Archive: Food Politics

Solving the Spinach Scare

In the midst of the media frenzy over E. coli-contaminated spinach, there's a fact that few people are talking about: the supermarket isn't the only place to get the stuff. It's hard to believe, given that our constantly replenished supermarket shelves are constantly replenished with pre-washed and pristine greens, as if packaged by elves. With gift-wrapped spinach always for the taking, who would want to bother looking anywhere else for salad fixins? But sustainable agriculture advocates beg to differ. "If there ever was a reason to shop local, this is it," says Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, a home gardener and food blogger from Syracuse, N.Y. The latest contamination scare makes it "more critical than ever to eat closer to the source," adds Baskerville-Burrows. "If we patronize smaller, local farms and something goes wrong, we can trace it back directly to the producer." What's more, the coverage of the E. coli scare has...

By Kim ODonnel | September 19, 2006; 01:27 PM ET | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Gilroy, Where Has Your Garlic Gone?

Amid the hubbub at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, I stole a few moments for a sobering conversation on the state of garlic in this country. After all, the reason for my being in Gilroy in the first place was my recent discovery of Chinese garlic and its prominent figuring into American supermarket produce aisles. I had the good fortune to meet Don Christopher, founder of Christopher Ranch, the largest U.S. garlic grower, and his son Bill, a managing partner of the business. I shared my tale with the Christophers, and they shook their heads in resigned acknowledgement that Chinese garlic is taking a big bite out of the American garlic industry. Now in its 50th year, Christopher Ranch started out with a modest 130 acres, expanding to a cap of 5,000 garlic-centric acres in the late 1980s. Their cash cow began to suffer with the onset of Chinese garlic exports...

By Kim ODonnel | August 1, 2006; 08:36 AM ET | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)

Trans Fat Fighting

Fat is not a four-letter word, but in this country, it's treated like one. As a country, we are obsessed with fat, yet we are getting fatter and fatter. No matter your shape or size, fat does play an important positive role in our diets. We all need fat to help maintain healthy skin and hair, body temperature, healthy cell function, plus we need the help of fat for energy storage and the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Naturally occurring fats come from food -- meat, dairy, eggs, nuts, some fruit. There's saturated fat, which increases cholesterol levels, and then there's unsaturated fat, which helps keep cholesterol levels down and lower the risk of heart disease. There are lots of factors that contribute to our overall cholesterol level (which, according to the American Heart Association, ideally should be below 200 mg/dL) -- genetics, physical activity, and...

By Kim ODonnel | July 21, 2006; 10:32 AM ET | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

Celebrate Local Garlic

Last week, I shared my tale of exasperation over Chinese garlic in the supermarket. Why, I wondered out loud, at the height of local garlic season, was I only finding garlic from the other side of the world? Local garlic has arrived at farmer's markets. (Kim O'Donnel) In particular, I was concerned about the supply of Chinese garlic at my local Whole Foods, which touts itself as a steward of sustainability. If a woman in Austin, Tex. can deliver 17 heads of lettuce a week from her farm to a nearby Whole Foods store, why can't a similar relationship be arranged among garlic growers in the Maryland-Virginia-West Virginia region and Washington area Whole Foods locations? I have not yet given Whole Foods a chance to respond to this question, but it's at the top of my to-do list and I will keep you posted on my progress. In the meantime,...

By Kim ODonnel | July 18, 2006; 10:13 AM ET | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)

The Irony of Organic Garlic From China

After working (and shopping) at market in local produce bliss yesterday, I arrived home, only to realize I was out of garlic, a pity since I had Virginia-grown bulbs within arm's reach just a few hours earlier. Oh well, I thought, I can pick up some when I'm at the Thai grocery, where I needed to pick up some soy sauce and gingerroot. In the back of the store, I found garlic grouped in threes, packaged in white netting. The label said, "Made in China." Garlic from China? Something is wrong with this picture. I promptly returned it to the bin, thinking of a plan B. My neighborhood Whole Foods Market surely would have garlic that had not traveled across two or three continents to get here. The American garlic capital of Gilroy, Calif., was a long way from Arlington, Va., but it was a lot closer than China. My...

By Kim ODonnel | July 10, 2006; 10:53 AM ET | Comments (33) | TrackBack (0)

Michael Pollan vs. Whole Foods?

It was a busy spring for journalist Michael Pollan and the summer is proving to be even more so. Since the publication of his controversial book on the state of American agriculture and food systems, "The Ominivore's Dilemma,", Pollan has been interviewed in countless publications, (including The Washington Post Food section and in a live chat on washingtonpost.com. In May, Pollan began writing dispatches in blog format as a guest columnist for the New York Times Select Web site. His first post, dated May 7, challenged the business practices of Whole Foods Market, the subject of an entire chapter in his book. In a bold move, the corporate world bit back, but this time in the form of an "open letter" available for public consumption. In his blog on the Whole Foods Web site, CEO John Mackey responds to Pollan's challenges on May 25, asserting that Pollan paints an inaccurate...

By Kim ODonnel | June 29, 2006; 12:04 PM ET | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Is That Carrot You're Eating a Neighbor or World Traveler?

Tonight, when you sit down for dinner, consider the following challenge: Look at what's on your plate and ask yourself if you know the geographical origin of the primary ingredients that make up your meal. Forget the salt, pepper and olive oil for a moment. Where does that salad come from - or the chicken breast, the green beans? Any of it hail from neighboring towns or farms? Jot down your observations and let me know of your discoveries. I ask you the same question I am continuing to ask myself: Do I know where my food is coming from and how it was grown or raised? The issue of food origin as it relates to sustainability is a hot one, with fossil fuel topping the list of factors to consider. In the latest issue of Time Magazine (which is entirely devoted to food, by the way), reporter Margot Roosevelt...

By Kim ODonnel | June 6, 2006; 11:55 AM ET | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

 

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