Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wasted Food

A recent report from the Natural Resources Defense Council states that $165 billion of food a year is wasted in the United States, which is about 40%. This is a tremendous waste of resources. To give us a better understanding of how all this food is being wasted, the report tracked the food down the system and demonstrated why so much is being wasted.

One category is farming, where around 7% of produce gets thrown away each year. This may be for a variety of reasons. Farmers sometimes plant more crops then necessary in case of any natural problems and some fruits and vegetables are simply left because they aren't the right size or color. A great way to combat this is through more gleaning programs, like we have in Del Norte County, where volunteers come and take any leftover produce to a food bank.

Another category is processing and distribution. A lot of food gets wasted during processing, especially when it sits too long without adequate refrigeration. Grocery stores are another big source of wasted food in our food system. Reports show that they throw away around $15 billion of unsold produce a year. Also, each store throws away $2,300 of food products a day because it is passing it's expiration date and they do not want their store to look bad. It is a shame that more stores do not donate this food instead of simply tossing it in the trash.

The majority of wasted food comes from restaurants. For one thing, people dining leave 17% of their food uneaten, and then the rest is thrown away. This is mostly because portion sizes have increased so much over the years. Also, in many fast food restaurants good food is just thrown away. McDonald's has a rule that fries must be thrown out after 7 minutes, which seems a little unnecessary

Another big place food is wasted is in the household, where between 14-25% of food people buy is thrown away. People buy more food than they can eat, and with restaurants and fast food so readily available, that food sits and goes bad and is thrown in the trash. Consumers need to be more conscious of the food choices that we make and plan meals out in advance to avoid this.

This report also says that only 3% of food that is thrown away is composted. Most food ends up in landfills, which causes a release of methane. Composting could help to reduce this and the amount of waste we have. It is important for America to become more conscious of how much food they eat, and how much they throw away, so we can improve upon the high levels of food insecurity and ensure everyone has enough to eat.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Food Day Planning

Food Day is quickly approaching this year on October 24th. For those not familiar, Food Day is a nationwide celebration dedicated to healthy, affordable, and sustainable food. The goal is strengthen the food movement and make changes to our food system in America.

Our food system is in need of improvements and changes have already begun. Moving away from highly processed foods and changing to fresh, whole foods is becoming increasingly popular. Celebrating this trend and promoting it is what Food Day is all about. More information can be found here:

Members of The Community Food Council for Del Norte County and Adjacent Tribal Lands are already organizing  activities for the entire week in Del Norte County. Some plans include having authors come and do book signings, doing garden tours, having a "Meatless Monday" demonstration, doing cook-offs, having a film festival, a "Teen Dinner," and many more ideas. They plan on having the whole week booked! If anyone has any ideas or would like to get involved in the planning process leave a comment or email Brian Quilty at Anyone is welcome and the more people that want to join the better.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Vitamins vs Whole Foods

Vitamins are great when you include them as part of an all around healthy diet. However, it is important to try to get as many nutrients from fresh, whole foods as you can. When taking vitamin supplements, you single out one nutrient and send it into your body alone. You do not have all the other compounds working together with it as you would from consuming whole foods. Your body does not absorb this as well as it would through food. Also, considering how much work is going on in the nutrition field, their is still a lot we do not know. An example is with Omega 3 fatty acids in fish. Scientists single out this specific part of fish as having health benefits so they make supplements for it. However we do not know if that is what makes it healthy, or some combination of Omega 3's and other nutrients in the fish. 
High doses of vitamins(more than your daily recommended amount) can actually be harmful to your body. Vitamins B and C are water-soluble so over consumption of these will really not have much of an effect. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble and can be stored for long periods of time, and too much can result in harmful levels in the body.

This is not to say taking vitamins and supplements are bad. They can be added into your diet as a bonus, just not something to replace a food group. The best way to get in the recommended amount of vitamins and minerals is still though the consumption of fresh foods with minimal processing.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Grocery Spending in America

The chart below from the Bureau of Labor Statisitics has some intriguing data on what we spend our money on in the grocery store.

You would think with more farmers markets and CSA's emerging, and with the general trend of eating real, whole food, that Americans spending on processed food would have decreased. Unfortunately as this chart shows, we are spending more on processed items than ever. Since 1982, our spending has just about doubled in this area. What does this tell us? Our reliance on processed food is too high. It is another contributing factor to the health problems we face here. Processing any kind of food, regardless of how healthy it is, strips it of many key nutrients. Not only that, but they contain many added preservatives and chemicals to enhance the flavor. These are things that do not occur naturally in real food. Some examples are xantham gum, yellow #5, and of course high fructose corn syrup.

A quick glance at this chart may seem like meat consumption has decreased since 1982. This is not true. Instead, the price of meat has decreased, and we are eating about the same amount of it as 30 years ago. So, why did the price drop? Large, factory farms have taken over the market, they feed their animals cheap corn, grow their animals larger than what is natural, and have increased that rate of which they can slaughter.

The best way to combat processed food spending is to buy as much as you can from farmers markets and local producers, or grow your own food in a backyard garden. Choosing meats from a farm you know feeds their animals grass is another step in the right direction. If buying processed food, it is always a good idea to read the ingredients and make a choice from there.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Soda Ban

By now I am sure most of you have heard about Mayor Bloomberg's proposed ban to limit the amount of sugary beverages sold in New York City. It prohibits the sale of these types of drinks larger than 16 ounces. By sugary, they mean sodas, iced tea, and energy drinks, but it does not include diet sodas, fruit juices, milk-based beverages, or alcoholic beverages. This ban would take place at movie theaters, restaurants, sports arenas, and fast food chains.

This proposed ban has been the source of a lot of debate over the past couple weeks. Many see this as one step too far and that we should have the right to drink whatever size drink that we want. In reality, there are ways around this. No one is stopping you from buying more than one drink if you really wanted to. I think the important thing here is not that it is taking away our rights, but that it is making consumers more conscious of their drink purchases.

Soda has been a big target in recent years when talking about the causes of obesity and this is another plan to combat it. It is the largest source of empty calories you can consume, having no real nutritional benefit at all. It has many adverse health effects and is a big contributor to the obesity epidemic. This ban is another step in the right direction. Of course if you want to continue drinking a lot of soda, this is not going to necessarily stop you. Although, it will hopefully make people think twice about what they drink and help to limit consumption in at least some people.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Rethink Your Drink

It’s officially summertime, so that means it’s time to Rethink Your Drink! 

Rethink Your Drink is a campaign to educate the community about the added sugars in sugar-sweetened beverages. It also encourages and promotes water consumption. 

The Network for a Healthy California, First 5, and the Department of Health and Human Services – Public Health are teaming up to host an infused water contest at the first Farmers Market of the season. Come check out our booth on June 2nd from 9am-1pm and sample our contestants’ infused water. The official judging will commence at 10am. Our panel of celebrity judges include Mayor Katherine Murray, Robin Patch (City Clerk), Ron Phillips (Farmers Market Manager), Chelle Webb (founder of Bouncing Berry Farms), and David Finigan (County Supervisor and First 5 Commissioner). Now that I have announced the judges, please keep in mind that bribing our esteemed panel will result in immediate disqualification. 

This promises to be a fierce competition, with intense rivalries already forming. We have entries from individual community members, like Angela Glore and Chad Hegelmeyer, who take their infused waters VERY seriously. Or will an organization or community group, like Ferment Del Norte, First 5 Del Norte, 4-H, or CHANGE take home the prize? Come find out at 10am when our panel of judges will decide which water trumps them all.