What is a GMO?, how they are created, what are the documented risks
FDA policy on GMOs and safety testing
How to avoid eating GM foods
How we can fairly easily remove GM foods from our food supply
“FRESH, The Movie” screening & discussion
Friday, March 22, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Farmland Programs Manager of the Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy (CVCC)
Each attendee receives a raffle ticket for items donated by the CVCC
FRESH celebrates the farmers, thinkers and business people across America who are re-inventing our food
system. Each has witnessed the rapid transformation of our agriculture into an industrial model, and confronted the
consequences: food contamination, environmental pollution, depletion of natural resources, and morbid obesity. Forging healthier, sustainable alternatives, they offer a practical vision for a future of our food and our planet.
Over 30 UUCA folks joined us at the first Growing Hope Food Summit in April of 2011 with our very own Suellen Roberts as a speaker and a number of UUCA folks volunteering. The Summit was aimed at starting a local food movement and the movement has been launched!
In addition to the work being done regionally due to the Growing Hope Food Summit, 2011, over the last two years, the UUCA has grown in its commitment to local food with scores of you helping with our garden and joining us in the Menu for the Future and Hungry for Change classes and over 80 of you serving hot meals in 2012. This Summit is a great way to learn more and get tapped into a regional movement!
The Growing Hope Food Summit 2013 has been designed in response to the shared values participants voiced in 2011. Locally grown, nutritious, affordable healthy foods were values that were broadly embraced by participants. In addition, an engaged community that is educated and empowered was identified as a top priority.
Please join us for the Growing Hope Food Summit 2013 concentrating on practical hands-on workshops and speakers focusing on growing, preparing, and eating healthy foods.
It is a two day summit with the premiere of the movie “What’s On Your Plate?” on Friday, April 12, 2013 – 6 pm – 8:30 pm at the Buchtel Community Learning Center and an all-day session at House of the Lord on Saturday, April 13th from 9 am to 4 pm that will include Chef Del Sroufe, Author of “Forks over Knives” Cookbook as the keynote speaker as well as local chefs offering cooking demonstrations and break-out workshop sessions on:
- Cooking Demonstration: Making the Transition to Affordable Healthy Non-Meat Meals
- Shopping for Healthy Ingredients
- Planning Healthy Affordable Meals for the Week
- Preventing & Managing Chronic Disease With Lifestyle
- Growing/Raising Food for Your Family in Your Yard, On Your Roof, Even in Your Basement!
- Creating a Successful Community Garden
- Market Gardening: Growing Enough Food to Sell, Urban Agriculture: Can We Grow & Raise a Lot of Food and Create Jobs? Season Extension: Can Ohio Grow Food All Year Long?
We Seek to Nourish Communities
Together, communities and real people can make a significant difference! We “vote” with the dollars we spend every week. Our weekly choices, in the form of purchases, are studied and analyzed by large agribusiness and food manufacturing companies to determine their future business decisions. When consumers stop buying products, systemic change happens. Remember trans fats? They are practically gone from our supermarket shelves.
This Sunday we will have a chance to reflect on and examine our weekly choices and actions around food. This spring our church community is alive with vibrant energy around the concept of Food Justice, which means different things to different people. Every one is at a different place on that journey, and there is no right or wrong place.
One of the steps our church community has taken together, as part of our Food Justice Ministries, is to endorse the Summit County Community Food Charter. We have joined with the City of Akron, Summit County Council and many other cities and townships in Summit County to take this stand. Sounds positive, but what does that really mean?
The Food Charter was crafted by a group of concerned, volunteer Summit County residents. Their interest grew out of the priorities established at the Growing Hope Food Summit 2011 and the growing global awareness about the fragility and inequities inherent in our local food systems.
The vision of the Food Charter is:
“Everyone in Summit County is able to obtain, afford and knows how to prepare nutritious food; that schools have nutritious food available for student meals; that farmers find outlets and distribution systems to market their produce; and that Summit County fosters sustainable local agriculture and supports an economically viable local food system.”
That’s a lofty vision. Again, how will that benefit our community?
The Summit County Food Policy Steering Team is suggesting concrete actions organizations and individual can take to support the Food Charter. Examples of individual actions include:
- Commit to spending a percentage of your weekly food budget on local foods
- Plant a vegetable garden
- Grow some vegetables in a container
- Start a compost pile
- Ask your grocery store to carry more local food
- Ask your child’s school to use more local foods
- Attend classes to learn more about healthy eating or growing food
- Commit to preserving a percentage of your own winter food supply
Examples of concrete actions for businesses or organizations:
- Choose healthy vending options
- Commit to offering healthy food in your food service operations
- Start a composting program for food waste
- Increase donations to food banks, free meals and food pantries
- Support/advocate for policy changes to strengthen our local food system
The Summit County Community Food Charter will come alive and benefit our community one step at a time – one individual, one family, one church, one business, one school at a time, one institution at a time. Together, our choices and actions will strengthen our local food system.
What step will you take on this journey to move us toward a more just and vibrant local food system?
For more information on the Summit County Food Policy Coalition see the website - http://summitfpc.wordpress.com/
To register for the Growing Hope Food Summit – Growing, Preparing and Eating Healthy Food on April 12 and 13 –
We Seek to Nourish Producers
Who is responsible for the food on our plates? In this global food economy, where most of us purchase most of our food rather than grow our own, it is easy to consider it just another product that may have dubious origins. But what can we do? We have to eat. And that is where the rub is, we do have to eat, all of us. We don’t have to have tennis shoes or small plastic gadgets made in factories with unsafe working conditions. We can look at those items and painlessly forgo them. It might leave a want unsatisfied, but not a basic need, like food.
We should question it. We do need to try to find out if the food that we would like to nourish ourselves and our families is coming to us at the cost of some other person’s health and welfare. Who should we consider? The producers of our food are farmers, here and abroad. They are farm workers, food processing plant workers, and food service workers. We should ask if they have fair wages, safe work and living conditions, access to health care and freedom from being exposed to dangerous chemicals and equipment, and are they paid fairly for the product that they provide? Are they exploited because of their immigration status or enslaved to provide for their families? We should know.
This is the third article in the series that looks at the areas of our food system and how we can make choices that truly nourish Consumers, Communities, Producers and the Earth. Some suggestions for you are at the bottom of this article.
The UU Church of Akron’s Immigration Group focuses on helping the local Central American immigrant and migrant community. Carol Temerson has provided the following information on thier work and the intersection with the work of Food Justice Ministry.
We offer classes (English, GED, and Citizenship), provide legal support (serve as researchers for Immigrant Worker Project legal cases), provide transportation to and from local court hearings, investigate funding sources for IWP, assist IWP in organizing documents, and provide support for social events.
As part of our classroom work, we visited agricultural workers living in farm camps in Hartville, OH. These visits opened our eyes to the conditions under which agricultural workers live, work, and learn. While the camp we were most closely associated with provided a living wage and allowed workers to come and go freely, other camps did not. Workers on some farms were kept on the property under threat of being fired or deported, some workers were required to buy all their food and other needs through the farm store, and all workers were required to pay extremely high rent on the tiny rooms where they lived on these farms. All workers, even those on the better farms, were taken advantage of in some way.
Take some time to look through the information provided by the Immigration Group regarding the link between food and farmworkers.
Links Between Food We Eat and Workers Who Provide It:
- Worker Treatment – US farmworkers face extreme poverty punctuated by substandard housing and lack of access to clean water, adequate food, healthcare, and education. Farmworkers represent the backbone of our agricultural economy. Performing some of the most demanding manual labor in any economic sector, farmworkers are also one of the least protected groups in our society.
- Food Inc site (takepart.com/foodinc)
- As we moved to an industry dominated by fast food, people demanded more food at cheaper prices. To meet this demand, companies had to cut costs by lowering wages (includes minimal job security and very little union activity) and speeding up production (workers now had to perform the same tasks again and again to increase efficiency but it also caused an huge increase in industrial accidents).
- NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) caused corn prices to drop, thus hurting the small farms with little resilience to such changes. In fact, an estimated 1.5 million farm jobs have been lost in Mexico since 1994. The trade agreement has forced small-time farmers to compete with US-subsidized corn producers. When they couldn’t, many displaced farmers and farm workers made their way to the US in search of work, some in response to active recruiting by US corporations.
- Food Inc site (takepart.com/foodinc)
- Pesticide Exposure – Pesticides are inherently toxic. They are developed and used to destroy and prevent growth or infestations of unwanted insects, plants, and other pests in agricultural, commercial, industrial, and household settings. Farmworkers face greater risks of becoming poisoned by pesticides because they work with pesticides at their greatest concentrations and strengths. Pesticide exposure causes farmworkers to suffer more chemical-related injuries and illnesses than any other workforce in the nation.
- Fair Trade (fairtradeusa.org) – Products that are fair trade come from farmers and workers who are justly compensated. They help farmers in developing countries build sustainable businesses that positively influence their communities.
Labor and Working Conditions:
- Coalition of Immokalee Workers (ciw-online.org) is a community-based organization of mainly Latino, Mayan Indian and Haitian immigrants working in low-wage jobs throughout the state of Florida. Their motto is “Consciousness + Commitment = Change”
- Organic Consumers Association (organicconsumers.org). OCA is a public interest organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability. The OCA deals with crucial issues of food safety, industrial agriculture, genetic engineering, children’s health, corporate accountability, environmental sustainability and other key topics.
- OCA has a great take action site (organicconsumers.org/action.cfm)
- United Farm Workers site (ufw.org) provides farm workers and other working people with the inspiration and tools to share in society’s bounty.
- UFW has great take action site (ufw.org/_board.php?b_code=take_action)
Food Service Workers
Food Service Workers in the United States generally make minimum wage or less. President Obama mentioned the minimum wage in his State of the Union address. Rep Donna Edwards (D-MD) reintroduced the WAGES Act the next day. This legislation would raise the minimum wage for tipped workers above the $2.13/hour it has been nationally for the past 20 years. In Ohio, the minimum cash wage for tipped employees $3.50 per hour (plus tips) to $2.93 per hour (plus tips). The typical wage after any tips in Summit County is $8.57 per hour. That is less than half of the living wage for a family with one adult and one child.
The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) has partnered with Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United to support this issue and to raise awareness. http://www.uusc.org/blog/entry/3324/the_kitchen_doors_are_swinging_open
For more information on the issues of food service workers and on how to advocate on their behalf (both in terms of our personal choices and through legislative policy), check out Behind the Kitchen Door by Saru Jayaraman.
“Sustainability is about contributing to a society that everybody benefits from, not just going organic because you don’t want to die from cancer or have a difficult pregnancy. What is a sustainable restaurant? It’s one in which as the restaurant grows, the people grow with it.”-from Behind the Kitchen Door
As our church community joins together on the path to food justice, what more can we do? Here is a list of suggestions that can relate to these areas. It is certainly not exhaustive, but might be a place to begin to think about a small change that will encourage nourishment of the PRODUCERS of your food. Please add your own suggestions in the comments. Consider if one of these will be your commitment for March 10th for UUCA’s Pathway Challenge. Stop at the Producers info station in the Fellowship Hall that day if you want to talk with others about it or are looking for other suggestions.
- Learn what fair-trade is all about.
- Replace the coffee or chocolate that you currently buy with Fair Trade designated products.
- Research working conditions of agricultural workers that pick our vegetables or fruits (i.e., tomatoes in Florida). Remove an item from your shopping list or buy that item organic or fair trade.
- Research working conditions of people who work in factory animal farms. Remove and item from your shopping list or the dairy/meat/egg item that is from a farm without these working conditions.
- Research what steps we as a church would need to take to be a group that endorses the Alliance for Fair Food (http://www.allianceforfairfood.org/org.html) Share what you learned.
- Write a letter to Wendy’s or large grocery chains to petition them to purchase tomatoes from growers using humane working conditions. (The Coalition of Immokalee http://www.ciw-online.org/action.html)
- Host a watching/discussion party for the Harvest of Shame DVD. You can get a free DVD and guide from the Student Farmworker Alliance (http://www.sfalliance.org/resources.html)
- Sign up to help other members of UUCA teach English as a Second Language in Hartville at the work camp to improve the lives of local migrant farm workers.
- When you eat out ask the manager if the workers have paid time off or health insurance, ask if they are paid more that minimum wage? Let them know that it matters to you how the workers at this restaurant are treated.
Resources: UUA Statement of Conscience 2011 – Ethical Eating: Food and Environmental Justice http://www.uua.org/statements/statements/185320.shtml
We Seek to Nourish the Earth
The Earth and consequently our food system are under intense pressure from many environmental factors. Climate change, emissions, the quest for alternative fuels, ecological degradation, biodiversity, clean and accessible water, fisheries, and animal welfare are all factors in the food system. If we seek a food supply that truly nourishes the Earth then all of these must be considered. But not individually, as the name states, it is a system.
It is very overwhelming. Really, the first step is just awareness. Seeing it for what it is and how it relates to our very intimate relationship with our own plates. Beginning to make choices that consider their effect on the planet we need to nourish us is a first step. This is the second article in the series that looks at the areas of our food system and how we can make choices that truly nourish Consumers, Communities, Producers and the Earth. Some suggestions for you are at the bottom of this article.
I cannot begin to add enough detail to all of the areas outlined above in this article to even put a dent in the issue. There is plenty of information out there. When it comes to environmental issues, I have found that UUs are well aware and trying to make a difference. I will touch on them briefly, but the point is to highlight the path to entry that environmentalists have into our Food Justice Ministry at the UU Church of Akron.
Climate change not only threatens agriculture, the way we now farm also threatens the climate. While not the only contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, nor even the greatest, agriculture accounts for a significant share of the damage: somewhere between 17 and 32 per cent of all human-induced greenhouse gases. Key drivers are emissions from fertilizer use and from cattle in confined feed operations. Atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases are already above sustainable levels and continue to rise alarmingly. Changes in temperature and the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere could have significant impacts on crop yields. The changes in the frequency and severity of droughts and floods also pose great challenges for farmers and ranchers. Meanwhile, warmer water temperatures are likely to cause the habitat ranges of many fish and shellfish species to shift, which could disrupt ecosystems.
The search for alternative energy sources is also playing havoc with our food system. The diversion of food crops to biofuels has created a great deal of volatility in the food market. Increasing demand for biofuels was estimated to account for about 30 per cent of food price rises over the period since 2008. The amount of corn diverted to biofuel has soared. In 2010 nearly 40 per cent of US corn production went into engines rather than stomachs. This type of crop has escalated the worldwide land grabs and pressure put on the land to produce at all costs, rather than in sustainable fashions. The biggest contributor, by far, to agricultural emissions is land-use change. Converting wilderness to agriculture can release large amounts of greenhouse gases, particularly in the case of forests and wetlands.
Water scarcity is growing. Salinization and pollution of water courses and bodies, and degradation of water-related ecosystems are rising. Groundwater is being pumped intensively and aquifers are becoming increasingly polluted and salinized in some coastal areas. Runoff from eroding soils is filling reservoirs, reducing hydropower and water supply.
This runoff of the topsoil, that results in water pollution and desertification, not only affects our ability to grow food, but is very often a result of the unsustainable agricultural practices that have be used intensively to deplete the nutrients in the soil over the last fifty plus years. The topsoil is turning to dust. Soil degradation is defined as “a decline in long-term productive potential” of the soil . This occurs when human activity, whether directly, or indirectly causes the soil to become less healthy by pushing production levels beyond the land’s ability to support them resulting in the land becoming less able to support plant and animal growth. There are three ways in which a soil can degrade. One way is through a physical, chemical or biological run-down that causes a reduction in plant health by depleting soil nutrients or reducing plant growth. Soil can also degrade by a reduction in mass and volume through erosion; this reduces the physical size of the soil’s ecosystem. The third way is due to soil chemicals such as soluble salts or industrial chemicals accumulating to levels that effect plant growth detrimentally . As the issue of soil degradation and what it mean to us becomes increasingly apparent, we would do well to recognize the importance of the dirt we walk on.
Increasing hybridization, monocrop agriculture and development and use of genetically modified organisms (GMO) threaten the biodiversity of our food supply. Here are some startling numbers comparing the diversity of seeds cultivated 130 years ago to those available 80 years later in 1983 in parentheses. 408 (79) types of tomato seeds, 285 (16) different cucumber varieties, 288 (17) different types of beets, 307 (12) types of sweet corn, and 341(40) varieties of squash are just some examples. The number has been considered to be rising again due to efforts of groups such as Slow Food USA helping to create demand and the food awareness movement allowing seed companies to cultivate the near lost varieties.
Animal welfare in our industrialized food production factories is not a consideration. Animals are castrated, hot-iron branded, de-beaked, de-tailed, packed in cramped cages and feedlots, and fed food that is not natural to their digestive systems which keeps them sick and necessitates prophylactic use of antibiotics, and subjected to inhumane shipping and slaughterhouse practices. Respect for them and their place in the web of our existence doesn’t come to mind.
As our church community joins together on the path to food justice, what more can we do? Here is a list of suggestions that can relate to these areas discussed above. It is certainly not exhaustive, but might be a place to begin to think about a small change that will encourage nourishment of the Earth. Please add your suggestions in the comments. Consider if one of these will be your commitment on March 10th for UUCA’s Pathway Challenge. Stop at the Earth info station in the Fellowship Hall that day if you want to talk with others about it or are looking for other suggestions.
- Create some rich soil. Start composting for yourself, a friend, or the church.
- Plan and start a small garden by yourself or with a friend.
- Plant heirloom seeds in your garden or non-traditional varieties.
- Buy pasture-raised meat, dairy or eggs from a local source.
- Learn how to cook non-traditional vegetables (move away from corn, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, ice burg lettuce, potatoes, and carrots as your go-to vegetables). Buy something you have never heard of, and follow/create a recipe to share with others.
- Recycle plastics, glass, newspapers, and other items. How hard is it to find places in your community to drop off these items? Is your town/city recycle-friendly? If not, ask your local government to change.
- Where does your water come from? Learn about your local watershed. Organize your family or group of families to do one action item that will help it, like picking up trash.
- Research local pick-your-own farms that don’t use pesticides. Commit to picking something once the produce is available. Share the results of your research so that others can prepare as well. Invite a friend to pick with you and tell how you choose that farm.
- Research and commit to one summer of using an environmentally friendly weed control on your lawn. Let others know, especially you neighbors, know what you are doing and what worked for you.
- Commit to help with the UUCA’s produce garden. From this garden we plan on creating a meal to feed the public in August. We need help in the spring with planning and planting crops, in the summer with care, maintenance and harvesting, and in the Fall with clean-up.
- Only buy sustainably harvested seafood. Use the Monterey Bay Aquarium guide to help you shop. http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/sfw_consumers.aspx?c=ln
Human impact and soil degradation: http://greenanswers.com/q/124177/nature-recreation/land-soil/how-do-humans-cause-soil-degradation-and-how-does-impact-food-s#ixzz2MDFCuiVO
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Summary Report on The State of the World’s Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture: http://www.globalpolicy.org/images/pdfs/SOLAW_EX_SUMM_WEB_EN.pdf
Agriculture and Food Supply Impacts & Adaptation: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/impacts-adaptation/agriculture.html#impacts
OXFAM GROW Campaign: http://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/growing-a-better-future-010611-en.pdf
Food justice has many paths to entry for all people. You do not have to be a gardening, local food eating, vegan, political activist that prepares healthy food for all her neighbors every Sunday. Not many people are. What we all can be is concerned and actively aware of our food system, from seed to plate. With our individual and community actions we can support and work toward a food system that truly nourishes consumers, producers, communities and the earth. That is a food system that fundamentally respects human dignity and health, animal welfare, social justice and environmental sustainability.
UUCA Food Justice Ministry is working toward bringing together many of the diverse ideas people have about a values-based food economy into real action that we can do together. This post is the first in a series of four posts where we will be exploring each area that we seek to nourish. Those areas are Consumers, Producers, Communities and The Earth.
We Seek to Nourish CONSUMERS
As we look at consumers we will consider health, access, and celebration of food in our lives.
Having access to safe, affordable, nutritious food is a basic human right. We are all consumers of food. Taking steps to educate ourselves about safe and nutritious food and then sharing that education with our family, friends and larger community will help us all to increase our awareness and connection to our food. This mindfulness can take something that is often a daily chore and turn it into something truly nourishing to our whole selves.
It may not always be enough to know what you should eat. Affordability of the food that we may know that we and our families should be eating can be difficult for many. The comparable cheap out-of-pocket cost of fast foods and nutritionally deficient foods created by large industrialized food providers creates a hurdle to some and is insurmountable for others. So called food deserts in the United States, a geographical area with little or no access to stores that offer fresh, affordable foods that are needed to maintain a healthy diet, exist in the Akron area as well. It’s important to understand that families might have difficulties finding proper foods in their neighborhoods. Knowing what to do with that food can be a struggle also. Preparing those foods without the proper equipment or skills or adjusting lifelong habits and tastes that have not included a balanced diet requires education too. The Summit Food Policy Coalition (SFPC) is working to improve food access for all Summit County residents with the Corner Store project, an OSU-funded project to encourage fresh fruits and vegetables in corner stores. On April 12-13, SFPC will be hosting the Growing Hope Food Summit that will have many educational opportunities, free of charge to community members. This is one way that our community is working together to improve and enrich the lives of its members.
Lastly, but certainly not least, is a celebratory approach to food. Food nourishes and sustains us on a basic physiological level, but it is so much more than that. It is woven through our lives intrinsically. So often food is treated as the enemy or a problem to be solved, it makes us fat, sick, tired, and the list goes on. Recognizing and celebrating exceptional food will help us to develop a relationship in which we can see good food as nourishing, life-giving, satisfying, and pleasurable. We can establish connections with people through cultural identity using food. We can link generations of people who cook, farm, eat and love to the beauty on our plates.
As our church community joins together on the path to food justice, what more can we do? Here is a list of suggestions that can relate to these areas. It is certainly not exhaustive, but might be a place to begin to think about a small change that will encourage nourishment to CONSUMERS (that’s you!). Please add your suggestions in the comments. Consider if one of these will be your commitment for March 10th for UUCA’s Pathway Challenge.
- Pick a food that you eat and spend a bit of time researching where it was made, how it was distributed, or the impact of it on workers and the earth.
- Visit a farmer’s market and talk to the farmers. Find out if you can visit their farm to see where your food comes from.
- Create at least one mindful eating experience with friends or family – shop, cook, and eat together while talking about your relationships with food.
- Say a blessing or grace before eating that acknowledges where your food came from.
- Cook with your children once per week.
- Share some of the fresh food from your garden with a food pantry or food bank.
- Look at how the foods relate to obesity and disease. Make one or more dietary changes.
- Volunteer to work at the Akron Canton Food Bank or another place that distributes free food.
- Create or join a cooking club to learn how to cook food from scratch with others
- Eat sitting down and not while doing something else (like watching TV or driving).
- Help UUCA to plan for our community hot meal program that starts later this year.
- Attend the Growing Hope Food Summit as a participant or volunteer to help.