Where Do We Get Our Local Food From?

The University of Rochester prides itself on providing students with healthy and nutritious local food. At the moment, 56% of food products on campus are locally sourced. This includes the vegetables and fruits we serve at salad bars and in cooked meals, some of our healthiest snacks in Hillside and the Pit, and milk served in coffee beverages.

56% might not sound like a lot, but with the amount of students and faculty we have to feed and caffeinate on campus, it’s pretty darn awesome that we can source a majority of food from small, family-owned local farms.

Why does this even matter though? Well, instead of sending our UofR big bucks to Big Agriculture for food that is often covered in pesticides and meat that is filled with antibiotics, the University is financially supporting farmers and distributors in New York State. Moreover, we try to focus on getting food from UPSTATE New York, meaning our eating needs as students directly go towards supporting a stronger local economy. These products also have lower to no pesticides and no antibiotics because local farms are also often homes. Would farmers want to live on a CAFO (disgusting animal farm often affiliated with “manure lagoons”) or on a field of toxic chemicals?

intensive-pigfarming

Source: farmsnotfactories.org

vs.

e9cf11ada4d0a79b391e609f308e4e44_large

Source: cricketcreekfarm.com

So, where do we get all of this food from? How can we organize something so intricate and complex, while dealing with the other thousand and one issues Dining constantly has to manage? Do we directly communicate with all of our local vendors? No, that would be insanely time consuming.

Instead, we use Headwater Food Hub, a company that I believe to be innovating the way local farmers work.

cgvyi_zwcaayfd_

Source: Twitter @liv_rotondo

Headwater Food Hub is basically a consultant for local farmers. Partner farms trust Headwater with the management of their “supply chain logistics, aggregation, distribution, and sales”. In other words, Headwater acts as a middleman for these farmers, letting them focus on the task of producing high quality, nutritious and tasty food, while managing the logistics of supplying restaurants, schools, businesses, and grocery stores.

Another facet of Headwater Food to keep in mind as for those living off campus is the Good Food Collective, a subsection of Headwater that focuses on supplying local food directly to you, the individual.

How does it work? You buy a share (priced out at sometimes lower than grocery store costs) of food for the amount of people you need to feed (either yourself, or a family, or maybe just you and your roommate). Every week or two weeks (depending on the share you choose), you go to a conveniently located distribution center, where you pick up a basket of goods. If you live in certain zip codes, you can even have it delivered directly to your home. AND! if you take this info with you to your boss in the Rochester/Finger Lakes/New York City region maybe you can even set up workplace shares, and everyone could pick up their basket of goods at work. Shares are catered to season and sometimes even Holidays (Thanksgiving shares are up right now!!!).

To find out more about shares, check out this page. (P.S. You can even get shares of locally roasted coffee…)

hurd_web

Hurd Orchards // Source: thegoodfoodcollective.com

firstlight_web

First Light Creamery // Source: thegoodfoodcollective.com

Happy Eating!

 

Author: Jackie Ibragimov

Advertisements

Bee Day 2016: The Lowdown on Colony Collapse Disorder

If you kept up with Facebook last Wednesday and happened to pass by Danforth for lunch, then you probably got a taste of Bee Day – a new event that Team Green hopes to become a really BIG thing over the years.

We started small this year, mainly taking time to explore our options and educate ourselves about all the different beekeeping opportunities in Rochester. Primarily, that meant speaking with the surprisingly many urban beekeepers of Rochester. And then, we took some time educating YOU, our peers. In years to come, we hope to expand Bee Day to become as awesome and full of activities as Local Foods Week and Earthfest.

Why do we care about bees enough to make an annual celebratory event in their honor? Well, bees are the silent (albeit slightly buzzing) guardians of this planet. Bold statement? No. Consider this: 1/3 of world agriculture wouldn’t be possible without pollination by bees. I mean sure, farmers could try to manually pollinate those crops, but that would cost about $15 billion extra dollars JUST FOR U.S. CROPS. Worldwide, bees contribute an astounding € 265 billion annually in pollination. Without bees, all vegetable and fruit eating animals, including us humans, would have to drastically reduce their diets. To visualize what that would look like, Huffington Post made a really compelling set of images illustrating grocery shelves before and “after” a massive bee extinction. Below is what the average produce section would be reduced to:

Source: huffingtonpost.com

Source: huffingtonpost.com

Source: huffingtonpost.com

Are bees really in so much danger that we actually should fear our grocery stores looking like the one pictured above? Yes, they are, and it’s really scary.

In recent years, scientists and farmers have observed bee colonies being abandoned with increasing frequency. No one knows where the bees go – whether they die or fly to live independently – nor why they leave the hive en masse, but research is currently being conducted with ferocity to stop Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) as soon as possible.

Source: fix.com

Source: fix.com

As the graph above illustrates, before 2006, 10-15% of bee colonies died every winter. However, since 2006, 30% of bee colonies have collapsed every winter in the United States (keep into consideration, though, that CCD is an international issue).

Scientists are considering several possible causes for CCD: 1) the invasive varroa mite, 2) emerging diseases like the Israeli Acute Parasite, 3) pesticide poisoning from dusted crops, 4) stress from improper beekeeping (i.e. continuous transportation of hives across country for pollination services), and 5) changes to foraging habitat.

The most researched possible cause is pesticides. Bees seem to become disoriented and lose track of how to return to the hive after pollinating pesticide treated crops. Obviously, pesticides are necessary to maintain an amount of agriculture that feeds our every-growing population. So, instead of advocating the complete disuse of pesticides, scientists are actively trying to discover which pesticides are causing the problem and how to create similar pesticides that don’t have that effect.

Well, that’s great and all, research is awesome, but what can the rest of us do to help? The answer is really simple and actually super fun: plant a garden, whether on a plot of land or on a windowsill, which features flowers that bees can easily pollinate.

Source: fix.com

Source: fix.com

Click here for some tips on how to plant a bee-friendly garden. If you don’t have much of a green thumb, you can still support the bees by buying honey instead of other sweeteners, minimizing your carbon footprint, and maybe not trying to drown bees in pools? Yeah that’d be good.

Anyways, that’s the gist of the plight of the bees. Below are some cool documentaries you can watch to learn more. See you next year with some more Bee Day goods!

Documentaries

Burt’s Buzz

More Than Honey

 

Author: Jackie Ibragimov

Be My Reusable Mug Valentine

Valentine Pug

Source: Cheezburger

It’s Valentine’s Weekend on the University of Rochester campus, and Team Green would like to wish everyone a super yummy Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Hillside has been stocked with Organic Sea Salt Truffles, Ben & Jerry’s Ice-Cream (but not the vegan one….yet…hopefully, one day…maybe we’ll get it), and Sparkling Apple Cider. All the ingredients for some relatively guilt-free indulgence, whether you’re sharing with a special someone, a group of friends, or basking in self-love. Valentine’s Weekend is also a time for coffee dates, whether you’re in a sorority and shopping around for a potential big/little or meeting up with someone you met on Tindr/in class/in the tunnels/caught out in this horrible Winter wind. For example, this week I have been on 5 Big/Little coffee dates and two “Let’s Catch Up” dates.

Watching myself throw away a paper cup and plastic lid every single day to just go into a landfill really did break my heart, no Valentine’s pun intended. If you’re not an avid coffee drinker, throwing away one disposable cup once a month is easy to pass off as not that big of a deal. But if you’re a normal college student who wakes up early, exercises regularly, manages to stay awake in classes, works a campus job, attends all social meetings, and gets homework done a minute before the deadline, then you drink coffee everyday. If not coffee, then at least a cup of tea.

Imagine that, 7 days a week, 30 days in a month, approximately 12 months in school, and you’re throwing away a cup every single one of those days. With 5,000+ undergrad students on this campus and hundreds of faculty and staff, that adds up to our very own University of Rochester landfill. As Ryan Gosling would say around this time of the year:

Ryan Gosling "Hey Girl"

Source: Rookie

So, this Valentine’s Day, I bought myself a reusable mug. Even wrapped it up and wrote myself a greeting card (I’m that cool, *cough* pathetic *cough*). It was only $16.99, and now every time I get a cup of hot coffee or tea (or an iced drink if I had a cold cup), it’s only $1.39. That translates to spending only $9.73 that week, instead of $13.23. Those savings add up, especially for freshmen with low declining and upper class-men who need their declining for real food too (or upper class-men who chronically snack, *cough* me *cough*). More importantly, that’s 7 cups less sitting on my conscience and my own carbon footprint.

Happy Cat

Source: MemesVault

Some ideas to turn that mug into a gift:

  • Fill a mug with candy/chocolates/your person’s favorite snacks.
  • Turn the mug into a vase and fill it with a bouquet of flowers.
  • Write a bunch of mini Valentine notes (poems, reasons why you love them, memories, song lyrics), fold them up (maybe try origami hearts?), and put them in the cup for your lovely person to discover.
  • Leave a lipstick stain on the rim of the mug, as a little “kiss”.
  • Write a note in marker on the outside.

So, here’s to coffee dates, getting work done, comfy Starbucks chairs, coffeehouse music, and saving the world.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!!!! Love yourself, love each other, love the world.

 

Author: Jackie Ibragimov

No Waste Dinner 2015

Last week we held what Team Green calls a “no waste dinner” in Douglass Dining Center, which is where we compost all post-consumer waste produced at dinnertime. In three hours, we collected 100 pounds of food waste that would have normally been sent to the landfill. Sadly, we noticed many people dumping almost entire plates of food into the buckets. We were not only doing this event to teach people about the benefits of composting, but also to educate people about how much they really waste.

If we take what we composted that night to represent an average dinner, then we can assume over 400 pounds of food waste is thrown out each week at Douglass alone. Remember, Douglass is only open for dinner 4 days a week. That is a lot of waste; waste that can be prevented.

So what can you do to produce less food waste? First is to only take what you know you are going to eat, if you are still hungry, you can always go grab more.  Second, take smaller portions if you are not sure if you are going to like something so you do not end up throwing out an entire plate worth of food. You may not think you make a big difference but you do.

Check out the photos bellow to see a recap of the event!

20150218_182755

20150218_193328

20150218_191910

 

Author: Gabryella Pulsinelli

What is Composting About?

I have an astounding statistic for you:

According to the 2011 U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization report, one thirds of all food products worldwide go uneaten.

That’s over 1.3 billion tons of food discarded each year. There are over 925 million people who suffer from hunger worldwide. Just let that sink in for a minute. We waste one third of all food and 925 million people are starving.

On top of that, most of the food wasted ends up in landfills and has major effects on the environment. When food breaks down it creates greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, which contribute to global warming. All of these emissions can be avoided if we choose what we buy and consume more responsibly. Granted, no matter how responsible a person is, some food is bound to be wasted. There will be scraps of chopped vegetables, or crust cut off of sandwiches, or food you just absolutely can’t finish when out at lunch. Luckily, those can be diverted from landfills to compost bins.

UR Dining Services prides itself on composting everywhere it can, from Starbucks to Douglass. Did you know that Danforth is a zero waste facility? All leftover food and napkins are composted by our partnership with Waste Management. Even when the dishwasher breaks, all silverware, plates, and cups are compostable.

So why should we care about composting? Composting diverts food waste from landfills and creates nutritious fertilizer to grow more food. By not dumping our waste into the landfill, we also reduce carbon emissions.

Check out this article if you want to know more about food waste and its effect on the environment.

 

Author: Gabryella Pulsinelli

How to Properly Recycle Starbucks Drinks

Let’s see how much you really know about Starbucks:

  1. Are Starbucks cold cups recyclable?
  2. How about their warm cups?
  3. Can you refill your reusable mug with tea or coffee for just $1.39?

The answer to Q1 is yes, all cold cups are recyclable! Just make sure you dump out the ice and any leftover iced coffee. By recycling cold cups, waste is diverted from landfills, which prevents more land from being converted into waste facilities. Don’t forget the straw! (They’re recyclable too.)

Q2 is somewhat of a trick; half of the cup is recyclable. Any plastic lid used on a warm beverage is recyclable but the paper cup is not. So if you have been throwing out the lids on your coffee, start recycling them! (However, you can recycle the paper sleeve.)

The answer to Q3 is: absolutely! If you bring your reusable mug into Starbucks, you can get coffee or tea refilled for only a 1.39!

So why do we care about how much goes to landfills? The more trash we deposit, the more energy and oil we have to use for transportation and proper disposal of waste. The more we can recycle and compost, the more resources we can conserve.

So next time you get Starbucks, remember to recycle!

 

Author: Gabryella Pulsinelli

Local Foods Week 2014!

Hey, y’all!  It’s once again Local Foods Week, when Dining Services celebrates all things local to Rochester.

We’ve already held an Earth Day lunch on Tuesday (complete with potato gnocchi and tofu with bok choy and rice), and tonight was the local beer pairing dinner in the Meliora.  Despite not being able to enjoy the local beer, us under-21’ers still got a four course dinner full of local foods, and the marvelous evening entertainment provided by No Jackets Required; no wonder the event was sold out.

Don’t worry if you couldn’t make it tonight, though, there’s still time to get involved with LFW!  Tomorrow you can sample coffee in Connections 11-2, and enjoy the “Celebrate Rochester” in Douglass 5-8 PM.  On Friday, Danforth will be serving a local brunch, and you can take a break from the Dandelion Day festivities to stop by Douglass, which will be serving your favorite street foods all day.

Wondering where all this food is coming from?  Wonder no more, for Danny has put together a guide for the week.  Check out the vendors below, who make LFW possible.

Vendor Map

As always, if you have any questions (or suggestions for something you think should be a part of next year’s Local Foods’ Week) then let us know!  In the meantime, grab something delicious and local.

 

Author: Gabryella Pulsinelli

Is Name Brand Water Really Better Than Tap Water?

Bottled water is basically the name brand of water.  It’s 2,000 times as expensive as tap, for a similar product with a nice logo.  Most people paying a higher price for a product they could get cheaply assume that there is some advantage to their purchase—that they’re getting a superior product, something of higher quality.  So when comparing bottled and tap water side-by-side, does bottled come out on top?

As you all learned from the last posts, different organizations regulate bottled and tap water, but here’s the kicker: The FDA adopted standards for bottled water based on EPA’s standards for tap water.  There is no difference between them.  Not a tangible one, certainly.  Treated water of either variety must adhere to the same set of rules.  Water coming from the faucet/fountain and water placed in those disposable bottles are indistinguishable.

But no matter how much we talk about this, many people still claim that bottled water “tastes better” than tap water.  So we wanted to find out: is that really true?

This was put to the test recently as part of RecycleMania’s “Water Week” (for those of you who don’t know: RecycleMania is an international competition between colleges to see which does the best of diverting waste), with a blind taste test.  Students were given two cups of water– one bottled, one tap– and asked which had tap water and how certain they were of their answer.

TapWaterTasteTest

When asked their confidence in their answer on a scale of one to ten, most students marked that they were pretty certain.  But of those students, how many were actually correct?  Those marking a certainty of 9 or 10 were accurate only 33% of the time, and those who chose 6, 7, or 8 only managed a correct guess 55% of the time.

Overall, the guesses for which cup was tap water was almost perfectly split between the samples of tap and bottled water– because people couldn’t tell the difference.  Tap water and bottled water taste the same.

 

Author: Charlotte Humes

 

What’s Congress’ View on Bottled vs. Tap Water Quality?

Let’s learn a little bit about the US Government, shall we?

The United States Congress has an office in charge of audit, evaluation, and investigation, the Government Accountability Office (GAO).  Called “the congressional watchdog,” the GAO monitors how our government spends its money to ensure the appropriate use of taxpayer’s money.   (Bonus points if you’ve ever heard of the GAO before.  Unless you’re a poli-sci major, and then it doesn’t count.)

And why in the world would we interrupt our regularly scheduled Take Back the Tap blog posts for a quick lesson about Congress?  As we all just learned, the EPA and the FDA are in charge of ensuring the quality of our tap and bottled water, respectively. As government agencies, both are monitored by the GAO.

We already talked about the difference in power the two agencies hold, but… well, let’s be honest.  When I’m eating something, I don’t really care about which government agencies approved it or what legislation allowed them to do so– I care what’s in it.  In the case of bottled water, most people will say that they think it’s somehow cleaner than tap.  And, sure, they’re entitled to their opinion… but according to the GAO, they’re wrong.

The congressional watchdog commented on the bottled vs. tap divide in a truly scintillating eight page document (really, you should read it, your eyes won’t bleed at all: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-861T).  They determined that “FDA Safety and Consumer Protections are Often Less Stringent Than Comparable EPA Protections for Tap Water” and noted that most Americans, unfortunately, harbored some misconceptions about this fact.  So take it from the people in charge of the people in charge of maintaining the quality of tap and bottled water: bottled water isn’t healthier or safer or cleaner.  It just isn’t.

Recently, someone on campus put a fun display on a water fountain:

AquafinaSelfService

What’s amazing about the joke is that it’s a lot more accurate than most people even realize, and the GAO would agree.

 

PS: Sarcasm aside, the GAO document is actually surprisingly user-friendly and you should go read it.  It has a number of interesting statistics.

 

Author: Charlotte Humes

The Real Difference Between Bottled and Tap Water

When comparing tap and bottled water, some of the differences are obvious– tap water comes out of a faucet and bottled water comes out of a vending machine, bottled water is more expensive than tap, and you really need bottled water for those great stock photos of women struggling to drink water (why did that become a thing?).  But these differences are pretty shallow, and somehow I doubt that anyone is considering this when they make the choice to go for one type of water or the other.  So what’s the difference between tap and bottled water?

First and foremost, who’s in charge of regulation.  The Environmental Protection Agency monitors tap water, while bottled water falls into the domain of the Food and Drug Administration.  Most sources of water aren’t perfectly pure– I can go outside my dorm and scoop up a nice cup of Snow-mud Martini (shaken, not stirred), but if that was the quality of water provided by the public water systems or a bottled water company, that would be bad.  Instead, the EPA and FDA have each chosen standards which water must meet.  This limits the amount of each type of contaminant, controlling the content of everything from microorganisms to radionuclides.  However, since the FDA and EPA have chosen to maintain highly similar standards, the actual water content isn’t different (more on this later!).

This difference in authority does have a few manifestations.  Thanks to the Safe Drinking Water Act, originally passed in 1974, the EPA is able to require regular testing by approved laboratories.  Public water systems are also forced to report any violations of the standards set within a certain time frame, or face the consequences.  This adds accountability, both to the public and the to EPA.  The FDA lacks a similar authority over bottled water companies.

Ever wonder where your tap water is coming from, or what it’s been through?  You can find out.  Public water systems are required to provide reports for consumers covering the source, treatment, and proof of compliance of their water.  In Rochester, for example, our tap water comes from the Hemlock and Canadice lakes, and the exact treatment it undergoes is on the City of Rochester website (link below).  No such transparency is required of bottled water companies.

So while the actual water may not differ from tap to bottle, bottled water’s lack of accountability, to either the public or their regulatory authority, is the real difference between them.

Sources:

http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2009/07/09/09greenwire-fewer-regulations-for-bottled-water-than-tap-g-33331.html

http://www.cityofrochester.gov/article.aspx?id=8589936763
 
 
 
Author: Charlotte Humes