December 19, 2014
Let me start by bestowing a little holiday cheer from our CLF family to yours.
Cromnibus. The New York Times, NPR, Mother Jones, Politico, and many other news sources have reported on the omnibus spending bill, dubbed the “cromnibus,” released by Congress this week. The good news is that the Democrats have prevented all-out Republican gutting of the EPA and its Clean Water Act, although the EPA’s budget was cut by a modest amount. Bad news items include: a congressional directive that tells the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to refrain from linking our diets’ impacts on the environment; school cafeterias are allowed to wriggle out of some requirements intended to make school lunches more healthy; and beef ranchers are kept “safe” from regulators who would want to quantify greenhouse gas emissions from their production sites. So much for any awareness of the importance of sustainability in food production Read More >
December 15, 2014
Although some economists reported that the recession ended in 2009, Maryland experienced an increased participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP, the federal nutrition assistance support program formerly known as food stamps, serves as the main source of food for low-income people and families. SNAP benefits are redeemed by program participants through vouchers or Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) / Independence accounts on a monthly basis. While the number of participants in SNAP is well reported, the amount of money redeemed by authorized stores has not been reviewed Read More >
December 5, 2014
Fast-food workers held strikes in 150 cities this week.
Poultry farming underworld. In his column on Wednesday, Nicholas Kristof writes about newly released footage from a Purdue grower in North Carolina of what really goes on in a poultry farm, even ones that boast humane treatment of chickens. Kristof writes: “The entire underside of almost every chicken is a huge, continuous bedsore. As a farmboy who raised small flocks of chickens and geese, I never saw anything like that.” He concludes: “Torture a single chicken and you risk arrest. Abuse hundreds of thousands of chickens for their entire lives? That’s agribusiness. I don’t know where to draw the lines. But when chickens have huge open bedsores on their undersides, I wonder if that isn’t less animal husbandry than animal abuse.” Read More >
November 11, 2014
Portulaca oleracea, aka purslane
“Most people have foraged for food at some point,” says Brent Kim, one of the researchers conducting Bountiful Baltimore, a study on Baltimore foraging. “If you’ve picked a wild berry and eaten it, you’ve foraged.”
Modern humans have been foraging for wild plants and fungi for 200,000 years. In comparison, humans have only been farming for about 12,000 years. But while we have a lot of documentation about our agricultural practices, we’re only beginning to understand the behaviors of present-day foragers—the who, what, where, why, and how. Much of what we know Read More >
November 10, 2014
What has Maui done to Dow and Monsanto?
Elections, the bad news. A lot happened on Tuesday at the polls, and how the shift in our representation affects our food system, our environment, and the health of our public is yet to be seen. One of the biggest disappointments is that with a Republican-majority Senate, we are likely to see damage done to the EPA’s already limited authority over the livestock industries that pollute our soil, water, and air, and we will probably see that agency’s Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) systematically dismantled. The political pressure from anti-regulatory forces on the USDA and the FDA is also likely to render both Read More >
November 6, 2014
We can all think of one right away: a bad neighbor. In Baltimore City, that bad neighbor leaves his smelly trashcan out front without a lid all the time so every time you open a window or a door, you are assaulted by the odor and numerous flies. She doesn’t pick up after her dog when it goes on the street or in her own backyard. He rents the house to one person but six people live there and have a constant stream of visitors. She double parks for hours, impeding the flow of traffic. He shares his bedbugs with you.
Now imagine that you live in a rural community in Maryland. Maybe it looks like Read More >
November 5, 2014
How much of this land can be used for gardens?
Just as community gardens are popping up in vacant lots and parks, they are also appearing in prisons. While you do not hear the term “prison farms” every day, they are becoming a more prevalent contributor to local food systems. Correctional facilities in California, Colorado, Georgia, Mississippi, New Jersey, Ohio, and South Carolina have developed and publicized successful farming practices within their own institutions—inmate-managed dairy farms and vegetable plots are two examples. Maryland is no exception to this trend.
As a part of our farm-to-institution research, the Maryland Food System Map Project Read More >
November 4, 2014
Exhibit sponsored by Oregon Cattle and Horse Raisers Association, circa 1940 / OSU
My blogpost last week, “Taxation Without Representation, Beef Industry Style,” highlighting the problems of the federally sanctioned beef tax (commonly referred to as the “beef checkoff”) drew an analysis from Kendal Frazier, the chief operating officer at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). (See the comments section for his response.) He may not remember me, but I have interacted with Kendal periodically over the years when he was an agriculture reporter in Kansas, as well as working public relations for the Kansas Livestock Association, and I worked first at the Kansas Farmers Union and then as communications director for then Kansas Congressman Dan Glickman. Read More >
November 3, 2014
Because of Ava Chin, I now photograph weeds and mushrooms that pop up after a rain. Her memoir, Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love and the Perfect Meal, has inspired me to ask, before I put on gardening gloves and tear something out by its roots, “But can I eat this?”
As the The New York Times’ former “Urban Forager” columnist, Chin has been writing enthusiastically about her hunts for wild edibles for years, and Eating Wildly rounds up those tales and weaves them with personal stories. While we scan meadows and roadsides and trees with her to find her bounties, she tells us about her childhood in Queens, her challenging single mother, her devoted Chinese grandparents, and her plight as a single, 30-something woman for whom it’s much more difficult to uncover a loving partner than, say, prized morel mushrooms. Read More >
October 31, 2014
Two days ago, documentary producer Laurie David joined us here at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) for a special screening of Fed Up, which explores the causes of the obesity crisis in America. Guess what? It’s Big Sugar’s fault. That’s an oversimplification, but not by much.
When I asked her for a comment on Halloween and its super-sized candy promotion, she said, “Don’t get me started. Every day is Halloween in this country.”
I kind of agreed. If we’re talking about candy, Christmas has become Halloween. Read More >