©Joe Medieros

Living Lightly

Sustainably scrumptious


In the wake of the visit of Prince Charles and Camilla to California, organic gardening got an unexpected boost last month. His visit to the community garden started by Alice Waters, next to Martin Luther King school in Berkeley, got big press in the Bay Area.

Coupled with the push to curb obesity in the U.S., the use of school gardens to turn children to more healthful diets looks like one aspect of the solution. More than 60% of Americans are obese, according the U.S. Surgeon General.

Right here at home there is a burgeoning movement to plant school gardens and to use their produce as part of the children’s diet. We applaud all the teachers who are making this happen. An effort is being made to ban unhealthy food from school cafeterias. (Contact us: we’d like to see and share with others what your school is doing.)

Looking at sustainability in a more global perspective, we are seeing more and more articles reminding us that today’s food, on average, is trucked about 1,500 miles to get to the plate, according to a study by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. Growing food is no longer a way of life, but a commodity. Consumers are waking up to the fact that something’s wrong. Acres of topsoil get washed away by large-scale farming and pesticides poison us all. Small family farms are disappearing while large corporations get huge federal subsidies. Subsidies do not benefit small family farmers. World Watch’s senior researcher, Brian Halweil, author of Eat Here: Reclaiming Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket, says that the idea of “Sustainable Food” is growing beyond the culinary fringe. We have a lot of work to do here to turn this around.

Local farmers’ markets are one way to replenish your larder with locally grown food. Of course those of us who are able can grow our own vegetables.

One other interesting aspect is the plight of farmers in extremely poor countries. Microcredit is revolutionizing the diets of people in Turkey, Africa, Malaysia, India, and many other countries with extreme poverty. We can support this movement by supporting small loans to women (particularly in Africa, South America, and India) thru such organizations as Heifer Project. Experience has shown that loans to women to start their own businesses work because women are the primary caregivers of their families. Women often form community organizations with just enough seed money to pull them up enough to feed themselves.

Reference: Eat Here: Reclaiming Homegrown Pleasures with a Global Supermarket, by Brian Halweil, World Watch @ 2004.