It’s Food Day. A time to stop and reflect on the bounty and beauty of colorful, healthy and fresh food. Without the fruits, which extract vitamins and nutrients from the ground and seal in kisses of the sun, we wouldn’t be as energetic and agile as we are!
So, let’s focus on the bigger picture. The food system is run by corporations and governments who created policies that favor profit over sustainability. As consumers, we are not free of guilt. Our desire to save money pushed a wave of cheap, ‘food like’ substances, which substitute real organic matters in foods we consume. And even current trends of ‘healthy’ have caused companies to green-wash our beliefs, labeling things Natural or Organic, even when they are not truly so.
Large-scale farms, over use of fertilizers and intensive farming has weakened our environment and soil. The food we produce today is lower in vitamins, lacks in diversity and lost its taste. But it looks better, and as long as it’s cheap, we buy it! This illusion of abundance, of cheap and attractive food is costing us! To solve this problem, we need to study it. We need to analyze the flaws and gaps, and really take time to share information, to collaborate on a solution.
Such clarity of mind comes only with patience and silence. It also comes with the cleansing of the system. And with that said, today I’m embarking on a fasting journey for a better food system. For the next two days I will consume no food, drink lots of water, and I live simply. With a clear mind and time on my hands, I will read about the problems plaguing our food system. Then, I will share them with you through an obstacle road map. And together, we will brainstorm the solutions. If passionate about food and sustainability, I encourage you to join me. Of course, you should pick a fasting option that suits you best. But even if you don’t fast, then spend some time in thought. Ponder about the process that brings food to your table, and ask yourself: Do you like what you eat? Does the food you consume harm the planet and you? What can you do about it?
Let’s celebrate the building of a happy future!
Will you join?
Flu season is rearing its ugly head, surrounding us with a cacophony of sniffles, sneezes, and coughs. It’s a good opportunity to build on last week’s post with a more generalized theme: the common cold and flu. It is important to know how to keep your immune system strong to fight off sickness. So, whether you’re sick or trying to stay healthy, here is what you need to know about warding off diseases.
As simple as it sounds, a well-balanced diet is vital to keeping your body healthy. Your immune system relies on a wide variety of minerals and vitamins to function efficiently. Research has not identified any vitamin or nutrient that can single-handedly boost your immune system, so it’s important to consume a recommended balance of micronutrients. A diet high in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains, and low in added sugars and saturated or trans fats, should keep your body well-supplied. Multivitamins are beneficial to this end but should not be relied on or used to excuse a poor diet. Probiotics, found in active-culture yogurts and miso, also contribute to immune and digestive function. Of course, other healthy habits – sleeping well, exercising regularly, reducing stress, etc. – and proper sanitation – washing your hands, covering your cough, disinfecting surfaces, etc. – are also crucial.
Unlike gastrointestinal illnesses, colds and flu do not impact your digestive system enough to call for a severe change in diet. Nonetheless, there are a number of foods that will assist in symptom relief as well as combat your virus at a cellular level.
Gargling warm water with salt for one minute helps relieve sore throats. Salt reduces inflammation by extracting moisture from tissues and membranes and prevents bacteria from growing after flushing them out.
Spicy food helps thin mucus and is a natural decongestant. Garlic, cayenne, and paprika are common spices that can easily be added to any dish for this purpose.
Honey – in warm water or by the spoonful – soothes sore throats due to its consistency and antibacterial properties.
Lemon, typically used in combination with honey, has antibacterial properties, fights mucus, and can relieve pain in sore areas of the throat.
Warm, clear liquids soothe sore throats, thin mucus, and keep your body hydrated. Teas and broth-based soups are the best examples of this. Soup can also be a great source of nutrients because vegetables become easier to digest once they have been cooked down in broth.
Milk has been found to thicken phlegm, although whether or not it generates more phlegm or mucus has been debated. Avoidance is a personal decision, and consumption won’t seriously impede recovery.
Given the sensitive condition of your body, you should pay attention not only to what but to how you eat. Eat frequently to sustain your energy but in smaller portions, so as not to overwhelm your body by forcing it to break down a large meal while it’s trying to fight an infection.
Who hasn’t thought of changing the world, or at least impacting history in a memorable way? Many of us have grand ideas of change we want to see and make. But, the likeliness of us making those huge changes in a short time span is slim. Putting too much strain on ourselves and being weighed down by big dreams can be paralyzing. We might give up even before embarking on the journey.
The solution to that is: start small and start with yourself! As the world is made up of many individuals, many friendships and many communities, influencing one can have a ripple effect on the others. This is exactly what happened to me and how the journey of Disco Soupe DC materialized. I first heard about the amazing events through Tristram Stuart, author and founder of non-profits that addresses food waste and food security, through Feeding the 5k, The Pig Idea and The Gleaning Network.
Tristram was kind enough to connect me to social entrepreneurs and visionaries that took Disco Soupe events to another level. Some of these guys are even Gangsters and belong to a cool social entrepreneur network called MakeSense. One thing led to another and soon I was organizing Disco Soupe DC events in USA. Every city has its own group of activists that want to share their time, talents and ideas to help reshape their city into a small ecosystem of sustainability, love and understanding.
Organizations such as the DC Time Bank and The Sanctuaries provided the support and talent to make Disco Soupes amazing! And the networks Tristram introduced me to, jump-started a revolution in the nation’s capital! Today I am happy to share a feature of our event in a National Geographic video that highlights explorers, such as Tristram, who are changing our world for the better! I’m also happy to announce that on November 20th we will host the third Disco Soupe DC!
If you haven’t been to a Disco Soupe DC, or enjoyed the previous one and want to continue the party, then join us! Details will be coming soon. Follow them on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Change is possible guys, it starts with you!
Chances are that you will contract a foodborne illness – some mild form of food poisoning or stomach flu – at least once in your life. Unfortunately, trying to avoid food waste heightens these chances, as you might attempt to salvage leftovers that have been sitting out too long or convince yourself that something hasn’t gone bad. However, food can get infected with bacteria even if it isn’t necessarily old, so sickness isn’t necessarily a result of the consumer’s poor judgment. Regardless of how the illness is contracted, the important thing to know is how to recover.
There are many types of foodborne illnesses, but the most common, least threatening ones last 1-7 days. Noroviruses (aka gastroenteritis or stomach flus) are the most prevalent foodborne illnesses in the United States and typically result from consuming improperly cooked shellfish or vegetables, meals prepared by infected handlers, or contaminated water. In addition to food and beverage consumption, though, transmission can occur via contact with an infected person. Since it is a fairly mild infection, symptoms are typically restricted to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain (Pacific Northwest Publications). Nevertheless, when your body is trying to purge itself of any kind of infection or virus, eating can become very tricky. Eating too much, too fast, or the wrong foods too soon can lead to an unpleasant relapse, so it’s important to exercise caution.
How to eat and drink without aggravating your condition:
1) Drink water, electrolytes, and sodium. Vomiting and especially diarrhea can cause dehydration and expel vital nutrients. Gatorade and broths are excellent sources of minerals. Peppermint and chamomile teas are also good for upset stomachs.
2) Once the major ‘expulsions’ have stopped for several hours, if not an entire day, slowly try to eat. Many doctors recommend following the BRAT diet: bananas, (white) rice, applesauce, and (white) toast. Saltine crackers and plain pasta (not whole grain) are also good options. Chew these carefully and eat them in small doses. For flavor, prepare them in or combine them with chicken or vegetable stock.
3) If eating those bland, easy-to-digest foods doesn’t cause a relapse after 24 hours, gradually incorporate more foods into your diet. Some options are water-based oatmeal; dry, low-fiber cereals; boiled or grilled white poultry or fish; cooked soft vegetables; hard-boiled eggs; baked or mashed potatoes (prepared without butter or milk).
4) As your condition improves, eat these safe foods in more regular portions to test the resilience of your stomach for a day or two before returning to a regular diet.
5) Until you feel fully recovered, avoid caffeine, whole grains, milk products, high-fiber and high-sugar foods, fatty/fried/oily foods, spicy food, and raw fruits (except bananas) and vegetables. These cause dehydration, are difficult for the body to break down, or can further irritate the intestines.
With a lot of rest and careful eating, your body should recover within a few days. Normalize your diet in small steps: don’t shock your body with a milky latte, spicy fried chicken, and raw broccoli the minute you’ve passed 48 hours on step #4.
Be kind to your body and don’t overestimate your resilience.
For students who love pizza, fries and hamburgers, being told to eat salads, whole grains and less sugar, can be shocking. To some it might even seem disastrous! Enough to make a few want to film a complaint video (at the off chance that it becomes viral and grabs media attention).
Well, that’s exactly what happened to a group of students whose school was forced to phase out fat, sugar and sodium rich meals for more healthy options. It was required by the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
If you read the New York Times article by Nicholas Confessore, you’ll be surprised at how political this issue is. And when you start reading some of the historic procedures that created today’s diet problems, your jaw will swing open. Decisions made by Jimmy Carter to cut school-lunch subsidies, and Ronald Reagan’s decision to cut them even further, while also making some condiments passable for vegetables, paved a way for disaster.
And while these rules didn’t last long, the cuts and changes created a pocket of opportunity for big companies, who eagerly jumped at the offer to make more money. Fact is: “most districts required food service to earn enough revenue to cover expenses, including labor.” With less money to spend, and more mouths to feed, school officials and lunch ladies turned to cheaper calories. Pretty soon, schools in USA were making deals with McDonal’s, Chick-fil-A, and other fast food giants to start selling fast food meals directly to kids.
After years of eating fried, salty and sugar filled foods, cutting down this intake can give the body and the mind a shock, a withdrawal. (Sugar and cocaine light up similar parts of the brain.) But that’s not all. Replacing the menu from cheap calories, to more fresh and healthy ones, increases budget expenses. Whether or not the law was thoroughly discussed, it created a mess.
Students and many lunch ladies were not happy with new ‘healthy’ options. But the government, who sees the devastating effects fast food diets have on people, were surprised by the wave of criticism. Most of this criticism, unfairly, was geared at Michelle Obama. First Lady, mother of two and an intelligent woman, who wanted to clean up the culinary mess previous presidents left in school kitchens.
Sadly, there was one thing that corporations got right, that Mrs. Obama didn’t – they knew how to make us addicted. And have poured millions of dollars into research and advertisement to make sure we buy and crave their unhealthy products.
The Human Factor
Since fat, sugar and salt are difficult to find in nature, big corporations began piling ingredient like substances into our food to make them irresistible and cheap to produce. The result, we consume more sugar and salt than ever imagined. This is ruining our health! Things are so bad that a new military report said Americans are too fat to fight for their country.
But, we can use our humans nature to benefit us. People are social creatures, we mimic the behavior of people we like. We also shift our behaviors to adapt to larger groups. It means that, while new changes in school lunches have rubbed big corporations, lunch ladies and students the wrong way, with time, we can reap benefits from this law.
There are four recommendations I want to suggest to governments and schools faced with above mentioned dilemmas.
1. Use Celebrity Endorsements
Get famous individuals, local heroes or young actors to talk about healthy eating. It will encourage school kids to approach ‘healthy options’ with a more positive outlook if the people they look up to tell them it’s not a bad choice. When acknowledging mass advertisement campaigns kids see on TV and around shopping malls, encouraging them to grab a sugary and processed meal, we quickly realize that ‘healthy’ is up against a big, fat giant, and will need more than truth and facts to win.
2. Gather student input
No individual likes to be told what to do. It’s especially true of students who in the midst of identity crisis and power rebellions hate to see schools involved in their diet choices. Imagine how it would feel to have government tell you what you can or can’t eat. Instead of giving top-down instructions, it is best to give students back their voices and hear their feedback about these changes. Through surveys and interviews, we can learn what they hate the most, what they might like and where we can find a middle ground with food. Hearing their views will open up a dialogue, enriching the decision making process. This is part of the Collective Impact philosophy, which highlights that long-lasting change occur when all stakeholders have a say.
3. Make healthy fun!
Food really impacts our behavior. Seeing a colorful plate of greens and veggies energizes the body. Truth is, we are visual creatures. We eat with our eyes first and assess quality long before we bite into something. A valuable thing to consider when serving food is the plate presentation. Adding color, shape and volume to served food will make students more eager to consume what’s given. Every lunch can become an adventure and a discovery of something new for the palate.
4. Educate students about food
Many people fear what they don’t know. Sadly, many parents stopped cooking at home due to time constraints. This means children are losing their knowledge about food. Without shopping for food, many don’t learn vegetables names, or how they need to be prepared and stored. They also don’t know what they taste like, unless served as processed food. It’s time to change the diets and the minds of youth, by expanding their knowledge of produce. Humans love to learn and share information. Where better to share this wealth of knowledge than at school cafeterias, with everyone gathered for a meal?
I look forward to seeing more thoughts and feedback from students, government officials and parents on this issue.
For as long as I remember, I’ve always wanted to be a successful person. I imagined success to be the moment in my life where I had everything I wanted. A job that pays me good money from the brilliant ideas I think up, friends dispersed around the globe, and love that enriches me on a daily basis.
At 25, I’ve realized that ‘success’ is not a destination, it’s actually a very crooked and hilly path. It takes you up and down, through caves and steep ledges. Many times you curse it and wonder why you ever embarked on it. But when you stop the mind from seeing all the road ahead or nostalgically looking at the past, and move your sight to what’s around, you realize that being here is worth more than on the valley down below.
You understand that everyday is a challenge. Some of the challenges break you. They strain your muscles, leave you with fractured bones and a heavy mind. Other days are easier. They reveal you beautiful sights, fill you with warm happy feelings, and show you amazing individuals walking up the path. Some are walking slower, so you can catch up to them and energize them. Some are walking faster, and can share some tips to encourage you to keep on moving. And a rare few decide to walk right next to you, figuring that good company is what makes such hikes worthwhile.
The journey is difficult, not only because of the road. There are many factors involved in life’s hike. The weather, the load you are carrying, the food that serves as sustenance, and most importantly ‘your attitude’. The thoughts you have are by far the most revealing factor of whether you’ll be able to follow the path to success or put up camp, never seeing what’s ahead.
In the past months I’ve found that it’s difficult to run up the trail and reach the top quickly. I also found that doing so won’t actually give me much satisfaction. Another thing I’m paying more attention to is the load I pile on myself. I always knew there was a difference between working hard and working smart, but it took me a while to learn what that difference was.
The reason I decided to write a more personal post is because I know social entrepreneurs and young professionals who are working hard to make a difference. They are loaded with tasks, and many times don’t receive necessary recognition or compensation. To those who are working hard, thank you for all that you do! But please, don’t forget to take care of yourself. For without you, change won’t happen.
Success is not a destination, it is a path, a hike, a marathon, and whatever it is you can imagine doing for long-distance. In my next post I will outline 5 tips to help you stay energized and vitalized as you continue to fight for your beliefs, focus on your passion and tirelessly work to make this a better world.
Stay strong and determined, but don’t forget to take breaks.
The United States has been trailing behind Europe when it comes to taking action against food waste, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has finally launched a national campaign to bring some much-needed attention to the issue. Food waste awareness in the U.S. seems to have been growing over the past couple of years, with organizations like Food Recovery Network rapidly expanding and individual states taking action; so the Food Waste Challenge could be the catalyst for more serious policy efforts on the issue.
The challenge is directed at every tier of the food chain, from growers and processors to supermarkets and schools, “to join the effort to reduce, recover, and recycle food waste” (USDA). The aim is to get 400 organizations by 2015 and 1,000 by 2020 to set their own food waste reduction goals and take the necessary steps to achieve them. For this, the EPA offers food waste assessment tools, so that participants can determine their current waste levels and costs and set targets accordingly. Other resources include the Waste Reduction Model, providing a general plan of action. The ease of access to these kinds of resources is crucial to make the challenge less daunting, encouraging participation by demonstrating that the issue is not ‘too big to handle.’
Naturally, the success of this project will be measured by the participant organizations’ ability to cut down their waste. Just as important as the actual reductions, though, is the establishment of food waste as a leading national issue. Even though the USDA won’t be able to track how many people hear about the project, every person that learns about food waste through the campaign is a potential waste-fighter. National publicity of the food waste problem will inevitably increase the number of people working against it, even if they don’t sign up for the challenge via an organization. Heightened public awareness will mean more Americans lobbying government agencies to institute anti-waste policy.
This step in the right direction could make a big difference. Well done, America.