Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Food Labels: Local - Organic - Healthy - Sustainable

Consumers are bombarded with ads, labels, brands, logos and other food-related information. Some labels are accurate and others are simply a new twist on traditional snake oil sales techniques.

Across North America, Federal, Provincial, State and local governments are starting to address food labeling by drafting laws meant to protect consumers.

In the USA, no term is more vague than "organic". Decades after the term became popular, Federal agencies have failed to define the term or regulate its use.

When it comes to food labeling, several states have drafted regulations that pertain to use of food terms. In Maryland,  regulations related to the term "local" have been drafted by the state's Department of Agriculture (MDA). The policy seeks to clarify the definition of "local" for the state's consumers. After reviewing initial comments, MDA redrafted the regulations for 2011.

According to Secretary Hance: "With the increased interest in buying local and the current lack of agreement on defining local, we feel it is paramount that consumers have the information they need to make informed decisions about their food purchases..."

The law authorizes the Secretary to regulate the use of the terms "local" or "locally grown" when used to advertise agricultural and seafood products. The new regulations will affect labeling for raw meat, eggs, fish, fruits, vegetables, shellfish and processed dairy products.

source: MDA

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

2011 Home Farming Day

On April 12, 2011, Home Farming Day was held to kick off the beginning of the home gardening season. The event was orchestrated by Triscuit Crackers, non-profit Urban Farming and cities across the country including Denver, Washington, DC and Minneapolis.

As part of the project, a "Plant-a-thon" was held in New York City's Madison Square Park where people were invited to "plant and learn" and join the "Home Farming" movement.

At the event, Triscuit and non-profit Urban Farming unveiled plans for 65 community-based home farms in 20 U.S. cities in 2011, including five home farms to be grown at low-income housing subsidiaries. These farms, located in urban areas, will provide local residents with greater access to more nutritious and healthier foods, consistent with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) mission of creating more sustainable and diverse communities.

The "Home Farming" movement celebrates delicious, fresh and simple foods. However, people in some areas lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables for to a number of reasons.  These areas are often referred to as 'food deserts.'

Triscuit and Urban Farming will be working with The Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) and the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) to develop five community-based home farms at low-income housing facilities to help alleviate this problem and provide residents with more food options.

Community leaders also plan to use the farms as teaching tools to broaden education about healthier eating. This topic is aligned with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) work to help underserved communities, where there is little or no access to the food needed to maintain a healthy diet.

About Urban Farming

Urban Farming's mission is to create an abundance of food for people in need by planting, supporting and encouraging the establishment of gardens on unused land and space while increasing diversity, raising awareness for health and wellness, inspiring and educating 4 youth, adults and seniors to create an economically sustainable system to uplift communities around the globe. For more information, visit www.urbanfarming.org

source: PR Newswire

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Gulf of Maine Responsibly Harvested Seafood

The Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) recently announced its new Gulf of Maine Responsibly Harvested program. The Responsibly Harvested logo was created to help consumers recognize seafood from the Gulf of Maine region that meet criteria for responsible harvesting.

According to GMRI, the logo will initially be seen on cod, haddock, lobster, and northern shrimp products from the Gulf of Maine region at Hannaford and other retail stores.

Additional fisheries are under assessment and more seafood products are expected to be included in the program in the coming year.

source: GMRI

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Where to Buy Locally Sourced Foods

In the USA, finding high quality, locally sourced food is no easy task. Consumers often have to rely on word of mouth as small providers lack the resources to promote their products.

Complicating the issue are a host of trade factors, such as supply and demand cycles. Most locally sourced foods become available seasonally and often involve a period of high supply which can lead to gluts in the market and dropping prices.

For consumers, this can mean excellent opportunities to buy high quality foods in bulk. Taking advantage of these periods involves being ready when a window of opportunity opens and knowing how to transport, process and store food.

At the community level, this often means a high level of networking, information sharing, collective purchasing and old fashioned cooperative efforts.

Small, locally owned farms and orchards are sometimes good sources for high quality fruits and vegetables. Other businesses may offer niche products such as organic produce, honey, cheeses, wines, grass fed beef, free range poultry or other foods.

In many states, local fisheries exist. These are most abundant along the coasts although some freshwater fisheries exist. In addition to wild caught seafood, some areas have local harvests of farm raised fish or shellfish.

Festivals are sometimes held which coincide with local harvests. Most events offer a wide range of products as well as gifts and other items which relate to the main source of celebration.

Farmer's markets, flea markets and swap meets are sometimes good sources of local foods. Getting to knowing vendors can be especially rewarding as many vendors are also the primary producer. Often small farm owners or food specialists are eager to explain their products and offer advice on when to find the best prices and highest quality goods.