New Organic Standards

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The Washington Post has a couple of articles with regards to new federal organic guidelines:

Berkeley high school Dumps organic lunches

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The Berkeley High School that decided to give organic lunches a shot are dropping the program, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The lunches weren’t very successful, with many students opting to go off-campus or for cheaper fast food for lunch. From the sounds of it, it wasn’t due to the quality of the food, but more because of poor marketing (many students didn’t even know about the organic food court) and certain logistic issues for the food providers.

The district’s superintendent is pushing for another shot at organic lunches, this time done properly. “I think this is a setback,” she said, “but we aren’t dissuaded from the goal of getting our students in the habit of eating healthier food.”

Organic news roundup

There have been a number of articles worth noting about organic farming recently:

In Toxic to the Tongue, the Village Voice‘s Lenora Todaro takes a look at Fatal Harvest, a tome quite omptimistic about organic farming’s future and quite pessimistic about modern industrial farming’s effects on our current food supply.

Frankenfoods Get Funkier takes another look GM foods. “Opposition to GM crops is first and foremost a political stance against the industrialization of our food supply and the takeover of agriculture by big business.”

Perhaps the most surprising is the positive look at organic farming in this week’s issue of Newsweek. The author’s consensus is pretty much in line with my own on the matter: organic food tastes better, is better for the environment, but may or may not be more nutritious/safe for you. One fact that blew my mind: pesticides kill 67 million American birds each year. Fred Kirschenmann of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture in Ames, Iowa says, “Conventional agriculture still delivers cheap, abundant food, but when you factor in the government subsidies and the environmental costs, it gets very expensive. We’re drawing down our ecological capital. At some point, the systems will start to break down.”

Organic news/CSAs

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Rebecca Blood, a prominent blogger and author/editor of several recent books about blogs, frequently covers vegetarian/environmental issues on her site. One story from the last few days is especially worth passing on:

The not-so-sweet success of organic farming takes a look at some issues that make organic much less sustainable than the idealism behind it. What I got from this article: 1.) Organic farming on a global scale is something that needs some examination. Enacting such programs often makes heavy use of nonrenewable resources, which goes against the ideal of organic farming and sustainable agriculture. 2.) Organic may be good, but locally grown organic is best. Community Supported Agrictulture programs are looking better and better to me. 3.) When the federal government gets too involved with anything, the original ideals and motivations often get lost in the shuffle of beaurocracy.

I took a little time to check out more about CSA and I really like the idea. My college friend Pat paricipates in a program like this further south in Virginia and he’s spoken well of it. But I didn’t think such programs existed near where I live. Surely I would have heard about them, right?

Wrong. With a quick search online, I found a number of different programs nearby that even include an option to have the food delivered to your hometown for a small fee. The price for membership isn’t too extravagent, either, with around $300 getting you basic membership for a season. Read more about the CSA Movement and think about how a program like this could work into your life.

Palo Alto goes organic

Palo Alto chews on organic school lunches: Pupils give a thumbs-up to meatless meal options

While I think that the switch in Palo Alto school lunches to organic foods is a good thing, I’m even happier that they’re making such strong efforts to provide vegetarian options to the kids.

The elementary school students gave the proposed fare a taste-test. Much of the food got very high praise from the kids: “Compared to our regular lunches, this is kings’ food,” said one fifth grader. “Our chicken nuggets are like grease balls. The thousand island dressing tastes like vinegar. And the pizza’s like cardboard—you could play Frisbee with it.”

Another specifically praised the school’s proposed meatless selections, “I’m a vegetarian and sometimes when I ask for cheese pizza, they’ll give me some with pepperoni on it.”

Only in Palo Alto would they be able to afford an all-organic program, and I don’t think this is necessarily where other schools need to focus, but I’d love to see other schools in the country making a move towards healthier selections and more varied vegetarian options. Bring on the Boca Burgers!

(via VegSource)