Sunday, August 12, 2012

Last Word

40%  vs  8%!!!!!!  What more can I say?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What Our Schools are Teaching

I worked for years at a North Carolina high school with a student population of 1500. I often ate my lunch in the cafeteria where I witnessed hundreds of pounds of food being wasted at every meal. The cafeteria offered two choices. One line led to a hot "healthy meal," more often than not consisting of greasy meat and over-cooked vegetables with potatoes, or some pasta with cheese and tomato sauce. To the schools credit, this line offered a pre-made green salad. The other line led to pizza and French fries and attracted about three quarters of the kids.  The left-over "healthy" food was sometimes used the next day; yesterday's burgers found their way into the next day's lasagna. Tragically, the rest wound up in the dumpster. Even when the students opt for pizza, most of it goes uneaten.

Some kids leave home with a healthier bagged lunch only to discard it and head straight for the fries, or worse, go instead to the junk food and caffeinated beverage vending machines that line the lobbies of many of America's public schools.  
When I was in high school, I "skipped" the cafeteria and crossed the street to the corner store for a bottle of Pepsi and a Hostess Apple pie. Today, millions of urban children leave home without having had a breakfast only to stop at the quick-mart or local deli for a coke and some sugar-laiden snacks.

Aside from the mountains of wasted food that often are ignored in favor of a Doctor Pepper and a bag of Fritos, Federally subsidized school meals...... 33 million lunches and 9 million breakfasts a day....... are contributing to the alarming rise in obesity of our children.

"According to the New York City Department of Health, 43% of public elementary school students are overweight and 76% of New York City children are not getting the recommended five daily servings of fruit and vegetables."
"While research suggests that as little as an extra 200 calories a day can make an adult overweight, a recent study led by Gary D. Foster, the director of the Center for Obesity Research and Education at Temple University, found that children were getting 360 calories a day from chips, candy and sugary drinks"
Source: The New York Times.....March 27, 2011 from an article "Philadelphia School Battles Students' Bad Eating Habits, on Campus and Off"  by Michael Moss.

Compared with kids who brought lunch from home, those who ate school lunches:
  • Were more likely to be overweight or obese (38.2% vs. 24.7%)
  • Were more likely to eat two or more servings of fatty meats like fried chicken or hot dogs daily (6.2% vs. 1.6%)
  • Were more likely to have two or more sugary drinks a day (19% vs. 6.8%)
  • Were less likely to eat at least two servings of fruits a day (32.6% vs. 49.4%)
  • Were less likely to eat at least two servings of vegetables a day (39.9% vs. 50.3%)
  • Had higher levels of LDL "bad" cholesterol"


Here in the United States, our school kids are faced with a double whammy!: Often uneaten Federally funded meals of questionable nutritional value, and the readily available, heavily advertised junk "foods" which represent tons of wasted food from the moment of their production. Both are making our kids FAT and unhealthy..... more prone to diabetes and heart disease before they reach 20!

Meanwhile, one in eight American is going hungry. Globally, more than 20,000 people starve to death daily.
Again I ask,



Thanks again for reading......

"........ and let's have another piece of pie."


Thursday, March 24, 2011


What a wonderful assortment of food Americans have to choose from! The shelves of our  supermarkets offer a colorful, dazzling display of fresh produce, fresh and frozen meats, fish and fowl.... canned and boxed foods of all types...... and something for every member of the household.........

including the family pets. Entire aisles, with more floor space  than some grocery stores to be found in rural areas around the world, are often devoted to canines on one side and to felines on the other..... Fancy Feast and 9 Lives on the right, Alpo and Mighty Dog on the left..... The breakfast cereals alone take up an entire aisle. The boxes beckon, pre-pitched via television commercials aimed directly at the children. Each show for kids, every channel that devotes Saturday mornings to cartoons, all are telling  children what to demand from mom.  Captain Crunch and Count Chocula call.  Leprechauns enchant with Lucky Charms.... Toucans talk up Fruit Loops. Even the Silly Rabbit knows that Trix are for Kids!...... Too busy to cook? No problem! Everything from soups to "complete" meals can be found either frozen or boxed that is microwavable. Hot Pockets! "man-size" dinners..... Specialty ethnic aisle...  Islands of imported cheeses! Sliced meats and whole roast chickens from the Deli area...... Who could ask for anything more!!! 

Who?  ONE in EIGHT in America!
Read on......... 
According to the American Oxford Dictionary: 
hunger |ˈhə ng gər|
a feeling of discomfort or weakness caused by lack of food, coupled with the desire to eat : she was faint with hunger.
a severe lack of food : they died from cold and hunger.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that in 2008:
  • Of the 49.1 million people living in food insecure households (up from 36.2 million in 2007), 32.4 million are adults (14.4 percent of all adults) and 16.7 million are children (22.5 percent of all children).
  • 17.3 million people lived in households that were considered to have "very low food security," a USDA term (previously denominated "food insecure with hunger") that means one or more people in the household were hungry over the course of the year because of the inability to afford enough food. This was up from 11.9 million in 2007 and 8.5 million in 2000.
  • Very low food security had been getting worse even before the recession. The number of people in this category in 2008 is more than double the number in 2000.
  • Black (25.7 percent) and Hispanic (26.9 percent) households experienced food insecurity at far higher rates than the national average.

  • Source:
  • _____________
  • Children everywhere are suffering from mal-nourishment. 
  • "Children who struggle with hunger are sick more often, recover more slowly, and are more likely to be hospitalized.
  • They are more likely to experience headaches, stomachaches, colds, ear infections and fatigue.
  • Children who face hunger are more susceptible to obesity and its harmful health consequences as children and as adults.
Hunger impedes our childrens’ ability to learn and perform academically:
  • Undernourished children under the age of 3 cannot learn as much, as fast or as well.
  • Lack of enough nutritious food impairs a child’s ability to concentrate and perform well in school.
  • Children who don’t get enough nutritious food are more susceptible to the negative effects of skipping breakfast on their ability to think and learn.
  • Hunger predisposes our children to emotional and behavioral difficulties
  • Children who regularly do not get enough nutritious food have more behavioral, emotional and academic problems and tend to be more aggressive and anxious.
  • Teens who regularly do not get enough to eat are more likely to be suspended from school and have difficulty getting along with other kids."
  • Source:
  • I strongly suggest taking a look at the complete report cited above.

Thanks again for reading.  START LOCALLY..... IMAGINE GLOBALLY

I gotta go grab a sandwich.


Monday, March 21, 2011

40% vs One in Eight

Forty Percent........ One in Eight: Two figures which embody the tragic irony that exists in America today.

40% of the food ready for harvest in this country never gets eaten. 
One in eight Americans is in need of emergency food relief. 

The 40%.....

Pre-harvest losses, such as those due to severe weather and disease are unavoidable. However, much of the post-harvest loss is avoidable. From the farm to the retail level loss can be attributed to mechanization, production practices and decisions

During the processing and wholesale stage, tons of  edible food is wasted through poor handling, package failure, and transportation losses. The amount of edible food that is discarded, thrown straight into the dumpster because it fails to meet often arbitrary federal and or state "standards" is unconscionable.
At the retail level, over 5 billion pounds of food are lost each year. Dairy products and fresh fruits and vegetables account for half of retail loss.

Nearly 100 billion pounds of food is lost by consumers and the foodservice industry.........26% of the edible food supply! Fresh fruits and vegetables account for 20% of consumer and foodservice loss.


The One in Eight........

The USDA spends billions of dollars providing food assistance. An estimated 150,000 nonprofit organizations including food banks and neighborhood charity outlets provide 10% of the U.S. population with some portion of their nutritional needs. 

"However, according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, even with the extensive network of Federal and private food assistance programs, almost 20% of requests for emergency food assistance went unmet."


"We live in the world's wealthiest nation. Yet 13 percent of people living in the United States live in poverty.
Nearly one in four children live in households that struggle to put food on the table. That's 16.7 million children.
The most direct way to reduce hunger in the U.S. is through national nutrition programs. But while food assistance to hungry people is vital, it is not enough.
More than one in eight people in the United States lives below the poverty line, which is $21,756 for a family of four in 2009. One in five children in the United States lives below the poverty line. Source: Income, Earnings, and Poverty data from the 2008 American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau, 2009. 
  • Americans (51.4 percent) will live in poverty at some point before age 65.  Source: Urban Institute, Transitioning In and Out of Poverty, 2007. 
  • 84 percent of low-income families have at least one working family member, and 75 percent of single mothers who head households work. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement, 2007. 
  • In most areas, a family of four needs to earn twice the poverty line to provide children with basic necessities. Source: National Center for Children in Poverty, 2008.  
  • Nationally, more than 30 percent of children live in low-income working families (families who earn less than twice the poverty line). Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2007, compiled by the Working Poor Families Projec Most t.
  • A person working full-time at the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year. The official poverty line for a family of three—one parent with two children—is $17,285.
  • Source:

Forty Percent and One in Eight....  Simple figures..... Easy to remember. 

Think on them and and then ask:

How can we get the 40 to the One? 

 Start locally. Imagine Globally.

Oh! The possibilities.

Eat thoughtfully,



Monday, March 7, 2011

What's In Your Back Yard?


Start Locally                          Imagine Globally. 

The existence and practice of  "community gardening" predates recorded history. Wherever a community exists, the possibilities of creating a garden that is accessible to every member of that community are endless. Anywhere where fertile soil is to be found (or created), a community garden can be developed. Many municipalities provide space. Rooftop gardens abound in cities worldwide. The operative word here is COMMUNITY.  The world is facing a food crisis. The alarming statistics are available, but go unnoticed; it's time for the wake-up call. 

From the "City Farmer News,", a fine online publication that features 'New Stories From 'Urban Agriculture Notes'.":

"Convincing people of a threat to the food supply is like convincing people that the climate change is a problem: you can either wait until the crisis hits or react now." Peter Ladner

The adage "Charity begins at home," is a statement of fact. If you  are fortunate enough to live in a home with a back yard, start a garden and feed your family. Share your surplus with your next-door neighbors. Better yet, if possible, get your neighbors to share one garden space, everyone contributing to its maintenance. Contribute the surplus to the local food bank. Does the town or city where you live have a community garden? If so, get INVOLVED! If not, WHY NOT?

The  American Community Gardening Association (ACGA) offers a wealth of information and can be found online at:  

Community gardening benefits everyone.  From the ACGA:

  • "Improves the quality of life for people in the garden
  • Provides a catalyst for neighborhood and community development
  • Stimulates Social Interaction
  • Encourages Self-Reliance
  • Beautifies Neighborhoods
  • Produces Nutritious Food
  • Reduces Family Food Budgets
  • Conserves Resources
  • Creates opportunity for recreation, exercise, therapy, and education
  • Reduces Crime
  • Preserves Green Space
  • Creates income opportunities and economic development
  • Reduces city heat from streets and parking lots
  • Provides opportunities for intergenerational and cross-cultural connections"
  • Also from ACGA:

American Community Gardening Association 
The following steps are adapted from the American Community Garden Association's guidelines  
for launching a successful community garden in your neighborhood.  

Determine whether a garden is really needed and wanted, what kind it should be (vegetable, flower, both, organic?), whom it will involve and who benefits. Invite neighbors, tenants, community organizations, gardening and horticultural societies, building superintendents (if it is at an apartment building)—in other words, anyone who is likely to be interested. 
This group can be comprised of people who feel committed to the creation of the garden and have the time to devote to it, at least at this initial stage. Choose well-organized persons as garden coordinators Form committees to tackle specific tasks: funding and partnerships, youth activities, construction and 
Do a community asset assessment. What skills and resources already exist in the community that can aid in the garden’s creation? Contact local municipal planners about possible sites, as well as horticultural societies and other local sources of information and assistance. Look within your community for people with experience in landscaping and gardening.  In Toronto contact the Toronto Community Garden Network. 
          4. APPROACH A SPONSOR 
Some gardens "self-support" through membership dues, but for many, a sponsor is essential for donations oftools, seeds or money.  Churches, schools, private businesses or parks and recreation departments are all possible supporters. One garden raised money by selling "square inches" at $5 each to hundreds of sponsors.
          5. CHOOSE A SITE 
Consider the amount of daily sunshine (vegetables need at least six hours a day), availability of water, and soil testing for possible pollutants. Find out who owns the land. Can the gardeners get a lease agreement for at least three years? Will public liability insurance be necessary? 
In most cases, the land will need considerable preparation for planting. Organize volunteer work crews to clean it, gather materials and decide on the design and plot arrangement. 
Members must decide how many plots are available and how they will be assigned. Allow space for storing tools, making compost and don’t forget the pathways between plots! Plant flowers or shrubs around the garden's edges to promote good will with non-gardening neighbors, passersby and municipal authorities. 
          8. PLAN FOR CHILDREN 
Consider creating a special garden just for kids--including them is essential. Children are not as interested in the size of the harvest but rather in the process of gardening. A separate area set aside for them allows them to  explore the garden at their own speed.   
The gardeners themselves devise the best ground rules. We are more willing to comply with rules that we have had a hand in creating. Ground rules help gardeners to know what is expected of them. Think of it as a code of behavior. Some examples of issues that are best dealt with by agreed upon rules are: dues, how will the money be used? . How are plots assigned? Will gardeners share tools, meet regularly, handle basic maintenance? 
Good communication ensures a strong community garden with active participation by all. Some ways to do this are: form a telephone tree, create an email list; install a rainproof bulletin board in the garden; have regular  celebrations. Community gardens are all about creating and strengthening communities."

Community is a phenomena that begins at home and spreads. The sense, the feeling of being a part of a community is by itself a reason for living.

Thanks again for reading! Pass it on!

Pass me the potatoes.



Thursday, March 3, 2011

Gleaning the Truth


Let us define our terms. According to the dictionary in my Mac:
glean |glēn|
verb [ trans. ]
extract (information) from various sources : the information is gleaned press clippings.
• collect gradually and bit by bit objects gleaned from local markets.
• historical gather (leftover grain or other produce) after a harvest : [as n. ] ( gleaningthe conditions of farm workers in the 1890s made gleaning essential.

Gleaning, also known as a second harvesting, is the primary activity that keeps the food banks around the world in stock. Whether it's produce hand picked by volunteers in the field or donated by the grower, or produce and canned good solicited from and donated by individuals and retail grocery strores, the retrieved food will eventually find its way to those who need it.  40 to 50% of  the food ready for harvesting never gets eaten! If more people were to become involved in the gleaning process, much of this otherwise wasted food would be available to food banks.
Here are some extracts from an excellent article that can be read in its entirety at:

"Waste is pervasive and occurs at every level of our ever-protracted food supply chain. It begins at the source with crops left to be retilled into the fields and concludes with yellowing lettuce in our refrigerators. 
We are all familiar with the latter, even the most diligent of shoppers, but few have any context to understand the former. Volunteering as a field gleaner is perhaps the best way to gain context and insight into our food production system.  It promises to revolutionize the way you think about all things food, there is no way it could not."

"This is critical time in which an increasing number of Americans are relying on hunger relief services for their access to food. Feeding America estimates that 1 in 6 Americans depended on local food pantry services to "get by" in 2010. At the same time, we are wasting food at an alarming rate, by the millions of pounds every day. "

"The reasons for food waste are plentiful, but pivot on two modern realities: inflated consumer standards (exactly when did we decide our apples had to be perfectly round and our potatoes eyeless?), volatile pricing due to the power resting almost exclusively with grocery stores and never farmers."

Here is an example of the above mentioned inflated consumer standards which can be found in the list of official USDA  guidelines:

 §51.2455  U.S. No. 1. 
"U.S. No. 1'' consists of carrots of similar varietal characteristics the roots of which are firm, fairly clean, fairly well colored, fairly smooth, well formed, and which are free from soft rot, and free 
from damage caused by freezing, growth cracks, sunburn, pithiness, woodiness, internal discoloration, oil spray, dry rot, other disease, insects or mechanical or other means. Bunches shall have tops which are fresh and free from decay and free from damage caused by freezing, seed stems, yellowing or other discoloration, disease, insects or mechanical or other means. Unless otherwise specified, the bunches shall have full tops and the length of tops shall be not more than 
20 inches. (See §51.2459.) 
(a) Size. Unless otherwise specified, the diameter of each carrot shall be not less than three-fourths inch."

The list to be found in the report provides the guidelines for just about every fruit, vegetable, nut, chicken, egg, all other poultry, and four legged animal. So, during its journey from the fields to the supermarket, TONS of perfectly edible food gets tossed because it fails to meet some arbitrary "standard."

Today I am including a piece written by Robert Kauffman, a fine story teller. 

Loaves and fishes, part two, February, 1975: Grassy Key, FL

Living in an improvised tent city during the recession that ravished this country during the mid 1970’s meant folks had to be resourceful to meet their basic needs. Having a place to squat and not having to suffer cold weather meant that a couple of the elements were covered. Food was another matter. The Keys of Florida are not a place where large quantities of food are grown. Most items beside seafood have to be trucked in and sold at high prices. Our community worked together to provide sustenance for all. It seemed all would partake of whatever showed up. Upwards of fifty folks ate together scattered about the beach.

A few of the crew got together fishing gear and headed up and down the shore gathering fish. When fish cooperated, we were grateful. Others of our band searched about for  tree fruits and nuts to glean. It seemed there were trees that had gone wild and if not gathered, their fruit would only go to rot. Our abundance of coconuts was supplemented by dates and an occasional piece of citrus, mostly limes or kumquats . Someone discovered a source of good produce. The supermarket in Marathon, would on a daily basis dispose of produce that while still good was not presentable for sale. After talking to their produce manager, he agreed to set these items on the back landing instead of placing them in the dumpster. After we took our lot we would sweep and clean up the loading dock. This helped supply our stores with needed daily requirements. Soon another windfall would show up that gave us an increased variety for our manna.

Occasionally a freezer would break down and after a short length of time, its contents would begin defrosting. We heard that in Florida such food would, by law, have to be disposed. On those occasions, large quantities of thawing foodstuffs would make their way to our encampment. When this happened we would have large quantities but small variety. On our first attainment, we got hold of over two hundred pounds of bacon and a similar quantity of butter. This was more than we could use and we had no facilities for storage. We begin to search for other places that had needs for food and shared with them, Also on the occasion when a freezer broke down we would likely suffer a tinge of gluttony. One time we even went overboard.

After a spell when the fishing was not profitable and other sources seemed to be sparing, we were all on a bit of a fast. One day in late afternoon, when the energy was low from lacking nutrition, one of our vehicles came bounding down the beach with its horn blaring and wild shouts from its driver and passengers. The cause of the commotion was the exciting news that another freezer had succumbed. Hurriedly, a crown gathered round to examine the booty. We had scored several cases of Tee Vee dinners. There was a scrambling for large pots so we could prepare the separate ingredients in large quantities and enjoy a feast. I went up the beach to spread the news--we were ready to break the fast. One of my stops was to visit Michelle, Richard, and Tom, folks visiting from Hawaii.

After sharing the news, we discussed the prudence in coming off a fast by consuming large quantities of greasy salty food. Instead of campaigning to encourage everyone to be moderate and not overindulge, we decided to  continue our fast sitting around our fire and share our course with anyone who choose to join us. Several folks dropped by to share our good fortune at receiving a large bounty. Only a few stayed with us to continue our fast and figure a way to slowly get back to the banquet. The overwhelming numbers of folks we witnessed that evening and the next morning suffering from overindulgence confirmed the wisdom of our decision and filled us with gratitude that we could withstand the temptation to join in the celebration.

The next day saw the rest of us slowly come off our fast, while most of those who ate were back to not eating. By that evening, things seemed back to normal and food supplies again  moderated. The community held together and festivity resumed.  By now our number of regulars appeared to approach nearly a hundred. Not having the scourge of a census, we could only estimate. On top of regulars we hosted batches of visitors just there for the day or maybe a night or two. It seemed some folks were attracted by  our no camping fee. These folks made up for that by increasing their sharing, especially of party favors.  Lightness was in the air.

Used by Permission

Thank you Rob!

Today, Robert Kauffman is the official receiver of goods donated to Loaves and Fishes. You can see a photo of him at :


Hope this has given you a few things to chew on.

Thanks again for reading Free the Food!!    Pass it on!


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What in the world...?


Earlier posts have addressed  food waste, food banks, and community kitchens here at home......  While we overweight  "Westerners" sit on our over-stuffed couches gobbling down potato chips and junk food, almost two million of our sisters and brothers around the globe are dying each year from starvation. 

The tragic irony is that there is more than enough to go around. 

Consistent with Free the Food's intent to educate by presenting statistics and links to their sources:

"Children are the most visible victims of undernutrition.  Children who are poorly nourished suffer up to 160 days of illness each year. Poor nutrition plays a role in at least half of the 10.9 million child deaths each year--five million deaths.  Undernutrition magnifies the effect of every disease, including measles and malaria. The estimated proportions of deaths in which undernutrition is an underlying cause are roughly similar for diarrhea (61%), malaria (57%), pneumonia (52%), and measles (45%) (Black 2003, Bryce 2005). Malnutrition can also be caused by diseases, such as the diseases that cause diarrhea, by reducing the body's ability to convert food into usable nutrients.

Students get a hot lunch at a school in Beri, India. Photo: Ben Arnoldy/Christian Science Monitor

The world produces enough food to feed everyone. World agriculture produces 17 percent more calories per person today than it did 30 years ago, despite a 70 percent population increase. This is enough to provide everyone in the world with at least 2,720 kilocalories per person per day (FAO 2002, p.9).  The principal problem is that many people in the world do not have sufficient land to grow, or income to purchase, enough food."

For a real eye opener, go to:   
The last time I looked, Stop the Hunger displayed a real time update on world undernourishment  and obesity........  As of 5:30 PM EST on March 2, 2011........!!
"Current world population: 6,907,499,130 (and increasing  every fraction of a second)
Current undernourished people in the world:  1,032,378,117
Current overweight people in the world:  1,160,525,331 
People who died of hunger today:  20,861
People who died of hunger this year:  1,731,597"

Well boys and girls, have a happy meal!!!

Thanks again for reading Free the Food........ Pass it on.