A Good Food Fight

Keeping Food Out of the Trash Bin

As much as 40 percent of food produced in the U.S. is wasted, even as one in six Americans goes hungry. Instead of feeding people better, we are feeding the city dump. Of all types of trash, food consumes the most space in our municipal landfills, followed by plastic and paper. Rotting food then releases harmful methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

While food waste is a big problem, social entrepreneurs see a big opportunity. Around the country, they are working to reduce, recover and rethink discarded food valued at more than $160 billion a year. In the process, they are not only cutting food costs, but also creating jobs and fighting climate change.

University of Maryland College Park alumna Cam Pascual co-founded the nonprofit Food Recovery Network (FRN) after watching hundreds of pounds of food hit the trash in her campus dining hall every night. Pascual and her colleagues mobilized a volunteer network to shuttle leftovers from the university to soup kitchens, donating 200 meals a night to feed the hungry.

In the last five years, FRN has recovered more than 1 million pounds of food from 184 campuses in 42 states, proving that ingenuity and philanthropy can together fight the food waste travesty. “There are two major barriers to recovering leftover food; one is awareness, like helping businesses to understand the laws that protect them from liability,” says Pascual, the organization’s current director of innovation and operations. “The other is the labor involved. Universities are the perfect ecosystem for food recovery because college students have flexible schedules and are community service-minded, offering a ready supply of volunteers.”

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Yay for Play

Ways to Spark a Child’s Creativity

Whether it’s playing dress-up, making forts from sofa cushions or drawing pictures, creative moments can define and distinguish a happy childhood. Yet it’s not all just fun and games, according to experts. Childhood creativity, nurtured both in the classroom and at home, is crucial for developing qualities such as sound decision-making, flexible thinking and mental resiliency.

Analyzing more than 150 studies across the fields of psychology, neuroscience, education and business management, the Center for Childhood Creativity, in Sausalito, California, found many important life skills are affiliated with a creative upbringing. The resulting white paper, Inspiring a Generation to Create, underscores that rather than simply being an innate trait, creativity can be taught.

“Creativity should be an integral part of every child’s education. The research shows that we can avoid the drop in original thinking that happens as students move into early adolescence,” reports Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind.

Creativity isn’t only child’s play; parents also could do well to infuse their own lives with its discoveries and delights. “Through creativity, parents can reawaken a sense of wonder and joy, and nurture characteristics like patience,” says Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way for Parents: Raising Creative Children.

Engaging Parents

Cameron wrote the book in part to guide her own daughter, actress and film director Domenica Cameron-Scorsese, in her creative journey through motherhood. While many such works focus on art projects for kids, Cameron’s book emphasizes activities that put creative fuel in the parental tank. For example, she recommends parents take up the ritual of “morning pages”; writing three pages of stream-of-consciousness thoughts the first thing each morning.

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Just Walk

22 Minutes a Day Boosts Well-Being

Even mainstream media have picked up on the many physical and mental benefits of walking, including weight loss, reduced stress, increased energy and better sleep, and that’s only the beginning. These additional compelling effects may well catalyze us to consistently step out for a daily walk, understanding that cumulative steps count, too. For more inspiration, check out this month’s race walking at the Summer Olympics.

Walking helps heart health and diabetes. According to the U.S. Surgeon General’s Call to Action on Walking program launched last fall, the risk of heart disease and diabetes can be significantly reduced via an average of 22 minutes a day of brisk walking. “Physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, certain cancers, osteoporosis, cognitive decline and even depression,” says Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of the division of preventive medicine at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Can you imagine if there was a pill that could simultaneously have all those benefits? Everyone would be clamoring for it.”

Walking reduces anxiety and clears thinking. The results of a national survey of nearly 3,000 women between the ages of 42 and 52 published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that those that walked as part of a regular physical activity showed fewer signs of depression compared with inactive women. The more physical activity a woman logged, the less likely she was to exhibit such symptoms, suggesting that moderate-to-intense levels of exercise may help protect against mental illness. The survey further revealed that 85 percent believe walking helps reduce any present anxiety and feelings of depression, while two-thirds reported that walking stimulates their thinking.

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The Garden Cure

Natural Sanctuaries Heal Body and Spirit

Photo courtesy of The Boiron Medicinal Garden at the Rodale Institute

 

I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.
~John Muir

 

Renew

Since ancient times, gardens have been employed as a place of healing for body and spirit. Japanese healthcare providers prescribe shinrin-yoku, meaning, “walking in forests to promote health” or “forest bathing”. Its intent is to use sight, sound and smell to connect with nature through stress-reducing, meditative walks.

Based on a program created by the Morikami Japanese Gardens, in Delray Beach, Florida, Washington state’s Bloedel Reserve, on Bainbridge Island, conducts Strolls for Well-Being. Participants sign up for a free, 10-week session of 12 self-guided walks and three group meetings. A companion workbook is provided to encourage journaling on themes such as forgiveness, gratitude and joy.

“Public gardens are a safe place where people can focus and do the work,” says Erin Jennings, with Bloedel. “We see people that wish to reflect and refuel or simply be more aware and intentional in life.” With 150 acres of natural woodlands and landscaped areas, ranging from a moss garden to a bird marsh, participants can take as much time as they need.

Refresh

Bees are an integral part of any flowering garden, and Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary, in Floyd, Virginia, sustainably hosts 30 hives on six acres adjacent to a field planted with buckwheat, mustard, sunflowers and clover for its biodynamic beekeeping. An orchard on the property dovetails with an organic farm next door. Tours, talks, plant sales, food and music enhance the hospitality.

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Growing Up Empowered

Helping Kids Step into Their Best Selves

The plugged-in, stressed-out world that challenges adults can be even more difficult for teens in the throes of hormones, peer pressure and a selfie culture. Parents can help their children thrive and become empowered individuals by nurturing desirable character traits such as resourcefulness, resilience, perseverance, self-reliance, independence, empathy and social competence.

Child psychologist Michele Borba, Ed.D., of Palm Springs, California, is a former classroom teacher and the mother of three grown children who dispenses advice at MicheleBorba.com/blog.

Her main parenting focus is character education, as reflected in her latest book, Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World. “Tune in to what your kids love,” advises Borba. “Then find learning experiences that help them develop traits they need to be happy, productive adults.”

This positive parenting approach—accentuating youthful desires and strengths, instead of deficiencies and weaknesses—helps young people develop a secure footing in life. “Kids are driven by their hearts,” observes Borba. “A positive parent doesn’t do the cookie-cutter approach, as in, ‘That’s what worked for other kids in the neighborhood,’ nor even reference what the parent did as a teen.” Teens also impose upon themselves, thinking that being trendy, beautiful, rich and famous are valuable life goals. “The positive parent looks at each child as an individual, listens to what really makes them light up, and then supports that.”

Dreaming Big

Landmark Worldwide, active in 125 cities globally, is committed to the idea that people everywhere have the possibility of achieving success, fulfillment and greatness. Corporate leaders praise its programs for helping participants relate, communicate and perform well. Josselyne Herman-Saccio, a Landmark program leader in New York City, remarks, “Every one of us has a dream, yet too many of us choose our path with fear, disguised as practicality. Our kids might get the message that, ‘You don’t do your dream as your career.’” That thought can leave anyone feeling like something is missing.

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Locavore Lingo

What All the Food Labels Really Mean

Locally grown foods are more likely to have been bred for flavor and nutrition than durability and a long shelf life, says Emily Akins, outreach director for the Kansas City Food Circle, a cooperative that links residents with farmers that grow and raise organic and free-range food. An added benefit is getting to know the farmer and being able to ask the questions—and receive the answers—that are important to us.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that local food sales totaled $12 billion in 2014, up from $5 billion in 2008. They continue to grow.

Organic or Certified Organic

Consumers want to know the difference between organics and certified organics. Today’s number of U.S. certified organic operations has jumped nearly 300 percent since 2002 to more than 21,700.

Although a certified organic designation might be the preferred index of how foods are grown and raised, it is not always possible for certain foods in some climates. Sometimes there’s a tradeoff in buying organic foods in the carbon footprint of its transport to market.

According to the Sweetwater Organic Community Farm, in Tampa, Florida, “Organic refers to a specific method of growing and processing foods, and is defined as produce grown, packaged and stored without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or irradiation.”

To be considered certified organic under the Code of Federal Regulations 7 CFR Part 205, products must meet these standards:

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Mom’s Kitchen Counter Cooking School

Kids That Learn to Cook Grow Up Eating Healthier

Envision walking the supermarket aisles and picking up a favorite pasta sauce and breakfast cereal, then adding favorite fruits and vegetables to the cart. When we think about the grocery brands we buy or our go-to recipes, they tend to begin with one common thread—the influence of our mothers—our first teachers about food and cooking.

In their Project EAT study, University of Minnesota researchers found that Mom has the biggest impact on the family’s eating habits and continues to play a significant role in our food choices, brands and how we cook, even influencing our ideas about health itself by their example.

Cooking Together

Most of us learn about cooking from our mothers, and one way moms have a tremendous impact on their children is by collaborating on recipes and cooking meals together. The idea of an at-home “kitchen counter cooking school” doesn’t focus on a hard and fast course on cooking; instead, it’s a place where family members gather around the counter and cook together. This almost guarantees that meals will be healthier and more fun, affording a sense of ongoing adventure where kids can explore ingredients from around the U.S. and even the world. Consider creating a “United States of My Plate” project by preparing a recipe from each state during the summer, and then rating the recipes based on taste and flavor (startup tools are at ChooseMyPlate.gov).

Our senses are engaged during food preparation activities. While chopping red peppers for a recipe, we are noting their appearance, feeling their texture, smelling their fragrance, hearing the sounds of preparation and likely tasting some on the spot. Involving more of our senses as we explore our food makes the whole activity more enticing. It helps to adopt Julia Child’s motto: “Learn how to cook, try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless and above all, have fun.”

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