Thursday, October 7, 2010

Food Task Force

Last night in Los Angeles, an amazing thing happened. It has actually been in the works for about 30 years. As the host of Real Food Empire, I was honored to be part of the press for the unveiling of Good Food For All, a joint project of Roots of Change and the Los Angeles Food Policy Task Force. Roots of Change is a non-profit educational and legislative organization dedicated to creating a sustainable agricultural and food system here in the Golden State.The Vision of Roots of Change is "California's food system will become sustainable and lift the fortunes of the food industry, demonstrate the highest standards of stewardship, create pride of place, offer meaningful opportunities for workers in the industry and accelerate world wide demand for health and quality in everyday living." Now that's a vision I share! The Food Policy Task Force was brought together by Mayor Villaraigosa, in partnership with many individuals and organizations to work with Roots of Change to create the Good Food For All Agenda.

The basic recommendations include
1> Promoting a Good Food Economy
Build a Market For Good Food
Eliminate Hunger in Los Angeles
Ensure Equal Access to Good Food in Undeserved Communities
Grow Good Food in our Neighborhoods
Inspire and Mobilize Good Food Champions
Establish a Los Angeles Regional Food Policy Council

These lofty goals will be met with a collaboration between health care providers, city government, farmers, chefs, schools, public gardens, farmers markets and cooking classes.

When I was visiting the numerous non profit booths, the main question I heard, was "what are they doing out in the Inland Empire." Well, we are doing a lot, but it is my dream to have a similar agenda for the Inland Empire. We are after all part of the diverse and delicious "food shed" of Southern California. We are the jewel and we need to have good food for all. Good Food, means healthy affordable, fair and sustainable, available for all. The San Bernardino Farmers Market is the first certified farmers market to honor EBT machines in the Inland Empire. It is my hope to inspire and connect with those who would like to bring more "good food" to the Inland Empire.

Let me know if you are interested!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sustainable IE

When I finished Naturopathic School, I accepted a job with a "holistic psychologist" who wanted me to take over the nutritional aspect of her practice. After I planned to relocate to her Virginia office, she decided to move to Germany and asked me if I was still interested. As a graduate of German Lutheran middle and high school, my Deutsch was passable, but I was young and the prospect of living in Europe was too good to pass up. Long story short, I found out she and her network were part of the neo-faciest ilk, quite adept and articulate when it came to denying the Holocaust. Needless to say, after many arguments and much soul searching, I basically stole her car for an afternoon, moved my stuff to an international shipping company, returned the car and handed in my resignation. During one of our heated arguments, I told her, "It's not like I want the Holocaust to be true, it would be really great if it were a hoax, but I have friends with tattoos on their arms from their time at a concentration camp." She of course replied that God just told her I was not advanced enough in my spirituality to understand, and that she was not allowed to talk to me anymore. I now think she has a great future in conservative talk radio.

As I have gotten older, I have learned much from that experience, which is giving me a context as to how to understand some trends we are witnessing now. What I learned is the main reason for a push to deny the Holocaust  by certain political groups is marketing. How can you sell Fascism and right wing oppression when it's greatest accomplishment was the slaughter of six million Jews and millions of other social undesirables and opponents of the regime? You have to deny it so you can push your political agenda, because well, concentration camps are such a downer, few wish to plug into a movement that promotes them.

A great way to keep up with  trends these days is to read the back pages of the newspaper. Some seemingly un-related events that have been cropping up after page 9: Kimchi Crisis in South Korea, Aftermath of the Floods in Pakistan, Bigger River Flows. How does Kimchi in Korea relate to Floods in Pakistan and larger amounts of fresh water flowing into the oceans? Unusual weather patterns that the White House now wants to call "Global Climate Disruption." For the rest of us, we call this Global Warming. Apparently, there has been an unusual amount of rain fall in Korea spoiling the cabbage crop,  causing hoarding of the beloved Kimchi.  Scientists from UCI state that all of this is  an indication of acceleration of the global water cycle of evaporation and rainfall. This accelleration  influences the intensity of storms, floods and droughts which is straining  global food systems. We can see and feel it here in the Inland Empire. Our Forests in our local mountains are suffering terribly, and it is anyone's guess as to what the current year will bring in terms of rainfall. Some scientists say El Nino, others La Nina, I say, who-knows-nada.

And yet there are many who say that such changes in a relatively short amount of time are not really happening. In fact, they get millions of dollars each year to spew their doubt through think tanks, conservative media outlets and political action committees. There is even a California ballot initiative to halt the excellent legislation pushed by our current Govenor to curb the many chemicals that have contributed to this global drama unfolding before us, all in the name of "jobs." The mantra of the pundits and certain political camps is that all we have to do is stop regulations, then rich people will create more jobs and we can all go shopping again.

Well, the so called America that so many fervent political activists want "back" can not be sustained, it only existed at great cost to our future. The entire American economy since colonial times was built on boom and bust, and with out resources, there is no economy, no rich, no nothing really. Which brings me back to my German experience. I understand why so many want to deny Global Warming, they are like my former employer and her network. The oil based economy created a lot of power and prosperity for many, but at a great cost to human health and economic disparity for a large portion of our local and global population. When we see the devistation that comes with an oil based economy, the death of an entire ocean in the Gulf of Mexico, the wars that are being fought to secure access, the collateral damage and our maimed veterans, the instability of our economic system, the destruction of our air and land, the change in the global climate, and even the shortage of Kimchi in Korea, well the old ways of an oil based economy are a hard sell. An Oil based food system is also very unstable, when we have to truck in food from thousands of miles away, we are at the mercy of the oil companies and all that comes along with that. Better to deny the problem, blame environmentalists for killing the economy, legislate away solutions that in the end would actually create long term stability and sustained economic prosperity for all. (These solutions that certain political parties want to legislate away can actually make some people rich in the process, but you know those pesky facts, some people just want the old ways to stay regardless the cost.)

We are living in a time of great upheaval, but the prospects for the future can be quite bright,  the solutions are actually delicious and fun. It all starts with what you put into your mouth for nourishment. Local foods save energy, reduce the amount of petroleum needed, taste better and have more nutrition. When they are organically produced, the effect is even greater. Nearly 60 percent of green house emmissions are from an industrial agricultural system. The simple act of growing a garden, container, table top or otherwise can profoundly effect your own health and the health of your community as well as the globe. Shop Farmers Markets, get to know your food producers, dine at Restaurants who feature local and seasonal menu's, grow something.

Where to start? More is coming in terms of my website, but a great way to start is with the Growcology Learning Center in Riverside. Riverside is part of the Emerald City Project, encouraging cities to be the models of sustainability. Check out and for community, classes and tips on how to re-create our beautiful verdant green San Bernardino Valley for our future generations. The America I want, is an America where every person gets a chance to breathe clean air, drink clean water and eat healthy food, and have jobs that contribute to the betterment of our great nation as a whole. This is the California I want, as well as the Inland Empire I want. I do not want "back" an economy that is only good for a couple of years, that is dependent on hurting the land and people in order to grow. I do not want more smog, more boom and bust, more uncertainty.

It is time to stop denying the problem, and wake up to a delicious, clean healthy future.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sustainable Food

There is so much going on these days regarding food. I had a delightful coffee meeting with a well known food critic here in the Inland Empire who was enthusiastically telling me about restaurant I should include in my show. At the risk of sounding elitist I shared with him that the restaurant that he was encouraging me to feature was wonderful, but not sustainable. This word sustainable has quite a buzz these days. There are many ways to consider it, but how I view sustainable is a behavior or endeavor that can go the distance as they say when it comes to longevity. Not only will it be a long lived initiative, but does so in a way that does not harm the earth, exhaust resources, is renewable and is kind and just to the people involved. So how is a restaurant sustainable? Is the cuisine made from locally grown, seasonal and organic produce? Are the animals and fish featured on the menu humanely grown and harvested? And does all of this matter?

On Real Food Empire, I strive to make the connection between what we eat, our health, the health of our communities and the land that supports us. There is much controversy over laws and legislation regarding the health of our environment. Some interests say that environmental and humane laws are too expensive and will kill jobs. A recent report from the Organic Center talked about how many of the common pesticides used on conventional crops actually put the human body into a sate of pre-diabetes, by disrupting the hormones that regulate sugar and insulin metabolism. We also have a new study stating that air pollution is linked to diabetes. Animals that are grown in crowded feces riddled pens carry antibiotic resistant diseases.

Industrial Agriculture accounts for nearly two thirds of all green house gas emissions, and incorporates hundreds of tons of pesticides per year. Such emissions are know known to be linked to diabetes. Pesticides are linked linked to diabetes, this disease is being touted as the great threat of our age and may bankrupt our health system. We also know that when food items are produced locally, 45 cents of every dollar remains in the  local economy, compared with the 15 cents for items produced at a great distance. So, does buying a supper at a place where they feature only organic and locally grown produce and animal products? Actually it does. It keeps the money in the local system, reduces exposure to the chemicals that we now know are related to ill health and high medical expenditures. It also actually tastes better. So while some chains and independent restaurants may have nice menus, Real Food Empire will not disparage them, but the show wants to encourage listeners to patronize establishments that help on all levels. The good news is that here in the Inland Empire, we have many delicious choices from Farmers Markets to Restaurants to Vinyards and Breweries where we can spend our money, fill our tummies, delight our palates and support our communities with out hurting the land, water or air we depend on for life.

When you vote with your fork and food dollars, you make a difference in our world, your own health and the health of others. It is a fact!