Editorial Roundup: Iowa

Editorial Roundup: Iowa

Dubuque Telegraph Herald. November 19, 2023.

Editorial: Support local communities and shop small businesses this holiday season

With this week’s Thanksgiving holiday, we are about to enter a season of giving. For many of us, that begins with giving thanks for all we have and the bounty that will be spread across our tables on Thursday. Then — for many of us — the shopping season begins.

After all, to give gifts, you have to get them first.

National Retail Federation forecasts that holiday spending will reach record levels during November and December and will grow between 3% and 4%, totaling $957.3 billion to $966.6 billion. By comparison, last year holiday sales totaled $929.5 billion.

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Last year, a record 196.7 million Americans shopped in stores and online during the five-day holiday shopping period from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday, according to the federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics. The total number of shoppers grew by nearly 17 million from 2021 and is the highest figure since NRF first started tracking the data in 2017.

According to the survey, more than three-quarters (76%) of consumers said they shopped over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, up from 70% in 2021. The numbers shattered NRF’s initial expectations by more than 30 million.

Whether or not the chaos and crowds of big box stores on Black Friday is your scene, there is something to be said for the softer side of shopping. Consider spending some of your holiday dollars in local shops, which will roll out the red carpet on Small Business Saturday — and throughout the holiday season.

The national shopping survey shows a troubling trend: Cyber Monday 2023 is set to bring $13.7 billion worth of sales. Last year’s sales grew by 5.8%, reaching $11.3 billion. Let’s hope that doesn’t mean folks won’t shop locally, as well.

The benefits of shopping local are many.

Small businesses play a critical role in the local economy. “Mom and pop” shops represent a vital segment of retail in Dubuque and the surrounding communities. They rely on selling unique merchandise every day, backed by strong customer service. Shopping local means you’re more likely to get a cup of coffee and some cheerful conversation while you shop, as opposed to throngs of people battling for bargains.

Making purchases at a local shop often means dealing directly with the business owner and sometimes even the creator of the product. Local shops pride themselves on that connection and tend to bring the knowledge and customer service that build long-lasting relationships.

Saturday in downtown Dubuque will make for some particularly festive holiday shopping. Participating downtown Dubuque businesses will hold a holiday event during Small Business Saturday on Nov. 25. “Holidazzle Downtown Dubuque” will be held during normal business hours that day. Trolleys of Dubuque will transport shoppers from First to 19th streets and between Elm and Bluff streets between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m., and Santa and Mrs. Claus will visit Cable Car Square that day.

Doesn’t that sound like more fun than scrolling through images of gift items on your phone?

Studies have found that locally owned stores generate much greater benefits for communities than do national chains. If you spend $100 at a local business, roughly $68 stays in your local economy, versus $43 for each $100 spent at big chains.

Local business owners have an investment in the community. Note the local names you see time and again supporting community fundraisers. In fact, local businesses donate to nonprofits 2½ times the amount that other businesses do.

Before clicking a link and buying something you can’t see, touch or smell, consider the unique gifts you can find at local shops that might not be available anywhere else.

Des Moines Register. November 19, 2023.

Editorial: World Food Prize seizes our attention for the most basic of needs

A century of work to reduce global hunger has produced spectacular achievements, preserving and enriching billions of lives. At the same time, the scope of the challenge of hunger has continued to evolve and grow.

Iowa’s unique anti-hunger contribution, the World Food Prize recognition, has laudably raised its ante in this ongoing fight, announcing at this year’s laureate ceremony that the award accompanying the annual prize has doubled, to $500,000 from $250,000.

One effect of the Ruan family’s $10 million endowment of the World Food Prize in 1990 has been to ensure public attention, especially in Des Moines, to groundbreaking and relentless work that breaks down barriers to feeding people. So it’s fitting to take a few moments today to praise the increased prize award and take stock of the hunger battle.

World Food Prize officials said their trust’s growth permitted the increased award. Terry Branstad, former Iowa governor and president of the World Food Prize Foundation, surprised this year’s laureate during the prize ceremony at the Statehouse last month with the news. Heidi Kühn is founder of Roots of Peace, which helps farmers in former battlegrounds to grow fruit, nuts and other crops in fields once filled with landmines. That work is just getting started: She said that she wants tech companies to assist efforts to remove mines in Ukraine and that the prize money will facilitate that advocacy.

The achievements are immense, but so are remaining and new challenges

Kühn’s group has made large-scale tangible improvements in such places as Afghanistan and Vietnam. The specific nature of her work and its success illustrates the breadth of obstacles that contribute to worldwide hunger. The World Food Prize commemorates scientific advances in such things as crop resilience, nutritional fortification, pest control and irrigation, but the 37 laureate awards to date include work on more diverse and just as important endeavors including banking, transportation, government subsidies, aquaculture and climate change.

The World Food Prize story traces back to the visions of Iowa natives Henry Wallace and Norman Borlaug. In the middle of the 20th century, Wallace, the founder of Pioneer Hi-Bred and then FDR’s vice president, saw suffering people and meager crop yields in Mexico. Borlaug, an agronomist born in Cresco, led an initiative to do something about it. The Green Revolution was born, and its agricultural innovations spread around the globe. Borlaug received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970.

Precious few beneficial things in the world have no downside. Green Revolution principles have been blamed for contributing heavily to the explosion of emissions that cause harmful climate change. In a particularly sweeping and macabre example of being blamed for success, global population growth is seen by some experts as unsustainable. The number of people on Earth has roughly tripled since the start of the Green Revolution.

Victories over hunger in these decades are among the great achievements in human history. Sadly, hunger is persistent. Nearly 1 billion people go to sleep hungry every day, a record. There are perennial and vexing problems (government corruption, scarcity of water), and new and acute problems (changed growing seasons fueled by climate change, infrastructure demolished by conflict). Too often, advances in crop yields have not stemmed hunger because the crops are being grown primarily for fuel. Closer to home, there’s no famine in the United States, but we clearly fail at distributing our prosperity in a way that prevents hunger and nourishes children and adults. Right here in the Des Moines metro, food pantries have set records this year for visits and households served.

World Food Prize news should snag our attention

The World Food Prize, founded by Borlaug in 1985, exists to focus our attention for even a brief moment on these crises. The Ruan family, Branstad, the laureates and countless other people deserve our gratitude for their commitment to this cause and Borlaug’s vision, which have sustained billions of lives. What other vision can be said to have had that scale of impact?

On Thanksgiving, many of us will join family and friends in sitting down to tables laden with enough food to feed a gathering thrice the size. Heading into the holiday, it’s appropriate for each of us in breadbasket Iowa to consider the disparity between our abundance and the world’s needs and ponder what step, small or large, we might take to follow World Food Prize laureates’ example and do something about it.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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