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5@5: Frontline workers face increased risk as states ditch mask mandates | Benefits of combining farms with solar panels

Veolia North America Donates 40,000 Masks to Hospitals
Each day at 5 p.m. we collect the five top food and supplement headlines of the day, making it easy for you to catch up on today's most important natural products industry news.

Frontline workers feel increased danger as states drop mask mandates

Essential employees have faced combative customers since the pandemic began, with some threatening to physically assault workers who enforce mask mandates (or even worse, doing so). Now that states including Mississippi and Texas are removing mask mandates altogether, well before the majority of people have been vaccinated and while frightening new variants of the coronavirus continue circulating, these workers are once again scrambling to defuse confrontations. The New York Times delves into the issue.

Why combining farms and solar panels could transform how we produce both food and energy

Have you heard of "agrivoltaics?" This is the term used for the practice of putting solar panels on farmland so the sun can both fuel crops and produce renewable energy for a given operation; the presence of plants ups solar energy production, and solar panels returned the favor. This simple system of solar panels above plants can also help crops need less water to thrive, another sustainability boon. However, one drawback to agrivoltaics projects is that they need to be tailored to each region specifically. Another is that there are crop constraints, as some plants require aerial spraying or full sun exposure. The Counter reports.

What if crop insurers tied policies to soil health?

Researchers say that soil health should now be an integral part of crop insurance calculations because there are so many liabilities that result from climate change. The team of scientists recently found that adding a single percent of soil organic matter to maize crops has hugely positive effects, including increased yields (about 35 bushels per acre) and decreased vulnerability to drought; the latter is something that should matter to crop insurers, even though they have largely failed to incentivize farmers to adopt practices that lead to healthier soil. Head to Modern Farmer for the full story.

In a suburban parking lot, a portrait of unyielding need

At least 42 million Americans, a third of them children, now fall into the "food insecure" category. This is a 55% increase since the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic began, according to The Washington Post. The extra demand is expected to continue for several years, but donations are drying up in many areas and food bank volunteers are exhausted. While government officials have extended unemployment benefits and increased federal SNAP benefits by 7%, advocates say those steps are simply not enough to prevent long-term, widespread food insecurity in the U.S.

How David Yeung, the man who wants to turn Asia vegan, raised $70M in funding and launched the Whole Foods of plant-based supermarkets

In September the founder of Green Monday, David Yeung, raised $70 million in funding for his global plant-based meat company and all-vegan retail venture Green Common. Yeung has now opened 14 stores in Hong Kong; h launched his first international stores during the pandemic. About the plant-based food industry in Asia, he says, "The landscape is exploding. You have plant-based protein, plant-based milk, cell-base start-ups and conglomerates starting to come into this space." Business Insider has the scoop.

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