Category Archives: Jordan’s Journal

Wait…What?: The Weight of Food Waste

Foodie Friends!

Have you seen the cover of the March 2016 edition of National Geographic?

A plethora of produce, ranging from potatoes and radishes, to peppers and carrots (with a couple kiwis for tropical diversity) pique interest with their unconventional appearance, and lure the observer to follow the paper (page) trail to its feature story, titled, “Too Good to Waste: How ugly food can help feed the planet,” sandwiched in the middle of the magazine.

Contrary to popular belief of picture-perfect fruits and veggies, these peculiar, culinary cover models resemble shapes, colors, and sizes that the food industry’s current ‘beauty-pageant standards’ would deem to be deformities, unappealing and therefore unsellable.

It’s all about quality and appearance,” says Rick Stein, the Food Marketing Institute’s vice president of fresh foods. “And only the best appearance will capture share of the consumer’s wallet.”

Unfortunately, Stein speaks to an inconvenient truth when it comes to global food waste, evident by the following statistics, researched by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO):

  • About one third (33%!) of our planet’s total food produced goes to waste,
  • which amounts to 2.9 trillion pounds per year,
  • which is enough to feed 2 billion people,
  • while 800 million people worldwide suffer from hunger.

If food waste were a country, it would rank (pun intended) third in greenhouse gas emissions, behind China and US truly.

And here’s the produce-pitching paradox:

Developing areas, such as Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, Middle East and Latin America, understandably lose more fruits and veggies in production, due to lack of adequate storage facilities, decent roads, proper refrigeration. And yet people there waste less than 20% of what they grow.

Industrialized nations like US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand have both the infrastructure and funding that results in considerably fewer losses during production, whereas the majority of food waste (53%) comes from particular buyers, retailers, and restaurants ordering, serving, and displaying excessively, as well as (picky) consumer’s with their (privileged) selective eating and neglected leftovers.

So what can we do when agriculture already accounts for 70% of our planet’s freshwater use, 80% of our planet’s tropical/subtropical deforestation, and 30-35% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions?

For starters, please do your personal best to waste no food!

It’s inconceivable to me that anyone with good-enough conscience to have read and reflected, even for a moment, on this article would carry on in a wasteful way, without at least some moral, ethical, gut-feeling remorse.

Additionally, I find it helpful to volunteer in the fields of a local farm (Happy Heart Farm), as well as the commercial kitchen of a nonprofit organization (FoCo Cafe), so that I may see different perspectives along our food supply chain and inevitably glean valuable, life-changing experiences.

Ultimately, it’s up to you, me, each of us to transmute these concrete statistics and abstract concepts into something more meaningful and redemptive.

We, here at the Fort Collins Food Co-op have a partnership with The Growing Project, a local non-profit organization dedicated to food justice, which features a group of volunteers called Food Finders, who stop by the co-op twice a week to pick up a medium-sized cooler full of edible, although unsellable produce, as well as “expired” dairy and grocery items, and bring it over to the friendly folks at Fort Collins Rescue Mission, who are always grateful to receive the donations.

One of our member-owners, John “The Colorado Worm Man” Anderson, besides having what sounds like a cool breakdancer nickname, offers a unique service that involves collecting food waste from various food-service establishments to feed to his red wiggler worms in an earthy process called vermicomposting. This includes a twice-weekly pickup from the co-op, which amounts to about 150 pounds of nutrient-dense compost every week!

For me, the acts of growing, tending, harvesting, selecting, sharing, eating food are as sacred as they are sensual.

As such, wasting edible food—unavoidable though it may be at times—remains unacceptable to me.

And I admit, sometimes I get swept up in the social inertia of our modern madness, forgetting to honor nourishing food—in every form—that sacrificed its life so that I may continue to live.

Let’s be more mindful when it comes to keeping our bellies full. We know landfills don’t need food to survive. And yet we are all culpable in somehow allowing our fellow brothers and sisters, who are living, breathing, food-eating human beings just like you and me, to suffer from starvation.

So as we gather around the table from now on, let’s continue to think and to deliberate how we might make such important, necessary changes as an individual, as a family, as a neighborhood, as a community, as a state, as a nation, as a world.

Because if we continue mindlessly consuming and ultimately desecrating our planet with the industrial, self-absorbed mindset that got us into this mess, and if we fail to have the heartfelt willingness to make simple, significant changes to our daily routines, there may no longer be leftovers for any of us.

There may no longer be us. 

 empowerfool

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On Being Cooperative

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In my previous post, I recounted my evolutionary steps through varying grocery store aisles. Today let’s continue on the black-cobra road (you know, reality’s version of the yellow-brick road) and if you’ll lend me your attention for a moment, I’ll tell you how the Fort Collins Food Co-op feeds me, with plenty to share.

I remember being virtually introduced to the Food Co-op through its seemingly simple, yet dense website. The signature blue-green, earthly hues of this vibrant brand immediately registered and resonated with me, which compelled me to dig in and read through the embedded pages.

“The Co-op is a place where people can reconnect with their food. This is a place built on understanding what we are consuming and why. These ideas grew out of a buying club started by CSU students and community members in the early 1970’s.”

Upon visiting the historic store front on 250 East Mountain Avenue (est. 1978) for the first time, I experienced a subtle inner knowing that this was an authentic place I genuinely wanted to be a part of, a local business I would happily support with my personal— admittedly limited, albeit significant—buying power.

That day I left handsomely, with a backpack full of provisions for a week and a heartfelt, longer-lasting impression, as if a tiny seed of a mighty tree had been planted within the food desert of my mind, body, and soul.

Frequent, returning visits to this shop for staples and splurges allowed me to not only begin to recognize friendly, familiar faces, but also to further develop the intrinsic kinship that interweaves each of us as singular, scrappy threads into a more reliable, more resilient fabric that is part-and-parcel of any co-operative true to its roots, true to its word.

“The Co-op seeks to serve all those in our community who want to support their local circle of profit through buying locally sourced grocery items. Anyone can shop at the Co-op, the member-owner structure simply exists to reinforce a local circle of profit by sharing the profits of the Co-op amongst its member-owners.”

I became informed of its not-for-profit business model—guided by the internationally recognized Seven Cooperative Principles—supported for 44+ years, sourcing primarily from the well-spring of the “community, volunteers, the people who shop once to those who are in every day, farmers and producers, local businesses and restaurants who buy from us, and from the greater need to create a more positive connection between people and their local community.”

So one day I decided to jump into the deep end of the community pool by becoming a fully invested member-owner because in doing so I acknowledged and honored the privilege of having an “alternative, eco-centric” business that exists to balance the triple bottom line, with potential for kick-backs for the ‘pillar’ people it caters to, consists of.

And while profit-sharing is indeed a welcomed, beneficial boost to anyone’s budget in theory, I soon realized for myself that this rare fruit can only be fully enjoyed through considerate cultivation of the crop, which honestly requires the kind of hard work and dedication that is not always convenient and seldom expedient, although I strongly believe in my experience thus far: It is well-worth the time, money, and energy invested.

One of the most common remarks our attentive ears receive is about expensive prices.

Trust me, we understand because we feel the pinch as much as you do.

Consider this: You are getting what you pay for. You are also giving when you pay for it.

When you shop our Co-op, you are helping contribute to 12 individual’s livelihoods—your fellow friends, neighbors, community member-owners, who are in the laborious service industry not simply because of its decent pay and modest benefits, but more truly because it is a labor of love.

When you select our Co-op, you are voting with your dollar—with each purchase—every time you choose local, chemical-free, certified organic, non GMO, humanely raised, and so forth.

When you support our Co-op, you are joining a global movement that engages each other’s awareness of the undeniable impact we are all having on our only inhabitable planet, on our fellow human people, all-too-often at the expense of profit.

The Co-op is one small part of a much greater whole, where those “some day…” ideas are put into practice every day, one day at a time.

Because to be a member-owner of our food co-operative is to be a catalyst of world change.

Inquire within.

 empowerfool

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Before I Became Co-operative

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Growing up in suburban Upstate New York, I eagerly anticipated the weekly three-mile trip down the street to Price Chopper, the locally owned & operated supermarket chain.

The only knowledge and understanding I had about food—let alone the complex agricultural, industrial, and commercial web—was that it tasted good, although somehow it always looked bigger (“enlarged to show texture”) and better on the picture-perfect packages it arrived in (Photoshop).

Like a kid in a candy store with a tab I never had to pay (thanks dad!) and with the supersized metal basket with wacky wheels that became my go-kart, I would zoom by the produce section, opting instead for what I politely refer to, in retrospect, as ‘foodlike stuff.’

Nutrition, to me at that point, was just a boring bunch of black-and-white words and numbers on the otherwise colorful, intriguing boxes and labels.

The cartoon characters enticed me. The bite-sized stories of the brands enchanted me. The word searches, optical illusions, and brain puzzles entertained me.

Despite these silly distractions, those nutritional facts and figures still fascinated me. I remember having a lingering feeling about the lengthy laundry list of ingredients that didn’t even seem to resemble English in many cases.

Throughout my sleepwalking, awkward high school years and my awakening, awkward college years, I gradually recognized the greater implications of what, how, and why I was consuming, and it all slowly started consuming me. (Forks Over Knives, Food, Inc., and Earthlings each had profound impacts on me).

I suspected Walmart to be some secretly nefarious corporation, and yet I shopped there anyway because it had the cheapest prices and getting the most for my money seemed to matter more to me, rationalized by fixed mindsets: scarcity (“I’m broke”) and self-interested (“It’s about me”).

However, as time went on, I could no longer deny that the bottomless pit in my stomach was actually a different kind of hunger pang.

I discovered it to be an intuitive gut feeling that is fed only by following through with the moral compass directly connected to one’s better conscience. 

An inner, ethical revolution ensued.

It started with ending my subservience to the tyranny of King Soopers and tearing down the wall (mart) of my comfort zone—mindlessly consuming and unconsciously contributing to global catastrophe.

As a millennial might be inclined to do, I consulted the modern–day oracle, Google, who provided me with Maps to some alternative, health–food stores. (Indeed it is a rather SAD [Standard American Diet] state of affairs when healthy food is considered alternative).

Instantly Sprouts, Vitamin Cottage (now Natural Grocers) & Whole Foods showed up. While they all have an undeniably diverse array of quality goods they are also mega national chains, and I preferred something more homegrown, more attuned to the pulse of the community that supports it.

With fewer offerings for those with holistic, vegetarian/vegan lifestyles, there was plenty of room for improvement. I had just about resigned myself to settle. After much (re)consideration, I knew I’d feel better about supporting a local, family-owned business because it’s not all about me.

Still, I wondered if there might be another source of sustenance I had yet to tap into, where it wasn’t as much of an ethical compromise on either side as it was a cooperative effort on all parts…

And so, with the backdrop set up for the main co-operative act, I must respect both my word limit and your attention span! In my next blog post, I’ll be sure to write more about my evolving involvement with the Food Co-op.

Until then, I encourage you to keep reading our thoughts, keep visiting our store, keep conversing with each other, please keep co-operating more.

 empowerfool

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Thanks is for Giving

BLogIMageHappy Sweet Potato Awareness Month (did you know they are different than yams?);Happy National Peanut Butter Lovers’ Month (did you know you can freshly grind your own at the Fort Collins Food Cooperative’s bulk section for just $5.99/lb?); Happy Movember furry–faced fellows!

Much there is to be happy about this time of year (like Yoda speak), and even more to be grateful about (like The Force Awakens). As earth tones catch your eye, with spiced cider/tea to warm your bones and abundant squash/root vegetables fill your belly with some slices of apple/pumpkin pies to delight your taste buds; indeed it is a timely celebration of our hard–earned harvest of 2015.

Like the Ancient Greek Hippocrates, the western pioneering physician, once stated, “Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food.”

I have since consciously adopted a diet that works for me, without attaching any rigid labels to myself because I know that just as certain ailments require certain remedies, so also do I feel the need for different foods, based on their symbiotic effects on my overall health.

It’s important for people to be in tune with their own individual needs, as the eastern Ayurvedic tradition notes will differ based on body constitution.

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The Bulkier The Better

Jordan's_blog_PictureHot–air balloons, birthday cakes, and Big Bird. What do these three have in common?

Not only do they ignite the interest of children and adults alike, but they also share this simple trait: they are all bulky.

Five years ago, the Bulk is Green Council, or fittingly referred to as BIG, initiated the National Bulk Week, in celebration, praise, and raised awareness of the sheer diverse amount of both staple (grains, beans, salts, sugars, flours) and specialty (coffee, granola, nuts, trail mixes) available for purchase in macro and micro quantities.

Well dear friendly folks & folky friends, we at the Fort Collins Food Co­–op are currently in the belly of the Fifth Annual Bulk Week!

We are joining 1,400 other participating stores around this supersized nation—one that paradoxically seems infatuated with people, places, and things (also called nouns) being ever–so sleek and skinnier still.

Fat (pronounced with a ‘ph’) fact: Portland State University’s Food Industry Leadership Center compiled a 2011 study, finding that people save an average of 89% when purchasing the same foods in bulk, compared to their (over)packaged counterparts.

Rather than preach at/to you about the bulk benefits that burst at the seams, or try to singularly address commonly shared questions, I choose instead to highlight some of our featured (and my favorite) bulk items you may be currently getting (extra) prepackaged:

Lest we forget, it is with sincere appreciation that I give a very honorable mention to the produce(rs) and what I consider to be the freshershest bulk section that considerably provides us with fine fruits, roots, lively leafy greens, prime peppers, potatoes, divine tomatoes, squash and rare heirloom pumpkins throughout the abundant growing season here in Colorado.

Yes, bulk is beautiful, and we’re bringing it back to the max (ever wonder why we keep it all in the back of the store?)

For those of you who skim articles, here’s the skinny: Help us make a difference in the world by supporting our co–op as generously as you can, by bringing your own bags/containers, and by continuing to create quality conversations with one another, i.e. share a recipe, suggest an herbal tea, select a different spice.

You just might find you not only get what you need, but also your savings will bulk up!

BlogWriterFooter_Jordan

For the Love of All That Is ‘Whole–y’: Food

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Next Wednesday the 23rd signifies the Autumnal Equinox here in the Northern Hemisphere, as we harvest and celebrate the fruits (veggies and whole grains) of our labor.

With a healthy heaping of satire and a (whole) grain of salt, this week I ponder: What is the difference between Whole Foods and ‘whole–y’ foods?

To this I respond: How much of your (soul’s) paycheck is spent after shopping!

At the Fort Collins Food Co–op, your favorite, friendly, natural grocery store, since 1972, we do our best to emphasize the local, hometown heroes who provide wholesome foods, liquid life elixirs, and other healing products we sell (as distinguished by the various blue ‘L’/product cards in bulk and produce). A fun Food Co-op fact: all this “local business” consists of more than 20% of our overall sales and upwards of 40% of what we as a Food Co–op purchase directly from the farmer/vendor.

When you choose to purchase Wisdom’s eggs and/or poultry, you are supporting a local family–owned and operated farm from Huxton, CO where chickens live in a “stress-free environment with full access to water that comes directly from our deep well [and are] given full access to the fresh air and sunshine of the great outdoors.”

When you select produce from Native Hill Farm, located in Laporte, you are supporting not only this fantastic farm that continues to offer the highest quality veggies, but you are also investing in the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model, which allows increased accessibility and affordability for individuals/families to obtain nutritious food.

When you decide to try Turtle Mountain kombucha/tea/kimchi, you are literally supporting your life with these probiotic products (from its Greek origins, bios meaning life and pro– meaning in support of). What’s more, you are supporting a woman–owned, Fort Collins startup that recycles beer bottles for all of its kombucha creations. Backing bacteria has never been more beneficial.

We, the foodies of the Food Co–op, exist as individuals with a mind of our own, choosing to share the profits and the losses in this cooperative investment in the heartfelt whole.

For the love of all that is ‘whole–y’, the next time you are fixin’ to go to Whole Foods, consider supporting our community’s organically homegrown shop and see for yourself what’s in store with our envisioned relocation (r)evolution!

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Natural Immunization Awareness Month

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August is now the month of National Immunization Awareness here in the United States, where conventional immunization often entails making a (rather dreadful, although seemingly necessary) trip to the doctor’s office. Where waiting longer than expected to receive a painfully arm–/leg–numbing needle injection of some vaccine that will most likely cost you an arm and a leg is quite common.

What I suggest, as the title of this post subtly alludes to, is to consider the natural healing process of sustaining ourselves (the kind that doesn’t require being poked with pointy, micro–poisonous objects), with a focus on the interpersonal relationships we each have with one another.

As we know, the body (and the mind) constantly seeks equilibrium, some semblance of balance in a world of designated duality, polar opposites and temporal extremes.

Vaccines introduce into the biochemical equation an ‘agent’, which “stimulates the body’s immune system to recognize the agent as a threat, destroy it, and keep a record of it, so that the immune system can more easily recognize and destroy any of these microorganisms that it later encounters.”

Now, I invite you to think about a time when someone (including yourself) harmed you (un)intentionally in some way, whether it was verbally, (non)verbally, physically, or emotionally.

Did you not need some time to allow the toxic dosage of that interaction to seep and circulate throughout your body, to experience it deeply and fully, however much it may have hurt, in order for your healing mechanisms to perform nothing short of a miracle?

There is so much emphasis in our modernized society to do things to be happy, which oftentimes comes at the expense of being happy while doing things.

While we may think we are separate individuals, we are never completely immune from the ills of our society, from the ilk that is our humanity, from the ink that shares our story.

We are interconnected reflections, boosting our collective immune system with simple smiles and sincere acts of kindness (suggested daily, repeat as necessary.)

Jordan encourages you to be happy and healthy by acknowledging your body’s intuitive healing process, with the help of a cornucopia of local, organic food, medicinal herbs, essential/body oils, locally made tinctures, and other organic remedies you will most excellently find at the Fort Collins Food Co–op. BlogWriterFooter_Jordan

Are you a Member-Owner? Yes, I am!

Whether you are fully financially invested in the Food Co–op, currently well on your way with quarterly payments, or simply a casual convenience shopper, chances are you’ve been asked at the register: “Are you a member–owner of the Food Co-op?”

No matter the answer, it’s *always* okay, because anyone and everyone is welcome to shop at the Food Co-op.

I’ve contemplated, this seemingly innocent question, and upon my reflection I have come to some conclusions.

The common replies I hear from nonmember–owners range from the straightforward “No, I’m not” to the guilt–tinged “No…but I should be” to the indecisive optimist “Not yet…I’m thinking about it”.

Still, I’ve noticed Member–Owners respond with positive affirmation: “Yes, I am.”

I may as well be asking: Are you a supporter a locally engaged business? Who possess global principles that emphasize independent, voluntary, democratic participation? And are you a concerned, educated, trained, and well-informed community leader?

I could very well be asking: Are you a citizen of this earth, who is on some subtle level, aware that each one of us play an important role and possess a higher responsibility to a healthy mind and health conscious society?

I would like to be asking: Are you doing your personal best each day and night to become the person you know exists in your heart and at your very core?

As marvelous human beings, not merely human doings, we must respond to the wake–up calls of negativity with persistent positivity. Even if and especially when that response involves a repetitive question: Are you a Member–Owner of the Food Co-op?

Yes, I am!


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Jordan is a Food Co–op Chronicle staff writer who sometimes simply offers hearty slices of New York–style sass, including this fine–print follow–up to the asterisks above: *forgot your wallet? fuhgeddabowdit!*