Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fresh the Movie: Upcoming Viewing!

Have you seen "Food, Inc."?

Did you walk out of the theater feeling bummed?  Yeah, me too, kind of.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the film and I do think everyone should see it -- the message is certainly powerful -- but it wasn't an altogether hopeful film.

"Fresh" has often been called the antidote to "Food, Inc."  While the latter focuses on the overwhelming power of and problems with industrial agriculture, "Fresh" is gentler, folksier, and brings with it the solutions and ideas for positive change.

It features the regular cast of characters you're used to hearing from (Joel Salatin, Michael Pollan) and some you aren't.  Off topic:  how strange is it that all the characters are male, while all the film makers are female? 

"Fresh" hasn't seen a wide theater release in these parts, but you now have a chance to see it for yourself.  On Thursday, September 9th, the UVA Food Collaborative  and Hereford Residential College will host a viewing of "Fresh" at 7pm at Clark Hall.  Admission is free (!), and the film will be followed by a panel discussion featuring community members involved in our local food movement.  More details here.  Hope to see you there!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hey, We've Got Merch!

If it seems like months ago since we did our t-shirt design contest, well, that's because it was.  But now we're excited to finally share with you the finished product!  Our new "food grown close to home" shirts are printed on organic cotton (women's and kid's shirts are American Apparel and men's are Anvil Organic) and are super comfy.  They feature the winning design and our slogan on the front, with our logo and website on the back.  The best part is, they only cost $12 for adults and $10 for kids and 100% of the purchase price for the shirts goes to Local Food Hub!  One note: sizing runs a little small, especially for the ladies.  Buy a shirt here.

Special thanks to Pete Hanson for his rockin' design!  

We're also excited to show you these new tumblers!

Made of BPA-free hard plastic, these cups come with a reusable straw, and are insulated to keep your beverages hot or cold.  These are so handy, we absolutely love them over here at the office.  Perfect for car trips, class or work.  Guaranteed to increase your water intake!  Only $10, and 100% of the purchase price goes to Local Food Hub.  Get more details here!

We've got other stuff for sale too — tote bags and jar grippers — so head over to our merchandise page to check them out.  First person to send me a photo of themselves decked out in Local Food Hub gear wins something special.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Total (Egg) Recall and Some Scary Math

It's been hard to avoid the recent news about the massive and on-going recall of salmonella-tainted eggs, which has now reached a grand total of more than half a billion (with possibly more to come).  When you're immersed every day in the dealings of small, family farms, it's hard to comprehend how a food grown or raised in one place could spread so far and so wide (14 states (!), 1,300 people (!)).  I thought it might be an interesting exercise to explore just how that kind of thing happens.

According to Food & Water Watch, half of the United States' egg production is concentrated in just five states: Iowa, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania and California.  In 1987, there were more than 2,500 producers that had operations larger than 75,000 hens.  Today, that number has dropped to 205 — and these 205 produce 95% of the eggs Americans eat.

The USDA states that there are 338 million laying hens in the U.S.  If 95% belong to just 205 producers, that means the average egg producer keeps 1.6 million hens.  That's a lot of hens.

But, that's not even the full picture, because ten of the largest producers actually keep 40% of the nation's flock.  Hillandale, one of the companies involved in the recall, has 14 million hens.  DeCoster, the other, keeps 9 million.

Are these numbers creeping you out yet?

The argument for this kind of system often relies on the added benefits and efficiencies that come with large-scale production and consolidation.  And sure, it does keep prices low, averaging about 10 cents an egg at Wal-Mart, for example.  However, what is often overlooked is this:  While this super-efficient distribution system excels at transporting millions of eggs from a few states to millions of consumers, they also move pathogens — like salmonella — just as efficiently. 

When 205 producers are responsible for 95% of all the eggs eaten in the United States, all it takes is one instance of illness, infection, or willful negligence to risk the health and safety of millions of people.

This is where the argument for small farms, regional food systems and eating locally really hits you in the gut (no pun intended).  Food that is produced with care, by people you know — for example, local eggs from producers where hens aren’t kept in conditions that could lead to the spreading of disease, like crowded cages and hen houses — means accountability, trust and safety.  Not to mention better taste and variety, and the added benefit of supporting your local economy and community.

Paying a little bit more for piece of mind and healthy food — it's worth it.

For more info, check out this article by Tom Philpott at Grist.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Peachy Keen.

Last week's peach gleaning operation, despite a rainy setback, was a big, sweet success.  The owners of Tupelo Farm, a gorgeous spot tucked away in Free Union, complete with tranquil mountain views...
and 50 organically grown peach trees, invited Local Food Hub volunteers out to do some picking, with the resulting harvest being donated to local kids and community members.  The morning was sunny with just the slightest crisp hint of fall, and we were greeted with coffee, juice, bagels and some gorgeous dew-covered spider webs.
The trees over in the orchard were heaving with lush, ripe peaches, and our volunteer crew went right to work.  I guess motivation is easy to find when you're working for a good cause (and when you get to sample the goods as you work!).
In addition to some of our grown-up volunteers, we also had some of the smallest -- and most efficient -- peach pickers around.  Seriously, while everyone else was taking a bagel and juice break, these two were non-stop.  Pretty awesome stuff.
When all was said and done, after just three hours of work, we had picked more than 740 pounds of fresh, local, organic peaches.  Impressive!  And as we speak, these peaches are headed out to Clark and Jackson-Via Elementary Schools for back-to-school snacks, as well as a few other places in the Charlottesville area. 
Thanks again to our fabulous volunteers and the owners of Tupelo Farm for lovely morning and for making a tasty commitment to healthy, local, fresh food for our kids.  Bravo!   

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Postponed Peaches and a Rain Date

First the bad news: Peach picking today was postponed due to rain.

Now the good news:  we've rescheduled!  We'll be at the orchard this Friday (8/20) from 8am until 11am (or until the peaches are gone!).  We've got a good crew scheduled to join us but we'd love it if YOU came, too!  Everything we pick will be donated to a good cause -- chosen by our volunteers!

Email emily (at) localfoodhub.org for directions and details.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Basil-Scented Thanks...

Remember when we had a call for pesto-making volunteers?  Well, we're sending big, basil-scented thank-yous to Jenn, Allie, Donna, Katherine and Justin today.  This past Tuesday, these nimble-fingered volunteers helped sort 16 pounds of basil, and then worked together to make and freeze several batches of pesto.

But first, we held an informal tasting to decide whether almonds or walnuts yielded a better flavor. The results?  Tossed with sliced cherry tomatoes and sprinkled with salt, consensus was that the batch made with almonds let the flavors of basil and Pecorino Romano shine through...but the real powerhouse was our locally-grown garlic.  It's a force to be reckoned with!

Thanks again to the terrific volunteers -- if you're interested in volunteering at the warehouse or at the farm, email emily (at) localfoodhub.org.

image credit: futurowoman/Creative Commons

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Help Us Get Peachy!

Friends,  we're back with another awesome volunteer opportunity.

The good folks at Tupelo Farm in Free Union want to donate all the peaches from their 50-tree, organically grown orchard to local kids so they can have healthy, fresh snacks.  Local Food Hub is helping make this happen...

But there's a catch: we need help picking them!

Join us on Wednesday, August 18th for a morning of peach pickin' at Tupelo Farm, and help us get these delicious ripe peaches from farm to plate!  Tupelo Farm will provide ladders, snacks, water, and of course the peaches!  Volunteers will also help us choose where to send the peaches!

If you're interested in joining us, please email Emily for more info: emily (at) localfoodhub.org.

image credit: wanderingnome/Creative Commons

Monday, August 9, 2010

An Update on School Lunches and the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization

Here’s some news that might make you happier to send your kids to school every day. On August 5, 2010 the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry passed the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.” This legislation hopes to improve nutritional quality of meals in schools, promote health, and address childhood obesity. The passage of this act takes us one step closer to reauthorizing the current child nutrition legislation that is set to expire on September 30, 2010.

The move by the Senate committee follows an August 15 vote on the House side of Congress led by Congressman George Miller (D-CA). The House Education and Labor Committee passed similar bipartisan legislation, the “Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act,” to improve federal nutrition programs for children and their schools.

Both the Senate and House bills aim to help assist schools in meeting meal requirements proposed by the Institute of Medicine. The House bill specifically addresses increasing the reimbursement rate for lunch by 6 cents per meal -- the first real increase in over 30 years! Both pieces of legislation aim to increase total nutrition spending to about 4.5 billion over the next ten years.

Fresh, local food is a theme that runs through both bills. The House bill specifically hopes to connect more children to healthy produce from local farms by helping communities establish local farm to school networks, develop gardens and use more local foods in school cafeterias. Local Food Hub works to make that a reality every day by helping to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to local schools. In fact, we provide fresh, local food to 45 schools in the Charlottesville-Albemarle region!

With the time frame for the current legislation set to run out by September 30, 2010, Michelle Obama has made her opinion clear that this needs to get signed into law. “Right now, our country has a major opportunity to make our schools and our children healthier. It's an opportunity we haven't seen in years, and one that is too important to let pass by.” Michelle Obama urged both sides of Congress to move this piece of legislation to the floor to get it passed.

What’s next for child nutrition? Now that both bills have been passed out of their committees, it is time to take this legislation to the floor of Congress for a vote. If both the Senate and House can agree on one piece of legislation, the hope is that President Obama can have this signed into law before the old law expires in September.

If you believe this is important, make sure to call or write to your representatives in Congress to let them know what you think!

This post was researched and written by our summer intern, Tricia.  Thanks, Tricia!

image credit: WBUR/Creative Commons

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Sell That Produce!

Yesterday, the Local Food Hub and the Boys & Girls Club joined forces to celebrate National Farmers Market Week. The farmers market was held in the Albemarle County Office Building, where many eager, fresh food lovers assembled to support local food.

The tables boasted eye-opening, mouth-watering spreads, with carrots piled high and a variety of luscious tomatoes and other delicious fruits and veggies, all from small farms within 60 miles of Charlottesville. Some customers even returned for another round of purchasing!

It was a great turnout, and we made the news.  Check us out on NBC 29 and Newsplex!  

Thanks to everyone who supported this event and the Albemarle County Office Building for hosting us.  Stay tuned to see where we'll be next!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Mystery Photo of the Week

Yesterday, I walked into the barn and found something strange hanging in the middle of the air. The appearance was more pleasant than the smell. Any clue as to what this lump is?