Urban Farming News

What is Food Security?

Posted in child nutrition, community development, global hunger, hunger, local food, urban farming, USDA by Urban Farming News on February 3, 2010

We all know how it feels to be hungry, however what does it mean to be food secure?

This is a popular catch phrase across the globe. I am working with community developers who are implementing food security programs in San Francisco. We have all donated something to the Haiti cause by now. Everyone participates in the local food drive. Urban Farming plants gardens. What are you doing?

All facts are referenced from:

Measuring Food Insecurity and Hunger: Phase 1 Report (2005)

Published by the Committee on National Statistics

The Breakdown:


Food Secure

· Food for all household members to lead a healthy, active life

· Food is acquired in socially acceptable ways

· So, farming, gardening, shopping at the market, and trading your neighbor radishes for a cup of sugar are ok!


Food Insecure Without Hunger

· Availability of nutritionally safe and adequate foods and the ability to obtain such foods in uncertain or limited

· Stealing broccoli from the community garden in not socially acceptable, this behavior indicates food insecurity


Food Insecure With Hunger

· Uncertain access to food combined with Hunger

· Hunger is  the painful sensation caused by a chronic lack of food and the recurrent, involuntary loss of food

· Times are tough, the pantry is empty, can’t afford the market, and there is no garden


How is it Tested?

By the Census of course!


The Food Security Supplement includes:

· More than 50 questions about food behavior and experiences

· Set of 10 questions for households with no children

· 18 questions for households with children


So, what’s the point of measuring food insecurity?

· To determine the socio-economic conditions that creates a lack of food

· Behavior patterns that lead to food insecurity

· Resulting emotional and social impact of long term food insecurity and hunger

· Resulting medical conditions

· How people feed their families

· Cross-cultural patterns of food security

· National trends


To figure out how to end hunger!

Again, I reiterate the goal of Urban Farming and the efforts of all gardeners, farmers and free-farm stands working to end hunger. We know how to study the problem, now let’s work towards the solution.

-Karleen

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Will Elisabeth Hagen Make Food Safer?

Posted in food security, global hunger, hunger, local food, Uncategorized, USDA by Urban Farming News on February 3, 2010


We are all aware of the prominence of adulterated food. Black pepper and salami are the current culprits. Spinach, peanuts, tomatoes, ground beef…. all harbors for food borne illnesses. Enough is enough.

We need a strict and efficient person to lead the attack. A “Food Czar,” as coined in USA Today.

Elisabeth Hagen, current food safety secretary nominee has an outstanding track record. In four years time, she has risen from assistant deputy of public health, through Food Safety Inspection Service chief medial officer and into the current nomination.

Can she do it? Can the USDA actually improve procedure and food safety?

Proposals include tightening E.coli 0157:H7 adulteration standards (currently, steaks and chops are considered safe if this bacteria is present)

What level do we have to reach before change happens?

My first realization of unsafe food was several years ago during the Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak. I remember watching the news with my parents. As a child, I was aghast and terrified. Since then my younger sister has served as a quality control specialist for a large meat producing company. As a result, I grow continuously skeptical of commercial meat products.

I enjoy few things more then a fabulous summer cook out and a delicious, grilled, fresh hunk of meat. (Deepest apologies to my Veg buddies, I love you guys and veggies!). However, in the past few years I only indulge when I am aware of the exact source of the product. Preferably, the steer’s name…perhaps that’s saying too much, perhaps we all need to reach this level of caution.

Perhaps the USDA should step up and ensure that food is safe. Enough said.

– Karleen

Does Monsanto Help Farmers?

Posted in climate stabilization, distribution, farm labor, food security, fossil fuels, global hunger, Uncategorized by Urban Farming News on January 22, 2010

So, with all of this buzz going on around Monsanto this week, I decided to look a bit deeper into this big, bad company.

What is the cost of a GMO?

A farmer’s livelihood? The inability to stop cross  pollination? Increased food production on less land? Eradicating Hunger?

This is a topic that hits close to home for me.  Raised in rural Wisconsin, My family represents a strong hold of small family farmers. I will admit, I was shocked to learn that our family uses GMO’s such as “Round Up Ready”  soy beans (if you’re wondering,  Court Rules For Monsanto, Anti Trust Case Remains reported by NPR) However if you look at the facts, Monsanto does defend small farms around the world.

Farm Facts According to Monsanto

* Today’s farmer feeds an average of 155 people, compared to only 26 people in 1960

* Farmers are a direct lifeline to more than 24 million jobs in the U.S.

* To keep up with population growth more food will have to be produced in the next 50 years as the past 10,000 years combined.

* Go to Monsanto to read more!

Conservation & Security

Clearly we need to keep our farms producing at largest capacity  with high quality.  Many families depend on their crops and need income security. Conservation of natural resources is also a serious concern for farmers. Check out this nifty video, Conserve More featuring Dr. Klaus Ammann

In summery, the video highlights how Monsanto’s engineered seeds reduce the need to till the land, thus reducing fuel cost for equipment. In addition, water is conserved as a natural erosion barrier is maintained. Basically, GMO crops = decreased tractor use + erosion control.  This equation seems a bit too simple…

Eradicating Hunger

The highlight of Monsanto’s lovely website was the bit that stated “True or False: The world grows enough food to feed its population. Generally true, although to eradicate hunger, people in the developing world need to be able to access food either by growing it or through purchase, which means it needs to be affordable”

The “developing world” is a loose term. The United States is still developing, if you want my humble opinion. I hope I can one day tell stories of people being hungry, with out jobs and homes (wait a second…didn’t I hear those as a kid?)

What will it take to really end hunger?   Let’s make like a farmer, roll up our sleeves, work our butts off and find out!

Growing Home Community Garden

Posted in community development, distribution, food security, hunger, local food by Urban Farming News on January 20, 2010

Part of my role as an outreach coordinator is to get knee deep in the thriving San Francisco urban gardening society. A project that I am particularly in awe of is the Growing Home Community Garden. This garden is part of Project Homeless Connect (PHC).

History of PHC: Since October 2004 over 21,936 volunteers have provided services to over 31,000 homeless and poor San Franciscans. I was honestly floored when I showed up to volunteer at the most recent PHC in December.

Growing Home Community Garden: Rallies city departments, the Hayes Valley Neighborhood association, and community members from far and wide. The mission: ‘to provide a community garden where homeless and housed San Franciscans work side-by-side to grow nutritious food, access green space and build community.” When I first spoke with Celina, the garden coordinator I could feel the good vibes (not to mention, any group that can get a bob cat and hydraulic arm to break up asphalt has got it’s sh*t together).

I have now volunteered twice at this amazing community project. Day One: Removing asphalt – what a great way to meet the garden directors, planners and core volunteers. Day Two: building the wooden garden boxes. It was truly a puzzle of team-work, where skilled carpenters and novice nail gun users united.

“This town [San Francisco] has a lot of heart,” gushed Judith, PHC executive director. That was a sunny December afternoon, in the past month I have begun to learn to true meaning of those words.  I am thrilled to help these truly dedicated individuals. In conclusion: take a page out of this book, get up, get out and grow.

Food Insecurity Impacts Millions of Americans

Posted in community development, food security, hunger, local food, Uncategorized by Urban Farming News on January 14, 2010

Food security is a serious issue. The USDA has declared that 49 million Americans are “food insecure.” I found this great article on Food First check it out.

How can we help? Plant gardens, teach people to grow their own food ,  give urban dwellers food security. Go to Urban Farming to see our efforts and help!

In San Francisco, food security is also a local issue. I have been working with the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC) to establish new gardens. The TNDC provides housing to low income people and families. Combating food security is a major goal.

This afternoon, I’m meeting with some of the TNDC residents to discuss food security and hopefully a new garden. Let’s make a difference!

Also heading to the San Francisco Botanical garden this morning. Today is my first day as a volunteer gardener’s assistant in the California native plant garden!

Cheers
-Karleen

Freezing in Florida : Juice For Thought

Posted in climate stabilization, food security, hunger, local food by Urban Farming News on January 12, 2010

Record low temperatures have swept across Florida freezing orange, tomato, corn, ornamental plants & fish farms. Chilling news as I sipped my coffee while listening to NPR’s Morning Edition today. This is an especially bad time for growers who are typically two weeks into their winter harvest. Fish farms are suffering as many species; including catfish begin to die at temperatures of 60 degrees and below. Don’t forget the large plant nurseries that grow palm trees and ornamental plants.

This is a hard hit for Florida’s agricultural industry. Rumors of an official disaster declaration are circulating. Orange juice prices have also been in dramatic flux this week. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, orange juice prices dropped to $1.3185 a pound on Monday. Experts say that the full extent of the frost damage cannot be confirmed for several days or weeks. <<insert snarky farmer comment here>>  Tragically, many young trees will not survive this dramatic frost. Orange juice prices will rally and recover, however these growers will still feel the lasting effects.

In the coming weeks, we may feel the impact of this frost across the nation. In the coming days, the weather experts are predicting more climate upheaval across the nation. Torrential rainstorms are predicted for California, hitting many areas that suffered wild fires hard. No need to comment on the dramatic damages that could ensue.

The big questions: Is climate change to blame? Can we expect odd weather patterns like this to up heave our agricultural practices in the future? What can we do to sustain our crops and stabilize our climate?

What do you think?

A side note: Most of our juice supply comes from Florida; while California’s orange crops typically go for fresh fruit resources.

US Army Takes The Heartland To Afghanistan

Posted in food security, global hunger, urban farming by Urban Farming News on January 7, 2010

Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime: teach a man to farm…you get the gist. (Pardon my use of the masculine.)

As reported by good ‘ole NPR: the US Military Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan Farmers. Due to the tumultuous and dangerous climate of the past few years, few farmers remain. Fortunately, many soldiers right from America’s heartland are fighting the good fight to end hunger. Troops from California, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina and Texas are presently in Afghanistan. There are plans for more on the way.

The endeavor began in 2008, currently the agribusiness units are in 14 out of 34 of the provinces. These Agribusiness Development Teams are equipped with agricultural knowledge and supplies. For the first time, many Afghani wheat farmers have hand-cranked seed spreading machines. Previously, all sowing was done by hand. The military is also providing supplies and soil testing, thus providing a scientific method to fertilizer use. In turn, the food yield will be highly increased. The vast majority of the farming is sustenance based; this food will feed families.

Of course, there are many facets of the Agribusiness development in Afghanistan. A major goal is to decrease the export of Opium poppies in lieu of other crops. The farmers hope to lead by example with the success of their wheat, nut and fruit crops. Don’t forget that there is also the constant threat of attack on these lands. Food security has a new meaning.

I have to say, this warms my heart. We all have someone near and dear who has served in this current conflict. As Urban Farmer’s we are battling to end food security domestically. I’ll take this bite of jingoism with a side of idealism; we can indeed rally together and end hunger.

Fresh Food for Good Health

Posted in Uncategorized by Urban Farming News on January 7, 2010

I love food. Growing, cooking and above all eating. Who doesn’t? However it’s no secret that many Americans have issues with food. We’re over-weight, consume on average over 200 lbs of sugar a year and just don’t eat enough veggies. Worse, some people don’t even have access to fresh produce! What is going on here?

Michael Pollan, acclaimed food author of In Defense of Food and recent Food Rules made a lovely appearance on the Daily Show on Monday night. I found this to be very interesting with a direct correlation to our goals at Urban Farming. Pollen raises the point that we eat far to many by-products and not enough real food, “the food industry creates patients for the health care industry” Thus, our lack of nutrition tends to create more chronic conditions, leading to more life long dependencies on prescription medications.

This note struck a chord in my heart. At 15 years old, I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. I control my “chronic condition” with diet, exercise, topical meds and herbal remedies. My family’s rural lifestyle and connection to the earth has everything to do with my holistic approach. Fresh food and good nutrition are essential to life.

This is where gardens come into play. Every person who has access to fresh food is a stride forward. Of course, it’s not really so simple. We can’t dictate what other people will eat or how they will get their food, however we can educate others and share our passion. Just a bit of food for thought.

Check out Michael Pollan’s blog on Huffington Post. Look forward to a review and discussion of Food Rules as well.

Salutations and Seedlings

Posted in Uncategorized by Urban Farming News on January 7, 2010

Welcome! I’m delighted to present Urban Farming’s official blog. Here we join together, sow seeds, share our triumphs and harvest food as a community.

Urban Farming’s mission is to end hunger in our generation. We plant food gardens on unused green space, cement lots, rooftops and walls. In addition, we are committed to stabilizing climate change. We are aware of our environmental impact. The non-profit was founded in Detroit in 2005. Those 3 original gardens have branched out into 18 cities across the nation and abroad. We’ve got limbs spreading in every direction, building communities and expanding.

Why should you read this blog?
· This is an open forum. Let’s discuss current food security and environmental impact issues.

· What’s happening in your neck of the woods? We’ve all encountered successes and challenges. We need to communicate with each other.

· Who inspires you? It’s time to acknowledge pioneers of the Urban Agriculture movement. We can all learn from thoughtful interviews and informative posts.

With our eyes on the same page our hands can work in unison. We can indeed achieve our goal to end hunger. Let’s share our passion, present our challenges, revel in our success and speak our minds. Stop over each week and see what’s happening in the gardens. I hope to hear from all the Urban Farmer’s out there soon!
Cheers,

Karleen
San Francisco