Tag Archives: New York Times

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.

healthier lunches in public schools

15 Oct

6235929961_7ab2fe63d7Throughout the country, many public school students are not loving their new school lunches.

Since August, public schools have been mandated to follow the new nutritional guidelines set out by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, providing more fruits and vegetables while limiting levels of fat, sodium, and calories.

Due to the calorie restrictions, protein portions are smaller, food is less cheesy, and the milk is no longer chocolate, but plain and skim.

Before this regulation, lunches had no maximum calorie limit. Now, high school lunches top out at 850 calories, for middle schoolers it’s 700 calories, and elementary students receive just 650 calories.

Many students are upset that despite smaller portions of heavier food items (like meatloaf and chicken nuggets), lunches have gone up in price, at an average of ten cents per lunch. This increase in price is to help mitigate the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as to follow the federal requirement that lunch prices incrementally rise to help pay for their overall fees.

Despite the fact that many NYC public schools have already converted to low fat milk and whole grain breads, the introduction of more fruits and vegetables has led to more waste. The apples, pears, and bags of baby carrots are often seen in the trash, uneaten.

The New York Times’s Student Opinion blog asked NYC public school kids about their new lunches. They wanted to know if these new regulations are a “lost cause” or if lunch has the potential to be both “healthy and tasty?” Reading some of their reactions, it seems like from their standpoint and despite all the media reaction, not too much has changed. Most students say that next to their greasy pizza is a small scoopful of unappetizingly bland vegetables.

One student said, “I think that a healthier school lunch program is a lost cause. It is spending money that we don’t have for a lunch with fruits and vegetables that we just throw away.” Another student declared, “I believe that the food itself isn’t the problem moreover the overall picture of American health.”

Although some students reacted positively to the changes in school lunch, most students weren’t too thrilled about the change or would prefer for their lunch to remain the same. In spite of many students’ preference to avoid eating the fresh fruits and vegetables, research has shown that children must be exposed to a vegetable ten to twelve times until they are willing to eat it on their own.

For more information about students’ reactions across the country, check out an informative article from the New York Times. To learn more, here is an insightful interview with the Department of Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack.

Perhaps the best solutions are time, teacher participation and food education. With time, we will hopefully see students trying new foods, and liking foods they never though they would. In turn, teachers can act as role models, as they do in the classroom, by creating balanced plates of their own for students to see, and with food education, children will learn why it’s important to eat well, especially at lunchtime, and change will happen, slowly but surely.

Photo courtesy of woodleywonderworks

What is the farm bill?

25 Sep

In our country, nearly 16 million jobs depend on the success of American agriculture.

Every five years, a new Farm Bill is passed. What is the farm bill? One of the most significant legislations affecting food, farming, nutrition, and land-use in the United States.

The first Farm Bill was enacted after the Great Depression with the dual goals of supporting American farmers and helping them maintain their land. The last Farm Bill was passed in 2008 and expires on September 30th of this year (that’s in 5 days!).

The Farm Bill programs have a strong influence on what food is available, how it is produced, food security, farmer livelihoods, and environmental consequences, as well as having notable international impacts. Together, these various initiatives significantly impact public health.

More than 60 percent of Farm Bill funding is allocated to food assistance programs. Since 2008, the food stamp program has doubled in cost to a pricy $80 billion a year, helping to feed almost 46 million Americans, or 1 out of every 7th person.

For more information on the proposed Farm Bill, click here. To learn about the most current state of the Farm Bill, click here. To check out John Hopkins Farm Bill Visualizer, click here.

how does your garden grow?

27 Jul

What image pops into your head when you hear the word garden?

After touring the various rooftop farms and gardens in NYC with our summer campers, we have learned that there are many alternatives to the conventional image of a garden. We are constantly in awe of the creative ways people garden and farm these days. With the advent of phones you can talk to, and cars that park themselves, these unconventional methods of growing food seem to be in line with our evolution and advancement.

Here are some creative growing ideas that we have come across lately:

  • Rooftop farms are sprouting all over our great city, and are inspiring lots of momentum in many other cities. Look out for a rooftop farm near you! This recent New York Times article provides a great overview of the projects going on at this very moment.
  • Hanging gardens are convenient for those who don’t have access to a plot of land. The photo we have highlight in our post is from our co-founder’s backyard! She is growing a plethora of vegetables for her whole family to enjoy.
  • Windowsill gardens are another fantastic way to grow vegetables. Use your windowsill to your benefit, and get planting! Check out this resource for windowsill gardening guidance.
  • Soda bottle gardens, a creative way to recycle your bottles! Take a look at this inspiring vertical wall garden concept from landscape designers in Brazil.
  • Woolly pocket gardens, a favorite in schools and backyards. You can plant all sorts of veggies and herbs in these fun pockets.
  • Wine box gardens, fantastic way to recycle wine boxes. Just go into your favorite wine shop and ask the owner if they have any extras leftover. You may be in luck!
  • Old pallet gardens, super unusual, yet functional way to grow vegetables in a small space. Vertical is the new horizontal in small spaces.

The possibilities are indeed endless!

“Let food be your medicine, and medicine your food”-Hippocrates

23 May

8148396856_ff1ac2601aFood has many therapeutic properties. It is the medicine we take three time a day, like Hippocrates alludes to in his quote.

After a two year long case, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has maintained POM Wonderful’s right to claim health benefits of its popular pomegranate juice, as long as POM “shall not make any representation, in any manner, expressly or by implication, including through the use of a product name, endorsement, depiction, illustration, trademark or trade name, about the health benefits, performance or efficacy of any covered product, unless the representation is nonmisleading.”

POM has invested millions of dollars in scientific research to confirm the health properties of pomegranate juice. However, many of their advertisements claim that pomegranate juice is a one stop cure all, and the FTC alleges that many of these claims are false and not backed up by science. Marion Nestle,  professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at NYU states, “This makes it clear why everyone should be suspicious of the results of sponsored studies.“POM-sponsored studies produce results favorable to POM.”

POM Wonderful’s chief legal officer stated in the New York Times,”We can’t make claims for treatment, prevention or cure of diseases.” The judge of the case stated, “The greater weight of the persuasive expert testimony in this case leads to the conclusion that where the product is absolutely safe, like POM Products, and where the claim or advertisement does not suggest that the product be used as a substitute for conventional medical care or treatment, then it is appropriate to favor disclosure.” The judges ruling becomes final after 30 days, and it’s looking like POM will not appeal.

Photo courtesy of le living & co