Sunday, January 22, 2012

The status of rural women

Just now reading a spam blast from Episcopal Church world headquarters, I learned that this year's UN meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women, from the end of February into March in NYC, will have the primary theme of empowerment of rural women. There'll be lots about agriculture and food security on the agenda.

The papers of the pre-conference can be accessed here:

I have not had time to read them, so this is a note as much to myself as to my readers. About a third of the papers seem to be directly on agricultural topics and who knows how many indirectly. Several are on ecological topics.

Anglican women will be represented among the ngo's meeting at the same time as the UN conference in the center ring. One question I have, though, is why rural poverty in the US is seen by the Episcopal Church to be an issue primarily for indigenous peoples. True, there's no poverty like reservation poverty - but there's lots of rural poverty among other racial and cultural groups. But then, the Episcopal Church is not known for its rural consciousness - in fact, less and less so.

Monday, January 16, 2012

For some time I've had on my list of concerns the post harvest waste in the 2/3 world. Seems like our food waste here in the U.S. is concentrated in the retail and consumer sectors, while so much waste in the developing world is because of poor storage and refrigeration of harvested crops. So I was very interested when a Worldwatch video led me to Compatible Technologies International . I was even more interested when I read about their many projects, and saw that two of their corporate sponsors are Cargill and Monsanto. Compatible Technologies do seem to be compatible with the resources and cultures where they are placed - so that they can be used effectively and maintained easily.

I wonder if anyone reading this blog has some insider knowledge about CTI? It seems the kind of organization worth supporting.

good news from the North Coast

I was in Crescent City this weekend - not for the start of the crab season, but coincident with it. Boats are back in the harbor - about 90 of them - and crabbing began on January 15. This is a boost to community morale as well as economy.

The season began late because the crabs were small this year. But that allowed a little more of the work of tsunami recovery to be done. Reliable sources report that the recovery work will be completed next year.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sometimes you have to start small

especially when getting a congregation engaged with an issue. I've been racing ahead with all I've learned in the last five or six years about food system issues, but my congregation doesn't even fill up the basket of non-perishables for the local FISH pantry each week. Encouraging people to shop the sales and bogo offers wasn't working.

So I decided to create a food-of-the-month club. I interviewed Leona, volunteer manager of the pantry at FISH in Boyes Hot Springs. What do people really want? What items are rarely donated, or expensive to buy from the Redwood Empire Food Bank, or simply not available there? Turns out about 65% of the visitors to FISH are Latino. Things old white people drag out of the back of their pantries - canned beets, pork and beans are a couple of examples - aren't real hits. Folks ask for cooking oil - which is not available from REFB. They'd like some masa flour, or some sweetened condensed milk - not my fave, but there you go.

So I've put together a calendar of food pantry favorites, culturally appropriate foods, and healthful choices - and I'll use each month's item to do a little teaching. December was peanut butter month - an opportunity to talk about why p.b. prices are on the way up. This month, healthful cereals, and some conversation about whole grains and nutrition. This actually had me going where I never do - to the conventional cereal section at Raley's - and reading the boxes. Cheerios are way over rated. How do you tell if a cereal is whole grain? not by the front of the box, that's for sure. The first item on the list of ingredients should be a whole grain or whole grain flour. And the percentage of rda of fiber should be 10% or more - preferably 20%. One store brand cereal I found was named "Healthy Morning" - and had 2% of the rda for fiber. You have to eat pounds of fruits and vegetables to make up for that, when you could have had shredded wheat.

Stay tuned - I think I will post my notes for each subsequent month's food item here.