Wednesday, December 26, 2012

From the Wall Street Journal: Hungering for a Solution to Food Losses

Between Thanksgiving and the New Year, you and I and everyone we know will waste about five million tons of food—enough to fill 125,000 18-wheelers, which would stretch from Chicago to Seattle. In one year, Americans alone waste about 34 million tons. That's a lot of turkey, pie and Christmas cookies ending up in the trash—instead of in our stomachs.

While that might seem good for our waistlines, throwing away food actually has a big impact on the environment and food security.

One of the biggest myths about the food system is that we don't produce enough to feed the world—and that food scarcity is the reason why nearly one billion across the planet are hungry. In fact, we produce enough calories to feed every man, woman and child—and that's on top of wasting roughly 1.3 billion tons of food each year world-wide.

One-third of all food in industrialized countries gets thrown away, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. In developing countries, the problems of poor transportation, lack of storage facilities, mold, pests and bad roads result in 40% of crops being lost. The FAO says that the 1.3 billion tons of food that is wasted would be enough to feed the 868 million people who go to bed hungry each night.

In sub-Saharan Africa alone, where more than 265 million people are hungry, farmers are in a battle against post-harvest losses caused by flooding and drought, fungus and mold, or inadequate storage. Annual post-harvest losses for grains, tubers, fruits and vegetables, and meat and milk amount to roughly 100 million tons each year, the FAO reported.

Food waste tends to be pervasive across the food chain: some loss in the field, some loss in storage, some loss in transport—and then wasted at retailers, restaurants and finally by us, at home. In the United States, consumers throw away about one and a half pounds per person daily, the Environmental Protection Agency says. The cost of this waste isn't just to our wallets. As food waste decomposes in landfills it releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas with 26 times the heat-trapping capacity of carbon dioxide.

There are ways to prevent waste—and hunger—in both developing and industrialized countries alike. Many of the strategies throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America are simple, and often inexpensive, innovations. In Gambia and India, for example, solar-powered dehydrators are used to dry papayas and mangos, reducing fruit going to waste at the peak of the season and providing a great source of vitamin A throughout the year. In Bolivia, farmers are using driers to preserve a number of different crops, such as tomatoes and potatoes, throughout the year.

In Africa, hermetically sealed bags—essentially really big Ziploc bags—protect crops from moisture, insects and fungus. Researchers from Purdue University are working with farmers to protect cow peas, a legume crop that is high in protein, and to help distribute the bags across Niger, Nigeria, Mali and beyond. This technology has the potential to save farmers in the region around $44 million annually.

In Pakistan, the U.N. has helped farmers reduce grain-storage losses by up to 70% just by replacing jute storage bags and mud silos with metal grain-storage containers that protect against moisture and prevent insects and rats from eating grain.

In this country, the California Association of Food Banks launched a "Farm to Family" initiative in 2006 to collect produce from growers and packers in the state that would have gone to waste. By 2011, the program was distributing more than 120 million pounds of 38 different fruits and vegetables across the state. Author Tristram Stuart's Feeding the 5,000 project is showing consumers in the United Kingdom—and soon in sub-Saharan Africa—how to use what Mr. Stuart calls "wonky" (or irregularly shaped or imperfect) fruits, vegetables and other crops to create delicious meals.

So as you dig into your meals this holiday season, think about not piling those potatoes so high and about composting those scraps. And remember the abundance of food is all around us.

Ms. Lappé is the author of "Diet for a Hot Planet" (Bloomsbury USA, 2010) and founder of the Real Food Media Project. Ms. Nierenberg is the co-president of Food Tank: The Food Think Tank.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

New Years Resolutions From Food Tank: The Food Think Tank

Food Tank has been thinking about resolutions for the year ahead---both personal resolutions and ways we can all help change the food system for the better.

As we start 2013, many people will be thinking about plans and promises to improve their diets and health. We think a broader collection of farmers, policy-makers, and eaters need new, bigger resolutions for fixing the food system--real changes with long-term impacts in fields, boardrooms, and on plates all over the world. These are resolutions that the world can’t afford to break with nearly one billion still hungry and more than one billion suffering from the effects of being overweight and obese. We have the tools—let’s use them in 2013!

Here are our 13 resolutions to change the food system in 2013:

1. Growing the Cities: Food production doesn’t only happen in fields or factories. Nearly one billion people worldwide produce food in cities. In Kibera, the largest slum in Africa, farmers are growing seeds of indigenous vegetables and selling them to rural farmers. At Bell Book & Candle restaurant in New York, customers are served rosemary, cherry tomatoes, romaine, and other produce grown from the restaurant’s rooftop garden.

2. Creating Better Access: People’s Grocery in Oakland and Fresh Moves in Chicago bring mobile grocery stores to food deserts giving low-income consumers opportunities to make healthy food choices. Instead of chips and soda, they provide customers with affordable organic produce, not typically available in their communities.

3. Eaters Demanding Healthier Food: Food writer Michael Pollan advises not to eat anything that your grandparents wouldn’t recognize. Try eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole foods without preservatives and other additives.

4. Cooking More: Home economics classes have declined in schools in the United Kingdom and the U.S. and young people lack basic cooking skills. Top Chefs Jamie Oliver, Alice Waters, and Bill Telepan are working with schools to teach kids how to cook healthy, nutritious foods.

5. Creating Conviviality: According to the Hartman Group, nearly half of all adults in the U.S. eat meals alone. Sharing a meal with family and friends can foster community and conversation. Recent studies suggest that children who eat meals with their families are typically happier and more stable than those who do not.

6. Focus on Vegetables: Nearly two billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies worldwide, leading to poor development. The World Vegetable Center, however, is helping farmers grow high-value, nutrient rich vegetables in Africa and Asia, improving health and increasing incomes.

7. Preventing Waste: Roughly one-third of all food is wasted—in fields, during transport, in storage, and in homes. But there are easy, inexpensive ways to prevent waste. Initiatives like Love Food, Hate Waste offer consumers tips about portion control and recipes for leftovers, while farmers in Bolivia are using solar-powered driers to preserve foods.

8. Engaging Youth: Making farming both intellectually and economically stimulating will help make the food system an attractive career option for youth. Across sub-Saharan Africa, cell phones and the internet are connecting farmers to information about weather and markets; in the U.S., Food Corps is teaching students how to grow and cook food, preparing them for a lifetime of healthy eating.

9. Protecting Workers: Farm and food workers across the world are fighting for better pay and working conditions. In Zimbabwe, the General Agricultural and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe (GAPWUZ), protects laborers from abuse. In the U.S., the Coalition of Immokalee Workers successfully persuaded Trader Joe’s and Chipotle to pay the premium of a penny-per-pound to Florida tomato pickers.

10. Acknowledging the Importance of Farmers: Farmers aren’t just farmers, they’re business-women and men, stewards of the land, and educators, sharing knowledge in their communities. Slow Food International works with farmers all over the world, helping recognize their importance to preserve biodiversity and culture.

11. Recognizing the Role of Governments: Nations must implement policies that give everyone access to safe, affordable, healthy food. In Ghana and Brazil, government action, including national school feeding programs and increased support for sustainable agricultural production, greatly reduced the number of hungry people.

12. Changing the Metrics: Governments, NGOs, and funders have focused on increasing production and improving yields, rather than improving nutrition and protecting the environment. Changing the metrics, and focusing more on quality, will improve public and environmental health, and livelihoods.

13. Fixing the Broken Food System: Agriculture can be the solution to some of the world’s most pressing challenges—including unemployment, obesity, and climate change. These innovations simply need more research, more investment, and ultimately more funding.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Valentine's Cocktails Courtesy of Sparkling ICE and VOGA Italia Wine

The PomBerry Sparkle from VOGA features VOGA Premium Sparkling Wine, vanilla flavored vodka, and a splash of pomegranate juice. This sophisticated concoction shows your partner that you want only the best for them. Garnished with a skewer of fresh berries, this drink looks as good as it taste.

The Frozen Strawberry Lemonade ICE from Sparkling ICE features the sparkling lemonade and fresh strawberries (with a vodka kick!), creating a perfect balance of sweet and tangy for a yummy drink for Valentine’s Day. If you have a few extra strawberries lying around feel free to dip them in some melted chocolate for dessert!

If you are looking for a dessert idea to really impress the one you love (without slaving over a stove for hours!) then this sorbet recipe is perfect. The recipe for Sparkling Blackberry Sorbet is a simple “make-ahead-of-time” dessert that will impress and delight your loved one for sure. Drizzle with warm chocolate sauce for an ultra decadent treat.

Frozen Strawberry Lemonade ICE
4 ounces of Sparkling ICE Lemonade
1 ounce of vodka
5-6 strawberries (hulled)
Berries for garnish

Add Sparkling ICE, vodka, strawberries, and 4-5 ice cubes into a blender. Pulse to get it started and then blend on high for a few seconds until a slushy consistency is reached. Pour into a chilled hurricane glass and garnish with fresh strawberries.

PomBerry Sparkle
4 ounces of VOGA Italia Premium Sparkling
1 ounce of vanilla flavored vodka
A splash of pomegranate juice
Berries and pomegranate seeds for garnish

Add VOGA Italia, vodka, and pomegranate juice to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake gently. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with pomegranate seed and fresh berries.

Sparkling Blackberry Sorbet

Yield: Approximately 2 ½ cups
Cook time: 15 minutes
Inactive chill and freeze time: 3 hours

Ingredients for the Syrup
1 cup granulated sugar
1 bottle of Blackberry Sparkling ICE (chilled)
2 (6oz.) packages of fresh blackberries
Ingredients for the Puree
1 cup sparkling ice blackberry (chilled)
1/3 cup cold water

Directions • Place 2 cups of Sparkling ICE, sugar, and blackberries in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
• Reduce the heat to a simmer. After 10 minutes, turn off the heat and let the syrup sit until it becomes room temperature.
• Pour the syrup into an airtight container and place in the refrigerator until chilled (Approximately 30 – 60 minutes).
• After the syrup has cooled scoop out the fresh blackberries from the syrup and combine with 1/3 cup of cold water in a blender. (Reserve the leftover syrup, this will be used next). Pulse the berries and water together to make a puree. This should take approximately 30 - 60 seconds.
• Strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove seeds, and then return the puree to the syrup and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
• Add the remaining cup of Blackberry Sparkling ICE to the mixture for some extra fizz, and the sorbet base is ready.
Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer instructions.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Ohio's Largest Sustainable Food Conference

Registration is now open for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 34th annual conference, Growing Opportunities, Cultivating Change. The conference will take place Saturday, February 16 and Sunday, February 17, 2013 in Granville, Ohio (Licking County).

The state’s largest sustainable food and farm conference, the event draws more than 1,100 attendees from across Ohio and the Midwest, and has sold out in advance the past three years. This year’s conference will feature keynote speakers George Siemon and Nicolette Hahn Niman; more than 90 educational workshops; two featured pre-conference events on Friday, February 15; a trade show; a fun and educational kids’ conference and child care area; locally-sourced and organic homemade meals, and Saturday evening entertainment.

“This conference will be rich with information and networking opportunities, drawing on the expertise of both nationally recognized agricultural professionals and local farmers and educators,” said OEFFA Program Director Renee Hunt. “Whether you’re a full-time farmer, backyard gardener, or local food enthusiast, this conference has much to offer you.”

Keynote Speakers
George Siemon—Presented by Northstar CafĂ© Saturday evening’s keynote address features George Siemon, one of the nation’s foremost organic agriculture advocates for nearly two decades. As Organic Valley’s CEO, Siemon, is best known for his leadership in organizing farmers and building market support for organic agriculture.

His keynote address is titled, “Organic: Changing a Broken Food System.” He will also be presenting a Saturday morning workshop, “The Cooperative Model,” where he will examine the how a cooperative model works and the opportunities they offer for farmers.

In 1988, Siemon joined a group of family farmers in Wisconsin to found the Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools (CROPP). More commonly known by its brands Organic Valley and Organic Prairie, CROPP has grown to become the largest organic farming cooperative in North America with 1,700 organic farmer-owners and 650 employees who share in the profits from their company’s $850 million in annual sales.

Siemon was instrumental in developing the national standards for organic certification; initiated Farmers Advocating for Organics, the only organic-focused granting fund in the U.S., and currently serves on the boards of directors for The Organic Center and Global Animal Partnership. In 2012, Siemon was awarded the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Growing Green Award in the “Business Leader” category, and the Social Venture Network’s Hall of Fame Impact Award in the “Environmental Evangelist” category.

Nicolette Hahn Niman—Presented by Chipotle Mexican Grill
Sunday’s keynote address, “Eating as We Farm (And Farming As We Eat),” will be provided by Nicolette Hahn Niman.

Hahn Niman is an attorney, rancher, and author of Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms. She is an accomplished author and speaker who has been featured in Time Magazine, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times. She is a regular blogger for The Atlantic, and has written for The San Francisco Chronicle, Huffington Post, Cowboys & Indians, and CHOW.

Previously, she was the senior attorney for Waterkeeper Alliance where she was in charge of the organization’s campaign to reform the concentrated livestock and poultry industry, and, before that, an attorney for the National Wildlife Federation.

She lives in Bolinas, California with her son, Miles, and her husband, Bill Niman, founder of Niman Ranch, a natural meat cooperative supplied by a network of more than 700 farmers and ranchers.

The conference will also feature more than 90 educational workshops and cooking demonstrations with topics including: livestock grazing and management, tree and vegetable grafting, cover crops, school gardens, weed and pest management, food preservation, urban agriculture, community gardens, agriculture policy, fruit and vegetable production, organic lawn care, food labeling, herbal medicine, wildlife exclusion, building soil health, poultry processing, homeschooling, product marketing and farm business management, composting, companion planting , transplanting systems, organic grain production, beekeeping, alternative energy, permaculture, and more.

In addition, the conference will offer a four part grazing workshop track. Jeff McCutchen of Ohio State University Extension and Bob Hendershot, retired from the US Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, will educate producers in the art and science of grazing management and improve their ability to successfully manage their farm’s natural resources.

The events will also offer the following featured conference and pre-conference guests:
- Troy Bishopp—Known as “The Grass Whisperer,” Bishopp has been a passionate promoter and practitioner of grazing management for more than 26 years. He raises grass-grazed dairy and grass-finished beef cattle on his family’s fifth generation New York farm and is a grassland conservation professional and free-lance agricultural writer.
- Chris Blanchard—As the owner and operator of Rock Spring Farm in Iowa since 1999, Blanchard grows 15 acres of vegetables and herbs for a 200 member community supported agriculture program, food stores, and a farmers’ market.
- Guy Jodarski, DVM—A practicing veterinarian in Wisconsin for more than 25 years, Dr. Jodarski serves as a staff veterinarian for Organic Valley’s CROPP Cooperative. He treats organic and sustainable livestock with an emphasis in dairy cattle herd health, and also works with ruminant livestock producers raising beef cattle, sheep, and goats.
- Mark Shepard—Shepard is the owner and operator of Forest Agriculture Enterprises, the Restoration Agriculture Institute, Shepard’s Hard Cyder winery, and New Forest Farm, a 106 acre perennial agriculture forest in Wisconsin. Trained in both mechanical engineering and ecology, Mark is a well-respected certified Permaculture designer and agroforestry teacher and has developed and patented equipment and processes for the cultivation, harvesting, and processing of forest derived agricultural products.

Pre-Conference Events The conference will also feature two full-day pre-conference events on Friday, February 15:

Post-Harvest Handling, Food Safety, and GAP: Making It Work on a Real Farm Farmer and food safety expert Chris Blanchard of Rock Spring Farm will teach participants how to establish or improve food safety practices. Blanchard will review post-harvest handling practices and share methods for meeting Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) documentation and record-keeping requirements in a way that flows with the work on the farm, rather than existing as a separate set of tasks and requirements.

From our Grazing Experience
Delve into the intricate art of grass farming with Troy Bishopp, and a panel of experienced graziers including Eric Grim of Grim Dairy, Gene DeBruin of DeBruin Family Dairy, Michael Putnam of Grassland Dairy, and Dough Murphy of Murphy’s Grass Farm. Participants will learn about lengthening the grazing season using a grazing chart, specific grazing and feeding strategies, and balancing ecosystem processes with business profitability. This comprehensive workshop will also cover soil health, animal nutrition, transitioning to organic production, and maximizing profitability in pasture-based systems.

Additional Features
The conference will also feature a kid’s conference offering a variety of exciting workshops for children ages 6-12; a playroom for children under 6; book signings by Nicolette Hahn Niman, Mark Shepard and The Contrary Farmer, Gene Logsdon; an exhibit hall offering an interesting array of information, products, services, and resources that relate to sustainable agriculture; a raffle; a non-denominational Sunday service; and Saturday evening entertainment, including a performance by The Back Porch Swing Band and a film screening and discussion of American Meat, presented by Chipotle Mexican Grill.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Holiday Cheer Begins with Fine Flavor Chocolate

Raising The Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate (Wilmor Publishing Corporation; October 2012) has consumers dreaming of a chocolate Christmas, but not just any chocolate. The new book is an inside look at fine chocolate products and documents the global journey from cacao gene and cocoa bean to chocolate bar and bonbon. When paired with a box of fine chocolates, Raising The Bar will help your favorite people discover the sweet truth about chocolate.

While many people around the world would consider themselves “chocoholics,” there is actually a great deal of information that consumers don’t typically know about chocolate, especially fine flavor chocolate. According to the Fine Chocolate Industry Association, here are the five ways to differentiate a fine flavor chocolate product:

1. Cacao origin and post harvest processing: Chocolate is an agricultural product whose character and flavor are dependent on genetics, climate, soil and processing practices to yield a finished product. The higher the quality and care taken along the route from bean to bar, the better the finished product will taste.
2. Chocolate manufacturing practices: Both traditional chocolate manufacturers and craft chocolate makers control the quality and flavor of their chocolate products by bean selection and methods of roasting, milling and conching.
3. Non-chocolate ingredient quality: The quality of the added ingredients in both bars and bonbons is an important component of flavor.
4. Technical expertise: A combination of passion, training and experience enable the chocolatier, craft chocolate maker or chocolate manufacturer to make the proper technical and flavor decisions that produce fine chocolate.
5. Artistry and presentation: Whether they are bars or bonbons, fine chocolate products will be well-crafted and perfectly made.

All this and more are discussed in greater detail in Raising The Bar, and craft chocolate makers featured in the book such as Theo Chocolate in Seattle and Askinosie Chocolate in Springfield, Missouri, are furthering this consumer education by offering tours to guests and leading Chocolate University programs for local high school students.

“They soaked it up,” says Askinosie Chocolate Founder Shawn Askinosie of the students who participated in his Chocolate University. “I don’t know that there has been anything more gratifying for me as a person.” Raising The Bar looks at the future of the world's finest chocolate as seen through the eyes of people like Askinosie who live chocolate every day and strive to preserve its richest, most complex and endangered forms for future generations. An ideal gift for the foodie who has everything, this book will help readers appreciate where their cocoa comes from and discern the true chocolate artisans.

About Raising The Bar:
Co-authors Pam Williams and Jim Eber educate and entertain through interviews with the world's top chocolate experts, and scientists from the Cocoa Research Unit and the USDA weigh in with the latest in genetic research. Discussions cover almost every fine flavor growing region including stories and interviews from Ecuador, Bolivia, Columbia, The Dominican Republic, Madagascar, Peru, Southeast Asia, Costa Rica, and more.

Williams has been involved in the industry since 1981 and founded Ecole Chocolat Professional School of Chocolate Arts in 2003. Most recently, she has been instrumental in promoting the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Initiative (HCP), a partnership between the Fine Chocolate Industry Association and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service to create the first-ever genotype map with a focus on flavor cacao trees. Along with Eber, a veteran writer and collaborator specializing in food and business marketing, Williams has indeed raised the bar, and our awareness, of the promises and pitfalls ahead for fine flavor chocolate, while unwrapping the possibilities for the millions and millions of us who believe that life without the very best chocolate is no life at all.

Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate (Wilmor Publishing Corporation; October 2012; Hardcover; $19.95; eBook; $9.95; ISBN: 978-0-9691921-2-1 (Print); 978-0-9691921-3-8 (eBook).