Every week on What’s Working, we take a look at people and organizations that are changing lives in Michigan for the better.

Food Gatherers, a Southeast Michigan food bank, offers a job training program for youth ages 17 to 24.

Some participants are currently managing a mental illness, others have children or are primary caregivers for younger siblings—all are at risk for homelessness.

Christina Shockley, host of Michigan Radio’s Morning Edition, speaks with Mary Schlitt, director of development for Food Gatherers.

Daniel Jordahl / Flickr

First, a deadly listeria outbreak on Colorado cantaloupes, now a ground beef E. coli scare affecting some Kroger generic brands.

In a recall release, the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service says 131,300 pounds of ground beef products from Tyson Fresh Meats Inc. are being recalled because of possible E. coli O157:H7 contamination.

E. coli O157:H7 can make a dangerous Shiga toxin. CDC officials say the toxin "can attack the body in several areas: the gut (causing bloody diarrhea), the kidneys (causing kidney failure), and sometimes the nervous system."

The Associated Press reports the recall occurred when an Ohio family fell ill after eating the meat contaminated with E. coli:

The recall involves beef sold as Kroger and generic brands at Kroger supermarkets; Butcher's Beef at Food Lion supermarkets; and generic beef sold to SAV-A-LOT, Spectrum Foods, Supervalu and the Defense Commissary Agency...

According to Michigan Kroger officials, the meat recall does not affect its stores:

At this time, Michigan Kroger stores are not affected by this recall.

“The Kroger ground beef products sold in our stores in Michigan are not included in this recall,” said Dale Hollandsworth, Customer Communications Manager, The Kroger Co. of Michigan. “If a recall were to occur in Michigan, Kroger would initiate our customer recall notification system to alert all customers who may have purchased recalled product.”

USDA officials say "the products subject to recall have a "BEST BEFORE OR FREEZE BY" date of "SEP 12 2011" and the establishment number "245D" ink jetted along the package seam."

Here are the latest details from the USDA on the specific types of ground beef being recalled:

  • 5-pound chubs of Kroger-brand "GROUND BEEF 73% LEAN - 27% FAT," packed in 40-pound cases containing eight chubs. Cases bear an identifying product code of "D-0211 QW." These products were produced on Aug. 23, 2011 and were shipped to distribution centers in Ind. and Tenn. for retail sale.
  • 3-pound chubs of Butcher’s Brand "GROUND BEEF 73% LEAN - 27% FAT," packed in 36-pound cases each containing 12 chubs. Cases bear an identifying product code of "D-0211 LWIF." These products were produced on Aug. 23, 2011 and were shipped to distribution centers in N.C. and S.C. for retail sale.
  • 3-pound chubs of a generic label "GROUND BEEF 73% LEAN - 27% FAT," packed in 36-pound cases each containing 12 chubs. Cases bear an identifying product code of "D-0211 LWI." These products were produced on Aug. 23, 2011 and were shipped to distribution centers in Del., Fla., Ga., Md., Ill., Ind., Mo., N.Y., Ohio, Tenn., Texas and Wis. for retail sale.

Photo by Rebecca Williams

Two species of Asian carp, bighead and silver carp, have been swimming their way north toward the Great Lakes for decades. A lot of people are trying to keep the carp out of the Lakes.

Yesterday, attorneys general from around the country announced they’re putting more pressure on Congress to speed up action on Asian carp.

Some people think one solution is to create a market for the fish.

There are a couple of companies working to sell Asian carp to China... where the fish are considered a delicacy.

But winning over the American palate is much harder. Carp have a bit of an image problem... and they are full of bones.

“We are spoiled here, we like convenience. Everybody expects to have fish without bones, right? And that’s the issue.”

This is Chef Phillipe Parola. He’s from Baton Rouge and he wants you to learn to love Asian carp.

Parola is one of the chefs who tried to get Americans to eat nutria. Nutria look like oversized rats. So that didn’t go over so well.

Two years ago, Chef Parola found his new calling. He was out fishing in Louisiana, where the Asian carp are thick.

“With ten minutes, this fish started jumping everywhere. I’m like, what in the heck! Two of them, one after the other, landed right at my feet.”

He kept the giant carp, put them on ice, and took them home.

“To my surprise, when I saw the meat, as a professional chef, I knew right on that there’s no way that this fish could be bad, literally. When I went and cooked it, I'm going to tell you, it tasted between scallops and crab meat, there is no doubt.”

HAMILTON, Mich. (AP) - A judge says a western Michigan farm violated federal law by selling cows for slaughter with illegal levels of antibiotics.

Judge Gordon Quist ruled in favor of regulators who say Scenic View Dairy in Allegan County repeatedly ignored warnings about selling the cows for human consumption.

Quist didn't order a penalty last week and says he doesn't want to put Scenic View out of business. The judge told the farm and the government to come up with an agreement by the end of September.

Scenic View's primary business is milk but about 70 cows a week are sent to slaughter for human consumption. The farm claims there are exceptions to the government's drug rules. But the judge says
they don't fit.

Photo by Emily Fox

Local food is the hottest thing on menus this year. That’s according to a survey by the National Restaurant Association. Michigan State University researchers are trying to give consumers more information about locally grown food.

Some say local is the new green. Here's how two characters in the show Portandia portray the local food movement in America:

Waitress: “My name is Dana, I’ll be taking care of you today if you have any questions about the menu, please let me know.”

Woman: “I guess I do have a question about the chicken. If you could just tell us a little more about it.”

Waitress: “Uh, the chicken is a heritage breed, woodland raised chicken that’s been fed a diet of sheep’s milk, soy and hazelnuts. . .”

Man: “This is local?”

Waitress: “Yes. Absolutely.”

Man: “I’m going to ask you one more time. And it’s local?”

Waitress: “It is.”

Woman: “Is that USDA organic, Oregon organic or Portland organic?”

Waitress: “It’s just all across the board. Organic.”

FOX: Okay, so not every restaurant is like the one featured in this sitcom. But researchers at Michigan State University say people do want more information about their food. They're starting a pilot program to do just that with local beef.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Whole Foods is coming to Detroit.

This press release is from the Michigan Department of Agriculture:

La Providencia of Holland is recalling raw cilantro and other food products prepared or packed in the store because they could be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

All of the following products sold on or before June 29, 2011 are under recall:  Raw Cilantro, Guacamole, Pico de Gallo, Red Salsa, Green Salsa, Grated Cotija Cheese, or Sour Cream sold in unlabeled clear plastic containers, and Oaxaca Cheese or Fresco Cheese sold in unlabeled clear plastic containers or on Styrofoam trays covered in plastic wrap. 

The recalled products were sold at La Providencia, located at 372 W. 16th Street, Holland and Santa Fe Supermarket #3, located at 981 Butternut Drive, in Holland, MI. 

Consumption of food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes can cause listeriosis, an uncommon but potentially fatal disease. Listeriosis can cause high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness, and nausea. It can also cause miscarriages and stillbirths. The very young, the pregnant, the elderly, and persons with compromised immune systems are the most susceptible to infection. People experiencing these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.

The contamination was noted after testing by the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development revealed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in ready to eat products collected at Santa Fe Supermarket #2 and La Providencia on June 21, 2011.

To date, no illnesses have been reported in connection with this problem.

Production of the product has been suspended at this location while La Providencia and the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development continue their investigation as to the source of the contamination.

Consumers who have purchased raw cilantro or various other products sold in these stores are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact LA PROVIDENCIA at (616) 546-8857.

user jdurham / morguefile

It’s morel season in Michigan!

May is morel month in Michigan, and people from all over comb the state for the delectable mushrooms.

Phil Tedeschi is president of the Michigan Mushroom Hunters Club. He leads folks on more than 50 mushroom hunts throughout the year in southeast Michigan, starting with the first mushroom of the season: black and white morels.

Tedeschi has this advice if you're on the hunt for morels:

Six L's Packing Company

Concern over salmonella contamination has prompted a voluntary recall of certain types of tomatoes.

From the Associated Press:

A Florida tomato grower is voluntarily recalling its grape tomatoes after a sample tested positive for salmonella.

Six L's Packing Company Inc. said in a statement Monday that no illnesses had been reported in connection to the recall as of April 29.

The Immokalee, Fla.-based company says the recalled product was packed on April 11 under the Cherry Berry lot code DW-H in clam shells or 20-pound cardboard containers. The tomatoes were distributed to California, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia, as well as Canada.

The tomatoes also were used in deli salads made by Tracy-based Taylor Farms Pacific Inc. The salads were sold in Albertsons, Raley's, Safeway, Savemart, Sam's Club and Walmart stores across the West and some Midwestern states.

Rodney Burton / creative commons

There's long been a tug of war between corn growers and sugar refiners over who can get their sweetener into more products. Reuters reports that high fructose corn syrup has been gaining on sugar lately because of higher sugar prices.

Now, sugar growers are suing over a ad campaign that is trying to change the image of high fructose corn syrup.

Michigan Sugar Company has joined a lawsuit against corn processors who are trying to rebrand high-fructose corn syrup as "corn sugar."

McDonald's "National Hiring Day" is tomorrow

Apr 18, 2011
Miguel Vaca / Flickr

"Would you like some fries with that?"

That’s the phrase many are perfecting for McDonald's National Hiring Day tomorrow. Many of the McDonald’s  jobs will be in the Midwest.

McDonald's got its start here in the Midwest, and it has a substantial presence throughout the Great Lakes states.

That’s why 10,000 of the 50,000 new workers, the company wants will be based across the region.

The McDonald's in downtown Chicago (on Chicago and State) is one location that is hiring. Nick Karavites and his family own that restaurants and 18 others across the city.

"Not only are we looking to hire cashiers but also hospitality staff and kitchen staff," says Karavites.

As the employment market improves, job seekers can get more selective about where they work.

Karavites said pay at their restaurants averages $9 an hour, and that all workers can participate in a McDonald’s Insurance program.

McDonald’s says the company needs more workers because last year’s sales were up five percent and continues to grow.

Courtesy of Barbara Wilson

Barbara Wilson and Jose (Joe) Meza live in Dexter, Michigan and they own a successful auto repair business in Ann Arbor.

Joe was born in Ecuador. After 40 years of living in Michigan, he and his wife Barbara went back to Ecuador a few years ago.

Barbara says Joe fell in love with his home country, so they decided to build a small house in Mindo, Ecuador.

What they didn’t expect was that they would become craft chocolate makers, forging connections from Ecuador to Michigan, one chocolate bar at a time.

user jamiesrabbits / Flickr

On the public radio program Here & Now, host Robin Young was interviewing Gabrielle Hamilton, the chef and owner of the New York City restaurant “Prune.” She wrote a memoir called “Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef,” (which chef Anthony Bourdain called “simply the best memoir by a chef - ever.”).

During the interview Young asked Hamilton about her time in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Young says, "like a lot of Americans, you thought, 'Ann Arbor, Michigan… cheese cubes.'"

You can hear Young's comment in the audio here. It's at the 6 minute mark.

That comment sparked one listener to write in. Phillip wrote:

I do hope that someone from your Michigan network of stations will  contact the host of Here and Now about her  comment yesterday  regarding Ann Arbor; specifically, in an interview with the chef/ author of Prune, the host
remarked something to the effect that "When  most of us think of Ann Arbor, we think of cheese cubes..."  Give me a  break!

Well, we did share that comment with the producers at Here & Now and host Robin Young wrote back:

Dear Phillip

OY YI YI!!!!

The cheese cube kerfuffle!!

We're going to address on a letters segment on air, but I've been writing the (many!) people who've written.

Just to clarify.. what I said was, "YOU" (meaning the author) thought Michigan meant cheese cubes. This is what she writes in the book! Then I went on to say, but you found otherwise.

I buy from Zingermans!! I don't think Ann Arbor means cheese cubes!

SO sorry for leaving that impression,

Robin Young
Here and Now

User scrappy annie / Flickr

For Michigan's Christian population (including around 2 million Catholics), today marks the beginning of Lent.

During Lent, many adherents give up meat and dairy products.

Over at the Detroit News, columnist Kate Lawson is serving up a scrumptious-looking lemony shrimp with asparagus, a seafood recipe for people looking for something tasty and healthy.

Lawson also notes there are very good non-religious reasons for wanting to increase the amount of fish in your diet.

"At my house, we follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture's recent release of Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and eat seafood at least twice each week for heart and brain benefits."

The reasons for eating seafood, and the advantages, are significant. Again, from

"Seafood contributes a range of nutrients, notably the omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Moderate evidence shows that consumption of about 8 ounces per week of a variety of seafood, which provide an average consumption of 250 mg per day of EPA and DHA, is associated with reduced cardiac deaths among individuals with and without pre-existing cardiovascular disease."

But there are some concerns over which types of fish to eat, especially for women of child-bearing age and children. The concern is over mercury exposure and some fish can contain higher levels of mercury than others.

The Environmental Protection Agency has some guidelines to help you avoid mercury in fish in its "One Fish, Two Fish, Don't Fish, Do Fish" brochure.

Meanwhile, the New York Times is whipping up vegan recipes for the meat- and dairy-avoiding portion of their readership, including one for baked beans with mint and tomatoes, the kind of dish that goes perfectly with a stack of unleavened bread.

And, at 384 calories per serving, it's pretty healthy.

And, finally, here's chef Bobby Flay with one last seafood recipe for Lent:

Brian Short - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Mike Perini / Michigan Radio

Our afternoon host Mike Perini sent along these Paczki photos in honor of Fat Tuesday.

He took them at Zingerman's Bakery and at Copernicus European Delicatessen in Ann Arbor.

Mike says feel free to enjoy these "zero calorie" photos!

Tomorrow, some lent recipes to counter those Fat Tuesday calories.

Allan Chatto / Flickr

Sylvia Rector, a Detroit Free Press Restaurant Critic, has a nice little piece in the Freep about a shortage of pizza pans around the state.

The pizza pan of choice for local restaurants is a blue steel pan that was once made in West Virginia.

The pans were never intended for baking. They were designed to hold small parts in factories.

Overtime the pans "became the pan of choice for nearly every big name in Detroit-style pizza" (Rector describes Detroit -style pizza like this "dough for the thick but airy crust, absurd amounts of cheese and ladles of rich, long-simmered sauce").

But the company moved its operation to Mexico, and they haven't been able to get production up and running.

Pizza makers were distraught. They needed the pans. From the article:

Restaurant supply companies here -- and apparently everywhere else -- have been out of them for many months.

Pizza makers' orders for pans are stacking up by the thousands and causing problems for big chains and small independents alike.

"You wouldn't even believe how many pans we have on back order" -- at least 4,000 small and medium sizes and 700 extra larges -- says Patti Domasicwicz at People's Restaurant Equipment in Detroit. She hasn't received a shipment since April.

One pizza maker couldn't wait. So he took it upon himself to start making the pans in Michigan.

Eugene Jett, co-founder of Jet's Pizza, says he found a manufacturer that would do it:

"They're cutting them as we speak...The first thing is for me to get my pans...It took me a long time to figure out how to get them done...But I decided then, I will build my own pans."

Rector writes that if the manufacturer thinks the pans will be profitable, they might put the pans into full production.

Perhaps another sign that Michigan is diversifying it's economy.

La Shish Restaurants were once famous in Michigan for good middle eastern cuisine. But the restaurants closed when La Shish's owner got into legal trouble and fled the country.

Now, Jeff Karoub reports for the Associated Press that the La Shish name will come back to Dearborn:

Restaurateur Carmel Halloun said Friday that he's acquired the rights to use the La Shish name and plans to open a restaurant in March in the former chain's first location in Dearborn.

The name doesn't come without baggage. The La Shish chain of restaurants closed when the former owner, Talal Chahine, fled the U.S. Karoub writes that in 2005 Chahine "was charged with multiple counts of tax evasion and citizenship fraud."

The new owner of the La Shish name says he thinks enough time has passed. From Karoub's article:

Halloun said he knows people loved the food and is willing to take a chance. He said he wouldn't reopen at La Shish's first location without the restaurant's original name. "I want people to come back," he said.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

President Obama is expected today to sign legislation to improve the nation’s food safety.  The new law will put more regulations on Michigan farmers. 

2010 ended with national recalls of parsley, alfalfa sprouts and cilantro because of possible salmonella contamination.  The recalls were just the latest problems that prompted Congress to revamp the nation’s food safety system. The changes include better tracking of all kinds of food, from the farmer’s field to the consumer’s plate.  

Sweet N' Low, sugar, and salt and pepper shakers
William Hartz / Flickr

I always thought twice before adding those little pink packets to my iced tea because a little voice in my head was telling me they were bad. No proof, just something I had heard somewhere.

As it turns out, saccharin WAS on EPA's hazardous constituent list. It's been on the list since 1980. The substance was put on the list because the EPA's Carcinogen Assessment Group listed it as a "potential human carcinogen."

Inside the Detroit Produce Terminal
Kate Davidson / Changing Gears

Changing Gears reporter Kate Davidson put together this look at the Detroit Produce Terminal. The Terminal was built in 1929 by a railroad company. Produce was shipped in by rail and wholesalers bid on it at an auction. The Terminal has changed but there is still a lot of action in the building, including fights over cauliflower.

restaurant week in GR

A number of Grand Rapids restaurants are booked this weekend thanks to the new event celebrating great dining at a reasonable price.

San Chez sous chef Daryl Rector prepares for the night shift. "We've got verduras y tortas for the vegan crowd. It's a spicy black beans & quinoa cakes with roasted vegetables and this avo-cumber sauce," Rector explains. "That's a fake yogurt that we make with avocado - basically puree that, add acidity and sweetness and you can't really tell the difference between that and yogurt."

Catherine Hadler

Several Detroit artists have started what they call “an experiment in micro-funding.”  Once a month they host a public dinner that costs five dollars. During the dinner, several local groups pitch ideas for a creative project they’d like to do.  Diners vote on the proposals and at the end of the night the winning project takes home the money raised from dinner.


A cricket in Tanzania
Philip / Creative Commons

Some of us have accidentally made a meal of a bug while riding a bike or going on a boat ride.

But there are some people who say by not eating bugs on purpose, we're ignoring an entire food group.

The Wall Street Journal has the latest on entomophagy, or bug eating.

I think it's what sushi was 20 or 30 years ago. Now it's time for bugs.

Volunteers at Sema Cafe in Ann Arbor, Michigan
Myra Klarman

(by Rebecca Williams with The Environment Report)

So what would you think about opening up your home to 120 people every week? Letting them come in with their shoes on, sit anywhere they wanted. Oh, and by the way, they’ll be expecting a full breakfast.

That’s what happens at Jeff McCabe and Lisa Gottlieb’s house in Ann Arbor. From 6:30 to 10am every Friday, their house is transformed. It’s kind of weird. You walk in and you know you’re in someone’s home, but it feels like you’re suddenly in a little diner.