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Mia Cellucci

Mia Cellucci

Guest Blogger

Center for a Livable Future

2011 CSA Season at JHSPH: It’s a Wrap!

In a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model, consumers pay regional farmers upfront for a share in the season’s harvest. This helps cover production costs and ensures a steady market, helping smaller farmers remain in business. The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) and Maryland’s One Straw Farm established the first CSA project at JHSPH in 2007 and have since connected hundreds of faculty, students and staff to fresh, local, certified organic produce while communicating key food system issues. In 2011, the Center began offering members the option to supplement their produce with a share of antibiotic-free, pasture-raised poultry from Albright Farms. Members may join the One Straw Farm Produce CSA, the Albright Farms Poultry CSA, or both. Read More >

Walmart’s Sustainable Agriculture Goals: A Critical Review

“Sustainability is a business strategy. It’s not a charitable giving strategy.”

I wasn’t surprised to hear this from Beth Keck, Walmart’s Senior Director of Sustainability, who spoke on the role of the private sector in sustainable agriculture at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, DC late last month. Indeed, I’ve heard Gary Hirshberg, Chairman, President and CEO of Stonyfield Farm and author of Stirring it up: How to Make Money and Save the World, call on sustainable producers to harness the power of big business. Ms. Keck echoed this sentiment: “What we’re concerned with is how our business processes and our business decisions make a difference in the supply chains we interact with.” Unlike Mr. Hirshberg, though, Ms. Keck could not provide a real definition of “sustainability.” Walmart does not have its own definition, but “often cite[s] the original concept of leaving the earth in the same shape that you have found it or better—trying to be neutral or add back.” Read More >

JHU Students Take the Real Food Challenge

rfc-logoColleges and universities in the United States spend over $4 billion every year on food. Imagine if that purchasing power were shifted towards food that is community-based, fair, ecologically sound, and humane. That’s the idea behind the Real Food Challenge (RFC), a national network uniting students for just and sustainable food and a campaign to increase procurement of “real food” on college and university campuses.

While a student at Brown University, David Schwartz, an alumnus of The Food Project‘s Local Youth Programs, co-founded the RFC with Director of National Programs at The Food Project, Anim Steel. The two envision a shift in university food spending of $1 billion in 10 years: The goal of the RFC is to direct 20% of college and university food dollars to “food that truly nourishes producers, consumers, communities and the earth” by 2020. Only a few years old, the RFC holds student leader trainings and summits throughout the country, offering a chance for students and their allies to make connections, learn from one another, and grow the movement. Students at over 300 schools are already taking the Real Food Challenge.

Just a few weeks ago, undergraduates Raychel Santo and Ian Osbourne held the first meeting of Real Food Hopkins, a new student group and RFC chapter at Johns Hopkins University. Read More >

Food & Dignity

“So, where do the leftover veggies go?” It’s a common question around here, especially on Tuesdays.

The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) operates a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, connecting students, faculty and staff with fresh, organic, Maryland-grown produce. Those who have paid upfront for a share of the season’s harvest at Maryland’s One Straw Farm stop by the JHSPH parking garage every Tuesday to pick up their shares.

At the end of the day, at least a dozen crates of unclaimed produce remain.  Some folks just aren’t crazy about, say, chard, but CLF and One Straw Farm donate most of the extra shares. Since August, we’ve been sending this produce to the Franciscan Center of Baltimore, an outreach agency that has been providing emergency assistance and support to those who need it for 42 years-and serving hot meals for 30. On a typical day, the Center serves 400 meals. At the end of the month, when SNAP benefits run out, the number runs closer to 600.

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In the Franciscan Center kitchen with the cooks

Last week, I had the privilege of visiting the Franciscan Center with two of my colleagues. We were met with a warm welcome from Ed McNally, the new Executive Director of the Center. An attorney and former Roman Catholic priest, Ed stressed the importance of treating each client with respect. One of the main goals of the Franciscan Center is to recognize the dignity of each human being, and this intention is apparent: the facility is immaculate and the staff and volunteers tremendously kind. A mural brightens the dining room and positive messages throughout the building uplift passers-by. The Center has an open door policy: rather than requiring proof of homelessness or unemployment, the staff and volunteers welcome as many clients as they can accommodate.

Ed stressed the importance of serving fresh, healthy food in an emergency assistance setting like this one. Read More >

Digging for Data in Clifton Park

dscn10813Last Tuesday I spent the evening at the Clifton Mansion, home of Civic Works, the umbrella organization of Real Food Farm (RFF), a new urban agriculture project. The occasion was Digging for Data, an event held jointly by the Center for a Livable Future and Civic Works.

Located on six acres of Clifton Park in northeast Baltimore, Real Food Farm utilizes high-tunnel hoop houses (low-cost, low-input greenhouses) to produce pesticide-free fruits, vegetables, and herbs for Baltimore residents. In October 2009, Real Food Farm collaborated with the Safe Healing Foundation to erect the first three.  In the future, there will be 20 hoop houses in Clifton Park-18 for production, one for processing and packaging, and one for education and training.

The farm aims to improve community access to organic, wholesome and real food, addressing the problem of food deserts and promoting healthy living. Read More >

Gaining a Better Understanding of ‘Food Deserts’

Lawyer Andy Weisbecker recently posted an opinion piece in Food Safety News in which he discusses the problem of limited access to healthy food and its contribution to the burden of obesity and diet-related disease.

The term “food desert” refers to a location-generally, a low-income neighborhood-from which residents must travel twice as far as those living in wealthier neighborhoods to reach the nearest supermarket.

As Weisbecker points out, awareness is growing that people who live in food deserts face “significant obstacles to the purchase and consumption of affordable healthy food.” It is often easier for these people to purchase meals from fast food establishments and corner stores than it is for them to shop at supermarkets or large grocery stores.

While the negative health effects of fast food are generally well understood, the obstacles created by small local grocery or convenience stores are perhaps less intuitive. These establishments often lack a selection of nutritious food and are more expensive than supermarkets and large grocery stores. Even when they do offer healthier options such as fruit, vegetables and milk, these items are often of lower quality than their counterparts in large grocery stores: a study conducted in Philadelphia found higher microbial indicator counts in these items in low-income markets than in comparable items in higher-income area markets.

Results of a year-long study conducted by the US Department of Agriculture in 2008 linked distance between dwelling and supermarket, along with poor transportation, with limited access to affordable nutritious food. According to this study, food access-related problems affect almost 6 percent of all households in the United States. This translates to an estimated 23.5 million people, including 6.5 million children, who live in low-income neighborhoods more than a mile from a supermarket. Read More >