Do you know about your local Edible magazine? I have always valued the Edible publications for uncovering local food stories without the typical magazine advertising noise. Highly respected writers report on food issues for less money than they’re used to because they support the mission. The restaurants and organizations that care most about local, organic, and sustainable food congregate on Edible’s pages, creating supply chains when the typical ones just won’t do, and holding events to bring the community around the campfire. It is in turn our job as concerned consumers—tired of cheap, frozen, unhealthy commodity food found in most eateries—to support and promote them, be it dining in their establishments or passing on what we’ve learned to friends at a backyard barbecue. This past weekend I attended the Edible Institute annual conference, and was inspired by all the work people are doing to create positive change. Here, some highlights.
Organic food is what we are meant to be eating. It contains no additives, preservatives, fertilizers, or pesticides—widely associated with various types of cancer. It is not genetically modified—widely believed to cause organ damage and other serious health problems. It has not been sterilized with radiation or ammonia, like most fast food meat. Organic farms are required to constantly test both their products for nutrients as well as their irrigation water (non-organic farms use “sewer water” that can contain biosolids like heavy metals, lawn pesticides, gas, detergents). Convinced yet?
I hate to disappoint those who are seeking a gluttonous New Orleans food tour dripping in butter and hot sauce (okay, there’s a little of that), but this post will be a little different. I made the trip as a guest of Rachel’s Network, an alliance of women that supports female leaders who want to be agents of change for environmental protection. Some highlights: Mayor Mitch Landrieu talked to us about the city’s reliance on the oil industry, a local fisherman steered us through the bayou (which loses the equivalent of a football field of marshland per hour), architects cooperating with Dutch water control experts walked us through the Ninth Ward (devastated by Hurricane Katrina) to see the new “green housing” pioneered by Brad Pitt, and—I didn’t forget you, foodies—we dined with Chef John Besh, who is decidedly an agent of change in his own community.
Okay, the purple butterfly might be a little much, but I like the message, don’t you? As I continue to watch floods, tornadoes, and fires stampede across the country (sorry, but no one can convince me it’s not because of climate change and greenhouse gases), I know we can do better. We can conserve more, recycle more, live greener and with better intentions for the future of this ailing planet—at least I know I can. Want to join me?
Last week Congress failed to pass the Child Nutrition Bill. It would have created stronger nutritional standards and provided additional funding for the first time in 30 years. Do you know how much the funding was? Six cents per lunch.
That means that in Los Angeles, for example, the money spent on each school lunch would have risen to 60 cents from 54. In France, they spend more than five dollars on each school lunch. And then we wonder why French women are skinny and we’re not.
Change won’t happen waiting for Congress to get their act together. It has to start at home, with one school, with your child.
Do you really know what a GMO, or Genetically Modified Organism, is? I didn’t. At least not in the way the Non-GMO Project laid it out in a short film I saw last week. Sure, I had been paying attention to the recent protests over the potential and probable introduction of genetically modified salmon into our food system. I knew I didn’t like it, but why specifically?
This is the exact problem that the Non-GMO Project addresses. The biggest issue with fighting genetically modified food is that 1) people don’t really know what it is and what its effects are and 2) even if people are opposed to a GMO, they probably just ate it for breakfast.
Everyone I talk to loves Amy Pennington. The Seattle-based urban gardener, author of the new Urban Pantry: Tips & Recipes from a Thrifty, Sustainable & Seasonal Kitchen, was kind enough to meet with me one day in a Seattle pizzeria. Keep in mind I was a total stranger asking her for advice on my next-day meeting with renowned chef, Tom Douglas, who she used to work with and who now features her regularly as a contributor to his weekly radio show.
Finally, the oxymoron of bringing reusable shopping bags to the store only to stuff my produce into several plastic bags can be eliminated! I found this reusable produce bag from Safi (machine washable) at a local store, but it’s available for purchase online.