Frustrated by the lack of response to their complaint of the “imminent danger” posed by COVID-19, three meatpacking workers at the Maid-Rite Specialty Foods plant outside of Scranton, Pennsylvania, took the unusual step Wednesday of filing a lawsuit against the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia.
ByPramod Acharya, Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
More Americans have stayed home to cook during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they've paid a higher price for their home meals. While the cost of restaurant foods remained steady through the past few months, the price consumers paid for foods at grocery stores has steeply risen since March 2020.
As customers rushed to stock up on foods at the beginning of the pandemic, there was a sudden and sharp increase in demand for food, which led to higher prices. The dramatic reduction in restaurant traffic also resulted in increased demand for food from grocery stores, thus raising prices for food products, according to an April 2020 post by the USDA.
The Consumer Price Index – a measure of the average change in the prices paid by consumers for goods and services – rose 4.5 percent in June for food, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics . The index for food at home increased 5.6 percent in June, following a 4.8 percent increase in May, before seasonal adjustment.
While the price of poultry products – chicken and eggs – rose modestly, the cost of meat items – both beef and pork – rose sharply in June. The temporary closure of a number of meatpacking plants decreased the supplies of meat products, which eventually led to the steep rise in retail meat prices, according to the USDA report.
ByFrank Hernandez, Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
The USDA created the Food Box program to help feed families struggling during the pandemic. A review by the Midwest Center shows that some program contractors were expected to work in a new field or with new products they weren’t used to handling.
ByDylan Tiger, Isaiah Baba, Daria Makhneva and Samantha Boyle / Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
As Covid-19 surges again in the U.S., the high percentage of “recovered” cases might be cited as a sign that a vast majority of those infected quickly rid themselves of the virus.
But the “recovered” statistics are incomplete, inconsistent and call into question the accuracy of any total number of recovered cases, according to a review of 50 state public health sites by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.
ByHeather Schlitz, Midwest Center for Investigative Reportingn |
Although they make up about 60 percent of all meatpacking workers in the U.S., people of color account for about 90 percent of those infected, according to federal data released this week. The companies did not follow the federal guidance that would have mitigated the virus’s spread among its minority workforce, according to the complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“When the pandemic first started, and we were just beginning to hear information about the impact on farmworkers, we knew it was coming,” Partida says. “You just knew that it was going to get worse and worse and worse.”
BySamuel Trilling, Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
Covid-19 could hamper the EPA’s ability to inform communities of health risks, according to a report released this month from the agency’s Office of Inspector General. Specifically, the inspector general’s office worried the EPA might not be able to inform residents who live near facilities with emissions that could cause cancer. In a separate report from late March, the office urged EPA to take “prompt action” to inform communities. As of the March report, the EPA and state agencies had not met with or reached out to residents around 16 of the 25 “high-priority” facilities, which are located primarily around cities in the South and Midwest. The June report detailed other concerns, including personnel shortages and cutbacks to routine inspections.