Food Choices for Healthy People and a Healthy Planet

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Let’s look forward to a time when honeybees – our little friends who pollinate so many of our food crops – are no longer dying en masse in Colony Collapse Disorder (when bees die off or simply leave the hive and never come back). Katherine Harmon of the Scientific American points out that a third of US honeybee colonies have died since 2006. Since I last wrote about bees almost a year ago, the pesticide imidacloprid, which is a neonicotinoid, was shown by separate studies in three countries to be a major cause. Go here  for a nice summary of these studies.

What you can do:

  • Choose organic food early and often, supporting farmers who work to grow food naturally and to support their ecosystems.
  • Tend your yard and garden without chemicals. One way to do this is by “companion planting” – putting certain plants next to each other for mutual benefit. For instance, chives repel aphids, while peppermint repels cabbage moths and squash bugs.
  • Host your own beehive! Even if you have a small yard or none at all, bees can fly some distance to find the flowers and pollen they need. There are many beekeeping organizations to turn to for practical advice.

The web of life – wherein we all live and depend on each other – is perfectly illustrated by our dependence on bees and the danger we cause ourselves when we contribute to their disappearance. Make 2013 the year that you make food choices to support their lives and ours.

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The Green Foodprint was recently selected for review by Publishers Weekly, one of the most distinguished and respected sources for book reviews in the industry. For their expert opinion, click here and read the glowing review they gave The Green Foodprint. 

This month’s E Magazine has an encouraging story by Melinda Tuhus about a positive development in the West Bank. The Palestine Fair Trade Association has organized olive growers into cooperatives, so they receive a fair wage for their work and have their own brand, Canaan Fair Trade, which is sold in stores like Whole Foods. Said one member, “The people here [in the association] are very nice and they treat the farmers very well,” he says. “And they give scholarships to the children of the farmers.”  Canaan Fair Trade also produces other Middle Eastern delicacies like tahini, couscous, fig spread, and more. Check out the website to see all they do in their community!





Here are some places in the Bay Area where you can buy Canaan products:

2840 College Avenue,  Berkeley, CA 94705

1745 Folsom Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

440 California Avenue, Palo Alto, CA

Just as heartwarming to those of us who care about good, sustainable, fair trade food, I’ve written elsewhere about several collaborations among Israelis, Jordanians, and Palestinians:

Friends of the Earth/Middle East is an organization of Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian environmentalists who work together to clean up the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. This organization also promotes healthy food, solar energy, and eco-tourism.”






“Yossi Leshem, an Israeli bird expert and director of the International Center for the Study of Bird Migration, was troubled by the deaths of hundreds of birds in northern Israel. The birds were being killed by the chemicals used to eradicate the rats that were eating the farmers’ crops. Leshem persuaded a kibbutz to try a different solution. Barn owl boxes were installed to lure owls to make their homes at the kibbutz, and within a few years the rat problem was solved. An Ohio Jewish community group gave funds so the kibbutz members could donate building materials for owl nesting boxes to their Jordanian neighbors. Little by little, overcoming obstacles, the project is helping former enemies reach out to one another.”

May food be a bridge to peace.

On a trip north to Lassen and Shasta, I discovered a brand-new little restaurant that was amazingly sophisticated for its out-of-the-way location. Dunsmuir is a tiny town (population about 2,000) on state route 5 near Redding, with railroad tracks running down the center. There are boarded up empty storefronts and a little place called Dogwood Diner. It’s only been there a few months and doesn’t even have its own website yet – but it’s growing by word of mouth and garnering raves on the reviewing sites.

What makes it sustainable? Well, the chefs choose as many organic ingredients as possible and offer many creative meatless options, such as arugula salad with red quinoa, toasted almonds, and grape tomatoes with a lemon vinaigrette. You can order sweet potato gnocchi. I had a stuffed acorn squash with mixed grains and curried lentils – delightful! The papardelle noodles come with walnut pesto, broccoli rabe, kale, and parmesan.  So the biodiversity mantra to go beyond the half-dozen obvious foods  (“eat wider on the food chain”) is honored here. Fried portabella mushrooms came with cashew gravy and a puree of white beans and cauliflower – also tasty and memorable.

Our waiter showed us a really unusual touch: since the building was erected long ago on top of a creek, the owners have punched out a square hole in the floor and covered it with thick glass, making a window you can look through to see the flowing water underneath.

Dogwood Diner, 5841 Sacramento Avenue, Dunsmuir CA  (530) 678 3502.

Not since kindergarten, when some of us ate the library paste, has a more yucky food ingredient been brought to our attention, with the obvious exception of pink slime. (You’ll recall that pink slime is made of the sweepings from the slaughterhouse floor, washed in ammonia, and mixed with ground meat). This newly revealed substance is called “meat glue” and has been around for a while. A powder made of transglutaminase (an enzyme) and beef fibrin can be used to stick together odd bits of meat to form them into apparently whole prime cuts.

It may surprise you to learn that I don’t totally condemn this practice – in concept, anyway. Waste is a terrible thing to do to food, and anything that can reduce food waste is worth considering. On the other hand, meat itself is a huge waste (of grain, water, land, etc.), not to mention the cruelty involved, and if the concept of meat glue turns you off eating meat, that is a good thing!

Of course, when meat glue is used deceptively, to falsely upgrade less desirable parts of the carcass, that is dishonest and should be stopped. There’s another problem: bacteria from the surface of different pieces of animal flesh are now in the middle of the final product and less likely to be killed during cooking, possibly causing food poisoning.

What do you think?