What’s all this talk about food?

If you went to the UUA’s General Assembly in Charlotte, NC last year you may have been present for (or watched via live-streaming) the heart-felt debate and vote for the 2011 Statement on Conscious Ethical Eating: Food and Environmental Justice.

If you’re involved in Unitarian Universalist Association issues you may have been aware of th3 2008-2012 Congregational Study Action Issue: Ethical Eating.

If you’ve been in the market for food you may have seen an increase in “CSAs,” “farmers markets,” “organic gardens,” “community gardens,” “sustainable gardens” etc.

If you’ve been to a store you may have noticed the increase of “sustainable,” “organic,” “green,” “natural,” “GMO-free,” etc products.

Or maybe you’ve just recognized that people are talking about food a lot more today than they were say 10-20 years ago.  Saturday, the New York Times published the article “The Myth of Sustainable Meat.”

So the topic of food seems to be everywhere. Yes, we eat everyday, and I’d contend that most of people in the middle-to-upper class in the USA did little thinking about how the food they ate everyday affected others. Climate Change is impacting our planet’s ability to produce food and there are a whole other list of issues that are impacting the World’s Food Economy.

Rev. Peter Morales, the Unitarian Universalist Association’s President, has appointed a President’s Advisory Council on Ethical Eating.  This appointment demonstrates a commitment on the part of the UUA to follow-through with the SOC: Ethical Eating.  I highly encourage folks to check out the Ethical Eating website on UUA.org to learn more about the community the that is flowing from this creation and our continued dedication to this important subject.

If you’ve exhausted the resources on the Ethical Eating website and want to bring the subject back to your congregation you may want to investigate using one of the Nortwest Earth Institute‘s discussion courses: Hungry for Change and Menu for the Future.  While Hungry for Change is a newer curriculum, Menu for the Future has been used over the past several years by many UU congregations.  These curricula are helpful in educating people to thoughtfully about Ethical Eating.

This year Earth Day falls on Sunday, April 22nd.  If your congregation is planning on celebrating Earth Day please consider reporting your community’s action to the UU Ministry for Earth


First Universalist Church of Denver – A Green Sanctuary!

Making great use of this endeavor as an opportunity for community building both between church members and between the church and other community organizations, First Universalist Church of Denver got busy! They utilized the project to unite the efforts of various ministries in the church.  To quote from their application, “The Green Sanctuary Program has been a catalyst for uniting and involving more of our members in a common goal….the Earth, our Home is an issue that…can bond our members together.”  A perfect example of their inter-committee collaboration is their What A Wednesday (WAW) dinner featuring seasonally available local and organic vegetables sponsored by their Green First and Hospitality Committees.

Tree planting excursion

Not only did they unite their membership around a common goal, they collaborated with other local groups as well.  First Universalist Church of Denver became a CSA pick-up site for Grant Family Farms, a family-owned organic farm 70 miles from the church.  Grant Family Farms participated in church-sponsored eco-fairs where another organization, Agriburbia, demonstrated how to transform grass lawns into edible gardens.  Partnering with Trout Unlimited for river restoration and Groundwork Denver for energy efficiency, they provided information at their weekly coffee hour. Over 100 members flocked to their annual Rex Morgan Social Justice Awards to hear keynote speaker Peter Sawtell, Director of Eco-Justice Ministries deliver his motivating eco-theology speech.

They took the Green Sanctuaries Program to the streets, too.  Several members, trained through Groundwork Denver to perform energy audits, volunteered their services in low income neighborhood and participated in a door-to-door environmental canvass, swapping out incandescent bulbs for CFL’s and sign people up for recycling, free trees, and free weatherizing services.  Collaborations were also established with Feed Denver, an organization committed to empowering people to feed and sustain themselves via urban agriculture, a partnership that holds promise for further development.

First Universalist Church of Denver took the ball and ran for a touchdown, giving their membership a sense of common purpose and a boost of energy.  The process of achieving certification is ideally a process of building community; it is inspiring to see the potential realized so beautifully by our fellow UU’s.

Hayward Community Gardens + Starr King UU Church

Starr King UU Church in Hayward, CA partnered with Hayward Community Gardens to help low income immigrant families use plots to grow their food in a variety of ways.

One of the first ways that they got involved with Hayward Community Gardens was  Renee & Darryl Ray, Starr King members, taught a composting workshop on April 25, 2009 for the community gardens.  At the workshop they were able to give out water timers and 20 Biostack composting bins due to a donation from the City and StopWaste.org.  Interpreters were there for the Spanish speaking community.  Starr King also got donations of 150 tomato plants from a local organic farmer. Sandy Frost, a Hayward Community Garden board member and volunteer helped to organize the workshop as well as supplying a wonderful local food spread.  Because the workshop was so successful, it was offered again in May and August of 2009.

Starr King participated in two volunteer workdays in 2010.  The first workday they helped to measure each of the 200+ plots to help determine what each member should pay for their plots.  The second work day, strong workers helped to build big compost piles.  With manure donations, clipped leaves and branches from their property and bales of straw, workers built three compost piles. The compost has helped to enrich soil, save water and improve crops. (more…)

Arlington Community Garden started by UU Church of Jacksonville

Update from Lynne Paradise, COC Chair and Arlington Community Garden Project Manager, former Green Sanctuary Chair at UUCJ

“In October of 2009 the Green Sanctuary Committee of Unitarian Universalist Church of Jacksonville (UUCJ) applied for a grant to build an organic vegetable garden for the Arlington Community at Tree Hill Nature Center. The application stated that UUCJ would build the garden, manage it with volunteers from the church, and offer both educational classes and fun community events in order to educate the community about the environmental importance of local/organic foods, teach interested individuals how to garden, and enhance the spirit of community in Arlington.

Tree Hill agreed to partner with us on this project offering the use of their land, water, and expertise.  Members of both Boards (UUCJ and Tree Hill) signed off on the project, and in March of 2010 we were told that we were being awarded a grant of $18,886 to achieve our goals. Everything, however, had to be completed in 6 months.

UUCJ rose to the challenge and everyone hit the deck running. Volunteers were recruited to manage the garden (“Garden Organizers”), to manage the grant and act as the garden Board (Garden Steering Committee), and a team of community advisors consisting of organizers of successfully operating community gardens and a landscape architect were tapped. Meetings took place at least weekly, often twice a week. By August of 2010 the garden was built and ready for business. A Grand Opening was held for the community that included several local dignitaries and reporters from The Times Union. At the ceremony the garden received an award of excellence from Slow Foods, an organization that educates the public about the importance of local foods and healthy eating. (more…)

Faith-in-Action Community Nutrition Project – Binghamton, NY

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Binghamton (UUCB) in NY has had an ongoing commitment with the Sarah Jane Johnson United Methodist Church to help them provide weekly hot meals to about 125 people in need.

UUCB provides salad once every month in order to keep the meals more nutritious.  They use locally grown produce when practical during the growing season.  Starting in 2010, they also rented a plot at a nearby community garden and have used it to grow lettuce and other vegetables for the salads.

UUCB reports that this has been their most rewarding project.  “It is a great way for us to form connections with each other, another church in our area, people in need, and people involved with our local community gardens.”

UUCB was accredited as a Green Sanctuary on September 1, 2010.  Check out the full list of accredited Green Sanctuaries at the UUA website

“That’s My Farmer” program – Corvallis, OR

The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Corvallis (UUFC) in Oregon joined with nine other Corvallis faith communities in a farm market coupon program called “That’s MY Farmer.”  This program, coordinated by the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, offers coupon booklets for sale to be used at several local farms and farmers markets.  Ten percent of the purchase price is a donation to generate coupons for needy families in the community.  The donated coupons are distributed to low-income families/individuals through local gleaner programs and food pantries.  The purchased and donated coupons are used in lieu of cash for the purchase of fresh, local (often organic) offerings at local farms and farmers markets – about a dozen local small-scale farms participate in this project.

This program links local farmers offering fresh, healthy (often organic) produce, fruit, meat, cheese and some baked goods with low-income families and individuals who would likely not be able to purchase these offerings due to somewhat higher costs associated with products offered by small-scale farmers and vendors.  Low-income families and individuals connecting directly with small-scale, local farmers are receiving the ripest, most nutrient-rich products available rather than industrial-scale or picked-green, pre-packaged, well-travelled products that are likely the only products offered at most grocery stories.

UUFC was accredited as a Green Sanctuary on July 28, 2010.  Check out the full list of accredited Green Sanctuaries at the UUA website

Living Out the Commitment – Saco + Biddeford

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Saco and Biddeford in Maine (UUCSB) became an accredited Green Sanctuary on December 15, 2005.  But their commitment towards environmental stewardship didn’t stop there!  On June 9, 2010 their application for re-accreditation candidacy was accepted by a Green Sanctuary review team.

They have focused their efforts on three themes:

  • global warming
  • energy efficiency
  • local, organic and vegetarian food
Members making inside storm mounted windows

They secured a grant from Interfaith Power and Light to install doors to block heated air from escaping upstairs into unheated space, raised money for a new Energy Star refrigerator, installed on-demand water heaters, opted for low-flow toilets and “green” flooring in remodeled bathrooms, and learned how to make inside storm mounted windows built on a wooden frame with 2 layers of shrink-wrapped plastic which have been installed in the Parish Hall, offices, classrooms, and congregant houses (they have made 116 to-date).

For three years running they have hosted a Simply Living series of film and discussion. They wrote and adopted a sustainability policy. And engaged members in the Congregational Study Action Issue – Ethical Eating: Food and Environmental Justice for 2008-2012 through book discussion groups, films, a listing of local, organic and vegetarian food sources, and Sunday services.

Now, UUCSB has a new Action Plan with new projects that they plan to complete by July 2011 when they will apply for Re-Accreditation. We are excited that UUCSB has decided to engage in the Green Sanctuary Re-Accreditation process and we look forward to hearing about their progress.

Living Out the Commitment – Morristown, NJ

MUF fieldtrip to learn abiout solar panels

Morristown Unitarian Fellowship (MUF) in New Jersey became an accredited Green Sanctuary on December 28, 2001.  But their commitment towards environmental stewardship didn’t stop there!  On March 10, 2010 their application for re-accreditation candidacy was accepted by a Green Sanctuary review team.

MUF formed task a forces and was actively involved in the then Study Action Issue, now 2006 Statement of Conscience Threat of Global Warming/Climate Change .  More recently they have tackled the Congregational Study Action Issue Ethical Eating: Food and Environmental Justice for 2008-2012 by engaging in the  Northwest Earth Institute course Menu for the Future,  participating in an Earth Dinner featuring local foods and provocative discussions about ethical eating, creating a lay-led service “Eating Locally, Thinking Globally, ” and most recently exploring ways to reduce the amount of solid waste produced in serving at the Morristown Community Soup Kitchen.

MUF Tree give away

As the congregation is out-growing their current building they have developed and adopted a Statement of Intent Regarding Sustainable Practices, towards a MUF Policy on Sustainable Practices: “MUF’s Green Road Map.”

And that’s just a small, quick overview of the many environmental activities they’ve been engaged in since accreditation. Now, MUF has a new Action Plan with new projects that they plan to complete by July 2011 when they will apply for Re-Accreditation.

We are excited that MUF has decided to engage in the Green Sanctuary Re-Accreditation process and we look forward to hearing about their progress.

Children’s Books with Healthy Eating Themes – Review

Looking for books that help teach children how to eat healthy? I have found a number of books specifically geared towards children that address this topic. While there are, I’m sure, many other books that address this topic I found the following five books to be particularly well written, creative, and interesting.

In the Garden by Leslie Bockol
This book, geared toward children ages 3-6, teaches children the process of growing fruits and vegetables and introduces them to a variety of different fruits and vegetables that can grown in a garden. The art that accompanies this short and easy-to-read book is also lovely and would be quite enjoyable for a young child. Additionally, there is a page of gardening tips and recipes for a parent reading this book to a child.