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An Urgent Exemption: Why Food Aid Reform Matters

No one expects the damage to destroy a home, a livelihood and a planned future. Unpredictable yet not surprising, Typhoon Haiyan submerged and ravaged the southeast lands of the Philippines. It’s irrelevant whether the economy employs 32% of the population in agriculture or its main export is manufacturing. When homes, factories, and infrastructure lay demolished, the only concerns consist of the basics: food, water, shelter. International organizations like Oxfam braced for the impending doom. Unfortunately, current legislation restricts the origin of food for food aid to the U.S., which must then be transported via train, then ship. A bitter ode to years past, current food aid reform slows the ability to send fresh, local food to survivors of a disaster that left a slew of unknowns in its aftermath. When is food getting to people stripped of their livelihood?

An Oxfam-supported Change.org petition requests Congress to apply an exemption for food aid to the Philippines. When Dr. Juanita Salvador-Burris started this petition, she became a face to connect humanitarian aid and legislation. “I am not a reluctant voice,” she stated in a recent phone interview. She is new to the social media and change.org petitions, however she was impressed with the enthusiasm and surprised by the number of people who signed the petition. In fact, her fellow Alumni of University of Chicago began to email her, including a demographer working in Thailand and an anthropologist at Harvard University. The emails began to pour in, “Carlos has signed your petition,” and even more emails filled with personal thanks and appreciation for representing an important change in an unstable time for tens of thousands in recovery. .

Regional Advocacy Lead for Oxfam America, Adam Olson, accompanied Juanita to briefly meet with Senator Durbin on November 23rd. With the power of 4,000 signatures in hand, they presented to Senator and staff. Within a moment of interaction, saying Oxfam, and discussing the purpose of the signatures, Senator Durbin and his staff responded positively. From previous lobby visits in 2013, Durbin and his staff have always supported food aid reform. Base support by Senator Durbin, greatly needed, requires continued support by his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. Aid reform becomes a dire issue for all members of Congress when disaster strikes leaving areas in absolute need of food, water, shelter, and medical care. The exemption of current laws would serve the Philippines greatly since one of the worst recorded typhoons in history. As the nature of disaster changes, literally, we must logically improve standards and regulations, to save lives. 

Surpassing 40,000 signatures, the reach of the petition continues to grow more than ten times the amount delivered to Senator Durbin. The comments section, flooding with empathy and stances of logical solutions greatly reflects the need for common sense reform. Everyone, in Chicagoland and internationally, understand the need for this exception and for general reform. Maya Roberts of Chicago writes, “Re-write these laws so that they're up to date with the new technologies and advances we have as a global community and not only one centered on American inputs. The people of the Philippines and all other future natural disaster survivors need help as soon as possible - HELP THEM!” And George Hamilton-Brown of Fremont, California writes, “Just made aware of such unreasonable regulatory red tape, this must be corrected or exemptions declared in circumstances such as this.” Our frustration is felt by thousands and reflects the need of thousands abroad, who we may never see or meet. We don’t need to know the individual names and lifestyles of the people effected. All we need to know is that they are people, people in need, people we can help immediately.

Legislation is just that, articles written to keep regulations and government going. But there are times when legislation needs to meet the demands of a changing situation. This exemption is the first step to better regulation and more importantly, saving lives.

Please sign and pass on this petition

-Megan Nakra
Special Thank you to Juanita Salvador-Burris for her interview!


Terra Madre Day Hosted with Slow Food Chicago

Written by Cortney Ahern, Slow Food Chicago

It's the time of year when people are gathering together, celebrating what they're thankful for, sharing a meal with friends and family, and cooking dishes that remind them of family and tradition. Oh, you thought I was talking about Christmas, didn't you? Even before Santa Claus comes to town, there is another holiday in December focused on all these things - Terra Madre Day. On December 10th, people around the world will get together to celebrate local food - and we hope that our friends and supporters at the Chicago Oxfam Action Corps will join us!

This year for Terra Madre Day, Slow Food is focusing on cooking endangered foods that are listed on the Ark of Taste (AofT) and asking people to purchase and cook with these ingredients throughout the year. The Ark of Taste connects to many of Oxfam's GROW principals - especially the principles of Supporting Farmers and Shopping Seasonally. Slow Food created the Ark of Taste, an international living catalog of delicious and distinctive foods facing extinction, to identify endangered foods and encourage people to act to preserve them. The catalog contains 1,100 products from over 50 countries. US foods on the Ark number over 200 including the Pawpaw* (Asimina triloba), grown locally and elsewhere.
To celebrate Terra Madre this year, Slow Food Chicago is doing something a little different to honor the day. We're inviting everyone to create a citywide celebration by gathering people in your home sometime during that week to share a homemade meal, and to tell us and the Slow Food community about it.

Click here to RSVP to our Virtual Terra Madre Day, and by doing so pledge to share a meal in your home during the week of December 10th. Make whatever you like, invite 1 or 20 people - whatever you do, you'll be celebrating one of Slow Food's most treasured values, sharing food with others.
As Slow Food Chicago's emeritus board president Eve Bills Lacivita says, "We’re emphasizing community and togetherness--the very guts of Slow Food. It’s not about how fancy the meal is or even how purely Good, Clean and Fair it is--as awesome as that would be. It’s about gathering around the table to share food with others--whether that’s one other person or 20 doesn’t matter.”

Share pictures and stories of your meal on Slow Food Chicago's Facebook page, and we'll feature them in future newsletters and on our website. 

*Learn more about the Pawpaw by watching this brief video interview with Chicago-based producer, Oriana Kruszewski. Oriana runs Oriana's Orchard and Nursery in Winslow, Illinois where she grows our featured fruit, among others. Spence Farm in Fairbury, Illinois and Integration Acres in Albany, Ohio also grow the Pawpaw. (Jeanne Calabrese, former board member of Slow Food Chicago, initiated this video project for our newsletter as well as directed it. The editor was her daughter Gillian Dwyer and Peter Perich was the videographer. Thanks to them and Oriana for participating.)


Holiday Cookies with the GROW Method

Molasses Gingerbread Cookies (Use all those spices in your pantry!)
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup unsulphured molasses
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
Preheat oven to 375°F. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and allspice; set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together butter, brown sugar and 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, scraping down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula. Add egg, vanilla and molasses and beat until combined. While continuing to beat on low speed, add flour mixture and beat just until combined.

Combine remaining 1/3 cup granulated sugar and orange zest in a shallow bowl. To form each cookie, roll about 2 tablespoons of the dough into a 1 1/2-inch ball, then roll in sugar mixture and transfer to ungreased baking sheets, spacing cookies about 2 inches apart. Bake until outer edges begin to set and centers are soft and puffy, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks and set aside to let cool completely.

Chocolate Dipped Figs with Almonds (Gluten-Free) Whole Foods Best Holiday Ever
  • 1 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (Divine Chocolate has great Fair Trade baking ingredients as well as Theo from Greenheart Shop in Chicago)
  • 2/3 cup chopped unsalted toasted almonds
  • 24 plump dried figs, such as Calimyrna
Line a large sheet tray with parchment paper and transfer almonds to a wide, shallow dish; set both aside.

Put chocolate into a small pot and heat over medium low heat, stirring constantly, until melted and smooth, about 5 minutes. Working with one at a time, hold a fig by the stem and carefully dip it into the chocolate, coating it about halfway up. Shake off any excess chocolate, roll the bottom in almonds and transfer to the sheet tray. (If chocolate becomes too stiff, reheat it briefly over medium low heat.)

Set figs aside in a cool spot until chocolate is set, about 2 hours. Alternately, chill the figs for about 20 minutes to allow the chocolate to harden, and then return them to room temperature.

Granola Bar Cookies (use local!) Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post
  • 2 1/2 cups granola (Jolly Oak and milk and honey are both great Chicago brands)
  • 1 1/2 cups roasted/salted, chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup dried blueberries (Roedger Brothers Blueberries are great!)
  • 1 cup dried apples (If you saved any Michigan Apples from a Farmer’s Market)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 3/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup good-quality honey
Line an 8-inch square baking pan with plastic wrap, making sure that two sides have enough overhang to use for lifting.
If your granola is clumpy, pulse it in a food processor for no more than 10 seconds to a pea-size consistency. Do not over-process.
Place the granola in a mixing bowl and add the walnuts, cranberries and salt. Stir until thoroughly incorporated.
Combine the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and honey in a small nonstick saucepan over medium heat; cook for 4 or 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, to create a smooth syrup. Pour into the granola bowl and immediately stir to thoroughly coat the dry ingredients. Let the mixture rest for 5 or 10 minutes, until just cool enough to handle.
Press the mixture into the baking pan, making sure to pack the corners well and create an even, firm surface. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Use the overhanging plastic to lift and transfer the granola slab to a cutting board. Cut into 20 pieces.

Sweet Star Cookies (vegan) onegreenplanet.com
  • 1 1/2 cups raw cashews
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla powder or extract
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 3 TBSP agave nectar
  • zest from 1/2 a lemon
Pulse dry cashews in a high speed blender into a fine flour. Pour into a large mixing bowl.
Add the remaining dry ingredients and stir to combine.
Add the wet ingredients and stir until a moist dough forms.
On parchment paper, press the dough (using your hands or a rolling pin) until is a uniform 1/2 inch thick. Cut out shapes using your favourite holiday shapes.
For added color to sugar cookies, add beet juice or spinach juice to add a festive touch.

 Try your own and add your variations. Send them in and share on Twitter @chiOXFAMaction or email us at chicago.oxfamactioncorps@gmail.com

Have a delicious #GROW holiday!

Compiled by Megan Nakra

First Person: Voices, video, and photos from Oxfam's fight against poverty