The Loma Prietan - July/August 2009

Cooking Green

Green Cities, Green Food

story and photo by Kay Bushnell

This issue's recipe: Festive Raisin-Almond Slaw
This issue's recipe: Festive Raisin-Almond Slaw

Many of us travel a similar path. First we learn that our eating habits have a strong impact on the well-being of our planet and our personal health. We begin to eat more meatless meals based on plants. We are impressed by the sumptuous tastes of thoughtfully prepared meals consisting of vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, and nuts. Then we find ourselves wishing for more plant-based food outside of our own kitchens.

Communities and businesses trying to reduce their carbon footprint are beginning to focus on food as an issue. In our communities there are hundreds of organizations that serve refreshments. The calendars of our city governments are filled with meetings and receptions with food. Wherever food is served, there is an opportunity to promote sustainable plantbased food.

What We Can Do

Contact the organizers of an event well in advance. Emphasize that they can set a good example by serving sustainable food. Here are some easy ways to promote plant-based food.

1) Get to know the sustainability coordinators employed by your city. Share your concerns about the gas emissions of livestock production as documented in the United Nations Report (tiny.cc/cLtuG). Provide information to them on how plant-based food choices can reduce global warming, conserve resources, and support human health.

2) Suggest that plant-based food be served at all city- and county-sponsored, dinners and meetings. If the menus and caterers are well chosen, attendees will discover that sustainable food is delicious and satisfying. Urge city councils to establish food guidelines similar to those of our Chapter. (See suggestion #7.)

3) Request that the city include an easy plantbased recipe or food tip in communications it sends to residents.

4) Ask local restaurants to feature at least one plant-based "green city special" on their menus. Send newspapers press releases that list the restaurants offering the specials.

5) Request that refreshments sold at Art and Wine Festivals and other street fairs be plantbased. Begin by giving a reduced entry rate to vendors of 100% plant-based foods. Foods commonly sold at street fairs that are made with meat (such as sausages) can be replaced with tasty plant-based alternatives. (Although meat alternatives are processed products, they are still much more sustainable than animal foods.)

6) Encourage meatless recipes at Chili Cook-Offs. Award the best prizes in the "meatless" category.

7) Suggest that plant-based food be served at your local service club's events. Use our Chapter's food resolution as a basis in formulating food guidelines for your club. Our Chapter policy requires that "food at catered events sponsored (paid for) by chapter funds be earth supporting and low on the food chain: allplant- based and if possible, locally grown and organic. Furthermore the chapter encourages that this policy be applied to all chapter events where food is consumed."

8) Contact the Chapter office for "Tips on Providing Food and Dealing with Caterers." The tips include names of caterers who can provide plant-based food.

8) Request that community groups to which you belong present awards to growers of food from home and community gardens. Hold a public event to award the prizes and have a volunteer chef demonstrate plant-based recipes using food that was grown in local gardens.

9) Volunteer for "green teams" and "climate action teams" in your community, and make sure that food is considered as an issue.

In May, the city of Ghent in Belgium became the first city in the world to recognize the impact of livestock on the environment by declaring a citywide veggie day each week. Public officials and politicians were the first to give up meat for a day. School children will follow suit with their weekly veggie day in September. The city has printed 90,000 "veggie street maps" to show the locations of vegetarian eateries. I am surprised that no American city has taken this step yet. If the Belgians can do it, surely we can do it in America.

Loma Prieta Chapter member Kay Bushnell has taught plant-based cooking and appeared as The Garden Gourmet in a community-access television series.