J500 Media and the Environment


Cordley students whet their appetites for local food by jmuselmann

Excitement was in the air today at Cordley Elementary. It was the familiar, childlike vigor the comes from trying something new, and it was shared by both adults and kids alike as they filed into the gymnasium — not the cafeteria — for their first-ever locally sourced lunch. The term is “farm-to-school,” and judging from the content faces forking up the lasagna, it hit the spot.

The lunch was the culmination of a week of learning for the students, which spanned teaching about the benefits to local and organic foods to fields trips picking strawberries and gathering eggs from local farms (both of which were popular in the salad bar). In surveying the participants of the grand experiment about the typical lunch fare in the cafeteria, I got a sea of downward thumbs and “baaaad.” Fourth-grader Ainsley Agnew said it was just “grossness,” while on my other side was Pria Jean-Baptiste, also a fourth-grader, giving me a minutely detailed lesson about how to make the pasta from scratch. I should have taken better notes.

But the satisfaction didn’t come just from the good food, which included vegetarian and beef lasagna, bread sticks, salad, Iwig Family Dairy milk and a strawberry rhubarb confection, but also in the hard work to plan for it. Linda Cottin, the event’s organizer, said the meal had been in the works since November.

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of community support, and I am happy that there’s a way to do this without all the work and make this an everyday function in the schools,” she said.

Rick Martin, head chef for the event (and at Free State Brewing Co.), agreed, saying that “After having this model, it will be easier” to accomplish in other schools and on a more permanent basis. That indeed was the consensus in the organizers’ post-lunch discussion, noting that Lawrence has the nearby farms and public interest to achieve it.

In a sense, the setting was typical: rambunctious kids at lunchtime, cracking jokes and playing with their food before politely running outside for recess. But it wasn’t. For the grown-ups — smiling volunteers and paparazzi abuzz to capture the moment — it was an accomplishment in the face of convention. Lindsey Kellenbarger, a teacher, also brought her camera for the momentous occasion, knowing the potential impact this seemingly ordinary lunch could have on the students.

“I got a kid to eat a turnip that I didn’t think would. That’s exciting,” she said.

—Jacob M.

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Eating better, thinking better by Lauren Cunningham

When I first started this class in January, I couldn’t really define “organic”. Like many others, I’ve always been told by my mother to eat always eat my veggies and try to eat healthy in general. But until I took this class, I never really stopped to look at the food I was putting in my body.

— from flickr.com

I certainly had no idea what “local food” meant either, but the idea never really seemed that foreign of a concept. Growing up I’ve eaten vegetables grown in my grandpa’s garden or meat from family’s friend’s farms. I think, in general, Kansans don’t see local food so much as a food movement as they see it as common sense because of the agricultural setting in which we live. Yet despite where we live and the food-growing opportunities surrounding us, we still don’t know where most of the food we eat comes from. This idea is what I liked learning about and exploring most in class.

Because both of my parents are teachers, I can appreciate when what I learn in the classroom is applied to the “real world.” And especially in a service learning class, I was able to apply information to what we’ve been working on in our group projects.

I think it comes naturally as a journalism student to enjoy meeting and interviewing people in the community in which I live. But it was particularly rewarding to listen to people like Rick Martin, the executive chef at Free State Brewing Co., or Patty Metzler, a medical dietitian at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, talk about and confirm the importance of local food in Lawrence. I’m most inspired by others who are passionate and love what they do, and by being able to talk to people who get what it means to grow food and to know where food comes from, it really has influenced me to ask more questions about my food. It also felt really good to help the Douglas County Food Policy Council learn more ways in which they can evolve within Lawrence and hopefully develop a local food system.

This class more than anything has really helped me to mature both as a consumer and as a writer. Writing a blog post each week has shown me how to truly invite others to conversations rather than shutting them out of talking about important issues. With all of the information that has been thrown at us, I also tend to question things more and look at where certain information comes from. I’m definitely not completely eco-friendly or “green” all of the time, but I’m constantly thinking about these things each time I buy something.

Most importantly, I’m not as afraid to really examine why I do what I do or why I spend my money on certain things and not others. I now take a harsher look at what I do, which at first, was hard to do. But I’ve grown to like being more critical of my decision-making. By continually looking at what I choose to spend my time, money and energy on, I can keep myself in check with how I want others to see me.

— Lauren Cunningham



When Good Things Go Bad by KaylaReg

Nope, nothing good in here.

One of my favorite lines in every reality dating show is “This year, I’m putting love first.” It’s so cliché, but it recently made me reflect on the things I’ve been putting first in my own life. Health is certainly towards the bottom, as seen by what I ate today:

One grilled Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and mustard sandwich (315 calories)

A half a cup of low fat Cheez-Its (70 calories)

One medium sized orange (85 calories)

10ish peanut M&Ms (about 103 calories)

One slice of Farm Fresh pizza from Pizza Shuttle (about 300 calories)

Three-fourths a cup of macaroni and cheese (300 calories)

Although approximately 900 calories less than the expected daily intake (for the record, I am not trying to starve myself, I’m just more of a snacker than a big meal eater), it’s 1,173 calories of mostly hydrogenated fat and sodium. This is about average for me and I’m not proud of it.

Yes, I have fresh fruits and vegetables, soy meat substitutes and a wild salmon filet in the freezer. Whenever I do my big grocery runs, I make sure to buy as many healthy all-natural foods as possible, and I usually succeed in making a few good meals a week. But what happens is the leftovers sit in the fridge, my milk gets spoiled and my eggs go bad long before I’ve eaten my guilty purchases like chips and macaroni.

Better, but still not great.

According to research by the National Academy of Sciences, the beauty of my processed food items and my genetically engineered tomato is that they last forever.

What won’t last forever though is my health. In the independent documentary Localize Me, fast-food junkie Daniel Fisher only eats food from Lawrence’s Local Burger for 30 days. He can eat whatever he wants from the all-natural and local menu and he eats a lot. It’s expected that Fisher will lose weight, as eliminating fast food from any diet can only improve one’s health, but the results are truly shocking. He went from 295 to 272 pounds over the month and his cholesterol dropped from 285 to 166.

Fisher’s story is inspiring, and not only because swimsuit season is approaching. Diabetes and heart problems run in both sides of my family, an unfortunately more and more common occurrence in the United States.

It’s so easy to blame my unhealthier choices on a stressful, busy lifestyle, but I don’t foresee it getting any easier in the near future. So, I think it’s time to change this cycle. I probably won’t stick to a 100 percent all-natural, local, and organic diet. In accordance with the ‘finite pool of worry,’ I don’t think I could do the amount of research on food items required to make sure my grocery list lived up to such standards. What I can do is strike the chips and macaroni from the list and find other, actually healthy items on which to “veg.”

Because 57 days into this year, I decided to put health first.

-Kayla R.



Loco for Locavore? by KaylaReg
February 5, 2010, 4:59 pm
Filed under: J500 Week 3 | Tags: , , , , ,

By definition, I am not a locavore, the New Oxford American Dictionary’s 2007 word of the year.  Depending on the source, a ‘locavore,’ (noun, pronounced ˈˈlō-kə-ˌvȯr) is someone who exclusively or primarily eats food that is locally grown or produced (typically within a 100 to 250 mile radius).

I’d like to wake up in time for a Saturday morning farmer’s market, but I just can’t sacrifice the only day I can sleep in (I love sleeping) for food. Although I prefer shopping at stores with a wider organic or local selection, I rationalize that I’m reducing my carbon footprint by driving to closer chain supermarkets. I do make it a priority to save money so I can spend some extra cash on local fresh produce, but I still crave and buy tomatoes every month of the year.

Two of the four items shown are considered local – the honey (made and manufactured in Belton, MO, about 50 miles from Lawrence) and my semi-surviving cilantro plant. Check the Lawrence Farmer’s Market (which is closed in the winter) to see what local produce is in season.

To me, going ’ locavore’ doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing. Instead, it’s about finding a balance between the things you want, the things you can afford, and the things that are available.

With the “Iron Chef” White House garden episode, the popular Academy Award nominated documentary “Food, Inc.”, Michelle Obama promoting garden vegetables on “Sesame Street” and countless other examples of media attention, the ‘locavore’ message is indeed more accessible than ever. For $2.99, there’s even an app for that. Locavore, the iPhone application, shows what produce items are in season near you and what farmer’s markets carry them, apparently making buying local easier than ever.

According to the market research firm Packaged Facts, more and more people seem to be  finding their own ‘locavore’ balance. Their latest polling found that 54 percent of respondents favored supporting local farmers, a marked increase from 28 percent in 2006. Local food sales rose from for $4 billion in 2002 to $5 billion in 2007, and are predicted to reach $7 billion in 2011.

Representatives from Lawrence supermarkets such as Sheila Lowrie, Dillons spokesperson, Mike Smith, Checkers store director, and Brett Hansen, assistant manager of Hy-Vee all said they were carrying more locally grown and manufactured products, and demand for those items was increasing. Megan Dudley, manager of natural food store The Community Mercantile, also reported that business was especially good and getting better.

Many feel eating locally is simply a trend that’s popular now, but will soon die down. Locavore was listed in Time Magazine’s 2009 Top 10 iPhone applications , but now, it’s not even in the top 100 most downloaded apps. “Iron Chef” didn’t end up using the produce items they picked from the White House garden, and media outlets from the left and right have deduced eating habits to a subject of political debate. Here in Lawrence, the owners of The Casbah, a locally owned and operated organic market and café, recently announced their doors would soon close.

This Google Trend graph suggests that people were eating locally long before locavore was the word of the year or they saw Michelle Obama on TV. Despite the dips and spikes in the search volume and media tags, public interest in eating locally continues to increase.

Even after the spotlight on local eating turns off, people will, at the very least, remember its message. When society is a pendulum that swings both ways, it’s all a matter of finding your own balance.

-Kayla Regan



Checking Checkers by bpirotte

It was a weeknight and a couple friends and I had made dinner. It was a relatively healthy meal with some chicken, vegetables, and even got a little fancy with some cous-cous on the side. But a few minutes of conversation about ice cream got us craving some, and therefore spurred a late night trip to the store for some frozen desert.

I had recently attended a meeting for a Food Policy Council meeting here in Douglas County, Kansas where local food growers, business owners, and those interested in eating locally gathered to talk about how the county and surrounding areas could benefit from local food.

 

A place to eat local!

 

I noticed one of the members of the council was representing a local grocery store, Checkers. This interested me because I had never really gone to Checkers before, as I am from Wichita, Kansas and I was very used to shopping at Dillons grocery stores. However, after seeing the presence of this grocery store at the meeting, I wondered what sorts of options they had for local or organic foods.

So, when the craving for ice cream arose, the suggested place for purchasing said desert became Checkers. But while my friends were scouring the freezers for the most exciting flavors of their delicious mid-night snack, I ventured off to see what I could find that’s “organic.” I looked in the dairy products, and immediately found milk cartons boasting a “USDA Organic” label. But what does this really mean? I remained somewhat skeptical. After doing some further research, I also found some ads boasting Checkers’ commitment to being “local.” This seems to be a term thrown around often when referring to eating responsibly, but according to this ad, actual local suppliers sell their products at Checkers. Some of these include local milk producer Iwig’s, and beef from M&J Ranch. Who knew?!

Even though there is a lot on our minds today, and we are bombarded with an incessant amount of causes and reasons to care, it looks like eating locally just got a little bit easier.

–Ben P.



Local: It’s all the local rage. Locally. by bendcohen

Local agriculture and business are reaching new levels of popularity right now.  Part of the modern sustainability movement is, for a variety of reasons, increasing consumption of local products.  Part of this has to do with reducing the carbon footprint of the agriculture industry, by increasing demand for items that do not have to travel as far to be sold.  Economically, it also supports the efforts of smaller farms and merchants, reducing the stranglehold that large producers and distributors have on the food industry.  And from a health perspective, foods produced with a smaller market in line do not typically have the horrendous amount of preservatives, growth hormones, and other strange things that foods produced for a massive distribution do.

The only major knock against local foods that I give any credence is that they are popular now because it is trendy.  You sound so much healthier and more conscious of the shady practices of major food producing companies, and some people will find that out and use it to feel cool.  That being said, this is one of those cases where I have to say “So what?”

Like any trend, the cultural shift in the favor of local foods (one which is still taking place, slowly but surely), can be exploited not just by those demanding to be cool at all times, but by business interests who know that those same people often have a lot of extra money to shill out for things with words like “local” and “organic” plastered on the packaging.

Also, by whatever diabolical genius grew this guy.

Regardless of the motivations some people have in supporting local food producers, and who finds the easiest way to make a buck off of them, the truths about locally-grown and distributed foods, the benefits mentioned earlier stand.  Economic uncertainty pervades our culture, so knowing that we can help our neighbors succeed is comforting.  Obesity is the great new American stereotype, so finding foods that don’t contribute to that is always exciting.  And then there are people like the contributors to Lawrence’s own Localvores blog whose passion for local food production just makes me feel bad for passing it over sometimes.

So for those reasons, I hold back the cynicism.  Time will tell how much this effects our health, economy, and indeed American culture in the long run.  In the short term, the trend really can’t hurt too much.



Podcast: Juniper Gardens by alyv

Aye Aye Nu came to America as a refugee from Thailand six years ago. She came here through Catholic Charities, which placed her and her now 9-year-old son, Nito, in Kansas. In their time here, Aye Aye says Nito has grown to like American food more than the natural food she grows on the farm in Kansas City. This is a common trend in immigrants to America. However, Aye Aye continues to get a lot of joy from working on the farm and selling what she grows at the Farmers Market. She and the other refugees at Juniper Gardens are able to reconnect with the land, and their agricultural pasts, everyday on the farm.

Listen to the podcast.

Podcast Transcript

Justin Leverett: This is Juniper Gardens, an urban farm near the I-70 underpass just outside Kansas City. We spoke to Aye Aye Nu, an immigrant farmer, and Rachel Bonar.

Rachel BonarRachel Bonar: I work for Catholic Charities and the Refugee Resettlement Department. And this is a training farm for refugees. Right now, we work with women. And we would work with men if they wanted to but it’s not a consistent, yearlong income, so most of the men have other jobs and the women can come here.

Aye Aye do you want to, do you have anything you want to say about the farm?

Aye Aye Nu: I don’t know, Rachel.

RB: How has it been for you to be a farmer?Aye Aye Nu at market.

AA: I think, so, I like to farmer, because, the vegetables are good for healthy. Like, because, um, be stronger, be happy farm. We plant the garden, because we have food, no problem. We can spread it too for other, for market, for money. I think about, another, like, for others, for friends, maybe we need to, like share together, for other people, for, like, happy. I think about that.

JL: So the food you can make you can give to people, your friends.

AA: Yeah. We like to sell, fun, you know, market. Like, “Hey, my friend, take home. Take home.” They say, “Thank you, we are hAye Aye's flowers.appy.” I think about like that.

RB: Aye Aye plants beautiful flowers.

AA: I sell my flowers, happy, you know like, sometimes. Not sometimes, always. I see them, I say, “Oh my flowers go up. Go up.” Like, you know, my baby.

JL: How long have you lived here?

AA: I am six years here.

Aye Aye and Nito Nu.JL: Six years here. Do you have family? Do you have kids?

AA: Yes, my son. He’s 9 years old. His name is Nito. He’s a very handsome boy.

RB: He’s so cute.

AA: He’s so cute. He’s in first grade.

Aly Van Dyke: Does he help you, on the farm?

AA: Only he helps me watching TV, at home.

JL: so you get to cook for him with the food that you make here?

AA: Yeah, sometimes he like to eat my food. Sometimes, always he like to eat American food. Cheese, sour chicken, some place, like KFC, Papa John’s or something. Cheese and bread, like how do you make it here? I don’t understand.

RB: Grilled cheese.

Matthew Bristow: Back home, when you grew all year round, and now here it’s only half of the year, like six months. What do you do in the winter since you cannot grow?

Aye Aye Nu on farm.AA: Stay home. Um, I have this last year I looked the job in the Triumph Company. Because of very far drive I will quit from this job.

RB: Everybody works at the Triumph. It’s a pork processing plant, a slaughterhouse, in St. Joseph. So it was an hour away. A lot, a lot of people are actually moving, refugees are migrating from other places in the United States to come here to work at that place. It pays pretty good, but it’s really, really hard work and everyone’s working second and third shifts, so it’s overnight. So when Aye Aye was working, her son was home by himself. Like she would leave while he was at school and then he would come home from school and be by himself.

AA: He say, ‘Ma, when are you done with this job, when you quit?’ he ask me one time. I say, ‘Nito, I will quit this job, ok?’ He say, ‘Ok ma.’

JL: What to you sort of hope for the future? Do you hope more people will get involved?

AA: Uh, future? I have my son, I think about only my son. I don’t have thought for future. Because, only my son. Because he go out, like he go be interested in something, maybe college. Or maybe something.

JL: What do you hope for in the future?Farmer and children at Juniper Gardens.

RB: My hope would be, um, for this year I have a lot of hope for the Farmers Market here on site. I really want to, um, make that more a part of what we do. And I’m hopeful that we can, whatever the women want to do we can make it happen that you know we can work on any of the barriers that are standing in the way. And if Aye Aye wants to have her own farm, sell at lots of markets, then I hope she can do it.

-By Group 2: Justin Leverett, Matthew Bristow, Aly Van Dyke and Tina Wood

Pictures also submitted by Katherine Kelly and the New Roots for Refugees Facebook page.

See our video of market reserach!