Review: National Food Day (24 October 2011)

Last week I advertised The University of Minnesota Twin Cities "Food Day." What I didn't know that this October 24th was the first national "Food Day." This is an incredible opportunity for those concerned with the state of the food industry in the United States. Our grocery stores are dominated by unhealthy processed foods, "Food Day" focuses on spreading the word regarding nutritious, sustainable, and environmentally conscious foods. Like Earth Day before it, Food Day has the potential to inform the population about the food they eat, and encourages a reconsideration of the industrialization of the food industry.

The Myth of Natural

In the past few decades there has been an increased effort to become more environmentally conscious. The movement to become more sustainable has had effects on essentially all industries. From the use organic cotton in the clothing industry to the incorporation of recycled materials in the production of consumer goods, sustainability has become an aim for a number of companies. Price Waterhouse Cooper reports that,

University of Minnesota's First Annual "Food Day"

The U of M is holding their First Annual "Food Day" on October 24th. The aim of this event is to "...promote healthy and sustainable food for all." The event is free to attend, and begins at 9AM. Throughout the day there will be presentations by local food growers, cooking demonstrations, and a free screening of a locally produced documentary, "Dirty Work: The Story of Elsie's Farm" as a part of Flyway Film Festival in Stockholm, Wisconsin.

Eating with the Seasons

Last week I discussed "Community Supported Agriculture" and its benefits. In this second post I will discuss the advantages of "eating with the seasons." Living in America today, we as the consumer have a wide variety of food available to us. If you go to the grocery store you can essentially get any type of fruit or vegetable every day. This luxury is very costly, both to the consumer, the environment, and even the farmer or producer.

Community Supported Agriculture

In an age of increased concern for the environment, a desire to become more sustainable has sparked environmentally-conscious products for every facet of life. From electric cars to organic toothpaste, eco-friendly products have become a commodity. A relatively new concept called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), has gained in popularity in the US.

Where does waste go to in Minnesota?

Where does the majority of waste go in Minnesota? Is it in burn barrels, compost piles, landfills, recycling centers or waste-to-energy incinerators? In the Third Minnesota Report Card and Environmental Literacy study, only 5% of Minnesotan could answer this question. The answer is Recycling!!! The waste and recycling centers takes 41% of waste, landfills takes 35% of waste, waste to energy incinerators takes 20% of waste, burn barrels takes 3% of waste while composting takes 1% of waste.

How much energy are you using?

*Graphic by Dorit Chazin

I went home to try out a product called Kill-a-Watt, which measures energy consumption for electrical plug-in devices. I wanted to measure how much energy is consumed when appliances were plugged-in and when they were not. Part of my curiosity came from the term, phantom load, where energy is still being drawn when an appliance is plugged-in but not in use. A study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other global environmental agencies showed that phantom loads cost 10% of an average household’s monthly energy bill [represented in the graphic] ( It is recommended to unplug electrical outlets or switch-off power strips to prevent phantom loads.

Paper Use at MHS

graphic by Dorit Chazin

Plastic and Recycling

Much of our waste stream is now plastic. From food containers to packaging, and even the bag that holds our waste, plastic is a very common material in our everyday lives. As evidence of that, the waste stream in Minnesota is about 11% plastic. Further, of the 2,000,000 tons of recycling collected, only 2.32% is plastic. Thus, despite best efforts and a recycling rate of 50% in Minnesota, there is still a good amount of plastic making its way into the landfills and other waste processing facilities.

Minnesota Cafe Sustainability

Bon Appétit, also known as the Minnesota Café at the Minnesota History Center, is an industry leader in sustainable food practices for more than 20 years. Bon Appétit practices sustainability as a value and mission. The organization in food management, food sourcing, relationship building and customers’ education proves Bon Appétit to be a leader to other restaurants on what sustainability actually means. Michelle Kirkwold, the General Manager of Bon Appétit says, “Bon Appetit is the first company to really see a link between food choices and carbon emissions.” Sustainability to Bon Appétit is not a marketing tool but rather a belief of healthy foods and a healthy environment.

Photo of Michelle Kirkwood outside of the Minnesota Cafe

Image of Michelle Kirkwold in front of the Minnesota Cafe (picture taken by Kao Choua Vue)