Wednesday, November 25, 2009
You are what you eat. So the saying goes reminding us that our food choices can make or break our health. But is this really the whole story?
Studies like this and this clearly demonstrate that the choices we make every day have a huge impact on our health. Will it be Whole Foods and a jog tonight or a whole lot of fatty food and some video games?
But what many of these studies do not touch upon is the context in which we make choices. As much as we like to believe we have complete control of our lives, our choices aren’t dictated simply by personal desires. We are affected by a whole host of factors such as our individual resources (education, income and wealth), neighborhood resources (housing, access to healthy food, and transportation options), opportunity structures (job availability and school systems) and systems of power (how our entire culture is structured).
Where we grow up, the level of education we have access to, the amount of money we earn—all have effects on our health. Furthermore, race and ethnicity –independent of socioeconomic status—have a significant effect on health.
The infant mortality rate in Colorado’s Black population is 16.9 percent versus 4.9 percent in the White population. The rate of childhood obesity among Colorado’s Latino population is more than twice that of the White population.
So although it will definitely improve our health if we each put down our greasy food and get off our collective bum, it’s also critical to fight for social and policy changes that offer more people the choice to be healthy.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
What is learning? Where does it happen, and how? Who is a learner, and who a teacher?
Who decides what must be learned? Who should?
Sometimes I think that as a society we've skipped over these questions and jumped right to certain conclusions--however untested or disproven they may be. Witness the failures of our school system to accommodate the learning styles and needs of diverse student bodies, struggling to prepare even the privileged students for a college system entirely divorced from the lived realities of the vast majority of people in this country, let alone to live as critically and flexibly thinking members of a democratic society. We ask students to regurgitate facts and perform skills on command--regardless of whether they have to do with that young person's life or not. We stifle students' natural inquisitiveness and personal passions in the quest for improved standardized test results. But what if our failure to engage students as full and capable human beings is what defeats their performance?
I've been reading "To Know for Real" by Ann Giles Benson and Frank Adams. It's about Royce Pitkin, one of the founders of Goddard College, where I am currently a student.
Goddard has a fascinating history as one of the first and few institutions in the US committed to enacting a living model of progressive education. In short, progressive education puts the student in charge of her own education: "since the material of education is living, you can't escape building any kind of educational program around the lives of persons…you do not educate other persons; persons educate themselves."
Imagine, for a moment, that "the purpose of schools, and the function of a teacher, is to create the conditions of learning, the kind of learning that enables one to increase one's own abilities." Does it change how you think about my initial questions?
What is learning? Where does it happen, and how? Who is a learner, and who a teacher?
Who decides what must be learned? Who should?
Royce Pitkin proposes "an 'assignment' in living," asking that we "organize our lives so as to hold firm convictions and yet tolerate dissent; to behave with becoming humility toward others; to recognize the probability of imperfection in all plans for a new social order; and to put our time and energy into work calculated to make better our community, our society, our world."
What do YOU think?
And finally, because to me Goddard College is one of the most beautiful places on earth, I'll leave you with a photo taken by Ann Driscoll, program director for the Master's Degree in Socially Responsible Business and Sustainable Communities. It's the Manor House on Goddard's campus; a beautiful building that has housed the untold brilliance of thousands of students throughout the college's history.
Here's your moment of Zen:
Monday, October 26, 2009
Below is an excerpt from her witty, well crafted article meant to entice you to click on the link below and read the whole thing.
"We already know that the mass consumption of sugar in the form of soda, candy, and simple carbohydrates is bad, bad, bad. Let’s save the erudite explanation. This is no arcane secret. Sugar, when not monitored, whether it be sugar in its natural form, or sugar cooked up in a laboratory and sneaked into our food in the form of high fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin, sucralose or aspartame, catches up to the human body in the form of diabetes, osteoporosis, and huge asses. Thank you, Big Gulp for giving us, in one seemingly innocuous container, more sugar than we should be consuming in several days. Yet, herein lies the rub: the 7-11 convenience store chain does not station gun-pointing sales associates next to the fountain pop machine, demanding that you fill up the 24 oz. cup; you do that all by your lonesome."
Please feel free to post a comment in favor of or against the post in the hopes of creating a meaningful dialogue.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Please join the Colorado Health Foundation for breakfast and an informative presentation and discussion about how the inaccessibility of healthy, fresh and affordable food negatively impacts health.
Allison Karpyn, PhD, of the Pennsylvania-based Food Trust will release the results of a new study that finds many Colorado communities that have poor access to supermarkets also have high incidences of diet-related diseases. Richard J. Jackson, MD, MPH, professor and chair of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the UCLA School of Public Health and author of Urban Sprawl and Public Health, will discuss how where we live plays an important role in how healthy we are.
I'm intrigued to see what kind of policy or funding recommendations are encouraged at the talk. We must wait to see. Below is a link with more information and steps to sign up. ITS FREE.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Sunday, August 9, 2009
It was a collaborative effort with CityWILD, who brought youth participants out to the DeLaney Community Farm in Aurora where GreenLeaf had planned and prepped the day's activities, including games, farm work, a quote and theme of the day. We could not have done this without Nicole and Jason fromThanks, CityWILD!
DeLaney Community Farm is a project of Denver Urban Gardens (DUG), and the farm staff, Deb, Faatma, Meg, Chad, and Heather, taught the young people all about what it takes to run a working farm. They are all amazing and wonderful people, who generously hosted our program and gave their time, attention, knowledge and precious veggies to make it fun and delicious. Thanks DUG! And Meg--special thanks for the bee dance.
We learned a ton from the six days in June, July, and August we spent on the farm. Here are some of my personal highlights:
• Without exception, everyone conquered the veggie challenge: to at least try every vegetable offered, many of which we harvested ourselves. The Hakurei turnips, carrots, onions, raspberries, and purple cauliflower were particular hits. We also made a different salad each day we were at the farm--a couple of our youth volunteers would decide what was ripe and yummy, harvest it and feed it to the crew!
• It was amazing to be with the youth as they experienced the farm and learn about it together. For many it was their first time on a farm, and every aspect was fascinating. Others already knew a lot and shared their knowledge with the rest of us. We got to see tomato and squash plants grow from being tiny to huge , got to see the Delaney bees make progress building their hive, did some planting, harvesting, and mulching, and lots and lots of weeding. We've got lots of great photos of the young people, but are holding off posting them till we've got signed releases.
• We saw lots of wildlife: deer, snakes, rabbits, bees, and lots and lots of bugs. The snake that hangs out in the greenhouse was definitely everyone's favorite. Not to mention the butterflies on Faatma's hands!
• We played lots of games. My absolute favorite was the "Meet My Weed" competition, in which each young person saved the biggest weed they'd pulled that day. They came up with a name for their weed, and presented a short skit about why their weed was the best. We had weeds named Barack Obama and Michael Jackson among other things, and one crafty participant wisely named his weeds after the judges. It was hilarious, and a great opportunity to let the young folks show off their brilliance and creativity.
• The youth participants did amazing drawings to help us come up with a t-shirt design for GreenLeaf. Each drawing was amazing in its own way, and we are working to bring elements of all of them together for our final design. Here's Sarah's "Food Nerd" themed drawing.
It's been a wonderful summer, and we are looking forward to GreenLeaf's growth--stay tuned for more. And, don't forget to subscribe to the blog.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
The process of thinking through my privilege has been exciting, uncomfortable, and very challenging. I imagine that it will be an ongoing project--and I hope that making and keeping this privilege visible in my own awareness will be a transformative project.
When I say privilege I mean, as McIntosh writes, "An invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was 'meant' to remain oblivious." She writes about how remaining oblivious to these assets, these advantages, helps keep them in place--from the ones that are positive and that everyone should have access to, to the ones that are negative, and serve to keep systems of oppression in line: people with privilege dominant over those without.
I see making this list of my privilege around the work of starting GreenLeaf, food, health, and education as part of my work to own, work on, and interrupt my own privilege. I hope that thinking about these things, and reminding myself of them will help stop me from taking my advantages for granted--and inspire me to keep working to make sure that every person has access to healthy, affordable food, healthy, safe, supportive and loving communities, economic freedom, a good education, and all the things we all need to survive and thrive.
• I have easy access to any number of good grocery stores, because I have a car and because there is a grocery store within one mile of my home.
• I do not have to plan my grocery shopping around public transportation.
• I can save money by purchasing food and other items in bulk because I can easily drive to stores where they are available, and take them home in my car.
• I can save money and time by buying and storing frozen food items, because I can easily and quickly take them home in my car.
• I can afford to buy as many fruits and vegetables as I want to eat.
• I can afford to buy organic and local food items as often as I choose.
• I can afford to buy healthy prepared foods if I do not have the time or inclination to cook at home.
• I can afford to waste the food I buy.
• I never have to feel hunger.
• I am never food insecure.
• If I invest money and time in growing food and my crops fail, I will still be able to buy food to feed myself.
• I own land where I can grow food to feed myself, if I chose to.
• I do not have to grow food to feed myself.
• The land I own is less likely to be contaminated than other neighborhoods in the city.
• It is easy for me to find other people who are interested in urban agriculture, local and organic food, and issues of sustainability. Most of them are white, and it is comfortable and safe for me to be around other white people.
• It is easy for me to find and buy foods that reflect my cultural heritages.
• Because of my class privilege, I feel a sense of security that my basic needs are and will be met.
• I have the privilege of being unaware of my white privilege.
• When I tell people that I am working to start an organization, they are more likely to believe me and believe in me because I am white.
• I have more credibility when I am networking because I am white.
• People are likely to assume that I am intelligent, capable, and skilled because I am white.
• It is more acceptable for me to be dressed unprofessionally, even in professional contexts, because I am white.
• If and when I fundraise for my projects, people are more likely to see me as noble and worthy and are less likely to question my motives because I am white.
• I am confident of more personal safety walking, eating in a restaurant, canvassing door to door, and farming in any neighborhood in the city because I am white.
• I am unlikely to be stopped or harassed by the police for going about my daily business because I am white.
• I am likely to be surrounded by people who speak my first language, English.
• I am not afraid of being taken into custody and deported.
• I can afford to spend my time working to start GreenLeaf without pay.
• I know a lot of people who can advise me with regard to finances, fundraising, and other aspects of organizational development.
• I have family members who can support me financially in the event of a crisis.
• I have easy access to many resources I need to start GreenLeaf, such as a computer, internet access, work space, car, books, etc.
• I have good health insurance through my job, even though it is part time.
• I can afford to pay my portion of the deductible and out-of-pocket costs, even on my part-time salary.
• I have always had access to whatever health care and medication I needed, regardless of cost.
• I have never postponed care for fear of the cost.
• I have always had access to good preventive health care.
• I am very healthy and temporarily able-bodied.
• It is easy for me to physically access almost any site in the city, including farms and gardens.
• I do not need any special tools or accommodations to work on a farm or garden.
• I have access to information, guidance, and support regarding healthy habits and nutrition.
• I live within walking distance of an affordable place to exercise.
• I feel safe and comfortable walking, running, or biking around my neighborhood.
• I can afford to pay for exercise classes and equipment.
• I can afford to take the time to exercise regularly.
• When I go to exercise classes, most of the people there are white and it is comfortable and safe for me to be around other white people.
• Because of my education, I know how to seek out resources that will be useful to me in starting GreenLeaf.
• Because of my education, I have a solid understanding of the economy, finance, and budgeting.
• Because of my education, I can write well and can express my ideas and vision in ways that are accessible and appealing to people who are likely to fund my projects.
• I have access to higher education, and am currently a graduate student.
• I have access to an academic community that can support, challenge, and provide resources and connections to me and help me develop my projects.
What do you think about this list? What have I missed? What are some of the ways you are privileged? What are some of the ways you are not privileged?
I also wanted to add something about my previous blog posting: regarding one of the questions posed by the folks at Earthworks:
"Question how it is possible to have 'racism' in our society without having 'racists'"
I don't mean to say that there are no longer racists in our society--there certainly are. I take this question to be referring to many of us who do not identify ourselves as racists, but through a lack of knowledge and understanding, perpetuate racism without meaning to. One term to describe this is "aversive racists," white people who "recognize that prejudice is bad, but...do not recognize that they are prejudiced."
What do you think about aversive racism? How have you seen it in your life?
As always, I'd love to read your thoughts and ideas--please post them!
Sunday, June 28, 2009
And, GreenLeaf has had its first two farm days with young people from CityWILD! (www.cityWILD.org) The youth are ages 12 to 15 and very enthusiastic about getting to know and work the farm. On our first day at Delaney Farm in Aurora (www.dug.org/farm) we met up with fourteen youth:
We started the day with two challenges: Number one was the veggie challenge - meaning that everyone was asked to at least try a bit of every vegetable that we offered. Everyone took the challenge and ate at least a tiny bit of what we picked and dug up, from spinach to turnips to chives…and those chive flowers were HOT and oniony!
Challenge number two was all about participation: we offered every young person who comes out to the farm at least 5 out of 7 of our farm days this summer a GreenLeaf t-shirt on our last day. We're also hoping to engage the young people in designing the shirts. Stay tuned for pics!
We spent most of Day 1 touring the farm, tasting the veggies, learning about the bees, and talking about what's growing at Delaney--an incredible variety of vegetables, herbs, and flowers including lots of heirloom varieties (varieties of plants that have been around for many years--some have been grown by people every year for more than a hundred years!)
Our favorite veggie of the day was definitely the Hakurei turnip, which we nicknamed 'turnip of heaven.' It comes out of the ground cool, milky white, and surprisingly moist, sweet, and mild. It almost tastes like a persimmon or some kind of exotic fruit.
The theme of the first day was Community, and we talked about what community means to us, and how we've experienced it in our lives. A number of the youth talked about their community rec centers and CityWILD as places embodying what they think of as community.
The second day included two shifts of weeding in the hot sun--hard work on a steamy hot day. Working so hard definitely required a way to cool off…and Faatma obliged by soaking everyone with the hose! Next time we'll definitely play some water games…maybe even a slip and slide? We had strawberries, blueberries, and honeydew melon for a snack--and it was the first time a lot of the young people had ever tried blueberries or honeydew.
The theme of our second day was Responsibility--Laura shared a quote that we talked about:
Our third day--Wednesday, July 1--will continue the new GreenLeaf/CityWILD traditions of a morning meeting featuring a quick review of why we're on the farm, our ground rules for creating a safe and respectful space, and of course a game. We're going to try giving each young person a role to keep our farm work shifts focused and productive. And, our theme of the third day will be Pay It Forward. Go team! As always, if you'd like to get involved or volunteer please contact us at GreenLeafDenver@gmail.com
Lastly, I want to circle back from the fun, hot, and dirty details (farm work is always gloriously dirty, yes?) of our day to day activities to a bigger vision of what GreenLeaf can be: we talk a lot about this idea of food justice. But what does it really mean? How do we make food justice a reality?
I've been learning about an organization in Detroit called Earthworks (http://www.cskdetroit.org/EWG/) that combines a soup kitchen with an urban farm, and runs programs that get young people involved in growing and distributing organic veggies in their community. They've got some interesting ideas about how to talk about what food justice is, and I really love these four questions. So I'm putting them out here to spark YOUR interest, and ask for YOUR input:
• Question how racism has played a role in determining who has access to healthy food and who does not.
• Question how it is possible to have "racism" in our society without having "racists".
• Ask where your food comes from and how the people, the land, and all the creatures were treated in its production. Buy food that respects and values all people, creatures, and features of the world. Farm work is some of the most dangerous work due to exposure to pesticides and demanding schedules. Buying local and sustainable whenever possible can help to ensure that your food and food workers were treated carefully.
What do YOU think? Post a response and let us know.
Fun on the Farm,
Monday, June 8, 2009
Something else I've been thinking about lately: I'm interested in working with the idea that the future of our planet is made or broken based on how we live in cities. Even as the world's cities are densely populated and densely built, they are also ripe with resources and potential.
There was a time, and not very long ago in this country, when the majority of people lived on farms or were involved in growing food. They grew it organically, not because of a fad or a philosophy, but because the technology to "fix" nitrogen and mix it into soil as fertilizer had not yet been invented. Methods of crop rotation, use and re-use of resources had been practiced and developed for centuries all the way back to the first people to intentionally save a seed, to care for a plant and harvest its bounty. It's not--it's never--too late for people to reclaim and teach each other innovations of agriculture developed by our common ancestors and practiced to this day by indigenous peoples all over the world.
So why can't we do it in Denver?
Imagine a city where medians, right of ways, front and back yards, rooftops, even window boxes grow food.
What if every house, apartment, and building captured even a little bit of energy with a few solar panels or a small wind turbine? Massive amounts of renewable energy could be harnessed to offset use.
What if everyone harvested a few barrels of rainwater to grow food and care for their yards? Even Denver's desert climate could become more sustainably productive.
What if each family grew what food they could in whatever space they had at home or in a community garden?
What if urban farmers grew crops in vacant lots, making a good living selling produce to their neighbors?
How would Denver look, smell, feel, and sound different?
How would the lives of urban residents change?
What's your vision of how Denver can be a more sustainable city?
One last thought, from Building the Green Economy: Success Stories from the Grassroots by Kevin Danaher, Shannon Biggs, and Jason Mark:
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Folks are starting to plant: tomatoes and flowers, peppers, corn, beans, collards, and all kinds of good veggies at gardens all over town. My new baby peach tree even has some teeny green peaches!
I especially want to give a shout-out to the EastSide Growers Collective, starting up a brand new community garden at 35th and Elm with all POC (People Of Color) gardeners. Y'all are awesome!
And this summer, the lovely and wonderful GreenLeaf folks are launching our first three projects:
1. Farm Days: We will be spending 6 days this summer at Delaney Farm in Aurora, working with youth volunteers from CityWILD and other programs to help the Delaney farmers grow food. We'll be doing a mix of farm work and other fun stuff--workshops, games, community lunches, hopefully even a Family Feast at the end of the summer!
2. Garden2Garden Organizing: Together with young people and community members, the wonderful and amazing GreenLeaf community advisory board (CAB) will be canvassing neighborhoods in NE Denver (including Cole, Whittier, Five Points, and Skyland). We'll be going from Garden to Garden, talking to neighbors about the food they grow, what they like to eat, and inviting folks to get involved with GreenLeaf, especially our delicious dinners…
3. Supper Clubbin' GreenLeafers will be hosting Supper Clubs all over town at our homes, parks, and gardens. We'll be serving delicious and nutritious homegrown foods, having fun, maybe even watching some movies. It'll be a great chance for folks to come together, get involved and invested in GreenLeaf, and of course: eat and enjoy. Stay tuned for more details.
Finally, lately I've been reading The Green Collar Economy by Van Jones, and I'm inspired. He writes about real solutions for what he calls our country's two biggest problems: radical socioeconomic inequality and rampant environmental destruction.
Building a green collar economy by transforming our economy, cities, and lives in simple and fundamental ways can resolve these problems--If we do it in a way that recognizes shared herstories of oppression and privilege, and by creating a movement that truly belongs to everyone. Jones writes, "The fact is, if we do wind up with some version of eco-apartheid in the United States and the industrial countries, it will be because good people who knew better simply failed to do better."
But we can do better, and we are working on it every day. It's fundamental to what we're doing at GreenLeaf. By mobilizing the tremendous assets of our city--the energy, intelligence and power of young people, and the vacant land and open spaces, to name only two--we are revitalizing our communities at the same time that we repair and protect our planet.
Van Jones reminds us of our own power to create solutions: "If we stand for change, we can spark a popular movement with power, influence, magic, and genius. We won't just have the movement we have always wanted. We will have the country we have always wanted--and the world for which our hearts have longed."
Of course, each of us is already powerful on our own--and we are exponentially more powerful when we get together. Post a response or send an e-mail, and get involved!
Resistance is fertile,
Urban agriculture and sustainable infrastructure can provide many benefits to urban communities, by providing safe, healthy, and green environments in neighborhoods, by involving city dwellers in healthy, active, and fun work, and because the more experience people have growing food, the more likely they are to eat it. As energy and food prices continue to rise, communities, particularly in urban centers, are struggling and health is declining. The current food system is not sustainable in any aspect from production to distribution. Industrial agriculture is heavily dependent on oil and is ecologically devastating to our land, lakes, rivers, and oceans. Many people lack adequate access to healthy, affordable, fresh food. However, there is a unique opportunity to build sustainable infrastructure in Denver by paying youth a fair wage to grow healthy food locally and organically, and provide it to city residents at affordable prices.
Vacant lots turned into green, growing urban farms. Young people cultivating land in the city, working hard and getting paid to grow food for neighborhood residents. Youth taking leadership roles in their communities, working together to build a just society.
GreenLeaf is seeking to:
• Create a thoughtful and productive community of youth and adults from diverse backgrounds to build sustainable food systems and infrastructure
• Engage youth with leadership and employment opportunities
• Inspire and support others to create change in urban communities
• Produce and distribute affordable, healthy food for residents of cities and suburbs
• Build, expand, and increase access to sustainable infrastructure
Sustainable Infrastructure: In addition to learning skills in urban farming, youth crews will participate in leadership, diversity, nutrition, and social justice workshops to cultivate the confidence and knowledge to create change within their communities. Youth will have the opportunity to connect with local green-focused businesses to learn skills in installing solar panels and other energy technologies, green roofs, composting, resource conservation, and water use. Youth will be supported in providing trainings to community members on how to employ these skills at home.
• Justice, equity, diversity
• Care for people and the environment
• Conserve and reuse resources
GreenLeaf is committed to social justice as the driving force of this project. This includes employing a non-hierarchical organizational structure in order to breakdown oppressive power dynamics and building into our operations meaningful methods of communication and accountability.
Leah Bry at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lisa Knoblauch at email@example.com
you ARE what you EAT
EAT what you GROW
GROW your COMMUNITY
Thursday, March 19, 2009
GreenLeaf is: a new organization in Denver, Colorado dedicated to creating social change through urban agriculture and sustainable infrastructure. Our plan is to hire young people in Denver to become farmers, growing vegetables for their communities on vacant lots in the city.
To learn more please contact Leah Bry at firstname.lastname@example.org