Letters to the editor, April 2009

This article was originally published in April 2009

From farms to food banks

Your March [2009] cover article by Stephen Bramwell, A rowdy year in agriculture, stated that in the current economic climate sustainable agriculture programs are forced to compete with emergency food programs for funding. At the federal level that’s unfortunately been true. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Local farms and local food bank networks are part of the same local food system and can support each other. In a successful local agricultural economy, farms can supply healthy fresh fruits and vegetables to food bank clients AND be helped to succeed as local businesses.

Last year’s Washington state Local Farms — Healthy Kids legislation started the ball rolling. A coalition of environmental and hunger relief organizations helped create the Farms to Food Banks Program in the bill that was passed.

Farms to Food Banks this year issued contracts to four emergency food systems around the state, including one with Food Lifeline in Seattle, to purchase food from local King, Snohomish and Clallam County farms to distribute to 29 Seattle food banks.

Food bank clients this spring, summer and fall will be enjoying seasonal greens, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, summer squash, melons, pears and plums from Full Circle, Oxbow, Willie Green’s, Nash’s Organics, and Clean Greens Farms. The long-range goal is to learn how to structure relationships successfully and cost-effectively between the food bank network and local farms that support both parties.

It won’t happen in one growing season but the ground is being tilled for a sustainable partnership.
— Tim Bernthal, Farms to Food Banks Program Coordinator, Wash. State Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development

Fair Trade tea

Thank you for stocking the Equal Exchange Fair Trade Certified Organic English Breakfast Tea. I’m so happy! I finally have found a delicious tea that is reasonably priced, organic and even fairly traded! Wow! I love the beautiful blue packaging, too.
— Karen England

Domestic v. imported food

When I was last at PCC View Ridge I found bulk organic black beans labeled as grown in the USA. I am so happy to be able to buy my black beans at the co-op again. Thank you, PCC.
— Irene Holroyd

Editor’s note: Thank you for noticing! Our new bulk food signs now do identify the country of origin on single ingredient bulk foods. We base the signage on information received quarterly from our supplier. As much as we prefer U.S. grown (we still hope a Washington state farmer will grow black beans for us), the short supply means organic black beans still may come from Bolivia or China at times.

High fructose corn syrup

I’m writing to seek clarification about the News Bite High Fructose Corn Syrup Contains Mercury in the March [2009] Sound Consumer. The last line before the source (Washington Post) says PCC has no products containing high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Does this mean the Washington Post article mentions PCC?

I do very much enjoy reading the Sound Consumer. I find the News Bites particularly meaty.
— Name withheld on request

Editor replies: The Washington Post did not mention PCC in its report about mercury in HFCS. I added PCC’s policy for the reader’s benefit.

GM corn

Barbara’s Bakery uses corn in some of its products yet the boxes don’t say anything about using non-GMO corn (no genetically modified organisms in the corn). Do you know anything about Barbara’s Bakery corn supply?
— Beth McKelvey, Seattle

Editor replies: Barbara’s Bakery makes some foods with some certified organic ingredients but its corn and corn meal are not identified on package labels as non-GMO nor as certified organic. We called the company directly to inquire and a food specialist acknowledged their corn probably is genetically modified (GM) since it’s not designated otherwise. Approximately 73 percent of the U.S. corn crop is GM.

Toxic rhubarb greens

As we all know, rhubarb greens are toxic and cause food poisoning (mine included). For years I’ve asked PCC produce managers to trim the greens from the rhubarb on sale. Responses range from “Yes, okay” (not followed by action) to “Our shoppers know about rhubarb greens and won’t eat them.”

PCC has introduced me to many healthful greens over the years. I think that, like me, members assume PCC would not sell us anything poisonous and like to try new foods. We need rhubarb to be trimmed green-free!
— Anne Thureson, Renton

Editor’s note: Rhubarb greens are indeed potentially toxic. So are the stems and leaves of others in the nightshade family, including tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and peppers. One never should eat their leaves or stems either. The very ends are left on to maintain the integrity of the food until you get it home.

FDA unable to protect food supply?

I laughed out loud when I read the March [2009] News Bite, FDA unable to protect food supply? especially with the three briefs that followed (Ban reversed on antibiotics for animals, FDA approves first drug from GM animals, and Animal clones in the food supply.)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hardly has our nation’s best health and wellness as its primary focus. If it did, it never would allow lab-produced chemicals such as aspartame and sucralose in our food supply. Nor would it allow “foods” to be called food that are anything but, nor allow petroleum fertilizers and chemicals to douse GMO-planted fields.

The FDA panders to whoever has the most money to woo it, plain and simple. It’s shameful what it allows in our food supply and medicine cabinets in the name of “health.” Our health and wellness aren’t in foods and drugs in a package or a bottle.
— Nancy L. Jerominski, NLJ Fitness & Wellness Consulting

Bisphenol A and baby bottles

I attend Seattle University and am doing a research project for one of my classes where we are analyzing the cost and benefits of bisphenol A (BPA), the pros and cons. I’ve heard your stores no longer sell baby bottles with BPA and I’m hoping you can tell me why.

We’re trying to make an actual list of all the benefits and costs. I understand this is very specific but any information that is relevant to the decision not to sell BPA baby bottles would be useful. Thank you very much!
— Katie Carey

Editor replies: Studies have implicated bisphenol A (BPA), an estrogen-like substance, in reproductive, memory and learning disorders; cancer; obesity; and hyperactivity. I understand that resins made with BPA are less costly than alternatives used by a few canned food companies such as Eden Foods and the Hatch Chile Company, but I don’t have specific numbers. In our view, reduced cost is not an acceptable reason not to use safer compounds.

Keep printed Sound Consumer

This is in response to a letter in the March [2009] issue (Electronic Sound Consumer?) which suggested the Sound Consumer largely cease its distribution by paper and go, for the most part, online. I’ve been a PCC member for some 20 years. The West Seattle store where I shop is an ever-evolving gift, cared for and brought to us by thoughtful hands and minds.

I diligently recycle because it is the right thing to do and because I was well-raised by well-raised parents. Yes, while we all despise the waste of wood products, there is a world of difference between mishandling a precious resource and using it thoughtfully and productively. The Sound Consumer, without doubt, rises to the latter description.

Wood products serve many fine uses. Think of the well-built wooden chair Robert Frost sat in when he wrote to us all about good fences, often made of wood, making good neighbors.

To bring my point home and I hope not too strongly, would one suggest, starting noon tomorrow, that all future editions of the Torah, Bible and Qur’an be published strictly online, and here on out never again on paper? How about a baby’s birth certificate, a thank you note, or a wedding invitation?

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently was at a public event reading from a hand-held … paper … copy of our world-envied United States Constitution.

Trees have been, are, and always will be a treasured self-renewing resource, thank goodness. To the good hands and thoughtful minds at Sound Consumer, print on!
— Mark Neuman, Seattle

Heating the home

I want to comment on a letter in the March Sound Consumer. Ms. Hake wrote that she’s “skeptical that recommendations to keep homes in the 60s all day are coming from people who actually are uncomfortable with that.” She “suspect[s] that folks who recommend setting the thermostat at 58 at night or 65 during the day are not shivering in bed at 3 a.m. or in front of their computer at 7 p.m. …”

I’m one of those folks who keep their homes cool as a conscious decision. I run cold naturally and can blame this on my thyroid, my metabolism, but I frequently am the cold one in a room of warm people. Still, I choose to keep my home at 62 at night and 66 during at-home/awake hours. I’d like to point out that this is COLD for me and uncomfortable, but I do it to reduce my environmental impact.

In order to compensate, I wear slippers indoors all the time, layer on sweaters, and add extra blankets to my bedding. I used to sleep in sleeveless tanks but now I put long-sleeved t-shirts on over my flannel pajamas because otherwise I’d be shivering in bed. It’s not unusual for me to be at the computer at 9 p.m. with sweaters and warm socks on.
I don’t wish to make anyone appear “indulgent or wasteful” but it’s worth pointing out that changing global warming and facing our energy crisis are going to require sacrifices. I think the implication that folks who keep their homes cool are doing so just because they’re hot in general is misguided.

Based on the data collected in the reader responses, I’m going to see if I can lower my evening temps even further, to the “average” 59. Maybe I could sleep with socks on?
— Kristina Surface

Related Reading

Insights by Goldie: Everything old is new again! Pressure cookers are in

In 1973, the book, “Diet for a Small Planet,” by Frances Moore Lappé, so impressed me I decided to change everything about the foods I fed my growing family and assorted others in our extended household. Reading Lappé, I became determined to learn how to prepare mostly vegetarian meals — as a way to use fewer resources and for the added health and nutrition as well.

Your co-op, April 2009

Notice of annual membership meeting, 2009 board election begins this month, Board report, and more