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Posts Tagged ‘food crisis’

With less money to spend every month, many Americans are turning to coupons to stretch their food budget. Last weekend, I decided to join the ranks, and sat down at my kitchen table, armed with scissors and the two inserts from our Sunday paper. And started clipping away.

Coupons' Trap

I decided to separate the coupons into three piles:

Coupons that passed the test of my health conscious, green filter, and the only ones I may possibly use:

  • Minute Maid Juices, Lipton Teas, Stash Tea, EarthGrains Whole Wheat Bread, Tabasco – not a hundred percent sure about the EarthGrains Bread, I tried to check the ingredients online, without success -

The suspicious pile, coupons for products that won’t kill you, but all come with health/nutrition problems attached, to various degrees. Red flags such as too much salt, too much sugar, too much fat, GMO baggage, unnecessary packaging, radiation, pesticides, excessive processing, toxic eakage from plastic linings, added chemicals, grains stripped away from their wholeness, empty calories, fried potatoes, too much red meat:

  • Progresso Chicken Broth, Green Giant Frozen Vegetables, Star Olive Oil, Vinegar, and Olives, Mrs. Dash Seasoning Blend, Spice Islands Spices, Quaker Oatmeal, Fresh Express Pre-cut Salad, Del Monte Canned Fruit and Vegetables, Ragu Pasta Sauce, Skippy Peanut Butter, College Inn Broths and Stocks, Uncle Ben’s Long Grain and Wild Rice, Lawry’s Seasonings, Newman’s Dressings, Swiss Miss Cocoa, Bisquick Pancake Mix, Best Foods Mayonnaise, Pillsbury Dinner Rolls and Biscuits, Daisy Sour Cream, PoppyCock Nuts, Pam Spray, True North Nuts, Lipton Dinners, Kraft Salad Dressings, CountryCrock Cinnamon Apples, International House of Pancakes, Black Angus Steak House, Bakers Square Dinners, Betty Crocker Au Gratin Potatoes, Jell-O, Planters Nuts, C&H Sugar, Tyson Fully Cooked Bacon, Fiber One Toaster Pastries, Betty Crocker Cookie Mix, Quaker Chewy Granola Bars, Lee Kum Kee Sauces, Hillshire Farm Cocktail Links

The obviously junky bunch:

  • Betty Crocker Frosting, Cool-Whip, Big G Kid Cereals, Chuck E Cheese Pizza and Coca Cola Drinks, White Castle Microwavable Burgers, Reddi Whip, Entenmann’s Doughnuts, Hershey’s Chocolates, Kozy Schack Desserts, M&Ms

If I had any lingering doubts about the intentions of the food industry as a whole, this little exercise put them to rest. Coupons were not created with the interest of consumers in mind. Rather they are yet another marketing tactic from consumer packaged goods manufacturers to push their highly processed foods, regardless of their actual health benefit or lack thereof.

I say, let us not fall into the coupon trap, and seek instead, other, smarter ways to save, that won’t hurt our health.

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I saw the few raisins left behind, in their original Whole Foods plastic bag. Flashed to Green Guru, and imagined him going through the pain of retrieving each one, so that none would go to waste. Nah! Why bother? A few raisins in the garbage, did not measure up with the inconvenience of separating the plastic folds, unsticking the raisins, one at a time, and sliding them from the bag, into the jar. Out of sight, out of mind. The little raisins went into garbage oblivion.

The next day, I watched without saying a word, as Green Guru pulled out the dirty bag, and collected every single one of the five raisins I had forsaken, and sprinkled them on top of his breakfast.


I have been thinking about the five little raisins. Green Guru and I have different value sets, when it comes to managing resources.

My values: resources are abundant, my time is precious

Green Guru’s values: resources are scarce, someone else is hungry who could be eating those raisins

His come from being raised in India, a poverty stricken country. I, on the other hand come from France where food supply was never an issue.

As more and more people in the world, start competing for limited resources, it is clear that we, the folks in developed countries need to align more with Green Guru‘s values. Next, comes the question of how to make that shift?

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Faced with rising food prices, and shrinking wallets, citizens are becoming increasingly resourceful. Sunday’s Washington Post has an article on the unprecedented growth of home gardening in America. A $20 return in produce, for every dollar spent on seeds, is a hard number to ignore. Even I, whose nature did not bless with a green thumb, discovered the marvel of the homegrown vegetable patch.

Hubby Prad, also sometimes called Green Guru, tempers my enthusiasm with his usual cynicism. Prad thinks home gardening is not enough. And shares what he saw at the Honolulu Safeway yesterday. A family, obviously not rich, pushing a shopping cart filled with bottled water. That mother is just throwing away her already scarce resources on regular tap water, made to pass as a high price commodity. Shopping smart is an acquired skill, that many Americans lack. Knowing what to put and not put on one’s grocery list is as essential as looking for the best deals and clipping coupons.

We already knew Americans need to downsize, and not throw away their food. Now add to the list: home gardening, and ‘smart grocery listing‘.

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I was quite surprised after I returned from vacation, and found my vegetable patch, all replenished with new heads of lettuce. Could it be, I asked Prad? Yes, it’s true, you can keep on tearing off leaves and they grow back. 

 

Salad Patch

Salad Patch

 

Nature is truly Mother to us. No need to waste our paychecks on industrially grown salads, at the grocery store. Instead, better splurge on a few seeds and help with a bit of water every day. I’ve got my own salad factory in the backyard. 

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Chaos is scary. When faced with uncertainty and doom, our first reaction is to want to control. Imagine for a second, that we are still masters of the universe. And can, will whip our climate and other natural phenomena, into shape. Dammit!

Maybe now is the time, to stop deluding ourselves. Like the addicts that we are, shouldn’t we admit, finally, to our powerlessness. And embrace the reality that is being thrown at us. Oil, more and more elusive and out of our range. Food, no longer so abundant. Water, soon to become like gold. Bees refusing to pollinate.  Angry mobs rising all over, because life is not fair.

I imagine a future when we will be in charge of our destiny, again. Until then, let us surrender, and let go of our addiction.

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No trip to Paris without a stop at Berthillon, the sherbet place in Ile Saint-Louis. While waiting in line, I cannot believe the serving sizes. Were they this small last year? One scoop for two Euros, it better be good. In the US, for the same price, I would get a huge cup, oozing with overly sweet ‘scream’.  I am pleased, my modest wild strawberry sherbet is bursting with the intensity of 100% pure fruit flavor. I make sure I take the time to enjoy every tiny spoonful. Ahead of us, is a slow moving herd of American tourists, almost all suffering from various degrees of chronic overeating. Obesity in America is not news. Still, whenever I come back to France, I can’t help but noticing the contrast between Americans and the rest of the world:

I would not care, if obesity was a strictly personal matter. More and more, however, it has become a global threat, with Americans leading the offensive. Bestsellers such as Mireille Guiliano‘s “Why French women don’t get fat?“, or Michael Pollan‘s “In Defense of Food” are small blips in America’s awareness of its food problem. What to do? Should weight loss become a national initiative as in Japan?

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Earlier this week, Erik Hershman, co-founder of Ushahidi, presented his project to our Stanford Peace 2.0 group.

Talk about exciting stuff! Ushahidi is a brilliant example of smart web and mobile technology put to the service of a very worthwhile social cause, in this case violence in Kenya. What enthralled me, was Erik’s announcement of the soon to be released, Ushahidi 2.0, ‘a free, open source version, rebuilt from the ground up that anyone will be able to use around the world’. Ushahidi just won the 2008 NetSquared Challenge

I can very well see having several Ushahidi sites, to cover various aspects of the climate  crisis, from food, to water, to natural disasters, to the witnessing of environmental deterioration. This way, citizens from all over the world can become live witnesses of the negative changes taking place in their environment, and get connected with the solutions to remedy these changes. 

Erik is also the guy behind Afrigadget, another project well worth checking out. 

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