Food Choices for Healthy People and a Healthy Planet

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Here’s a wonderfully succinct and proactive slogan: AMERICA NEEDS A MILLION NEW FARMERS. VETERANS WANT THE JOB.

This is the appeal of a website that supports a new documentary called Ground Operations: Battlefields to Farmfields.

As you know, the average age of farmers in America is 57 – and we’re going to need more of them in future years as the current generation retires. And who better to fill their shoes than the returning veterans who are looking for work?

As the website says, “The mission of Ground Operations is to strengthen the growing network of combat veterans transitioning into new careers in sustainable farming and ranching. Let’s help them get started and build their resources, so that they can create healthy new lives for themselves and food security for communities across America.”

I’m old enough to remember the Viet Nam war, the protests, the loss of lives, and the strains endured by returning veterans of my generation. Thankfully, we’ve learned our lesson and offer ceremonies of welcome and other support for this generation of young people who were sent overseas to fight in our name. BUT our economy leaves them in the lurch.

Farming – the perfect solution. Swords into plowshares!

Currently scheduled screenings of Ground Operations can be found here. Trailers are available on the website. You can also make a donation via the crowdsourcing site IndieGoGo.

This is the first financial appeal I’ve made from The Green Foodprint in the years I’ve been blogging. I’ve donated. Please consider adding your dollars to this cause.

shiitake lg

On Earth Day last week, some friends and I dined at The Vegetarian House, which is both vegan, non-GMO, and organic. Wait – don’t go yet! Vegan is delicious, and I just found out (again) how delicious!

As you may know, a vegetarian does not eat (dare we say, eschews) meat, fish, poultry – anything that was once a living animal. He or she may eat dairy and eggs. A vegan doesn’t eat these either. Just as carnivores wonder how one can live without meat and dairy, I used to wonder how one lived without cheese. But creative vegans have dreamed up incredibly delightful recipes and menus.

bok choy

The six of us chose a variety of dishes and shared, so I got to sample a range of The Vegetarian House’s goodies. I’ll just list a few: Won ton soup (with shiitake mushrooms, bok choy, tofu, cilantro, and more), sweet and sour (pineapple, bell peppers, soy nuggets), clay pot (bean cakes wrapped in seaweed, with gravy and pepper), asparagus (with soy slices, bell pepper, mushrooms), curry masala (jicama, broccoli, shiitake, cauliflower, and more with coconut milk curry sauce) — well, you get the idea. Culinary influences are from China, Vietnam, Thailand, India, Middle East, Europe and the Americas

What other earth-friendly practices do they have? Solar panels on the roof, energy-efficient lighting and appliances, local sourcing of ingredients whenever possible.

We didn’t try the desserts but they look tempting (organic tiramisu, carrot cake, banana fritters, etc.). And even raw desserts – strawberry cheesecake, carob mousse pie, and more. Looks as if I’ll just have to go back there and try them all!

520 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose 95112  (408) 292 3798

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Last month there was good news for those of us who a) want to know what’s in our food, and b) have hopes that a successful food chain can retain (or regain) its moral compass.

Whole Foods, possibly the largest and best-known earth-friendly food chain, announced in early March that by 2018 every product sold in its stores will have a label stating whether or not it contains genetically modified organisms.

Why does this matter? Because there hasn’t been enough independent research to determine whether genetically modified foods are safe – for our bodies and for the environment. I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust that the people whose livelihoods depend on proving something is safe will objectively weigh the evidence – and tell us what it says. My friend Michele Simon has been studying corporate misbehavior for years, and on her website (and accompanying newsletter) you can find out all the reasons you should be skeptical, too.

Five years is a long time to wait for full labeling of GMOs to appear in this chain, but in the meantime you can look for organic foods, which by definition do not have GMOs in them. You can also support the wave of legislative proposals to require labeling of GMOs. According to the Organic Consumers Association, there are 25 states currently working on such laws!

hands plant

Greg Christian was a chef and caterer, using the conventional foods and methods we all learned once upon a time. As he describes it now,

“In the foodservice industry, we are faced with a current reality where our foods are highly-processed with chemicals, transported long distances, produced with pesticides and fertilizers that are harming people and the environment, and packed with sugars and fats that are causing illness and disease around the world. The farmers, distributors, and cooks are struggling to survive, let alone flourish, in this system where they are paid little to provide the food that the world relies on for its survival.”

That’s the depressing picture that has dominated America’s food system for too long. But then his daughter’s illness stumped doctors and specialists, and his wife’s decision to give her local organic food led to her recovery. Eventually he was inspired to share this revelation with others. He started a zero-waste kitchen, created a school lunch program that was integrated into a garden and classrooms, and finally became a consultant to help other food service business make the same transformation. Christian envisions a major transformation:

“The ideal foodservice industry of the future will be based on local economies, where food is grown near where it is consumed, in ways that use little or no chemicals, and are then cooked with love and care from scratch, by workers who are treated fairly and respectfully for the great service they provide each of us. All people will have food, will know where their food comes from, and know that the food is real food that restores the soul—not just our bodies.”

Now Christian has put his vision for transforming food organizations into print and pixels – you can download his Manifesto here. After acknowledging that this transformation will require major changes, he gives (for free) his blueprint for change. This heartfelt manifesto for health and sustainability is about food, but the systems perspective it conveys (and the author’s candid admission of past mistakes and the obstacles change-makers face) could apply to many areas of life, and many businesses — maybe yours.







A friend treated me to dinner at a restaurant she loves in Santa Rosa, enticing me with praise of all the things the owner was doing to meet the highest standards of health for person and planet. So after my author appearance at the Sonoma County Book Festival, we went to a place called Goji Kitchen. On the menu you can find a wide range of offerings, including meat dishes, but best of all, lots of vegetarian and vegan options. So there was gold star number one – going meatless is the best thing you can do for the planet.

The owner is named Kim Chi (not to be confused with the spicy Korean sauerkraut), who described one unusual and surprising cooking choice. She never uses a microwave, believing that microwaves damage the nutritional qualities of foods heated in them. This decision to forego one of modernity’s handiest inventions is impressive, given the complexities of serving numerous dishes hot over a meal time that might last hours. Instead, she uses a steaming chamber.

Another innovation was something called Nordaq Fresh, a device that purifies water on site to a high standard. Thomas Keller of the French Laundry restaurant uses it, too. I personally couldn’t tell a taste difference, but these days we need all the purity we can get!  Kim Chi also spoke knowledgeably about gluten sensitivities, the aflatoxin in peanuts (which is why she uses almonds for a garnish), and more.

So if you’re looking for a restaurant where you can trust that the owner/chef is committed to health of people and planet, here is one in Santa Rosa I recommend that you visit.  Goji Kitchen, 1965 Mendocino Avenue, Santa Rosa, 95401  (707) 523 3888.

A few months ago I wrote about edible food packaging, which, if it becomes feasible, would be one interesting way to tackle the astounding waste of natural resources (trees, petroleum, aluminum, energy) caused by food packaging. According to  As You Sow, an organization devoted to leading corporations toward sustainability, “At least 43 million tons of plastic, glass, metal, and paper packaging—much of it with market value—is landfilled or burned in the U.S. each year. Packaging waste is also the biggest component of ocean litter that harms marine life and pollutes our oceans.”





Before I get to today’s news, here are some things you can do right now about packaging waste, that I wrote about here:

✓ Buy products with the least packaging: Fresh, local, in season. Be willing to buy produce that is perfectly good, though it might not look perfect.

✓ Buy products in bulk or large containers, not tiny serving sizes.

✓ Use concentrates (juices, cleansers), which require less packaging.

✓ When buying a few small items, ask the clerk not to put them in a bag.

✓ Reuse and recycle the packaging you can’t avoid.

✓ Bring your own cloth bags. Many grocery and drug chains sell them, as do online retailers. Some stores give you a small rebate for bringing your own bags.

✓ Eat your package. Buy ice cream in cones, not plastic cups.

Extended producer responsibility (EPR) is a new movement, complete with its own acronym, challenging manufacturers to create more earth-friendly products and to take responsibility for their remains after consumers (that’s you and me!) have used them. So far this mostly pertains to large appliances. In the food world, of course, recycling is the currently most usable technique.

And, of course, if you go for apples and bananas, you can always eat your packaging!