November 19, 2015
Along with a hybrid in the driveway and solar panels on the roof, an earthy mound of compost decaying in the backyard has long been a signifier of an eco-conscious lifestyle—and with good reason. It is a cheap, easy, and natural way to divert organic waste from a landfill where it would otherwise almost certainly fester and release greenhouse gases, including uber-potent methane and nitrous oxide. In addition, composting results in a soil amendment that can be used to stabilize soils: runoff is reduced, moisture is retained, and crop yields are increased, all of which are ever more important as global population surpasses 7 billion. It is an elegant closed loop. Read More >
November 6, 2015
Are corner stores carrying healthier food?
Calorie counts on menus. This week I’m pleased to report that our CLF-Lerner Fellows are making us look good. Julia Wolfson is one of the authors on a study that appeared this week in Health Affairs and was cited in a CNN report about the law going into effect in December 2016, requiring national chain restaurants to list calorie counts on their menus. There are a few studies examining whether calorie counts on menus inspire customers to eat less or more healthily, but this is still an open question. It will be interesting to see what we learn once the law goes into effect.
Corner stores and healthy food. Another CLF-Lerner Fellow, Laura Cobb, co-authored a paper in this week’s Health Affairs Read More >
November 2, 2015
Last week there was good news and bad news linking health risks to meat consumption. The good news is that the media want to tell people about which foods might cause cancer, and some reporters are skilled at communicating the data. The bad news is that the International Agency of Research into Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organization, does a poor job of putting data into context, and that, in turn, leads to alarmist reporting by less responsible members of the media.
Early last week the IARC published a report about the risks of consuming meat Read More >
October 26, 2015
Climate change damages ocean ecosystems. Ocean acidification and temperature increases are wreaking havoc on plants and animals that live in the ocean, upending marine food webs, and hurting diversity and energy flows. According to the FAO, fisheries and aquaculture support the livelihood for 10 to 12 percent of the world’s population—the collapse of ocean ecosystems would deal a significant blow to global food security and the global economy. Read the article at The Guardian. Read More >
October 23, 2015
Honeybee hives at Warm Colors Apiary in Deerfield, Mass.
Winter is a tough time for bees—particularly the long harsh winters of Alberta, Canada, where Grant Hicks, a commercial beekeeper, runs a 10,000-hive operation called Hicks Honey Farms. Hicks knows well that the sustained cold can weaken the insects and make infestations by mites, fungus and viruses especially deadly; in recent years, beekeepers in the area have lost a third or more of their hives.
To try to stave off infections, beekeepers often treat their hives in the fall with chemical pesticides that target pathogens like varroa mites or the fungal parasite Nocema. But a few years ago, Read More >
October 22, 2015
Subway takes the pledge. This week the restaurant chain Subway announced that starting next year it will serve poultry products raised without antibiotics. They’re yet another restaurant chain to follow suit with the likes of McDonalds, Panera, Chipotle, and more. The company estimates that it will take another six years to do the same with pork and beef. Check out the story on Food Safety News. This is an important development given the reach of Subway and the volume of meat served by the chain. By restricting sourcing of meats to producers raising animals without antibiotics Subway and the others will exert market pressure on industrial food animal producers to clean up their act. Read More >
October 15, 2015
Cheryl Shippentower is a plant ecologist for the Umatilla Department of Natural Resources and a First Food gatherer for the Tribe.
The Umatilla Tribal lands in northeastern Oregon are a wash of golden yellow in early July. The 172,000-acre reservation at the foot of the Blue Mountains is in the middle of wheat country, a fertile grain belt and major agricultural hub that spans Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. The wheat harvest is underway early this year, prompted by record heat and an early summer. From a distance, a cloud of chaff follows a combine and looks like smoke against the harsh blue sky.
The Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), near the border of Washington, is a prosperous tribe and one of the largest employers in this part of the state. The tribe has retained their hunting and fishing treaty rights, owns and manages the Wildhorse Casino and Resort, operates the Wildhorse Foundation, and has invested strategically Read More >
October 13, 2015
People trickled in, greeted each other, and introduced themselves. Conversation peppered the room. By the time we started the meeting, all chairs were taken and the room was full of energy that happens when a group of dedicated, creative and passionate people come together.
All this took place last week in the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council (PFPC), located at the Penn State Center Pittsburgh in the Energy Innovation Center, a newly renovated former trade school, now a LEED-certified green energy and sustainability teaching institution. The Council hosted Mark Winne and myself for two days. Read More >
October 6, 2015
In Alaska, it’s legal but only for your pets. In Oregon, you are allowed to buy it from a farm that has a maximum of two cows, nine sheep and nine goats that make it. In Kansas, you can have it as long as the farm doesn’t advertise it too much. And in Minnesota, you can get it if you go to the farm and bring your own containers.
Raw milk has long polarized scientists, politicians, farmers and food advocates, who disagree about both its health consequences and the government’s right to control access to it. Driving those debates are a dizzying variety of laws Read More >
September 30, 2015
John Swaine III, Talbot County, Md.
John Swaine III stands with his back to a field of soybeans, his sunburnt arms crossed, a dusty John Deere cap tucked over his strawberry blond hair. Near his feet is a ditch that runs adjacent to the winding country lane, Bellevue Road, that bisects his Talbot County, Maryland, farm.
The ditch is meant to collect rainwater that flows off of the fields and the road. For years, Swaine felt helpless when he saw the muddy brown water accumulating in the channel during a storm, knowing it contained soil from his fields that was enriched with commercial fertilizers. “It bothered me to see that water with sediment in it flowing right into the creek,” he says. “Still does.”
The problem is especially bad when the ditch overflows. The water crosses the road, runs through a field on the other side and eventually into Tar Creek. Read More >