We had a great visit yesterday with our friends at Queens County Farm Museum. Pictured is Amy Fischetti-Boncardo, Executive Director, Jeanette Orrey, UK Dinner Lady, Andrew Gunther, AWA Program Director and Michael Grady Robertson, Director of Agriculture for the Queens Farm. Our discussion focused on nutritious school food and ways we can work together to effect changes. The Farm hosts more than 250,000 school children annually who get the opportunity to see live farm animals and get an idea of where their food comes from. Joining us on this continuing journey were Chef Bill Telepan, Wellness in the Schools' Nancy Easton and AWA staffer Brigid Sweeney.
Jeanette Orrey visits NYCAnimal Welfare Approved staff members Andrew Gunther, Beth Hauptle and Brigid Sweeney were thrilled to welcome Jeanette Orrey, the U.K. "Dinner Lady" on her first visit to the United States. On our first day of a three-city, week-long tour, we visited three public schools in the New York City System: PS 87, PS 84 and Fiorello Laguardia HS (the Fame school)!
We were joined by our friend Bill Telepan, of Telepan restaurant of course, and Nancy Easton, both with Wellness in the Schools, a non-profit working to support healthy school food in NYC.
Animal Welfare Approved, the nation’s leading certification label for family farmers raising their animals with high welfare standards, is hosting Jeanette Orrey, the United Kingdom’s famous “Dinner Lady” (that would be a lunch lady on this side of the pond) the week of January 11th. Orrey is a leader in the U.K.’s efforts to provide school lunches made of fresh, local organic food. She will be visiting with school officials, farmers and proponents of healthy school lunches in New York City, Baltimore, Maryland and Arlington, Virginia.
Accompanying Orrey on her journey will be Animal Welfare Approved staff, Bill Telepan, chef/owner of Manhattan’s Telepan Restaurant, and Nancy Easton, a New York City teacher for 20 years. Telepan is a long-time Animal Welfare Approved supporter and a board member of Wellness in the Schools. Wellness in the Schools is a grassroots organization that promotes children's environmental health, nutrition and fitness within the New York City public schools. Easton co-founded Wellness in the Schools and serves on its board. The New York City school system serves approximately 1.1 million students.
Yet another article highlights the importance of consumer engagement in food labeling.
According to LancasterOnline.com's Mary Beth Schweigert, lack of oversight in National Organic Program has created a "chasm between consumer expectations and actual industry practices." Ms. Schwigert notes the challenges that the NOP, now in its twelfth year, faces in terms of its dual mission to protect agriculture while simultaneously protecting the consumer.
The NOP has drawn significant criticism on its lax pasture requirements - 80,000 public comments to be exact. However, even adequate standards are only as good as the enforcement behind them. Schwigert reports a startlingly low number of citations in the first seven years of the program - only $20,000 for three fraudulent operators in a $23 billion U.S. organic food industry.
National Organic Coalition (an industry watchdog group) policy coordinator Liana Hoodes responded to this issue, explaining that strong national organic regulations are worthless without consistent oversight and enforcement. She added, "It will either clean up its act or get surpassed by many other labels."
For most of human history, our relationship with cattle has been about the foods they produce: milk, meat and cheese. Today, a new bovine "product" has captured our interest and may indeed affect the future production of the others. This new product is gas.
Cow burps are the most recent in the list of accused contributors to global warming from the livestock sector. However, a simple measurement of methane production does not tell the whole story. A new report by the Soil Association reevaluates greenhouse gas production in agriculture, taking into account the grazing system - not just the "end product."
This controversy erupted in recent years as figures emerged about agriculture's contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. As we discussed in our November 16, 2009 blog, "Beware of Bad Science," grassfed cattle actually produce fewer emissions than those finished in feedlots, simply because of the carbon sequestration in their pasture-based systems. The new Soil Association report confirms this and adds new data to support the position.