldn't resist the rhyme) of flights in Europe has dominated the news this week, but would-be travelers aren't the only ones suffering. The New York Times reported yesterday that Kenya's agricultural sector has been hit hard by the lack of flights to Europe. Most of the country's produce is exported to the continent to the north of Africa; there is no local market for the stranded products, one source said, because "flowers and courgettes are not something the average Kenyan buys."

2) While British chef Jamie Oliver tries to make over the American school lunch on network television, a group of stateside healthy-food advocates has an idea, reported in yesterday's Washington Post, to help accomplish a similar goal: establish a Food Corps within the AmeriCorps program to assist schools in bringing fresh produce into school cafeterias. "We want this to be the Habitat for Humanity for school meals,” said one of the plan's proponents.

3) The Rural Blog is following hearings on the 2012 Farm Bill, which begin today. Key issues will include how and which (and whether) crops are subsidized in light of pressure to reduce the deficit and the sometimes competing needs for renewable energy and livestock feed.

4) No word on whether discussions will include talk of the latest spin on renewable farm-produced energy: chicken poop. As any livestock farmer can attest, manure is one of the most renewable resources going. Now, as National Public Radio reported last week, a Mississippi chicken farmer, in tandem with researchers and scientists at Mississippi State University, have developed the first successful "chicken poop digester" to convert the environmentally harmful droppings into electricity.

5) Food television junkies will soon have a new way to feed their addiction: The Food Network is launching a spin-off called the Cooking Channel on May 31 targeted at a younger, hipper audience, The New York Times reports today. Programming will include more diverse ethnic cuisines and fewer butter-boosting Southern ladies.

6) Finally, this story gave me heart palpitations, since I am in the middle of copy-editing a cookbook: An Australian publisher had to reprint 7,000 copies of a cookbook because of what has to be the worst typo ever (just Google that phrase to see how many agree): A pasta recipe, instead of black pepper, called for "ground black people." How does such a typo even occur, I wonder? Auto-correct? Voice recognition software?

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