Thinly sliced: In Minnesota, birds are accidentally getting drunk off fermented fruit

This is the web version of a list we publish twice-weekly in our newsletter. It comprises the most noteworthy food stories of the moment, selected by our editors. Get it first here.

Are you cereal? The New York City Department of Education (DOE) spent millions on a brand of cereal that was backed by a DOE official’s friend, reports non-profit investigative news outlet City Limits. The cereal, called Back to the Roots, was unpopular among students. Nevertheless, school officials insisted that menus feature it prominently. Schools even went as far as to host Carmelo Anthony—an NBA player and investor in the company—to promote the item to students. Even The New York Times played an indirect role in abetting the introduction of Back to the Roots into public schools. In emails obtained by City Limits, a top school food official discouraged another employee from sharing the true cost of Back to the Roots cereal to the Times, which, in turn, reported that the cereal costs “a little more” rather than its real cost: twice as much.

Perhaps the more interesting news here is that, since the story’s publication, DOE and the city comptroller have launched probes into school food contracts. Read that follow-up story here.

“I am more afraid of the government of the U.S. than the gangs of El Salvador.” Those are the words of Rodrigo, a migrant worker in California’s Central Valley, who is also one of the subjects of The California Sunday Magazine’s striking black-and-white photo essay on farm workers who are coping with increasingly aggressive ICE raids. In the photos and accompanying text, Rodrigo recounts arriving to work in California after having fled his home in El Salvador, where two of his family members were killed by the army and two more by gang members. Rodrigo knows that a move back to El Salvador could effectively be a death sentence. It’s a risk that seems commensurate with separation from his 9-year-old son.

Drunk as a skunk. Or should we say… drunk as a bird in Gilbert, Minnesota?According to The Washington Post, which references a public notice shared on the Gilbert Police Department Facebook page, the birds aren’t wreaking any Hitchcockian horror. The source of this sloppy flock’s fun: local berries that fermented faster than usual due to an early frost. Now, the local PD has asked that community members refrain from reporting windshield run-ins, as the birds will eventually sober up. But our question is, will the birds ever recover from this widely reported party FOWL?

Bear necessities. Every year, Alaska’s Katmai National Park hosts a wild, glorious, March Madness-style competition among the bears that roam it: Fat Bear Week. The week runs on Facebook, where Katmai uses bracket-style matchups to determine which bear has gained the most fat since waking up from hibernation. Every day, fans vote between pairs of bears based on their gains. As the week goes on, thinner bears are eliminated, and eventually, one champion will rule them all (read: have the comfiest hibernation this year). The 2019 competition launched on Monday, which means you still have time to vote. Even better: read this delightful Outside magazine profile on Otis, Fat Bear Week’s reigning champ. Bear with us as we spend the evening watching Otis eat salmon, get his omega-3 fatty acids, and live his best life

Also tagged

The Counter Stories by our editors.