Archive for the ‘FRESH Ideas’ Category

Posted on June 18, 2013 - by

In Organic We Trust…But Should We?

When savvy shoppers like us buy food, we often look for the “organic” label, since these products are the ones that are the most sustainable, ecofriendly and nutritious for us. Or are they? What does “organic” really mean, and does it deserve the trust that we place in it? Recently, the FRESH team was inspired by a new documentary from director Kip Pastor called In Organic We Trust to think about these questions and more. Below, we’re sharing some tips on how to understand the organic label. In addition, we’re excited to offer the In Organic We Trust DVD at a specially discounted rate of $18.99 for a limited time. Read on to find out more!

What Organic Means:

  • USDA Certification: The organic label means that the ingredients came from producers who were certified by the USDA as upholding organic standards.
  • Limited Pesticides: Organic produce is grown without synthetic and persistent pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Eating organic produce is a good way to reduce your exposure to these chemicals.
  • GMO Free: Organic foods do not include genetically-modified ingredients.
  • No Irradiation: Organic produce has not been exposed to irradiation, an ionizing radiation treatment used to kill foodborne pathogens and reduce spoilage.

What Organic Doesn’t Mean:

  • Small Scale Producer: Unfortunately, food conglomerates have realized that premium prices equals larger profits, and they have bought many formerly independent organic operations. Many organic brands are in fact subsidiaries of larger mainstream companies, such as Kashi and Kellogg’s, or Muir Glen and General Mills.
  • Locally Sourced: Much of the organic produce at your supermarket probably comes from CA, while the small scale farms in your community may be local, but not certified organic.
  • Fair Labor Practices: An organic farm can be staffed by exploited workers who suffer poor pay and lack benefits. The Fair Trade label certifies that the food was produced by workers who were fairly compensated, but these requirements are not part of the organic standards.
  • No Additives: If the product is not labeled “100% organic,” up to 5% can be composed of the 100+ non-organic additives allowed by the National List. Many of the additives are included because no organic substitute is available or for economic reasons, and while not all of them are harmful, the list does include items like cellulose (indigestible wood pulp) and carrageenan (linked to intestinal inflammation and colon cancer).

The Bottom Line:

  • Know Your Farmer: Just because your local farmer hasn’t had the time or funding to get organic certification doesn’t mean they aren’t running a sustainable operation. It may be better to buy from someone you know and trust over an unknown, large scale organic farm elsewhere.
  • Organic Still Means Something: While the label may not encompass all that we would hope, the organic standards are still a good start to differentiating the types of farms and producers we want to support. Remember that the label “natural” is unregulated and doesn’t mean anything, while “organic” does require adherence to regulations.
  • Dirty Dozen: Maybe you don’t have the budget or the availability to buy only organic products. In that case, carry the Dirty Dozen card in your wallet or store it on your phone. This lists the top fruits and vegetables that carry the highest levels of pesticide residues. Strive to purchase organic versions of these foods where possible.

If you’d like to learn more about the facts behind the organic label, we highly recommend the film In Organic We Trust, which explores these issues.

Check out the trailer and purchase the film here:

Ideas? Suggestions? Leave us a comment below with your thoughts on organic labeling and organic certification!

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Or, copy and paste the following text into Twitter: In Organic We Trust…But Should We? A guide and a new film on organic labeling! @FRESHthemovie


Posted on October 7, 2012 - by

This Conventional Farmer Wants GMO Labeling

Troy Roush is an Indiana farmer who raises GMO (genetically modified organism) soy and corn crops. He was featured in the documentary Food, Inc. and in this fabulous video from Fix Food, his message is clear: Let’s provide GMO labeling and give people the right to choose what kind of food they want. Then the market will decide what’s in demand and what farmers will produce. Labeling is a win-win for farmers and consumers. It’s as simple as that.

This November, we can make monumental changes in the way we eat. California has introduced Proposition 37 to require the mandatory labeling of GMO (genetically modified organism) foods. If it passes, this would be a landmark victory for those who believe we should be able to know what’s in our food. Poll after poll has consistently shown that the vast majority of Americans want GMO labeling. For years though, the food industry and government regulators have refused to give us that knowledge.

Now the tables have turned. If you vote in CA, will you take a stand for the freedom to choose what you eat? Can you help spread the word to your friends and family in CA, and let them know about the importance of voting for Prop 37? If you don’t vote in CA, you can still make a difference by sending a letter to your local representatives. Tell them you support GMO labeling, and you want to see this legislation enacted in your state. Even if just one state begins mandating GMO labeling, this will create a ripple effect of change throughout the country, as manufacturers retool their packaging nationwide.

Click here to send a letter to your local representatives!

For more info on why GMOs are a threat, check out our article “What You Don’t Know About GMOs CAN Hurt You.” Want to avoid GMOs even without mandated labeling? See our tip on how to steer clear of GMOs.


Posted on June 19, 2012 - by

How to Store Produce Without Plastic

At this time of the year, your kitchen is probably full of strawberries, tomatoes and sweet corn, the abundant pleasures of summer produce. In fact, between farmers markets, CSA shares and our gardens, sometimes it’s hard to know where to store all those fruits and vegetables, especially if you’re trying to avoid using plastic bags. So, we were thrilled to discover a handy list of storage tips from the Berkeley Farmers Market. Take a look at these ideas for creative and waste-free ways to extend the life of your produce, in and out of the refrigerator.

  • Asparagus—Place the upright stalks loosely in an glass or bowl with water at room temperature. Will keep for a week outside the fridge.
  • Basil—Difficult to store well. Basil does not like to be cold or wet. The best method here is an airtight container/jar loosely packed with a small damp piece of paper inside, left out on a cool counter.
  • Beets—Cut the tops off to keep beets firm, and be sure to keep the greens! Leaving any top on root vegetables draws moisture from the root, making them loose flavor and firmness. Beets should be washed and kept in an open container with a wet towel on top.
  • Beet greens—Place in an airtight container with a little moisture from a damp cloth.
  • Berries—Don’t forget, they’re fragile. When storing, stack them in a single layer, if possible, in a paper bag. Wash right before you plan on eating them.
  • Carrots—Cut the tops off to keep them fresh longer. Place them in closed container with plenty of moisture, either wrapped in a damp towel or dunk them in cold water every couple of days if they’re stored that long.
  • Corn—Leave unhusked in an open container if you must, but corn really is best the day it’s picked.
  • Greens—Remove any bands, twist ties, etc. Most greens must be kept in an air‐tight container with a damp cloth to keep them from drying out. Kale, collard greens, and chard do well in a cup of water on the counter or fridge.
  • Melons—Keep uncut in a cool dry place, out of the sun for up to a couple weeks. Cut melons should be in the fridge; an open container is fine.
  • Peaches (and most stone fruit)—Refrigerate only when fully ripe. Firm fruit will ripen on the counter.
  • Rhubarb—Wrap in a damp towel and place in an open container in the refrigerator.
  • Strawberries—Don’t like to be wet. Do best in a paper bag in the fridge for up to a week. Check the bag for moisture every other day.
  • Sweet peppers—Only wash them right before you plan on eating them as wetness decreases storage time. Store in a cool room to use in a couple of days, place in the crisper if longer storage is needed.
  • Tomatoes—Never refrigerate. Depending on ripeness, tomatoes can stay for up to two weeks on the counter. To hasten ripeness, place in a paper bag with an apple.
  • Zucchini—Does fine for a few days if left out on a cool counter, even after cut. Wrap in a cloth and refrigerate for longer storage.

For the full list of storage tips, see the handout from the Berkeley Farmers Market. Have storage tips of your own to share? Leave a comment with your ideas below!


Posted on January 21, 2012 - by

Don’t Be Fooled by Fish Fraud, It’s More Common Than You Think

The following article comes from Justin Boevers, Development & Outreach Manager at FishChoice.

The “Mystery Fish” story in December’s edition of Consumer Reports Magazine shed further light on an important issue – the widespread mislabeling of seafood. This particular study found that nearly 50% of seafood tested in the New England area was incorrectly labeled. This is not the first study of its kind. Three years ago, the “Imposter Fish” article was published in Conservation Magazine summarizing the efforts of eight students from Stanford who collected 77 samples and found that 60% were incorrectly labeled.

Why is this epidemic happening? First, certain fish command a premium price in the market and pawning off a less valuable species as a higher demand item is a big profit. Secondly, it’s easy. Fish lose most of their distinguishing characteristics during processing and because average seafood consumption is low and a lot of seafood is prepared with value-added elements, it is difficult for most consumers to know if the seafood they are eating is the same product as labeled or advertised.

Oceana, an organization leading the way on addressing the issue of “fish fraud” summarizes some of the main problems the epidemic of seafood mislabeling causes:

  • Food Safety – the actual seafood species may contain contaminants that might not be expected of the species identified on the label.
  • Undermines Choice – consumers trying to make responsible seafood choices are prevented from doing so when what they buy according to the label doesn’t match the fish inside.
  • Abundance Confusion – consumers get mixed messages when they hear that certain fish are no longer abundant, but see these species’ names on mislabeled menus and packaging.
  • Most common types of seafood that have been identified as mislabeled:

    • Farmed salmon being sold as wild salmon
    • Imported farmed shrimp being sold as wild, domestic shrimp
    • Tilapia being sold as red snapper, especially in sushi
    • Catfish and pangasius being sold as flounders and groupers

    What can you do?

    • Learn about the fish you like to eat. Learn the scientific name and the marketing names, the seasonality of the fish, what fish may be able to be passed off as the species in question, and eat it enough to know how it tastes differently than similar fish.
    • Ask your waiter or seafood counter staff about where the fish is from and how it was caught. If they know how, where and when it was caught, then feel confident that it is correctly labeled.
    • Request the species, origin and fishing/farming method be voluntarily displayed on menus, seafood cases, and packaging. Only those that are completely confident that their seafood is what they say it is will put it out there for all the world to see.

    Do you have more questions or thoughts to share on the subject of fish fraud? Leave a comment below!

    Justin Boevers is the Outreach and Development Manager for Justin helps small and medium-sized business understand the issues around sustainable seafood and helps them find responsible sources. FishChoice is a nonprofit that runs a free, B2B website connecting businesses that buy or sell sustainable seafood. You can follow FishChoice on Twitter and like their facebook page to stay up to speed on sustainable seafood issues and developments.


    Posted on November 21, 2011 - by

    Bring Your Own Plate and Other Green Party Ideas

    Though your neighborhood may be blanketed with white snow, the holiday season is actually one of the best opportunities you have to go green. After all, your holiday gala can serve as a role model for green, resource-efficient practices. We’ve put together some tips and tricks to guide your planning:

    1. Buy local and seasonal. Skip those rock-hard supermarket tomatoes and venture to your local farmers market or natural foods grocery instead for locally farmed, seasonal foods. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the late harvest abundance of squashes, root vegetables, cooking greens and apples. See for a market near you.
    2. Skip (some of) the meat. Raising conventional livestock requires large amounts of fuel, pesticides and fertilizers, making the process a major contributor to greenhouse gases. You don’t have to make your holiday meal vegetarian, but it is worth considering whether you can move from meatcentric dishes to ones that feature smaller amounts of meat as a seasoning. Think sausage crumbles, not steaks. If you do buy meat, purchase from reputable farmers for flavorful meats that are free of antibiotics, growth hormones and E.coli.
    3. Drink local. Consider getting wine from a local, organic winery, with less pesticide intensive viticulture methods. Or, support our nation’s growing craft brewing industry by picking up beer from a local brewery.
    4. Dust off the china and glasses. One of the biggest generators of waste at holiday parties is the use of disposable cups and silverware. Though it’s definitely easier to throw everything away, you’ll find that with a couple volunteers to help you wash dishes or load the dishwasher, everything will be rinsed and dried in no time flat. If you don’t want to buy additional dishes, consider asking each guest to BYOP, or bring your own plate, along with a glass and fork. That way, you will have plenty of dishes to go around, and the dirty ones will go home with their owners!
    5. Organize the leftovers. Once the meal is finished, don’t let it sit idle. Encourage guests to dispose of their scraps in a compost collection. Leftover should be packed or frozen and used for future meals. If there is too much for you to handle, the food should be redistributed for guests to take home. Ask people to bring a container with them, so that they can tote a piece of the dinner home at the end of the night.
    6. Give gifts that grow and inspire. Consider spreading the magic of real food culture through a hands-on cheesemaking kit or a homebrewing kit. Or share your favorite cookbook of culinary fundamentals. A seasonal produce calendar can be a fun reminder of what to anticipate next year at the farmers markets. Seed packets are a cheap and creative way to help develop a green thumb. You can also give postcards or greeting cards that have seeds embedded inside the paper, and can be planted after being read.
    7. Use wrapping “paper” that lasts. Skip the wrapping paper for a practical and stylish alternative. Try using reusable tote bags or light scarves. Reuse old maps, the comic pages from newspapers, and sheet music. If you do have a heap of discarded wrapping paper at the end of the night, be sure to recycle it, along with any other cans and bottles.

    Have additional ideas for sustainable dinner parties? Leave a comment below!


    Posted on October 4, 2011 - by

    Reverse Trick or Treating for Fair Trade!

    Halloween is on the way, along with leaf piles, carved Jack-o-lanterns and candy-fueled sugar highs. For parents who would like to provide more healthful offerings though, there are alternatives to the usual mass market, preservative-laden sweets. One innovative program we like is Reverse Trick or Treating to support Fair Trade. Intrigued? Read on for additional tips on how to make trick-or-treating an eco-conscious experience while still having fun.

    1. Stock natural and organic candies. Look for treats made with cane sugar, fruit juice and natural colors.
    2. Or, skip the candy entirely. Opt for popcorn packets, granola bars and fruit. Consider giving away non-food items like seed envelopes, crayons and stickers.
    3. Raise awareness of Fair Trade through Reverse Trick or Treating. Sign up by Oct. 11 to receive a kit with 15 Fair Trade chocolates and informational cards that your child can pass out to others. This is a fantastic way to get the message out about the exploitation of laborers working in the cocoa industry.
    4. Bring a reusable tote bag. Lug your goodies home in a canvas bag, rather than a disposable plastic one that is destined to end up in a landfill.
    5. Make your own costume. Modern costumes are flimsy, designed for one-time use, and are often lined with PVC and other plastics. Instead, create a unique fashion statement by scavenging items from your closet or a local thrift store.

    Do you have more suggestions on how to green your Halloween? Share your ideas and leave a comment below!

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    Posted on September 26, 2011 - by

    Got a Brandywine Beauty? Save the Seeds!

    A lovely tomato from a FRESH supporter’s garden

    Perfectly ripe heirlooms in a perfumed cascade of colors—who doesn’t love a juicy summer tomato? Little wonder that the French nickname these beauties pommes d’amour, or “apples of love.” As the weather gets cooler, the last of this year’s harvest is coming to an end. However, you can still reap the benefits of a bountiful crop next year by saving the seeds. Here are some tips on how to harvest seeds from tomatoes so that you can enjoy them once again.

    1. Take a fully ripened tomato and cut it in half. Scoop or squeeze out the seeds and juice into a small, labeled container. If done carefully, the tomato itself can be saved for eating, sun-drying or canning.
    2. Add a little water to the container so that the seeds can float, then loosely cover it and set it in a warm place for 3-5 days where the odor will not bother you. Stir or swirl the mixture once or twice a day. The seeds will ferment and mold will grow at the surface. This mold is your friend; it eats the gelatinous coat around the seeds that stops germination. It also produces antibiotics that prevent disease.
    3. The viable, mature seeds will sink to the bottom. Pour off the excess water and solids at the top. Add more water and repeat this step until the seeds are clean and the water being poured off is almost clear.
    4. Spread the seeds onto a paper towel or plate and let them dry for 1-3 days. Keep them away from direct sunlight. Stir them to make sure they do not dry in clumps.
    5. Store the seeds in a dark, cool place in an airtight container. Don’t forget to label them with the name, variety and date you saved them!

    Do you have tips on how to harvest and save seeds from your garden? Share your ideas and leave a comment below!

    By the way, if you have ever wondered why supermarket tomatoes taste like cardboard, check out our review of Tomatoland. This new book discusses the seedy underbelly of Florida’s industrial tomato industry, and its environmental and social costs. It’s a must-read for anyone who has eaten or plans to eat a tomato.

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