This Friday, two former Chewonki staff gave a presentation on their project, Food Cycle. Part of the presentation was a group of images showing a typical lunch for kids at public elementary schools in different countries. We saw meals from Asia, South America, and Europe. In each instance, the meals were cultural and balanced, healthy and with whole foods. We could see that most contained local ingredients; they seemed fresh, simple, and put together with care. When we came to America, the foods were extremely processed and the meal unbalanced: mostly meat, dairy, and carbohydrates. Where Japanese students ate miso soup, rice, veggies, and tea, the Americans had a corndog, mac and cheese, and whole milk. Adam and Leah started Food Cycle to change this trend. One of their ideas is that our education about food starts when we’re children choosing what to eat in the lunch line. In a state like Maine where lots of local farms make fresh, sustainable food a lunch option, kids should be learning what is good for their health and the earth at a young age. Another thing that they brought up was the government involvement in the current food available at public schools. They stated that the money needed to supply public schools with whole, family-farmed food is no more than that which the government currently spends on over-processed, industrially-farmed food. Through Food Cycle, Leah, Adam, and their team aim to connect farms with schools so that each benefit. They plan to bike across America and with sponsorship, start by donating a program to bring farm-fresh food to Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary school in Brunswick, Maine. “Cycling approximately 4,500 miles from Maine to California, riders will stop at small-scale organic farms and public schools along [their] route, documenting the emergent farm-to-school movement and other programs dedicated to school nutrition reform.” Read more about their ride at http://foodcycleus.com/?page_id=183 and their mission at http://foodcycleus.com/?page_id=89.
New Sites Page
I apologize for being a little late with my post. I have been working on the beginning of a new page, which includes sites that have changed how I think about our diet and its affects on the environment. Click on the “Sites” tab next to “Home” and “About” to view the list. The last link on the page is one I’ve just found which includes quotations and excerpts from John Robbins’s book “The Food Revolution.” I like this site because it shows us quotations from people involved in the meat industry and people opposed to it. Robbins then presents facts and information that help give background to the ideas presented in the quotations. The facts also help illustrate trends and themes in the meat industry. For me, the quotations show us the difference between what the meat industry likes to think or tell the public and the truth of the industry, well-hidden from so much of the public. The “Meet your Meat” and “45 Days: the Life and Death of a Broiler Chicken” videos found on the Sites page share footage and information on factory farms, also shedding light on the cruelties of factory farming. I will continue adding sites to this page as I find them, so please check it if you’re interested in a new place to learn.
Seafood Watch Program and Guides
I used to be part of a program at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and while there I would always be talking about Seafood Watch Guides. For seafood, there are lots of variables such as fishing practices which make supporting sustainable seafood much easier than supporting sustainable beef or pork (99% of America’s meat comes from factory farms). That said, it’s really hard to find out exactly which seafood to stay away from and which to buy. Certain types of seafood are almost always sustainably caught, while others vary widely. I don’t know too much about specifics, but I’ve heard filter-feeders like scallops are usually energy-efficient because they can filter food directly out of the water and therefore do not need to be fed wastefully. Farmed salmon, on the other hand, are usually very harmful to the coastline because they require many antibiotics and produce a lot of waste which is toxic to animals living in the surrounding water. For a guide which you can take to the supermarket or where ever you go check out http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/download.aspx There is also an app for iPhones or android, making it super convenient to carry around. The Seafood Watch Guide is a great success story for me, because I’ve seen it mentioned at the farmers’ market and at my school’s cafeteria. I think it shows how many people can find a connection between their food and the environment once it becomes more convenient apparent. Also, I think it’s a great sign that manufacturers are starting to advertise something like “Best Choice on Seafood Watch Guide” because they know many people are starting to care. The guide is very simple and has 3 different columns that list seafoods that are “Best Choices,” “Good Alternatives,” and those to “Avoid.” To learn about the program and recent news in seafood and the fishing industry, click on the title “Seafood Watch Program and Guides.” I think it is easy to generalize and say that farmed fish are great for the environment or tuna are always caught in ways that cause lots of bycatch, but this guide keeps us thinking and stops us from taking the easy way out and just buying the cheapest thing. I’m always thinking about how I boycott factory-farmed meat, but never really support family-farmed meat. It makes me very sad to think that I have to avoid meat completely because most of it is produced cruelly and wastefully. This guide gives us a chance to support what is right rather than just avoiding what is wrong. It empowers and educates the consumer. That said, we are of course placing a lot of power in this guide. While I think that Monterey Bay Aquarium is always researching and finding out new things, I also think it is important to question and stay up-to-date. Even though the truth of the meat industry has made me skeptical, I place my confidence in the aquarium’s research and information, especially because I know they are an agency with a goal to protect the oceans.
Turkeys and Sheep
I have come across this site a few times (click on “Turkeys and Sheep” to view) and I like it because it talks about all different animals we wouldn’t usually associate with factory farming. This link is specifically to the page on turkeys, because I thought it relevant for the holidays. However, there are a lot of different pages, another interesting one being the page on sheep. A lot of the stuff the page says is pretty harsh, but I agree with it and I think it suits the harshness of factory farming. That said, I know it’s very hard to make a sudden change in diet or lifestyle and I don’t think it’ll happen that everyone reading this will have a vegetarian Christmas dinner. I just know that as soon as we give more thought to that dinner, it will come to mean more. Maybe eventually it will become part of our mindset to think about how our choices affect the environment, especially where we least expect it. I don’t like the site because it’s harsh or scathing, I like it because it makes us think and gets to the heart of the problem for me: just how unnatural and forceful it is to treat animals like we do. Sheep, pigs, turkeys or cows are treated in a way that is both cruel and opposes the natural design of their bodies to force a productivity. What makes these animals different from a pet dog or cat? They are being produced to feed the world and therefore must be killed, but that doesn’t mean their lives are inherently less valuable or less worthy of our compassion. In fact, for me, the very purpose these animals serve to help us as a people makes them all the more worthy of our attention and care. That’s why I don’t sit down at Christmas to eat turkey, but instead to eat vegetables or eggs from a friend’s farm, or wild-caught salmon. I am not opposed to the idea of eating animals, I am opposed to the idea of eating animals that have suffered unnecessarily and not given the compassion they deserve. At Thanksgiving and Christmas, we give thanks for all the beautiful food we have to eat. For me, the best way to give thanks to the turkey, who has been forced to give its life for us, is to say no thanks. No thanks to cruelty. No thanks to immorality. I prefer turkeys who live in the wild, not in the harsh buildings we put them in. I prefer food from an animal whose life was given the proper attention and care. No thanks.