40 percent of all food produced in the United States is wasted. This is a shocking fact when so many people are going hungry. The organization I am working for Food Shift is trying to find a solution to this disturbing statistic.
Part of Food Shift’s mission is to find out why food is being wasted in the first place. Most of what we have found is that some produce never even makes it off the farm. People do not want to buy “ugly” produce and therefore farmers are forced to waste their products. There are so many silly regulations that grocery stores follow based off an assumption that we won’t eat that weird looking fruit. For example, there is a specific percentage of red an apple has to be for a grocery store to buy it. No joke, they measure the redness of every apple. Part of what Food Shift is creating is a recovery program to redistribute this “unwanted” food to people who do want it and need it. Currently we are working with Andronicos in Berkeley by bringing recovered food to their stores and selling good, organic produce for a hugely discounted price. We believe everyone, no matter your income, deserves to eat right.
In other countries people have been fairly successful in eliminating food waste. Through policy, Food Shift is trying to regulate the expiration date posted on food. These stickers are often confusing (eat by, sell by, what does it all mean?) and have no standard regulations, grocery stores literally just make it up. A standard date would help eliminate the amount of good food grocery stores throw away every night.
Another policy alternative to encouraging grocery stores to cut back on waste is changing the way our trash services run. Right now businesses pay one price for one dumpster and are allowed to fill it. A successful alternative to this is to charge people by the pound of their waste not by how much they can cram in a dumpster. It is important to get that wasted food out of the dumpster and into the hands of those who truly need it.
Please check out Food Shift online:
I have been doing my ICL internship with City Slicker Farms located in West Oakland. The mission of City Slickers is to provide West Oakland residents with fresh and organic food options. They work towards this vision by transforming empty parking lots, foreclosed house sites, and whatever other land is donated to them into small high-yield farms. With the harvested produce from the farms they set up a small community market on Saturdays and sell the produce at sliding scale prices. They also have a program where residents of West Oakland can request a garden build in their yard. A city slicker team will then come to their household and build a bed frame, plant vegetables, and teach the resident how to maintain the garden.
Up to this point in my internship I have been working at the community market and on the small farm the market is located in front of. We set up all the vegetables from the week’s harvest on the picnic bench on 34th and Peralta. After helping with the stand for a couple of months now I have become quite familiar with many of the regulars who hit up the stand for fresh produce. There are definitely some eccentric characters that keep the morning lively. In this position I talk to customers about what produce has been harvested during the week and answer any questions that might come up. I act as a leader by essentially running the stand when Joseph, the gentleman who runs the farm, has to put his attention elsewhere. I think my role as a leader in this position embodies many transformational leadership qualities. Meeting people where they are at and thoughtful communication are key qualities.
Another component of my internship is to guide volunteers through the farm tasks for the day. This may include teaching them how to turn compost, plant seeds, conduct the chicken duties, or spray the plants for aphids. Last week there were 30 Berkeley students that came to volunteer for the day, I definitely had to channel some ICL leadership qualities! Joseph and I split the group up into to two and took on different parts of the farm with our groups. Overall I really haven’t had any difficulties with my internship; I guess I have a very easy- going deal! If I have any questions or need advice on an issue, I feel very comfortable talking with my supervisor. I guess the best advice is to try to build those relationships from the gecko and make sure to communicate all questions or uncertainties to one’s supervisor. Overall I am having a great time!
“How can we shift a culture of verbal violence through verbal alchemy?” This is the question posted in my first post to the blog A Pedestrian People: At the Intersect of Spirituality and Service. The post is titled “Verbal Alchemy: Transformational Responses to Hate Speech.” I’m proud to have been asked to contribute to this excellent new blog, and hope you’ll all check it out, subscribe to it and/or Like it on Facebook!
What if all city landscaping was edible, and you could pick veggies to roast for dinner on your way out of the BART station or on your walk home from work? What if you could pick herbs and salad greens on your street corner? What if you knew the farmer from whom you bought your eggs and could observe the production of honey and the raising of meat in your neighborhood? This would discourage unfair labor practices by having the production of food visible in the community, encourage healthy eating, and provide access to free, healthy food for those in need. In the small English town of Todmorden this is a reality, and it all started with a movement called Incredible Edible Todmorden.
Pam Warhurst and several other community members thought up Incredible Edible Todmorden because they wanted to help the environment and make a positive change in their town to foster community, education, and business. They decided that the uniting language with which to achieve their goal was food because, as Ms. Warhurst says, “everybody eats!”
Today, in the town of Todmorden, there is corn growing in front of the police station, and there are planter boxes in front of the train station, fire station, and medical building. The landscaping of the entire town has been replaced with vegetables, fruit, and herbs that anyone can pick for free. In order to encourage local buying, a list of locally produced products has been made available, and has become very popular, raising awareness of local food and increasing the revenue of half the local food traders in Todmorden. School children have shown so much interest in growing that a horticulture program has been created at the High School.
The result of Incredible Edible Todmorden is greater economic prosperity for local merchants, an enhanced sense of community, local job opportunities for youth, a decreased carbon footprint, and fresh food for everyone. The movement has spread to Australia, China, and the United States and has potential to decrease food miles and the carbon footprint, make fresh food available for everyone, and provide transparency and encourage fair labor practices by having food production under the eye of the community.
Food for thought
This is an 11 minute documentary about Todmorden and the Incredible Edible movement.
Incredible Edible Website:
“Berkeley’s Bread Project is a free culinary program that gets people ready for the workplace…. The program serves vulnerable populations, including low-income immigrants and single moms, former felons and recovering substance abusers, the once homeless and the formerly employed. Bread Project staff recruit students from quarters few other culinary programs would approach: homeless shelters, halfway houses, addiction recovery programs, jails, and social service agencies.” (Henry)
“Our mission is to empower individuals with limited resources on their path to self-sufficiency through skills instruction, on-the-job training in our social enterprises and assistance with establishing a career in the food industry.” (The Bread Project)
The Bread Project is an inspiring model that is bringing hope and purpose to members of vulnerable populations. It is helping to bring people back to the workforce after the recession and also serves to reincorporate those with criminal records into not only the workplace, but a wholesome community where they are respected. This is a wonderful model of how, with training and community support people can rekindle their dreams and remake their lives.
One of the populations that benefit from this program is former prisoners. In 2011, The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) reported that nearly 7 in 10 people who were previously incarcerated will commit a new crime, and half will end up back in prison within three years. Programs like The Bread Project provide an opportunity for those in this vulnerable population to restart their lives by gaining job skills, the respect of a community, and a new identity based on their passions and possibilities rather than their pasts.
Henry, Sarah. Teach a Man to Bake Bread and Feed Him For Life. Berkeleyside. Oct. 3 2012. http://www.baycitizen.org/food/story/jobs-program-teaches-people-bake-bread/
The Bread Project. 2010 http://www.breadproject.org/index.html
Laura E. Gorgol and Brian A. Sponsler, “Unlocking Potential: Results of a National Survey of Postsecondary Education in State Prisons,” Institute for Higher Education Policy, 2011
Education is a right, something to which all people should have equal access. Unfortunately, this is not a simple task. The first challenge is to get the resources to every community so that a quality education is accessible for everyone, but complicating that is the fact that people learn in different ways. In order for educational opportunity to be truly equal, these differences in learning style must be reflected in our school.
The flipped classroom (also called the inverted classroom) is an intriguing new approach to equalizing the educational experience in America. In the flipped classroom, the material that students would traditionally learn in a class lecture is presented through a video that they can watch on the computer at home or in the school library. When the lecture is out of the way, class time is opened up for working on what would normally be given as homework. This allows teachers to engage one on one and in small groups with the students and to bring in activities for the class that expand and enhance the information learned in lecture.
Through the flipped classroom model, teachers gain greater flexibility in how they can engage students and present material. It allows them to bring in activities for different learning styles that may engage those students who do not learn best in a lecture setting. Also, doing “homework” in class gives students who may not have a parent at home to help with homework equal opportunity to success.
After the flipped classroom model was implemented at his high school, Dominique Moody was able to dramatically improve his grades, start tutoring others in his class, and plan for college for the first time. I love Dominique’s story for his increased success in school, but I also think it demonstrates another potential power of this model. Dominique was able to bring the video lectures into his home and started watching them with his mother. He and his mother started learning subjects together. Through the flipped classroom, parents who may not have been able to engage with their children over the traditional homework can now learn alongside their kids and become more involved.
There are some powerful statistics associated with the Flipped School model including results published by Knewton for High School freshmen showing an improvement from a 50% failure rate in English and 44% failure rate in Math before the flip to only 19% and 13% failure rates afterward. (Juvenile Justice Information Exchange)
Of course, this approach is only equalizing if all students have easy access to the videos. Dominique’s teacher, Mr. Townsend allows several days for the students to view the lectures whether that be at home or in the school library. In the future, the distribution of computers for students or some other way of getting them the information at home may be appropriate.
Information on the Flipped Classroom model:
The Flipped School and Dominique Moody’s Story:
The Story from American Public Media. April 16 2012.
Juvenile Justice Information Exchange “The Flipped Classroom and the Changing Role of the Educator?” Retrieved 5 Nov 2012.
Last week ABC news reported a heroic story of Oliver, a former Nigerian citizen who gained asylum earlier this year and is now living in the US. Like many people seeking asylum in America, Oliver had a unique and also terrifying story to tell. Coming out quietly as a gay man in 2005 was only the beginning of the persecution Oliver would face before finding sanctuary in the States. In this article, Oliver describes that in Nigeria, coming out to his community almost cost him his life. In Nigeria, the Senate passed a bill that criminalizes homosexuality forcing even families to report their loved ones if they are in a same-sex relationship. Oliver explains that this new law tore the closest families apart by fear, ignorance, and betrayal. The persecution did not stop there; Oliver reported that Nigerians who people assumed were or could be gay were accosted and taken in custody. Under the new criminal code, anyone in Nigeria arrested due to sexuality would spend 14 years in prison. All members of the LGBTQ community and their rights would be in jeopardy under this new law in Nigeria. The article states that Oliver is one of 105 LGBT applicants to win asylum in the US, thanks to the pro bono work of Immigration Equality. This article as well as Oliver’s brave testimony brings to light the horrors LGBT members and their families face abroad, and the lengths they must go to escape false arrests, harassment, assault, and many times death. Oliver lived with his mother who always protected him—moving to the states for protection forced Oliver to separate from him mother who remains a Nigerian citizen. This account casts a different light on immigration and civil rights abroad and in this country. For one, immigration in the US is often stereotyped to include only freeloaders and criminals, who push through “our” borders with violence and greed. Not true- immigrants like Oliver and members of my own family chose to come to America to escape an oppressive government. The immigration system in this country was meant to aid people like them, wanting a better life with freedoms and rights. These people come here sometimes sacrificing everything they have to be free—family members and friends back home, a house, a beloved town, even a prestigious job. Even with the sacrifices they make, asylum applicants may not be able to afford the cost of an immigration lawyer (costing around $10,000) and can be immediately deported. Whether oppressed because of their sexuality, ethnicity, political views, etc. immigrants like Oliver deserve a chance at life here in the states, so that they may advocate for the rights of their community and seek to change the structure of oppressive nations globally.
After the recent death of Savital Halappanavar in a Galway hospital, Ireland is reviewing its stance on abortion and the regulations surrounding its use. Mrs. Halappanavar was denied an abortion, even when it was clear she was miscarrying the child, and her death soon followed. The current stance of the Republic is to use abortion only when the life of the mother is at risk, not her health. This is a thin line and doesn’t give doctors proper guidance when making decisions about unborn children. Mrs. Halappanavar was told she was miscarrying and asked for an abortion but was denied. Days later, when she was suffering from complications from the miscarriage, she died. Her husband is requesting a full inquiry into the matter and believes she would have lived had the hospital performed an abortion.
At this time, Ireland’s expert panel has said they are favoring legislation and regulation of abortion as their best option. It isn’t clear when that will mean but by the end of the year, Ireland will have a final decision. The death of Mrs. Halappanavar shows why this issue needs to be discussed openly and why the government must make sure to include doctors in the debate. Hers was a painful death because of a natural miscarriage and may have been preventable. Religion always plays a part in these discussions, especially in a Catholic nation like Ireland, but the life and health of the mother cannot be overlooked. I hope Ireland moves to a more progressive and open stance on abortion to help prevent deaths like that of Mrs. Halappanavar from happening again.