A waggle-dance warning

By: Melanie Weber; Real Food Challenge Team member

In light of the hysteria surrounding sudden decline in bee populations, I found the documentary More Than Honey one that was compelling, informative and surprisingly emotional. Something I truly appreciated about the film was how it brought to life the different faces of honey production. The audience is introduced to the diverse world of bee-keeping; starting with a traditional bee keeper in the high mountains of Switzerland, who maintains his hive of native bees out of family tradition; to a traveling bee-keeper who transports thousands of bees in semi-trucks, pollinating America’s massive agricultural fields; and even a breeder of bees, who tricks the hive into producing extra queens to ship around the world.

While exploring the spectrum of bee keepers, I also began to piece together the personality of the main character, the bees themselves. Approximately 50,000 bees are buzzing around one hive, but not one could survive on its own. For this reason, scientists have chDrinking_Beeosen to refer to the hive as the organism, not the individual bee. The efficient delegation and communication in the hive keeps things running smoothly, as the film points out, because there is no one bee enforcing the rules, but each bee performs a task as if it was assigned. Collectively, an average hive has 500 billion neuron cells — five times the neurological capacity of a human. As a human, an independent entity, it is easy to misunderstand the bees’ relationship to their hive.  More than Honey provides the known science of bees, but also provides the viewer with a chance to observe the subtleties and emotions within hives.

Honey has amazing properties. It is filtered by the bees themselves, creating a food that is free of impurities. It also slightly acidic, helping your body fight localized infections. Plus, honey has additional antibacterial compounds. Anyone who experiences allergies can eat local honey to help their immune system. I want to still be able to enjoy my honey, but to make sure I was eating honey that was produced by a bee keeper who was respectful to the hive that produced it.

I decided to do some research on a local honey distributer: Honeyville, located just north of Durango. After talking with the folks there, I found out that Honeyville purchases honey from smaller producers all over- extending throughout the Southwest, into Colorado’s Front Range, and even into Wyoming. Something that was pressing on my mind was the use of antibiotics on hives. The Honeyville representative I spoke to informed me that bee keeping is impossible without the use of antibiotics. The bees sacrifice themselves for the sake of the honey—believing that it is for the longevity of the hive—and filter all those things out with their bodies. While I was informed that no significant levels of antibiotics can be found in the honey, I found myself equally concerned about the bees’ exposure.

 

 

 

December Real Food Day event arriving

Food – one of our many basic needs that has one of the hugest impacts on our planet.  As a new member to the Real Food Challenge Team (RFCT) this year, I’d say my knowledge of food was like the rest of the general population. Becoming part of this team had taught me to question how my dinner has arrived to my plate.  Did the individual who picked my food have a livable wage? Are there harmful chemicals in my food that could harm my family and I?

Questioning how ethical your food really is helps you to realize the impact you have as an individual. The RFCT is aiming to have 20 percent of “real” food on the Fort Lewis College campus, and currently the “real” food calculator is at 4.36 percent.   If you don’t know by now, “real” food is not only local but also ecologically sound, fair-trade and humane food products.  We are excited about the outcome from Food Day October 24, as our partner Sodexo is making it a monthly event.  The monthly real food meals will be starting next month before the semester ends, so if you didn’t get to try Sodexo’s real food menu in October, here is your chance again before it’s all gone.  It was such a success the last time I didn’t get a chance to try it, but I heard it was delicious.  So you’ll bet I’ll be there this coming December to try it. 

If you voiced your desire for real food during the recent Food Day, your voices are being heard. Thanks for helping us progress as a school and a community.  If you have yet to attend a real food event, bring your friends and write a comment on Sodexo comment cards, or “vote with your dollars,” using your purchasing power to request real food items.  The numbers will also show support as it did for the Food Day event in October – 300 people were served from the real food menu, compared to the usual 200 in the cafeteria.  So with that, you guys are awesome, thank you all!  Keep going!

By Larissa Mexican, Real Food Challenge team member

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

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

A Lesson on Snow at the EC Winter Retreat 2013

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

-Robert Frost

Snow muffles the sounds in the La Plata Canyon. Last weekend for the winter retreat, a group of us from the Environmental Center hiked to “The Naked Lady Hut” for activities and some delicious food. Though the food was delectable and the leadership workshops enlightening, it is not the stay in the cabin that struck me most about this Saturday. A simple comment Rachel made offhand in one of her “snow spiels” grabbed my attention and got me thinking.

Imagine the spring, when three days of nonstop snowing will mean snowmelt high in the mountains and a full river of runoff. Imagine the month of May when the river will feed into the fields of crops and the farmers will be happy. Imagine late summer when the lack of early snow will create less water for the rivers, making farmers not so happy. I cannot speak for all farmers but I know for certain that some people are not aware of the sources of their water beyond their faucets. If we do not have the knowledge that our own water comes from runoff from the mountains, we may not care about fighting for the conservation of the mountains.

This lack of knowledge of the connectedness of aspects of the environment leads to something else of which I have become acutely aware. I always assumed that everyone knew how plants grow from seed to sprout to fruit to table but my eyes were opened this year through the Campus Sustainability Team’s project: The Real Food Challenge. The Real Food Challenge strives to collaborate with college cafeterias to use 20% “real” food by 2020. Through a survey, our team saw that most students wanted more local, healthy food involved on campus and decided to embrace this challenge. In the case of the Real Food Challenge, real food is classified as local, environmentally sound, humane and fairly traded; or any combination of the four. Along with attempting to bring this to the FLC campus, we will also work to educate the campus about what “real” food is and where our current food comes from versus real food. Education will be a large piece of this project in addition to promoting local food. This project is long term, and will not be easy but by tackling this issue, hopefully we can reconnect the circle of understanding food and its source.

Just as farmers need the mountains and snowfall for their crops and we need the runoff for our watersheds, the understanding of the connections between our resources and us is necessary. If we can teach others about where food comes from or at least encourage them to conscious of it, it may lead to the awareness of other resources. Starting with the food our school consumes is one step towards reconnecting our species with its life source.

-Hallie Wright

cooking vegetables for burritos

EC zero waste team member Jessica Smyke cooks vegetables for burritos. All EC students that attended the retreat enjoyed cooking and eating the delicious food. Photo courtesy of Rachel Landis.group of Fort Lewis College Environmental Center students       EC staff members learn about leadership while looking out at the beautiful snowy mountains in the Naked Lady Hut in the La Plata Canyon. Photo Courtesy of Rachel Landis.