February 1, 2015

Brewery promises to give profits to Food Bank of Iowa


Finnegans Brewery promises to give profits from beer sales to the Food Bank of Iowa.

Iowa’s largest food bank is aligning with an unlikely new partner. A Minnesota-based brewery will start selling beer in Iowa next month with officials claiming 100% of the proceeds will go to the feeding the needy.

Christina Zink, spokeswoman for the Food Bank of Iowa, says Finnegans of Minneapolis has made a remarkable commitment to the Des Moines-based charity which serves 100,000 Iowans a year.

“Finnegans is now going to be selling their products here in Iowa and when people purchase the beer at local places, the Food Bank of Iowa wins,” Zink says. “The money that we receive is going to help buy fresh produce for people in need. It’s an expensive product to buy that’s important to get into people’s diets.”

Finnegans was founded 15 years ago on the premise of “turning beer into food,” according to the brewery’s website. It claims during 2012, Finnegans raised more than $100,000 from the sale of its Irish Amber and Blonde Ale, donations that went to purchase more than 140,000 pounds of locally grown produce for local food shelves.

Zink was asked how much money the Food Bank of Iowa could expect from the new agreement. “I have no idea but we’re really excited about the partnership and seeing where this goes,” Zink says. “It’s worked really well with the other states that they’ve been in and we’re looking forward to seeing the response of Finnegans and the consumer.”

An economic report out last week found wages nationwide aren’t keeping up with inflation as the median family income has been at $51,000 for 15 straight years. Zink says demand is rising every year at the food bank, which serves people in 55 of Iowa’s 99 counties.

“The need is definitely going up, for a couple of reasons,” Zink says. “People are reaching out for help at the same time as…incomes do go up a little bit and SNAP benefits go away but people are still in need to make ends meet and we’ve definitely seen the need go up at our partner agencies.”

Iowa will be the fifth state with food banks sharing in Finnegans’ profits, joining Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin and South Dakota.


Senator Grassley ready to hold hearings on Attorney General nominee

Loretta Lynch

Loretta Lynch

In one of his first moves as the new chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley has carved out a big chunk of his schedule this week for hearings on President Obama’s nominee for Attorney General. Loretta Lynch is a 55-year-old North Carolina native who’s currently the U.S. Attorney for New York’s Eastern District.

Grassley, a Republican, says Lynch has an excellent shot to become the nation’s top lawyer. “Of course, she’s a viable candidate,” Grassley says. “Now, that might sound like I’ve made up my mind I’m going to vote for her. That decision will come after a day of questioning tomorrow which could go into, almost maybe ten, 12, 14 hours, I don’t know how long it’ll take.”

Grassley says he’s already met with Lynch one-on-one, but he says little often comes from those meetings. He places more importance on the hearings, beginning Wednesday, where she will be under oath and answering questions from each member of the panel. “There’s always a presumption, sometimes overruled by Congress not approving, but at least to start with and very general throughout history, a presumption a president ought to have a cabinet that he wants,” Grassley says. “So, things lean in her favor, just from a standpoint of that.”

Still, Grassley says that’s not enough of a basis to influence his vote, noting, he’s voted against President Obama’s nominees in the past. So far, Lynch has been “well-received,” Grassley says, as far as her personality and her background. “I suppose with 46 Democrats probably would all vote for her so it’s a case of getting five or six Republicans,” Grassley says. “Maybe she’ll get 30 Republicans, who knows?”

The hearings will begin Wednesday morning. Grassley and Lynch will make opening statements and then she’ll be questioned by each individual committee member. Thursday’s hearing will feature outside witnesses invited by both Republicans and Democrats. The current Attorney General, Eric Holder, announced in September his plans to step down when a new nominee is confirmed. Holder has been in the office since 2009.


Broadway production of ‘Kinky Boots’ makes one stop in Iowa (audio)

Steven Booth stars in "Kinky Boots."

Steven Booth stars in “Kinky Boots.”

The nationally-touring Broadway production of the musical “Kinky Boots” is making only one stop in Iowa, opening tomorrow night in Des Moines.

One of the show’s stars is Steven Booth, who plays the role of Charley Price. “He’s reluctantly inherited his father’s shoe factory which is on the verge of bankruptcy,” Booth says. “In trying to live up to his father’s legacy and save his family business, he ends up finding inspiration in the form of Lola, a fabulous entertainer who’s in need of some sturdy stilettos.”

The catch is, Lola is a transvestite, which calls for some adjustments on the production line and in the minds of Charley and the rest of the factory’s crew.

“They’re a very unlikely pair but they end up finding out that they have a lot more in common than they ever dreamed possible,” Booth says. “They kind of end up saving the town. They discover that if you change your mind about someone, you can change your whole world, which is one of the great themes of the show.”

The story won six Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Score. The soundtrack was created by singer, actress and songwriter Cyndi Lauper, who first won fame in the early 1980s. Booth says he’s gotten to work closely with Lauper.

“She’s super hands-on and is really passionate about this show and about the musical theater business and she’s written some amazing music for it,” Booth says. “She’s as cool as you’d think she is.” Inspired by a true story, the musical is set in England.

Before the stage version, “Kinky Boots” was also a hit movie in 2005. The show runs Tuesday through Sunday at the Civic Center in Des Moines. For tickets, visit: www.desmoinesperformingarts.org.

Audio: Matt Kelley’s interview with Steven Booth. 5:15.

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library opens exhibit of signed baseballs

Baseball from former President Herbert Hoover's collection.

Baseball from former President Herbert Hoover’s collection.

If you’re tired of winter, an exhibit about the “boys of summer” might warm your spirits. The only Iowan to be elected president was a tremendous baseball fan.

The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum is opening a new exhibit this weekend called “The Signature of Baseball.”

Curator Melanie Wier says they’ll display some of President Hoover’s extensive collection of baseball paraphernalia. Wier says, “We have a lot of his American and National League passes and different baseball game tickets and letter he wrote to players and coaches and all kinds of memorabilia.” Hoover’s private collection includes a baseball autographed by legendary player Babe Ruth.

The exhibit at the West Branch facility also features a remarkable collection of 181 baseballs, all signed by world leaders and prominent figures.

Those include Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher and each president from Nixon to Obama. “They’re displayed so that you can see all of the different signatures,” Wier says. “There’s also labels that list out every person, what their title is and what country they’re from.”

Since Iowa is known as the home of the “Field of Dreams,” she says they’ve also devoted space in the exhibit to the single-A baseball team from Cedar Rapids. “We have a glimpse of Iowa baseball history through the Kernels,” Wier says. “We have a timeline of their history and then we featured six of their players.” The exhibit will open Saturday and runs through late March.

Learn more at hoover.archives.gov.


Iowa Bike Expo rolls into Des Moines

Bike-SignWhile the winter winds howl this weekend, bicycling enthusiasts from across Iowa will be warm, toasty and indoors, kicking tires, planning bike trips and sampling new cycling technology. The annual Iowa Bike Expo is scheduled for Saturday at the Iowa Events Center in downtown Des Moines.

The event is being organized by Mark Wyatt, of Coralville, executive director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition. “This is our biggest bike expo ever,” Wyatt says. “We’ve got 146 vendor spaces and 50,000 square feet of bicycles, gear, events, destinations, anything you want. If you’re shopping for your summer on bicycles, this is the place you want to be.” One of this year’s seminars will focus on a hot trend in bicycling and bike tourism known as “bikepacking.”

“It’s a lot like backpacking but on bicycles,” Wyatt says. “This is becoming a big movement to do more ultralight touring, camping and going where the roads and trails won’t take you.” The weekend’s events include a conference today that’s just for engineers, city planners and other municipal officials, in an effort to teach them how to build better bike trails and other cycle-friendly features in their communities. Wyatt says Saturday night is the big event, centered on RAGBRAI, the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa.

“This is our fundraising gala, our RAGBRAI announcement party,” Wyatt says. “The pinnacle of the evening is when they announce the overnight towns where RAGBRAI is going.” There will also be live music and a silent auction to raise funds for bicycling programs. The weekend includes a statewide Safe Routes to School meeting, where attendees will earn about “walking school buses” and how to start a program in their communities.

Other attractions include an Iowa Women’s Bicycling Meetup, a fashion show for bike attire and a competition showcasing hand-built bikes. Expo admission is free.



Report says Iowa failing in key anti-tobacco efforts

cigaretteA new report card on Iowa’s efforts to cut the use of tobacco products gives the state one A and three Fs. Iowa received failing grades for its funding for cessation programs, funding for prevention and control and for its tax of $1.36 for a pack of cigarettes. James Martinez, spokesman for the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest, says Iowa’s grade point average of just one on a four-point scale is “unacceptable.”

“When we’re looking at access to cessation services, in other words, if someone wants to quit smoking, we do believe the state should help them,” Martinez says. “It saves health care costs across the state as well as it helps people make that decision and take that important step in their lives.” Iowa’s only passing grade came for its statewide smoking ban which covers virtually all public places and workplaces.

There’s a toll-free number smokers can call to reach counselors at Quitline Iowa, which offers up to eight weeks of free nicotine replacement therapies. Still, he says the state doesn’t make nearly enough of an effort to fund its cessation and prevention programs. “When you get an F in something like that, it’s alarming,” Martinez says, “and it really calls attention to our leadership in the state to do something about it.”

Iowa gets many millions of dollars every year in tobacco settlement money as well as federal dollars, but only spends a small fraction of it on programs that help people quit smoking or programs to keep them from starting. Plus, Iowa is spending much less on tobacco control and prevention than just a few years ago. While the state invested more than 12-million in the effort in 2008, it will spend less than five-million this year.

“It’s unfortunate that when they allocate the funding for something like tobacco prevention and control programs, they’re not using all of those funds,” Martinez says. “They’re not even using half of what they should be using that funding for. It’s unfortunate.” The report says more than 44-hundred Iowans die every year from smoking-related causes, while 19.5 percent of Iowa adults smoke along with 18.1 percent of high schoolers.

See the full “State of Tobacco Control 2015″ report at the website: www.lung.org.


Alcohol use by pregnant women still impacts 300 Iowa newborns a year

Medical LogoEven though it’s completely preventable, there will likely be around 300 babies born in Iowa this year with what’s known as a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

Stephanie Trusty, a nurse clinician at the Iowa Department of Public Health, says the disorders come in many forms but they all have the same cause: the mother drank alcohol when she was pregnant.

“It causes brain damage,” Trusty says. “It also can cause abnormal facial characteristics, abnormal growth of the child, it can cause heart, lung and kidney defects, poor memory, poor coordination and motor skill delays.”

The list of disorders can also include learning disabilities, which can have a lifelong impact. The severity of the health issues depends on the timing and frequency of the mother’s alcohol consumption, which Trusty reminds, should not be a single drop.

Trusty says, “Of all the substances of abuse, including cocaine, heroin and marijuana, alcohol produces by far the most serious neuro-behavior effects in the fetus.”

People simply don’t realize how damaging alcohol can be to an unborn child, she says, as alcohol can impact a fetus at three weeks, which is before the woman may even realize she’s pregnant.

“It’s legal and it’s acceptible by society,” Trusty says. “I do think it’s often minimized. The perception, I think, by a lot of people is that other drugs are more dangerous than alcohol.”

Birth defects due to alcohol are 100% preventable, she says, if women commit to not drinking for nine months or when they begin trying to get pregnant.

There are about 40,000 babies born in Iowa each year. Studies find, about 7.5 in every 1,000 are born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

A recent survey found nearly 22% of Iowa adults reported binge drinking in the previous month, significantly higher than the national rate of around 17%.