Digest – News: The Vilsack reaction, ammonia-rama, and hungry holidays

Eaters unite: A fairly universal 'harumph' erupted from the sustainable-food community after the announcement of Tom Vilsack, former governor of Iowa, as Obama's USDA pick. As usual, Michael Pollan articulates why the community is pretty cynical but still holding out just a little bit of hope. (NPR)

Food another casualty of the Madoff scandal: The newly opened Fair Food Foundation, poised to give out $20 million per year in grants for sustainable, fair, nutritious food projects, was forced to cease its grantmaking operations this week after the major donor announced that its funds were managed by Bernard Madoff, Ponzi scheme celebrity of the century. (Fair Food Foundation, New York Times)

Hungry at feast time: A new survey released by the New York City Food Bank finds that a full half - that's right, half - of New Yorkers report that they struggle to pay for groceries, a 26% increase since February. In San Francisco, the line for a Methodist church's annual Christmas grocery giveaway stretched for blocks. And in the nation's most productive fruit and vegetable region, California's Central Valley, food is nowhere to be found thanks to a major drought. (New York Observer) (SF Chronicle) (AP)

New CAFO exemption smells like shit - and ammonia: As expected, the EPA publishes its final rule exempting large-scale animal feeding operations from having to report their toxic emissions to the public. Getting in just under the wire, researchers in Delaware report that the state's poultry farms sent 94 times more ammonia into the air than was reported by all factories statewide last year. (Federal Register) (Delaware News Journal)

D'ough! Eating out is fattening: Purdue researcher James Binkley says that table-service restaurant meals typically provide more calories than fast food, and both are more caloric than home-cooked meals. Way to go, Mom! (Journal of Agricultural Economics, US Food Policy)

Bad for Beneficial Bugs: Growing too much corn (for fuel or food) harms insects that benefit other aspects of agriculture. (Michigan State U., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences-PDF)

Going buzz-erk: The work of beekeepers on California's Central Coast would be much easier if they could keep their colonies alive. (MetroActive)

Ocean farms inherently flawed: So says University of Hawaii professor Neil Frazer in an essay in Conservation Biology. (U. of Hawaii, Conservation Biology)

Non-American diet aids breast cancer patients: That’s the diet high in fruits, vegetables and fiber, naturally. (U.C. Davis, Journal of Clinical Oncology).

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