Big news out of the University of Maryland today! Compost2theMoon’s very own Allison Lilly has been working hard to improve the sustainability of the food system within Dining Services and it is paying off in a big way! The department has created and launched a Sustainable Food Working Group, comprised of students, faculty and staff, which will collaborate to create a more sustainable and healthy campus. They will also be launching a Far-to-School series of planned activities including special dinners in dining halls, sponsored workshops, on-campus visits with local farmers, and off-campus farm tours.
The newest department goal, to reach 20 percent sustainable food purchases by 2020 (with a focus on local food), has grown from the Green Dining initiative – originated with DS Facilities Maintenance several years ago. The initiative also includes piloting recycle and compost programs in campus dish rooms and building gardens on the roofs of campus dining halls. Dining Services’ sustainable food commitment includes the following benchmarks:
- 1 to 4 percent annual increase in sustainable food purchases
- Annual, incremental increases in sourcing from local growers, with special emphasis on Maryland growers and harvesters
- Annual, incremental increases in sourcing unprocessed, whole goods – 20 percent sustainable food by 2020
“Dining Services’ goals for sustainable food are well aligned with the University’s strategic plan and the President’s Climate Commitment. The Sustainable Food Working Group is a wonderful example of innovative cross-campus collaboration,” says Wallace D. Loh, University of Maryland president.
In addition to all this awesomeness, the gang at Dining Services will continue its participation in four on-campus vegetable gardens and the Farmers Market at Maryland.
Click here to learn more about UMD’s Dining Services Sustainable Food Commitment.
Way to go, Allie!
Food Day is “a nationwide celebration and a movement toward more healthy, affordable, and sustainable food, and powered by a diverse coalition of food movement leaders, organizations, and people from all walks of life.” It takes place annually on October 24 to address issues ranging from health and nutrition, hunger, agricultural policy, animal welfare, and farm worker justice. Several priorities provide the common ground for the the food movement and simultaneous events nationwide:
Last year, we celebrated in conjunction with the Public Health Garden’s First Annual Harvest Festival. This year we would like to encourage our friends and family to take the Eat Real Quiz and spend a little time reflecting on your score. Were you surprised by the positive or negative impact of certain aspects of your diet? Were there any categories that you scored poorly in that could easily be improved?
While the ultimate goal of Food Day is to strengthen and unify the food movement in order to improve our nation’s food policies, we think it is also about raising personal awareness. Vote with your fork!
Whenever I order the vegetarian option on a menu or say “no thanks” to a steak from the grill, I end up in a discussion about the evolution of farming methods, meat-eating, and the health of the average American diet.
The truth is, I occasionally eat meat. We are, after all, omnivores and have the capacity and desire to eat meat. What I cannot, in good conscious, eat is factory farmed meat. It is the opposite of what nature intended and – consumed the way it is today – is undeniably bad for the planet and bad for human health. A few years ago, the United Food and Agriculture Organization published findings that current production levels of meat contribute between 14 and 22 percent of the 36 billion tons of “CO2-equivalent” greenhouse gases the world produces every year. On top of that, consider how much farmland is dedicated to growing that feed instead of bio-diverse crops.
On the same token, I will not purchase an organic apple from New Zealand over a conventionally grown American apple just because one is organic and the other may not be. Pesticides and herbicides are under a lot more scrutiny and regulation than many of the items deemed ‘natural’ by a label and I like to believe, however idealistic and blindly optimistic, that buying American is almost always a good choice.
So how about canned veggies? And a lot of the things that we pick up at the grocer because Dr. Oz tells us they are healthy choices? Does the saying ‘good for you, good for the environment’ really hold true? Brian Palmer, for Slate’s Green Lantern, answers this question in this week’s Q&A:
“Too often, environmentalists slip half-knowingly between human health and environmental health. Ask a stranger in the grocery store why he buys organic, and he’ll almost certainly conflate the two issues. We’re all one, after all… Unfortunately, there’s no natural law saying that planet health and human health are unitary. Consider the potato. According to a 20-year study involving more than 120,000 people, potatoes correlate more closely with obesity than any other food (including soda). And yet, potatoes aren’t exactly giving Mother Earth diabetes, so to speak.”
Read Palmer’s articulate response to the question: is eating healthy better for the environment too? HERE. He examines transportation, farming methods, storage methods and compares fresh vs frozen foods. It turns out that there are many circumstances in which limp, salty canned food – which may not be better for your taste-buds or fit the idea of ‘fresh’ – is better for the environment.