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.

Monday, October 19, 2015

October homes and gardens

There are more issues to take up in this nine day Food Day blitz, but once in a while it's good just to have a report from the garden. Things are quite sad these days; the effects of the drought are obvious. There is only so much that judicious watering can do;  then there comes a point where plants cry out for real rain. At the same time, we have had only a couple of nights as low as the high forties, and continue to have short heat waves. Blessedly the forecast this week has been modified - no 90F days, in the offing. But the upshot of this is that the visibly tired bean teepees keep blooming, and the summer squashes keep pumping out more fruit.

At a celebration on Saturday I managed to avoid the potluck sides that had zucchini in them, only to discover that the vegetable enchiladas were stuffed with - zucchini! I've been eating summer squash for breakfast (diced golden pattypan sauteed in butter with an egg scrambled in), lunch and dinner.
I have made both of my favorite zucchini bread recipes (one chocolate and one that looks like it would be good for you and probably is) and more than once tried a new one, zucchini coconut being my favorite. I don't need to make another batch of zucchini pickle relish, so this evening I tried a good looking recipe for refrigerator zucchini bread and butter pickles. I've got one more recipe to try. And I am thankful that friends actually seemed to want my surplus summer squash this year.

Keeping up with the Cucurbita pepos, the Sunshine winter squash is putting out a third flush of fruit. I planted three winter varieties this year, but Sunshine remains the most productive and really the best keeper. The scorecard on all the winter squashes so far is Phina 12, Gophers 5, Vandals 1. The second flush of Sunshines took the biggest Gopher hit, but there are three more on the vines which just may be pickable before the return of the Vandals for their Hallowe'en supply.

Chard starts are coming along for late fall and over winter, fava beans will go in this month and garlic next. Meanwhile, cleaning up and composting and mulching will keep me out of trouble when I am not writing or attending food system related meetings and events. More on this week's crop of meetings later.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Q: What replaced hydrogenated oils in processed foods?

A. Palm oil, of course. It's solid at room temperature unlike most vegetable fats.

I've blogged about this before, but thought an update was in order, given the reporting by FERN's Ag Insider in cooperation with other investigative journalists.

Take a look at this info graphic to see the negative impact of World Bank funded palm oil development.

Situations like this always make me wonder - when does an unintended consequence become an intended one? And could none of these have been anticipated? Does anyone care about anything but money?

The article which includes the info graphic stresses the impact of new palm oil plantations and related World Bank funded developments on children and their families. http://thefern.org/2015/10/children-left-vulnerable-by-world-bank-amid-push-for-development/

A somewhat tangential footnote: I really enjoy FERN's work. I've sent them a donation in the past because I know decent reporting takes staff which takes money. But like a number of other online publications they are now going to a subscription format. And just like those publications - never mind public radio, mlb radio, video streaming services, and just about everything else - , they want to put me on an automatic renewal. I'd be so happy to send them an annual subscription fee if they would email me a reminder. No paper need be exchanged. But I don't want any more automatic payments, because I don't want the hassle of reorganizing them all every time a credit card is hacked. I want the folks that get my money for the services they provide to take a bit of the responsibility for reminding me to send more. Excuse the rant!

Thinking about palm oil, I began wondering how you recognize it on an ingredient label. Very little googling turned up this handy guide.
Over 200 names for palm oil and palm oil derivatives. Who knew?
Note, too, that many of these are found in "products" - shampoo, cosmetics, etc. Of course, some of the 200 can be derived from other vegetable oils, but mostly are not.

Now I am going to switch from my computer specs to my bifocals and read those 200 chemical names.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Are supermarkets the answer?

One of the things I've been thinking about since I took the the EdX course, The Ethics of Eating (from Cornell), is whether supermarkets are the answer to food deserts. Pretty obviously, supermarkets aren't feasible in rural food deserts - no one is going to invest in establishing a business without a certain level of customer traffic. But what about urban food deserts?

I'm not usually a fan of TED talks - secular sermons is the way I think of them. But in one assigned for our viewing LaDonna Redmond opined that supermarkets only play into the industrial food model, the commodifying of a basic human need and right.  She approached her activism for urban food justice from the perspective of her children's health.

"The public health issue of violence is connected to the public health issue of chronic diet related diseases," is one of her basic premises. The implication here is that most of what's available in a supermarket - aggressively marketed, highly processed commodity foods - contributes to diet related diseases in a way that does violence to people. Supermarkets are a part of what's wrong with the system, hand in glove with food processors, not necessarily the answer. So the approach to remedying urban food deserts, where, as Redmond points out, it's easier to buy an automatic weapon than a tomato, may need to be more complex, community-based solutions than simply bringing in a supermarket.  In my understanding, that means food sovereignty, more than food justice, is what must be restored to urban communities.

There is a lot to think about in Redmond's talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydZfSuz-Hu8

Friday, October 16, 2015

Nine days for a better food system

I lifted the graphic below from the Slow Food USA blog because it seemed like a good way to call attention to the real issues on International Food Day. So often we in the US focus on hunger relief and nutrition, ignoring the deeper ties to a whole range of cultural and justice issues. Lasting food system change must have as a goal food sovereignty.

Chapter 9 in Cultivating Food Justice, "Environmental and Food Justice" says it better: "Food security...treats food as a nutritional commodity." And "food sovereignty posits food as a fundamental human right." Authors of the article Teresa M. Mares and Devon G. Pena continue, "The central rallying point of food justice should be to identify power dynamics in the food system with the goal of restoring self-determination, control, and autonomy to eaters and growers alike."

Since I've been away from this blog for a while, I'm committing to nine days of writing, from today, International Food Day, to U.S. Food Day, October 24. Think of it as a novena for the food system. Novenas sometimes mark periods of mourning. At other times, they stress prayers for renewal. These nine days here may be both: mourning the greed, carelessness, and callousness that have marked the industrial food system, and looking forward to renewed commitments to just, respectful and culturally rich values.

Food Security, Food Sovereignty

Friday, August 28, 2015

Bits of good news

In case you missed them


"BATTLE CREEK, MICH. – A new national survey commissioned by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) shows that people in the United States overwhelmingly support current efforts to keep school meals healthy. Among the key findings:
  • 86 percent support today’s school nutrition standards, which are helping more than 31 million kids get their daily nutrition through healthy school meals;
  • 88 percent support government-funded farm to school programs, which help supply school cafeterias with local, fresh produce."
In addition, those surveyed note the improvement in school lunches.


French Supermarkets have a year to contract with charities to recover their food waste.
But - the BBC cites stats from the French Ministry of Ecology:
Apparently we in the USA are not alone in our wasteful household ways. And here I thought the French were different.


Food hardship rates are down nationally and in many states, overall the lowest they have been since this data collection effort began in 2008. http://frac.org/pdf/food-hardship-rate-by-state-first-half-2015.pdf


Earlier this week a friend posted on Facebook this stat: egg prices here are up. $3.61 versus $1.45 per dozen a year ago. I pointed out that less than $4 per 1 1/2 pounds of animal protein is still reasonable. The bird flu epidemic in the midwest combined with drought caused higher prices for chicken feed (it's not chicken feed anymore!) and the effects of Prop 2 (anti-CAFOs) have combined in this effect. Personally, I think the chickens are happier, and so am I to be paying what seems like a fair price for their labors. You go girls! 
(Actually, I buy from a neighbor, or Clover organic, so pay a little more.) 

Friday, July 24, 2015

I assume everyone who reads this knows about Civil Eats http://civileats.com/, but just in case, here's a story from my local paper about this local effort with nationwide (global?) influence.


If I'm remembering correctly, when Civil Eats first appeared it said something about ethics. Perhaps ethics has become an unfashionable word? So now we have "critical thought" as a substitute, just like we have "social equity" instead of economic justice. Hmmm.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

While I was out

I really did not keep up with various news feeds and blasts.

One thing I missed: an article about tree fruit in a drought being smaller and sweeter. Well, that was a no brainer.

Another few articles touched on the subject of Brazil now being the country second in food exports. Has anybody been paying attention? That led me to an article about Brazil-based JBS - now the world's largest food company. (And I probably wouldn't have heard of them even if I did eat meat!)
JBS USA, which is not publicly traded, has been buying up firms like Swift, and attempting to buy up others, like Hillshire.
Here's a map of their presence:

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


And how would you pronounce that? 
I just finished reading a long Slate article, published July 15, called "Unhealthy Fixation." It's an interesting treatment of what's wrong with the anti-GMO campaign.
People are always surprised when they find out that while I have many reservations about GMOs - primarily from the perspectives of ecosystem health and justice for the world's poor - I am not categorically opposed to them. I've never been a purist about anything, so they must not know me well. And I tend when I am emphatic to take pro- rather than anti- stances. Pro diversity in crop germplasm and on farms, pro affordable inputs for small scale agriculture, pro thoughtful use of technology, etc. 
The article, by William Saletan, while pretty much pro-GMO, does say right up front that "there are valid concerns about some aspects of GE agriculture, such as herbicides, monocultures, and patents." But it points out that these concerns are not limited to GMOs. GMO use is a subset of these destructive and unjust practices.
In the section "Organics are not safer" Saletan points out that Bt (a bacterium which is toxic to insects) may have some of its genes engineered into seeds, or may be applied to crops in much higher concentrations. The latter is permissible in organic agriculture.  So, if you buy the unsubstantiated claims that Bt is a health hazard for humans, you may be getting more in GMO free food stuffs than in the engineered variety. Hmmm. The Bt used in organic agriculture is produced and sold by the same companies GMO opponents love to hate - Monsanto, etc.
It  becomes obvious to me reading this critique that the opponents of GMOs may be victims of the same kind of thinking that those who cheerlead unreservedly for any new technology suffer from - that is reductionist thinking. Systems thinking is really necessary to know what the best choices in agriculture are, and to understand the dynamics of any food system issue. Not simple, not black and white.
The opponents of GMOs also extend their arguments beyond anything reasonable by playing on people's fears - which for middle class North Americans (and Europeans, one assumes) have to do most with fears for their own health and mortality. No peer reviewed scientific papers can address this, because as the author points out "fear of GMOs is not falsifiable." 
The article does wrap up by addressing one issue apart from health fears. "While bug-resistant GMOs have led to lower use of insecticides, herbicide-tolerant GMOs have led to higher use of weedkillers."  In doing so, the writer returns to one of the three larger issues mentioned at the beginning of the article, monocultures. It's not just about switching herbicides as weeds evolve, it's about varying and diversifying what's planted. 
You can read the full article here. I do hope it contributes to a real conversation, and isn't just billed as the voice of one of the perfect enemies in the current debate. 

Wine Cooler?

As though there weren't enough reasons to tempt one to demonize the wine industry for its environmental impact, I read in the CalCAN newsletter that in drought years wineries use 30% more energy in their processing operations. Most every branch of ag uses a third more energy for pumping irrigation water, but wineries exceed other sectors in the energy used for cooling their product and processes. http://calclimateag.org/energy-use-in-a-time-of-drought/

That sent me googling, because I was sure some wineries around here have solar panels, and use green energy to keep the vino, offices, and tasting room cool. Not everyone can have a natural cellar to keep things at cellar temperature.

Here's the place to see if your California tipple is produced by a company that uses solar power:

This is going to be increasingly important as the planet heats up and extreme weather events become more frequent.  The question may not be is your wine red, white or pink - but is it green?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

As it turns out

there are many food day calendars.

Google works to turn up some interesting things, or start with this article:

I must say that I don't want lemon meringue pie on my birthday, and I have much more respect for the calendar of food days at food.com http://www.food.com/food-holidays/julia-child-s-birthday-0815 which simply identifies it as also Julia Child's birthday.

But none of these calendars seem to capture the food days devoted to advocacy for a better food system.

Oh, here's one from the University of Nebraska food.unl.edu/fnh/seasonal-ideas that does weeks and months and gives a bit more info on them - except it has neither the national (October 24) or international (October 16) Food Day!

Do we need a food event calendar?

I read in the Interfaith Sustainable Food Collaborative newsletter that national Farmers' Market Week is August 2-8. The web site http://farmersmarketcoalition.org/programs/national-farmers-market-week/ reminds us that farmers' markets "preserve farmland, stimulate local economies, increase access to nutritious food, support healthy communities, and promote sustainability."

There are also many downloadable resources on the site. I love the social media cheat sheet - canned tweets to post! Perhaps more seriously (I mean, tweets are serious for some) there are tips for advocacy, for "bonding with your legislators."

Which farmers' market will you visit?

Icon_NFMW (1)

And with all these food related days, weeks, months and events, should we have a calendar to capture them? or is there one?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

To gluten or not to gluten

This spring the EdX course on The Ethics of Eating (Cornell X) began with a couple of very funny video clips. One was the scene from an episode of Portlandia where the restaurant patrons, after asking many questions of their server, decide it would be best to visit the farm where the chicken they are contemplating eating was raised. The second was one in a series of spoofs on new age lifestyles called "How To Become Gluten Intolerant" - which sends up all those situations of the dinner guests from hell, who not only have very specific dietary requirements, but forget to tell you about some of them until you are serving the meal.

Recognizing that some people have celiac disease (1% or so of the population, 1:133 from epidemiological studies) and some people have wheat allergies (far fewer as it turns out). I have tried to be tolerant of the gluten free craze, but haven't really succeeded.

So, it was good today to find a well balanced article on the BBC News web site.
Turns out there are about 6% of folks who are gluten sensitive but don't have celiac disease. But compare that to the more than 1 in 4 folks in the US who are avoiding gluten. What!?!

Some of this is related to the paleo-diet mythology, of course. If you think this might be a good idea, read Paleofantasy first.

Two things that amused me from the BBC article. The writer cites the author of The Gluten Lie, who opines that Britons who feel better giving up gluten may attribute it to "the placebo effect, combined with the fact that they are not drinking five beers a night."   

And another "Whaaat?" that made me laugh out loud is this paragraph:
The tennis star Novak Djokovic believes he owes his stellar 2011 season to giving up gluten. In his book Serve to Win, he describes the moment his nutritionist Igor Cetojevicv gave him a slice of bread and told him to hold it against his stomach while he held his other arm out straight. Then Cetojevicv pushed down on his arm. "With the bread against my stomach, my arm struggled to resist Cetojevicv's downward pressure. I was noticeably weaker," the tennis star writes. "This is a sign that your body is rejecting the wheat in the bread," Cetojevicv told him. 

And one thing that gave me pause. Elimination diets (like gluten free) are often effective for weight loss, because they limit choices which often causes one to eat less. But the author of the BBC piece points out that elimination diets may give rise to disordered eating, with serious negative consequences.

See the whole article here: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-33486177

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The much amended original resolution

Two lengthy resolutions would have been too much for one post.

Here is A091, which affirms and encourages food system ministries.

Too bad they didn't hear what I said about "healthful" v. "healthy". I am always ashamed when Episcopalians don't adhere to best usage and grammar.

Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, that the 78th General Convention affirm the work and projects being carried out across the Church in food ministry, including food pantries, feeding programs, community gardens, educational programs, and advocacy for programs that provide healthy, culturally appropriate food;  and be it further
Resolved, that the 78th General Convention encourages the further development of Native and Indigenous community food programs, such as the program in Navajoland Area Mission that maintains and teaches traditional growing methods and food preparation techniques; and be it further
Resolved, that the 78th General Convention call on dioceses, congregations, and all the baptized to deepen our understanding of the moral, cultural, and environmental relationships associated with food systems, through educational programs focused on: sustainability, equity, cultural diversity, and accessibility of all people to healthy food; and be it further
Resolved, that this Convention call on dioceses, congregations, and all the baptized to deepen our commitments as Christian communities to address food insecurity, food-related health issues, and food-related environmental effects in our communities and nations, through new and creative community, regional, and ecumenical projects, such as school and community gardens, church garden tithing to food banks, involvement with migrant  worker and farm worker ministries, and food-worker organizing; and be it further
Resolved, that this Convention call on dioceses, congregations, and all the baptized to increase our involvement in advocacy for the development and maintenance of sustainable; equitable; culturally appropriate; and accessible food systems. 

General Convention food system actions

Two resolutions were passed.

The original resolution was divided and streamlined.

I testified on the new A170, which passed. I am still sorry that I couldn't get the committee (though proposed by social justice it was reviewed and perfected by environmental) to include small-scale and new farmers and farmers from under-represented groups. "Workers throughout the food system" doesn't quite do it, even though farmers do work hard! And I'm not sure about the grocery store item, but that's for another post.

Here it is:

Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 78th General Convention, encourages the Episcopal Public Policy Network (and related bodies in non-US countries) to continue efforts to create and modify laws and policies that support Environmental Stewardship and Care of Creation; and be it further
Resolved, That this Convention reaffirm this Church’s support for farm legislation, joining with our PCUSA brothers and sisters, that is focused on "renewability, sustainability, resilience, minimized carbon emissions, participatory research and decision-making, revitalized rural communities, strong local food economies, security of food supply, ethical treatment of animals, and fair and dignified treatment of persons working throughout the food chain" (Journal of the 2012 General Assembly, PCUSA, Item 11-03.2); and be it further
Resolved, That this Convention support public policies and laws that protect the health and safety of workers throughout the food system, that support the workers’ rights to organize, and that support a living wage for food workers throughout the system, from farm to table; and be it further
Resolved, That this Convention support public policies and laws designed to protect our Earth’s natural environment and to protect humanity’s ability to produce food for generations to come, including restrictions on pesticide overuse, harmful industrial farming practices (e.g., overcrowding of livestock and mono-cropping), and carbon, methane, and nitrogen pollution throughout the food system that threaten animal and human health, damage the soil, and threaten the climate for future generations; and be it further
Resolved, That this Convention support public policies, laws, and programs designed to increase access to healthy food for all people, including support and development for farmers’ markets, policies permitting use of the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits at farmers’ markets, and the development of policies and agreements that encourage the siting of full-service grocery stores in low-income neighborhoods and communities; and be it further
Resolved, That this Convention reaffirm support for full and adequate funding for public food programs for the poor and vulnerable, such as the National School Lunch Program, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, SNAP, senior center feeding programs, and summer feeding programs for children.

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. http://grist.org/food/heres-the-real-thing-killing-bees-us/

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 www.faithfoodfarm.org
And there are resources available on Nurya's blog www.churchwork.com
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 http://www.ruthysrealmeals.com/ on Friday, tasted at a few wineries and Vella Cheese http://www.vellacheese.com/ 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 https://www.facebook.com/pages/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!  http://www.sfusdfuturedining.org/

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.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

A classic case of unintended consequences

and why one size fits all doesn't work, and today's solution begets tomorrows problem.

The New York Times reports that there is considerable use of mosquito nets for fishing in African communities located near marshes, seashores and other bodies of water.


People are hungry - and eating today takes precedence over longer term strategies of disease prevention. Sewing together the free or low cost mosquito nets provided for a family result in a much larger and much much cheaper fishing tool.

Using the nets as seines creates four problems. The nets are coated with insecticide, which can kill marine organisms. The nets are fine, which means young fish and shellfish, and the macro-organisms on which they feed, are caught as well, reducing tomorrow's catch. Seining with the nets in shallow areas can destroy breeding grounds of fish and shellfish. And the increased efficiency the nets provide means that total catches increase greatly over traditional methods, such as handmade basket fish traps, and thus fish stocks are dropping.

It's just a disaster all around.

What really annoys me is that the promotions of some NGOs which collect donations to buy such nets mention the fact that they are coated with toxins in the fine print - or not at all.
Why aren't more Americans angry that they have been giving money for items which, while reducing rates of malaria in certain areas, have been harming marine and aquatic environments. Why have we been buying toxins with our charitable dollars?

At least Episcopal Relief and Development is upfront about the insecticide.
"A simple insecticide-treated net can protect children and families from a needless, preventable death. "
The misinformation is in the word simple - the net may be, but as a solution it's not so simple.