Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What's Thanksgiving week without a few recipes?

Martha Stewart has 80 pie recipes on her site. Well, I have nothing against pie, but I think it's a great time to give thanks for the foods of the Americas. Rancho Gordo thinks so, too.

And from one of my favorite seed companies, Nichols Garden Nursery, here are a menu and links to recipes.

One of my Sunshine squash grown from Nichols' seeds is going on the chopping block today. What else could provide both a delicious side and a dessert?

And a late addition - some better cranberry recipes from NPR.

Friday, November 20, 2015

International Food Workers Week

begins this Sunday, November 22.

As we give thanks for the bounty on our tables and the people gathered there, let us remember with respect those who harvest, process and serve our food week in and week out. And let's recommit ourselves to justice for all food system workers.

Some Story Corps clips co-produced by Real Food Media took me to this organization's site.

But there are loads more resources!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Food system work; the workers' perspective

I had thought it might be fun to post some recipes or the like on US Food Day, today, as a festive wrap-up to this blogging novena. But I've been ignoring a central issue, the state of workers in our food system. I've collected quite a few links. Here they are, along with a few comments.

Here in Sonoma County, the social equity team of the Food System Alliance had intended to work with the Health Dept in promoting, reflecting on and following up with a wellness survey of farmworkers. But as these bureaucratic things go, the project took forever. A summary of research done almost two years ago was finally posted this week.
Perhaps because of the scale of most agriculture here, or perhaps because of the skills needed in some aspects of viticulture, we have a permanent farm labor force. But most are struggling to support families on under $30000 per year, when the cost of living well for a family of four is usually estimated in the $50,000+ range. And housing costs are escalating, with pressure on rents from the many who can't afford to buy and the recent relocation of people displaced by fire in Lake County.
There are many links from the press release above, but this one may be the clearest presentaion of the key findings.

When I attended a brainstorming session for the Generation Food Project http://generationfoodproject.org/ in late September, I sat next to a woman who is a leader in the Fight for $15.  http://fightfor15.org/  A single mother employed by McDonald's in Richmond, CA, she works an additional job to put food on the table, but with a low income and little time to cook realizes she is not providing better, healthful choices for her family. All she - and thousands of others - want is $15/hour and a union.

I listened to a bit of the James Beard Foundation conference this week and learned about ROC United. There are 10 million restaurant workers in this country, and those eligible for tips have an hourly wage at about the level of the general minimum wage when I was in college - and oh dear, I am going to have to say it - roughly 50 years ago. You can read about ROC's work here:
http://rocunited.org/ You can also get an app which will let you know which restaurants are doing right by their employees. And if your haunts aren't, there is coaching available to help you let them know that you value such practices as paid sick days and internal advancement opportunities as well as fair pay.

Finally (whew!) we need a stronger movement for domestic fair trade. It's not enough with the coffee, tea and chocolate! If you scroll down in this newsletter you can read all about work afoot in the northeastern US.
The Domestic Fair Trade Association has lots of information on their website about the marriage of international fair trade and the organic movement in "promoting health, justice and sustainability."

Friday, October 23, 2015

This article on BuzzFeed recounts the saga of a Monsanto funded scientist's (turned podcast personality) attempts to bolster the reputation of GMOs in a humorous (?) way, and a journalist's attempts to tell the story.  http://www.buzzfeed.com/brookeborel/when-scientists-email-monsanto

It's a fascinating read, but what it tells me is nothing about GMOs, but a lot about the need to provide more public funding for agricultural research (rather than leaving ag scientists dependent on industry money). There also is a hint in the article that if ag scientists are going to accept corporate funds, they need to have professional ethical guidelines and stick to them.

It bugs me that GMO critics dwell on the middle class (privileged) issue of personal health, not looking at the environmental impacts and the global injustices tied to them. Nevermind that they don't document their sources in their campaigns. It bugs me that we can't seem to have any unbiased research into areas where GE practices push the envelope just a bit on traditional plant breeding (gene transfers at the family level, for example, rather than limited to the species or in some cases genus level) in ways that would benefit the world's hungry.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

USDA Farm to School Program

It's nothing earth shaking or radical, but it's definitely a success moving in the right direction. There have only been 223 grants awarded in the first three years of the program, but more than 42,000 schools around the country are enrolled in some aspect of it. And it's not just enriching school lunch anymore, but will also be improving summer meal programs and supporting efforts on reservations to return to the traditional diets of those indigenous to that place.

It's about more fresh, local food. It's about knowing where your food comes from and how it's grown. It's about nutrition education. And now for first peoples it's about cultural values around food, too.

More info here:

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

More on Food Sovereignty

Today at the Food System Alliance meeting I got a little discouraged with the analysis of our theme issue, the false dichotomy between affordable healthful food and the triple bottom line. In addressing the issue we had been looking at producers and low income consumers and naming things that bridge the two. But it seemed to me that this market-based dichotomy was obscuring the true challenges and opportunities in recognizing that all of us in the local food system are already related, and all have or could have a share in various facets of the system. So I opted out of the small group exercise.

But when in a second round of small groups we addressed the food system goals to mark progress over the last few years, I was very present to the conversation around Pillar 4, Social Equity. Goal 10 is where we have really missed the mark, I think, "Ensure the inclusion of underserved and underrepresented communities in conversations and policy-making about Sonoma County's Food System."

I opined in the plenary feedback session that most of us know that we must move from hunger relief and charitable activities to thinking in terms of food security, but now we need to envision and work toward food sovereignty. I thought I was alone, but five of the 25 people responded later with thoughtful comments or the need to plan to talk more. And one person said when he heard the phrase food sovereignty it sent shivers down his spine. I wish my preaching had ever had that much impact!

There's so much work to do, but I feel it may be possible to make a sound beginning.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Spirit of the Harvest

This evening was the annual fund/friend raiser for the Interfaith Sustainable Food Collaborative. In Marin this year, we really enjoyed the venue, the Falkirk Cultural Center. Good eats, good short speeches for the most part, and good conversation.

The thread running through all the remarks was the importance of community. But only one of the projects honored seemed to push that out to include the people served as subjects and participants in their own food sovereignty.

I'm also taken today with the phrase "just sustainability" - a way of strengthening that third leg of the sustainability stool, social equity or social justice. This is where faith communities can make a difference and stimulate change for the better.