sustainable food


BG_FB_Gala profilelogoby Cheryl Kollin

It’s hard to visualize $165 billion. That’s the value of food wasted in the U.S. annually. It is also hard to grasp the staggering amount of food — 246,000 tons that is wasted right here in Montgomery County every year. The enormity of food waste hit home for me watching farmers donate many bathtub-sized grey bins of their unsold, perfectly good vegetables and fruit at the end of a bustling Sunday at the Olney Farmers Market.

While there are many active food recovery programs in our community, 23% of food in Montgomery County is still being wasted, while 82,000 people do not know where their next meal will come from. A new initiative called Community Food Rescue aims to build a coordinated countywide system that fulfills the vision of the Montgomery County Council, County Executive Ike Leggett, and the on-going efforts of the Montgomery County Food Council’s Food Recovery Working Group.

Read more here. View our short introduction film. Follow us on Facebook.

Cheryl Kollin is program manager for Community Food Rescue.

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As students go back to school to start their spring semester, finding a summer internship is definitely on their to-do list, and now is the time when employers are looking for talented students to fill their organizational needs. So each year Bethesda Green hosts Fields of Green Internship Fair to connect highly qualified students who are looking for opportunities in the environmental sector with DC metro area’s green employers. Getting ready for the event this year, we decided to share a series of profiles (wrapped up with this edition) about some of the amazing interns who have worked with us recently.

Natalia Salazar PhotoMeet Natalia Salazar. Natalia graduated from Mount Holyoke College in May 2013 with a degree in Environmental Studies and a concentration in Ecosystem Science. Since September 2013, she has been interning at Bethesda Green and Calleva Farm, focusing on sustainable agriculture. She is passionate about building a local, ethical, and sustainable food system.

How did you hear about Bethesda Green? After the end of my last semester in college, I started searching online for green internships in Bethesda. The first link that came up was Bethesda Green’s list of internships from the 2013 Fields of Green Internship Fair. Thanks to this list, I found out about Bethesda Green and Calleva, and I am enjoying wonderful opportunities at both places.

The best thing about interning at Bethesda Green is the chance to work on a project of my interest and receive all the support and resources I need to complete my project. I especially love the level of involvement I’m granted in the Greening Restaurants program and the exposure to the local sustainability world. Thanks to my internship at BG, I have learned  a great deal about restaurants serving delicious, local, seasonal food in downtown Bethesda that I previously had not know about.

What do you do at Bethesda Green? Since I started my internship at Bethesda Green, I’ve been immersing myself in the topic of sustainable agriculture. I’m helping to bring a local food day in downtown Bethesda and creating a webpage within the BG site to educate the public about sustainable agriculture, our county’s agricultural reserve, and sources for local food.

I am most passionate about environmental stewardship, health, animal welfare, and social justice. I also love the outdoors, traveling, dancing, cooking, and eating.

One thing I do to protect the environment is drive a small, fuel-efficient car. My goal, however, is to drive an electric car powered by clean energy sources.

Future goals/plans? This fall I hope to enroll in the University of Maryland’s Environmental Science and Technology M.S. program. I would like to do research and gain expertise on sustainable agriculture and soil.

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Maddy Go is currently a senior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, interning at Bethesda Green for the fall and spring semesters.

How did you hear about Bethesda Green? I was looking for an internship in the environmental field as part of my school’s internship program, and a quick Google search brought me to Bethesda Green’s website. After meeting with Bethesda Green staff, I started interning months later in the fall.

The best thing about interning at BG…is the extremely welcoming and encouraging Bethesda Green staff. BG is a great environment to learn and grow, and that’s made possible entirely by them.

What do you do at Bethesda Green? Anything that’s needed, including working on the database, the BG website, media outreach, and my own personal project. With the help of Bethesda Green, I’ve recently been able to begin to renovate my school’s greenhouse, which has been a fantastic experience for me.

I am most passionate about finding innovative ways to do things and exploring new ideas, especially in the environmental field.

One thing you do to protect the environment? Whenever I go out I try to carpool, take public transportation, or walk/bike.

Future goals/plans? This year I’m going to head to college and begin my undergraduate studies in environmental science. However, things are still uncertain down the road. Hopefully I’ll be able to take advantage of study-abroad opportunities, or try World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) or the Peace Corps.

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.

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.

Farm to Freezer: Preserving fresh, local food to nourish the hungry

by Cheryl Kollin, Full Plate Ventures

Last Sunday 10 volunteers came together to beat the heat by washing, chopping, and blanching fresh vegetables at St. John’s Church in Bethesda. In just four hours volunteers with Farm to Freezer prepared 50 lbs. of tomato sauce, diced zucchini, and roasted eggplant for the freezer. This food will be incorporated into healthy meals throughout the year for Bethesda Cares’ meals program that feeds the hungry in our community.

“Hooray for us!  It was actually a lot of fun and nice people to chat with too,” exclaimed Susan Wexler who joined the prep crew on Sunday. “Someone asked me if I was a professional; I said, well, I have spent a lot of time in kitchens!”

You don’t have to be an experienced cook to join us. The program seems to resonate with people for many reasons. Some people volunteer because they like to work in the kitchen chopping vegetables while getting to meet others. Some parents like this project to work along with their teens, while they earn student service learning credits. We welcome teens ages 13-15 with an adult, older teens and adults.

Diced, blanched zucchini ready for vacuum sealing, then into the freezer

Others like the idea of supporting Bethesda Cares’ social mission. Founded in 1988, Bethesda Cares was originally established as a lunch program to combat hunger in Montgomery County, providing meals to those living on the streets. Homeless men, women and children suffer from hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity every day. To help ensure the homeless in Montgomery County receive a warm and nutritious meal, Bethesda Cares serves lunch six days a week and dinner on Sundays to between 40-75 people that adds up 20,000 meals each year. Today, Bethesda Cares operates as a day drop-in shelter, serving hot meals daily, offering clothing and toiletries, outreach worker case management, referrals for supportive permanent housing, psychiatric counseling, prescription assistance, and eviction and utility assistance to county residents.

Still other people like to support family farmers and our local food system. Every year about 40 percent of good but uneaten food goes into the landfill—wasted along every part of the supply chain from farm to table. The idea for Farm to Freezer was born last January during a conversation I had with Sue Kirk, the executive director of Bethesda Cares.

One day’s produce donation waiting to be prepped for the freezer

“We are the official gleening organization of the Saturday Bethesda Fresh Farm Market, but we get many more vegetables than we can use in our meals before it goes bad,” explained Sue. A weekly donation just from one farm—Spiral Path organic farm has averaged almost 400 lbs. every week this summer, and we are not even at peak season yet! The organic produce that Spiral Path produces is just beautiful and it is a real crime to let it go to waste. Farmers get a tax deduction for their donation.

The spark of a Farm to Freezer project was born and six months later we are up and running thanks to generous support from community foundations, donated kitchens from partner churches, and in-kind donations from businesses including Whole Foods Bethesda, Zipcar, and Honest Tea. Even Compost Crew helps by donating their services to compost our food scraps.

Volunteers are key to the success of this whole project—we seek 10 volunteers for our weekly prep days. People can sign up via Bethesda Cares’ Meet Up site individually or as a group activity with friends, family or colleagues. With continued community support this project has the potential to grow into a self-sustaining enterprise, earning operating funds by selling tomato sauce and other preserved food at local farmers markets and even teaching food preparation classes. Fresh local food comes full circle—from farm, to freezer, to market, back to compost—benefiting our whole community along the way.

To volunteer, sign up on: Bethesda Cares MEET UP

To read more about this program and who it benefits, visit: Farm to Freezer website

To see our events as they unfold: Follow us on Facebook

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