Kitchens for Good: This is Their Story

1. Summarize your organization in one sentence.

We are a nonprofit social enterprise whose mission it is to fight poverty, hunger, and food waste.

2. How long have you been running your enterprise?

I started Kitchens For Good in March 2013, and we got our first kitchen in September of 2015.

3. Why did you decide to start the organization?

I had for far too many years been appalled at the amount of food waste in the Hospitality Industry where I had spent most of my working career.  I could not reconcile that enormous food waste(we send to landfill nearly 40% of everything we grow in America) with the high number of hungry people in America.  One in 5 Americans is food insecure.  That fact should be inconceivable in America, let alone our reality.  What really made me leave my comfortable, well-paying job started with conversations with my then 10 year old son.  During our drives to school in the morning we talked about his new school, his thoughts about High School in the near future, and what college and life might look like beyond that.  We talked a lot about the concept of Right Livelihood…that what you do for a living should give back more to your community than it takes away.  I came to a point where I had to live it and not just talk about it.

4. What has been your biggest achievement so far?

The team that we have put together at KFG.  We have a group of absolute rock stars.  They continue every day to challenge me and make me better.

5. How do you measure success?

The number of lives changed by the graduates of our programs.  Let me be perfectly clear that what we do at KFG is to provide an opportunity.  Our students are the ones doing the hard work to succeed.

6. What have you learned in the process?

It has reinforced for me the saying that “If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.”  What we do is only possible because of the team we have.

7. What advice would you give to someone trying to start a sustainable food enterprise?

Find the revenue first.  You cannot have a positive impact on your community unless your model and your organization are sustainable.

8. What’s next?

We are in the process of acquiring another facility so that we can expand our programs and our social enterprise.  Our intention had always been to scale to the point where we could have a substantial impact.

9. Anything else you want to add?

Don’t wait, just go for it.  The world is waiting for you to make a difference.

10. What was the best meal you ate this week?

I’m an opportunistic shopper.  This week my local organic market had some amazing garlic sausages on sale.  I grilled them, roasted some Yukon Gold potatoes, and made an arugula salad with dressing made with extra mustard to compliment the sausages.

Chuck Samuelson, founder/president of Kitchens for Good

Learning to Love Microbes

Fermentation. The ideas that this word brings to mind aren’t necessarily the most pleasant: rot, mysteriously bubbling liquids, putrid stench, sourness. When my professor told us that we would be fermenting our own vegetables and eating them, one of my classmates was absolutely horrified by the thought. To ferment is to decay, to decompose, to die – surely we shouldn’t eat spoiled food!

But fermented food isn’t spoiled: it’s pre-digested. Specifically, as Michael Pollan describes it in his book Cooked (now a four-part Netflix series), “To ferment food is to predigest it, in effect, breaking long chains of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates our bodies might not be able to make good use of into simpler, safer compounds that they can.” In the simplest terms, fermenting is cooking without heat.

Beer, wine, cheese, yogurt, sourdough bread, miso paste, fish sauce, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, tempeh, and even chocolate are all common examples of fermented foods. Nonetheless, describing them as what they are, fermented, still makes some people’s skin crawl. In the hyper-sterilized culture of westernized society, the process of encouraging bacterial growth sounds unsafe if not flat-out disgusting. We trust the manufactured versions of these products to be sanitized by industrial food producers to meet government standards to keep us safe. On the flipside, we no longer trust the process of fermentation itself, which has nothing to do with the most notorious foodborne threats of salmonella, listeria, and E coli. “Bacteria” have just been given a connotation of disease and death, such that we perceive them as menaces to be eradicated rather than recognizing their beneficial, natural role in our bodies.

Pollan writes beautifully and thoroughly about how detrimental processing and pasteurization have been to our microbiome, the communities of bacteria thriving in our bodies. Basically, we have deprived our bodily systems of a lot of beneficial microorganisms that humans have historically received from fermented and other foods. The combination of a) a lack of gut bacteria and b) the nutritional imbalance of our diets, heavy in fats and carbohydrates and low in fiber, has been linked to the rising prevalence of gastrointestinal disorders and possibly other autoimmune diseases.

Hold on – didn’t I write a post about the dangers of raw milk just two years ago? “Others still believe [raw milk] to be a good source of healthy bacteria – but, really, it is safer to look for probiotic dairy products, which have been pasteurized and then had beneficial bacteria added to them.” I look back on that post now and laugh at myself for having such blind faith in industrialization. The fact that manufacturers deliberately kill the naturally-occurring bacteria in our foods only to reinject some of them with live cultures for the sake of boasting a “probiotic” label is ridiculous. Thousands of microorganisms are lost in the process, so the effect on our bodies is markedly different. For instance, many sources will tell you that kefir made from live grains contains at least 35 strains of beneficial bacteria, yet store-bought versions boast a measly 12 active cultures.

Don’t get me wrong: pasteurization is extremely important to ensure the safety of mass-produced milk products. However, I highly recommend trying to incorporate unprocessed fermented foods to your diet, if you can find them. If you have access to organic produce, you can even try your hand at fermenting with recipes like this – it’s shockingly easy!

As Hokuma said in a recent post, let’s see food as a living and breathing ‘thing’ that interacts with our body.” I’d like to build on that: let’s see our insides as living things that interact with our food. It doesn’t sound sexy, but it’s the truth that gives us life.

Eva

Food as health or death

Dear Readers,

Today, I’d like to share with you my personal thoughts on two new studies. Both are about the effects of food consumption on the body, yet they focus on very different aspects. While one study highlights the benefits of consuming diverse foods, the other instills a sense of fear, which may damage the food waste movement (but only if we let it).

The reason this is important is because the studies highlight once again that we are what we eat. And being very intellectual creatures, who don’t just rely on word of mouth to make decisions, these findings can present some important facts on which to build sound and logical conclusions.

Ok, enough with the introduction, let’s leap into the research.

The Good News

Those of you who already love vegetables and fruits, you are well positioned for a long and healthy life. A new study shows that we need to uptake our fresh produce intake from five (as originally thought) to 10 fruits and veggies a day.

The study completed by Imperial College London demonstrates that such a diet can lead to “24% reduced risk of heart disease, a 33% reduced risk of stroke, a 28% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, a 13% reduced risk of total cancer, and a 31% reduction in premature deaths.” Wow…that’s a handful!

So what does 10 portions, or 800 g, of fruit and veggie intake look like? Here’s a nice visual for you by The Guardian. This article also mentions that some fruits and veggies are better at increasing certain health factors than others.

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Specifically: “Apples and pears, citrus fruits, salads and green leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce and chicory, and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower were found to be best at preventing heart disease and stroke”.

Those who worry about cancer risks (which is very understandable, as any symptom search on Google will likely suggest possibilities of cancer), you can focus on “green vegetables (beans), yellow and orange vegetables (peppers and carrots), and cruciferous vegetables”.

Unfortunately, these benefits are mainly found when biting into real food, and less so through supplements and other pills. So those who are short on time, consider replacing your breakfast with a green smoothie (or if that’s not filling enough), at least try to make that your first drink of the day, before switching to coffee (or anything else that strikes your fancy).

 
The Bad News

Now, onto the bad news. Another study, completed by a researcher from Harvard University, demonstrated that because food makes up the building blocks of our cells, “eating older organisms (or food) – which have more molecular damage themselves- might cause an animal to age faster than one that eats younger organisms with less molecular damage”.

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Specifically, “the old diet shortened lifespan by 18% in yeast and 13% in flies. In the mice, the old diet shortened lifespan by 13% in female mice, but there was no significant effect among males”, (lucky males!).

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But as these experiments were done on animals, (not humans), we do not know exactly what effect this would have on humans, so let’s not jump the gun, but, let’s think a bit more about what we put into our mouths (and subsequently our bodies). And if you are unsure whether the food is safe to eat, please use your smell and visual senses before tossing aging produce into the bin.

My Conclusion 

It’s time we see food as more than something we consume to quiet our hunger (the sounds and feelings of an empty stomach are real). And let’s not just see it as a source of energy and fuel. Instead, let’s see food as a living and breathing ‘thing’ that interacts with our body, provides materials for our building blocks, and sends instructions to our brain.

“Food contains methyl groups (a carbon atom attached to three hydrogen atoms (CH3)) capable of methylating (silencing) genes, [which] brought into focus the capability of food to profoundly affect disease risk as well phennotypal expression. If folate, B12, or Betaine– 3common food components — can literally ‘shut off’ gene expression with high specificity, food becomes a powerful information vector. One which may actually supervene over the DNA within our body by determining which sequences find expression”.

Phew, that’s a lot of scientific terms and chemistry in one paragraph, but the bottom line is this: food not only gives you fuel, or activates your taste buds (which in itself is lovely), but it is a very powerful tool, one that can determine your health and longevity.

This means that when you are hungry and looking for something to eat, what you reach for will not just satisfy your hunger, it will also determine your near future. Therefore, we should consider the idea of ‘real food’ vs. ‘food like’ items. Things that have been processed, filled with chemicals and created in a lab (mainly junk food). These foods not only lead to obesity, but they also wreak havoc on your health and beauty.

The best example of this are the Nenets and Khanty tribes in northern Siberia who now have cases of obesity thanks to the introduction of instant noodles, pasta, bread and sugar.

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And since not many of us live on a farm (or even close to one), and definitely don’t have time or money to go shopping at farmers markets (and those who do sometimes lack the time to cook what they haul until it’s on the verge of decomposing in the fridge or shelf),  I would like to urge all of us to think more about frozen food!

Frozen foods can have as much nutritional value (if not more) as their fresh counterparts. How? Well, they are packaged at the peak of their ripeness (so all the good vitamins stay where they are). Also, as they are frozen, they can be the quick and easy go to option for those short on time and money (admit it, our lives are stressful and hectic). On top of all that, as our years continually get warmer, keeping your food in the freezer can ensure that it stays crisp and delicious, without going to waste.

Here’s a nice video to summarize the above paragraph:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=99&v=zjsOOT347cA


Final Words

I hope this post widens your understanding of food, and peaks your interest in seeing fruits and veggies as more than a ‘side dish’ around the protein on your plate. Hopefully, they can slowly become the staple of your diet, the one that helps you live a healthy life.

If you have any thoughts or comments, please share them below.

Happy eating friends!
Hokuma 

Ovtene: This is their story

1.    Summarize your business in one sentence. 

Ovtene is a packaging technology company that was inspired by the protection provided by an eggshell, which extends the shelf life of food products while maintaining their sensory characteristics and freshness.

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2. How long have you been in business? 

Ovtene products were launched in Italy in 2008, and extended their reach into most of Europe by 2015. These products became available in North America in 2016. 

3. Why did you decide to start the company?

In 2005, Alberto Tomasini was troubled by how swiftly certain foods became less palatable, dried out, deteriorated, and eventually became inedible. Inspired by the functions of the egg he began researching at the University of Udine Food Sciences in Italy, and eventually developed the material known as Ovtene. This material has the capacity to keep nearly any perishable food item fresh for much longer by retarding bacterial and mold growth.

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After being highly successful in Italy, the product moved into other European countries for grocery and food production packaging. In 2012, we began thinking of North America, the next largest producer of fine foods and its consumption. In 2016, after much positive exploratory research of the North American market, the FDA approved the product, at which point we launched six of our products into the grocery and food procure markets in the USA.

4. What has been your biggest achievement so far? 

Providing a sensible alternative to paper and plastic packaging, that extend the shelf life naturally with a much lower environmental footprint. Ovtene utilizes 60% less plastic than traditional packaging and neither water nor trees are consumed in its construction.

For a bit more information, take a look at their feature on Deli Market TVsaynotofoodwaste-ovtene-cheese-fresh-nofoodwaste-4

5. How do you measure success?

Initially we look for successful independent testing evaluations followed by positive customer feedback and retention. When our grocery accounts customers begin asking for Ovtene by name and when food producers tell us that their products get to market fresher than before, we know we are onto something.

The next level of success is measured by actual sales and penetration into the many other uses of Ovtene. As well as, when the end user realizes the nutritional value of color, smell and taste of their food that is preserved with our product, unlike any other packaging.

6. What have you learned in the process? 

We learned from food producers and customers that Ovtene can keep products fresh that we hadn’t even thought to test before, such as citrus, floral and herbs. We also learned that Ovtene could be used to overcome the Van der Waals forces of clumping in powders when packaged. Cheese producers we discovered use Ovtene in the aging process as well as the final packaging for market. We also learned that many opportunities exist from Ovtene as it can be placed into stiff containers. In addition, we learned that OTR or the oxygen transmission rate was perfect for packaging fish as recommended by the FDA.

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The pouches are more popular in the US than in Europe. And people like to see the product, so windows need to be an option in many packaging applications. Most of all, people like to do what is easiest and change is difficult, and is viewed as a personal risk for users to initiate. But, they implement the product if they see that significant savings can be attained.

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7. What advice would you give to someone trying to start a sustainable food company?

With great products comes the adrenaline of trying to do too much all at once. Stay focused and tackle the markets that you know work. The rest will fall into place. FDA and USDA approvals were important recognitions, but were an extensive process. 

8. What’s next? Anything else you want to add?

Thermoforming and injection molding, and the introduction of the next generation of Ovtene, which we call OvteneActive. EU patents are approved for this even more protective form of Ovtene.

We believe that Ovtene packaging will increase the shelf life throughout the production and distribution chain. Ovtene can help bring fresh food to under served communities and decrease food waste due to spoilage. Ovtene can decrease the risk of bacterial contamination in food and beyond.

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9. Fun question: what was the best meal you ate this week?

Appetizer: Fresh Ccup Carpaccio, cooked in lemon, pepper and olive oil.
Dinner: Barramundi, Australian Sea Bass, grilled plain served with a Sicilian Caponata.
Dessert: Almond Biscotti and Vin Santo (aged 10 or more years).

Salvatore Giglia, representative of Ovtene in North America

This is their story

1.    Summarize your project/business in one sentence. 

The Urban Worm harnesses the power of vermicomposting, utilizing the humble earthworm to provide solutions in sustainable waste management and sustainable agriculture.


2. How long have you been in business/running your project?
 

Since December 2013 after being selected for the Women in Social and Environmental Enterprise program (WISEE) which provided me with a small start up grant and business model support.

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3. Why did you decide to start the company/project?

After completing my MA studies in Human Security and Environmental Change, specializing in Urban Food Security and Urban Agriculture I had to make the decision to either leave my native city (Nottingham) to find employment in my field or create an opportunity for myself and for my city, so The Urban Worm began.

Everybody of course has to eat and  building sustainable food systems will be at the heart of our ability to thrive in the face of adversity. Climate change, desertification and natural resource depletion are undermining global food security and the current corporate driven, energy intensive, unjust and chemical ridden model is neither sustainable or successfully meeting the nutritional needs of the world. We need to empower a different model that is local, organic and community driven and vermiculture provides the foundations for this movement by producing a superior organic fertilizer and compost. Worm castings are teeming with beneficial microbes essential for healthy plant growth and disease suppression with exceptional water holding capacity, perfect for urban gardens and extreme weather events which we are experiencing more of as a consequence of climate change.  The process of vermicomposting not only provides a high value by product, but the process is an efficient, low tech and cost effective system for a sustainable management of organic waste, as opposed to diverting the waste to landfill which further contribute to climate change as gases emitted from food waste are 31 times stronger than carbon dioxide.

By managing our waste at home we can make a positive contribution to building the foundations for sustainable societies and vermicomposting can be done on a very small scale, even if you live in a flat you can keep worms in your cupboard, the process is odorless and perfect for indoors.

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4. What has been your biggest achievement so far?
 

Having the opportunity to travel to learn has by far been my greatest achievement. I was awarded the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (WCMT)  travel Fellowship to research vermiculture in the USA and Cuba, and this opportunity to learn has been inspiring and is wonderful to make international connections with like minded people, building a wider community of vermicomposting enthusiasts, sharing knowledge and passion. As I  I write this I am in New York preparing for the next Cuban leg of my research. Whilst traveling the west coast I saw vermicomposting in prisons, zoos, schools, colleges, universities as well as successful businesses,  it has been incredibly inspiring and presents a blueprint for developing institutional sustainable organic waste management in the UK. This will be the next achievement, so watch this space. From Cuba the learning will be vast as Cuba is considered to be the global leader in vermicomposting as after the breakdown of the soviet union they lost 80 % of their imports of synthetic fertilizers over night and so a sustainable alternative was called for, and the organic movement began, with worms.


5. How do you measure success?

Tricky one! I guess on a personal level success is to receive love, which I never feel in short supply of! On a professional level success is having influence to make positive change, locally and globally.

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6. What have you learned in the process? 

That  worms  definitely don’t like too many apples- I had a massacre situation a few years ago after a community apple pressing day. Sad, sad day, too much acid, a lesson learned the hard way.


7. What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the worm farming industry or  simply starting a wormery at home.

Just do it, the earth needs you.  We need more worm farmers, rural and urban and the process is very easy and can be set up for a very small cost. If not for profit we need to produce as much ‘black gold’ aka worm castings as we possibly can, even if we live in an apartment we can all make a positive contribution.  What greater contribution to the world can we make but to make earth again? Even if you don’t have a garden, a gardener or community garden would be very grateful for your gift. There is an abundance of information on the internet on how to get started and I have written a worm care guide available for download for free from our website www.theurbanworm.co.uk

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8. What’s next?
 

On return from my WCMT travels, besides catching up with friends and family, and checking up on my worm culture, I will be working on a project that introduces vermicomposting into prisons in the UK. Institutions need to play a key role in practicing sustainable waste management and the USA has some incredibly successful models, notably Monroe Correctional Facility  in Washington.


9. Anything else you want to add?
 

Feed the worms, feed the soil, and feed the soul.

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10. Fun question: what was the best meal you ate this week?

Whilst visiting my family in New Jersey we went to a delicious Italian restaurant in Glen Rock called Rocca, all local and organic produce. I had a bruschetta to start and spinach gnocchi for my main, perfect!

Bite sized wisdom: ET, an alien concept of connectivity

Take a seed, drop it in soil, water it consistently and watch the plant grow. This simple breakdown of a very complex interaction between soil and plant does not take into account some vital factors, which year by year affect our global food supply.

While the above process sounds simple, nature is not simple or straightforward. There are many factors that determine whether or not a plant receives enough water to produce crops, some visible and not so visible to the eye. The combined effect of all factors is known as the ‘evapotranspiration process’- ET.

saynotofoodwaste.sustainability.evapotranspiration.food.planet.water.1The biggest factors to impact ET are: solar radiation, air temperature, air humidity and wind speed. Each of these factors impacts the balance by which water transfers from soil to plant and to the atmosphere.

At the early stages of a plant’s growth much of the water is lost to evaporation from soil. At this stage the plant is small, has almost no leaves to provide shade for the soil, and has undeveloped roots, which don’t absorb a lot of water. During this development stage using drip irrigation (where water is distributed directly to the area where the seed is, or where the stem is starting to sprout), insures that water is not wasted and that the right amount is given directly to the plant.

As the crop matures it requires more water for development. Its roots multiply, it stem grows in height, and its foliage provides shade to the soil below, helping to minimize or lower the rate of water evaporation. In fact, “at the sowing stage of the plant, 100% of ET comes from evaporation, while at full crop cover more than 90% of ET comes from transpiration”

So what is transpiration then? It’s the transfer of water from plant to atmosphere.  A plant ‘breathes’ through its leaves. It takes in water with nutrients from the roots and transports it up throughout the system. At the end of this transfer gases and water vapor escape from the leaf through openings called ‘stomata’.

Due to climate change, temperature rise has put more stress on ET, increasing the rate at which water leaves the soil. Dry soil is unable to retain enough moisture and maintain a high nutrient level to feed the crop. Without enough water and proper soil conditions, crops don’t sprout evenly and yields are significantly cut down.

The ET concept might sound alien to most (pun intended), especially its technical aspects, but the idea in a nutshell is fairly simple. We live in a bubble where each system is connected and influenced by the other. The success of a crop doesn’t just stop at soil and water, it includes, wind, solar radiation, temperature, air humidity and much more.

In our own lives, the success of our development doesn’t stop at education and family status. Much of how we grow depends on our environment, the friends we’re exposed to, the role models we have, and the type of love we get from people that matter. Sometimes, when love is missing within a family we can find it in a teacher or friend who can guide us and steer us to enriching environments.

When faced with a problem, or dealing with individuals who are fighting their own battles, it is easy to jump to conclusions over basic aspects such as – economic, academic and other physical factors. The reality is usually more intricate and some factors are just not visible or comprehensible to us.

saynotofoodwaste.sustainability.evapotranspiration.food.planet.water.3Remembering ET can help us be more understanding of individuals and crops that don’t live up to their full potential. It reminds us that just because it’s the case now, it doesn’t mean that there is something intrinsically wrong with the object, but more often it’s the environment in which it grows.

A recent study showed that we learn best from direct examples, rather than arguments or reasoning (90% to 10%). And if we are not getting the most from what we’re trying to grow, crops or relationships, then it’s time for us to change the atmosphere in which we are developing them, not the plant or person itself. Here’s a quote to summarize the idea: “When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.”

And look at that – I just took a complex reality and simplified it to a quote. I guess certain cycles are difficult to change, but as long as we understand them we can have a more wholesome picture of our life on Earth and how everything is truly connected.

Here’s to connecting with the world and each other.
Hokuma

Bite sized wisdom: the case of potatoes

This weekend I set out on a camping trip to South Mountain State Park in Maryland. I’ve never been, but it promised hikes on the Appalachian Trail, incredible views from the mountain, and a nice lake near the campsite. After doing research, reserving a site and prepping my materials, I focused on food.

saynotofoodwaste.camping.food.sustainable.potatoes.eating.hiking.discovery.newgrounds.explore.1My grandma, being a great cook, saw me chopping up potatoes and asked if I was planning to cook them right away. I explained that this was for the camping trip and that I was chopping them up so as to marinate with onion, olive oil, salt and pepper. She raised a concern and said the potatoes could turn brown when exposed to air, but she was curious to see if my ‘invention’ would overcome this obstacle and let me proceed.

Having never prepped potatoes for a hike I had no clue whether the potatoes would last the night. All I had to go on was a sense of adventure and belief in the best. In fact, many of us have such moments, and not necessarily limited to food. Then, I thought deeper and my ideas floated to the past, to our ancestors. Many of these individuals made up their ‘innovations’ and created the ways we cook, preserve and present food today from trial and error.

There are many projects that get scrapped and don’t pass the test, but a lucky few do get passed down to new generations. That day in the kitchen I was exploring new ways to prepare potatoes, and I’m happy to say that the potatoes didn’t brown. They ended up being cooked on an open fire on a chilly weekend in the woods, leaving everyone who indulged in them happy, warm and full. In addition, I was able to teach my grandma, who is overflowing with knowledge on cooking, a new skill.

saynotofoodwaste.camping.food.sustainable.potatoes.eating.hiking.discovery.newgrounds.explore.3This idea of being open to innovation, to making mistakes and embracing uncertainty applies to things beyond the kitchen. In the real life it is easy to stick to regular routines and things we’re familiar with. But, if we don’t explore and be ok with making mistakes then we won’t reach new grounds.

For me, my exploration turned to success, yet even from the success I already deduced things I can improve on. For instance, I realized that chopping the potatoes into thinner slices will help them cook faster and more evenly. I also learned that hotter spices with bolder tastes, such as curry or hot chili, are better ingredients to marinate with. Especially because hiking outdoors leaves you tired and craving comforts of home. Food is always a good reminder of home, so why not make it spicy and hot, especially if it’s cold outside. Also, I will use less potatoes as they are difficult to keep fresh, even in cold weather, and really need to be used quickly, ideally in the first night, or maximum the second, but no longer as they can go bad and start spreading bad odors in the cooler.

If any readers have tips on what to pack and prepare for hikes please let me know. Even though camping doesn’t always entail gourmet food, I believe that there is always room for delicious meals, whether at home or in the mountains. The trick with camping is to pack filling, easy to prepare, and easy to carry food. With a happy and healthy belly there is nothing we can’t accomplish.

Happy eating and exploring!
Hokuma

Bite sized wisdom: taste the unknown

If you want to explore our world you can travel, forge new friendships, experience new events, try extreme sports, or simply take a bite of a new cuisine.

What always fascinated me is that despite a small number of basic ingredients, people in various corners of the world have come up with different methods of mixing them to create such an array of dishes with uncommon flavors, textures, and colors.

Another thrilling aspect is that each group has its own unique traditions of eating their national cuisine. In Asia individuals rely on the engineering of chopsticks to transport food from the table to their mouth. Yet, still, most of world prefers the use of knives, forks and spoons, as they provide a more secure structure to move food from point A to point B.

saynotofoodwaste.food.cuisine.world.global.sustainable.happy.live.love.discover.together.eat4So, when my co-worker invited me to attend a traditional Filipino dinner that would be served on banana leaves and eaten by hand, I jumped at the chance to experience a completely new adventure. The best part was that I didn’t have to travel far to get a taste of a country that is on the other side of the world. Instead, my friends and I drove to a local mall where the restaurant was and got to enjoy a live funk jazz band as we dug into the exotic meal.

The assortment of food was spectacular! Cajun shrimp, fried milk fish, pork bellies, vegetable rolls, eggplant and rice (which served as the glue that kept the yummy ingredients together). For dessert we had purple yam and mango ice cream in a bowl with pumpkin, flan, and other delicious sweets that I couldn’t decipher, all cooled on shaved ice.

Having lived in the Amazon jungle, I was not a stranger to eating on banana leaves, but the food that was served and the ingredients that were presented to me at the restaurant made a huge difference. In the jungle, there is a lack of spices that bring out flavors of the meal and introduce magical notes to your taste buds. In the middle of the green forest, my lunch consisted of cooked yucca and plantain, dipped in salt (a luxury that my team brought from the city), and a piranha fish soup.

Eating the soup with my hands was not easy, especially as I am not good with pulling the bones from a fish bathing in hot water, so I mostly indulged in starch and carbs of the yucca and plantain.

saynotofoodwaste.food.cuisine.world.global.sustainable.happy.live.love.discover.together.eat2So much of what we do, what we eat and how we eat is determined by nature. In the jungles of the Amazon, as communities let go of their nomadic traditions and built communities, a rise in population makes it difficult for everyone to rely on nature. There is not enough time for the hunted animals to repopulate, and that leaves a shortage of food, leading to malnutrition in kids.

Living in DC I never had imagined that I would relive the experience of eating on banana leaves, but I did and the food that I tried was simply delicious. If we want to expand our knowledge of the world, learning about our food and trying different cuisine is a good option, especially if travel is not.

If you guys have any recommendations about other cuisines and restaurants that are worth giving a try on this gastronomic adventure, please let me know. Until then, I’ll keep looking out for these opportunities and share my experiences with you. If anyone reading this lives in Maryland, you should definitely try the traditional Filipino dinner at Lumpia, Pansit, Atbp.

Happy eating, friends!
Hokuma

Not so virgin: the fraud of the olive

saynotofoodwaste.oliveoil.health.fraud.consumer.power.knowledge.olives.1Drizzle it on top of a lush green salad, prepare a bowl to dip warm slices of bread into, or sip a teaspoon on an empty stomach- just some of the uses for olive oil. 

This century old ingredient promises beauty and overall health.

Recent scientific studies also confirm the health benefits of olive oil, a main staple of the Mediterranean diet. 

Lucky for us (who live in developed countries), we can find this golden liquid packaged inside glass bottles and aerosol cans (but please, whatever you do, don’t ever buy olive oil in a spray can, you will regret it!) on supermarket aisles.

With so many wanting to lead a healthy lifestyle, the demand for continued production of olive oil is high, especially for the oils exported from Italy. Being naive believers in packaging and marketing, consumers happily buy up olive oil that says ‘Natural’ and ‘Made in Italy’. If you fall prey to these deceitful schemes, then watch out!

Recent studies showed that “70% of cheaper extra virgin olive oil sold is a fraud.” And labels that say ‘Extra Virgin’ and ‘Made in Italy’ are legal even if the product wasn’t produced in Italy. This means that 69% of olive oil sold in the USA is doctored.

Big brands, such as Filippo Berio and Bertolli, make customers believe that their product is made in pristine olive fields of Italy. However, most of the time, their olives hail from diverse corners of the world like Tunisia, Turkey, Greece and Spain. 

So, how can this be possible? Unfortunately, the FDA in USA and the EU don’t test olive oil due to high costs. Big brands, hungry for profit, utilize these loopholes to make loads of money without ever getting caught. It’s like taking part in trafficking illegal drugs but never being held responsible for the crime.

Isaynotofoodwaste.oliveoil.health.fraud.consumer.power.knowledge.olives.3n 2010, UC Davis carried out a study of olive oil. Results showed that 69% of imported and 10% of California-based oils labeled ‘Extra Virgin’ failed International Olive Council (IOC) and USDA standards for extra virgin olive oil. Luckily a small percentage of products did pass the test and these brands should be applauded for selling quality goods. Corto Olive, California Olive Ranch, Kirkland Organic, Lucero and McEvoy Ranch Organic all sell real olive oil.

It’s unfortunate to see big companies finding loopholes to make money by advertising false products to their consumers. It’s also alarming to see government agencies failing to protect consumers from these frauds. This is why, more than ever, it’s important that we share our knowledge with each other. The power is in our hands. I hope this post has been helpful!

Happy eating!
Hokuma

The Meat of the Issue: Waste of another Kind

saynotofoodwaste.diet.meat.health.agriculture.climatechange.naturalresources.2Obviously, a big concern on this website is food waste: food that goes uneaten and gets unsustainably disposed of due to negligence. However, as part of the ongoing series on the consequences of the meat industry (here are posts one and two), this post is going to focus on livestock waste. This type of waste includes all discards and excrement generated by animal agriculture, including: manure, urine, carcasses, feed remnants, bedding, and feathers. In addition to being merely unpleasant, the mishandling and sheer quantity of these outputs causes a lot of dangerous contamination.

In 1999, the General Accounting Office reported that livestock generated 130 times as much waste as humans in the US. The amount of waste produced on farms greatly exceeds that which can be used to fertilize the fields, so much of the excess is transported – with great difficulty, risking spillage – to open, man-made pits known as lagoons.

saynotofoodwaste.diet.meat.health.agriculture.climatechange.naturalresources.1Settling in these lagoons, the liquid manure can leak into surface water and groundwater directly or via run-off. While the fecal matter itself can be hazardous, manure also carries many heavy metals, such as arsenic and antibiotics, and pesticides present in animal feed. These adversely impact soil and water quality with excess nutrients, especially nitrogen and phosphorous. Manure also emits the three primary greenhouse gases, CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide, as well as the hazardous gas ammonia. With over 70 billion farm animals being raised each year, the cumulative impact of their excrement is quite problematic. Steinfeld et al. calculated that livestock farming (including more than just waste, admittedly) accounted for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2006, surpassing those of the transportation sector.

saynotofoodwaste.diet.meat.health.agriculture.climatechange.naturalresources.4Of course, the effects of contamination don’t stop with the soil, water, and air themselves. High nitrate concentrations can turn drinking water toxic to infants, while high heavy metal content has been known to cause cancer, circulatory complications, and organ and nervous system damage. Meanwhile, compounds like ammonia in manure gases can hurt animals’ lungs and increase their risk of developing pneumonia when stored in improperly ventilated areas. Farm workers are at similar risks through prolonged exposure to the hazardous gases and odors of animal waste, and up to 30% develop asthma or bronchitis. Finally, the waste often carries pathogens that can cause diseases like salmonella – but I think I’ll save those for next week.

Lower demand for meat, fewer animals raised as livestock, less waste, healthier planet – is this enough to convince people to eat less meat? Or should we focus on dealing with our waste better, rather than just letting it sit around? Given the evidence, I think we need a dual strategy.

Eva

Additional Sources:
Horrigan, Leo; Lawrence, Robert S.; and Walker, Polly – How Sustainable Agriculture Can Address the Environmental and Human Health Harms of Industrial Agriculture

Walker, Polly et al.– Invited Paper: Public Health Implications of Meat Production and Consumption