Thursday Roundup: Food Waste

Rural women face tough challenges • Protecting Access to Rural Therapy Services • Rural Chinese children being left behind • Minnesota raises millions for rural heart-attack treatment


USDA Economic Research Service

FOOD LOSS IN THE UNITED STATES. Nearly a third of the food that made its way into the retail system for human consumption in the United States in 2010 was not eaten, according to the Economic Research Service of USDA. That’s 133 billion pounds of food, worth $161.6 billion. This chart shows the weight of different food varieties that went to waste at the retail or consumer level in 2010. The largest category was dairy products, followed closely by vegetables.


Baby Boomers. The Associated Press has picked up the story of rural America’s population decline, as reported in the Yonder and other media covering rural issues. The article is likely to pop up in a newspaper near you, as a result.

Last month the Economic Research Service of USDA reported that the number of people living in nonmetro areas had declined – the first such drop since the Census started tracking this type of data about a half century ago. ERS says it’s unclear whether the drop is a temporary dip or a long-term trend.

The answer to what’s going to happen with rural population rests with older Americans, said Jason Henderson, associate dean of the Purdue University College of Agriculture.

“What baby boomers do will be key to rural migration and growth,” he said. “Right now, we’re just at the forefront of baby boomers entering retirement age, but many have been delaying retirement.”

Rural Women. Casey Quinlan of wrote an article yesterday examining the struggles of women growing up and living in rural America. Quinlan grew up in Cortland, New York, about 30 miles south of Syracuse. She chose to leave rural New York, saying there was more opportunity for her in an urban setting. Her article discusses trends such as early marriage, domestic violence and the lack of health care options. Quinlan concludes on a pessimistic note:

I don’t want to tell my upstate New York peers what to do—I just wish they had more choices or a better idea of what those choices were. I wish they lived in an area that provided more opportunities for themselves and their children than it does now. I wish that there were more domestic violence shelters, with better funding …  Until these problems are addressed, I’d rather raise children somewhere else [than rural New York].

Medical Services. Kansas Republican Sen. Jerry Moran has introduced a bill that would allow rural hospitals more flexibility in how they administer outpatient therapeutic services like blood transfusions and heart rehabilitation.

The Protecting Access to Rural Therapy Services (PARTS) Act would allow medical staff to handle such procedures without having the supervising physician physically present in the department. That’s how such procedures used to be handled, until 2009 when the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reinterpreted existing regulations to require the supervising physician to be physically present.

That creates a hardship for rural hospitals with smaller medical staffs, Moran said. The act takes “into account the realities of rural health care,” he said. “Many Kansas hospitals, and other rural hospitals across the country, find these supervision requirements impossible to meet – jeopardizing continued access to these important health care services.”

Left Behind. Rural Chinese parents who can’t afford to take their children with them to the city have been leaving the kids behind, says a report in Raw Story. The trend could affect up to 61 million Chinese children whose parents leave rural areas to find work in the city.

The story comes from a report by the All-China Women’s Federation. “The quality of life, mental and physical health and surroundings of left-behind children are all inferior to those whose parents are looking after them,” the report said.

Heart Attack Treatment. Donors in Minnesota are pumping $6.5 million into a program to help rural hospitals and emergency responders more quickly diagnose particularly deadly types of heart attacks. The funds, raised by the American Heart Association, will purchase mobile electrocardiogram heart machines. The equipment will help rural medical staff identify total artery blockage, a type of cardiac arrest that requires swift treatment.