Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Take a Bite out of Climate Change is Here!

I'm pleased to announce my new website and blog. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Good News on the Price of Food? Not Really

I was on the WNYC this morning talking about food and the price of it and whether that's a good thing... or not. Listen here.

Monday, March 31, 2008

No-to-GMO: It's Not Just for California Anymore

Residents in Montville, Maine passed the nation's first binding resolution (outside of California, that is) to ban the planting of genetically modified crops. Check out the news here.

Friday, March 28, 2008

More Howdini How-To's

How To Tell If Packaged Food Is Organic:
Confused about what all those organic labels really mean?
I break it down for you.

How To Buy Eco-Friendly Local Foods:
Tips for reducing the distance from seed-to-plate.


Take a look at this trailer for the video from our friends at Nourish. My favorite line from one of the teens interviewed: "Fast food? At first it's really good... and then later, it's really gross."

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Grow Together: Gaining Ground

an arts workshop at the grow together conference

Imagine a packed-to-the-rafters auditorium of 1,000 community gardeners from all five New York City boroughs, of all ages, from dozens of different countries gathered to celebrate another year of growing food, community, and hope.

It was definitely intimidating, but I was excited to share the message that I believe that everyone gathered for the annual NYC GrowTogether conference are the among the planet's climate change heroes.

All across the country, community gardens are popping up everywhere, like those sprouting throughout NYC. To find out about community gardens near you or get your own hands in the dirt, check out the American Community Gardening Association. And if you're in NYC, visit GreenThumb and tell 'em I sent you!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Mollie Katzen on The Practical Guide

Mollie Katzen celebrates vegetables in this new Practical Guide posted today. All those shots of her strolling through her backyard garden to clip herbs did make me long for the green space my Brooklyn brownstone apartment can't really offer, but for now, I'll just have to live vicariously through folks like Mollie and friends like these.

talking about the history of hunger on wumb

My mom was out jogging a few mornings ago when she heard someone on the radio talking about genetically modified foods. She said it took her a few more strides before she realized it was her daughter! The woman who interviewed me for this program was one of my favorite interviewees. She asked me questions that got me really thinking.
Take a listen here.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sleepless in Seattle

I'm in Seattle where I'm giving a talk tomorrow for the thirtieth anniversary of Seattle Tilth.

I was going to begin my remarks by saying that we’ve moved beyond the debate about whether global warming is real. But then I was looking over my speech tonight when I noticed my op-ed in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer had already been posted online.

And, by 11:14pm, seven comments had been submitted to "sound off."

I’ll just share one—you’ll get the idea: “Please stop this nonsense. Climate change has happened every few decades foe 6,000 years. I am so sick of the Godless left with their huge egos thinking they are to blame for climate change. Get real people and start worrying about things that have real consequences.”

I guess we still have our work cut out for us.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

In defense of food - and dietitians

My friend, Melinda Hemmelgarn, has this great column in The Columbia Tribune--a dietitian's take on Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food.

Platter Chatter

The folks at Sustainable Table asked me a couple of questions for their Platter Chatter blog. Here are my answers. More can be found on their blog.

What’s your definition of local?

I like non-rigid definitions of local. For me, local is the spirit of the food, more than an exact number of feet from my kitchen to the field where the food was grown. With that said, I try to support the farmers in what sociologist Jack Kloppenburg calls my local food shed. I shop at farmers markets when I can and look for tri-state food in the supermarket.

The real spirit of “local” doesn’t mean just measuring your food miles, especially for those items that my community can’t grow locally. For instance, my morning cup of coffee may not be “local,” but when I buy fair-trade certified coffee I know that my food dollar supported communities and didn’t just line the pockets of a CEO.

What’s your definition of sustainable?

I used to have a chip on my shoulder about the word “sustainable.” Most people on this planet don’t want to sustain where they are. They’re struggling; they want change, not the status quo. But I’ve come to see that the term sustainable can be aspirational, too. It doesn’t mean resigning ourselves to what is; it means working toward a vision of a world in which the values of fairness, community, and environmental stewardship are all respected. In this way, I think of sustainability as a process not a place. It’s not easy to achieve, but is a powerful goal to reach toward.

Sustainability takes on special meaning in an era of global warming. Sustainability is no longer optional; the fate of our planet depends on it. And food will play a huge role in either helping us move toward sustainability and lower greenhouse gas emissions, or by making our crisis worse. [You can learn more about the connection between our food system and climate change at this special primer page I’ve created with Sustainable Table.]

When you think of local, sustainable, and community, how would you rank the three (from most important to least) and why?

I often hear a version of this question, when I’m speaking to audiences and they ask: “Okay, so which is it: should we choose organic or local?”

In an ideal word, we wouldn’t have to make this choice. In an ideal world, our elected officials wouldn’t sanction the use on our nation’s farmland of man-made chemicals that are known endocrine disrupters, neurotoxins, or carcinogens.

But, well, we don’t live in an ideal world.

Given that reality, when posed with the hypothetical local-vs-organic head-to-head, I encourage people to choose local food from family farms. Those farms may not be organic now, but they may soon transition, particularly with customer support and encouragement.

But I can guarantee you that if those farms disappear–as many thousands do every year–we’ll lose that farmland forever, and never have a chance to have local or organic food at all.

What’s one thing people can do to be more local and sustainable?

There is so much we can do, I hate to boil it down to one thing, so I’ll cheat and give you two ideas: one that’s really specific and one that’s big picture!

First, if you don’t already, go to your local farmers market or become a member of a community support agriculture farm. (This site has lots of resources to make these choices). This is one of your best ways to connect with farm-fresh food and get to know the people behind your local food system.

The second suggestion is much more vague and really quite simple: Follow your passion. There is so much work that needs to be done on the path toward sustainability. Whether it’s starting community gardens, working with schools to bring in healthy foods, fighting for farmer-friendly policy, educating yourself about genetically modified foods, learning about the connections between the food system and climate change, or simply cooking more, whatever specific act you choose to do, you will be aligning yourself with the millions across the globe walking on the path of sustainability.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

A Little Honesty about Honest Tea

With Coca-Cola's announcement on February 5th that it's acquiring a 40% stake in Honest Tea, another up-and-coming company up-and-came.

But you wouldn't have noticed by looking at Honest Tea's label: not much on that end changed.
In fact, it's harder and harder to perceive which of your favorite brands are now sub-brands of the Big Guys.

In Grub, I include a graphic inspired by the work of pioneering food researcher, Phil Howard, of Michigan State University. He's been tracking the consolidation of the food system, particularly in the organic sector, for years. On his site, you'll find eye-opening graphics, like this one:

Read Black and Green!

Take a look at the great new blog from some of my heroes of all heroes: Bryant Terry, Adrienne Maree Brown, Omar Freilla, Latham Thomas, and others.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Another Practical: Creating Food Literate Kids

You can check out a new Practical Guide this week. Like many of them, this one is close to my heart: teaching kids to be savvy food marketing consumers. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Practical Guide to Hope

With all the buzz about "hope" in the presidential campaigns, here's my take on this little word.

Alternative Campus Report Card

Think that U.S. News & World Report's college rankings doesn't tell the complete story about a school? So do I. Check out this new sustainability report card for colleges.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

That's What I'm Talking About

It was exciting to get an e-mail from my younger brother today about this hearing on Capitol Hill about food and climate change called "Food for Thought: A Primer on the Climate Consequences of Food Choices."

I look forward to listening to the presentations, but in the meantime, I've got to say I was struck by the factoids they chose to use in the press release. Here's what I mean.

"In comparison to the impacts of automobiles, power plants, and other major contributors to global warming," the press releases says, "agriculture and food issues are only just starting to be fully understood."

Then, they share these four points:

-- A 1999 British study showed that the purchase of local apples resulted in an almost 3,000 percent reduction in energy use and 87 percent lower carbon dioxide emissions than apples imported from New Zealand.

--Produce in the U.S. travels, on average, 1,300 – 2,000 miles from farm to consumer.

--A 2006 International Solid Waste Foundation study predicted that by 2025, food waste will increase by 44% worldwide.

--When food waste rots it releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that landfills account for 34 percent of all methane emissions in the United States."

What's striking to me about these four points is that together they sidestep the significant research on the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector: livestock.

If you don't know already, that s livestock is one of the largest factors in the food system's climate change impact, with food transportation (those long-distance apples), being a relatively smaller portion of the sector's overall emissions.

When you include land use changes driven by the demand for crop- and grazing-land; the production of manmade chemicals and fertilizers for feed crops; and the methane emitted mainly from ruminants like cattle, you find that 18% of the globe's total greenhouse gas emissions can be connected back to livestock. (See, for instance, the comprehensive United Nation's report Livestock's Long Shadow or the Humane Society's excellent white paper on the subject.)

I know, I know, it's just the press release! (The hearing isn't up yet for viewing), And I should just be glad that this issue--that has been swept under the rug for so long--is getting attention. And I certainly, certainly am.

But we've certainly got a lot more work to do! Thankfully, I'm hearing from colleagues around the country that they're starting to work on projects connecting local foods/sustainable agriculture and global warming. Good stuff. More soon.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Largest Beef Recall, Ever. Now, Real Change?

Huffington Post | Posted February 21, 2008 | 03:50 PM (EST)

Maybe you're one of the more than 200,000 people who have seen this disturbing video revealing the animal cruelty caught on tape by a Humane Society investigation at a California slaughterhouse. (I, personally, couldn't stomach to watch it).

Whether you saw the video or not, you most certainly have heard the response: Prompted by public outcry, the company that processed meat from this slaughterhouse issued the largest beef recall in U.S. history even though -- oops -- much of the 143 million pounds recalled has already been eaten, including possibly by children in school lunches.

The animal cruelty was disturbing enough, what it revealed about possible threats to human health adds even more reason to be wary of the burger....[read more]

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Practical Guide to Healthier Living on MSN

The first three videos of the MSN Practical Guide to Healthier Living are up and running at Over the next several months, they'll keep posting videos of these inspiring stories about people around the country making healthy choices for themselves and their communities.

Monday, February 11, 2008

How to Buy Fair Trade Coffee

How to Find Organic Produce

How to Choose Safe Beauty and Skin Care Products

It is a Fact (Says Monsanto)

Maybe you've been following the news about legislation popping up in states across the country to ban labeling dairy products that are free of Monsanto's synthetic growth hormone (interchangeably called rBST or rBGH).

Now, call me old-fashioned, but I still believe in that quaint idea of freedom of speech and freedom of choice. We should have the right to know how our food was made and be able to choose whether we want to eat it or not.

So far, the efforts to ban hormone-free labeling have stalled. In Pennsylvania, legislation passed that would have banned hormone-free labeling, but it was rescinded after significant citizen protest. And Indiana lawmakers pulled the legislation to ban such labeling there. But there are murmurings that other states will see the introduction of similar legislation soon.

So, who's behind these efforts to ban hormone-free labeling? Would it surprise you to hear it's the company that makes the synthetic hormone, Monsanto?

In the latest public relations twist, a new outfit called American Farmers for the Advancement of Conservation of Technology supposedly voices the concern of farmers who support the bans on labeling hormone-free dairy products.

But dig a little deeper and you'll find that the organization's website was registered to Susan Williams of Osborn Barr Communications, a brand management company whose clients include Monsanto.

In other words, American Farmers for the Advancement of Conservation of Technology is a classic front group. It sounds (and looks) like a megaphone for real farmers when in fact it was created and is funded by Monsanto.

In the media, though, the organization has been identified only with a slight qualification that it is "backed by Monsanto."

Lisa Rathke, of The Associated Press, for instance, quoted Carrol Campbell, a Kansas dairy farmer who co-chairs the group: "There's no question that rBST is safe... That's what's so frustrating to us, that there are organizations out there that would indicate that it's something other than safe."

Rathke's AP article was picked up widely--from the Trentonian to Money to the Nashua Telegragh to The Guardian UK. If you were reading it, you couldn't be blamed for thinking that the organization was a legitimate expression of farmer concern and not what it is: a front group for a multinational company concerned about losing market share for one of its products.

The Center for Media and Democracy (on whose board I sit) has just partnered with the Consumers Union to help us I.D. front groups like this one. Check out their site here.

Monday, February 04, 2008

What Can You Buy for a Billion Dollars?

2007 was a landmark year for Kellogg’s global advertising: Their total dollars spent on ad outlays for the first time in history hit the billion-dollar mark. Kraft, not one to skimp, also spent a little more than $1 billion in advertising, up $10 million from the year before.

One billion dollars. What can that buy you? A lot. And, apparently, a lot of advertising.

What it certainly doesn't buy us consumers is cheaper prices.

In that same Brandweek article about the ballooning ad budgets, we learn that both Kraft and Kellogg are increasing their prices. A connection?

Well, not according to the article, which blames those higher prices on the company's "effort to offset rising materials costs."

Maybe I'm missing something here.
Kellogg's advertising outlays are 12 percent of their overall budget; for Kraft it's closer to 7 percent. Don't you think that these companies are spending a good chunk of their resources--and billions of dollars--in advertising might make boxes of our morning cereal a little more expensive?