Wrap up of food policy findings

Recently I’ve been called a box vegetarian because I don’t cook much. Even as a box vegetarian, I’m still cautious of the ingredients. I try to avoid high fructose corn syrup and processed soy. I’m happy to have learned about greenwashing because it plays a large part in my food shopping. I look at the Green Guide and Green Seal ect.. I’ve started eating more rice and quinoa. I’ve enjoyed learning about quinoa and the policies surrounding this staple food. My next step is eating and purchasing more local foods. I find this topic fascinating especially in the policy realm. I learned of a list of bills located on the Urban Agriculture State Legislation website that provides the details to proposed and passed policy relating to communities and states adopting local food practices.

I think the future of food policy is moving forward in a productive way. People are stepping up by demanding accurate labeling, quality food, and local economic benefits intertwined with local food policy. I expect there to be continuous backlash from the big business agriculture and trade policies. Even if it seems like a fad for the hipsters to go green and organic, I think it is really a mixture of wanting to reconnect with the roots of our food and the future of science and technology. We are understanding more and more the reality of our growing populations and health needs combined with the acceleration of our work days.

The overall context of class touched on each topic that I explored. I realize in much more depth the reasoning of issues and am able to communicate better my lifestyle changes because of this class and the independent research done in this blog.

Localvore policy

There’s positive momentum in the local food movement. Many cities are passing bills that support tax breaks and similar incentives to promote urban farming. A list of bills is located on the Urban Agriculture State Legislation website.

An important reason this is a good step is because transportation is the number one polluter and our food travels a great deal. It’s said food travels 25% more now than in 1980. Within US boarders food travel is 20% of transportation. It’s weird that food exported is also imported.

I particularly like the IL bill HB 3990. It states that “The Local Food, Farms and Jobs Act set a goal that 20 percent of all food products purchased by state agencies and state-owned facilities be local farm or food products by 2020. It removed a barrier to purchasing locally grown food by giving preference to locally grown food. The bill also created the Local Food, Farms and Jobs Council. The council will help local farm and food entrepreneurs identify and secure resources and equipment to expand projects and build infrastructure and use of public lands for growing local food products, among other goals.”

Pollution is also a reason to be concerned about the food grown in urban areas. There are many studies surrounding this issue. I found a well rounded article that describes risk management of urban farming. 

Do you know quinoa?

I follow a few vegetarian and food related organizations via Facebook. One day recently after eating quinoa, there was a TakePart post on Facebook petitioning to stop consuming it called Quinoa’s Dark Secret. Being new to quinoa, I was initially horrified that I was contributing to the land degradation and food scarcity issues associated with quinoa exportation. I was also horrified that Facebook knew what I’d eaten for lunch and guilt tripped me. I don’t like a guilt trip, so I investigated further. After reading several articles and comments, I found a balanced explanation on Slate. It’s okay to buy quinoa.

Did you know that the UN declared 2013 the international year of quinoa? This crop is actually providing food security. Governmental initiatives use quinoa to combat malnutrition rates by offering it during school breakfast. NASA uses it to feed astronauts. It’s arguably the most nutritious food.

Being green and skeptical

I’ve learned a new word recently. Greenwashing. It’s a negative term meaning that a company isn’t telling the whole story about the environmental practices it’s claiming to have in it’s advertising. It can be very difficult to determine if greenwashing is happening. Fortunately, policies and guidelines are developing to catch the cheaters. The Federal Trade Commission organized a guide for the use of environmental marketing claims. Green Guide. It’s a little heavy for a quick skim but there are good examples. Take note however, that technologies and policies change and aren’t always updated in a timely manner. The guideline gives an example about caps on plastic water bottles not being recyclable but because the rest of the bottle is recyclable, then it is acceptable to label it as such. Recently though, technology has advanced in the recycling industry and the majority of centers are now recycling the caps. The FTC uses these guidelines to enforce it’s Federal Trade Commissions Act. There are many  federal and state laws looking out for the correct use of environmental marketing.

Do you know about the Green Seal? This is a really great organization. Not to be confused with a green list, which SC Johnson lost a lawsuit over for false advertising. The Environmental Leader includes the SC Johnson case and many others.

Our eating habits have footprints

My main reason for choosing to be vegetarian this March is because of the depleting resources and the policies surrounding resources such as water. Agriculture plays an enormous role in the carbon and water footprints made on this earth.

This article is good at breaking down the carbon footprint of the diet.

In the news lately there is uproar about school cafeterias adopting Meatless Mondays. What is Meatless Mondays. Seem’s like a good idea to me but there is plenty of opposition. A quick breakdown of the current situation.

It’s Meatless Monday 9/29/14. Have you had your vegetables today? Most probably haven’t, but maybe not for the lack of trying. Or maybe they’re pledging to eat two steaks in protest against those who will eat none. The Meatless Monday campaign is willing to catch the rotten tomatoes thrown it’s way from the opposite end of the table and turn it into compost.

The most recent Meatless Monday naysayer is the Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Todd Staples, who recently resigned and accepted the role of president for the Texas Oil and Gas Association. Your left eyebrow should strike that questioning pose. He is calling the Meatless Monday campaign propaganda. His reasoning for such a hypocritical statement is that he’s concerned about the issue of hunger. Ironically, the issue of hunger is caused by the ideology Staples is defending. Now both your eyebrows are heightened with skepticism.

Vegetables in cafeterias have notoriously scrunched up our noses. However, with the reforming of the cafeteria system, food in general is prepared better and more appealing. What needs to stop is the propaganda of framing healthy food as disgusting and meat as the most important protein.

Taking meat out of the option for one meal a day is an opportunity to educate about food and nutrition. It’s common knowledge American is suffering severely from an obesity problem. We need the benefits from eating less processed and fresher foods like fruits and vegetables. American children will not starve because the cafeteria isn’t offering meat one day a week.

This is also a platform to educate the broader public about the relationship of food between politics and economies. The hot topic is food scarcity. The issue has roots in water, pollution, land rights, poverty, war, economics, policy, and health. A beginner’s research is enough to make the connections. The Meatless Monday website alone has sufficient information to turn your stomach about the consequences from the overconsumption of meat.

I switched to a vegetarian diet in March because of my studies in environmental science from the Purdue College of Agriculture. In Indiana, including West Lafayette, there isn’t much of the granola scene. So, I’m not jumping on a bandwagon of trending suburbanite hipsters. The point isn’t to turn everyone into vegetarians or vegans, as Staples fears.

The point is to stand up to dietary dictators like Staples, and demand a more diverse food system in order to be healthier as an ecosystem. In reality, the bandwagon is much bigger with a strong, steady foundation of diverse personalities and specialties working together to better the planet.

No more bacon

My goal is to discuss why I choose to consume less and eventually no meat and its associated products. I became interested in food issues during a class about economic geography of world food and resources. I follow my curiosities by various aspects and will share them as I sift through the grey areas of my decision making. To introduce this topic, I begin by sharing two TedX talks.

Here’s the links:

About being a weekday vegetarian:

What’s wrong with that food: