Clif Bar & Company

 Anne Hamersky 3/20/15

Re: Urban farming in the Bronx: November 2014

Creative Storytelling for Clif Bar & Company’s “In Good Company” Social Media Channels

As program’s visual storyteller, I guided a large multi-regional team from twenty sustainably-minded companies to tell the story of its volunteer work at an urban farm in the Bronx.I worked collaboratively with team members and neighborhood residents to craft stories about personal and community transformation. I guided participants to use their smart phones to take photos, hashtag, and upload to project social media channels. My work with the program resulted in 95% more audience engagement, furthering the project mission to affect change at the intersection of corporate social responsibility, hands-on service learning, and food justice activism.

“The whole concept of environmental justice is new to me. To live in an area that’s been unduly burdened with power plants, waste dumps, no access to nature? How can the community flourish and be healthy? We need to spread the industrial outputs around for people’s sake and for the environment, too. It’s too much undue stress in one place.” –Chelsea, Clif Bar & Co

“I’m from the opposite end of the spectrum. I grew up on a 350 acre farm in rural Wisconsin and yes, I’ve been to Chicago, but it’s nowhere near as dense as the Bronx. I figure one of these apartment complexes, sitting on around one acre of land, has more people than all of LaCrosse. This food desert thing is unbelievable. I always thought there were tons of stores in New York, but I haven’t seen a supermarket in this neighborhood yet.” -Jason, Organic Valley

“Helping others literally changes your brain chemistry. You notice more of the good in the world — the kids, the smiles, the beauty. I’m not exactly sure what I’ll do when I go back home — every town has people in need of a helping hand. I know I want to be part of The Good. It spreads out further than the borders of your town. I’m kind of surprised by how simple it is.” –Darren, King Arthur Flour

“I was raised here in the South Bronx, ever since I was eleven when I came to this country from Puerto Rico. In the 70s, a lot of buildings in this neighborhood were set on fire by landlords who thought they weren’t getting enough in rent. Some of them got caught, some not. Bronx Green-Up came in and started planting gardens in all these vacant lots, cleaning up the bricks and debris. I went to many of Ursula and Sara’s pruning classes at the NY Botanical Garden and now, I’ve worked in all two hundred something of the community farms in the Bronx.” –Carlos, South Bronx ­­­­­­Community Member

“When I first met Talib, I asked, ‘How do you like your garden?’ and he said, ‘It’s not really mine — you know it’s all about The We and The Us. The Community, that’s what keeps life going.’ I’m going to take that mindset back with me to Berkeley.” –Sarah, Amy’s Kitchen

 We were honored to work side by side all week with Sara, the unstoppable Community Horticulturist for Bronx Green-Up, our nonprofit partner. So much knowledge, so much heart, so much Swiss chard! – Sara, Bronx Green-Up

 “This is beyond everything we expected. It’s a brand new garden — uplifting the whole community. People stop outside on the sidewalk and see the changes. They ‘Oooo’ and ‘Ahhhh’ and we say ‘Come in and put your hands in the dirt!’ You folks? You can take away the inspiration. You can tell the story that you worked like heck, shoveling dirt in the rain in New York City. Us? We plan, we dream, and we thank you, thank you, thank you.”

-Bobby, Taqwa Community Farm

Women in Leadership: Dynamic Career Paths in the Food Movement

Posted on Feb 26, 15 at 11:02 PM

Event – February 24 – Women in Leadership: Dynamic Career Paths in the Food Movement

Posted on Tuesday, February 10th, 2015 by Michele Simon


Join four women warriors who have fought Big Food with policy initiatives, defying gender and racial stereotypes in both the public and private sectors. Their work has strengthened the good food movement, and all have established successful careers despite the odds stacked against them. This interactive panel will share experiences and encourage food movement job seekers to tackle the challenges of pushing for a more progressive food systems agenda.


Marion Nestle is Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. A pioneer in food politics and the author of numerous books, she will discuss her experience and knowledge in the academic and government sectors, the vast changes she has witnessed over the years, and share advice for students about opportunities in the food movement.

Michele Simon is a public health lawyer and president of Eat Drink Politics, a corporate watchdog consulting firm. She has been writing about the politics of food since 1996 and her book, Appetite for Profit, was published in 2006. She also offers legal guidance to small food companies with Foscolo and Handel, the Food Law Firm. She will discuss the role of lawyers and policy experts in the food movement and the need for advocates to get more political.

Nina F. Ichikawa is a writer, social justice advocate, and food policy expert who will discuss the “whitewashed history” of the food movement, her policy work with the USDA, and her vision for the Berkeley Food Institute where she has just been appointed policy director. Her writings on food policy and Asian American food, farmers, and retailers have been published in Amerasia Journal, Civil Eats, Al-Jazeera America and NBC News, as well as in “Eating Asian America”.

Moderator: Haven Bourque founded HavenBMedia to bring communications expertise to food system change. Her group develops communications strategies, trains spokespersons, and teaches social media skills for diverse organizations ranging from prestigious non-profits to small businesses, national corporations and community activists working to reform food systems around health and wellness, social justice and environmental conservation.

When: Tuesday February 24, 6:30-8:30pm
Where: Impact Hub Oakland (Omi Gallery) 2323 Broadway, Oakland (donations at door welcome)
RSVPs: 2/19 update: sorry but this event is over capacity!

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Link to see entire article

A Healthier Future for SF Low-Income Students

by Lena Brook

Posted on Nov 04, 14 at 10:11 PM

Allow me to paint a picture about the SFUSD School Meals Program. Let’s begin with hunger. Rumbling tummies, distracted bodies, cranky spirits. Too many students wake up, scramble to get to school and inevitably skip breakfast. They arrive hungry, and we know they stay hungry during the day too: only 57% of those who qualify for free/reduced school meals actually eat lunch.

To the extent that they do eat during the school day, they tend toward junk food, off campus. They go off campus because the alternative is to spend their entire lunch period waiting for a free meal. Overburdened lunch lines are a huge issue.

In the background to all of this: about 1/3 of SFUSD students are overweight or obese; and just 10% of Latino and African American students meet fitness standards, according to Fitnessgram data. So these kids fall into the awful situation of being both stuffed and starved. Hungry and overweight.

This hunger makes it awfully hard to focus and learn, to make the most out of school. One of SFUSD’s main goals as an institution is to close the achievement gap for these most vulnerable students. Improving our school meals program – taking those kids from being hungry to sated – would go a long way toward helping make that goal a reality.

The good news is that the District agrees! In fact, SFUSD wants to radically transform its school meals programs. It has spent the past several years taking a magnifying glass to every aspect of its food and nutrition operations. They brought in a far improved vendor in January 2013, offering healthier and higher quality food. More recently, it developed a concrete vision that will radically transform the notion of school meals.

The vision offers concrete plans ranging from family style-meals for elementary school students to space renovation to more locally sourced and locally cooked meals. This isn’t just talk. Roosevelt Middle School unveiled a newly redesigned cafeteria on October 22nd. Willie L. Brown, Jr. Middle School, in August. Breakfast and supper programs are expanding. But these are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

If implemented, these transformative ideas will mean that the District will serve three square meals a day, every day to those kids who now learn with rumbling bellies. Culture shift will happen. Implementing the recommendations embodied in this vision will mean that our school meals programs leap from the 20th to the 21st century.

All of this takes additional funding! These changes cannot happen with the Student Nutrition Department’s current resources, which already run in the red.

The passage of Prop E would be a gamechanger for San Francisco’s low-income youth. It is an unparalleled opportunity to create a healthier food environment for our community. Revenue from this tax is slated to directly support food and nutrition programs – among other things – at SFUSD. Revenue from this tax IS the direct link between SFUSD’s school food vision remaining just a vision OR becoming a reality. Revenues from the soda tax would not only go a long way toward revamping the school meal program, they could also support food education programs that lost their funding in recent years.

All of this investment in improving school food would profoundly touch the lives of tens of thousands of San Francisco youth, who deserve to live and go to school in a community where making the healthy food choice is the easy choice.

After all, even great schools and great teachers can’t teach hungry kids.

Lena Brook is mom to two SFUSD students, and a member of the SFUSD Food and Fitness Advisory Committee. A longtime advocate in the good food movement, she is a public-interest communications consultant with HavenBMedia in Oakland.

Beyond Nose to Tail: Wearable Food Waste

Civil Eats post by Haven Bourque

Full Article

April 28 2014

Beyond Nose to Tail: Wearable Food Waste

All photos by Brittany Powell.

When I think about shining moments in the good food movement, I think about Nose to Tail eating. As a former vegetarian who, given sustainably raised meat’s availability, has evolved into a proud omnivore, I’m relieved that ethical eating today includes a strong focus on using every bit and scrap of an animal that gave its life to nourish us. These days, tattoo-festooned butchery acolytes and lushly bearded DIY-types crow loudly about using every part of the animal in the latest culinary incarnation, be it charcuterie or one-pot-stew. Despite such admirable commitment, it gets my goat that many parts of food producing animals are still wasted.

It’s true that food waste conversations have taken on new depth and real urgency recently. Just last week an FAO report, highlighted by Beth Hoffman in, cited $700 billion worth of natural resources, including water, cleared forests, and greenhouse gas costs, wasted in food not eaten, along with incalculable waste due to factors ranging from loss of wetlands to improper storage that has no neatly wrapped numbers. As I sat down to write this post, I caught a Civil Eats tweet that linked to a sweetly convincing You-Tube video in which earnest Americans apologized for wasting food and pledged to stop the madness.

Books and research abound on the topic of food waste. Jonathan Bloom, author of the now classic American Wasteland, is as towering a figure in my food-issue aware community as Oprah is in mainstream America. Dana Gunders, staff scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, is on top of breaking food waste news and writes passionately about waste reduction for a wide audience.

That wasting animals raised for food – otherwise known as meat – is the most egregious of food waste sins is lost on no one. It is easy to agree that a steak lover who would order a 40-oz sirloin, take home 20 ounces only to throw it out in the landfill is a horrible disregard of nature’s laws and basic decency.

But waste from animals we eat has an unexplored side. So many animal parts are useable, yet one certain type of waste never quite seems to come up in conversation.

Here my perspective turns personal. I grew up in a family of artists. Instead of paint and canvas, metal or wood, we used cow bones. My parents, putting their fine art degrees to strange use filled our rattling Ford van with shinbones from industrial-scale slaughterhouses, local butchers, or found bones from abandoned cattle ranches, brought them home to my sister and me for cleaning and prepping, then carved them into wearable art. If you ate a McDonald’s burger or a Western Sizzlin’ steak from 1970 to 2001, the bones from your dinner might have arrived up in our workshop, then would be draped on a Vogue Magazine model’s sleek neck.

When my family looked at a cow tibia, we did not see waste. We saw beauty and utility. Enchanted with each bone’s unique shape, we would spend hours in the workshop carving along the line of its natural curves, then sandpapering endlessly until each bone became fine enough for jewelry. Offended by profligate American culture, its affinity for cheap burgers and plastic bric-a-brac, we hoped that when people wore the bones, they would think of the cycle from pasture to plate to closet.

When we moved to the rural South to start our sustainable living and art-focused intentional community, our deer-hunting, backyard pig farming neighbors would bounce down the rutted dirt road, animal carcasses slung over the side of their pickups, cementing an unlikely alliance between ecology-minded bearded beatnik artists and Bible-thumping gun-rack-polishing rednecks. Partly, they came to see what was akin to an alien spacecraft populated by nine-headed Hydra that landed in their community, but they also were truly moved to see their hand-harvested animals well used by people who cared to do so.

We were by no means innovators. Traditional cultures from Native American to New England whaling placed great value on animal parts, viewing a bone, a tooth or a hide not as a castoff but as a precious resource, reflecting a deep understanding of an animal’s value in human society. Contemporary artists who work with discards – from NYC trash cubes to sculptures made of dust and glue – also make a significant statement about our throw-away culture.

Animal waste from slaughterhouses is processed at rendering facilities. The leftover parts, including viscera, blood, hooves, hides, feathers and bones, are heated, dried and and ground up, most often into bone meal for fertilizer and, until BSE scared us sensible in the 1980s, unfortunately into livestock feed. Necessary to keep disease from spreading, as explained in this unusually perceptive article, rendering plants are nowhere on the radar of Americans although they processed almost 8 billion pounds of animal waste in 1991. But rendering from industrial meat production puts entirely useable animal parts out of sight, out of mind, and out of reach for people who might want a closer connection with the animal on their plates.   

Although I don’t have an answer for the 8 billion pounds of animal-part waste caused annually by Americans’ meat and dairy over-consumption, I wish that the food movement, as it matures, would at the very least investigate reducing waste by using all parts of food producing animals. Certainly this would be a reasonable balance to our current interest in, for example, sea vegetable foraging. As a start, 18Reasons in San Francisco is hosting me and two meat producers who are working to reclaim unused parts of animals. Claire Herminjard of Mindful Meats and Joe Pozzi of Pozzi Ranch are brave to take the waste discussion to this level. Claire, Joe and I will explore traditions, barriers and tackle questions from ethical eaters willing to look beyond the basics.

Finally, here’s a modest proposal: if you’re a butcher, or a chef with a meat-centric menu, or even a proud omnivore, consider going beyond nose-to-tail by wearing or using the bones and hides of an animal that you consumed. These too are precious resources, and illustrate the transformation that ethical eaters can bring about.

Hacking Meat: Know Your Goat, Know Your Farmer


Food+Tech Connect and GRACE Communications Foundation present Hacking Meat, an online conversation exploring how information and technology can be used to hack (or reimagine) a more sustainable, profitable and healthy future for meat. Join the conversation and share your ideas or product requests in the comments, on Twitter using #hackmeat, Facebook , Tumblr or at the Hack//MeatSilicon Valley happening June 21-23 in Palo Alto.

Guest post by Haven Bourque, Haven B Media


I ate dinner last night with 100 or so farmers and their friends. It was a beautiful summer evening in Davis, CA, where we sat at long tables on the rolling lawn of the Glide Ranch, a short distance from placidly strolling cattle and softly nickering horses. The ranch is the home of Community Alliance with Family Farmers, one of California’s most quietly impressive farm advocacy groups, where we gathered for CAFF’s annual celebration of sustainable farming and the success of their Buy Fresh, Buy local campaign.

Although I work in food and agriculture, 90% of my time is spent commandeering a technology device. I tweet, type and trawl the internet all day long. If you’re reading this, chances are your time is spent this way too. Thus, I’ll never miss a chance to try to get closer to farmers who raise my food. It might sound trite, but I strongly believe that getting face-to-face with a farmer re-invigorates my commitment to buy local, and deepens my understanding of farming. Plus, it fuels my outrage – particularly at the industrial meat system that makes so many Americans sick and fat while threatening our ecosystem and brutalizing food producing animals. And it’s a reminder even ‘famous’ farmers still struggle to make a living, no matter how much Bittman and Pollan tweet about their progress.

But back to last night’s festive dinner on the ranch. As the hot sun faded and the grilled quail and endive platters approached our table, the temperature shifted to delightfully cool while the conversation ricocheted from the week’s battering over the farm bill to fracking’s threat to New York and CA farmers. I felt quite far from Silicon Valley and technology, but with the coming week’s Meat Hackathon on my mind, I asked a few farmers how information and technology could improve meat’s future.

I started with my tablemate, Thomas Nelson, who runs Capay Valley Farmshop. I halfway expected Thomas, a sincere guy with sharply quiet wit, to say something like ‘ Oh, isn’t there an Ap for fixing meat?’ He went easy on me. He said that after a few years of struggling with distribution challenges presented by his model of aggregating produce, meat, eggs, and value added products like olive oil and honey from his network of 30 Capay Valley farms, his organization this year turned the corner on sales, in part by working with multiple community partners, including institutions, small retail businesses, and online distribution services like Good Eggs, which he flagged as a major reason for the sales uptick. Score one for technology! A diversity of distribution outlets was one factor in the spike in sales, and a diversity of product, meat included was another. His customers were interested in buying quail, goat, duck and other ‘beyond burger’ meats. Thomas felt that these customers wanted a quality source of local meat, and that transparency – i.e., the information available about growers’ location, husbanding practices, and processing — was becoming more and more important to them. Tracing a meat source directly back to an individual farm is certainly one area in which technology has made a difference. Still, technology can do more to bring eaters and farmers closer, and to incite us to buy more of our meat direct from small family farms.

Leaving Thomas in peace, I wandered over to a small crowd that had gathered around the evening’s keynote; Karen Ross, Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. I wanted to bring up the Meat Hackathon, but I couldn’t get a word in edgewise, as my farm-bill expert friend Kari Hamerschlag was bending the Secretary’s ear about current ag policy. So I sat back down for more dinner. When Ross took the mic, I was pleased that she mentioned how important small-scale sustainable farming is to her administration. At that point I admit I tuned out of her talk and into my grilled quail and Bogle Cabernet, so I relied on the CDFA’s website to give me a sense of the administration’s public-facing stance. Would it actually put sustainable agriculture top of the agenda? I was very pleased to read this blog post about the New Farmer and Rancher program, which works to recruit, train and support new farmers, including a focus on sustainable farming for veterans returning from combat, and former farmworkers who wish to transition from hired hands to farm owners. According to the CDFA’s blog, distribution was cited by new farmers as a major challenge, just as Thomas had said. How can technology help a new farmer access markets close to home? Farmers want to farm, not log long distances driving on highways, burning gas and precious time they’d rather spend tending their crops and animals.

So even in these days of fancy technologies, we still need some basics, people. For all you vegetarians who refuse to read this: Let’s recognize that any technology that helps meat will also help small-scale sustainable farmers that integrate meat animals into their farming practices. I challenge the Hackathon to produce a concrete solution to bring eaters closer to their farmers, help enthusiastic eaters learn more about diverse sources of meat, and tackle the distribution challenges that farmers face nationwide. That’ll be worth tweeting!

How can information and tech help bring eaters and farmers closer together? Share your thoughts in the comments below, on Twitter using #hackmeat,on Facebook or at the Hack//Meat SV hackathon happening at The Stanford in Palo Alto, June 21-23.



Haven has 18 years in communications, working with diverse organizations ranging from prestigious non-profits to small start-up businesses, large corporations and individuals working on food systems, health and wellness, sustainable seafood and social justice. In her early career, she spent 10 years honing her skills in corporate marketing at international computer companies, launching groundbreaking new technologies that enabled multimedia in Europe and Asia – a sea change from her upbringing on her family’s self-sustaining organic farm. On the family farm, she learned to pull weeds, harvest, cook and compost as a young agricultural laborer whose out-of-school hours were spent with her hands in the dirt. Cooking followed farming. Pots simmering on the stove and the pleasures of the community table remain her overwhelming passions today. She lives with her husband and three truly exceptional Maine Coon cats in Oakland California.

Photo Courtesy: Photodisc/Thinkstock

Hacking Meat: Why Vegetarians Should Care About Meat Production

Posted on Oct 11, 13 at 02:10 PM

Hacking Meat is an online conversation exploring how can information and technology be used to hack (or reimagine) a more sustainable, profitable and healthy future of meat. Join the conversation and share your ideas or product requests in the comments, on Twitter using #hackmeat, on Facebook or at the Hack//Meat hackathon happening December 7-9 in NYC.

Guest Post by Haven Bourque of HavenBMedia

Photo & Recipe by Kim O’Donnel from “The Meat Lover’s Meatless Celebrations”

Let’s face it: Meat is complicated. And it’s emotional. Lines can be drawn in the sand and room temperature can skyrocket when the ‘I eat them to save them’ crowd intersects with the ‘I eat no food with a face’ group. Having munched my way through that entire spectrum, I insist that, when it comes to fixing what’s wrong with America’s meat, even vegetarians need to have skin in the game.

Here’s the proof: A few days before Thanksgiving, I convened a group of Bay Area women to honor one of our heroes, journalist, chef, and author Kim O’Donnel, and celebrate her new book The Meat Lovers’ Guide to Meatless Cooking. In the midst of a whirlwind book tour, Kim was the catalyst to bring together people of distinctly different perspectives on meat.

The crowd was an eclectic mix of culinarians, environmentalists and policy experts. In deference to strong vegetarian sentiments, our potluck skipped the meat. I nervously noted Kari Hamerschlag, the brain behind EWG’s ‘Meat Eaters Guide to Climate Change’ and very close friend whom I know as a staunchly vocal vegetarian, introducing herself to Marissa Guggiana, co-founder of The Butcher’s Guild and author of Primal Cuts. I’m a huge fan of Marissa’s work, which brings artisan butchers into the limelight. Would a dust-up ensue, or would we all eat our Anson Mills grits and Cheryl’s poached pears and get along?

My mother Szari happened to be visiting from the east coast. She fit right in to our hive of contradictions: Mum has shot rattlesnake for her dinner out of necessity, not sport. And her artwork featuring reclaimed cow bones has appeared in high-end fashion magazines and the Smithsonian. Now retired, about 90 percent of her diet consists of vegetables she grows in her garden. Comfortable in the kitchen, she stirred the grits and eyed the quinoa kale rolls with guarded curiosity.

As I circulated the room, I heard bursts of conversation about the public health and environmental dangers of industrial meat production, the progress of Consumers Union’s ‘Meat without Drugs’ campaign, and conflicting brining techniques for heritage breed turkeys. The celebration could have turned into a brawl with so many strong-minded, opinionated experts on both sides of the fence. But it wasn’t just the buzz from the mimosas: I found no such tension.

Throughout the afternoon, voice after voice concurred that problems with meat production affect everyone. Eating less meat, as modeled by Kim’s work, and eating ‘greener’ meat, as modeled by Kari’s work, are critical for personal health and the environment. Supporting independent small-scale meat producers, and purchasing from butchers who know their sources, modeled by Marissa’s work, strengthens regional economies and farming communities and offers urban populations a sustainable meat supply. I was encouraged to hear culinary writers recognize that policy initiatives are key, as are grassroots efforts to unite communities negatively affected by industrial-scale meat production, whether they be fast-food consumers, slaughterhouse workers or the animals who end up at the end of our forks. Whether our efforts led to the consumption of more grass-fed burgers or more beet carpaccio, the sentiment was clear that we all must work to make meat better.

We’ve had some big losses. In 2010 I wrote for about the USDA’s GIPSA rule, reform of which would have given small meat producers fair market access. A year later, the movement to reinstate the rule lost. Meanwhile, Meatless Mondays became a household name and artisan butchers kept a firm clamp on their rock star status.

I confess I’m confused myself. This autumn I flirted with hosting my neighborhood’s meat CSA, but felt far more comfortable taking on a CSF (Community Supported Fisheries). I know a fellow scuba diver and ocean lover who disagrees that sustainable seafood consumption is a key to ocean conservation; she refuses to consume fish. She eats quite a lot of meat. This made me all the more inspired to fly from Oakland to NYC, carbon footprint be damned, for the Meat Hackathon. We need to leverage technological innovation as much as we need to honor the potlucks that deepen our connections with each other, in order to solve our current meat dilemmas.

Let’s fix meat. Let’s invite meat lovers to sit at the table with committed vegans and dream up farm-fresh, seasonal meals that anyone would enthusiastically eat. Let’s support small-scale meat producers, as they are our best advocates to lead more conventional farmers and ranchers in their own communities toward change. Let’s cheer on programmers, business experts, chefs, farmers and all the other attendees who bring unique perspectives on meat to the table. Let the Meat Hackathon begin!

How can we fix meat and help small-scale meat producers? Share your thoughts in the comments below, on Twitter using #hackmeat, on Facebook or at the Hack//Meat hackathon happening December 7-9 in NYC.


Haven Bourque founded HavenBMedia in 2010 to bring communications expertise to food system change. Her group develops communications strategies, trains spokespersons, and teaches social media skills for diverse organizations ranging from prestigious non-profits to small businesses, national corporations and community activists working to reform food systems around health and wellness, social justice and environmental conservation. She is proud of her work with IATP’s Food & Community Fellows, NRDC, Bon Appetit Management Company and Straus Family Creamery. She is a judge for NASFT’s first-ever Leadership awards, a contributor to and was a co-organizer of the nation’s first TEDx conference to focus on farmworkers. Follow her on Twitter: @HavenBourque.

HavenBMedia joins 70 Food Movement Leaders in Demanding Healthy Food and Farm Bill

Posted on Oct 11, 13 at 02:10 PM

This letter was initiated by Environmental Working Group and authors Anna Lappé and Dan Imhoff out of frustration with the lack of meaningful reforms and public input into the legislative process by the Senate Agriculture Committee as it drafted its 2012 Farm Bill. Every Member of Congress received a copy of the letter on June 4th in anticipation of the Farm Bill going to the Senate floor for debate later this week.

Now is our chance to turn the farm bill into a healthier food bill, but we need you to stand with us.

Join EWG, Mario Batali, Michael Pollan and more than 70 of the nation’s food and health leaders in urging Congress to cut crop insurance subsidies and redirect that money into vital investments in nutrition, healthy food and conservation programs. Click here to take action right now – before the Senate votes on the 2012 farm bill.

Download the letter

An Open Letter to Members of Congress:

With the 2008 farm bill due to expire in a matter of months, the Senate Agriculture Committee approved legislation in April to steer the next five years of national food and agriculture policy. We applaud the positive steps that the proposed bill takes under Senator Debbie Stabenow’s leadership, including incentives for fruit and vegetable purchases, scaling up local production and distribution of healthy foods and bolstering marketing and research support for fruit, nut and vegetable farmers.

Unfortunately, the Senate bill falls far short of the reforms needed to come to grips with the nation’s critical food and farming challenges. It is also seriously out of step with the nation’s priorities and what the American public expects and wants from our food and farm policy. In a national poll last year, 78 percent said making nutritious and healthy foods more affordable and accessible should be a top priority in the farm bill. Members of the U.S. Council of Mayors and the National League of Cities have both echoed this sentiment in recent statements calling for a healthy food and farm bill.

Although the committee proposal includes important reforms to the commodity title, we are deeply concerned that it would continue to give away subsidies worth tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to the largest commodity crop growers, insurance companies, and agribusinesses even as it drastically underfunds programs to promote the health and food security of all Americans, invest in beginning and disadvantaged farmers, revitalize local food economies and protect natural resources. We strongly object to any cuts in food assistance during such dire times for so many Americans. These critical shortcomings must be addressed when the bill goes to the Senate floor.

As written, the bill would spend billions to guarantee income for the most profitable farm businesses in the country. This would come primarily in the form of unlimited crop insurance premium subsidies to industrial-scale growers who can well afford to pay more of their risk management costs. Crop insurance programs must be reformed to work better for diversified and organic farmers and to ensure comprehensive payment caps or income eligibility requirements. Otherwise, this so called “safety net” becomes an extravagant entitlement for affluent landowners and insurance companies.

In addition, the proposed $9 billion-a-year crop insurance program comes with minimal societal obligations. Growers collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in insurance premium subsidies should at least be required to take simple measures to protect wetlands, grassland and soil. Instead, the unlimited subsidies will encourage growers to plow up fragile areas and intensify fencerow-to-fencerow cultivation of environmentally sensitive land, erasing decades of conservation gains.

Most of the benefits from these programs would flow to the producers of five big commodity crops (corn, soy, cotton, rice and wheat). Meanwhile, millions of consumers lack access to affordable fruits and vegetables, with the result that the diets of fewer than five percent of adults meet the USDA’s daily nutrition guidelines. Partly as a result, one in three young people is expected to develop diabetes and the diet-related health care costs of diabetes, cancer, coronary heart disease and stroke are rising precipitously, reaching an estimated $70 billion a year.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The Government Accountability Office has identified modest reforms to crop insurance subsidies that could save as much as $2 billion a year. Half could come from payment limits that affect just four percent of the growers in the program. Congress should use these savings to provide full funding for conservation and nutrition assistance programs and strengthen initiatives that support local and healthy food, organic agriculture and beginning and disadvantaged farmers. These investments could save billions in the long run by protecting valuable water and soil resources, creating jobs and supporting foods necessary for a healthy and balanced diet.

When it is your turn to vote, we urge you to stand up for local and healthy food and nutrition programs and to support equitable and fiscally responsible amendments that will protect and enhance public health and the environment while maintaining a reasonable safety net for the farmers who grow our food. More than ever before, the public demands this. Come November, they will be giving their votes to members of Congress who supported a healthy food and farm bill that puts the interests of taxpayers, citizens and the vast majority of America’s farmers first and foremost.

Our nation was built on the principles of protecting our greatest legacy: the land on which we grow our food and feed our families. Stand with us to protect not only farmers, without whom we would all go hungry, but to enact a food and farm bill that fairly and judiciously serves the interests of all Americans.


Leigh AdcockExecutive Director, Women, Food and Agriculture Network
Will AllenFarmer, Founder, CEO of Growing Power
Dan BarberExecutive Chef and Co-owner Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns
Neal D. Barnard, MDPresident, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
Sung e BaiDirector of National Programs, Slow Food USA
Mario BataliChef, Author, Entrepreneur
Fedele BauccioCEO, Bon Appetit Management Company
Jo Ann BaumgartnerWild Farm Alliance
Rick BaylessChef, Frontera Grill and Topolobampo
David BeckmannPresident, Bread for the World
Andy BellattiAndy Bellatti, MS, RD, Andy Bellatti Nutrition
Wendell BerryLane’s Landing Farm
Haven BourqueFounder, HavenBMedia
Tom ColicchioCraft Restaurants
Christopher CookAuthor of Diet for a Dead Planet: Big Business and the Coming Food Crisis
Ken CookPresident, Environmental Working Group
Ann CooperChef and Founder, Food Family Farming Foundation
Ronnie CumminsOrganic Consumers Association
Laurie DavidAuthor, Family Dinner
Michael R. DimockPresident, Roots of Change
Christopher ElamExecutive Director, INFORM
Maria EchevesteSenior fellow, Center for American Progress (for affiliation purposes only)
Andy FisherCo-founder and founding Executive Director, Community Food Security Coalition
Chef Kurt Michael FrieseOwner, Devotay Restaurant & Bar and Publisher, Edible Iowa River Valley
Joan Dye GussowGrower, Author, Professor Emerita Teachers College, Columbia University
Melinda Hemmelgarn, MS, RDFood Sleuth Radio
Gary HirshbergCo-founder and Chairman, Stonyfield
Mark Hyman, MDChairman, The Institute for Functional Medicine
John IkerdProfessor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics
Dan ImhoffAuthor, Food Fight: The Citizen’s Guide to the Next Food and Farm Bill
Wes JacksonPresident, The Land Institute
Kristi JacobsonCatalyst Films
Michael JacobsonExecutive Director, Center for Science in the Public Interest
Robert KennerDirector, Food Inc.
Navina KhannaCo-Founder and Field Director, Live Real
Andrew KimbrellExecutive Director, Center for Food Safety
Fred KirschenmannAuthor, Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays From a Farmer Philosopher
Melissa KogutExecutive Director, Chefs Collaborative
Anna LappéAuthor, Diet for a Hot Planet, Cofounder, Small Planet Institute
Robert S. Lawrence, MDCenter for a Livable Future, Professor, Johns Hopkins University
Kelle LouaillierExecutive Director, Corporate Accountability International
Bill McKibbenAuthor, Deep Economy
Liz McMullanExecutive Director, Jamie Oliver Food Foundation
Craig McNamaraPresident Sierra Orchards and Center for Land-Based Learning
Carolyn MugarFounder and Director of Farm Aid
Frances Moore LappéCofounder, Small Planet Institute
Dave Murphy and Lisa StokkeFood Democracy Now!
Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, IIDirector for Public Witness, Presbyterian Church
Marion NestleProfessor, NYU and Author, Food Politics
Y. Armando NietoExecutive Director, California Food and Justice Coalition
Nicolette Hahn NimanRancher, Author, Attorney
Denise O’BrienCo-founder, Women, Food and Agriculture Network; organic farmer
Robyn O’BrienExecutive Director, AllergyKids Foundation
Michael PollanProfessor, UC Berkeley School of Journalism
Nora PouillonChef, Author, Owner of Restaurant Nora
LaDonna RedmondFood Justice Advocate and Food and Community Fellow
John RobbinsAuthor, Diet For A New America, The Food Revolution, and No Happy Cows
Ocean RobbinsHost, Food Revolution Network
Ricardo SalvadorUnion of Concerned Scientists
Eric SchlosserAuthor, Fast Food Nation
Lori SilverbushSilverbush Productions
Matthew ScullyAuthor, Dominion
George L. SiemonCEO, Organic Valley
Michele SimonPresident, Eat Drink Politics
Jim SlamaPresident,
Naomi StarkmanFounder, Editor-in-chief, Civil Eats
Anim SteelReal Food Challenge
Josh ViertelFormer President, Slow Food USA
David Wallinga, MDInstitute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Alice WatersOwner of Chez Panisse Restaurant
Andrew Weil, MDFounder and Director, Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine
Tom and Denesse WilleyT&D Willey Farms
Paul WillisFounder/Manager Niman Ranch Pork Company
Mark WinneMark Winne Associates

Turning the Farm Bill into the Food Bill

Posted on Oct 11, 13 at 02:10 PM

June 17th, 2011

I work in food and agriculture, so when I sit down to a locally sourced, home cooked dinner with my family, I often think of the 2012 Farm Bill’s connection to the food on my table. Re-christened the “Food and Farm Bill” by a fierce tribe of good food advocates, the 2012 version is the most important piece of environmental legislation that Congress will enact in the next 18 months.

I have no illusion that my dinners are completely different from those of millions of Americans. Most people eat mainly processed food as a result of the billions of subsidy dollars diverted to industrial agriculture and the cheap food that is produced by it. The next Farm Bill is our best shot at fixing these flaws in our food system.

Good news: the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is fighting for better policies that would make local and organic dinners like mine the norm rather than the exception, including turning its attention to the 2012 Farm Bill.

EWG helps families make healthier personal and environmental choices, moving consumer markets for good and winning policy battles. Many of us know their work from their handy shopping pocket guides. Recently the group released the seventh edition of its Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce with updated information on 53 fruits and vegetables and their total pesticide loads, featuring the catchy and accessible “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15.” In the new 2011 version, apples trumped celery for the most contaminated produce and cilantro made the Dirty Dozen list for the first time.

Curious about the impending 2012 bill, I’ve made several visits to EWG’s Farm Subsidy Database, which illustrates the imbalance in an agricultural system that pays $246.7 billion to farmers who grow commodity crops that we can’t really eat. It tracks top recipients of funding from 1995 to 2009, showing that 10 percent of farmers collected 74 percent of all payments. These large commodity farmers of corn, cotton, and soybeans make out like bandits, while our government shorts struggling small family farmers who grow food you’d want on your family’s table.

On May 25, the House Agriculture Appropriations committee announced $2.7 billion in cuts, mainly to conservation and sustainable agriculture. While there had been discussion of cutting or capping farm subsidies, the House saved subsidies at the last moment on Wednesday, cutting hunger programs instead.

I recently wrangled a ticket to EWG’s annual benefit “Turning the Farm Bill into the Food Bill,” which hosted 300 donors in foodie culture’s mecca, the soaring cathedral of light and highbrow food principles that is San Francisco’s Ferry Plaza Building. The sold out event’s glittering speaker line up included musician-cum-environmental activist Bonnie Raitt and integrative medicine icon Dr. Andrew Weil.

The evening was well curated, balancing thought-provoking environmental messages, deliciously responsible food, and world-class networking with EWG’s scientists and supporters.

I spotted my heroes Jim Cochran, of Swanton Berry Farms, fresh from winning NRCD’s Growing Green award; Dan Imhoff, editor of The CAFO Reader; and Michael Dimock, Executive Director of Roots of Change. Along with EWG, each of them is working to change the food system, tackling issues ranging from farmworker justice, to eliminating factory farms and strengthening regional food policy.

At my table were EWG Senior Analyst and long-term Farm Bill activist Kari Hamerschlag, who elatedly showed us a sneak preview of her upcoming Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change, and Seth Nickinson of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. Not much for light chatter, we debated dairy’s role in climate change and the benefits of methane digesters versus pastured cows with tablemates from the cooperative, Organic Valley, and explored farmworker justice awareness or lack thereof with UNFI’s marketing folks.

Hamerschlag waxed euphoric about EWG’s committed base and the prospect of real change. “Despite a tough budget year, we have people power on our side,” she said. “With one million EWG supporters and millions of others who care about good food, we can mobilize to force Congress to shift a portion of the billions of dollars spent on wasteful and inequitable commodity subsidies into healthy food for our kids. I believe we can build thriving local and regional food systems that support local farmers and create new jobs in our communities.”

I asked Nickinson what brought him to the event. He told me that among the serious issues facing the nation, the Farm Bill is critical. “EWG does a remarkably ambitious job of connecting a diverse set of issues to personal, community and environmental health. It’s important to work on pesticides, cosmetics and other toxins, but food is the number one thing we ingest. Food is not just a personal issue. It has incredibly broad societal impact.”

EWG’s Ken Cook took us on a sobering romp through the numbers, noting that our nation’s 6,000 farmers’ markets are dwarfed by our 257,000 fast food joints. He explained that the three-fourths of current farm bill dollars are allocated to nutrition; over five years, that translates to $314 billion most of which goes food stamps. We spend the next highest chunk on crops that could never make it to the table as a healthy meal: $60 billion is allocated to subsidies in the form of crop insurance and commodity payments for a handful of industrial crops, such as corn, soybeans, and cotton which are the backbone of the industrial food system that makes too many Americans fat and sick.

More sobering still, $22 billion is allocated for “conservation” and a paltry $15 billion for “everything else” including organic agriculture and school food. I know these figures well but still feel despair every time I hear them. Searching for an upbeat ending, Cook concluded with an inspiring picture of the Renegade Lunch Lady, Chef Ann Cooper, hovering over a salad bar with small group of healthy, happy, schoolgirls. He exhorted us to follow her example by working to make sure the Farm Bill helps put more fruits and vegetables on kids’ plates.

It was growing late and I had beans to soak for the next day’s dinner. Heading to the door, I was pleased to run into Jamie Dean, a Program Officer with the Packard Foundation, one of EWG’s funders. She had a strong opinion: “Without major reform, the Farm Bill has nothing at all to do with food or health. It benefits neither the average person nor the average farmer. It benefits industrial agriculture. Since food resonates with so many of us, the 2012 Farm Bill is an opportunity to re-frame the issue,“ she said.

EWG’s work should inspire and inform all of us: To think of the Farm Bill when we sit down to dinner with family and community and to join this organization and others in working for change. Despite the challenges ahead, I am heartened at the prospect of converting the Farm Bill into the Food and Farm Bill.

Haven Bourque is the founder of HavenBMedia an Oakland, CA-based communications group focused on food, environment, and community. She helps businesses, non-profits, and individuals get the word out about their commitments to responsible food sourcing and social justice. When she’s not communicating, she’s cooking up a storm in her kitchen, or walking her neighborhood’s goats. Follow her on Twitter.

The Green Plate: Down with Factory Chicken Flesh

on January 12, 2011 in Food

What is it with people and their boneless, skinless chicken breasts?

Especially the smug ones who think they are being so green and healthy by eating a low fat white meat? True, most chicken is lower in fat than beef or pork. But how nutritious, really, is our mass-produced, mass-market chicken? My theory is that it’s so innocuous seeming, so flavorless, and so personality-less, that the ubiquitous boneless skinless chicken breast contributes more than it should to thoughtless flesh eating, which we need a whole lot less of.

What do I mean by thoughtless flesh eating? When you don’t need to see bones, gristle, or skin, or anything that looks remotely like it came from an animal, you could easily forget you are eating one. We’ve all done it. Ordered the chicken Caesar in a restaurant, thinking we are getting our much-needed protein and eating something healthy and eco-friendly. A Caesar is a classic salad that wasn’t meant to have chicken on it (or cheap grilled farmed salmon either, but that’s another story).

Think about it. Where do all those breasts come from and what happens to the rest of the chicken?

Mass-market chicken breasts are produced on giant factory farms where manure runoff pollutes the water and noxious ammonia fumes pollute the air. The chickens live in such misery and under such stress that they get sick and can even carry bacteria like campylobacter in their flesh and sicken us. The chickens are transferred from the factory farm to the poultry plant, during which they can spread antibiotic-resistant bacteria into surrounding area farms.

Once at the plant, the chickens have lived and been transported under such filthy conditions, that their flesh must be treated with chlorine to ensure they don’t carry salmonella into our kitchens. The workers who process these chickens are typically undocumented immigrants or other people with little political or economic power. They are exposed to the chlorine and filth during the dirty, dangerous jobs they perform. The chickens must be killed, hung, and hand-deboned under freezing and slippery conditions. Poultry plant work is one of the most dangerous jobs in the U.S. Serious lacerations and repetitive motion injuries are common. Read this short account of a typical day for a poultry plant worker. If you can stand it, read the entire series in the Charlotte Observer. After the chicken is separated into breasts, legs, and thighs for our consumption, the leftover parts are mechanically separated to produce goodies like chicken tenders and those fast food restaurant chicken sandwiches. Don’t click on that link if you consider such foods to be one of your staple diet items.

So what’s the solution to mass-market, factory farmed chicken breasts? I’ll propose a few.

1. Eat less meat overall. For low on the food chain eating tips, read this post. For a realistic look at how much protein a body needs, check this out. For great tofu-less ideas here are 7 Delicious Meat Alternatives to help you discover new ways to cook.

2. Eat meat consciously. Remember you are eating an animal. Respect and honor that fact however you think is best.

3. Treat all meat as a special occasion food and buy the better stuff produced by small family farms. It will be more expensive but it tastes better too.

4. If you aren’t yet ready to lower your consumption, look to one of the humanely certified choices on the market.

5. Eat the whole animal. Seriously, head to tail eating and butchery are top trends. Cutting up your own steer might not be on your list of things to do before you die, but certainly we can all manage to cook a whole chicken every now and then.

Why? It’s more economical, it bypasses some of the processing issues with poultry, and it reminds you that you’re eating an animal. Plus, trust me, there is so much more flavor in a whole chicken than there is in a boneless, skinless piece of chicken flesh. Once you’ve cooked your whole chicken you can easily transform the shredded meat into salads, soups, enchiladas, tacos, sandwiches, or any number of other delightful dishes.

3 Great Ways to Cook a Whole Chicken:

1. Roast It: Remove any giblets and neck from cavity. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dry the chicken and sprinkle it with salt and pepper, inside and out. If you want (but it’s not required) stuff the cavity with 2 lemons that you’ve poked with a fork in a few places, and/or a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme, and/or a couple cloves of garlic. Put the chicken in a roasting pan, breast down. Roast for about 30 minutes. Turn the chicken over, increase heat to 400 degrees and continue to roast for an additional 30 minutes or so. The chicken is done when the juices run clear from the cavity when the chicken is tipped and also from the thickest part of the thigh when you poke it with a sharp knife.*

2. Poach It: This is hands-down my favorite and the easiest way to cook a whole chicken. It’s a common whole chicken cooking method in both Chinese and Mexican cooking. Simply change up the aromatics you use to match the cuisine. The best thing about this method is that it yields a free soup! Remove any giblets and neck from cavity. Put a whole chicken in a large stockpot. Pour in cold water to cover, add onion, garlic, cilantro sprigs, whole peppercorns, salt, a bay leaf, and whole cumin seeds and Mexican oregano (both optional). Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, lower heat to medium low. Simmer, partially covered, for 15 or 20 minutes. Turn off heat, cover and let sit, undisturbed for 1 hour. Strain and reserve broth for soup. For a different flavor profile, you might add ginger, garlic, green onions, and celery. Get creative!

3. Slow Cook It: Remove any giblets and neck from cavity. Rub the chicken with salt and/or pepper or a spice rub of your choice. Put the chicken in a slow cooker large enough to contain it. Add a chopped onion, a rib of celery, cut up, a couple of smashed whole garlic cloves, and some sprigs of fresh herbs (all optional except the salt and pepper) Add about a cup of water, cover, and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.

*This is a variation of Marcella Hazan’s famous chicken with 2 lemons.

This is the latest installment in Vanessa Barrington’s weekly column, The Green Plate, on the environmental, social, and political issues related to what and how we eat.

Image: CALM Action

Belly-to-Belly Barter Mart & How Food Swaps Will Take over the World

Published: April 19, 2011

I’m always fascinated by how ideas percolate up into the culture and become bona fide trends.

An idea is sparked, acted upon, talked about…and suddenly everyone is doing it.

The DIY trend is one example. While I was formulating the idea for DIY Delicious in early 2008, the social, economic, and political conditions that gave rise to the book were also working on other people’s psyches, but in different ways. The results: websites and businesses like Food in Jars, Punk Domestics, and Farm Curious, movements like Yes We Can, and Canning Across America, as well as countless books on DIY Dairy, canning, curing, and pickling. It’s as if these ideas are just floating out there in the ether waiting to alight on someone’s brain.

The latest activity that has captured the imagination of cooks is food bartering. A couple weeks ago my friend Ellen emailed me with a full-blown plan for a barter market in which everyone would bring “lots” of homemade food (cheese, jam, sauerkraut, pickles, or anything) worth roughly $10 ea. to trade for “lots” of equal value with other participants.

One table of “lots”

Her reasoning was that, while many of us are making many different food items, not everybody has the skills or inclination to make everything. For the price of your own expertise you can enjoy another’s artisanal, homemade goodies.

Another goal: Sharing food is like glue. It strengthens our communities and fosters friendships and civility. How can we not recognize our commonalities when we gather to swap foods we’ve spent time and thought creating for the express purpose of sharing with others?

Shortly after Ellen’s email, this article about Brooklyn food swaps appeared in the New York Times. Then, about two weeks before the event, I heard of another woman in North Oakland (where Ellen and I both live) organizing an Oakland swap the day BEFORE Ellen’s. Crazy that neither of us know this person. Then, one of our invitees was assigned to write about food swapping in the Bay Area by an editor at The Bay Citizen and before you know it, Ellen’s food swap hits the New York Times!

Curious about how to set up a swap? Here’s how it works

Somebody’s booty

Have you been bartering food formally or informally? What do you like about it? Tell me about it in the comments!

Photos courtesy of swap co-organizer Leila Khatapoush