Food and Fuel

15 June 08 | Posted in Food, Social Justice, U.S. Catholic

There is a lot of talk, now, about a food crisis in the world.  Croplands are being used to grow fuel for cars vs. food for people. That’s wrong. But if you also don’t want to support building new refineries, or drilling in wildnerness, the ocean or high risk areas, what do you do? With the price of gas going up, people are going to push for alternatives.

I don’t know what we can do about that, except to stop driving as much, and walk, bike or take mass transit. That works if people are willing to do without, are in good enough physical condition to do so, or don’t mind experiencing a lot of inconvenience. Given that, what kind of success rate can we expect? How many people will turn off their air conditioner in July?

I priced out Lori and I taking the train or bus to our weekend house vs. driving.  It costs us $40 a weekend for gas for our Toyota Coralla. It would cost us $80 to take the bus or a train.

Going from a starch and meat diet to a vegetables and a little chicken or fish diet has also seen our food bills go up.  A lot. Organic is great, but it is also priced a lot higher than vegetables in the bin.  Now, we are paying to put into practice environmental ethics, and we feel the pinch, even in our household.

People that are poor, unemployed, struggling or on a fixed income, can hardly afford to pay for the basics and necessities, much less enviromentally ethical products and services.

What is a Catholic environmentalist to do?  There are so many conflicting issues I don’t know what to think much less what to prioritize for Bill Griffin, CSX,  has researched the global food crisis for the Center of Concern.  His paper is designed to provide a clear overview of the current food crisis and the conflicting economic forces at work behind the scenes. I hope it will help me clarify what steps I can take to help on both the food and fuel fronts.

French Cheese

1 June 08 | Posted in Food, Global Catholic

tamie07.jpgSome cheese-making French monks have come up with an innovative way to reduce their electricity bills.

A monastery in the Alpine region of Savoie uses by-products of milk to create methune–enough to save them 7,000 Euros a year.tamie06.jpg

Watch the video here.

Food or Fuel? The Biofuels Debate

29 April 08 | Posted in Food, Vatican

The Holy See is asking for measures to keep the production of biofuels from bringing about increased food prices to the point of threatening starvation in many countries.

Monsignor Renato Volante, the permanent observer of the Holy See at the Rome-based U.N. Organization for Food and Agriculture (FAO), participated in the FAO Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean, which was held in Brasilla, Brazil, April 14-18, 2008.

Monsignor Volante proposed that the production of biofuels should not bring about a decrease in the production of agricultural products destined for the food market. He called on the states to consider options, keeping in mind the “essential objective” of protecting and ensuring the right to food.

Biofuels are energy sources produced from a variety of different plants or plant products. Many developed countries have begun subsidizing the production of biofuels, which has resulted in decreased production of typical plant foods.biofuels.jpg

U. N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon encouraged a coordinated effort to face the steeply rising price of food, which he said has developed into a “real global crisis.” He said some 100 million of the world’s poor now need aid to be able to buy food. Riots have broken out in some countries, such as Haiti, over the increased prices.

Just Food

23 March 08 | Posted in Food

Shortly after New Year, my partner and I changed our whole diet. We went from pre-cooked food to eating mostly fresh vegetables. We both lost a lot of weight, but most importantly, our health and energy levels have improved. We feel better and look better. It all had to do with the food we ate.

Even going from prepared food, our weekly food bill has gone up. It costs a lot of money to eat healthy–and since “organic” may be a marketing strategy as well as a designation, I don’t necessarily buy organic products all the time. Even so, a shopping cart with mostly fresh produce and “green-friendly” items is pretty expensive.

This experience has gotten me started on thinking about food as a social justice issue.  Can only the affluent afford to eat well? Is the only option for everyone else starch and fast food?

I did a little searching and found this article, “Organic Justice:  Helping Poor People Buy Organic Food Directly from Farmers” on the Organic Consumers Association site.

The article provided other links to Just Food and Local Harvest, which help to direct people to local farms and CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) projects. Local Harvest described several ways  poor people can purchase fresh produce, including the use of EBTs for payment and working with nonprofits where wealthier CSA members can help subsidize the weekly food baskets of others.farmers_market_018_small.jpg

An innovative solution was developed by Crystine Goldberg of Uprising Farm in Washington State.

Goldberg and her partner Brian Campbell founded Uprising Organics Farm with two intentions: saving heirloom and open pollinated seeds, and getting good food to people regardless of income. After three seasons as market farmers, Goldberg and Campbell started a small CSA last year. It exclusively serves low income people, and the members pay with electronic food stamp benefits known as EBT.

Read more here.

Catholic Concern for Animals

10 March 08 | Posted in Animals, Food, Global Catholic

The British group Catholic Concern for Animals has enlisted British TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and another celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, to persuade the bishops of England and Wales to promote their dioceses as “free-range” users.

The animals rights group – whose members include Bishop Malcolm McMahon of Nottingham – wants all parish, rectory, school, convent and retreat centre dining halls  to use only free-range poultry and eggs.

A talented writer, broadcaster and campaigner, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is widely known for his commitment to seasonal, ethically produced food. His books, journalism and television series have earned him a huge popular following. He is also a strong supporter of the rights of local farmers and principals of fair trade.hughbiogpic.jpg

Determined to start growing and rearing some of his own food, in 1998 Hugh started living in the original River Cottage farm in rural Dorset.  His steep learning curve was documented in the Escape to River Cottage series (1999) which won him a big audience.

Originally a collection of mucky cow sheds, the property was transformed into a rustic, welcoming venue with a professional kitchen, thriving vegetable garden and small collection of livestock. It became the location for a range of River Cottage events and courses designed to promote the “grown your own” philosophy and provide an environment where people could dicuss, eat and learn about really good, well-produced food.