local and organic food


BGnews_logoBethesda Green looks to produce rooftop gardens in downtown Bethesda

Bethesda Green is looking to partner with the owners of flat rooftops in town — mostly businesses — to plant gardens and grow produce that would then be sold to local restaurants.

“We want to start a new business model,” said Sharon D’Emidio, program manager for Bethesda Green and head of the rooftop gardens program. “We’d love to see every roof with a garden on it.”

The rooftop gardens are a good fit for many of the roofs on Bethesda’s commercial properties because of their flat surfaces, plenty of sunlight and easy access to water, D’Emidio said. Produce from these gardens could be labeled pesticide-free.

See full article in Gazette.net.

Green Events

BGnews_logo

World’s Largest Urban Greenhouse

Giant Food Stores signed a deal with BrightFarms to build the world’s largest urban greenhouse, expected to open this fall.  At 100,000 square feet, the greenhouse aims to deliver 1 million pounds of fresh produce throughout the year to about 30 Giant supermarkets in the Washington, DC,  metro area. Plans also include making the greenhouse available to schools as an educational tool on urban agriculture and sustainability.

In addition to building greenhouses attached to supermarkets, BrightFarms designs rooftop farms and is working on projects in Kansas City, Oklahoma City, St. Louis, and St. Paul.

To read more, check out this article.

New Bike Lanes

As Bethesda proceeds through a new sector plan for future development, interested parties may want to take note of Alexandria’s plan to add new bike lanes. The Alexandria City Council voted unanimously recently to create bike lanes on a span of King Street from Janneys Lane to West Cedar Street, one of Alexandria’s busiest streets.  Many Alexandria residents objected to this plan, however, because it will cause the removal of more than two dozen parking spots and add to congestion. Those in favor of the bike lanes argue that more and more people are using bikes for commuting so creating a safe way for them is key to cities like Alexandria.

Ultimately, the bike lanes proposal was approved with the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians in mind. Bicyclists will share the traffic lanes with motorized vehicles in the areas where parking is still allowed. New crosswalks and electronic speed indicators will also be installed for the safety pedestrians and bicyclists.

To find out more information, check out the Washington Post.

Events

  • Maryland Day, a weekend celebration of all things Maryland, March 21-23, explores historic sites, cultural activities, and natural resources around Annapolis. See the Annapolis Green Growing a Little Greener webpage for more details.
  • H2O SummitMarch 22, 9:30 am – 4 pm, Silver Spring Civic Center, 1 Veterans Plaza, Silver Spring, MD. Topics covered include: What is Stormwater and How Can You Help Prevent Pollution? and Volunteerism & Community Efforts to Improve the Environment. The morning session (9:30 to 1:00 pm) will have speakers and workshops. Attendance is limited, so register in advance. The afternoon session will be a Family H2O Fair hosted by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission and will include kid’s crafts and environmental demos for families. An assortment of water related exhibitors will also be on hand located in the Great Hall. Registration is not required for the afternoon session.

Food_Day_2013_Facebook_logoFood Day is tomorrow, Thursday, October 24, 2013, a nationwide celebration.

Food Day is a grassroots movement to promote healthy, affordable, and sustainable food systems and policies.  It’s also about celebrating and eating real food. This means cutting back on sugar drinks, overly salted packaged foods, and fatty, factory-farmed meats in favor of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and sustainably raised protein.

Why is this important?

Let’s look at some alarming facts associated with poor diet and broken food systems.

Food consumption and addiction to sugarDonations_cropped

  • Food consumption is increasing on a global scale—from 2,250 calories per person per day in 1961 to 2,750 calories in 2007 to a projected 3,070 calories by 2050.
  • In 1900, the U.S. consumed about 5 pounds of sugar per person annually.  By 2000, that increased to about 150 pounds of sugar per person annually, with 61 pounds of that coming from high fructose corn syrup.
  • The average American consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar every day, while the average 14- 18-year-old consumes 32 teaspoons.

Obesity—Just one of the many medical conditions linked to our poor diet.

  • 1 out of every 3 people in the U.S. are either overweight or obese.
  • The percentage of American children aged 6-19 who are obese has tripled since 1980.
  • 47% of Americans will be obese by 2030.
  • Obesity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and cancer. The annual medical cost for obesity is about $150 billion.

How about our broken food system?DSCN4590

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service estimates that 23.5 million people live in food deserts. More than half of them (13.5 million) are low-income. With no other options, people living in food deserts get most of their meals from fast food restaurants.
  • 1 in 6 people in America face hunger. Over 20 million children receive free or reduced-price lunch each school day. Less than half of them get breakfast and only 10 percent have access to summer feeding sites.
  • 40% of food in the U.S. today goes uneaten.  This wasted food could feed more than 25 million Americans every year.  The U.S. now wastes 50% more food than in the 1970s.
  • 74% of farm subsidies goes to 10% of the largest farms, many of which pay little attention to protecting the environment.

SO, WHAT CAN YOU DO TO MAKE A CHANGE?

1. Shop at your local farmer’s markets and support local, sustainable agriculture. Here’s a list of well-known farmer’s markets within the Montgomery County area.

2. If limited resources affect your ability to purchase healthy foods, check out “Good Food on a Tight Budget.” It  has a list of reasonably-priced healthy foods grown and prepared using few pesticides, contaminants, and artificial ingredients.

3. Not sure how to prepare your healthy groceries? Food Day’s Eat Real Cookbook has lots of examples of easy, healthy meals you can cook at home. Better yet, cook with your kids and teach them the importance of healthy eating.

4. Try Meatless Mondays and learn more about why it’s a smart option and how you can do it.

5. Educate yourself about what you should eat.  Answer these questions and find out how your typical diet impacts your health, the environment, and animal welfare.

6. Get involved in local food banks and homeless shelters. What about organizing a food drive? You and your kids can also donate your time and make a difference to people in your community.

7. Tell your friends and family about eating real food and encourage them to get involved in their community.  Start by sharing this post with them!

Attend a local Food Day event

Sources:

1. http://www.foodday.org/

2.http://www.nrdc.org/food/files/wasted-food-ip.pdf

3. http://www.usda.gov/factbook/chapter2.pdf

4. http://www.dosomething.org/tipsandtools/11-facts-about-food-deserts

5. http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-access-research-atlas/go-to-the-atlas.aspx#.UmbVKBA-e4Q

6. http://www.who.int/topics/food_additives/en/

BG_FCF_farmtour_logo.finalby Jennifer Roe

Learning more about our food system, you may ask, “How can I help?”  One way is to visit farms and connect with local farmers. You also may consider participating in a farm’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

A CSA is a food distribution system that connects community members directly with their local farmers through buying shares or regularly supplied produce boxes. This system benefits both the producers by increasing their customer base as well as consumers by having regular access to fresh, healthy food.  Here is a great resource that provides a list of CSA’s in Maryland that can be sorted by county to find the one closest to you.

In order for alternative systems such as local food stores to gain support, it is important to identify the benefits. Supporters believe local markets provide fresh, higher quality foods.  Processed foods that you find at supermarkets tend to be richer in saturated and trans-fatty acids, salt and sugars, which can lead to diet-related diseases.

By replacing some of these purchases with local, fresh produce, you can make a difference in your family’s health. Changing the food you purchase is the first step towards changing your consumption habits. By advocating for local food, supporters are promoting eating seasonal, unprocessed foods that benefit environmental and human health.

Local food systems also help small, local farms that compete with large, corporate agriculture. As a result, rural communities benefit as it builds more resilient rural economies. Additionally, small farmers are more likely to be diversified and less controlled by large institutions; therefore they have more room to adopt alternative, sustainable methods that are more beneficial to the environment.

You can see examples of this for yourself at the 3rd annual Bethesda Green Farm Tour.  Find out where your food comes from, how agricultural production impacts our environment and what you can do to help.

Reserve your spot on the Farm Tour here.

Jennifer Roe is a recent graduate of the University of Edinburgh where she received her Master’s in Environment and Development.  She is passionate about building a just and sustainable food system where every individual has the opportunity to lead a successful, healthy life.

BG_FCF_farmtour_logo.finalby Jennifer Roe

Bethesda Green’s 3rd annual Farm Tour is almost here! This is a great opportunity to learn about the importance of connecting with local farms and building a local, healthy, sustainable food system in our region.

So, what is a food system? It is defined by all the steps necessary to produce and feed a population — from agricultural rearing, growing, and harvesting; to processing, packaging, transporting, distributing, marketing, preparing, consuming and disposing of food.

Over recent decades, food systems have become dominated by large corporations and monocropping. They have become increasingly resource intensive and global as food products travel further distances to meet consumer demand. As a result, the environment feels more pressure in terms of habitat loss/change, climate change, resource depletion, water pollution and toxic emissions.  Our current food production system is extremely inefficient, wasting a high percentage of natural resources and polluting our ecosystems.

According to a recent report authored by Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) Dana Gunders, “Waste: How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill,” food production from farm to table uses 10% of the total U.S. energy budget, 50% of our land, and 80% of the freshwater we consume.  From these statistics, it is clear that agricultural production has a huge impact on our planet.

So let’s learn about one part of our food system and understand why we need to preserve local farms that are implementing sustainable agricultural practices.  Reserve your spot here.  By the end of the day, we hope you will better understand our current food system and be inspire to support local, sustainable agriculture whenever possible.

Jennifer Roe is a recent graduate of the University of Edinburgh where she received her Master’s in Environment and Development.  She is passionate about building a just and sustainable food system where every individual has the opportunity to lead a successful, healthy life.

Food Council logoby Jennifer Roe

Montgomery County is home to one of the nation’s most renowned agricultural reserves – 93,000 acres of land, making up nearly one-third of the county.  But is this local, regional, and national treasure being maximized to address the increasing demand for healthy, fresh, affordable local food, the potential for new, profitable farm enterprises, and more?  Is Montgomery County doing as much as it can to support the creation of new food enterprises, promote healthy eating, and end hunger in our community?

According to the Montgomery County Food Council, the answer is not yet.

These were just a few of the concerns 86 Maryland stakeholders had when they initially met in December 2010.  This group of community activists, county government officials, entrepreneurs, farmers, nonprofits, and more, resolved to set up a food council that would develop collaborative and interdisciplinary policy and programming solutions to identified problems.  Through the work of an interim Advisory Board, the Montgomery County Food Council officially launched in February 2012 with the primary mission to create a “robust, local, sustainable food system.”

The Food Council is a volunteer-based organization with one paid staff member, part-time Food Council Coordinator Lindsay Smith and several Working Groups that help to drive much of the Food Council’s work.  Active Working Groups include: Food Access, Healthy Eating, School & Youth Gardens, Value Chain Analysis and Land Use, Zoning & Planning.

The Working Groups generally meet every other month and report back at general council meetings that also meet alternating months.  Each group has its own set of goals and objectives.  For example, according to Lindsay, the School & Youth Gardens group is currently mapping the number and location of school, community gardens, and other farm-based educational opportunities to determine base-line conditions.  The long-term goal of this group, and its nonprofit and other partners, is to increase the number of school and youth gardens in the County.

Through meetings, participation in community events, and more, the Food Council is connecting local producers, consumers, educators, emergency food service providers, entrepreneurs, and more.  The Food Council is working to become the information hub on the County’s food system, studying and sharing information on existing conditions, monitoring changes, and serving as the forum for diverse players to identify new opportunities for services, social enterprises, and businesses that increase local production and consumption of healthy, fresh food.   At the same time, the Food Council has plans to launch some of its own programming to increase public awareness of the importance of building a healthy local food economy where it sees unique opportunities to do so.

A member of the Bethesda Green Business Incubator, the Montgomery County Food Council has big plans on the horizon as they work to build more partnerships and become the main hub for information on the county’s food system.  According to Lindsay, “We are excited that we will be bringing on some new members and leveraging their experience, as well as Bethesda Green’s, to make some decisions about how to grow the Food Council’s capacity to become the primary, independent resource for information on the food system for Montgomery County residents. Further development and evolution is imminent!”

“We are excited . . . to become the primary, independent resource on the food system for Montgomery County residents.”

The Montgomery County Food Council is one of the first in Maryland and will continue to collaborate with partners in the County and across the region to achieve its mission. All community members are invited to get involved in the work of the Montgomery County Food Council. To learn more, visit their website,  sign up for their bimonthly newsletter by emailing info@mocofoodcouncil.org, or connect with them via social media — Twitter: @mocofoodcouncil; facebook.com/mocofoodcouncil.

Jennifer Roe is a recent graduate of the University of Edinburgh where she received her Master’s in Environment and Development.  She is passionate about building a just and sustainable food system where every individual has the opportunity to lead a successful, healthy life.

by Susanna Parker

Mayor Gray Releases Sustainable DC PlanBGnews_logo

First announced in 2011, DC Mayor Vincent Gray’s ambitious Sustainable DC Plan was released late last week. Over the past two years, DC government, with cooperation and help from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, has been researching sustainability challenges and solutions, consulting with green building and infrastructure experts, and seeking feedback from citizens. The result is the 129-page Sustainable DC Plan, which Mayor Gray says will turn the District into the “healthiest, greenest, and most livable city” in the United States.

Implementation of the plan will occur over the next 20 years. Some parts will occur sooner – Gray wants to push for legislation to accelerate urban agriculture and farming, and the annual planting of 8,600 trees is scheduled to begin this year. Green space is a big focus of the plan – Gray is calling for eight parks to be constructed in areas with limited green spaces, and he envisions more connections between parks, walking trails & biking trails, and public transportation. Other aspects of the plan include energy efficient buildings that contribute electricity back into the grid, more electric vehicle charging stations, and the expansion of the Capital Bikeshare program.

For more information, and to read the entire Sustainable DC Plan, see the dcist article here.

The Sequester’s Effect on the Environment

While Congress avoided the fiscal cliff in January, the sequester (a package of across the board spending cuts) is set to take place this Friday, and will effectively recreate the first half of the recently dodged fiscal cliff. In an article on The Huffington Post, Mother Nature Network’s Russell McLendon discusses the possible environmental effects these budget cuts could have.

The first threat would be to the nation’s food safety; Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that if these budget cuts occur, Food Safety and Inspection Service would be forced to send their employees on a 15-day furlough, which would effectively shut down the country’s meat processing. Another big impact would be felt by the National Park Service, which would see a $110 million loss if the sequester goes through. This would have impacts nationwide, as parks would open later in the season, temporary and seasonal employee positions would be cut, and a hiring freeze would be implemented. Scientific research could suffer as well – the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation have said they would be unable to issue the same amount of research grants and awards as in past years, resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs. Finally, FEMA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the FDA would all have to make large budget cuts, resulting in less public health safety programs and lowered disaster response.

For more information on the impacts of the sequester, please read the full Huffington Post article here.

Upcoming Green Events

  • NonProfit Energy Alliance Workshop, Feb. 27, 9:00 am – 10:30 am at Bethesda Green, 4825 Cordell Avenue, Second Floor, Bethesda.

Pepco Commercial & Industrial Program, DC Sustainable Energy Utility, and Bethesda Green are working together to host a workshop for participants of the NonProfit Energy Alliance. Participants and other non-profit organizations are encouraged to attend and learn about utility incentive programs that provide cash money for energy efficiency improvements. Attendees will learn about the programs available, savings realized by other organizations, and how to take advantage of these programs. For more information, and to RSVP, please visit the event website.

  • GreenWheaton’s Green Drinks Happy Hour, Feb. 28, 5:00 pm, The Limerick Pub, 11301 Elkin Street, Wheaton

Join GreenWheaton for socializing and networking at their monthly Green Drinks Happy Hour. Learn more about their work toward an environmentally friendly Wheaton, and meet other sustainability-minded Montgomery County residents!

  • Grow Your Health – Film Screening & Wellness Festival, Sunday March 10, 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm, Woodson High School Auditorium, 9525 Main Street, Fairfax, Virginia

Presented by the Northern Virginia Whole Foods Nutrition Meetup Group, this afternoon event will feature local food, health, and wellness exhibits, a screening of the movie “In Organic We Trust” classes on gardening, a local food panel discussion, and lunch by Fields of Athenry Farm-to-Table Kitchen. The event is $10 in advance, $15 at the door. For more information, and to purchase tickets, please visit growyourhealth.eventbrite.com.

Susanna Parker is a recent college graduate and volunteer with Bethesda Green. Her interest in sustainability leads her to look for green solutions in uncommon places.

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