An Apple a Day: Doctors and Organizations Writing a New Nutrition Rx

Can an apple a day really keep the doctor away? As it turns out, there’s more truth than myth to this sage saying. Not only are apples a low calorie food with tons of vitamin C, they also contain phytonutrients, which prevents neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinsonism. Though the wonders of apples as preventative health may not be common knowledge, we can all get behind the idea that everyone needs to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables to live a healthy, long life that involves fewer doctor visits. Doctors and farmers both think so, and they’re teaming up to help make this a reality. Read more

Detroit: Land Grab or City Revival?

On December 11, the Detroit City Council approved the sale of public land to the controversial Hantz Farms, now called Hantz Woodlands urban forestry project, in Detroit’s eastside neighborhood. The deal confirms the sale of 140 acres of public land at the extraordinarily cheap price of eight cents per square foot ($300 per lot).  The land sold at below market price at a time when Detroit is desperate for revitalization and business investment. This is one of the largest urban land acquisitions in the history of any U.S. city.

Meager conditions on the sale require that John Hantz, a financial services entrepreneur and the private developer behind Hantz Farms, improve the underutilized land by demolishing 50 derelict buildings (some of which are inhabited), clean up and mow overgrown lots, and plant 15,000 hardwood trees. Other cities may not have gone down this route, but in a place like Detroit, where finances are beyond tight, “money talks,” says Rob Anderson, Director of Detroit’s Planning and Development. As a result, many have dubbed the deal between Hantz and the city a “land grab.” Read more

All Together Now: World Food Day 2012

One in seven people around the world will feel hunger today. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) brings global awareness to this issue every year on October 16th, and have done so since 1981. Today, there are more than 100 countries that will celebrate World Food Day. Over 450 national and private organizations in the U.S., such as Oxfam America and Ending Hunger, will host events around this year’s theme, “Agricultural cooperatives–key to feeding the world,” to bring better understanding around what cooperatives are and how they help relieve food insecurity and improve community self-sufficiency.

Agricultural cooperatives are enterprises owned and democratically operated by the employees that work there. They range from farming to retail coops that pool together resources and share in the costs and benefits of running a business. “There are many examples of co-ops and they take away the hierarchies that make it difficult to create a quality of life,” says Madeleine Van Engel, a baker-owner at Arizmendi, a cooperative bakery in the San Francisco Bay Area. Many examples of agricultural cooperatives in the U.S. not only feed their community, but also create economic and social sustainability in places often deemed unlikely. Read more

Justice for Food Workers: An Interview with Sarumathi Jayaraman

Sarumathi Jayaraman, co-founder of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC) and author of the upcoming book Behind The Kitchen Door, says that what’s at stake when we choose a restaurant are the lives of 10 million people, many immigrants, many people of color, who bring passion, tenacity, and important insight into the American dining experience.

The Huffington Post posted a story about working conditions for restaurant staff that recants the stifling history of the “tipped minimum wage,” the lack of regulatory influence on service workers, and the harsh realities of being paid bare minimum for hard work in situations that are neither stable nor compassionate.

Jayaraman’s promising book, Behind The Kitchen Door, investigates further and asks whether we can really eat ethically if we’re only purchasing ethical food, but not ensuring that there are ethical labor practices for the people who get the food to our plates?

I had an opportunity to talk more via eemail with Jayaraman about ROC’s work with immigrant and low-wage restaurant workers. Read more

Taking on Chipotle with the Campaign for Fair Food

Last weekend in Oakland, protesters slowly amassed, holding signs pleading that “if Chipotle loves small farms then they should also love their farmworkers.” Primarily students and young adults, the group quickly moved down the narrow pathways of the farmers’ market along Grand Avenue to accumulate more supporters. In the end, they convened at the newly opened Chipotle food chain along Lakeshore Avenue to form a picket line of protestors.

The Coalition for Immokolee Workers (CIW), in alliance with The Student Farmworker Alliance, Just Harvest, and Interfaith Action of Southwest Florida are coordinating protests in 25 cities this week as part of their plans for a National Day of Action. The CIW have been organizing since 1993 and their allies have been walking alongside them since 2001. Together, they are working with farmworkers in Immokalee, Florida on the Campaign for Fair Food, a grassroots farmworker-led campaign to change living and working conditions for those in the fields picking tomatoes. (Florida’s tomato industry is responsible for nearly all of the fresh tomatoes grown in the U.S. between November and June.)

The Campaign applies pressure to food corporations, like grocery stores and fast food chains, in order to get them to sign the Fair Food agreement stating that they will purchase from farms that abide by a set of quality of life and living wage standards for farmworkers. Basic asks include an increase of one penny per pound of tomatoes picked, respect for workers, business transparency, and an enforced code of conduct for agricultural suppliers. These are not drastic asks, rather a human dignity not previously offered and now demanded for by a worker-run movement. For example, tomato pickers haven’t seen a salary raise in over 30 years. Read more