Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Food Sovereignty and a Yurok Tribal Beach Gathering

Recently, we've been asking a lot of people about food sovereignty and what it looks like to them. Food sovereignty has been defined as "the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems." You can read more about food sovereignty here, here, and here. The last link is to the Mvskoke Food Sovereignty Iniative, one of several Tribal food sovereignty movements in North America.

For larger scale food sovereignty actions, Maine is at the forefront. A few towns have recently declared that USDA regulations do not apply to locally produced foods exchanged between community members. These local ordinances will no doubt be challenged in court, but they serve to change the conversation about local agriculture and food policies. In the past couple weeks, the Maine legislature passed a joint resolution along the same lines, stating:

"RESOLVED: That We, the Members of the One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Legislature now assembled in the First Regular Session, on behalf of the people we represent, and in recognition of our State's proud agricultural heritage, take this opportunity to oppose any federal statute, law or regulation that attempts to threaten our basic human right to save seed and grow, process, consume and exchange food and farm products within the State of Maine."

To the USDA, those may well be fightin' words, just as recent local events may be fightin' words. Over this past weekend, members of the Yurok Tribe attended multiple beach gatherings to collect seaweed and mussel shells for traditional and ceremonial uses. Indigeneous rights to some of these cultural resources have been threatened by various government entities. Part of the purpose of the gatherings was to evoke indigeneous cultural rights and the right to food sovereignty. You can see pictures of the events on the Yurok Tribe's Facebook page.

Unfortunately, the beach gatherings conflicted somewhat with the Yurok Spring Fling in Klamath, where we were busy asking people about their vision of food sovereignty. The folks who were demonstrating it weren't able to add this vision to the poster. We're in the process of creating visual word clouds of the answers from the Weitchpec and Klamath Spring Flings and will post them when they're finished.

In the meantime, what does food sovereignty look like to YOU? If we get enough answers in the comments, we'll make and post a word cloud for this, too.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Don't Let Good Fruit Go Bad

Do you have fruit trees in your backyard? Do you only use some of the fruit and would love the rest to be used by someone else? Or does time get away from you sometimes and suddenly the fruit is rotting on the ground? We have a solution!

CAN is working with Del Norte 4-H to develop a Community Gleaning Project. Modeled after many successful programs like the Illinois Valley Gleaning Project, Food for People's Gleaning work, and many others around the country.

Gleaning is traditionally associated with farm fields, with gleaners harvesting grain and produce left behind after the farm's harvest is over. Especially in machine-harvested fields, there is often a great deal of food left behind that will just be plowed under if it is not gleaned. But gleaners can also harvest food grown in home gardens or backyard orchards. This is where CAN and 4-H are targeting.

If you have a few fruit trees in your backyard and don't pick or use all the fruit, please consider donating it to CAN's food bank and other critical venues for distribution. It's easy! Just call Connor at CAN at 464-9190 ext. 119 or 4-H at 464-4711 to "register" your fruit trees. You can also email gleaning@canbless.org. We will map your trees onto a registry. When your fruit is almost ripe, let us know and we will schedule a harvest team to come pick and distribute the fruit. (Veggies are also welcome, so consider Planting a Row for the Hungry! We'll still come pick.) In return, you will receive a thank you letter including information about your donation for your tax records. You'll also have the satisfaction of knowing that local families are eating healthier because of you.

Join the fun! Become part of the Community Gleaning Project either by registering your trees or signing up to be part of a harvesting team later in the summer or fall. If you are part of a youth group or organization that would like to field a harvesting team, please let us know at any of the contact information listed above. The more the merrier!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Introducing the Elk Valley Community Garden!

Springtime in Crescent City.  It seems we've made it through the rain and we're starting to see our flowers and vegetables really grow as we prepare for summer.  Along with all the happy plants, the number of community gardens is also growing.  Last month we all saw the community come together to create an amazing raised bed garden at the Wellness Center, but at the same time, a new garden is taking shape on Elk Valley Rd.

Our newest garden is the Elk Valley Community Garden, located in south Crescent City, across the street from Hambro Forest Products.  With a generous donation of land from Hambro, we were able to transform the previously vacant field into a roto-tilled and ready-to-work garden patch. 

Unlike our other community gardens in Crescent City, this space has no raised beds; instead, gardeners are working and planting directly into the soil.  Eco Nutrients kindly donated 25 yards of their dirt fines, along with gallons of their fish and kelp fertilizers.  Staking out their own family-sized plots in the dirt, the gardeners have utilized the dirt and fertilizers to amend the soil and prepare it for the variety of food crops that have already begun to grow. 
Initial inspiration for this garden came from members of the Hmong community who were looking for space to grow food for their families. Their gardening traditions don't include raised beds, so we wanted to provide a more culturally-appropriate space. A core group of families helped from the early stages with organizing, planning, and implementing efforts to make the garden a reality. Although most of the gardeners so far are Hmong families, the garden is open to all residents and there are still plots available.  We look forward to this garden being a shining example of the collaborative efforts our diverse community is capable of in the name of providing healthy, local food!

Monday, June 6, 2011

The USDA Plate and the Crescent City Farmers Market

The Crescent City Farmers Market opens this Saturday! If anything deserves an exclamation point on this overcast day, opening day of the market does. The farmers market is so much more than a place to shop for local veggies (although that's a critical and wonderful part of it!). Friends and neighbors chat, children play, recipes are swapped -- the farmers market is a social event and our community needs more of them.

I hope that Saturday dawns clear and warm so we can all celebrate the start of local food purchases and consumption. The market is at the Del Norte County Fairgrounds from 9 to 1.

This year marks the second season that the Crescent City Farmers Market will accept EBT cards for CalFresh purchases. It is an exciting development that opens the market up to more Del Norte neighbors. You can read more about it here.

This is a particularly good time for the farmers' market to open because the USDA has just replaced the traditional food pyramid with the food plate. If you look at the image, you'll notice that half the plate is set aside for fruits and vegetables. For many people, that's a tall order, but shopping at the farmers market can help! Many small farmers experiment with unusual veggies or varieties that can add color and texture to your plate or entice you to try an unfamiliar food.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Eating and Living Healthy with FIRST 5 Del Norte

Nutrition Tips for Parents & Caregivers

One important way to help prevent obesity and overweight in children is to teach healthy eating habits and provide opportunities for physical activity from an early age. As children grow, their needs vary.

First Year Foods and Feeding

Breastfeed:Breast milk is the healthiest food you can give your baby. It also reduces the risk of childhood obesity.
Delay solids:Babies are often ready to experiment with solid food by 4 months of age, but nutrition experts recommend waiting until 6 months.
Watch the mealtime signals:Back off from feeding if your baby purses his or her lips, turns away or appears to lose interest in the spoonful of cereal or strained veggies. Help a baby learn to listen to his or her body's cues. Likewise, never force your baby to finish a bottle.
Offer a variety of baby foods:Take advantage of all the flavors out there, especially in fruits and vegetables. 

Tips for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Make fruits and vegetables a priority: Nutritionists recommend that toddlers eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Aim to include at least one with every meal, including snack time.
Keep portion sizes small:Toddlers don't require many calories, so it's important to serve age-appropriate servings. The general rule of thumb is one tablespoon of each food for each year of age.
Stick to a regular meal schedule:Toddlers as young as 1 year old should eat three meals and just two snacks daily, three to four hours apart.
Offer a variety of foods:Offer healthy food choices. Children may need to be exposed to a new food more than once before accepting it. 

Nutrition Tips:
Keep fresh fruits and vegetables on-hand.
Remove from your household all chips, soda and candy bars. They're okay as a special treat but they should not be a regular staple in your food cabinet.
Avoid fried foods.
Make healthy meals in large quantities and freeze for a later time. This way, when you're too busy to cook, you can just defrost a healthy meal and have dinner ready in no time.
Always eat breakfast. It is the most important meal of the day, not just for children but for the entire family.
Parents and children should eat when they're hungry not out of boredom.