Posts Tagged ‘food justice’

an exercise in mindful living

January 6, 2011

If you’ve started down the path of “greening” your home or making your lifestyle more eco-friendly you may have noticed how easy it is to get caught up in minutiae. Maybe you’ve faced dilemmas like, I want to buy the locally produced organic butter but it’s sealed in a plastic container or These vegan shoes aren’t made with organically grown cotton canvas and the soles are made of some kind of synthetic material.

I’ve fallen into this trap of analyzing every little thing I purchase to the point of feeling either paralyzed into inaction or guilty once I’ve deemed my choice was the “wrong” one. This is obviously not helpful. Beating ourselves up or racking our brains over every choice we make is neither productive nor healthy.

Instead, I prefer to look at things more holistically and globally, which is why I’m working on a tool to help heighten the awareness that each of us makes a difference in the world. Essentially, the method is based on permaculture’s zones of use and a series of questions that arise when thinking about our place and choices in the material world.

We are at the center of our own little universe. What we give spirals outwardly and what we receive spirals inwardly. Each level of the spiral gets physically further than the personal, yet there is clearly still a connection to our daily lives even as the spiral emanates away from the self. The following are some of the questions that arose as I thought of each level. You may arrive at more and deeper questions as you perform the exercise. If you do, please share them in the comments. May it be of benefit!

level 1 – me

What goes in my body?
Is it nourishing me?
Is it poisoning me?
Where and how was it grown?

What goes on my body?
How does it make me feel?
Do I recognize the ingredients (body care)?
Do I recognize the material (clothing)?
Can I trace its origin?

level 2 – my home

How do I fill it?
How does what I have in my home make me feel?
Is it comforting?
Is it harmful?
What is it made of?
Where does it come from?

How do I maintain it?
What do I clean my home with?
Is this harmful to me, my family, my pets?
How do I heat/cool it?
Where does the energy come from?



level 3 – my garden

(this represents where your food and other plant-based goods come from)

How are the plants grown?
Is the way they are grown beneficial to the soil? to the ecosystem? to the people around them?
Are there healing plants and foods growing?
How near to my home are they grown?

Who is tending the garden?
What is their life like?

level 4 – my community

How do I support it?
Do I shop at small, locally owned shops or use local services?
How am I involved in community organizations?
Schools? Gardens? Neighborhood committees?

How does it support me?
Do I have all of the services I need nearby?
Do I earn a living in the community/neighborhood?
Do I find joyful activities in my community?
Do I have meaningful connections in my community?

level 5 – the world

What do I contribute?
How do my habits benefit the world?
How do my choices have any negative impacts?
Who am I supporting with my choices?

What does it give back?
Are all of my basic needs (water, sunshine, food, shelter) met?
Do I feel connected to or isolated from the world around me (ie, nature)?
Am I healthy?
Do I enjoy life?

at every level…

I also like to ask the questions: Do I really need this? and Is it of benefit?

Did you come up with any other questions? Please leave them in the comments!

green books campaign: the raw milk revolution

November 10, 2009

This review is part of the Green Books campaign. Today 100 bloggers are reviewing 100 great books printed in an environmentally friendly way. Our goal is to encourage publishers to get greener and readers to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books. This campaign is organized by Eco-Libris, a a green company working to green up the book industry by promoting the adoption of green practices, balancing out books by planting trees, and supporting green books. A full list of participating blogs and links to their reviews is available on Eco-Libris website.

The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America’s Emerging Battle Over Food Rights
by David E. Gumpert
(with foreword by Joel Salatin)
Chelsea Green Publishing
Printed on recycled paper

What do government regulators have against raw milk?

The Raw Milk Revolution is an exploration of this and other relevant questions in a time when the entire industrialized food system is coming into question.

Based on his blog, The Complete Patient, David Gumpert provides a reasonable, balanced, and straightforward account of the pros and cons of raw milk consumption and the legal constraints placed on its production.

The book provides historic context of the dairy industry, from about the time of the Industrial Revolution to more recent regulatory history regarding food safety. It balances past events with the current trend toward consuming raw dairy, explaining both the purported risks and benefits of the product that comes unadulterated from the cow (or goat or sheep).

A taste of the past
Pasteurization was a response to the increasingly deplorable conditions and industrialization of dairy farming. As dairy operations crowded into cities and were coupled with distilleries for “efficient” use of grain (as cow feed, something cows do not naturally eat), cows became sicker, farms became a breeding ground for pathogens.

An emotionally charged debate
But is the method of pasteurization – slow on the uptake at the turn of the century, yet widely used today – still valid? Is it making us safer? The answer is somewhat unclear. The rates of raw-milk–related illness are debatable, depending on who you ask. According to some groups, like [grass-fed] raw-milk advocates the Weston A. Price Foundation, the rates are inflated, while state and federal agencies argue that raw milk carries an inherent risk to health. As do parents of children who may have become seriously ill from it.

Raw milk is outlawed in 28 out of 50 states. But the incidence of other food-borne illnesses is just as high, if not higher, than that of raw milk. Even pasteurized milk carries some risk. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the highest rates of listeria illness are due to deli meat. If deli meat is 10 times more likely to expose you to listeria illness than raw milk, why isn’t it restricted or outlawed?

Another question I kept asking is: Why can’t we just put a label on raw milk and let consumers decide whether they want to take the supposed risk? Or more to the point, why don’t consumers have the right to choose their foods, raw or treated?

A question of rights
Joel Salatin, now famous farmer of Polyface Farms in Virginia, posits in the foreword,

The only reason the right to food choice was not guaranteed in the Bill of Rights is because the Founders of America could not have envisioned a day when selling a glass of raw milk or homemade pickles to a neighbor would be outlawed. At the time, such a thought was as strange as levitation.

Indeed, what good is the freedom to own guns, worship, or assemble if we don’t have the freedom to eat the proper fuel to energize us to shoot, pray, and preach? Is not freedom to choose our food at least as fundamental a right as the freedom to worship?

Due to the current laws regarding the sale of raw milk, people who choose to produce it are putting themselves at risk of government crackdown in order to fulfill a growing demand. Something is compelling consumers to, in many cases, cross state lines to obtain raw milk. Often, these consumers are pregnant women and mothers. Why are people putting themselves and their families at risk of breaking the law in order to potentially put themselves at risk of illness?

Having tasted raw milk and, unknowingly, carrying it over state lines illegally, The Raw Milk Revolution left me wanting to take the risk again, maybe in order to prove that the benefits are worth the risks.

I think I now have more questions than answers regarding the raw milk debate, but perhaps this is the point – to keep the questions coming with regard to food and our right to choose what we consider healthful to eat.

For more on the raw milk debate, visit The Complete Patient.

Founded in 2007, Eco-Libris is a green company working to green up the book industry by promoting the adoption of green practices, balancing out books by planting trees, and supporting green books. To achieve this goal Eco-Libris is working with book readers, publishers, authors, bookstores and others in the book industry worldwide. Until now Eco-Libris balanced out over 110,000 books, which results in more than 120,000 new trees planted with its planting partners in developing countries.

lettuce eat local!

August 21, 2009

I mean Let Us Eat Local. It’s a gala event for Just Food, advocates for healthful, sustainable food access for all. Check it!

Tickets are now available for our second annual Let Us Eat Local Gala and Award Ceremony, a fundraiser that helps support our programs. More than 30 chefs from NYC’s finest restaurants will be serving up 100% local food paired with local craft beers. The McKinley Hightower-Beyah Awards will honor farmers, organizations, journalists, and gardeners who work to bring fresh, locally grown food to those who need it most.
Let Us Eat Local!

DATE: Wednesday, September 16, 2009
TIME: VIP hour begins 6 PM
General Admission begins 7 PM

LOCATION:
Prince George Hotel Ballroom
15 East 27th Street, NYC
Get Your Ticket!
$235 VIP (entrance to event, 6:00 PM)
$150 General Admission (entrance to event, 7:00 PM)
$135 Just Food Members (entrance to event, 7:00PM)
Purchase Tickets Online

Menu
Starters:
VIP Exclusive with an extra hour and special tastings

The Main Course
So much to savor, so little time. 30 Chefs. 40 Local Producers.

Perfectly Paired
Each tasting is paired with a local craft beer.
Orchestrated by NY Craft Beer Week.

A Celebration of Our Region’s Finest
Journalist
Organization
Farmer
Gardener

Silent Auction
Featuring gardening and cooking gear, hand-crafted jewelry, cooking classes, and more!

Satisfaction:
100% of proceeds support our efforts to change the world through food.

Plus goody bags with delicious treats and cool items to take home!

brooklyn food coalition general meeting

July 21, 2009

Do you like food? Do you like food that’s healthful and sustainably produced? Want to get involved in shaping the way food is produced and distributed locally?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, come to the first
Brooklyn Food Coalition General Meeting!

What: Brooklyn Food Coalition General Meeting
Why: To approve the mission and structure of the Coalition and the convening of neighborhood groups
When: WEDNESDAY, JULY 22nd from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Where: Brooklyn Ethical Culture Society
53 Prospect Park West, Brooklyn, NY 11215

Get the full details here.

no hunger

July 13, 2009

As someone who eats on a very regular basis, never in want of food, I cannot fathom what it is like to wonder where my next meal is coming from. When I am hungry, I go to the cupboard or refrigerator, where there is always food stocked from the farmers market or grocery store. I am fortunate to be able to rely on produce that comes from local farms, and have the luxury to buy fresh food that comes from other places in this country, like California.

I recently read a post on elephant journal of a woman who, after returning to the US from a long sojourn in India, visited a supermarket. She literally wept at the bounty around her. We should all be so fortunate to realize the abundance we have.

For millions of children around the world, there is no bounty. There is no corner store, no fruit stand, no supermarket. There is only hunger.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently reported that there are now over 1 billion people worldwide going hungry. Acute malnutrition affects 55 million children globally, resulting in 5 million childhood deaths every year (one child every six seconds). This is a predictable and preventable condition.

No Hunger is an international initiative, started by Action Against Hunger, asking Al Gore to make his next film about global hunger. The website AskAlGore.org features a trailer for No Hunger, and a petition addressed to the former Vice President that will be presented to him this December at the COP15 Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

The hope is that, as An Inconvenient Truth did for climate change, No Hunger will help shift public perceptions of hunger, and attract the support needed to reach every acutely malnourished child.

The treatment for severe acute malnutrition is not expensive—it costs about $50 per child and doesn’t require prescription drugs. Instead, it relies on nutrient dense, ready-to-use food products. These products can take a child from the brink of death and restore him to health in as little as six weeks.

In response to a desperate situation, ready-to-use plumpy’nut provides emergency nutrition to starving children.

standing up for bees

June 24, 2009


[Image: Green Brooklyn]

There’s a movement happening in this city right now to develop a strong localized food system. Urban farms, community gardens, backyards, and rooftops are the sites for productive vegetable gardens, chicken coops, and even rabbit raising. People who care about food and where it comes from are going to great lengths to find space to grow. And some are even breaking the law to ensure greater success of these urban crops. They’re illegally keeping bees.

A matter of sustainability
In places like Chicago, San Francisco, and Atlanta, beekeeping is considered part of the city’s long-term sustainability plan. Bees are even kept in the White House garden. But in this city, according to sustainable food advocacy group Just Food,

The New York City Health Code under Section 161.01 prohibits the possession, keeping, harboring and selling of ‘wild animals.’ This ban’s listing of ‘all venomous insects’ includes bees and in doing so outlaws beekeeping.

The perceived risk (allergies, swarming) by few is limiting opportunities for many.

Without bees, we’d all have less food. Einstein didn’t say this, but it’s still rings true to an extent,

If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.

In a post on The Daily Green (2007),

Of about 240,000 flowering plants in North America, three quarters require the pollination of a bee, bird, bat or other animal or insect in order to bear fruit. Since many of our food crops – with the exception of grains – are imports, the imported honey bee is key to our food supply. Beyond that, no other pollinator can be collected, moved and unleashed to pollinate fields of crops like commercial beekeepers can do with honey bee colonies.

So losing bees would have repercussions throughout the food supply chain.


Legalize the bees!
In February, Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) introduced legislation to lift the ban on beekeeping. And yesterday he spoke at a press conference in front of city hall backed by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer (not “Stinger” as he joked), Executive Director of Just Food Jackie Berger, other Just Food members, beekeepers, urban farmers, and concerned citizens (that would be me).


[David Yassky, Scott Stringer, Deborah Romano, and a swarm of press]

We were all there not just in support of lifting the ban on beekeeping, but to support Park Slope resident Deborah Romano who received a fine for beekeeping and was ordered to remove her hive. Talking about the complaint brought against her, Deborah told the AP yesterday,

“I don’t know why (that neighbor) did it,” she said at the rally. “But my guess is that it probably was a combination of ignorance and fear. They didn’t understand how vital bees are to our very existence on the planet, and a more livable existence in NYC. They probably didn’t realize that honeybees and other pollinating insects are more endangered than dangerous.”

Bees work for me
As someone who uses honey on a daily basis, I’d prefer if the sweet nectar came from right here in Brooklyn than be shipped in from upstate or beyond. I also prefer beeswax candles to paraffin, a petroleum byproduct, or even soy, which is most likely a genetically modified crop.

If we could produce these items locally, it would boost our economy, improve the local food production system, provide the community with products to be proud of, and offer beekeepers the peace of mind that performing their craft brings.

NYC beekeeping in the news and blogosphere

NYC beekeeping resources

It’s Pollinator Week!
And there are still some fun events to partake in:

Hidden Hives Tour & Mead Tasting
@ Jimmy’s No. 43
Thu 6/25

Honey Fest
@ Union Square Greenmarket
Fri 6/26

Honey Tasting
@ The Unfancy Food Show
Sun 6/28

…And more!

For more info visit: www.justfood.org/bees

this just in from just food

June 23, 2009

If you care about food issues in NYC, here’s your chance to get involved!

Join us at two important City Council Hearings on food justice issues…today and tomorrow!

June 23rd Hearing on Food Access Disparities, 1pm

Today at 1pm the NYC Council’s Committee on Community Development will be holding an oversight hearing on the topic “Access to Fresh Food in NYC Neighborhoods and Associated Health, Economic, and Community Impacts”. The hearing will be held on the 16th Floor Hearing Room at 250 Broadway.

Local groups have prepared testimonies to present at the hearing, and written testimony is also being accepted. Come, listen, engage!

Buzzzzzzz: Come a little early and attend the Pollinator Week press conference, 12:30pm at City Halls steps and hear Council Member David Yassky, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and representatives from Just Food, East New York Farms and local beekeepers give support to legislation that will legalize beekeeping in NYC!

June 24th Hearing on Community Gardens, 10am

Action Alert from the NYC Community Gardens Coalition:

JOIN US AT CITY HALL WEDNESDAY JUNE 24 @ 10AM
FOR AN IMPORTANT CITY COUNCIL HEARING ON THE FUTURE OF OUR GARDENS!

We urgently need all gardeners and garden supporters to bring your voices and letters of concern to a public hearing sponsored by City Council’s Committee on Parks and Recreation at City Hall and speak up for the preservation of all community gardens! We need as many people as possible to attend to prove our political (voting) power – so bring friends and forward this message far and wide!

If you are a Parks or a city-operated GreenThumb community garden and think you are safe, THINK AGAIN! Your garden is not safe, as the Attorney General’s agreement that saved us in 2002 is set to expire in 2010 with NO OTHER legislation in place to protect us!

The hearing will focus on the future of community gardens in NYC and specifically Resolution #1890, which calls upon the City to map all GreenThumb community gardens in NYC as parkland, thereby giving them stronger protection for the future!

NYC City Council Hearing on Community Gardens
Wednesday June 24th @ 10:00am
Committee Room @ City Hall

City Hall is located in City Hall Park. You can enter the plaza from either the west side of the park at Broadway and Murray Street or the east side at Park Row.By Subway: #4, #5, #6 trains to City Hall/Brooklyn Bridge; #2, #3 trains to Park Place; W, R trains to City Hall; C, A trains to Chambers Street By Bus: M15 to City Hall/Park Row

Please bring: ID to enter City Hall and 20 copies (double-sided) of your prepared testimony as to why your garden – and all gardens – should be made permanent (if you need help to make copies, please call us – the most important thing is for you to BE THERE!).

Also bring: Youth from your garden (now that school is out – their stories are very powerful), your garden’s scrapbook, pictures, and banners. Our representatives need to understand the deep importance of the community gardens.

If you cannot make the meeting, but want to submit testimony, you can mail or fax it by June 24th to:
Gary Altman, Legislative Council
Council of the City of New York
250 Broadway 15th Floor, New York NY 10007
Att: Community Gardens Hearing – June 24, 2009
Fax: (212) 442-6420 (Attn: Gary Altman)

For more information: See our website for our recommendations to protect our gardens, links to Resolution 1890, the Attorney General’s agreement, and more. If you have any questions, call us at 888-311-3993.

New York City Community Gardens Coalition – United We Grow! The mission of the New York City Community Gardens Coalition is to promote the preservation, creation and empowerment of community gardens through education, advocacy and grass-roots organizing.

Thank you for all you do in advocating for healthier food, farms and communities in New York!

Warm wishes,

Nadia Johnson
Just Food

land, people, food… happy days

April 15, 2009

Not exactly. This isn’t your abuela’s garden. The Garden follows a South Central LA community fighting to keep their 14-acre garden. The trailer alone was enough to get me riled up about the “powers that be.” This one’s going on my Netflix queue, stat.

Read more at Black Valley Films official film site.

brooklyn food conference

March 25, 2009

More than exercise, nutrition dictates a person’s health and fitness level. Unfortunately, there is a frightening amount of inequality in access to healthful food. Here are some (NYC-centric) facts:

  • Residents in the poorest neighborhoods of NYC have higher rates of obesity and mortality compared to those in wealthier areas: >3 times the number of diabetes-related deaths and ~1.5 times the deaths from heart disease[1]
  • In 2001, the life expectancy in NYC’s poorest neighborhoods was 8 years shorter than in its wealthiest neighborhoods[1]
  • Over 70% of adults in Central Brooklyn (Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights, Prospect Heights & Brownsville) are overweight or obese, compared with 53% in Northwest Brooklyn (Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Ft. Greene, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn Heights and Red Hook)[2]
  • About 91% of New Yorkers do not eat the recommended servings of at least 5 fruits and/or vegetables per day[2]
  • North and Central Brooklyn, the neighborhoods in Brooklyn with the highest proportions of residents who don’t eat at least 5 servings of fruits and/or vegetables per day, also have the highest rates of obesity; between 25% to 34%[3]
  • The Upper East Side/Gramercy neighborhoods, where a high proportion of people eat at least 5 fruits and/or vegetables a day also has the lowest prevalence of obesity; between 8% to 15%[3]
  • Lack of access to fruits and vegetables has been linked to obesity and related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke[3]

The Brooklyn Food Conference, taking place May 2 at PS 321 and John Jay High School in Park Slope, will address this and other food issues. Activists, farmers, educators, citizens, restaurateurs, and other food experts will gather for a day of talks and activities, followed by a dinner prepared by local chefs.

Featured speakers include:

“Never before have there been such compelling reasons to rethink our energy policy, our environmental policy, and our health care system – and we cannot make headway on any of these without addressing food,” said Dan Barber, who will speak at the opening plenary session. (I wonder if he’ll also have a hand in preparing the food… I sure hope so!)

The conference is free, the dinner is $20. Register here.

References: 1. Karpati A, Kerker B, Mostashari F, Singh T, Hajat A, Thorpe L, Bassett, M, Henning K, Frieden T. 2. Website of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Physical Activity and Nutrition Program. Available at: http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/cdp/cdp_pan.shtml. Accessed February 1, 2009. 3. Health Disparities in New York City. New York: New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, 2004. Roberts M, Kerker B, Mostashari F, Van Wye G, Thorpe L. Obesity and Health: Risks and Behaviors. NYC Vital Signs 2005; 4(2): 1-4.