Published on: April 9, 2015
Yesterday, MNB took note of a Wall Street Journal
report that "food pantries, where students in need can stock up on groceries and basic supplies, started cropping up on campuses in large numbers after the recession began in 2007. More than 200 U.S. colleges, mostly public institutions, now operate pantries, and more are on the way, even as the economy rebounds ... "the stigma attached to receiving free food has diminished among students as so-called food security - a term used by the U.S. government to describe reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food - is regarded on campuses increasingly as a right ... About 14.5% of U.S. households experienced some form of food insecurity in 2013, according to the Department of Agriculture’s latest data."
My comment, in part:
"This strikes me as yet another example of how the higher education system in this country is completely broken. College costs so much that many of these kids can barely afford to live ... and they accumulate so much student debt that it cripples them - and the economy - once they get out of school. And I see very little evidence that anybody in the public or academic sector is doing anything about it ... At a very basic level, a kid who doesn't eat can't study and can't excel ... and therefore cannot achieve the kinds of things that we as a society need him or her to achieve if we are going to continue to be a relevant society. This is insanity."
One MNB user responded:The sadder thing is that they are not only starving in college but struggling to pay their way once they graduate because of the student debt burden . The easy availability of loans to students filled classrooms and have made the colleges and universities “ recession proof”. They never had to shape up their operations like the private sector. It is obvious that the student loan scam was a pay off to professors and administrators for support of the President. It got the votes, but didn’t help the students. Let's hope they learn a lesson and remember how they were pawns when it is their turn to run things.
There was a piece on my local NPR station that touched on rising college costs, and a study saying that the rise in college costs is almost entirely in non-instructional personnel (like administrators who have seen much bigger salary increases than professors). And to be fair, I know a whole bunch of college teachers who probably would argue with the assertion that they've been "paid off."
From another reader:Thanks for the Food Pantries cropping up on College Campuses article today. I had an interesting exchange yesterday with my daughter's high school. The school, in Windham, Maine, has a Food Panty on its campus. The need is there for students who may have food challenges at home. It also serves those who may be homeless, living with helping families, who want to bring something home to help those helping them. This program, while getting a start from an administrative assistant, is run by and supplied by …. the students!
I find it a bit disturbing that this need is there, and at the same time I am elated to see that students see and support the need. Students needing the assistance are not singled out, do not feel bad in using the resource, but rather feel the support and love of their fellow students. It is a wonderful and interesting eye opener.
You're right. It is.
We had a piece about the growth of Uber as an alternative to traditional taxis for business travelers, leading one MNB user to write:To be clear, I do use Uber and it is a great convenience living in an urban environment, Chicago. While I am a fan of Uber, there does appear to be a double standard to what is allowed. As far as I know Uber drivers are not required to be licensed unlike cab drivers/companies. As I understand it, these licenses or medallions are quite expensive, to the point where some have used these as an investment. The question to me then becomes, is it fair to hold two in the same business, driving people, to a different standard? Would border somewhat on unfair practice or discrimination.
From another:Although I have yet to utilize Uber, I think we must be careful to not paint the Taxi industry complaints as only “whining”. When you allow unregulated competition into a regulated space, it becomes very difficult to compete … Not significantly different than the “whining” other industries in the US do when trying to compete with foreign (subsidized) products.
You're right. The competition is not fair. But that's an important lesson in the 21st century economy ... that the competition looking to disrupt your business is going to do everything possible not to play by the rules that you think are normal, and will look for loopholes and opportunities that a "normal" business may not see.
I don't think you can afford to do that.
Arguing for a level playing field is not whining ... but protesting instead of providing better and more competitive service is, at least in my view.
We wrote yesterday about a Forbes
reports that there is a difference between how Baby Boomers and Millennials rate companies in terms of customer service - though Amazon and Nordstrom seem to provide some sort of common ground for both generations. A new ranking by Prosper says that Millennials believe that the best customer service is offered by Amazon, followed by Victoria's Secret, Best Buy, Nordstrom and Macy's. Baby Boomers, on the other hand, put LL Bean first, followed by Amazon, and then by Kohl's, JC Penney and Nordstrom."
I commented:The analysis seems to suggest that there is a "vast disparity" between the two generations' preferences, but I don't think it is as wide as all that. After all, one of the things that almost all these companies share is a commitment to omnichannel retailing - that's certainly an enormous priority for LL Bean and Nordstrom ... and while Amazon isn't omnichannel, it may be the outlier in this area simply because of its disruptive essence. LL Bean probably only outranks Amazon with Baby Boomers because people my age are highly aware of its "you can return anything, anytime" guarantee.
MNB reader Rosemary Fifield responded:Regarding LL Bean’s popularity because of its return policy—maybe it’s more about familiarity in general. Let’s face it: We boomers are more likely to wear LL Bean than Victoria’s Secret these days.
I can promise you that I've worn a lot more LL Bean clothing in my life than Victoria's Secret clothing. Any pictures on the internet to the contrary should be ignored as photo-shopped....
Yesterday we reported on a New York Times
story saying that despite the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), there may be not enough money in the federal budget for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to accomplish its assigned mission. FDA would need $580 million from 2011 to 2015 to carry out FSMA's mandate, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), but, the Times
writes that "Congress has appropriated less than half of that amount, even as the agency is moving to issue crucial rules under the law this year."
The suggested that there two issues affecting funding. One is that the Obama administration originally wanted the FDA's regulatory efforts to be funded through user fees, but Congress rejected that notion at least in part because of lobbying by the food industry. The other is that Congress seems loathe to appropriate more money to the FDA at a time when it really doesn't want to spend more money on anything.
I commented, in part:
First of all, let me be transparent about the fact that ReposiTrak, which has developed tracking technology invaluable in meeting FSMA mandates, is an ongoing and valued MNB sponsor. So I have a dog in this hunt. (Though, to be clear, my opinions as stated here are mine, not ReposiTrak's.)
It would be just like the US Congress to pass new rules and then not provide the funding to implement them. That way, they can take credit for voting to improve the food safety apparatus, but not actually pick up the check.
Without putting percentages on it, it seems to me to be eminently fair that industry and consumers share the cost of a better food safety system. Industry makes money if the system is safer, and consumers get safer food. Though, of course, industry is going to pass along as many of those costs along to consumers as it can.
The problem is that we live in a "we want something for nothing" society. We want all the things that we've grown to expect government or society to provide, but we don't want to pay for them. I have no problem with forcing government to be more efficient, but it strikes me as silly to pretend that the bill won't eventually come due. It always does.
MNB reader Joe Manganiello responded:
You may have a dog in the fight, but the FSMA regs were not passed by the current Congress, but on December 19, 2010, as the last bill passed by a then Democratically controlled congress. The regs have since been modified and are considered a broad over-reach by the FDA by most in the industry. The only way to pull the teeth on it is to limit the agency’s funding. Thanks for being honest about where your bread get buttered, but it’s a bad law and should be replaced with much less regulation, much like Obamacare.
My understanding is that much of FSMA originated in the George W. Bush administration, though it is accurate that it was passed by a Democratic Congress and signed by Barack Obama. However, there are those who consider it the essence of bipartisan regulation ... and I got that directly from Michael Leavitt, the former Republican Governor of Utah who served as Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) during George W. Bush's second term, and who helped craft the FSMA regulations.
You can call it legislative overreach if you wish. But I don't think you can blame it only on the Democrats.
MNB reader Jerome Schindler chimed in:
In late 2012 I sent a series of letters to Rep. Boehner with ideas for spending cuts. None were even acknowledged.
The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service budget for inspection services is almost $900 million.
In addition, while the taxpayers pay the bill for the actual inspection services, there are other expenses borne by industry that end up being part of the cost of the finished foods.
My suggestion to shift jurisdiction beyond slaughter to FDA probably would cut the costs by half. The main problem is turf and egos - USDA would fight tooth and nail against any reduction in their assigned responsibilities.
That $450 mil could be better used by FDA. Food safety experts generally agree that continuous inspection is not an efficient use of resources.
One of the things that Gov. Leavitt emphasized to me in our interview was that "we cannot inspect our way" out of current food safety issues ... which is why it is important to attack the problem at the source and require greater trackability, traceability and transparency throughout the food supply chain.