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Current Events in Real Food and Sustainablity – What’s Going On?

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I’d like to share some important and interesting destinations I’ve recently visited on the Internet relating to real food and food politics – of course, two subjects I am keenly interested in spreading around to my readers. Here we go!

The school lunch saga continues on. In this report on the New York Daily News site,  apparently even though programs have slashed calories (and along with it, grams of fat), school lunches are still unhealthy. Hmmm. I wonder why that is? They still aren’t getting it, are they? In one part of the article, one of the students remarks on how one of the foods appears to be so greasy, how could it be healthy? For so many years, people have associated grease with unhealthy properties, they can’t even tell the difference between unhealthy fats like shortening, margarine, and vegetable oils and real fats like butter and tallow. Marion Nestle, food author says that kids should be getting nutrients from real food – isn’t this what we’ve been saying all along? Why, why is it so hard to get this really quite simple point across? Oh wait, I forgot. Agribusiness companies and conglomerates wouldn’t hear of it…so we’re back to the drawing board.  :(

And here’s another maddening school lunch story – Sodexo, a supplier of processed foods to schools, has been pocketing rebate checks from processed food companies like Kellogg’s and Pepperidge Farms instead of passing the money along to schools. Do the unethical acts ever end? Of course, we don’t like that they are supplying processed foods to schools, but this just adds insult to injury.

Because genetically-modified foods are a big problem in today’s world with respect to health and sustainability, The Millions Against Monsanto Campaign is an important movement to get involved in. Genetic-modification is something that big companies like Monsanto argue is necessary in order to keep up on being able to feed the growing population of the world. But did you know that genetic modification of seeds is done at the DNA (cellular) level and prevents crops from re-seeding year after year (and Monsanto will sue you if their seeds blow onto your land too)? There are many side-effects to GMO foods including widespread failure and destruction of healthy, heirloom crops and damage to human health. It is a threat to our entire food supply and future. Becoming acquainted with what you can do to help stop this destructive process, boycott GMO foods and contact your local congressperson to let him or her know how you feel about GMOs and how they impact our health and the planet.

Last week I wrote two in-depth articles on the subject of raw milk – The Truth About Raw Milk, Part I and Part II, which have been circulating around the Internet and getting some good commentary. If you don’t know much about the importance and health benefits of real raw milk, give this subject a few minutes of your time today. This is another subject I feel very strongly about, and I’d like to point you in the direction of Mark McAfee’s (of Organic Pastures) interview on Sickly Cat about raw milk if you haven’t already seen it. It’s fantastic and really helps to answer some of the many questions people have about this hot topic.

Are you in favor of organic fertilizer or toxic sludge used to grow foods? In San Francisco, mayor Gavin Newsom is encouraging farmers, schools, and homeowners to use wastewater sewage for fertilizing produce. Come on San Francisco, I thought you were more progressive than that! Follow the link at the top of the Organic Consumers’ Association to the Peter Collins Radio Show for the latest on this development.

CHOW has this great article about whole animal buying - advise about purchasing large portions of meat directly from farmers or ranchers, and ideas for splitting it up with family or friends. I highly recommend buying meat this way – it creates less waste and you can save money on many fronts – by knowing your farmer and the practices they use, and being able to avoid supporting big agricultural outfits that produce unhealthy meats/meat products and harming the environment.

You’ve probably heard about the new USDA Dietary Guidelines that have recently been released? There are some really good articles available critiquing this subject. Kimberly Hartke who manages Hartke is Online! has this informative piece, Government has Failed to Halt Epidemic of Obesity and Diabetes. Also, David Augenstein’s fantastic new site, The Journal of Living Food & Healing has this great article – Scientists Claim: USDA Diet Guidelines Cause Obesity, Heart Disease, and Diabetes.

Mother Earth News, a great publication with a vast variety of topics shows you how to garden in small spaces, something that’s useful for many people who don’t have big pieces of land at their disposal for farming. Also, I liked this story on sustainable poultry management too, for those of you who are venturing into raising your own chickens and eggs.

Even though I’m not supposed to, we’ve been eating pancakes for the last two days at breakfast – along with some other great things too like chorizo omelets and bacon and eggs. Yum! I do much better if I eat my grains very sparingly and eat them properly prepared – as in, sprouted, soaked, or fermented. Something I still haven’t attempted yet is a good sourdough bread or other recipe, but my friend Diana at A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa has this fabulous recipe (and is a fantastic cook too!) for sourdough blueberry pancakes, with all the steps and photos (she’s so good at that!) you need to get started. Don’t these look absolutely delicious???

Okay, here’s two posts with recipes I really liked. My friend Tara at Keep It Real has some great ideas for meal items that are naturally rich in probiotics, something we all need more of in our diets…and something fun, a soaked spice cake that is really delicious! She brought some over for us to try when we met at the health food store last week.

The Local Cook has a great book review on food preservation, something that I really want to learn how to do, but haven’t yet. I was going to start doing that this summer, but I’m still trying to find out whether my garden is actually going to produce enough to make it worth my while. And, two of my friends who normally can and that I was going to get together with to learn how to do this with aren’t doing gardens this year. Our weather was really weird and we had a long cold snap in the spring, which caused a lot of problems for many people with gardens this spring. But, we’ll see what happens. If not this year, next year for sure!

Who’s got carnivals?

I don’t, but I would love to get one going sometime soon. I’m always so busy I barely have time to get posts up, but in the meantime, here’s a list of really great blogs with great weekly carnivals you should check out!

  • Two for Tuesdays Blog Hop – my friend Alex Clark at A Moderate Life is hosting this great recipe carnival weekly now, and she gets a lot of contributions. So stop on over, contribute a recipe, and read some of her articles too. She has a great variety of things to read about – all connected to real food, nutrition, eco-friendly ideas, and sustainability.
  • Tuesday Twister my friend Wardeh from GNOWFGLINS has a lot of great information about real food, cooking, and recipes and her Tuesday carnival is a great way to share your own real food recipes. I love Wardeh’s informative style and her great ability to teach new things to people about real food!
  • Real Food Wednesdays – My friend Kelly the Kitchen Kop is one of the most well-known and visited food and nutrition sites in the world of food blogging. You will find a whole lot of great posts contributed on Wednesdays about food, nutrition, and all things to do with breaking the conventional molds of ideas about health and food.
  • Pennywise Platter Thursdays My friend Kimi’s site is one of the best for recipes and great sustainable food ideas that are nutrient-dense. Check out her thrifty carnival on Thursdays for some wonderful recipe ideas!
  • Fight Back Friday – My friend Kristen at Food Renegade, another great resource site for insight on real food, recipes, and food politilcs has a great carnival for real food each Friday, and is a wonderful site for information about nutrition, health, and food politics.

Have anything interesting to share? Please do!

Healthy Living Kids & Family Real Food Toxin Alert!

Produce and Pestcides: The Dirty Dozen and Protecting Your Children

www.mypicshares.com

Are you concerned about pesticides and toxins on fruits and vegetables you eat daily? How often do you buy organic? Many fruits and vegetables available on the market are from conventional and commercial sources which use pesticides in farming practices.

It can be challenging to provide the healthiest choices for your family and stay on budget. Although organic is a good, healthy choice, there are ways to avoid the worst offenders, stay within your budget, and still eat healthy foods.

The following is a list of produce from conventional sources which contain the most and least pesticides (source, Environmental Working Group).

“Consistent with two previous EWG investigations, fruits topped the list of the consistently most contaminated fruits and vegetables, with seven of the 12 most contaminated foods. The seven were peaches leading the list, then apples, nectarines and strawberries, cherries, and imported grapes, and pears. Among these seven fruits:

  • Nectarines had the highest percentage of samples test positive for pesticides (97.3 percent), followed by peaches (96.7 percent) and apples (94.1 percent).
  • Peaches had the highest likelihood of multiple pesticides on a single sample – 87.0 percent had two or more pesticide residues — followed by nectarines (85.3 percent) and apples (82.3 percent).
  • Peaches and apples had the most pesticides detected on a single sample, with nine pesticides on a single sample, followed by strawberries and imported grapes where eight pesticides were found on a single sample of each fruit.
  • Peaches had the most pesticides overall, with some combination of up to 53 pesticides found on the samples tested, followed by apples with 50 pesticides and strawberries with 38.

Sweet bell peppers, celery, kale, lettuce, and carrots are the vegetables most likely to expose consumers to pesticides. Among these five vegetables:

  • Celery had the highest of percentage of samples test positive for pesticides (94.1 percent), followed by sweet bell peppers (81.5 percent) and carrots (82.3 percent).
  • Celery also had the highest likelihood of multiple pesticides on a single vegetable (79.8 percent of samples), followed by sweet bell peppers (62.2 percent) and kale (53.1 percent).
  • Sweet bell peppers had the most pesticides detected on a single sample (11 found on one sample), followed by kale (10 found on one sample), then lettuce and celery (both with nine).
  • Sweet bell peppers were the vegetable with the most pesticides overall, with 64, followed by lettuce with 57 and carrots with 40″.

15 Least Contaminated Fruits and Vegetables:

“The vegetables least likely to have pesticides on them are onions, sweet corn, asparagus, sweet peas, cabbage, eggplant, broccoli, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes.

  • Over half of the tomatoes (53.1 percent), broccoli (65.2 percent), eggplant (75.4 percent), cabbage (82.1 percent), and sweet pea (77.1 percent) samples had no detectable pesticides. Among the other three vegetables on the least-contaminated list (asparagus, sweet corn, and onions), there were no detectable residues on 90 percent or more of the samples.
  • Multiple pesticide residues are extremely rare on any of these least contaminated vegetables. Tomatoes had the highest likelihood, with a 13.5 percent chance of more than one pesticide when ready to eat. Onions and corn both had the lowest chance with zero samples containing more than one pesticide.
  • The greatest number of pesticides detected on a single sample of any of these low-pesticide vegetables was five (as compared to 11 found on sweet bell peppers, the vegetable with the most residues on a single sample).
  • Broccoli had the most pesticides found on a single type of vegetable, with up to 28 pesticides, but far fewer than the most contaminated vegetable, sweet bell peppers, on which 64 were found.

The fruits least likely to have pesticide residues on them are avocados, pineapples, mangoes, kiwi, papayas, watermelon and grapefruit.

  • Fewer than 10 percent of pineapple, mango, and avocado samples had detectable pesticides on them, and fewer than one percent of samples had more than one pesticide residue.
  • Though 54.5 percent of grapefruit had detectable pesticides, multiple residues are less common, with only 17.5 percent of samples containing more than one residue. Watermelon had residues on 28.1 percent of samples, and just 9.6 percent had multiple pesticide residues”.

According to Environmental Working Group:

  • People who eat the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables ingest an average of 10 pesticides a day. Those who ate from the 15 least contaminated list, only ingested 2 or less pesticides a day.
  • Pesticides are known to interfere with many bodily functions, including poisoning, infertility, and birth defects. Children are especially at risk as their body proportions are smaller, they are in the growing and developing stages of life, and their metabolisms are faster which means substances travel faster in the body.

In another recent study, the effects of pesticides were studied in children and the following was found:

“Current EPA standards of exposure for some pesticides assume children are three to five times more susceptible than adults, and for other pesticides the standards assume no difference,” said Nina Holland (a principal author of the study) stated: “Our study is the first to show quantitatively that young children may be more susceptible to certain organophosphate pesticides up to age seven. Our results suggest that the EPA standards need to be re-examined to determine if they are adequately protecting the most vulnerable members of the population.”

Organophosphate pesticides are insecticides used on farms, but some are manufactured for use in the home to eliminate or repel insects such as ants, mosquitoes, cockroaches, and other pests. These purpose of these chemicals are intended to disable the nervous system of insects.  As reported by the National Pesticide Information Center, many common brands (pdf) use organophosphates in insecticides.

As with other manufactured chemicals, these are suspected as being the cause of various serious health problems in humans. In World War I, similar chemicals were created to be used as nerve gases, and may affect reproductive, brain, and other development. Some pesticides contain toxins that have been found to cause weight gain, among other health problems.

The EPA has the responsibility of pulling these products from the shelves, but often doesn’t take action until health issues have become chronic and widespread. It is not uncommon for profitable pesticides to remain on the market many, many years after damage to human and environmental health is discovered.

Here are some ways to minimize your child’s exposure to pesticides in and out of the home:

  1. At home and in garden areas, avoid the use of pesticides as much as possible, and look to Beyond Pesticides for the least-toxic method for dealing with unwanted insects and pests that invade your home.
  2. Read about the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen foods reported to contain the most pesticides, and learn about a great new resource from the Pesticide Action Network at whatsonmyfood.org. When shopping for food choose organic as much as you are able, and reduce the number of opportunities of exposure to pesticides for your children.
  3. Don’t be afraid to have discussions with school staff and administrators, friends, and neighbors and friends about habits of pesticide usage. When facing a pest problem, a safe “integrated pest management” protocol can usually achieve the same or better results as a chemical pesticide.
  4. You can make your own natural formulas at home to repel mosquitoes and other unwanted pests with the following essential oils and a good carrier oil such as coconut oil or almond oil: citronella, lemon eucalyptus, cinnamon, castor, rosemary, lemongrass, cedar, peppermint, clove, pennyroyal, lavender, pine, basil, thyme, allspice, garlic, or geranium. You only need a few drops of oil mixed into carrier oil on your skin. Make certain your oils are labeled “food grade” or “therapeutic grade” and are suitable for topical application on the bottle. Depending on how long you are outside and perspiration, frequent re-application may be necessary.
  5. Growing your own food is a great option to be able to control how your food is produced. Gardening can take on a large or small scale production, and is a good way to save money on produce, teach your children about growing food, and reduce your exposure to pesticides. Here’s my latest post on what I’ve learned about gardening over the last few years in my own backyard.
  6. Studies done on pesticide use and effect on human health are still in the early stages. Because there are still so many things we may not know about the overall impact on health and the environment, research on your own to find out information about these chemicals and above all, err on the side of caution when it comes to exposure to risks you know are there.
  7. Shop locally as many farmers in local markets grow foods that are economical and don’t use pesticides and other dangerous chemicals.
  8. If you are unable to avoid produce with pesticides, use careful washing methods. Here’s a good home-made wash: fill a spray bottle with equal parts white vinegar and water. Spray solution onto your vegetables. Rub it in and rinse. For soft-skinned produce, fill a bowl with equal parts water and vinegar, place your produce in the bowl and soak for a minute or two, then rinse.

For more information on how to protect children from pesticides, visit the State Environmental Resource Center.

Interested in learning more about traditional foods and farming and the role they have on human health? Visit the Weston A. Price Foundation.

What are your solutions to avoiding pesticides and keeping your family healthy?

This post is part of Kelly The Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays Carnival. Please visit her site and read the other great posts there.