Saturday, August 30, 2008

Declaration for Healthy Food and Agriculture

One of the most important things going on at Slow Food Nation this weekend, is the distribution of the Declaration for Healthy Food and Agriculture for groups and individuals to support and endorse.

This document is aimed at changing the current model of our food system, comprised of industrial food production reliant on cheap fossil fuels and (once) abundant land and water resources with a focus on providing cheap calories globally.

The Food Declaration was developed to change this and the purpose of the Declaration is not only to establish a healthy food and agriculture policy, but it's an "invitation to all Americans to join in the improvement effort by taking action in their own lives and communities and by offering them a way to call on policymakers to comprehensively support change."

It has 12 principles that should frame our food and agriculture policy to ensure it will contribute to the health and wealth of the U.S. and the world. Check these out and if you support them, please endorse the Declaration!

To me, the main reason for supporting this declaration is outlined in this paragraph: "We believe that the food system must be reorganized on a foundation of health: for our communities, for people, for animals, and for the natural world. The quality of food, and not just its quantity, ought to guide our agriculture. The ways we grow, distribute, and prepare food should celebrate our various cultures and our shared humanity, providing not only sustenance, but justice, beauty and pleasure."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Reminder: Slow Food Nation This Weekend

I just wanted to post a reminder that Slow Food Nation kicks off in San Francisco tomorrow and I would love to hear from any of you that are able to attend. As I said, unfortunately I can't go and am hoping to find online resources to follow the events.

Here's a link to a SF Chronicle article outlining how to make the most out of the event:
As they note, although many of the events have already sold out, there's still plenty to do! For me, the thing I am most disappointed about not being able to see is the Victory Garden at City Hall!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Happy Women's Equality Day

August 26, 2008 marks the 88th anniversary of Women’s Equality Day. Following more than 70 years of peaceful civil rights protests, the United States Congress finally ratified the 19th Amendment in 1920 and granted women the right to vote. In 1971, the Joint Resolution of Congress established August 26th as Women’s Equality Day in recognition of the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment.

In addition to celebrating the voting rights of American women, Women’s Equality Day also symbolizes the continued fight for equality, justice, peace, and development for women from various nationalities, ethnicities, cultures, religions, economic and political backgrounds

Friday, August 22, 2008

Cornell Study Finds: Eating Less, Eating Local and Eating Better Could Slash U.S. Energy Use

I got an interesting tibit this morning in one of my many emails. Seems that if we eat locally, and go back to using traditional farming methods we can help save fuel.

Here's the gist of it: How much energy we use to produce food could be cut in half if Americans ate less and ate local foods, wolfed down less meat, dairy and junk food, and used more traditional farming methods, says a new Cornell study.

"We could reduce the fossil energy used in the U.S. food system by about 50 percent with relatively simple changes in how we produce, process, package, transport and consume our food," said David Pimentel, professor emeritus of ecology and agriculture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell.

Pimentel's analysis, co-authored with five former Cornell undergraduates who were in Pimentel's Environmental Policy course in 2006, is published in the academic journal Human Ecology.

Pimentel says that about 19 percent of the total fossil fuel used in this country goes into the food system -- about the same amount we use to fuel cars. His analysis details how changes in the food system could reduce energy. The recommended changes are:
  • Eat less and cut down on junk food. To produce the typical American diet requires the equivalent of about 500 gallons of oil per year per person, (according to the study).
  • Eat less meat and dairy: We use 45 million tons of plant protein to produce 7.5 million tons of animal protein per year, according to Pimentel. Switching to a vegetarian diet, he says, would require one-third less fossil fuel than producing the current animal-based American diet.
  • Eat more locally grown food: Food travels an average of 1,500 miles before it is eaten. "This requires 1.4 times the energy than the energy in the food,"Pimentel said. A head of iceberg lettuce, for example, which is 95 percent water, provides 110 calories and few nutrients. Irrigating the lettuce in California takes 750 calories of fossil energy and shipping it to New York another 4,000 calories of energy per head, according to the analysis. Locally grown cabbage, on the other hand, requires only 400 calories to produce and offers far more nutrients, not to mention it can be stored all winter long.
  • Use more traditional farming methods: Pimentel's team also shows how using methods to reduce soil erosion, irrigation and pesticide use, through such things as crop rotation, manure and cover crops, could cut the total energy now used in crop production.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Slow Food Nation: 10 Points For Better Health

I have mentioned the upcoming big food event in S.F. called Slow Food Nation, It's basically a celebration of food that is billed as the first ever U.S. event on the viability of sustainability, the benefits of eco-friendly farming, and the flavors of artisan foods.

It's being held over Labor Day weekend, because as the event organizers put it: "We chose Labor Day weekend in homage to the harvest season and because farmers, who are the soul of the event, told us this was one of the few times of the year they could spare. But if citizens are the heart and farmers the soul of Slow Food Nation, political leaders are the target."

It will include the Slow Food farmers' market, specialty food pavilions, workshops and talks by renowned authors, nutritionists and activists.

Sadly, I cannot attend but I am doing my best to follow all of the goings on from here. One of the things they are going to do there is unveil a Healthy Food and Agriculture Declaration, orchestrated by Roots of Change as a response to the farm bill, which will be posted on August 28 at for public comment.

Another cool thing is to focus on ways to improve what you eat. The following is a list of 10 things you can do to improve your health that was in last Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle, and includes tips that also help promote a sustainable food system, something we critically need.

Ten points to better health
1. Know what you're eating. Find out where it comes from and what's in it. Think about what's in season now - what's ripe, not just fresh. A lot of these foods will turn out to be local.

2. Get cooking. And try making things from scratch. You'll save money and rediscover skills you forgot you had.

3. Plant something. It could be an herb pot on your kitchen counter or, if you have space at home, a small kitchen garden, or a communal plot in your neighborhood that you tend with family and friends. (The Victory Garden on Civic Center Plaza is a landscape of ideas, staffed by experts who can guide your hands to the soil.)

4. Pack a bag lunch.

5. Drink tap water. It's healthier for you, and it's free.

6. Learn about and celebrate the food traditions your family still possesses. These are like seeds, long stored and just waiting to be planted.

7. Invite someone to share a meal. Strengthen the bonds of friendship and community by cooking and eating together.

8. Learn about endangered foods and how we can bring them back to our tables.

9. Conserve, compost and recycle.

10. Vote with your fork.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Buy Heritage Foods to Ensure Species Diversity and Survival

If you don’t already subscribe to the daily Ideal Bite, a green email list with great tips, you should. Yesterday’s was all about buying heritage foods in order to ensure that they survive. Here’s what they say:

The Bite

If we start a heritage foods revolution by eating 'em, they'll stick around (sounds crazy, but by creating a higher demand, it gives farmers more motivation to raise them). Go for meat from farms raising these select heritage breeds instead of conventional 'stock, and you'll help keep biodiversity alive. By, um...George, we think they've got it.

The Benefits
Benefits that aren't just allegorical fiction. Preserving heritage animals preserves biodiversity - and they may have beneficial genetics (disease resistance, climate adaptability) that more common breeds may not.

Saving species from total(itarian) extinction. Most livestock originate from just a few breeds. Example: Right now 75% of U.S. pigs come from three main species; about ten others are close to dying out.

More variety than your 10th-grade required reading. With heritage foods, you'll taste flavors you're not gonna find with conventional meats, which are bred for uniformity.

Wanna Try?
Schmancier grocery stores (such as Whole Foods) often let you know via signage whether a meat is heritage or not - or try asking your butcher.
Heritage Foods USA - order select heritage foods online (prices vary).
American Livestock Breeds Conservancy - find out which species are at risk.
Slow Food USA - nonprof dedicated to preserving biodiversity in our food.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

LA's Own Slow Food Nation-Type Event

Well, even though it's no Slow Food Nation, there's a very cool event coming up on Sunday, August 17. Its part of the Downtown LA Film Festival and it's called, Sustainable LA.

Its a free event at MOCA and The California Plaza in Downtown LA, it runs from Noon to 10 p.m. and there will be environmental-themed films and related events.

The best part for LA Farm Girl is the scheduled Farmers Market and Slow Food Court on Grand Avenue between 2nd and 4th, that runs from 12 noon to 6 pm.

It will feature over 60 food, farm, green business, craft and green not for profit booths. And there will be fresh salads, ice cream rotisserie chicken, fish, juices, cobbler, and more. There will also be an opportunity to talk to local growers about their farms and sample their produce.

The foodie part also includes a panel discussion: "Buy Local, Eat Slow: A New Way of Thinking About Food," from 2:30 – 3:30 pm featuring the Path to Freedom Folks and cookbook author Amelia Saltsman moderated by Russ Parsons.

I am hoping to be able to go but it depends on how my Dad is doing after his hip replacement on August 8th, I don't want to leave him alone if he's not able to be up and about yet.