Thursday, October 7, 2010

Government's role in eating well... one persons musings

Self disclosure... My family was on WIC from Feb-August of this year. We were down to one salary, and with three kids and a mortgage, one salary just wasn't enough.

First let me say that I am grateful for the aide our country gives to people in financial troubles. I do not intend to look a gift horse in the mouth with this blog post. Without wic, it would have been very hard to buy formula for my infant or food for my other children. I will never, ever vote to cut public aide and I encourage all of you to do the same.

That being said. I learned some valuable things while on WIC that opened my eyes to socioeconomic divide in sustainability. I understand how it is hard for poor families to feed their children well, I understand how it is hard for intercity families to be conscious of nutrition and buying local goods. Here are some observations:

1. WIC and other government programs contract with private companies, granting exclusivity of product use. For instance, I was not given a check for formula. I was given a check for Enfamil, I had to feed my child Enfamil. We were lucky that Maggie could use this, otherwise we would have had to had a prescription for medical formula. Additionally, I could not buy one big thing of formula, I was forced to but several small non-recyclable containers at one time. Increasing the waste created by my family. To me it makes since to buy in bulk and from a company who uses recyclable containers, but this option is not available to people on public aide.

2. I was prohibited from buying organic items. Milk and cheese had to be store brand. Even if the store brand offered a cheaper organic version it was prohibited. I could not buy brown eggs. For those worried about disease with a decreased bio-diversity, we were left with out an option.

3. For a mother of an infant, I was given $10 a month in fruits and vegetables. My 2 year old received $6. I would presume that many families will not buy more fruits and vegetables than what is allowed on these checks. Both children and adults need more that $10 a month of fresh fruits and veggies. Isn't WIC suppose to be teaching the low income families how to eat healthier, I don't think the success rate is high with such a little focus on fresh, whole foods. The upside, you can buy organic fruit and vegetables.

4. Many of the approved items have ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils. These ingredients have been proven in many different studies to be bad for human consumption. I would prefer not to feed my family these items. But if I wanted to feed my family, I had to make the concession. Poor families often have no other choice.

Why do I choose to write about this? While I do feel this is a very personal topic for me. I feel compelled to use my example to highlight that we need to reform the way our government subsidises and promotes food usages that are bad for us. They do play a role in why our youth are so unhealthy. While it may not be the staring role, their contribution is significant. We need to do what we can as parents, as voters, as members of our society to create positive change in having healthier children and a healthier environment. This may not be the most eloquent posing on the topic, but these are my two cents.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

We are what we eat

From Total Health

The gist stop eating things with sodium nitrate...

Now I have a House: Part 1- My own backyard

The ecohungry blog of old had a section entitled "For When I Have A House," This new section will be about what I am actually doing with the house. I am putting my money where my mouth was.

When we bought out house in April, the backyard was a barren wasteland. Literally, dirt and rocks (lots of rocks). So I made a blueprint of the yard and the things we wanted the space to do for us. Automatically, we decided that we needed some grass, a play area for the kids, a garden, a compost pile and a place for a deck/patio. Here's how it has broken down so far:

Grass: Yes, I know traditionally there are more sustainable choices out there. My family consists of three active children and turning the whole yard into a garden or a rock/zeroscape we didn't feel was our best choice. So we did put grass in about 1/3rd of the yard. We watered sparingly (perhaps a little to sparingly, as it is now a lovely brown color). The grass we felt was important to help keep the dirt from coming into the house and to provide the kids a place to play soccer and such.

Play-yard: A large section of the yard was boxed in and made into a playground for the kids. My parents generously provided a swing set and trampoline, but I felt that grass in this area would make it hard to mow around these objects, and more importantly a mulched play yard would provide a level of safety. So I looked at the options out there for a more sustainable surface for the yard. My ideal was to put in recycled rubber mulch for longevity. This had its draw backs. 1. It was VERY expensive. 2. The people I talked to who did have it said it turned their kids clothes and skin black because the rubber wasn't clean enough. So this leads us to wooden playground mulch. This product is fairly affordable and would still provide some weed control. The drawback here is that it will break down over time and we will have to add more. But this is the option we choose. Hopefully, we will be finishing this project this weekend with the funds that we made from our garage sale.

Garden: I loved my garden this year!!!! However, the first year of my garden didn't produce the highest yield and it took a lot of work. I will probably be posting often on my gardening ideas, it has become a passion are for me. But here is the rundown. Garden area was FULL of landscaping rocks. We have spent several days this summer shoveling large quantities of rock from the yard. And there are weeks more work to get the rocks out. My garden is no exception. I feel that when I till the garden for the fall I will be able to get out a good number more and hopefully next year the problem won't be as prevalent. Once the rock was out, the soil left behind isn't the greatest. We tilled some compost in, but I don't think it was enough. So soil modification is something that I am going to have to pay good attention to this winter. I am already planning to plant a cover crop to keep the soil from compacting again. But the soil wasn't too bad for the ever present weeds in the garden. Apparently in Colorado, bindweed is an aggressive weed that is almost impossible to get rid of, and my garden is no exception. Obliviously, herbicides are not an option for me for moral reasons. I did my best at hand picking them, but this viney weed is persistent. The plan for the fall is to double dig the garden and pull out as many of the roots systems as possible. I feel that this will be a yearly exercise for me to keep the garden free of this nasty weed.

Compost: Just a few words here as I will undoubtedly have more to say of the topic later. Here is the most important thing to take from this: Your table scraps in compost can make beautiful food for next year's garden. Your table scraps in the landfill make harmful methane. It is ever so important that if you can, compost. I am sure I am not doing it quite right yet, and I know I have much to learn. But every bit of non-meat/dairy waste from our house goes in the compost and I am very proud of this fact.

Deck/patio: Still a barren wasteland. The other areas of the yard and house have taken our time. But on a good note the old carpet the we pulled out of the house and put in the patio area to keep the weeds down is now gone. I am sure that my mother will be very grateful, that our yard no longer rivals so many others riddled with excess garbage.

Sorry for the long post