By Anna Tobin
It's hard to fathom, but the world has lost two thirds of its wildlife species in the last 50 years, according to the World Wildlife Fund. And the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization finds that today, nine species make up 66 percent of the world's total crop production. But research shows that diverse crops are more resilient to climate change, pests, and diseases, while supporting soil health and helping wildlife thrive. In an effort to protect biodiversity and the environment, chefs around the world are highlighting ingredients from their local communities.
"Diversifying our diet is key. We have to get out of this limited number of crops that we are eating," Pierre Thiam, head chef at NOK by Alara in Lagos, Nigeria tells Food Tank. "We are victims of it. Our health is suffering from it. Our planet and environment are suffering from it."
By featuring biodiversity on their menus, chefs can send a message that eating a diverse diet is good for people and the planet. Here are 18 talented chefs striving to promote biodiversity in their restaurants and communities.
1. Alex Atala, Brazil
Alex Atala, head chef at the acclaimed restaurant, D.O.M, in São Paulo, Brazil, is introducing the flavors of the Amazon to the international culinary community. He uses Brazil's vast biodiversity to create his dishes. Atala also created ATÁ, an institute that works to heal the relationship between people and food by raising awareness of and appreciation for native ingredients. ATÁ works to preserve those ingredients while supporting the people that rely on them for nourishment.
2. Peggy Chan, Hong Kong
After creating Hong Kong's plant-based restaurant, Grassroots Pantry, Peggy Chan is continuing to champion organic sourcing, biodiversity protection, and food system reform. In 2019, Chan transformed Grassroots Pantry into Nectar, a high-end dining experience that featured locally-sourced foods. She also launched The Pollen Lab, a culinary education platform on sustainable practices. She was keynote speaker at the Global Wellness Summit and was nominated for the Basque Culinary World Prize.
3. Sabyasachi Gorai, India
After discovering that many of India's Indigenous grains were wiped out in favor of Basmati rice production, Sabyasachi Gorai began his mission to preserve India's vast biodiversity. The chef and entrepreneur works specifically with millets—a grain native to India—and believes that they have a central role to play in preserving India's biodiversity. His signature recipes, which include black olive millet risotto and millet cranberry ladoo, are popularizing the ingredient as a nourishing and flavorful grain alternative.
4. Kylie Kwong, Australia
Kylie Kwong is an Australian chef, restaurateur, television presenter, and author. A third generation Chinese-Australian, she opened her first restaurant, Billy Kwong, in 2000 in a suburb of Sydney. Until its closing in 2019, the restaurant was committed to using only organic and biodynamic food. It received the inaugural sustainability award from the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide for its environmental initiatives. Kwong's goal is to educate her customers gradually, teaching them to embrace local and sustainable ingredients. She sees chefs as custodians of biodiversity and works closely with members of Australia's Indigenous community to ensure respect for the land.
5. Ali Mandhry, Kenya
Better known as Chef Ali L'artiste, Ali Mandhry is a Kenyan chef and television personality. He serves as Kenya's Chef Global Ambassador and partners with the International Fund for Agricultural Development's Recipe For Change campaign. This effort highlights the need for smallholder farms to adapt to climate impacts and protect their food security. Mandhry champions Kenya's local, plant-based ingredients including sorghum, which is known for its high protein content and low water intake.
6. Enrique Olvera, Mexico
The number of maize varieties—each with its own flavor, history, and agricultural process—in Mexico is shrinking. But Enrique Olvera, the owner of Pujol in México City, wants to change this. A passionate advocate for preserving tradition and biodiversity, Olvera wants to document the knowledge of maize and save it from disappearing. In 2017, he organized the Biodiversidad Symposium in México where chefs discussed their role in preserving biodiversity. He also works directly with Indigenous communities who grow endangered foods, featuring their products on his menu.
7. Christian Puglisi,Denmark
Christian Puglisi is a Danish chef and owner of several restaurants in Copenhagen, including the only certified organic Michelin Star restaurant, Relæ. He is an advocate for food biodiversity and founded the Farm of Ideas, a small-scale agricultural operation that provides food for Pugalisi's restaurants. The farm is a space for chefs, scientists, farmers, and entrepreneurs to gather and share ideas about sustainability and biodiversity in the culinary industry.
8. Sean Sherman, United States
The Sioux Chef is an organization created in 2014 by chef, entrepreneur, and food educator Sean Sherman. The nonprofit addresses the health and economic crises facing native communities by re-establishing traditional foodways. Prior to colonization, Indigenous communities had a thriving food system with a wide array of agrobiodiversity. Sherman works to revitalize awareness of Indigenous food systems and protect biodiverse ingredients. He is the recipient of the 2018 James Beard Award for Best American Cookbook for The Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen.
9. Duangporn "Bo" Songvisava, Thailand
Chef, environmentalist and restaurateur, Bo Songvisava opened Bo.Ian in Bangkok in 2008. The restaurant ushered in a movement toward traditional techniques in contemporary Thai cuisine while promoting the use of ethically sourced, local ingredients. It is Songvisava's mission to protect and share the culinary heritage of Thai food while using a biodiverse range of ingredients. She is also a supporter of the Slow Food movement, which focuses on safeguarding food heritage and supporting the biodiversity of local plants and animals.
10. Mariana Tejerina, Argentina
Mariana Tejerina is the head chef of Argentina's Catalino in Buenos Aires. She and her sister, Raquel Tejerina, work to strengthen food sovereignty in Argentina, asking their customers to think about where their food comes from. Argentina is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, a status that is threatened by deforestation. The Tejerina sisters encourage their customers to eat more vegetables and legumes and ensure that all animal products served at the restaurants are traceable and ethically produced.
11 and 12. Virgilio Martínez and Pía León, Peru
Martínez and León are the couple behind Central in Lima, Peru. The team at Central sources ingredients directly from Indigenous communities, traveling to the Andes and the Amazon four times a month to learn more about the array of plants and animals native to the land. The couple also created Mater Iniciativa to research and experiment with new ingredients. Martínez frequently speaks about protecting biodiversity and is a key part of the culinary community's shift toward locally-sourced cuisine.
13. Pierre Thiam, Senegal
Raised in Senegal and based in New York City, Pierre Thiam is a chef, author, and activist best known for bringing West African cuisine to the global fine-dining world. He is the executive chef at NOK by Alara in Lagos Nigeria, the signature chef at the Pullman Hotel in Dakar, Senegal, and owner of Teranga in New York City. He is also the co-founder of Yolélé Foods, a company that advocates for smallholder farmers in the Sahel by opening new markets for crops grown in Africa. He also gave a TED Talk on fonio, an ancient grain native to Senegal that he believes has the potential to transform societies in West Africa.
14. Selassie Atadika, Ghana
After seeing a lack of biodiversity in much of modern Ghanian food, Atadika made it her mission to promote what she calls New African Cuisine. She created Midunu, a nomadic private dining enterprise in Accra, Ghana that uses seasonal, local ingredients and highlights plant-based dishes. Prior to becoming a chef, Atadika spent a decade working with the United Nations in humanitarian efforts. She is an expert on sustainability, biodiversity, and African foodways, encouraging people to vote with their fork, and see the connection between politics and food.
15. Marsia Taha, Bolivia
Head chef at Gustu in La Paz, Bolivia, Marsia Taha is committed to celebrating Bolivian identity and culture through gastronomy. Gustu uses a kilometer zero philosophy, which means that every ingredient used in the restaurant is produced in the country. Taha is also the co-founder of Sabores Silvestres, an organization focused on conserving biodiversity, promoting Bolivian gastronomy, and preserving food heritage. A partner of the Wildlife Conservation Society of Bolivia, the organization gathers chefs, scientists and journalists for culinary expeditions into Bolivia's remote ecosystems. Here, they discover ingredients and exchange traditions with Indigenous communities.
16. Erik Oberholtzer, United States
Eric Oberholtzer is a chef, food activist, and social entrepreneur, as well as the co-founder of Los Angeles-based Tender Greens. The company's mission is to break stereotypes about healthy eating by providing seasonal food at affordable prices. Oberholtzer started The Spice of Life Project in partnership with Crop Trust, an international organization that works to ensure food security, conserve crop diversity, and reduce environmental harm. As a Food Forever champion, he believes that chefs have the power to introduce biodiverse ingredients into people's everyday lives in a delicious and sustainable way.
17. Conor Spacey, Ireland
Spacey is the culinary director of Foodspace Ireland, a small chain of restaurants and cafes that promote healthy eating and the use of fresh, seasonal produce. Foodspace cultivates relationships with local growers and producers who use ethical and sustainable practices. Spacey believes that increased attention on chef's can be a good thing. They can help bring attention to the issues of shrinking biodiversity and prevent ingredients from disappearing.
18. Rene Redzepi, Denmark
Rene Redzepi is the co-owner and chef of the world-renowned restaurant, Noma, in Copenhagen, Denmark. He works with a network of farmers, foragers and purveyors to source native ingredients, creating a distinctly Nordic cuisine that celebrates the land and culture of the region. He also created an app called Vild Mad (Wild Food) and built the MAD symposium, bringing together chefs, scientists and farmers to create a more sustainable food industry rooted in maintaining biodiversity and highlighting native ingredients.
Anna is a Research, Event, Advocacy and Writing Intern at Food Tank. She is currently working on her masters in digital journalism and design at the University of South Florida with a focus in food writing and media. She recently began volunteering at an urban farm in Harlem and currently lives in New York City.
Reposted with permission from Food Tank.
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By Amanda Fong
Eating produce with the seasons can help consumers access fresher, more nutritious while directly supporting their local farmers and economies.
Eating seasonally often coincides with eating locally, Jerusha Klemperer, FoodPrint director, tells Food Tank. "Local shopping and eating is more likely to be seasonal shopping and eating."
This also comes with a number of benefits. According to FoodPrint, seasonal foods can be fresher, tastier, and more nutritious than out of season produce because it is likely picked at its nutrient-dense peak, rather than harvested early and transported elsewhere.
Buying locally also helps lower consumers' carbon footprint, because there are fewer carbon emissions associated with transporting that food shorter distances.
Money spent on local food also supports local farmers and farmland and contributes to the local economy. Through farmer's markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), consumers can help local farmers.
To help everyone eat with the seasons and access local distributors, Food Tank is highlighting educational guides for consumers.
First published by the Mexican Agri-food and Fishery Information Service in collaboration with AMIS, this online resource provides an in-depth report of wheat, rice, maize, and soybeans around the world. For each crop, the report provides a table for the seasonality of planting and harvesting across two years. The report includes information on each crop as well and has a secondary resource formatted in a table.
Cuerpomente is a Spain-based health and wellness community with a website and magazine. The seasonal calendar shows what fruits and vegetables are in season by each month, and even differentiates produce that is generally in season and produce that is at its peak The calendar comes with illustrated digital graphics and a user-friendly table. Users can also visit web pages for each month that provide more information about the in-season produce and its health benefits.
BZfE, the Federal Center for Nutrition in Germany, provides a Seasonal Calendar of produce that can also be downloaded as a mobile application. The information of the foods provided also applies to most of central and northern Europe. While the website is available in German, English speakers can also find an illustrated version with translations in a drawing series here.
4. Eat Seasonably UK (United Kingdom)
The Eat Seasonably campaign, based in the United Kingdom (U.K.), is a nationwide campaign to promote the consumption of seasonal food. They offer an interactive, online calendar and free, downloadable calendar poster that contains all the seasonal information of produce in the U.K. The Eat Seasonable campaign also has online profiles of the current in-season produce and tips to help growers determine what plant that month.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization(FAO) country profile on Ethiopia's agriculture system also features a crop calendar. It includes the major types of cereals and Meher crops — those grown during the main crop season. The full agricultural profile on Ethiopia also includes data on vegetation and precipitation indicators and threats to crops. Users can search the website's country profiles for any country's agricultural data.
6. FAO's Searchable Crop Calendar Database (International)
The FAO's information tool for seed security acts as a searchable database for different crops and countries around the world. Users can search the database by crop, category of crop, or country. The results even differentiate between agro-ecological zones. The database incorporates information on 44 countries and more than 130 different types of crops. It also provides information on the sowing rates of seed and planting material and the main agricultural practices.
FoodPrint's Seasonal Food Guide draws from a database of more than 140 types of fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts, and herbs. The Guide allows users to search for produce by location in the United States time of year or food item. It also includes information about each produce item including its nutritional value, environmental impact, appearance when most ripe, and length of peak freshness. Access the Seasonal Food Guide online or via a phone app.
8. Harvest – Select the Best Produce (U.S.)
Harvest is an iPhone application that allows users to see what produce is currently in-season by inputting a location and month. It then provides a guide for selecting the freshest, ripest, healthiest, and best-tasting produce using visual, touch- or feel-based cues. Harvest also provides tips on how to best store the produce and how long it will stay fresh. Finally, the application provides estimated pesticide levels in popular fruits and vegetables.
9. El Libro Sabio de Las Frutas y Las Verduras (Spain)
The Spanish Government 's Ministerio de Agricultura, Pesca, y Alimentación, created El Libro Sabio de Las Frutas y Las Verduras, which translates to "The Wise Book of Fruits and Vegetables." This resource provides a look into 24 fruits and 29 vegetables in an easy-to-read, family-friendly format. The book provides information about the produce, its production in Spain, its nutrition, and its seasonality.
LocalHarvest provides online tools to connect people looking for local food with the farmers who produce it. Their National Directory provides a search tool that allows users to search for CSAs, local farms, farmers markets, farm stands, U-Picks, grocery co-ops, and more, by inputting their zip code. The directory contains over 40,000 entries and is used by over 7 million people each year.
11. "Por Precio y Sabor, Prefiera Frutas y Verduras de Estación" Campaign by the Chilean Government (Chile)
This health campaign, translated to "For Price and Flavor, Choose Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables," was promoted by the Ministerio de Agricultura for World Food Day. The campaign includes four graphs of of seasonal produce by geographical area of Chile: Norte Grande (Arica-Parinacota, Tarapacá and Antofagasta), Norte Chico (Atacama and Coquimbo), Central (from Valparaíso to Maule) and South (from Biobío to Magallanes).
12. SeasonEats (U.S. and U.K.)
SeasonEats is a mobile application providing seasonal data for more than 130 items of produce in all 50 U.S. states and the United Kingdom. Its design allows users to search by location and month, sort by location or produce, or view by the whole year. It is iOS supported and also has an Apple Watch App for searching on the go.
13. South Africa Seasonal Calendar (South Africa)
EatOut provides a visual infographic calendar of the seasonality of produce in South Africa. The printable calendar is beautifully illustrated and provides a month-by-month look at what produce is in season, in addition to a section dedicated to a list of produce that is in-season year-round. The guide contains 54 different types of produce grown in South Africa.
SNAP-Ed is a national grant program aimed at increasing nutrition education, social marketing, and policy, systems, and environmental change, and it can help people stretch their SNAP dollars further. The SNAP-Ed Seasonal Produce Guide provides an overview of the more commonly eaten produce sorted by season. The website allows the viewer to explore the different major fruits and vegetables through nutrition fact labels and external links to recipes, and other educational resources.
15. Union Fresh's Seasonal Charts (Thailand)
Based in the Chiang Mai Province of Thailand, Union Fresh sources and distributes traditional Thai vegetables and tropical fruits. They provide a seasonal chart for both Thai Vegetables and Tropical Fruit for viewers all over the world. The color-coded chart features produce like carambola, mangosteen, rambutan, and durian.
Maintained by the Agricultural Marketing Service, the USDA National Farmers Market Directory is designed to provide customers with updated listings of farmers markets across the U.S. The directory can be searched within an adjustable radius around the user's zip code. The directory provides farmer's market information like market locations, directions, operating times, product offerings, and accepted forms of payment. Each listing has an external link to the website.
Amanda is passionate about helping organizations drive social impact and health equity on local and international levels. After earning a Bachelor's degree in Biology from Willamette University, she taught English in Thailand at a primary school and saw up close how food moved from farms to local markets to plates. Currently, she is serving a Fulbright grant as an English Teaching Assistant in Andorra. With a background working in multicultural settings in the U.S. and abroad, Amanda hopes to bring a global lens to her writing. She plans to pursue a Master's in Public Health with an emphasis in global health and sustainability to bring change directly to communities.
Reposted with permission from Food Tank.
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Through net metering programs, homeowners who have installed solar energy systems can get utility credits for any electricity their panels generate during the day that isn't used to power home systems. These credits can be "cashed in" to offset the cost of any grid electricity used at night.
Where net metering is available, solar panels have a shorter payback period and yield a higher return on investment. Without this benefit, you only save on power bills when using solar energy directly, and surplus generation is lost unless you store it in a solar battery. However, net metering gives you the option of selling any excess electricity that is not consumed within your home.
Generally, you will see more home solar systems in places with favorable net metering laws. With this benefit, going solar becomes an attractive investment even for properties with minimal daytime consumption. Homeowners can turn their roofs into miniature power plants during the day, and that generation is subtracted from their nighttime consumption.
What Is Net Metering?
Net metering is a billing arrangement in which surplus energy production from solar panels is tracked by your electricity provider and subtracted from your monthly utility bill. When your solar power system produces more kilowatt-hours of electricity than your home is consuming, the excess generation is fed back into the grid.
For homeowners with solar panels, the benefits of net metering include higher monthly savings and a shorter payback period. Utility companies also benefit, since the excess solar electricity can be supplied to other buildings on the same electric grid.
If a power grid relies on fossil fuels, net metering also increases the environmental benefits of solar power. Even if a building does not have an adequate area for rooftop solar panels, it can reduce its emissions by using the surplus clean energy from other properties.
How Net Metering Works
There are two general ways net metering programs work:
- The surplus energy produced by your solar panels is measured by your utility company, and a credit is posted to your account that can be applied to future power bills.
- The surplus energy produced by your solar panels is measured by your home's electricity meter. Modern power meters can measure electricity flow in both directions, so they tick up when you pull from the grid at night and count down when your solar panels are producing an excess amount of electricity.
In either scenario, at the end of the billing period, you will only pay for your net consumption — the difference between total consumption and generation. This is where the term "net metering" comes from.
How Does Net Metering Affect Your Utility Bill?
Net metering makes solar power systems more valuable for homeowners, as you can "sell" any extra energy production to your utility company. However, it's important to understand how charges and credits are managed:
- You can earn credits for your surplus electricity, but utility companies will not cut you a check for the power you provide. Instead, they will subtract the credits from your power bills.
- If your net metering credit during the billing period is higher than your consumption, the difference is rolled over to the next month.
- Some power companies will roll over your credit indefinitely, but many have a yearly expiration date that resets your credit balance.
With all of this in mind, it is possible to reduce your annual electricity cost to zero. You can accumulate credit with surplus generation during the sunny summer months, and use it during winter when solar generation decreases.
You will achieve the best results when your solar power system has just the right capacity to cover your annual home consumption. Oversizing your solar array is not recommended, as you will simply accumulate a large unused credit each year. In other words, you cannot overproduce and charge your power company each month.
Some power companies will let you pick the expiration date of your annual net metering credits. If you have this option, it's wise to set the date after winter has ended. This way, you can use all the renewable energy credits you accumulated during the summer.
Is Net Metering Available Near You?
Net metering offers a valuable incentive for homeowners to switch to solar power, but these types of programs are not available everywhere. Net metering laws can change depending on where you live.
In the U.S., there are mandatory net metering laws in 38 states and Washington, D.C. Most states without a mandate have power companies that voluntarily offer the benefit in their service areas. South Dakota and Tennessee are the only two states with no version of net metering or similar programs.
If net metering is available in your area, you will be credited for your surplus energy in one of two ways:
- Net metering at retail price: You get full credit for each kilowatt-hour sent to the grid. For example, if you're charged 16 cents per kWh consumed, you'll get a credit of 16 cents per kWh exported. This type of net metering is required by law in 29 states.
- Net metering at a reduced feed-in tariff: Surplus electricity sent to the grid is credited at a lower rate. For example, you may be charged 16 cents per kWh for consumption but paid 10 cents per kWh exported. Feed-in tariffs and other alternative programs are used in 17 of the states where retail-rate net metering is not mandatory.
Note: This is just a simplified example — the exact kWh retail price and solar feed-in tariff will depend on your electricity plan.
The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) is an excellent resource if you want to learn more about net metering and other solar power incentives in your state. You can also look for information about solar incentives by visiting the official websites of your state government and utility company.
Other Financial Incentives for Going Solar
Net metering policies are one of the most effective incentives for solar power. However, there are other financial incentives that can be combined with net metering to improve your ROI:
- The federal solar tax credit lets you claim 26% of your solar installation costs as a tax deduction. For example, if your solar installation had a cost of $10,000, you can claim $2,600 on your next tax declaration. This benefit is available everywhere in the U.S.
- State tax credits may also be available depending on where you live, and they can be claimed in addition to the federal incentive.
- Solar rebates are offered by some state governments and utility companies. These are upfront cash incentives subtracted directly from the cost of your solar PV system.
In addition to seeking out solar incentives available to you, you should compare quotes from multiple installers before signing a solar contract. This will ensure you're getting the best deal available and help you avoid overpriced offers and underpriced, low-quality installations. You can start getting quotes from top solar companies near you by filling out the 30-second form below.
Frequently Asked Questions: Solar Net Metering
Why is net metering bad?
When managed correctly, net metering is beneficial for electricity consumers and power companies. There have been cases in which power grids lack the capacity to handle large amounts of power coming from homes and businesses. However, this is an infrastructure issue, not a negative aspect of net metering itself.
In places with a high percentage of homes and businesses using solar panels, surplus generation on sunny days can saturate the grid. This can be managed by modernizing the grid to handle distributed solar power more effectively with load management and energy storage systems.
How does net metering work?
With net metering, any electricity your solar panels produce that isn't used to power your home is fed into your local power grid. Your utility company will pay you for this power production through credits that can be applied to your monthly energy bills.
Can you make money net metering?
You can reduce your power bills with net metering, using surplus solar generation to compensate for your consumption when you can't generate solar power at night and on cloudy days. However, most power companies will not pay you for surplus production once your power bill has dropped to $0. Normally, that credit will be rolled over, to be used in months where your solar panels are less productive.
On very rare occasions, you may be paid for the accumulated balance over a year. However, this benefit is offered by very few electric companies and is subject to limitations.
By Danielle Nierenberg
The food system accounts for more than one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to a recent study published in Nature Food.
But with every meal, consumers have the opportunity to make climate-friendly decisions that reduce their carbon footprint. From eating seasonally to adopting a plant-forward diet, Food Tank is highlighting nine ways to eat well and support the environment.
And tune in at 2:00 p.m. EDT on April 28 for Food Tank and Compass Group's Stop Food Waste Day. Chefs, policymakers, food system experts, and more will share impactful ways that everyone can reduce food loss and food waste and support the environment. Learn more and register here.
1. Eat Up
The best foods are the ones we don't waste at all. Most of us only eat the florets from vegetables like broccoli, but the leaves can be tasty as a side dish instead of spinach; they can be roasted with the florets; or sautéed with olive oil and salt and pepper. Or Chef Haile Thomas of The Happy Org suggests making pesto of almost anything that is wilting in your refrigerator—including surprising veggies like lettuce. Blended with walnuts or pine nuts and olive oil, lettuce pesto can be a delicious spread or used on pasta. You can hear more tips like this one from the Compass Group and Food Tank Stop Food Waste Day event.
2. Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food
Locally and regionally grown foods give eaters a chance to know who grows their food and the farming practices they use. Because regional food choices are not shipped hundreds or, even, thousands of miles, they tend to be more delicious. They have the extra benefit of contributing to the local economy. Let's not forget that local and regional farmers were able to pivot during the pandemic and were able to keep many of us fed.
3. Perennial Goodness
Perennial, those that don't need to be planted from year to year like annuals, have several benefits. According to The Land Institute perennials do not require annual plowing or herbicide applications to grow so they're better for the environment. Asparagus, grapes, artichokes, rhubarb and grains like Kernza are delicious ways to incorporate perennials into your meals and there's even a beer made from Kernza!
4. Eating Seasonally
Most of us are used to getting whatever foods we want at any time of year—whether it's strawberries in November or blueberries in February. According to FoodPrint in-season produce usually tastes better. And they say that seasonal food can be more nutritious than food consumed out of season.
5. Becoming Plant-Centric
From Meatless Mondays to Veganuary, there are a lot of campaigns encouraging eaters to consume less or no meat. And while going vegan or vegetarian may not be for everyone, there are lots of benefits to eating less eat a few days week. Chefs and advocates like Dan Barber have been advocating for years to make vegetables the centers of our plates with meat used sparingly, more like a condiment.
6. Supporting BIPOC, Asian, and Women-Owned Businesses
It's no secret that the pandemic has unveiled a lot of painful truths about inequity in the food system. Now is the time to recognize businesses that have lacked support and attention. Guides from Esquire, Vice, and Spoon University can let eaters know how to support these businesses.
7. Avoiding Big Meat, Dairy, and Eggs
The Double Pyramid created by the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition highlights that foods that are the worst for human also can hurt planetary health. And industrial animal products are not only high on the pyramid, but they have a huge impact on workers—from those who work in factory farms to processing plants. Grass-fed and organic meat and dairy tend to have more Omega-3s and again, can support local economies.
8. Ditching Ultra-Processed Foods
While many of us have found comfort in cookies, chips, and other ultra-processed foods over the last year, these foods are high in fat, sodium, and sugar and low in nutrients. According to a recent study in JAMA Network Open, those of us who were under shelter-in-place orders gained about half a pound every 10 days or roughly two pounds per month. But not all processed foods are bad—canned foods, especially those made from produce from our gardens, can be a healthy and delicious way to save produce. And dehydrating and drying herbs and veggies can make our harvests last a long time.
9. Escape From the Cult of Fresh
While fresh fruits and vegetables are nutritious and delicious, overzealous buying at the grocery store or farmers market can mean that much of them go to waste. Frozen food sales, including vegetables, soared during the pandemic—they're convenient, easy to use, and because they're typically harvested and frozen at their peak, they maintain their nutritional value.
Danielle Nierenberg is the president of Food Tank and an expert on sustainable agriculture and food issues. She has written extensively on gender and population, the spread of factory farming in the developing world and innovations in sustainable agriculture.
Reposted with permission from Food Tank.
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By Jared Kaufman
Nearly one-third of the land on Earth is forested, but because of agriculture and infrastructure development, nearly 27 soccer fields' worth of forest are destroyed every minute.
Globally, forests are home to a significant majority of the world's land biodiversity and absorb billions of tons of carbon dioxide every year. Over 1.5 billion people worldwide depend directly on forests for food, shelter, and their livelihoods. In Southeast Asia, countries from Cambodia to Indonesia to the Philippines have returned 8.8 million hectares of forested land to local management, so people who live in forests can lead the protection of their homes. The Mae Tha forest community in northern Thailand, for example, has been able to address droughts and illegal logging. And in Seattle, community members are creating the Beacon Food Forest, an urban permaculture project consisting of fruit and nut trees, berry shrubs, and other edible plants to provide food for the community and rehabilitate native habitats.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) calls on "forest sector decision-makers to re-imagine forests, not just as spaces for conservation, protection or production … but also as key to the world's food systems and diets."
Food Tank is excited to highlight 19 organizations working around the world to creatively honor and restore one of Earth's most important resources.
CIFOR conducts scientific research on forest management to inform policy-making in developing nations. By providing data to help decision-makers better understand issues of concern to forestation advocates and dwellers, CIFOR facilitates effective partnerships between businesses, governments, non-governmental organizations, and citizens. Their research has led to the resolution of land conflicts in Indonesia, passage of legislation against mismanagement of the Peruvian Amazon, and enhanced women's leadership in ecosystem management in Uganda and Nicaragua.
Coastal Roots Farm, an organic farm and Jewish community education center in Encinitas, California, is home to an 8.5-acre food forest. The farm also grows vegetables, raises chickens, and creates compost—all mission-driven around education, food distribution, and Jewish values. Coastal Roots Farm also hosts an annual Food Forest Festival to celebrate Tu B'Shvat, the Jewish new year of the trees. The 2020 festival, held in February, featured music, food, and the opportunity to work on mulching and seeding projects in the food forest.
Forested is a ten-acre forest garden located in Bowie, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C. The permaculture garden works to establish agroforestry as a feasible model for alternative, local food production. Forested founders Lincoln Smith and Ben Friton engage with local resources and ecosystems to provide food that is indigenous to the Maryland region. The organization offers tours, workshops, social dinners, and garden design services.
Forest Foods connects smallholder farmers in Ethiopia's forests with markets for their products. They aim to support the entire supply chain for forest-grown foods, ranging from honey to cumin to ginger. By creating customer bases for these items around the world, Forested Foods can support local producer communities who take care of the forests and farm there sustainably—and increase consumer awareness of the need to support naturally biodiverse forests.
Health In Harmony establishes community-led solutions to deforestation through a process it calls Radical Listening: the organization asks community members what they need in order to eliminate their reliance on logging. Community members in West Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo said they needed access to high-quality, affordable health care and training on sustainable agriculture. Once Health In Harmony helped them meet those needs, 88 percent of households stopped logging and infant mortality dropped by 67 percent.
The Forests Dialogue (TFD) is a platform for multi-stakeholder dialogue on sustainable forest management. Their primary aim is to reduce global conflict over the use and protection of forest resources by providing a place for organizations to discuss challenges and collaborate on solutions. TFD, which was founded in 1998, is led by a secretariat at Yale University and overseen by a steering committee whose members represent organizations in six continents.
Located in western Jordan near the border with the West Bank, the Greening the Desert Project uses permaculture practices, including forestation, to counteract desertification. The project site includes a plant nursery, solar electricity and hot water installations, composting toilets, and planned tree- and plant-based ecosystems for local food production. A central aim of the Greening the Desert Project is to give the local population—primarily Bedouin tribes and Palestinian refugees—the tools to become food-secure and self-sufficient.
IGAF engages young people and students in Indonesia to conserve the environment and participate in sustainable agriculture projects. IGAF has developed and implemented more than 30 "eco-projects" in top universities and schools. These initiatives address environmental issues such as deforestation and forest degradation, illegal fishing, climate change, and biodiversity conservation.
Located in New Zealand, the Koanga Institute is a permaculture village with seed saving projects, heritage fruit tree collections, research projects on urban and forest gardening, and education around regenerative living. It holds nationally significant collections of New Zealand heritage food plants, with more than 800 distinct cultivars in their organic seed collection.
10. Mighty Earth
By launching global campaigns, Mighty Earth encourages major food and agriculture corporations to act more sustainably, ensure their supply chains are not contributing to deforestation, and adopt cleaner energy sources. Currently, Mighty Earth's Forests Campaign is working across three continents—in the Amazon, the Paradise Forests of Southeast Asia, and the Congo Basin—to show companies, governments, and NGOs that agriculture does not have to come at the expense of forested ecosystems. And Mighty Earth is led by people who know these issues deeply: The chairman, former Congressman Henry Waxman, wrote or sponsored both the 1990 Clean Air Act reauthorization and the Safe Drinking Water Act, as well as a number of bills to reduce emissions and increase health care access.
The Rainforest Alliance seeks to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices, and consumer behavior. Their sustainable agriculture certification program conducts supply-chain training, certification, and verification in 78 countries. It aims to protect the biodiversity of forests and waterways, reduce agrochemical use, and safeguard workers and communities.
12. Ripple Africa
Ripple Africa's tree-planting project in Malawi is one of the country's largest forestation programs. Responding to the destruction of indigenous forests to produce firewood and agricultural land, Ripple Africa has supported communities in planting over 15 million trees. They provide local farmers and community groups with resources to grow both fruit trees and quick-growing varieties to use for wood.
In addition to its 80-acre farm, the Stone Barns Center manages 3,000 acres of surrounding forests and grasslands. In partnership with the Rockefeller State Park Preserve, Stone Barns has developed a Conservation Action Plan (CAP) that uses agriculture as a means of environmental conservation. By strategically implementing livestock grazing, the organization is able to maintain its lands without mowing, add nutrients back into the soil, and increase biodiversity—which provides new habitats for birds and insects.
The Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research's Trees for Food Security (T4FS) Project is currently in its second phase in eastern Africa. T4FS worked to conduct trials and educate farmers in Rwanda, Uganda, and Ethiopia on how agroforestry could be used to improve crop yield, soil health, and water efficiency. Between 2017 and the end of 2020, the second phase of T4FS is focusing on diversifying tree species, integrating livestock management into forestry practices, and strengthening smallholder farms.
15. Trees Forever
Trees Forever encourages communities to improve their own habitats by planting trees. They provide technical advice and grant money to help cities and organizations select appropriate trees to plant, plan forestry and conservation projects, and connect people more closely with their land. Since 1989, Trees Forever has planted over 3 million trees and shrubs across Iowa and Illinois.
TTFF is a U.S.-based nonprofit that distributes fruit-bearing trees in order to feed people, create jobs, and benefit the environment. Working across 17 countries, TTFF has now expanded operations to offer manufacturing equipment, cooking classes, meal programs, and school support to foster further economic and social opportunities in the communities they serve.
In 1993, in response to food shortages, soil infertility, and forest exploitation in Cameroon, MIFACIG was founded to share knowledge about agroforestry with farmers. Originally a tree nursery, MIFACIG opened the Training and Resource Center in 2002 to formally educate youth, women, and vulnerable populations in natural resource management. While learning about sustainable tree domestication, participants are encouraged to also begin creating their own gardens, orchards, and even beehives.
ICRAF supports the development of agroforestry policies and practices to stimulate agricultural growth, raise farmers' incomes, and protect the environment across the globe. Based in Nairobi, Kenya, ICRAF is the world's largest repository of agroforestry science and information, with programs spanning Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Based in indigenous forest land in Haiti, in the province of Grand'Anse, Youthaiti is a nonprofit organization teaching young Haitians about nutrient cycling, ecological sanitation, permaculture, reforestation, and household gardening. Additionally, Youthaiti provides young Haitians space for experimentation with indigenous conservation techniques.
Reposted with permission from Food Tank.
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By Kendra Klein
Biden's election has boosted hopes that scientific integrity will be restored in the federal government. To make good on that promise, the administration will need to take action to safeguard against the risks of an entirely new type of pesticide, one developed by genetic engineers rather than chemists.
These pesticides will broadcast "gene silencing" agents across our farm fields — resulting in an open-air genetic engineering experiment. Among the concerns that scientists have raised are threats to bees and other beneficial insects essential to food production. Others have called out potential impacts on human health, including for some of our most essential frontline workers — farmworkers — and rural communities.
Farmers across the U.S. could soon fill their pesticide spray tanks with a substance known as interfering RNA (RNAi). (RNA is a molecule similar to DNA.) Insects that are exposed to it — either by eating crops sprayed with the substance or by landing on a crop and absorbing it through their bodies — would be genetically modified right there in the field. The pesticide would trigger a process inside the insects' cells to switch off or "silence" genes that are essential for survival — like those needed to make new, healthy cells — thus killing them.
At least one product has already been submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency for approval. But unless Biden's administration takes action, companies will be able to commercialize these new RNAi pesticides without submitting meaningful health or environmental risk assessments.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's pesticide rules were written fifty years ago, long before regulators could imagine a class of pesticides that could genetically modify living organisms. Perhaps most concerning is that once gene-silencing agents are released into the environment, there's no clean-up process when things go awry. Evidence shows that RNAi-related genetic modifications could be passed on for up to 80 generations in some cases.
What could go wrong? Quite a bit, according to scientific research summarized in a report from Friends of the Earth.
RNAi and the "Insect Apocalypse"
There is little reason to believe that this novel technology would be able to target only the "bad" insects and not the plethora of insects that are vital to farming, like pollinators. Bayer and other companies developing RNAi pesticides assert that they can target specific insects. But the genetic story of an ecosystem is one of interconnection — independent researchers warn that thousands of insect species have genetic sequences that are matching or similar enough that they could be unintentionally modified in a way that results in their death.
A 2017 study indicating that honeybees could be harmed by RNAi pesticides raises a red flag since we rely on pollinators for one in three bites of food we eat. Insects form the basis of the food webs that sustain all life on the planet. We are already in the midst of what scientists call an "insect apocalypse" — forty percent of insect species face extinction in coming decades. This is a loss so severe that it could cause a "catastrophic collapse of nature's ecosystems" according to leading researchers.
It's not just insects that may be harmed. While there are gaping holes in the research about potential human health impacts, what we do know raises concerns. Research indicates that naturally occurring RNAi that we consume in our food could regulate genes in our bodies. This suggests that synthetic RNAi could affect our gene expression, causing unforeseen problems. And medical research investigating therapeutic uses of RNAi has been hampered because some participants in clinical trials have experienced adverse immune reactions in their bodies.
Entrenching a Failed Paradigm
The pesticide industry is pitching RNAi pesticides as a solution to a problem the industry itself created: weed and pest resistance. As Rachel Carson warned in Silent Spring, her groundbreaking book about pesticides in the 1960s, our "relentless war" on insect life will inevitably fail because nature "fights back." Indeed, over 540 species of insects and over 360 types of weeds have evolved to resist the deadly effects of commonly used pesticides. Despite drastic and costly increases in pesticide use, some analyses show that farmers are losing more of their crops to pests today than they did in the 1940s.
It is foolish to continue down this same path and expect a different outcome. Research already shows the potential for pests to develop resistance to RNAi pesticides.
But pesticide giants like Bayer and Syngenta need new products to sell. A significant portion of their income is tied to pesticides that pose serious hazards to health and the environment. And as the scientific evidence mounts, the industry is facing increasing regulatory, legal, and market pressures.
Not only could RNAi pesticides provide a lucrative new suite of products, companies appear to be using them to extend their ownership over nature in an unprecedented way. Manufacturers are filing patents that claim property rights to the organisms exposed to RNAi pesticides as well as to their progeny.
Farming With Nature — a True Solution
The science shows clearly that pesticide-intensive agriculture is a disastrous dead end. Decades of data point to the same conclusion: we must rapidly shift to ecological farming methods in order to continue to produce food for generations to come.
Ecological farming offers a true solution to pest management with additional benefits. Practices like cover cropping, composting, and rotating crops build healthy soils that strengthen plants' defenses against pests and fungi while disrupting pest cycles and fostering biodiversity. These same methods, which underpin the success of organic farming, are also the lynchpins of regenerative agriculture, the idea that farmland can serve as a carbon sink.
Follow the Science
Biden has already signaled that he is likely to shy away from making the bold changes we need by appointing Tom Vilsack as head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
But as he rebuilds the scientific backbone of the federal government, advocates hope that he will take steps to update our decades-old pesticide regulations, such as those outlined in this recently introduced bill. In addition, specific criteria need to be added to ensure a science-based approach to regulating RNAi pesticides. Risk assessments of this novel technology should include genome analyses of beneficial organisms in the regions where they will be sprayed to see if bees and other critical species could be harmed, assessments of the hereditary impacts across generations of organisms, evaluations of how long the pesticides will remain active in ecosystems, and rigorous toxicity analysis to understand potential impacts on human health.
If Biden's EPA does not take these measures, we will soon embark on an open-air genetic experiment, the consequences of which may be felt for generations to come.
Reposted with permission from Food Tank.
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By Amy Martin
Uneaten food has dire consequences for the planet: decomposing waste releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas. According to the UN, if food waste was its own country, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gas in the world, after the United States and China.
And yet, a recent Census Bureau survey finds that 1 in 8 Americans is struggling to secure reliable, nutritious food.
"There's no shortage of food," Regina Anderson, Executive Director of the Food Recovery Network, tells Food Tank. That has never been the case in America—we have so much food. We can throw most of it—almost all of it—away, and still have enough food to feed everybody. It's just a distribution issue."
Fortunately, innovative organizations are finding ways to recover and redistribute food to people in need. Food Tank highlights 17 of these groups below.
And to learn more about organizations fighting food waste in your neighborhood, follow the link to Sustainable America's food rescue directory.
1. Aloha Harvest, Hawai'i, United States
One in 5 Hawai'ians relies on food pantries for assistance—yet 237,000 tons of quality food is wasted each year. Aloha Harvest—the state's largest food waste nonprofit—aims to bridge that gap by picking up excess food from donors and delivering it to food relief organizations across O'ahu. Since 1999, the group has rescued and distributed nearly 11 million kilograms (24 million pounds) of food.
2. City Harvest, New York, United States
Each day, City Harvest deploys 26 refrigerated trucks to pick up food from nearly 2,500 farms, restaurants, grocery stores, and manufacturers, then delivers that food to hundreds of soup kitchens, food pantries, and community food programs. The organization rescues nearly 136,000 kilograms (300,000 pounds) of food every day and has delivered more than 385 million kilograms (850 million pounds) to food-insecure New Yorkers since 1982.
3. Dreaming Out Loud, District of Columbia, United States
Dreaming Out Loud (DOL) aims to improve food access and create economic opportunities for at-risk District residents by distributing food from local farms. This summer, DOL offered a weekly CSA called the Black Farm Bag, composed entirely of produce sourced from Black farmers. The organization has coordinated, produced, and distributed more than 300,000 meals and thousands of kilograms of groceries across DC to date.
4. Food Forward, California, United States
Food Forward was conceived when founder Rick Nahmias stumbled upon wasted fruit on the sidewalk. The nonprofit now rescues over 226,000 kilograms (500,000 pounds) of surplus fruits and vegetables each week fresh from trees, farmers markets, and the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market. Food Forward donates 100 percent of its harvest to more than 1,800 hunger relief groups throughout Southern California. Over the last 11 years, the organization has rescued more than 400 million servings of fresh produce.
5. Food Recovery Network, United States
The student-led Food Recovery Network unites volunteers to collect surplus food from college campuses and deliver it directly to local soup kitchens and shelters. Food Recovery Network has launched 230 chapters since 2011, donated 3.2 million meals, and prevented nearly 3.4 million kilograms (7.4 million pounds) of carbon emissions.
6. Forgotten Harvest, Michigan, United States
Five days a week, Forgotten Harvest delivers more than 62,500 kilograms (138,000 pounds) of surplus food to charities in greater Detroit. So far this year, Forgotten Harvest volunteers have fulfilled more than 54,000 hours of service, and the group has redistributed roughly 21 million kilograms (46 million pounds) of food. Forgotten Harvest also grows fresh produce for those in need at its own Forgotten Harvest Farms.
7. Hands for Hunger, Nassau, The Bahamas
Hands for Hunger was founded by Bahamian students in 2008. The organization collects excess perishable and prepared foods from hospitality industry businesses, farms, and individuals, and redistributes it to soup kitchens, youth programs, rehabilitation centers, and shelters. The group also offers "Hunger Huddle" classes to teach students about advocacy, food-raising, and fundraising.
8. OzHarvest, Australia
Founder Ronni Kahn AO started OzHarvest with a single van in 2004, when she delivered 4,000 meals in the first month. Today, OzHarvest rescues more than 180 tons of food each week from more than 3,500 commercial donors across the country. The organization recently opened the country's first rescued food supermarket in Sydney, which operates by a "take what you need, give if you can" philosophy.
9. The Real Junk Food Project York, United Kingdom
The Real Junk Food Project (TRJFP) intercepts surplus food from supermarkets, restaurants, wholesalers, food banks, and food photographers, and redistributes it to schools, organizations, and individuals in need. TRJFP also redistributes food through its catering service and "pay-as-you-feel" Sharehouse Supermarkets. Since 2013, the program has rescued the equivalent of 14.3 million meals.
10. ReFED, United States
ReFED is a network of business, nonprofit, and government leaders using data to discover new ways to fight food waste. ReFED has identified 27 points of the food chain where waste can be reduced: first through prevention—like standardizing date labeling and educating consumers—then recovery—like redistributing food to people in need—then recycling—such as converting would-be wasted food into energy and animal feed. By implementing these solutions, the team projects that 20 percent of food waste can be reduced over the next decade.
11. Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, United States
Rescuing Leftover Cuisine picks up excess food from businesses and drives it to homeless shelters and soup kitchens across 16 cities, including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, New Orleans, and New York. The organization has served more than 3.6 million meals so far. A US$5 donation to Rescuing Leftover Cuisine can save 22 kilograms (50 pounds) of food.
12. Rethink Food, New York, United States
Rethink Food partners with restaurants and chefs to feed food insecure communities in New York City. More than 35 "Rethink certified" restaurants have committed to incorporating surplus food into their meals. The organization also operates Rethink Café, a donation-based restaurant that invites "anyone and everyone" to enjoy nutritious, dignified meals for a suggested US$5 donation. Rethink has invested more than US$10 million in local communities and provided more than 2 million nutritious meals.
13. Second Harvest, Canada
Second Harvest is Canada's largest food rescue organization. The group recovers unsold food from farms and restaurants, and redistributes it to more than 1,000 social service organizations. Second Harvest rescues enough food to provide 43,000 meals each day. Since 1985, it has rescued more than 70 million kilograms (155 million pounds) of unsold food.
14. Sesc Mesa Brasil, Brazil
Sesc Mesa Brasil is a national network of food banks that collect surplus food from rural producers, retailers, food companies, and more, then distribute it to institutions serving Brazilians afflicted by hunger, addiction, and homelessness. Mesa Brasil also mobilizes to serve those affected by humanitarian crises. The organization brings together professionals, volunteers, and beneficiaries for conversations on nutrition and social care.
15. The Felix Project, London, England
The Felix Project collects fresh fruit and vegetables, baked goods, meat, and fish from more than 450 supermarkets, wholesalers, farms, and restaurants. The organization's workers then sort and deliver foods to more than 400 charities, schools, and holiday programs. The Felix Project has provided food for 14 million meals since 2016.
16. Tkiyet Um Ali, Jordan
Tkiyet Um Ali manages multiple hunger-fighting initiatives across Jordan. Through the organization's "Aber Sabeel" program in Amman, volunteers serve hot, calorically-dense lunches to 400 people each day. Tkiyet Um Ali also delivers food parcels to more than 18,000 families each month. Since 2003, the organization has distributed more than 2 million food parcels, provided more than 2.6 million lunches, and performed more than 237,000 animal sacrifices for Jordanians in need.
17. White Pony Express, California, United States
The San Francisco-based White Pony Express recovers an estimated 6,800 kilograms (15,000 pounds) of high-quality food per day, 364 days a year. The group lets donors pre-schedule donations, which are then picked up by volunteers and brought to more than 70 local charities. White Pony Express hopes their volunteer-based "circle of giving" will serve as a model for other communities.
Reposted with permission from Food Tank.
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By Amanda Fong
Food Tank is highlighting 26 books that help show young people that food can be a universal language. These stories illuminate the ways that food is used to show love, bring together communities, pass on traditions, and teach lessons. And their authors show that no matter a person's background and culture, nutritious food shared with loved ones can help bring anyone together.
These 26 children's books celebrate food, diversity, the love of cooking, and community from seed to fork:
1. A Day with Yayah by Nicola Campbell, illustrated by Julie Flett
Set in the Nicola Valley in British Columbia, this book follows Yayah, a First Nations grandmother, passing down her knowledge of plant life to her grandchildren. As Nikki, Jamesie, and Lenny forage for wild potatoes, rhubarb, celery, and lightning mushrooms, Yayah teaches them words in Nlaka'pamux, the endangered language of the Indigenous people of the Nicola Valley. Readers can learn alongside the characters with a pronunciation guide and glossary.
2. AGRIman AGventures by WHYFARM and Alpha Sennon
AGRIman is the world's first food security and nutrition superhero. In this educational comic, AGRIman is joined by PhotosyntheSista to inspire future feeders and build capacity and knowledge in agriculture. The superhero was developed by Alpha Sennon, the founder of We Help You-th FARM (WHYFARM), a non-profit from Trinidad and Tobago fighting food insecurity. Readers can access the comic the United States as an ebook or watch it as a motion comic.
3. Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao by Kat Zhang illustrated by Charlene Chua
Little, fearless Amy Wu is learning to make traditional Chinese bao with her family. Making bao takes skill to fill the dough and pinch it together, but Amy's bao keep coming out all wrong! Follow Amy as she learns to use creativity to problem solve while cooking. Kat Zhang even includes Amy's perfect bao recipe at the end!
4. Berry Magic by Betty Huffmon, illustrated by Teri Sloat
Yup'ik Eskimo elder, Betty Huffmon, brings this folktale about the origin of berries – traditionally told aloud to Yup'ik children – to life with author and illustrator, Teri Sloat. Berry Magic follows Anana as she uses magic songs to grow juicy blueberries, cranberries, salmonberries, and raspberries for the Fall Festival and to make agutak (Eskimo cream). The book features illustrations depicting Indigenous culture, like dance fans made of reindeer hair and snowy owl feathers, and an agutak recipe at the end.
5. Bilal Cooks Daal by Aisha Saeed, illustrated by Anoosha Syed
In this award-winning book, six-year-old Bilal wants to share his favorite dish, daal, with his friends. They have never tried daal before, and Bilal helps his dad cook while worrying if they will like it. Author Aisha Saeed showcases the value of patience, teamwork, community, and sharing in this picture book featuring the South Asian, slow-cooked lentil dish.
6. Cora Cooks Pancit by By Dorina Lazo Gilmore, illustrated by Kristi Valiant
In Cora Cooks Pancit, Dorina Lazo Gilmore celebrates the classic, Filipino noodle dish, pancit. Cora's favorite dish is pancit and gets her chance to be Mama's sous chef for the first time. Readers can follow along as Cora helps shred the chicken, soak the noodles, and stir the pot while sneaking some nibbles to taste test. This book highlights the love for a traditional family dish and the warmth between a mother and daughter cooking it.
7. Dear Tomato: An International Crop of Food and Agriculture Poems by Carol-Ann Hoyte
Carol-Ann Hoyte brings together an anthology of poems by thirty-four different authors from seven different countries, telling the stories of food through haikus, free verse, and more. The fifty-one poem collection introduces children to a fresh view of where their food comes from on all parts of the "field to fork" journey.
8. Dim Sum for Everyone! by Grace Lin
In this book, Dim Sum for Everyone! celebrates the cultural custom of eating dim sum, which translates to "little hearts" in English. The story follows a young girl and her family as they visit a bustling dim sum restaurant. As they pick their favorite little dishes from the steaming trolleys filled with dumplings, cakes, buns, and tarts, the family makes sure to share each dish so everyone gets a little bite of everything in classic dim sum tradition.
9. Dumpling Soup by Jama Kim Rattigan, illustrated by Lillian Hsu-Flanders
Seven-year-old Marisa, an Asian American girl, learns to make dumplings for her family's New Year's celebration with her grandmother. Jama Kim Rattigan based this book on her experiences growing up celebrating New Year's Day in Hawai'i, which she realized was much different from celebrations on the mainland. In Hawai'i, Rattigan shows that New Year's is a family-oriented holiday, a time for enjoying large quantities of food and basking in cultural tradition.
10. From Asparagus to Zucchini Cookbook by Madison Area and the Community Supported Agriculture Coalition
This guide is a nationally renowned resource for families who want to cook farm-fresh, seasonal produce. Filled with 420 recipes and information on more than 50 vegetables and herbs, this Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) designed resource promotes the consumption of fresh, local and sustainable foods.
11. Food Fight! A Mouthwatering History of Who Ate What and Why Through the Ages by Tanya Steel
In Food Fight, Tanya Steel uses food to explore history in a fun and engaging way. Readers can learn the origin story of M&Ms, the delicacies found at feasts in the Middle Ages, and much more. The book also includes 30 recipes tested and approved by young eaters.
12. Harvesting Friends / Cosechando Amigos by Kathleen Contreras
This bilingual book shows how a community garden can bring a community together and grow more than just fruits and vegetables. After making a deal, Lupe and Antonio tend a garden together, and bond over tomatoes, watermelon, squash, beans and corn. Over time, more and more neighbors become interested in gardening too. The book also includes easy recipes for young readers to try.
13. How Did That Get in My Lunchbox? by Chris Butterworth, illustrated by Lucia Gaggiotti
In Chris Butterworth's book, children can learn about the journey of different lunchbox items as they go from farm to fork. From planting wheat to mixing dough, climbing trees to machine-squeezing fruit, picking cocoa pods to stirring a vat of melted bliss, this book provides an accessible look into food production. It also includes health tips and a peek at basic food groups.
14. How to Feed Your Parents by Ryan Miller, illustrated by Hatem Aly
In this funny twist, the tables are turned and the parents are the picky eaters in this bi-racial family. Adventurous Matilda Macaroni loves trying new foods, like her grandma's jambalaya and friend's sushi. But her parents will only eat pepperoni pizza, hamburgers, and takeout noodles. Matilda sets out to secretly learn to cook with new flavors and open her parents' minds to trying new foods.
15. In the Garden with Dr. Carver by Susan Grigsby, illustrated by Nicole Tadsgell
Susan Grigsby shares Dr. George Washington Carver's story by following a young school girl who meets and learns from him. Set in rural Alabama in the early 1900s, Sally and her community are struggling to grow food in soil depleted by cotton production. Dr. Carver, an African American agricultural scientist, arrives to teach them how to restore the soil and respect the balance of nature. He also prepares a delicious lunch made of plants to celebrate the food they can grow..
16. It's Disgusting and We Ate It by James Solheim, illustrated by Eric Brace
This book is a funny collection of true facts of food dishes from around the world and throughout history. Solheim shares historical culinary creations, like roasted spiders and Garbage Stew, that were once eaten around the world or continue to be eaten today in a light-hearted and fascinating way. What is gross to one person may be a delicious treat to another, and this book teaches children to keep an open mind about different communities' dishes in this world food tour.
17. Let's Cook with Fruits & Vegetables / Vamos a Cocinar con Frutas y Verduras by Gayle Schachne and Northeast Valley Health Corporation WIC Program
This cookbook was created with families using the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) ingredients in mind. Many recipes are designed to encompass WIC ingredients, and all of the recipes are meant to be affordable, simple, and delicious. The first half of the book is in English, and the second half is in Spanish. Recipes were also written and tested by WIC participants and WIC dietitians.
18. Maddi's Fridge by Lois Brandt, illustrated by Vin Vogel
In this award-winning story, Lois Brandt shines a light on childhood hunger and food insecurity in an inspiring, child-friendly approach. Maddi and Sofia live in the same neighborhood and are best friends. But Sofia discovers that while her fridge is full of milk and vegetables, Maddi's only has one, small container of milk. Maddi explains that her fridge is always like this, and even though Sofia promises not to tell, she sets out to figure out a way to help her friend. This is a great resource to introduce younger readers to a serious issue, and also show children that they can do something about it.
19. Red Beans & Rice by Jeanette Weiland, illustrated by Roberta Van Zandt Loflin
Red Beans & Rice follows Magnolia Rose and her friends as they visit Grandma Bee and Grandpa Pepper's farm in rural Louisiana. Here, the children discover their outdoor playgrounds are the source of the flavorful ingredients used to make their favorite Louisiana dishes: Red Beans & Rice, Strawberry Shortcake, Seafood Po-Boys, Pecan Pralines, and more. Weiland weaves in New Orleans's food culture in this farm to table story.
20. Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman
In this critically acclaimed novella, Paul Fleischman uses thirteen narrators to tell the story of the founding and first year of a community garden in an immigrant neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio. The characters come from a variety of ethnic groups and ages. From their point of view, each narrator shows how the empty lot becomes a vibrant community garden and shares the transformations they are each going through in life. Seedfolks has inspired countless school and community gardens and can also be performed as a play using Fleischman's school-friendly adaption.
21. Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora
Oge Mora was inspired by the strong women role models in her life for her story about a grandmother's love and community. Omu, the Igbo word for queen, has made a stew that smells so good the entire neighborhood comes knocking on her door to try some. She gives all of it away by dinnertime, but the community shows their gratitude in this story of using food as a means of sharing, diversity, and inclusion.
22. The Bagel King by Andrew Larsen, illustrated by Sandy Nichols
In this book, Andrew Larsen features a special bond between a grandfather and his grandson, and their weekly tradition of eating bagels on Sunday. When his grandfather cannot bring bagels one weekend, Eli sets out to find a way to still share their favorite treat. The Bagel King highlights how a young child can take responsibility and, with a little initiative, help someone in need.
23. The Lunch Thief by Anne C. Bromley, illustrated by Robert Casilla
When a new classmate steals Rafael's lunch, he initially feels angry. But inspired by his mother's advice, he decides to try to understand why it happened. Later, Rafael sees his classmate carrying a bundle of laundry into a motel room, and his mom explains that his family might be one of the families who lost their homes in the recent wildfires. The next day, Rafael invites his classmate to share his lunch in this lesson of empathy and understanding.
24. Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner
In this book, Kate Messner vividly paints two different worlds in the garden. Up in the garden, there is an abundance of green in leaves, sprouts, vegetables, and fruit. But down in the dirt exists a busy world filled with all the animals that make a garden their home. This story will teach children about the different parts of an ecosystem, even the ones they might not be able to see.
25. We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade
Inspired by Standing Rock and all Indigenous Peoples fighting for clean water, Carole Lindstrom, who is Ojibwe, issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth's water from harm and corruption. In this book, a young girl stands to defend Earth's most precious resource from a black snake. Water connects everyone, and her courage teaches children that anyone can be a water protector.
26. Yoko by Rosemary Wells
Rosemary Wells shares a heartwarming story of open-mindedness when trying new foods from different cultures. Yoko the kitten is teased by her classmates when her mom packs her sushi for lunch. They think the fish and seaweed are "yucky." But Yoko's teacher has an idea. On "International Food Day" at school, Yoko brings sushi again and makes a friend who is willing to try it.In this funny twist, the tables are turned and the parents are the picky eaters in this bi-racial family. Adventurous Matilda Macaroni loves trying new foods, like her grandma's jambalaya and friend's sushi. But her parents will only eat pepperoni pizza, hamburgers, and takeout noodles. Matilda sets out to secretly learn to cook with new flavors and open her parents' minds to trying new foods.
Amanda is passionate about helping organizations drive social impact and health equity on local and international levels. After earning a Bachelor's degree in Biology from Willamette University, she taught English in Thailand at a primary school and saw up close how food moved from farms to local markets to plates. With a background working in multicultural settings in the U.S. and abroad, Amanda hopes to bring a global lens to her writing. She plans to pursue a Master's in Public Health with an emphasis in global health and sustainability to bring change directly to communities.
Reposted with permission from Food Tank.
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By Ashia Aubourg
As Thanksgiving approaches, some Indigenous organizations and activists caution against perpetuating further injustices towards Native communities. Indigenous activist Mariah Gladstone, for example, encourages eaters to celebrate the harvest time in ways that do not involve stereotypes and pilgrim stories.
Critics of Thanksgiving often point to the familiar narrative of gathering between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag. They say that this story whitewashes the history of settler colonialism and the genocide of Native peoples, contributing to the modern injustices facing Native communities.
Many also argue that through these false narratives and accompanying actions, such as playing dress-up in inaccurate Native attire, the holiday perpetuates the cultural appropriation of Indigenous traditions and embraces stereotypes of Native peoples.
In response, many communities are calling for allies to unlearn the harmful history of Thanksgiving. Others also choose to celebrate the holiday while rejecting the status quo by decolonizing or re-indigenizing Thanksgiving. Re-indigenizing can involve cooking a dish inspired by ancestral diets with pre-contact ingredients—foods that Native communities in North America had access to before the arrival of colonizers—or even reconnecting with food's spirituality. Through this process, communities argue that they can take steps to honor indigenous peoples' traditional foodways.
In honor of this work, Food Tank is standing with and highlighting organizations renouncing the traditional story of Thanksgiving and honoring Indigenous communities.
1. Cheyenne River Youth Project, Eagle Butte, South Dakota
The Cheyenne River community faces high rates of food insecurity as a result of decades of inequities. Founded in 1988, the Cheyenne River Youth Project addresses the community's need for more services that support children and their families. In previous years, the organization hosted a free dinner and celebration event called Thanks for Kids, serving 250 community members. The Project grows most of the ingredients for these dinners on their local two-acre, pesticide-free Winyan Toka Win garden.
2. First Nations Development Institute, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Founded in 1980, First Nations Development Institute works to improve economic conditions for Native Americans through direct financial grants, technical assistance, advocacy, and policy. First Nations publishes resources challenging historical myths surrounding Thanksgiving and offers action steps to support Native communities. These action steps include: learning about and supporting food sovereignty and language preservation efforts by investing directly in Native-led initiatives, watching an informational video that challenges misconceptions and stereotypes about Native peoples, and sharing stories about Native resilience.
3. I-Collective, United States
I-Collective strives to create new narratives that emphasize Indigenous communities' resilience and contribution to gastronomy innovations, agriculture, the arts, and society. The group aims to revise Thanksgiving by raising awareness of colonialism's impact on the current fight for food sovereignty. I-Collective urges people to unlearn the history of Thankstaking, offering a collection of resources to support education.
4. Indigikitchen, Northwest Montana
Indigikitchen is an online cooking show that hopes to inspire cooks to re-indigenize their diets. Founder Mariah Gladstone is recognized as a champion of change by the Center for Native American Youth. In past years, the show has hosted cooking classes focused on re-indigenizing Thanksgiving. According to Indigikitchen, re-indigenizing Thanksgiving involves rejecting the myths and stereotypes of Native peoples and cooking pre-contact foods.
5. International Indigenous Youth Council, United States
The International Indigenous Youth Council (IIYC) creates safe spaces for youth through education, spiritual practices, and civic engagement. This year, IIYC is hosting a live discussion in collaboration with White People for Black Lives on Thankstaking, aiming to provide an opportunity for viewers to engage more deeply with the history of Thanksgiving. IIYC believes that discussions such as this build knowledge and awareness and hopes to address the legacies of false history telling.
6. Native Americans in Philanthropy, United States
Native Americans in Philanthropy promotes equitable and effective philanthropy in Native communities, such as COVID-19 emergency food supplies. Edgar Villanueva, Chair of the organization's Board of Directors, critiqued colonialist dynamics in philanthropy through his book Decolonizing Wealth. Villanueva has also spoken out about Thanksgiving, arguing that it is necessary to tell the true story of the holiday's past to avoid repeating the trauma Indigenous peoples have faced.
7. NDN Collective, Rapid City, South Dakota
NDN Collective is an Indigenous-led organization dedicated to building Indigenous power. NDN Collective works to achieve its mission through organizing, activism, philanthropy, grantmaking, capacity-building, and narrative change. In 2018, NDN published a piece emphasizing the need to decolonize Thanksgiving and revive Indigenous relationships to food.
8. Seeding Sovereignty, United States
Seeding Sovereignty is an Indigenous-led collective that radicalizes and disrupts colonized spaces through land, body, food sovereignty work, community building, and cultural preservation. The collective educates their communities about Thanksgiving's history by reclaiming the holiday as Truthsgiving. They also amplify events conducted by Indigenous leaders from across the nation as they celebrate, educate, and honor the First Peoples of these lands for Truthsgiving 2020. Seeding Sovereignty asks that allies support Indigenous folks not only in November but every day of the year.
9. Sioux Chef, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Sioux Chef is committed to revitalizing Native American cuisine by reclaiming an influential culinary culture that is long-buried and often inaccessible. Many Indigenous people refuse to celebrate Thanksgiving in protest. But Sean Sherman, founder of the Sioux Chef, encourages those who participate in the holiday to rethink Thanksgiving by acknowledging the true history, honoring the hardships of Native peoples, and creating a new celebration of the holiday.
10. Toasted Sister Podcast, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Founded in 2017, Toasted Sister Podcast highlights Native chefs and eaters' stories about Indigenous cuisine, where it comes from, where it's headed, and how it connects Native peoples and their communities to traditions. Andi Murphy, the founder of Toasted Sister Podcast, hopes to use the platform to illuminate the false narrative around Thanksgiving and help others reject that story. The Toasted Sister Podcast also offers various Native food culture episodes and provides guides to support the Native community.
Reposted with permission from Food Tank.
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By Danielle Nierenberg and Sabrina Endicott
On November 17th, Food Tank is co-hosting a panel with the Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center on COVID-19's impact on the restaurant and culinary industry and what is being done to help save restaurants. Panelists will include Camilla Marcus, Founder of Independent Restaurant Coalition and Co-founder of the Relief Opportunities for All Restaurants, Naama Tamir, Co-owner of Lighthouse and Lighthouse Outpost, JJ Johnson, Owner of FIELDTRIP, Tom Colicchio, Founder of Crafted Hospitality, Andrew Rigie, Executive Director of NYC Hospitality Alliance, and Salil Metah, Chef and Owner of Laut Singapura Restaurant.
Register here to learn more about how the industry has been impacted, and how chefs, restaurant operators, and entrepreneurs are looking for alternative ways to run their businesses.
When the COVID-19 outbreak began in the United States, 5.9 million restaurant jobs were lost between February and April, according to the Independent Restaurant Coalition. And a new survey by the National Restaurant Association finds that 100,000 restaurants have closed permanently or long-term.
"Moving forward, I think restaurants have to be very critical about how we used to run our businesses," Erik Bruner-Yang, chef and restaurateur, tells Food Tank. "Now is the time for everyone to revisit how to do things differently."
Organizations around the country are discovering innovative sustainable ways to revive the restaurant scene, while also addressing the impacts of COVID-19. Through strong community networks, these organizations have found ways to help unemployed workers, keep restaurants in business, and address food waste and hunger.
Food Tank is highlighting 17 organizations reviving restaurants and the workforce while reimagining what the industry will look like post-pandemic.
1. Big Table, Washington and California
Big Table is a nonprofit that helps restaurants and hospitality workers in times of crisis. Its referral model builds networks of managers, workers, and owners to help them access crisis care in San Diego, CA Spokane, WA, and Seattle, WA. Big Table is also promoting national resources to support restaurants and the workforce.
2. Dining at a Distance, International
Dining at a Distance is an independent grassroots effort that started in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization helps keep people fed and employed by compiling restaurants and farms that are operational during COVID-19. Since it began, Dining at a Distance has spread internationally, representing cities throughout North America, Europe, and Oceania.
3. Frontline Foods, National
Frontline Foods began with a small donation to a local hospital and has transformed into a nationwide response to support frontline workers and restaurants. Frontline Foods is partnering with World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit started by Chef José Andrés, to fundraise money for restaurants to make meals for frontline workers. Through its efforts, Frontline Foods has helped support 1,125 restaurants around the country.
4. Giving Kitchen, Georgia
Giving Kitchen provides financial relief to uplift and protect food service workers in Georgia. Along with financial services, the organization provides mental and physical health resources, food, employment, and housing resources. With Giving Kitchen's Stability Network program, a referral model connects food service workers with social services.
5. Heart of Dinner, New York
Heart of Dinner is a volunteer-based food-relief program that started to combat xenophobia and racism towards the Asian-American community during COVID-19. The organization partners with culturally appropriate restaurants to provide Asian-American senior-citizens in New York with fresh meals. Through donations, Heart of Dinner has been able to provide over 32,000 meals and help Asian-American restaurants.
6. Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC), National
The Independent Restaurant Coalition, created by and for restaurant and bar owners, works to collectively shape legislation that supports small food businesses affected by COVID-19 and subsequent lockdowns. The IRC is advocating for Congress to pass the Restaurants Act, which would create an Independent Restaurant Revitalization Fund, boosting the economy and protecting workers. A report by Compass Lexecon finds that the fund can grow the economy by US$271 billion and reduce unemployment by up to 2.4 percent.
7. James Beard Foundation, National
The James Beard Foundation is a nonprofit organization that celebrates and honors chefs and other leaders dedicated to making America's food scene sustainable, delicious, and diverse. The Foundation started a campaign called Open For Good, which ran a Food and Beverage Industry Relief Fund from March till April. Since September, the Foundation has begun the Food and Beverage Industry Relief Fund for Black and Indigenous Americans. These funds serve to help restaurants rebuild better after the crisis.
8. The LEE Initiative, National
The LEE Initiative is helping revive restaurants and mend the food supply chain with its Restaurant Reboot Relief Program. The organization is committing at least US$1million to purchase food from sustainable farms in 16 regions and donate the food directly to restaurants. By investing in farmers, the organization hopes to help farmers and restaurants rebuild together. At the start of the pandemic, The LEE Initiative, in collaboration with chef Edward Lee and Maker's Mark, started The Restaurant Worker's Relief Program, which provided 400,000 pounds of meals and supplies to out-of-work restaurant employees.
9. Off Their Plate, National
Off Their Plate is a grassroots team dedicated to helping frontline workers. The organization offers ways to keep restaurants in business and feed communities by directing funds raised to partnering restaurants to continue staffing and prepping meals during the pandemic. For every US$100 donated, Off Their Plate sends 10 meals to those in need, which also creates a three-hour shift for workers.
10. One Fair Wage, National
One Fair Wage is a nationwide coalition advocating for policy to ensure that all workers are paid a full, fair minimum wage in addition to tips. One Fair Wage's Emergency Fund is raising money to provide cash assistance to restaurant and service workers during the pandemic. The organization also oversees High Road Kitchens, a group of independent restaurants that give free food to low-wage workers while providing restaurant jobs. Launched during COVID-19, High Road Kitchens looks to revive and rebuild a more equitable and sustainable restaurant industry.
11. Power of 10, Washington D.C.
Started by chef and restaurateur, Erik Bruner-Yang, Power of 10 is mobilizing restaurant workers during the crisis to maintain operations and keep staff safe and employed. The program serves as a model for any city, demonstrating that donations of US$10,000 a week can provide 10 full-time jobs and 1,000 free meals to a community. So far, Power of 10 has donated 200,000 meals and provided 2,000 full-time jobs.
12. Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United, National
ROC United is a nonprofit organization fighting for improved worker's wages and working conditions. Along with providing resources for restaurants, ROC United has advocated for Congress to pass legislation and for companies to pay employees paid sick leave. ROC United's Pandemic Relief Fund launched in March to help the restaurant employees and since then has raised over US$1 million and has helped more than 5,000 workers and their families.
13. Restaurant Workers Community Foundation (RWCF), National
Created by and for restaurant workers, RWCF advocates for opportunities to strengthen the restaurant workforce. During the pandemic, RWCF is providing relief funds and resources for restaurant workers impacted by the crisis. They use the power of restaurant workers to create a more just restaurant environment.
14. Rethink Food, New York
Rethink creates partnerships with restaurants and food businesses, sources funding to restaurants, and secures meals to those in need. Rethink has invested more than US$2 million in local communities and served more than 1 million meals.
15. Relief Opportunities for All Restaurants (ROAR), New York
ROAR is a charity organization that is donating to restaurants and employees during the pandemic. ROAR, in collaboration with Robin Hood, a poverty-fighting nonprofit in New York City, is raising funds for an NYC Restaurant Employee Relief Fund. Through its Instagram, ROAR shares action items to pass legislation in support of restaurant relief and ways to support restaurant employees.
16. Southern Smoke Foundation, Texas and National
Southern Smoke Foundation is a crisis relief organization that provides funding to individuals in the food and beverage industry. During the pandemic, Southern Smoke Foundation has expanded its operations, creating a Chicago Relief Fund for restaurant workers impacted by the crisis. So far, Southern Smoke Emergency Relief Fund has raised US$3.6 million for restaurants and workers around the country.
17. World Central Kitchen (WCK), National
WCK is supporting restaurants and consumers through partnerships, donations, and policy advocacy. WCK's program,Restaurants for the People, provides fresh nutritious foods to communities in need and keeps small businesses running. By buying meals directly from restaurants, WCK has worked with over 2,400 restaurants and disbursed more than US$117 million.
Reposted with permission from Food Tank.
By Emily Payne
The World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that diet-related diseases like obesity, diabetes, and hypertension lead to an increased risk of severe COVID-19 infection. As the pandemic wears on, eaters are preparing more food at home and focusing on healthier meals. Cooking and recipe website traffic surged at the start of quarantine, as did curiosity for meat alternatives.
According to Nielsen data, plant-based meat saw a 264-percent increase in sales at the start of the pandemic. Whether or not this trend continues, it's clear that consumers are becoming more interested in plant-forward eating.
A plant-forward diet focuses primarily on plants like fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, and seeds but does not eliminate animal products completely. Below are 10 common plant-forwarding eating myths.
1. Plant-Based Foods Cannot Provide Enough Protein
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that about three-fourths of Americans are eating diets low in fruits and vegetables, while more than half are meeting or exceeding protein recommendations. Meat is often touted as an eater's most important source of protein, but protein is found in all foods—even whole-grain pasta, oats, or vegetables. Beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds are just a few protein-packed plants. One cup of lentils contains 18 grams of protein, for example, compared to 22 grams in one serving of beef. By focusing on a diversity of whole foods, plant-forward eaters can consume more than enough protein each day.
2. Plant-Based Meat Alternatives Are Flavorless (and Have No Texture)
Tofu has long been a meat-alternative staple, but plant-based eating has much more to offer. Seitan, often called "wheat meat," is made by filtering the starch from wheat to create high-protein gluten with a similar texture to chicken. Tempeh is made by fermenting soy and can be marinated, fried, steamed, or eaten raw. It has a subtly nutty flavor, and companies like Lightlife, the largest U.S. tempeh manufacturer, also offer flavors like three-grain, flax seed, smoky, and buffalo tempeh. Countless combinations of beans, chickpeas, lentils, herbs, spices, and grains can be made into flavorful plant-based burgers, meatballs, ground meat, and even bacon.
3. Plant-Based Ingredient and Restaurant Options Are Limited
From restaurants to the grocery aisle, chefs and companies are responding to consumers' demand for plant-based options. In March 2020, The Good Food Institute and the Plant Based Foods Association calculated that total plant-based retail sales reached US$5 billion in 2019, growing 11 percent over the previous year, a rate almost five times faster than total U.S. retail food sales. And OpenTable reported that in 2019, plant-based reviews on its platform increased by 136 percent compared to 2017. From sliced bologna to ground Mexican beef, there's a plant-based option for virtually any meat craving.
4. A Plant-Based Meal Won’t Be as Filling
Processed foods are high in refined starches and sugar that are easier to digest, meaning they're less filling. Whole foods are naturally high in dietary fiber that breaks down slowly, keeping the body feeling full longer. With both fiber and protein, some plant-based proteins can even be more filling than animal meat options. Incorporating healthy fats from nuts, seeds, olives, avocados, and coconuts also lends to a more filling dish. As long as there are plenty of whole foods, a plant-forward diet can fuel sustained energy throughout the day—and with fewer cravings.
5. Eating a Plant-Forward Diet Is Too Expensive
By focusing on minimally processed foods, shopping seasonally at farmers' markets when possible, and buying staples like nuts, beans, and legumes in bulk, many eaters save money by moving to a plant-forward diet. The rise in consumer demand for plant-based products also means more companies are joining the market and supermarkets are introducing their own private labels. With a more established supply chain, plant-based meat, cheese, yogurt, and egg alternatives can become more accessible to all budgets.
6. It’s Difficult to Eat Complete Proteins on a Plant-Forward Diet
The idea that plant-based proteins must be combined in the same meal to provide a complete protein is a long-standing myth. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says that "the terms complete and incomplete are misleading in relation to plant protein. Protein from a variety of plant foods, eaten during the course of a day, supplies enough of all indispensable (essential) amino acids when caloric requirements are met." Even if consumed at different meals and times, the body will combine the essential amino acids it needs on its own.
7. Plant-forward Diets Are Nutrient-Deficient
Plants are some of the most nutrient-dense food options available. Dark leafy greens and legumes, for example, are rich with calcium. Beans and lentils are high in protein and fiber, low in fats, and provide essential vitamins and minerals. Many plant-forward eaters cook with nutritional yeast, which contains B12, a nutrient primarily found in animal products. Focusing as much as possible on a variety of whole foods will supply more than enough nutrients. A good trick is to eat the rainbow: colorful foods contain many essential vitamins and antioxidants, and different colors ensure a variety of ingredients (and flavor!).
8. Meat Alternatives Are Ultra-Processed and Unsustainable
As plant-forward eating becomes more popular, meat alternatives are appearing everywhere from baseball stadiums to fast-food chains. But many products labeled "plant-based" actually undergo the same amount of processing as typical junk foods, just without the use of animal products. With added processing comes a larger environmental footprint, as well. The best way to choose alternative meat is to check the ingredient label, opting for those with short ingredient lists of recognizable names. The Lightlife Plant-Based Burger, for example, is made from only 11 ingredients with nothing synthetically processed, and the company has committed to reducing its environmental footprint by 50 percent by 2025.
9. Children Shouldn’t Eat a Plant-Forward Diet
An article published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) notes that plant-forward diets can meet the nutritional needs of not only children but pregnant mothers, breast-feeding mothers, and infants. And educators agree; Los Angeles public schools adopted meatless Mondays in their cafeterias in 2013, and New York City, the largest public-school system in the U.S., began meatless Mondays in 2019. As plant-forward eating gains popularity, more plant-based alternatives children's favorite classics like hotdogs and chicken nuggets are reaching grocery shelves.
10. Plant-Based Products Are Always Healthier
Not all plant-based products are created equal. While french fries are derived from plants, they are also high in oil and salt. The plant-based Impossible Whopper may have fewer calories than the original Whopper, but it contains significantly more sodium. A frequent culprit of this is the veggie burger, deemed a health food but often full of sugars and unrecognizable ingredients. The key to a healthy and nutritious diet is minimally processed whole foods. Look out for plant-based products with a small ingredient list (which often translates to a more environmentally sustainable choice, as well).
Reposted with permission from Food Tank.
By Elena Seeley
In response to the 2020 election results, Food Tank and Table 81 hosted a panel to make sense of the election results and discuss what it means to the food system.
Moderated by Food Tank President Danielle Nierenberg and Katherine Miller of Table 81, the event featured Christopher Bradshaw of Dreaming Out Loud, Devita Davison of FoodLab Detroit, Navina Khanna of HEAL Food Alliance, Patricia Griffin of NVG, LLC, Bob Martin of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, and Kathleen Merrigan of the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems.
Their conversation touched on the meaning of the election results, the need to bring new voices and energy into discussions around food and agriculture, and the importance of organizing around food system issues in local communities.
"We should be talking about a complete and total dismantling of our corporate food system and building infrastructure locally from the ground up," says Davison. Listen to the full conversation below.
Reposted with permission from Food Tank.
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By Sean Taylor
MilkRun, a Portland, Oregon-based company, is supporting small, local farmers by enabling them to sell produce safely and directly to consumers' homes.
Founded by farmer and entrepreneur Julia Niiro, MilkRun is an online platform that lets farmers set their own prices, cutting out wholesalers, shippers, and truckers. Once consumers place an order through MilkRun, farmers deliver produce to an aggregation hub, which MilkRun then boxes and ships to consumers' doorsteps.
On average, farmers receive eight percent of the purchase price from grocery stores according to The American Farm Bureau Federation. But MilkRun estimates a return of up to 70 percent of the purchase price through their platform.
The platform is also trying to provide data on consumer purchasing patterns, purchase quantities, and food mileage, information that is often difficult for small farmers to obtain.
"Ninety percent of our nation's farms right now don't have even simple tools…they are having to recreate every data point… how can we help them do their jobs better?" Niiro tells Food Tank.
Niiro believes that the future of farming is bright, and she hopes to help farmers achieve success. "For young farmers, they need to know there's hope…you should be able to make a living and realize your dreams," Niiro tells Food Tank. "Who are we going to leave our food system to if not them?"
Niiro says that COVID-19 is also having unexpected benefits for both MilkRun and farmers. "COVID has put farmers back in business," Niiro tells Food Tank. She explains that while wholesale orders from restaurants have decreased dramatically, direct purchasing from consumers is offsetting the loss.
According to Niiro, farmers are re-scaling, creating new safety practices, and adapting to direct consumer demands. She says these changes are enabling farmers to turn a profit during the pandemic.
"I've never been more proud to be someone who's in this work and serving people," Niiro says. "The pride that comes with serving people and giving them an incredible experience makes us essential."
Reposted with permission from Food Tank.