Tag Archives: environment

summer plans

30 Jan

IMG_0004Winter is still here, but summer is not that far away!

Come get a head start on your summer plans by visiting us this Saturday at PS 321’s Summer Camp Expo to learn more about our fun-filled food & garden summer camp!

Not only will our Co-Founder and Camp Director be there to answer all of your questions, we will also be sampling our homemade camp snacks like our famous granola bars and giving out some seed packets for garden inspiration.

Our summer camp is all about food! How to grow, harvest, cook, compost, where it comes from, who is behind the scenes, how much energy it takes to get to us, and why it’s good for us. All while having fun in the sun, and enjoying the summer-time to it’s fullest.

For those who sign up for camp at the PS 321 event, we’ll give you an additional $75.00 off, along with our 10% off promotion.

See you there!

urban composting

9 Jan

photo-1What image comes to mind when you think of composting?

For many of you, composting goes hand in hand with open spaces, farms, and backyards.

So what about those folks living in urban settings, where backyards are virtually non-existant and open spaces are confined to city parks and stretches of concrete? Are they compost-exempt?

A recent article in the New York Times graciously lists some city friendly composting devices that will help connect urban dwellers with newfound composting routines, as they make strides in reducing their food waste.

A quick summary:

  • Blanco, a sleek bin embedded into your kitchen counter
  • NatureMill, “compost made easy”
  • Worm Factory 360, if you are comfortable with worms in your apartment, this ones for you!
  • Envirocycle Mini, if you do have access to outdoor space, this could be a great option
  • Vokashi, a compost pick up and drop off service

Inspired?

Check out our food & garden summer camp where we collaborate with master-composters to teach our campers the fundamentals of composting.

Transforming hospital food: a conversation with Chef Frank Caputo

17 Dec

IMG_1848During a breakout session at the Blogher 2012 conference this past August, we found ourselves in a room of health professionals discussing the current state of hospital food. As hands were raised, and points brought up, we heard from the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) that they were breaking ground on an organic farm near their hospital in the middle of the dessert!

Naturally, we approached them and exchanged information. We wanted to learn more, so we organized an interview with their Chef, Frank Caputo to discuss the birth of their inspiring farm, and the impacts it will have on their community.

Butter Beans: What is the mission of CTCA?

Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) is the home of integrative and compassionate cancer care. We never stop searching for and providing powerful and innovative therapies to heal the whole person, improve quality of life and restore hope.

Butter Beans: Why have you made healthy food one of your goals? Why are you emphasizing nutrition as an integral part of your mission?

We know that there is a correlation between good nutrition and better health. For me personally, I think the biggest demand is from our patients because they want better nutrition, they want better ingredients, the information is out there for them to see. They’re always asking us if their food is all natural or certified organic and that lends itself to how we cook. We cook from scratch and we know what’s in our food. My team and I work very closely with our Registered Dieticians in the Nutrition Department to make sure our patients have the best food available for their nutritional needs.

IMG_1724-1Butter Beans: Tell us more about the goals of your organic farm program.

One of our goals is to promote good health in general. We encourage our patients to adopt a more plant-based diet and limit their amount of red meat.

Another one of our goals is to educate our patients on nutrition, food, sources of food, and the quality of our food from the very beginning. We will introduce the philosophy of seasonal foods to our patients. They’ll be able to learn techniques on growing seasonal foods.

Our organic farm will allow us to re-localize our own food source. We are bringing the food that we use even closer to us; therefore, we’re cutting out the middle man – it’s literally coming out of the ground to the patients’ plates within minutes to hours.

Butter Beans: Have you used the farm as an educational tool in your hospital?

We plan on using the farm to educate patients on growing and planting their own produce. We plan on having harvesting seminar groups and cooking demonstrations by 2014 as well as a hands-on learning center. Additionally, the patient garden area of the organic farm will provide our patients with the therapeutic benefits of gardening.

IMG_1813Butter Beans: Have you seen a change in the way patients feel while staying in your hospital? Do you think the fresh food is making a difference?

Absolutely, all the patients are excited about the farm. They were excited about it even before anything was on paper because they’ve heard me talking about it. There’s been this growing excitement. Now that it’s coming to fruition, they’re even more excited to see it taking place.

Butter Beans: What are the reactions of patients when given your food?

They’re extremely thankful. It lends itself back to their knowledge of food and also their knowledge of what we do here specifically in the culinary department. They can’t believe this is hospital food. We are certainly not the norm. They’re not just surprised, they’re beyond surprised. They’re so happy that we take the amount of time that we do and make the investment to provide food that has a high nutritional value, looks good, tastes good and is healthy for them.

Butter Beans: What inspired you to become the executive chef for CTCA?

Initially, I have to give credit to my mentor Chef Jack Shoop who, at the time, was working as the Executive Chef at CTCA at Eastern Regional Medical Center in Philadelphia. I was unemployed and looking for a job. He tried to convince me to work in the hospital for about three months and I kept turning him down.

After a while, Chef Shoop told me, “I know you, you are ready for this mentally, physically, emotionally, this is where you’re going to grow into who you really are.” I didn’t know much about nutrition or working in a hospital, but saw this as an opportunity to help others, learn and continue my education.

What you don’t know today, you want to learn for tomorrow. Real food – we’re all going in that direction. It’s just a matter of time before we all start getting back to the roots of our food, down to the simplest ingredients. And knowing what’s in our food. We are what we eat. If you eat junk, we know that’s not the best for our bodies. If we eat food that is good with high nutritional value, we know that can only help us – and not just if you have cancer. Healthy food helps us throughout our lives.

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Butter Beans: What was it like to cook your first meals with freshly picked local organic produce from the farm?

Our first harvest will be later this winter, but cooking with produce from McClendon’s Select farms is amazing. Chef Shoop used to say, “In order for the food to smile back, you have to smile at the food. If you’re not smiling at your food, how can the food smile? Knowing you have a product that came out of the ground yesterday – how could you not smile?” That was Chef Shoop’s philosophy.

Butter Beans: What are your thoughts on the Healthy Hospital Food Initiative in NYC? Have you been seeing changes in the quality and tastiness of hospital food in other states and other hospitals?

I think it’s great that the city is providing guidelines to its hospitals that will give patients access to healthier food while they’re undergoing treatment for any illness. Hopefully this will inspire others to follow suit.

Butter Beans: What were some of the unexpected hurdles in this project?

Well, one of the main questions was how were we going to irrigate a farm in the middle of Arizona! So, we constructed a one acre irrigation lagoon that holds 2.6 million gallons of water and used the abandoned Roosevelt irrigation canal system for our water source. And even before that question, though was finding a farmer – a farmer who had the skills, knowledge and capability to produce certified organic produce. Anyone can put a farm up, but how do you make it the best farm it can be and managed by someone who truly cares?

Butter Beans: What motivates you to do your best every day?

First and foremost, our patients and the people who serve our patients motivate me to do my best every day. I try to instill that same philosophy in my team. Do better today than what you did yesterday.

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A big thank you goes out to CTCA and Chef Frank Caputo for your vision and leadership in transforming hospital food in our country. May others be inspired by your story, and follow suit!

Photos courtesy of CTCA

Rooftop gardens growing throughout NYC public schools

3 Dec

4127236249_d2d5b01d43All over New York City, farms and gardens are sprouting up on public school roofs, backyard lots and even in their front yards!

Educators and lawmakers alike are beginning to put into practice what many supporters of an edible education have been advocating for years: giving kids an opportunity to plant, grow and harvest during the school day.

In a city where most blocks are lined with a few trees or the occasional flowerbed, schoolyard gardens provide urban students firsthand contact with nature, teaching them how food grows. By getting their hands dirty, they cultivate a more evolved knowledge of what constitutes healthy, natural eating, stressing the importance of fresh produce and the lifecycle of food. The importance of garden-based learning can also be viewed as a potential interactive solution to the ongoing obesity challenge that our country faces.

According to GreenThumb, the number of school-based gardens increased exponentially in the span of two years, from 40 to over 230! GreenThumb has been an excellent source for these initiatives, providing community gardens throughout the city with programming and technical support.

On Avenue B and 5th Street in the East Village, a brand new 2,400-square-foot garden opened at the beginning of the school year. Sitting atop a red-brick building that is home to three separate public schools, the Earth School, Public School 64 and Tompkins Square Middle School, this giant rooftop educational farm was designed by Michael Arad. Arad, also the architect behind the National September 11 Memorial further downtown, was inspired to create the Fifth Street Farm after learning that his own children (former students of the school) were in awe that their crisp and juicy apples once were plucked from trees.

The Horticultural Society of New York has been working with over two dozen schools since 1980, helping them with the design, construction, and education curriculum. The Hort’s mission “is to sustain the vital connection between people and plants” as they help out with the Earth School as well as more recently with four public schools in Queens.

At P.S. 41 in Greenwich Village, the school’s newly opened 15,000-square foot garden is more than a source of fresh produce for lunch, but has really become an outdoor classroom. By teaching kids about art, science, and math through the lens of gardening, their school-day routine becomes more of a hands-on experience.

This summer, for our third year, Butter Beans will be holding our Food & Garden Camp. With a similar mindset as these schools, our goal is to give your children a unique farm-to-table experience. From July to August, we will be covering the gamut of the food cycle from sprouting seeds and harvesting fresh food from rooftop gardens, to writing our very own cookbooks. Visit our website for more information.

For another great examples of greening schools, check out this edible schoolyard in East London, where lots of growing is taking place each day (check out their “lessons in loaf” pictures, they are wonderful!), and get to know Leave It Better, an organization that is accomplishing great feats in greening our local school communities as well.

Photos courtesy of kthread and growtolearn.org

Kroger’s footprint

14 Nov

The Kroger Co., one of the country’s largest retailers, has made great strides to reduce their environmental impact, becoming a benchmark for other large corporations to follow. Since 2000, they have managed to reduce their overall in-store energy consumption by 31 percent. They have saved more than 1.47 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions–that’s the same as taking more than 290,000 cars off the road for one year!

Kroger has set this precedent by taking advantage of the latest technology available, remodeling their stores to maintain maximum green efficiency. Their building model is not only beneficial for the environment, but it also helps to reduce their managing costs. Kroger achieves their eco-friendly status by using LED lighting, skylights, motion sensors, special computer control systems to monitor energy usage, and vast improvements in their transportation methods.

Their exemplar business model is also marked by their partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay program since its 2004 launch. The SmartWay program encourages cleaner, more fuel-efficient transportation to cut back on the total sum of greenhouse gas emissions.

Since 1970, the United States has increased annual food waste by a shocking 50 percent. That means that today, Americans throw away nearly 40 percent of their food, totaling $165 billion annually. Learn more about the country’s food waste here.

Companies like the Coalition for Resource Recovery (CoRR) work to decrease this alarming amount of waste, helping businesses add to their profits by turning waste into assets. CoRR conducts pilots to be able to identify and ultimately assist in creating profitable waste diversion tactics, including a pilot that is currently happening here in New York City.

With NYC’s current waste system, almost 2.5 tons per day of paper, metal, plastic, glass, and food waste from both food and retail sectors are sent off to sit for years, undisturbed, in far away landfills. CoRR is working to locally recover the energy in waste food, using more green energy to power the city, and of course to reduce overall waste from NYC municipalities.

Other companies like Action Environmental Services and Waste Management are also working to eliminate waste throughout the country. By looking to waste-conscious brands like Dell and Hewlett-Packard as well as NYC restaurants like Northern Spy Food Co. and Franny’s, we can all work together to help reduce our annual waste and create a healthier environment for us all.

Photo courtesy of markramseymedia.com and thecorr.org