Tag Archives: Sustainable Food

Mouth-Watering Images of Monthly Produce Make Eating In-Season a Work of Art

Eating locally and in season is good for the planet, your local economy, and your body. “Locavore” chefs in the best restaurants around the world are adapting their menus to appeal to this sustainable and in-style way of eating (as foods taste better when they are appropriately ripe), influencing the consumption patterns of thousands and therefore the future of our food systems. All around, consuming foods produced within a one hundred mile radius from where you eat is a responsible way to interact with your environment.

Now it’s easy on the eyes as well. Artists Henry Hargreaves and Caitlin Levin have done it again: the duo that brought us Food Maps, a series of photographs depicting the crops produced region by region around the world, has produced a new series of stunning images entitled Food Scans.

August’s range of juicy tomatoes (credit: Henry Hargreaves and Caitlin Levin)

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TEDxManhattan Speaker Profile: Maisie Greenawalt

Maisie Greenawalt

Maisie Greenawalt

As TEDxManhattan approaches, we’ve asked this year’s speakers to introduce themselves by answering a few questions.  Today we feature Maisie Greenawalt, VP of Strategy at Bon Appétit Management Company.

1) What’s the topic you’ll be speaking about?

I’ll be talking about how the “humane sausage gets made” in a large food service corporation – that is, how one made the decision to commit to phasing out pork raised with gestation crates, and phasing in third-party-certified humanely raised meat, poultry, and eggs. I think most people believe executives just wave a magic wand, the purchasing department writes a bigger check, and, poof, we’ve got a more sustainable food system. But a lot of legwork goes into these decisions, and a lot of discussion, and a little bit of blind faith. I’m going to break down the reality of how change gets made by giving people a peek into the ceo’s office, the slaughterhouse, and the commercial walk-in refrigerator.

2) Why do you feel this is important?

We hear a lot about “voting with your forks” – well, consumers can effect change on an individual level, or they can influence restaurants, food service companies, and supermarkets on a community level, or they can talk to their politicians. They should know the kinds of factors that are involved in asking companies to switch suppliers, so they can keep the pressure on in the right way.

3) Are there other projects you’re also passionate about right now?

I’m on the steering committee for a new, integrated labor standards initiative I’m pretty excited about, because I think it has the potential to move farmworker rights forward in a meaningful way. I’m also really jazzed about an organization in my hometown called Food What?  I don’t have any official connection to the program but I sing their praises every chance I get. Food What? uses sustainable agriculture as the vehicle for growing strong, healthy, and inspired teens. They are truly changing lives.

4) Which other TEDxManhattan speakers are you excited about hearing? Which talks from previous years did you particularly enjoy?

Last year, like most people, I was blown away by Steve Ritz and his work with the Green Bronx Machine. His energy and enthusiasm, and the way he’d motivated those kids and the community to get involved in hiring them, just gave me goosebumps. I also really enjoyed Urvashi Rangan from Consumers Union and her talk on the crazily chaotic world of food labeling — she was so entertaining and funny.

This year, I’m excited to hear Simran Sethi, because I know she’ll have some sort of intelligent synthesis of the most effective way forward for ethically minded, green businesses. I also am looking forward to Lindsey Lusher Shute, because America badly needs new young farmers if we’re going to keep growing this good food movement — the Bon Appétit Management Company Foundation, of which I’m president, recently launched Campus Farmers, a knowledge and networking site for university students, which we hope will contribute to that effort.

5) Where can more information about your project be found?

You can read about the policy I’m going to be talking about here, but that’s the official version. I’m going to be taking you underneath the corporate kimono and sharing the shouting, sweaty, and sappy real story.

Maisie Greenawalt joined Bon Appétit Management Company, which provides from-scratch food service to corporations, universities, and museums in 32 states, in 1994. As vice president of strategy, she’s been instrumental in shaping the company’s numerous commitments to social and environmental responsibility. In 1999, Maisie helped develop the Farm to Fork program, a groundbreaking company-wide initiative to buy locally, and has since helped create and launch a number of Bon Appétit’s other progressive policies. Bon Appétit is the first food service company to commit to serving only seafood that met Seafood Watch sustainability guidelines (in 2002), to reducing antibiotic use in farm animals (2003), to serving only rBGH-free milk (2003) and cage-free eggs (2005), to tackling food’s role in climate change (2007), and to addressing farmworker rights (2009). Most recently, Bon Appétit announced a comprehensive  animal welfare plan, including switching to 100% humanely raised ground beef (effective immediately) and to phasing out all pork raised with gestation crates by the aggressive date of 2015. Maisie is on the board of Food Alliance, North America’s most comprehensive third-party certification for the production, processing, and distribution of sustainable food; and on the board of the Equitable Food Initiative, a new integrated labor standards project led by United Farm Workers, Pesticide Action Network, and the Consumer Federation of America. She was named a Silicon Valley Woman of Influence in 2012.

Change Food is a nonprofit whose mission is to connect and transform the food we eat, the people who produce it, and the world in which it is grown. To read and learn more, visit The Guide to Good Food blog. 

Celebrate Food Day with Dinner and Some Ed!

The Glynwood Institute’s Dinner and Some Ed
Are you looking for something to do for Food Day on October 24th?  How about joining The Glynwood Institute for Sustainable Food and Farming at a potluck on the Glynwood Farm in Cold Spring, New York, from 6:00 – 9:00pm or hosting your own Dinner and Some Ed?

What is Dinner and Some Ed?
Dinner and Some Ed is an effort to raise awareness, and enjoyment, of local, sustainable food.  All you need to do is host a meal made from local, sustainable ingredients and show a few videos related to food and farming.  We recommend TED and TEDx videos, especially TEDxManhattan videos.

The dinner can be potluck style, where friends and family participate in making the meal by bringing one dish or beverage; the host can prepare the meal, or you could do a combination of the two.

You are not confined to dinner – your event could be a lunch, brunch, picnic, or breakfast.  The key is to have a computer or mobile device where you can watch the talks and delicious sustainable food to share with friends.

Why Host Dinner and Some Ed?
Like most dinner parties, there will be good friends, good food, and stimulating conversation.  What makes Dinner and Some Ed different is the video talk can serve as a catalyst for conversation, leading to the sharing of ideas and knowledge.

Radical changes in agricultural practices have contributed to climate change, air, water and soil pollution, abuse of antibiotics, animal cruelty, and widespread obesity.  Serving sustainable food is a way to examine these problems and possible solutions.

And the food simply tastes better!

What To Do
Use your imagination when creating your dinner.  Some suggestions include:

  • Choose four talks and watch one before sitting down to each course.  You can have a bit of fun matching the talk with the course by incorporating some aspect of the talk into your ingredient selection.  Over each course you and your guests can discuss the talks or your experience finding the ingredients and preparing the food.  Encourage your guests to make their dish with ingredients from their local farmers market.  Have them share which farms they bought their food from.
  • Encourage your guests to buy meat, cheese, milk, or eggs that are either certified organic, humanely raised, or antibiotic free.
  • Challenge your guests to make a meal from only local ingredients (sourced within 200 miles from where they live).  Ask them to bring the recipe to their dish along with where they sourced the food.  Give a prize to the dish with the most locally sourced ingredients or the ingredient sourced from the closest place.
  • Ask your guests to come with their favorite video and let them host that particular part of the meal and the video.  Have them explain why they chose that particular talk.
  • Take your guests to a farmers market and have them split up into four groups.  Give each group a certain amount of money, e.g., $20, and tell them to buy ingredients for a particular course.  The groups will then cook their part of the meal together and present to the rest of the guests.  Make it even more fun and ask them to name their dish also!

After your meal, post up a review of your event on the Dinner and Some Ed site.

Happy Food Day!

Change Food is a nonprofit whose mission is to connect and transform the food we eat, the people who produce it, and the world in which it is grown. To read and learn more, visit The Guide to Good Food blog. 

Dinner and Some Ed

Dinner and Some Ed is a new Glynwood Institute initiative that aims to raise awareness, and enjoyment, of local, sustainable food.  People are encouraged to host a meal made from local, sustainable food and show a few videos, with a highlight being TEDTalks both on TED.com and the TEDx Channel.  What makes Dinner and Some Ed different is the TEDTalk can serve as the catalyst for conversation, leading to the sharing of ideas and knowledge.

The first Dinner and Some Ed party was held on Earth Day, you can read about it here.

Change Food is a nonprofit whose mission is to connect and transform the food we eat, the people who produce it, and the world in which it is grown. To read and learn more, visit The Guide to Good Food blog. 

Know Your Food: Quick Tip

Fresh organic vegetablesThe entire Guide to Good Food series has been developed to help you get to know your food, but here’s an easy tip to help you when shopping. This will apply mainly to grocery stores, not to farmers’ markets where you’re buying your food direct.

As you look for fruits and vegetables, especially now at the end of summer when stores will be overflowing with farm produce, look for the labels found on the food. For small items like mushrooms or green beans, look for the numbered label on signage or the container they’re placed in. These numbers are PLU (price look-up) codes and are used on food that’s sold loose, by bunch, by weight or individually.

To know what kind of food you’re buying –

  • – A four-digit number means it’s conventionally grown. (Or possibly a five digit number if the first one is a 0.)
    – A five-digit number beginning with 8 means it’s genetically modified.
    – A five-digit number beginning with 9 means it’s organic.

What this means
1. Conventionally grown – the produce was most likely grown on a large industrial farm that uses chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The food was most likely picked before it was ripe and shipped a long distance to get to the store. (The average conventionally-grown item travels 1500 miles to land on your dinner plate.) Farms such as these can contribute to ground and water pollution through chemical runoff.

2. Genetically modifiedGenetically modified organisms (GMOs) are very controversial and are banned in many countries due to the lack of sufficient testing to determine their safety. A GMO is created by taking the traits, or genes, of one plant and inserting them into another. This is different than traditional cross breeding where two similar plants are combined to create a different variation of the food. The genes can come from completely different species – such as inserting flounder genes into a tomato – and not enough is known about the long-term ramifications of this gene manipulation on human health or the environment.

3. Organic – The food was raised without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides (though some natural pesticides can be used), it cannot be treated with sewage sludge, and is not genetically engineered or irradiated. The fruits and vegetables can still be shipped long distances so finding a sign that says both local and organic is an even better option.

Why this is good
Do you ever go shopping for organic produce and wonder if it really is organic? Searching for the 9 on the PLU label on the food will help you know that your apple wasn’t accidentally tossed in from the conventional side.

Also, if you’re on a budget and have to make choices, knowing which foods are genetically engineered and which are not may help you with your decision. Avoiding PLU codes that start with 8 means you are steering clear of GMOs.

With everything we need to remember in order to buy the healthiest food for ourselves and our families, this is a quick and easy tip to know what’s conventional, what’s organic and what’s genetically engineered. If you want to learn more about PLU Codes, you can read their Users Guide.

Thanks to Ideal Bite for getting this information out!

(Diane Hatz is the Founder of Sustainable Table, Executive Producer of The Meatrix movies and co-Founder of the Eat Well Guide. This is the 21st installment in her series, Sustainable Table’s Guide to Good Food.)

Change Food is a nonprofit whose mission is to connect and transform the food we eat, the people who produce it, and the world in which it is grown. To read and learn more, visit The Guide to Good Food blog. 

Eat Less Meat – and enjoy it!

20_piefaceFor the past couple of weeks I’ve been encouraging you to eat less meat, preferably by cutting it out one day a week. You can also cut back on the amount you eat each day. Or you can go another way and not eat meat during the week. Do what is comfortable for you.

Let’s say you’ve decided to cut out meat one day a week. Now what do you do? First, remember that this is enjoyable and fun. You’re not just improving your health or saving money or helping the environment, you also have the chance to experience delicious-tasting foods and to try exciting new recipes.

It’s important to note that meat is a complete protein, meaning that it provides all the essential amino acids. You can find complete meatless proteins with soy or tempeh (fermented soy), rice and beans combined, and nuts. If you’re choosing to only cut out meat and not all animal protein, eggs and dairy are also complete proteins.

What you don’t want is to be eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or frozen cheese pizzas as meals on your meatless days. So let’s assume you’re a carnivore and the thought of tofu or tempeh is a little too adventurous. What can you eat?

Some ideas for recipes include:

Beany Red Wine Chili – Recipe by Maria Comboy, Jefferson, LA, courtesy of MeatlessMonday.com. (Serve with rice for a complete protein.)

Crockpot Mexican Chili – Recipe by Sylvia Sivley – Schenectady, NY, courtesy of MeatlessMonday.com. (Serve with rice for a complete protein.)

Edgy Veggie Chili – Recipe by Ilene Courland – Valley Stream, NY, courtesy of MeatlessMonday.com. (Serve with rice for a complete protein.)

Fresh Fettucini with Hedgehog or Shiitake Mushrooms and Ricotta – Recipe by Michael Natkin of Herbivoracious.com, courtesy of Sustainable Table®.

Garbanzo Bean Burgers – Recipe by Healthy Monday, courtesy of Sustainable Table®.

Goat Cheese and Veggie Pizza – Recipe by Denise Hughes, courtesy of Sustainable Table®.

Grilled Pizza – Recipe by Laura Edwards-Orr, courtesy of Sustainable Table®.

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Crab Cakes – Recipe by John Shields, Chef and Owner of Gertrude’s in Baltimore, Courtesy of Sustainable Table®. (I make these in the summer when there’s an overabundance of zucchini – they’re delicious!)

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Asking Questions – Part 2

Fleishers MarketLast week we gave you tips for asking questions at farms and farmers’ markets so you can find the best food for you and your family. This week we continue with information you need to shop at stores and restaurants.

Stores
Because the vast majority of stores buy their food from distributors, they’ll be less likely to know as much about the food as the farmer does. But don’t let that stop you! Don’t forget that your questions are sending a message up the supply and distribution line. If we all start asking for something, we will greatly increase our chances of getting it.

I often use my mother as an example when I’m speaking. She’s not an activist or a foodie, but she wants what she wants. She happens to know the owners of a dairy in Lewes, Delaware, which is very close to where she lives in Rehoboth Beach, and she loves their milk. She went into her usual grocery store and asked the manager if he would start selling some of their products. He said no. She went back a week later and asked again. He agreed to sell a couple of containers of milk, which quickly sold out. I was just down visiting and went to buy milk for my parents and saw that Lewes Dairy now has several shelves of milk on display in the milk section, and people were literally grabbing it up while I was there.

When my mother told the dairy owners what she’d done, they said they’d been trying for years to get their milk sold locally. And it only took one customer asking two questions to change the milk supply in the Rehoboth Beach area.

So if you have a favorite local sustainable food item that you don’t see in your grocery store, ask the manager to stock it. You could even go so far as to find a suitable farmer to supply the product to the store. A word of advice, though – if you are going to get a store to stock a particular item, please make sure you purchase it. Grocery stores work on slim profit margins and shelf space is limited, so make sure you really want what you’re asking them to stock.

If you’re unsure about meat, poultry and dairy items sold in the store, download Sustainable Table’s Questions for a Store Manager, Meat Manager and/or Butcher (which includes answers also). It supplies questions like, “Do you know how the animals were raised?” You can also download Questions for a Farmer and see if the store is able to answer them.

If the store manager or butcher doesn’t know the answers to your questions, ask them to ask the distributor. The same applies to vegetables – talk with the produce manager about where the fruits and vegetables come from. Ask if any are grown locally. I was pleasantly surprised when shopping in Decherd, Tennessee, last year. I asked the very young produce employee if any of the food was raised locally, and he went through the whole produce section and pointed out which was grown close by, which was from Tennessee, and which was from other nearby states like Georgia. If the employees at your store can’t answer these questions, just keep asking until they find out. You may be surprised, though, at the depth of knowledge store employees have these days.

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Asking Questions

Mt. Shasta CA farmers marketBecause there are no official standards for sustainable food, you need to ask the right questions to find the information you need to make the best choices for you and your family. There are generally three types of places you can buy fresh food from – direct from the farm/farmers’ markets, stores and restaurants – and you can ask questions at each outlet.

To start, know that it’s okay to ask questions. When I first started eating sustainable food, I tended to look for organic because I was hesitant to ask farmers questions about how they raised their meat, dairy and produce, and I knew what I was getting with organic (or so I thought). My biggest concern was that I wouldn’t like something about the way the farmer produced the food and would have to walk away. It seemed a bit rude.

So, first off, understand that you are not rude or inappropriate for asking questions. If you buy a car, you ask questions, and odds are you won’t buy the first one you look at. You shop around – and you don’t feel guilty for doing so. You do the same for any large purchase – appliances, computers, electronics – so why would any of us feel uncomfortable asking questions about our food? It’s your money and your choice.

Also, asking questions sends a clear message to farmers and businesses. If all of us asked for pesticide-free or pasture-raised food and shopped around until we found it, farmers would find a way to start producing food that was completely pesticide free or from animals raised on pasture. Many consumers may not understand that even organic food is permitted to be produced with a certain class of “natural” pesticide. This is much better than the chemical pesticides sprayed on industrial food, but if you want to go a step further and you make some inquiries, you may find farmers who use no pesticides at all, and yet their produce may not be labeled organic. So it’s important that we learn the issues and then go out and start asking questions.

Farm Direct/Farmers’ Market
If you’re shopping at a farm stand or a farmers’ market, odds are you’ll be speaking with one of the farmers who works the land. Ask them general questions about their farm so you can get to know them better – remember, they’re your neighbor. Questions you could ask include:

Where is your farm?
How long have you been farming?
What type of farming do you do?
What do you raise?
What are your favorite crops?
What’s your favorite way of cooking (kale, chicken, squash, any product they produce)?

You can also ask about their growing practices. Sustainable Table has wonderful handouts that give you both questions and answers for meat, dairy and poultry, so you can find out such things as –

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Genetic Engineering

fieldAs part of the Guide to Good Food series, I’ll be explaining different issues involved with both industrial and sustainable food and farming. Today we’re going to talk about genetic engineering.

A gene is a small section of DNA in the nucleus of a cell that carries specific instructions which determine how a plant or animal grows, develops, looks and lives. Genetic engineering is the process of transferring specific traits, or genes, from one plant or animal to another. The resulting organism is called transgenic or a GMO (genetically modified organism). Seventy percent of processed foods on American grocery shelves have genetically modified ingredients.

This process of transferring genes is different from traditional cross breeding, which can only be done with members of the same species (such as different breeds of cattle). Cross breeding has been done over the centuries to strengthen breeds by focusing on specific traits such as the ability to survive outdoors in cold or produce more offspring. It is done through mating or artificial insemination, not through gene manipulation.

With genetic engineering, genes can be transferred not just across species but from one species to another – that is, among plants and animals that are unable to breed. For example, genes from an animal can be inserted into a plant, as when genes from a flounder were inserted into tomato plants to try to make them resistant to frost. In Taiwan, scientists have successfully inserted jellyfish genes into pigs to make them glow in the dark. (Who knows why.)

There are many concerns about genetically engineered crops and animals, including the fact that inadequate testing has been done to determine the effects on humans and the environment.

GE Crops
According to the Economic Research Service at the USDA, in 2008 over 90 percent of soybeans, more than 55 percent of corn, and over 60 percent of cotton grown in the United States was from genetically engineered (GE) seeds. Most GE crops were created to withstand pesticide or herbicide application, allowing farmers to heavily spray their fields and kill pests, but not the GE plants.

While those in favor of GE crops claim they require less pesticide use, weeds can develop resistance to the pesticides, leading farmers to spray more. This can lead to more pesticide residues on the food you eat. Increased pesticide use also increases profits for the biggest agribusinesses that sell not only GE seed but the pesticides used on them as well. It also increases water and air pollution as well as costs for the farmer.

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Shop Sustainable – buying food

veggies

Today we’re going to show you that it is possible to eat healthier on a budget, and we’re also going to talk a bit about the reality behind our food system.

I recently saw the movie Food, Inc. which opens today, June 12th, in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco (Click here for movie and ticket info). In the film is a scene where a family of four buys a fast food meal for $11.38 but say they can’t afford broccoli for $1.29 a pound. That’s understandable, but what could a family of four eat for around $11.38 that might be a little healthier? Let’s look at a chart we created with current prices from Stop and Shop’s Peapod website:

Grocery Item Non-organic(1) Organic (2)
Beans, canned 1.00/1 lb can 1.00/1 lb can
Beans, dry black 1.50/pound 1.79/pound (3)
Bell peppers .89/each 2.99/two-pack
Broccoli 2.89/head 3.19/head
Cabbage, green 2.19/head 2.49/head
Carrots 1.79/2 lbs 3.49 5 lbs
Celery 1.50/pound 2.99/pound
Eggplant 1.49/each 2.99/10 oz pack
Rice, brown 2.69/32 oz 3.19/32 oz
Rice, white 1.99/32 oz 3.19/32 oz
Romaine Lettuce 1.50/head 1.99/head
Summer Squash/
Zucchini
.69/each 2.99/two-pack

(1) Based on Stop and Shop’s Peapod website (accessed 5/29/09)
(2) Based on Stop and Shop’s Peapod website (accessed 5/29/09)
(3) Based on OrganicDirect.com (NY and NJ area) (accessed 6/2/09)

The family of four could eat 2 pounds of conventional white rice and 2 pounds of black beans for $4.99, two foods that, when combined, meet our bodies’ need for high-quality protein. They could go organic and eat 2 pounds of organic brown (or white) rice and 2 pounds of organic black beans for $6.77. Add in a head of broccoli and the total is $7.88 for all conventional and $9.96 for all organic. Both well under the $11.38 the family spent at a fast food drive through, leaving extra money for herbs, spices, or another item.

If you would like to see a comparison of farmers’ market and grocery store prices, check out “Is it possible to shop locally on a budget?” from Farm Aid.

If you look at nutritional values –

1 cup black beans (boiled with salt) – 172g, 227 calories, 1g fat (0g saturated), 0g cholesterol, 408mg sodium, 60% fiber, 15g protein, 20% iron and a good source of thiamin, magnesium, phosphorous, manganese and folate.

1 cup brown rice (medium grain, cooked) – 195g, 218 calories, 2g fat (0g saturated), 0g cholesterol, 2mg sodium, 4g fiber, 5g protein, 6% iron.

1 stalk broccoli (boiled*, without salt) – 280g, 98 calories, 1g fat (0g saturated), 115mg sodium, 0g cholesterol, 9g fiber, 7g protein, 87% vitamin A, 303% vitamin C, 11% calcium, 10% iron. Also a good source of thiamin, pantothenic acid, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, fiber, vitamin E and K, riboflavin, vitamin B6, folate, potassium and manganese. (*Steaming vegetables is preferable to boiling – more nutrients will be retained. We could only find data for boiled broccoli.)

1 Burger King hamburger sandwich (as an example of a fast food burger) – 121g, 310 calories, 13g fat (5g saturated), 40mg cholesterol, 580mg sodium, 2g fiber, 17g protein, 2% vitamin A, 2% vitamin C, 8% calcium, 20% iron. (Note: Burger King supplied the information and most vitamin and mineral content was not provided.)

To compare the quantity of food (172g beans plus 195g rice and 280g broccoli), you’d need over 5 Burger King hamburger sandwiches (at 121g each) to equal the volume of the beans, rice and broccoli. That means 1550+ calories, 65g fat (25g saturated), 200mg cholesterol, and so on, compared with 502 calories, 4g fat (0g saturated), 0g cholesterol, etc. (Or, conversely, you could reduce the amount of beans, rice and broccoli, to an equivalent of one or two hamburgers, which would bring the price of the healthy meal down considerably.)

This shows that you can consume fewer and far more nutritious calories for less money by shopping and cooking, rather than resorting to fast food, so why do so many people continue to buy and eat fast food? One reason is convenience. We think food should be cheap and fast so pulling through a drive through and shoveling food quickly into our mouth is the way many of us eat. It’s a sign of our over-stressed, over-worked lives. And we’re used to it.

How convenient is it?
What if you cooked your own food, ate at home and took food with you from home to work? Clearly, you would save money and eat healthier food. But, I hear you saying, “I don’t have time” or “I’m always so tired when I get home that I don’t want to cook”. What can you do about that?

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