Real Food Challenge update

It has been an active semester for the Real Food Challenge Team (RFCT) at Fort Lewis College (FLC). Attempting to move the Real Food Challenge (RFC) forward at FLC has been the team’s top priority since last fall when they began working on the initiative. Specifically, the RFC is a nation-wide campaign that aims to provide students with particular resources to gain the interest of their respective college toward purchasing 20 percent of their annual food budget of “real food”. Real food refers to food that meets particular sets of criteria found in four categories: fair, local, humane and ecologically-sound.

Real Food Challenge Team members promote Real Food Day, a meal which provided local foods to students made possible by the partnership of the school's food vendor, Sodexo, and the EC.

Real Food Challenge Team members promote Real Food Day, a meal which provided local foods to students made possible by the partnership of the school’s food vendor, Sodexo, and the EC.

Thus far, the team has set their agenda to achieve this goal by continuously meeting to form projects, goals and education around the challenge, in conjunction with staff from the Environmental Center (EC), FLC and Sodexo (the college’s dining hall food service. Preceding the current semester, the team was fortunate enough to have FLC Environmental Studies intern Laura Owens evaluate a semester’s worth of Sodexo’s food purchases for FLC using what is known as the real food calculator. With the systematic methodology and rigorous research of the calculator, she revealed that, currently, Sodexo purchases about 4.6 percent of real food per semester.

With a bit over 15 percent more real food needed to be bought annually to reach the overall goal of the challenge, the team is continuing to seek innovation and progress. This is a two-fold process: they’ll look to expand on educational type events for students, faculty, community and other college staff members, while doing additional research and analysis aimed at better efficiency in general and enhancing the processes by which they measure their results. The former of these has been somewhat more practically-driven as of recently. For example, on October 24, 2013, the RFCT, EC and Sodexo, put together a real food meal event at FLC. Essentially, the lunch showcased mostly a small variety of local meats and vegetables, as well as some foods which met the other four criterion of the RFC. From the staff of Sodexo to the students of FLC, the day made important connections, and illuminated the progress the RFC is making at the FLC campus. The latter of these tasks has involved reaching out to leaders within the RFC and student leaders from other campuses across the country, which the RFCT can utilize in terms of their successes and failures, etc.

Currently, the RFCT is work on planning more real meal days, including one more this

Sodexo sourced ingredients for the Food Day meal from local Durango farmers, meeting at least one of the four criterion of the Real Food Challenge.

Sodexo sourced ingredients for the Food Day meal from local Durango farmers, meeting at least one of the four criterion of the Real Food Challenge.

semester in December. They are also working on creating a press kit and a webpage. In doing so, they will open a new wave of media outreach which should help spread the word about the RFC here at FLC. Furthermore, a few team members have shifted their focus upon contacting other schools committed to the RFC to learn from their experiences. So far, what they have found is that is that the RFCT and EC may want to consider working on further analyzing the calculator results to highlight the campaign and raise its awareness. Similarly, it has been found that more education and learning opportunities need to be provided to the Sodexo staff in order to foster a stronger relationship with the FLC food vendor. Needless to say, the following weeks and semester ought to be full of busy and important work for this team.

By C.J. Clayton, RFCT member

Community comes together to help local farms

September’s destructive weather greatly devastated many of Durango’s local farmers but has also brought the community together to salvage Durango’s local food supply.

On Wednesday, September 18, heavy hail destroyed many of Durango farmers’ crops, including Adobe House Farm and Linnaea Farms. A lot of these local farms supply the farmer’s market and local restaurants. Linda Illsley of Linda’s Local Food Café, whose mission on their webpage is to use mainly local and Colorado grown organic food, stepped up to help her local farmers. Illsley got a call from Linley Dixon of Adobe House Farm, that their main crash crop, tomatoes, that Illsley was going to buy from Linley, was hit by the hail.

“We didn’t assess the damage until about Thursday

Linda Illsley (right) from Linda’s Local Foods working with Linley Dixon (left) of Adobe House, at the Durango Farmer’s Market. - The Independent

Linda Illsley (right) from Linda’s Local Foods working with Linley Dixon (left) of Adobe House, at the Durango Farmer’s Market. – The Independent

morning, and it was about 9:30 when I called Linda and said it’s all gone,” said Dixon.

It was not all gone and there was still some hope. Illsely contacted Beth LaShell, coordinator of the Old Fort, to spread the word that at least a 1,000 pounds of tomatoes needed to be harvested, and they needed urgent help. LaShell sent out an e-mail to Fort Lewis Students and that e-mail was forwarded by Rachel Landis, coordinator of the Fort Lewis Environmental Center. The e-mail recruited students to help both Adobe House Farm and Linnaea Farms.

“Adobe House Farm’s crops were destroyed by hail and they are gleaning as much produce as possible today.  Linley Dixon (owner) estimates at least 1,000 pounds of tomatoes need to be harvested today,” said LaShell’s e-mail.

About 50 people came out that Thursday to help harvest tomatoes at Adobe House Farms, and about 25 people came on Friday to help some more. They got all of the tomatoes out of the field before they would have started rotting and saved about 5,000 pounds of tomatoes. A majority of the tomatoes were green with holes in them and would have begun to ripen in the next couple of weeks. A buyer of Adobe House’s tomatoes and the restaurant Zia Taqueria helped support the farm and lent out their walk-in cooler to help preserve the tomatoes.

They then had three or four days to run the tomatoes from the cooler and into the freezer before the tomatoes would begin to rot. Illsley lent out her restaurant to be used as a place to chop up the tomatoes and save them in her freezer. Each day about 10 people, who Illsley had contacted on Facebook and through LaShell, helped out in the kitchen chopping tomatoes for that whole weekend.

“It was amazing. I think the take home lesson for me was to ask for help more often. I think a lot of people, even when the farm was ripped to shreds when they got there, were blown away at how pretty it still was. I think people still want access to farms. I think finding a way to give them access is a goal for the future,” said Dixon.

Daniel Amermam, a Fort Lewis Student, was one of the volunteers that responded to the call for help. He volunteered for two hours with other students and volunteers, picking tomatoes and other leafy crops at Adobe House Farms. Amermam did not personally receive the e-mail but was told by a friend what had happened, so he decided to lend a helping hand.

“I wish I would have known about it sooner. I probably would have gone earlier,” said Amermam.

He plans to do what he can to help again in the future.

“It was great to see the smiles on their faces and the gratitude they were giving us. I got a free meal at Linda’s afterwards,” said Amermam.

Fellow students had similar experiences and students of the Fort Lewis Environmental Center have decided to form a response team that will keep helping local farms and communities in a crisis.

“Based off some of the folks’ experiences going to help clean up the farms that were destroyed by our last hail and mudslide event, they saw how necessary it is to be able to mobilize a large amount of people quickly to help support our community. So they want to get a whole group of folks together at the click of an e-mail,” said Landis.

The experience of the community coming out to help their local farms shows that people want local foods and want to support their farmers and keep them in business. Local restaurants collaborating with the farms and the relationship between Linda’s Local Foods and Adobe House Farm, demonstrates how the community can work together to recover from a devastating event.

Adobe House Farm didn’t know what to do with their unripened tomatoes they gleaned.

“We will make chutneys. We will make salsas. We will figure something out,” said Illsley.

With the help of volunteers and local restaurants, none of the damaged tomatoes of Adobe House Farm was gone to waste.

“It was just one of those magical moments, when the community came together to support somebody that needed the help. It also triggered a conversation about food waste and lack of access by certain populations, like students at the Fort Lewis College. And, how we really did have the capacity to create abundance if we just organized,” said Illsley.

An example of an organization that tries to provide free food is the Grub Hub, a food bank that gets donations to give free food to Fort Lewis College students. They get most of their donations from Manna Soup Kitchen. Colin Clausen, volunteer at the Grub Hub, said that their amount of fresh produce has decreased compared to last year. This may be accounted for by the weather and the farms hit by the weather.

“Last year we were still getting produce into November, and we’ve already stopped, and it’s October,” said Clausen.

Even with the devastating weather that hit Durango, it was shown that food could be salvaged and supplied to the community. With more organization and help from volunteers to local farms, abundance could be created to provide for the town of Durango and the Fort Lewis College community. Farmers struggle to stay in business in Durango, and with the community’s help and the farmers willing to ask for help, more local food can be provided to the whole town.

“Financially it is a struggle. You are lucky to make a couple thousand at the end of the summer of really hard work. We had some savings also, but we all worked a couple jobs in the winter just so we could farm and do what we love,” said Dixon.

 

By Madison Chamberlain, Reporter at “The Independent,” Fort Lewis College’s student newspaper

Putting the “Real” into Real Food

This past February, three members of the Environmental Center’s campus sustainability team traveled to Baltimore, Maryland to attend a Real Food Challenge Breaking Ground Summit. There, the team members met over 200 other like-minded students from over 70 universities, discussed ideas and tactics and ate delicious “real food.”

So what is real food? The Real Food Challenge is a nation-wide campaign that promotes the preparation of food that is produced locally with ethical, humane and environmentally sound practices in college campus dinning halls. The Real Food Challenge works to encourage college campuses across the nation to commit to serving 20% real food by 2020.

Switching to 20% local, ethical, humane and environmentally sound food is indeed a challenge. Adopting such a large percentage of new food requires stepping into uncharted territory—establishing new practices in food production (where we get the real food), purchasing (bringing it to the kitchens), and preparation (how it is cooked). At the three day conference, the Breaking Ground Summit provided students with helpful insights and tools through panel discussions and a series of workshops like Food System Working Groups: Building the Real Food System on CampusOrganizing & Strategic Campaign Planning and Food Justice: Privilege & Oppression in the Food System. Just as important as information, the summit provided an opportunity for networking. Our Fort Lewis students were able to make connections with nearby schools working on the Real Food Challenge such Denver University, who is in a similar stage. They were also able to swap ideas from other schools of similar size and dinning programs.

A photo from the Real Food Challenge Breaking-Ground Summit in Baltimore, MD.

A panel discussion including producers, consumers and distributors associated with a dinning service at an East coast school participating in the Real Food Challenge. Photo courtesy of Melanie Weber-Sauer.

Right now, Fort Lewis College is still just sprouting into the first stages of the Real Food Challenge. Stay tuned for our next steps and how we plan on moving our school towards a more sustainable dinning program!

For more information on the Real Food Challenge, check out their web site http://www.realfoodchallenge.org/. Or, feel free to email me at miwebersauer@fortlewis.edu.

By Melanie Weber-Sauer

My “Cooking Matters” Class Experience

A healthy homemade quesadilla.

Quesadillas are easy to make and, when filled with vegetables, a healthy dinner.

Recently, I enrolled in a six week cooking class, Cooking Matters, a national organization that strives to help families “to plan, purchase and prepare healthy, tasty and affordable foods at home.” Their idea follows the Chinese proverb: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Cooking Matters is sponsored by Share Our Strength, an organization dedicated to fighting poverty and hunger and coordinated by the lovely Erin Jolly whose motto is MODERATION, BALANCE and VARIETY! As the first class of its kind being offered at Fort Lewis, Erin’s primary focus was not to change our diets but to improve our knowledge of nutrition and equip us with basic cooking skills.

The evening started off with introductions, revealing an amazing variety of seasoned cooks and beginners in addition those bored with their own cooking (me).  We then moved on into the “Shared Cultural Kitchen”(Native American Center/El Centro) where cooking equipment awaited us. Each station was set up with a knife and cutting board surrounded by bowls of vegetables. Our chef, Ryan announced that we would be making quesadillas, salsa and guacamole—a fairly simple meal.

We were guided through every step in creating the ultimate and heartiest quesadillas, including rinsing fresh vegetables; chopping fresh zucchini, onions, garlic, cilantro and peppers; and fine-tuning the special technique of seasoning. Spices can be intimidating but here’s bit of chef Ryan’s wisdom: “A good chef is a chef who constantly tastes.” Next, we made salsa and guacamole dips. For this step, we all worked together to come to a consensus of creating both salsa and guacamole dips with the perfect amount of spice and flavor—and we did!  If you haven’t guessed, here is where a hint lies, jalapenos are super-hot and yours truly had the extreme pleasure of dicing these little green monsters!

Once we finished our dips and placed our quesadillas in the oven to bake, we all moved into the dining room of El Centro where we began our lesson on the basics of nutrition. Erin moved us along in a discussion about the healthy food plate, a food-serving diagram that replaced the dated food pyramid most of us saw at some point or other. We learned that the largest portions of our meals should be solely dedicated to vegetables because colorful varieties indicate vital nutrients. If we intend to nourish ourselves, we need to incorporate Erin’s motto of MODERATION, BALANCE and VARIETY into our daily diets. However, that being said, Erin quickly clarified that it takes time to understand what our bodies need and we must all be diligent in exploring our options. So, no worries! Treat yourself to the occasional dessert or pizza but in moderation of course!

With the first class over, I look forward to learning more about nutrition, reading labels and, of course, cooking. In addition, I did learn a valuable lesson: wash your hands thoroughly after handling jalapeno chilies because it’s quite challenging for anyone other than yourself to remove contacts once they start a burning! Ouch!

 

By Trish Yazzie

Organically Grown

In a time not too long ago, using organic methods was the only option. With the industrial age and the following “Green revolution” of the 20th century, heavy petroleum dependency became common practice. Pesticides, herbicides and mechanized labor promised to end world hunger, to bring the developing world to par and to expand the small economies of the globe. Although initially successful in feeding more and boosting economy, the revolution has backlashed. Farmers who were subsidized by large businesses in order to purchase the infrastructure needed to farm tremendous areas of land now find themselves in a cycle of debt. In order to try and repay their growing debt, the farmers continue to practice mono cropping, or the growing of just one type of crop. With acres and acres of one species, vulnerability to disease and pests increases dramatically and when a crop failure does strike, the farmer is pushed further and further into debt. Mechanization of agriculture has also removed large amounts of labor from the fields, pushing out many who need the work for their families’ livelihood.

Organic food has become scarce in our society but is making a comeback.

Organic food has become scarce in our society but is making a comeback. Photo used by Fair Use.

Aside from the political and economic impacts, the environmental destruction caused by pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers is of an unbelievable scale. These chemicals, which end up in local waterways due to runoff caused by precipitation, ultimately enter and pollute the oceans via the water cycle. These chemicals can alter surrounding wildlife through hormonal disruption, poisoning or creating an uninhabitable environment. Often the chemicals used are toxic to all forms of life, humans included. Due to the lack of safety equipment, either from lack of funds, lack of education or commonly both, the farm workers and surrounding community are often harmed by the wide, unregulated use of toxins. Cancers, endocrine disruption and mutations are some of the more serious illnesses that can be caused by pesticide use.

However, there may still be hope! A new study by the Worldwatch Institute showed that global land farmed organically has increased more than threefold to a total of 37 million hectares. Currently, the areas with the most organically managed land include Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. Following suit are Europe and Latin America. The United States has, not surprisingly, been slow to convert conventional farmland to organic methods. Despite this, when comparing sales of organic products sold in the United States, the organic industry is one of the fastest growing with $31.5 billion in sales. The slow conversion could be due to the possible interest at stake. With many billion dollar international companies being heavily invested in conventional agriculture, both produce and livestock, there is much to lose. However, these companies know that a new wave is approaching and plan to ride it all the way to the bottom of our wallets. Many of the largest businesses in support of heavy development and petroleum usage are now offering organic brands to cash in on the best of both worlds. In fact, many of these corporations voted against Proposition 37 in California, which would have made it mandatory to label products containing genetically modified organisms (GMO and chemical usage often go hand in hand).

In the age of information, people are often coaxed to let business make our daily choices for them. People must arm themselves with the appropriate knowledge for it is all they can do. The coming revolution cannot be fought with violence and hate but must be peaceful and based on the power of the people. People are expected to believe everything they see and hear. Eat our brand to be healthy and young, try this product to be truly beautiful, wear this to have friends and love. Remove the curtains and view behind the scenes because only you can make the right choice!

 

– Dylan Ruckel

 

References:

http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/health/human.htm

http://www.enn.com/ecosystems/article/45468

Canning Salsa

Canning Food

Canning Food

Canning food is important in more than one way. Canning use to be very important tradition in many families in the past.  Food preservation or canning was a way of life for many people. There is a gap in cultural knowledge of canning food because we are so depended on industries to can food for us. We depend on Mass Production and Mass Transportation to deliver food to us from 100 of miles away. But we can change all that if we bring back the tradition of canning food and being less depended on the Food industry for the food we eat.

Canning is also called Natural Storage because you can preserve fruits and vegetables in their natural state. It is an excellent way to store food you’ve grown on your own. Nuts, beans, peas, and grains store well in their natural state. An interesting fact that everybody should know is that you can store potatoes, winter squash, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes in cool places for 6 months!

The canning process can be fun, you can do it by yourself or you can can with friends and make it an activity to do every other month or when you pick the foods you’ve grown to store. To can you can use many different methods but the easiest and most popular is the Boiling Water Bath or Stem Canning process, this process is great for preserving high acid foods like; fruits, jams, pickles and jellies. For this process you have to boil water to 212 degrees (F). Using a Pressure Canner is the best way to process low acid foods such as; meats, beans, and vegetables. The Pressure Canner can reach temperature as high as 240 degrees (F), which is needed because high temperatures in both processes are needed to kill off bacteria that cause food to spoil.

We decided to make and can salsa because it seemed quick, easy and fun; which it was.  We used the Boiling Water Process to can the salsa, because it was the fastest and easiest. The first step we did was make the salsa of course, the second step was to boil water and place the jars and lids in the pot for 5 minutes to sterilize them, next we poured the salsa in the jar leaving ¼ of space at the top, next we made sure there was no air bubbles in the jar, and we cleaned the jar and rim so no bacteria well form, then we place the lids on top and sealed it, and last but not least we boiled the jar with salsa in it and we were done.

It was a fun experience learning how to can salsa and learning the importance of canning food. Canning helps you eat in season and extends your season without having to buy food that was transported from another country. Eating in season is also healthier and better for you. Everyone should learn how to can because it fun, and a great way to bring friends and family together for a great night of canning foods.

YES YOU CAN CAN!

~ Tamara Sandoval

Indirect Domestication of Wildlife

Bears going through garbage

Bears going through garbage. Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/laura-kali/4675381179/.

We’ve all seen them munching in our gardens or digging through our dumpsters.  More and more we are seeing our towns and cities becoming a safe-haven for what we call wild animals.  While some areas may see this less, in Durango we see this on a regular basis.  We also see a variety of animals entering city limits like bears, deer, and numerous amounts of birds.  From a quick glance this may not seem too large of a problem, but when looking into the effects that this collision has on the animals exposed, this problem is anything but minute.

There lies a clear, common distinction between what is domesticated and what is wild.  This distinction can be easily recognized at a young age and is part of our ability to identify between what is predictable and safe (domesticated) and what is not predictable and potentially unsafe (wild).  This distinction is becoming less and less apparent for certain species living within city limits.  With a constant exposure to potential threats (humans/dogs) deer are becoming more comfortable and may even appear tame.  So what’s the big deal, we all like to see a buck every now and again, right?

There are many factors that are concerning regarding this indirect domestication of wild animals.  These concerns can be divided into several groups, this effect on humans, this effect on the species involved, and this effect on the species new environment.  To start with the more obvious effect that this might have on humans.  One common observation of domesticated animals is a lack of movement in light of a threat.  This can cause many various problems with a wild species unleashed in a human environment.  For example the amount of wild animals hit with vehicles within city limits will most likely increase with 1) population of wild animals that inhabit that city and 2) the time of exposure to potential threats.  With regards to population size, for obvious reasons, the larger the population the more potential for interactions.  With regards to time of population exposure, the more time a population is exposed to sustained potential threats, the more that population will ignore them.  This also can create dangerous situations with potentially predatory animals such as bear or mountain lions due to an increased comfort of not only the animal, but humans as well.

Next we can look at the potential effects on the species involved.  An obvious first example is relocation when found or death when found multiple times.  This can be seen in bear populations that are entering city limits and numerous relocations and killings of bears.  Bears and other wild animals are also affected by eating things that they shouldn’t be eating, such as trash or non-native garden vegetation.  Other effects on animals have to do with specific physiological changes over time.  This involves the constant exposure to potential threats that lowers the fight or flight response within the individual.

~ Drew Walters

Growing Partners Presents Home Grown: Cultivating Your Role in the Local Food System

Mark WInne

Friday, February 25th marks the start of an eye opening weekend about the role we all play in our local food system. The event is kicked off with keynote Speaker Mark Winne discussing “Food, Freedom, and Authority: Who Controls the Food We Eat”, and everyone who cares about their food or community should be in attendance. This is taking place in Noble Hall room 130 on the Fort Lewis College campus. The following day, Saturday the 26th, will be a full day retreat with workshops and conversations centered on local food and bringing out your inner food advocate. The skills gained through this event are applicable at home, with friends, and in the community.

This event is a huge landmark for the local food crusade for many reasons, one of the main ones being that if we as a people ever hope to control our food resources then we need to start at home, today. This event is dedicated to educating the public on how much power they have and how much of an affect they have in the grand scheme of things; it’s a big one.

Every person plays a huge part in the food system as not just a consumer but as a producer also. Its important that we all realize this and cultivate the inner food advocate inside. Attendance on Friday is encouraged to everyone! To attend the retreat Saturday you must RSVP. For more information contact Stacey Carlson, head of the Local Food team at smcarlson@fortlewis.edu.

Cook Your Meat!

Tapeworm Photo Credit Google Images

When thinking of the word food, the average person often imagines a home-cooked meal made with mama’s own recipe, a slab of wet-rubbed barbeque ribs smothered in Sweet Baby Ray’s, or perhaps a decadent slice of German chocolate cake, maybe the cake in its entirety if you please.  The imagery that comes to mind is usually positive and mouth-watering.  This article about food, however, will focus on the not-so-pleasant imagery that relates to food and what you need to do in order to avoid these undesirables from turning your intestine into their impenetrable fortress.

Meet Taenia, the pork tapeworm.  Taenia is a type of parasitic worm that, thanks to evolution, has multiple different stages of larvae and a self-fertilizing adult stage that loves to live in various hosts, an example of selective advantage at its best.  Humans are accustomed to housing the adult tapeworm in their intestine.  Because tapeworms don’t attack in packs, they contain both male and female reproductive parts and can self-fertilize in order to reproduce.  The worms create proglottids, which are segments of the worm that contain both sperm and eggs and these are passed through fecal matter to the unguarded world.  These proglottids shed coverings freeing the eggs and eventually creating an embryo, embryophore larval stage, held in an oncosphere (an embryo that has six hooks… you’ll see) which is then ingested by pigs.  After finding its new host, the oncosphere is liberated in the intestine of the pig and bores into the blood vessels of the animals where it is in turn carried to the muscles of the pig and develops into a cysticercus (larval form of the tapeworm with a retracted head).  Sometimes when people go camping, they decide to drink a lot of booze.  Then they decide to make a fire and cook some food, now and again that food isn’t cooked all the way.  After ingesting the raw meat, the cysticercus thrusts its head outward and attaches itself to the intestinal wall of a person.  The creature is resilient as its head, or scolex, is comprised of numerous hooks and suckers to withstand all forces in order to cling to the intestinal wall where it camps out and steals your nutrients.

Taenia is ferocious and unless paralyzing a scolex and ingesting an extreme laxative sounds like your kind of party, cook your chicken, pork, and beef.

Written By: Ellen Keaveny