The change you want to see is YOU

discosoupe.discosoupedc.makesense.gangster.saynotofoodwaste.happy.share.sustainable2 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!

Much love and many hugs,

Foodborne Illness: Recovery

soup.sick.foodborneillness.saynotofoodwaste.healthy.happyChances 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. 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.


Diarrhea Diet –
Stomach Flu – Brown University Health Education
You Can Prevent Foodborne Illness – Pacific Northwest Publications

Who took my lunch, Mrs. Obama?

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.

Legal Drugs

Sugar triggers a similar dopamine “reward” response in the brain as cocaine. (Photos: Radius-TWC)
Sugar triggers a similar dopamine “reward” response in the brain as cocaine. (Photos: Radius-TWC)

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

Summer_kids_eat_lunch_saynotofoodwaste_healthy_food_students_-_Flickr_-_USDAgovSince 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!

School Breakfast and School Lunch at Washington-Lee High School Arlington, Virginia, saynotofoodwaste, eat healthy, sustainable, happyFood 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.

Healthy eating to all!

USDA Steps Up to Tackle Food Waste 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.



Food Waste Measurement Tools

Join the U.S. Food Waste Challenge

USDA and EPA Launch U.S. Food Waste Challenge

A man who gives healthy food for FREE

rob-greenfield-2Ever wished to eat a variety of exotic, organic and delicious food, for FREE? It may sound impossible, especially in a country like USA. But those who think so haven’t heard of Rob Greenfield. A young man, who at the age of 28 challenged status quo and led a food waste campaign on his bike.

His idea is straightforward. Travel from city to city on a bike, eat out of dumpsters and create a banquet at each stop, inviting locals to eat and take home free nutritious food. All the shared groceries were on their way to the landfill, until one man decided to do something about it. His innovative and simple campaign took the country by storm.

159Whether it’s the idea of free food, or simply shocking images of good quality produce being carelessly thrown away while 1 in 7 Americans go hungry, the idea struck a chord in people’s hearts and minds. This was such a successful campaign that Rob decided to do it a second time. The latest bike campaign will finish in New York City. To join the legendary man, take part in the campaign and get FREE groceries, be sure to attend his public banquet on Tuesday.

If the past week of climate change conferences, marches and meetings taught us something, it’s that our time to save our way of life is running out. To make a difference we must start now, with ourselves. We are responsible for wasting 40% of the food we grow, and all the natural resources that are used in the process. That needs to stop. What will your action be?

What is authentic Tequila made with? 

What is authentic Tequila made with? 
100% Blue Agave Of-course.

Hearts_of_tequila_agavesThese blue agave plants grow in the Tequila region of Jalisco, Mexico. A little known fact is, these green prickly plants are part of the lily family. So, despite sharing the same dry and harsh climate with the cacti, they are not related.

One possible analogy for the confusion would be to say that the remora (a.k.a suckerfish) and the shark are brothers because they swim in the same waters next to each other.  Silly, right?

Either way, let’s not deviate from the important topic at hand – tequila. These agave plants require eight to twelve years to mature. They’re harvested by hand, to this day. The laborers shave the plant until its palm heart core is visible. This core is then baked, it is fermented and its juice is bottled. These hearts can weigh up to 200 pounds! No easy task for anyone, especially when dealing with a whole field of them under the scorching sun.

As with most alcoholic beverages the more aged the drink the smoother. Tequila is broken down into 5 distilled age groups: Blanco (2 months); Joven (mixute of blanco and aged); Reposado (2-12months); Anejo (1-3 years); and Extra Anejo (3-5years).

Traditionally the spirit isn’t mixed with anything and consumed as a shot. Those who want a chaser can opt for “blood”. Don’t worry, it’s not real blood and in Spanish it’s known as “sangrita”. It’s made with tomato and orange juice, sprinkled with some chili powder.

The industry skeletons

Unfortunately, many big industries are only concerned with profit making. They focus on keeping volume production high and prices as cheap as possible. This contradicts the very slow maturity process of the plant and leads to vast environmental, economic and labor issues.

Aging of El Tesoro or TapatioAverage laborers, working under harsh conditions and scorching heat of sunshine,  fighting off sharp ends of agave plants and heavy heart palms, gets paid a miserable 50 cents per $450 case they produce. Their work schedule is hectic and doesn’t follow the maturity period of the agave plants. To keep up with demand, large corporations end up cutting and using other plant species. Farmers, driven by short-term gains, agree to have their agave fields (of other varieties, including those going extinct), to get mowed down.

These mixed cases are known as “mixto”, but on the bottle they are still labeled as “tequila”. This leaves the consumer unaware of the ingredients that make up their drink. These ingredients can range from other agave varieties to corn syrup, but the consumer will never know exactly what’s in their shot or margarita.

If this sounds unfair, then you are certainly not alone with such thinking. Yet, these big corporations are not breaking any laws. As long as a bottle contains 51% of blue gave nectar, it can be filled anything else and still be sold as Tequila. Pretty insane!


Maguey_landscapeLooking at Tequila’s youthful export history, such loopholes could be forgivable. Remembering that the first regulation for tequila wasn’t written until October 13, 1977 with the passage of the Official Mexican Standard for Tequila, clarifies a lot of questions.

Yet, it doesn’t provide solutions to environmental problems in Mexico caused by the tequila industry. And to anyone familiar with advocate work, changing a powerful industry is difficult. The only option that most have is to move forward with new information and to make more intelligent choices in other industries.

Mexico has a chance to do that in its emerging mescals spirits industry. Which, just like the tequila industry, relies on agave plants to produce and bottle alcohol consumed widely by foreign countries.

Will history be repeated? That depends much on the government and the consumers buying the products. But if Mexico wants to keeps Aztec traditions alive and satisfy the god of alcoholic merriment, Tepoztécal, then it ought to regulate the emerging industry.

As for our readers, I hope this brief historic blog will inspire you to be a more conscious consumer. For next Friday, I will make a list of Tequila’s that are sustainable and properly crafted. This should ease your transition process. Until then, don’t forget to buy only “100% agave tequila” and get ready for TIP‘s event on October 2nd here in Washington, D.C.!

Wishing you all conscious drinking!

Spirits – do the drinks have a deeper connection to us? hard liquors are known as spirits. Sounds a lot like a spirit–  “a vital principle or animating force within living beings.”

Is there a connection? Possibly. A quick Google search yields to this:

“The word alcohol comes from the Arabic word for spirit which is al-kuhl (الكحول ). In Middle Eastern folklore, the al-kuhl is a body eating spirit or ghoul which is an interesting correlation to the way the effect of alcohol has been described. The term spirit, which refers to distilled alcohol, comes from this connection. It is then no surprise that alcohol and spirituality have a close connection.” are many examples of ancient cultures, such as the Egyptians and the Aztecs, who used this powerful substance in cultural and spiritual ceremonies. The hard liquor enhanced individual’s ability to connect with the surrounding by opening the mind to powerful forces invisible to eyes.

In today’s world, where bottom lines have forced every industry to produce things quickly and cheaply, the quality of our spirits is diminishing. This is also true for the Tequila industry, which is one of the fastest growing alcoholic drinks on the market. Lack of proper oversight, improper sustainability guidelines and loopholes in legislation have wrecked havoc both on the product and the environment.

But before we go any further, there are some important facts to learn. First off, the term Tequila describes a region in Mexico and the drink is made from blue agave plants. There are a number of varieties of this plants that might end up in a tequila, but that’s a sign of impurity and lack of adequate management.

To help restore stability, tradition and sustainability in the industry, the Tequila Interchange Project (TIP) non-profit has been providing opportunities for consumers and industry stakeholders by answering questions mostly overlooked in the youthful history of the spirit in USA. This is done through public events, workshops, study trips and research opportunities. For a full list of the non-profit activities, be sure to visit their main website and Facebook page.

The non-profit has achieved a lot and expanded its influence to various bars around the nation and the globe since being founded in 2010. One reason for their success is their ability to tie current practices to the bigger picture by sharing the ancestral traditions and practices, pinpointing what needs to be changed to reconnect with lost origins. After all, the quality of the plant is what determines the quality of the drink.

tequila.shots.drink.spirits.lifeConsidering the volumes and details of this story, it will take me a whole different post to explain this simple, yet complicated process. So if you’re interested be sure to come back next Friday and get a crash course on the Tequila and Mexican spirits evolution.

It will be in time for TIP’s upcoming event here in Washington, D.C.. If you’re a passionate tequila drinker, spirits connoisseur, bartender, environmentalist or simply want to learn about a new topic, you’ll have a chance to attend a public event on Thursday, October 2nd at Oyamel restaurant and bar. For bartenders and those more closely involved in this industry, you can RSVP for a workshop event on Monday, September 29th, and get a detailed explanation of the organization’s work, meet and network with industry experts, and catch up on upcoming projects.

Either way, see you soon!

America Steps Up To Reduce Food Waste

boston.foodrescue.foodwaste.saynotofoodwaste.ban.share.sustainable.landfill.reduce.reuse.recycle.massachusettsNo more food waste! That’s the new motto for Massachusetts. On October 1, 2014 it becomes the first USA state to commercially ban organic waste disposal. Taking inspiration from its allies in Europe, America is rapidly focusing attention on its limited landfill space. As we waste 1/3 of all produced food, which fill up our landfills and release methane, a greenhouse gas, organic waste becomes an issue hard to ignore. 

In Massachusetts, food waste makes up 25% of the waste stream. The new legislation will aim to reduce waste heading to the landfill by 30% in 2020, and 80% by 2050.  This standard is not as ambitious as that of Europe, which has set a target of ‘near zero waste‘ by 2020.

So whom will the ban affect? Firstly, it will affect the big players and contributors to food waste, such as: supermarkets, colleges, hotels, convention centers, hospitals, nursing homes, restaurants and food service companies. In total, about 1,700 businesses can expect changes in the coming months.

Considering that most of the food that is wasted is actually edible and fit for human consumption, the affected businesses will have a chance to donate their food to local non-profits. In return, they can expect tax deductions for charitable donations and claim up to 10% of their net income. non-profit that helps connect supermarkets’ surplus to local needs is Lovin’ Spoonfuls. Having operated in the food industry for the past few years and fed 750,000 people, the organization is aware of the rising hunger among its local residents. 

To address this problem, the food rescue organization operates 3 trucks equipped with refrigerators. The fleet visits various businesses, such as Whole Foods, which wish to donate produce, and then drops off the goods at local non-profits that feed people in need. By the end of the day the empty trucks return to their lot, having reduced food waste and hunger. 

Considering that food redistribution is a big factor for successfully reducing food loss, such services are vital for the longevity of this law. We applaud the work of Massachusetts and Lovin’ Spoonfuls, and hope to see more states adopting similar initiatives. 

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Sharing Your Lunch With the Poor

_R6H1954The alarm rings, you hit the snooze button. The next time you open your eyes you find that time has whizzed by and you are running late. Jumping into the shower, quickly putting on your office clothes, you dash for the car, the bike, or the metro and hurry to work. If lucky, you stop in a drive through and grab some food on the way to the office.

If you are not as lucky, you arrive at the office feeling tired. So you go to the kitchen (if one is available), or head to the cafeteria to buy coffee and food. Usually on such days you will end up buying both breakfast and lunch. This means spending more money and eating more outside food (which is not always healthy). But, what can you do?

To address this modern problem, the city of Mumbai in India began to rely on an ancient tradition of delivering lunches to working men and women. The process is known as dabbawala. Clients of this service can enjoy a home cooked lunch prepared by a family member that is delivered straight to the office. Those who are health conscious or don’t have anyone to cook for them can order produce from a delivery service, such as Calorie Care. This food chain prepares meals with specific caloric portions and pays attention to nutrition. It is also a bit more expensive. 

Those worried about their lunch getting lost on the way can rest assured! Forbes magazine gave this service a 6 Sigma performance rating, meaning that their percentage of correctness reaches 99.999999 or more. Hence, for every six million lunches delivered, only one might end up in the wrong hands. This accuracy has caught the attention of Harvard University, which covered the business in one of its case studies.

And while thousands of lunches get delivered on a daily basis, a big chunk of the Indian population goes hungry. So a new campaign originated by the non-profit Happy Life Welfare society decided to create a sticker allowing any uneaten food to go to the needy. If some lunch is left in the tin container, the eater can place a sticker reading “Share” on top of it. This instructs the individuals retrieving the can after lunch to deliver the food to the needy.

Though an ingenious idea, it received some backlash, particularly on the part of the food being served constituting leftovers of another. Others view this as good way to fight food waste and feed people. What is your opinion? Share your thoughts below.

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No Honey. No Money. state of California is facing blows from all imaginable sides. It’s experiencing a historic drought. It even created a new ‘water police’ force to fine residents up to $500 for excessively washing lawns or washing cars without a shut off nozzle. The increased need for water conservation caught the eye of Lady Gaga. She recently filmed a public service announcement (PSA) to promote the Save Our Water campaign, which informs locals of the state’s emergency situation.

Unfortunately, declining water leads to declining crops. In fact, the Wall Street Journal estimates that this year’s drought will lead to a $2.2 billion profit loss in California’s agriculture industry and cut 3.8% of its farm jobs. Since farming requires a lot of water, the supplies of which are drying up, farmers are planting less crops. This means they also need fewer honeybees to pollinate their fields.

beesHoneybees are the heart of agriculture. They pollinate 30% of the world’s crops and help 90% of wild plants thrive. But 1/3 of the USA honeybee population vanished due to increased use of pesticides, habitat loss, climate change and parasites. The terrible news is that decreased pollination leads to decreased food production. Bees pollinate 70 of the top 100 most consumed food crops, which provides nutrition to about 90% of the globe. And as bee populations decline, so does the production of honey, leaving many bee keepers without much money.

The troubles in California serve as an example of what awaits other states as fresh water reserves decline and food production costs rise.

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