Sunday, July 5, 2015

Bee happy, bee informed

Grist has recently had a good series on bees, both domestic and wild. The current situation would seem to be not quite as dire as alarmists sometimes suggest. Colony collapse, for example, is past its peak rate this time. On the other hand, the stresses on bees seem to be caused by a complex mixture of factors, some of which are better understood than others.

Here's the story on wild bees, with links in the first paragraph which will take you to previous articles in the series.

After reading this, I want to follow more of the links to the various studies. But I also found myself asking what can I do, as a producer and consumer?

It seems like a no brainer to purchase foods that are grown organically or pesticide free whenever that choice is possible. But perhaps the most important thing any of us can do who have access to a little land - or a lot, for that matter - is to preserve or create good bee habitat. Plant those plants that attract bees and other pollinators. When planting, make sure seeds are untreated, and choose starts for transplanting that are grown organically; that way, we won't be introducing toxins into the environment as a by-product of trying to do a good thing.

Episcopal Faith Food and Farm Network

What a good thing that this network is emerging! It was great to see Sarah Nolan and meet Nurya Love Parish in the network booth at the General Convention.
You can sign up on the web site
And there are resources available on Nurya's blog
All this has inspired me to revive this blog and update it more frequently.

And then I thought back to what gave rise to Just Gleanings and the posting of resources here: I tried to offer an on-line course through CALL at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, and there were not enough takers for the course to go. Based on the interest people expressed to me in Salt Lake, I think it might be time to offer it again. I was particularly taken by the interest of seminarians and young presbyters. (It didn't hurt that I got a little affirmation from Katharine Jefferts Schori either, for my focus on food system work.)

So sign up for Episcopal FFFN and look for more frequent comments and resources here.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Food system literacy resources

I've been poking around on line as I develop some supporting resources to take to the General Convention. The Association of Episcopal Deacons (AED) is advocating for the passage of resolution A091.

One thing I learned at our spring deanery meeting (Episcopal congregations in Sonoma and Mendocino counties) is that some folks involved in food ministries have good and generous impulses but lack an up-to-date food system vocabulary and knowledge base.

Here's a fun food system literacy quiz I found on the Food Day (US version) page:

(I got all fifteen questions correct, but it wasn't easy.)

And here's a pretty good Local and Regional Food System glossary from Cornell:

Friday, April 24, 2015


For some time I have been wondering if the anecdotal evidence about foods containing GMO crops (my cat won't eat it, I seem to be allergic to it, etc.) isn't more about glyphosate residues than about the effects of genetic engineering. The EPA is re-examining glyphosate for evidence of carcinogenic properties, but no one really knows what long term exposure (its use was minimal until the last few decades) to low levels is doing. It may be a hormone disrupter or contributing to increased antibiotic existence.
Glyphosate residues are now found in 38 states, in many waterways, in rain water, and in the systems of farm workers. Some countries are banning it or considering a ban.
Read a nice review of the current state of our knowledge here:

Thursday, March 5, 2015

An interesting observation

Severe storms this winter have disrupted the delivery of commodities, affecting supply chains and causing waste and loss. It appears that climate change, with increased temperatures and more severe storms, will trouble not just food production, but food distribution.

An article in yesterdays FERN ag insider concludes that the answer will be more local food production and smaller regional and sub-regional food hubs.

We knew this was a good idea, right? But it appears it may not just be an attractive idea, but a necessary one to strengthen the resiliency of local food supplies.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Why not food purchasing guidelines for congregations?

Yesterday when Michael Dimmock mentioned the L.A. food purchasing criteria I got very interested. Here's the description on their food policy council's page:

I've continued to recommend LOAF to congregations whenever I get the chance. (Local, Organic, Animal Friendly, Fair-traded)

But here are 5 categories in which the City of Los Angeles and LAUSD is trying to improve it's food purchasing:
(1) local economies, 
(2) environmental sustainability, 
(3) valued workforce, 
(4) animal welfare, and 
(5) nutrition

I think these maybe clearer and more comprehensive than the four categories of LOAF. But curiously they spells levan, which with a little tweaking could be levain or leaven.

Wouldn't it be great if our congregations could track their progress in improving the impact of their food and beverage purchases using these?

Food is more than nutrients

The last week or so has been very busy here in Sonoma County. And there's lots of food system news from further afield.

The thread running through everything for me is that food is more than fuel, and even more than the right fuel.

It began for me in the middle of the week with our monthly Food System Alliance meeting. With lots of new members and some significant work behind us we are trying to find a new focus. The conversation was the best yet about this. But there's some wondering going on about whether the entry point of health which has kept us going for the last several years will change as grant and staff support from the county health department goes away in the middle of this year. Could it be that we are looking at economic justice (or social equity which seems to be a phase that sells better these days) to be our new focus? Where are the places in our food system that are perpetuating or increasing inequality? Or, more positively, how can our local food system promote greater equity?

On Thursday - news from the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee for the first time suggests that the environmental impact of our food choices are to be considered as part of the picture. Hooray!
Eat your eggs with whole grains, beans, nuts, fruits and veg; lower your meat consumption, watch the saturated fats, sodium and added sugars. The feds have caught up with us!
Read in full and comment (for the next few weeks) here:
A sensible environmentally aware diet. Call it Mediterranean or Nordic depending on your cultural tastes - or combine them into what I am calling the Norditerranean diet. (Much better than the Medic diet.)

On the same day we had our Sonoma County Hunger Index Forum. While the focus was clearly and deliberately on reducing the meal gap, I was surprised to see people representing so many different aspects of the food system and our foodie culture there. What a gathering at the Redwood Empire Food Bank! We add a delicious supper, premiering the new vegetarian option from the Council on Aging's Meals on Wheels, prepared for 200 people on the federal SNAP allowance per meal of $2.27. Really - the meal made me wish I were eligible for the program - though thankful that my only qualifying stat is the age number.

My sense is that to make further progress on providing the 34 million missing meals here, two things will be necessary. One is in the area my panel covered, grassroots action. We need more community gardens, and just plain more community and neighborliness. We must develop policies that support such activities, rather than regulations which frustrate them. (The gleaners in the county are working hard to resist the latter, for example.) The other thing we need is more opportunities for people to earn a living wage. Reducing the income gap would contribute greatly to reducing the meal gap.

Friday evening and Saturday I took a break from all the food system work and just enjoyed it. My great niece was visiting, so we picked up dinner from Ruthy's Real Meals on Friday, tasted at a few wineries and Vella Cheese on Saturday stopping for lunch at El Molino in Boyes Springs, and ate in on Saturday evening with a nice winter soup (even though winter here was a 70F day) made with produce from my garden and Imwalle Gardens

Speaking of enjoyment, of food being more than nutrients, what about the news from the San Francisco school district, where work is underway to improve choices and ambience in school cafeterias? More fresh foods alone were not enough. Wouldn't it be wonderful if school dining everywhere could be made slower, more pleasant, more constructively social? Go SFUSD!

This new week began, and this frenzied period of food system activity wrapped up, with the annual conference of the Interfaith Sustainable Food Collaborative. The best yet. And I came away with so many ideas that I am going to write part 2 of "more than nutrients" later.