Food Connection | Sustainability

Though many find it difficult to not remember, it is undeniably effortless in an age of supermarkets and frozen dinners to forget that food doesn’t just appear when desired. It is a labor of love that can be accomplished with techniques that embody ecological principals and achieve sustainability on all levels. The dream is possible! There are ways you can actively participate in your community and support environmental stewardship and respect.

The ease of driving to one’s local grocery store to satisfy obscure food cravings at any hour of the day supports the disconnection between where our food comes from and us. The progression of factory farms and industrial agriculture generates further distance between customers and the farms, which may or may not be producing in a way that is best for the environment and everyone else involved.

Today there are numerous brands of food producers and farms that aim to provide equitable treatment of the earth and its creatures, and more continue to be birthed with the rise in awareness of organic food, farmer’s markets, food miles, and urban gardens. As a consumer, you have the capacity to influence companies by affecting them where many care most: profits. If there is a higher demand for organic and Eco-friendly practices, then in order to meet market demands there will be an increase of such supplies within the market. Buying all organic can sometimes appear to be too much of a stress on the pocketbook, but even purchasing a few produce items that are organic or sustainable will add to the overall customer demand.

Many organizations exist to educate and encourage people to create a more sustainable world with their food choices. Please see our resource lists below for more education and ways participate, on your own, within the community or from a distance.

Organic Food

Crops begin as seeds and grow from the earth, becoming perfectly formed until they are ready to be enjoyed by farmers and customers around the world. Organic practices are the zenith of food safety and quality, and you can integrate them into your daily diet by choosing to purchase organic goods. The USDA has created an Organic Certification program with a seal representing specific standards, which exclude the use of synthetic chemicals or pesticides in any stage of food production or processing.

The USDA describes their basic guidelines for organic agricultural products as “produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.” Organic does not necessarily mean healthy. It simply means: grown without chemicals or contaminants. It’s good to know which foods are most likely to contain the most pesticide residue so you can make these a priority to buy organic. Check out these lists from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to see which foods made the dirty dozen list and which foods that are safest to buy conventional.

If a product has the USDA organic seal, the product is “certified organic and has 95 percent or more organic content”. For multi-ingredient products such as bread or soup, if the label claims that it is made with specified organic ingredients, “you can be confident that those specific ingredients have been certified organic.”

To see other specifications on regulations for terms like “free-range”, “natural” or “humane” check the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service website.


Fair Trade Food

If a product is designated as Fair Trade it signifies that the farmers are ensured just compensation, the practice of ethical business and community models, and that required environmental standards are met. After the USDA certifies a product as Fair Trade, it can be carry the Fair Trade stamp of approval. Some farming operations are too small to afford this professional certification but may still work with these principals in mind. Just ask – most farmers will be happy to explain to you about their practices!

The International Fair Trade Organization makes it possible for small farmers to compete in the global marketplace, guarantee fair labor conditions, help workers invest funds back into their communities, and embody environmentally sustainable practices. Many products are recognized today for their Fair Trade labels such as brands of coffee, chocolate, sugar, tea, honey, flowers, and even encompassing jewelry, artwork, apparel, and other crafts. To learn more about the Fair Trade mission, impact and partners visit Fair Trade USA.


Local Food

Blessed by the California sunshine, we have abundance of agricultural crops and with an enormous variety. It’s not surprising to hear that other states and even countries envy the array of fresh, local produce we have access to. Why not flourish in the flavor, color, and nourishment of the local food while you can? By choosing to purchase locally produced foods we invest in the future of local farmers, our community, our food supply, and ultimately the planet.

The beautiful temperate climate zone is revered for not only sunshine prime for tanning, but also the ability to live in close proximity to where our food grows. Often the processing and/or packaging of food can be done on the farm, local food producers or local food distribution centers. Trying to seek out foods grown within your area or your state is a fantastic way to become aware of how far your food is traveling to get to your plate. Local produce can easily be found at farmer’s markets and local grocery stores, like Oliver’s Market. Many conventional grocery stores also carry local or organic products, which would be clearly indicated on their signs. Actually, starting your own garden of herbs or other plants is an incredible way to integrate eating local into your daily life. Gardening will actually connect you with food on even deeper level, and make it easy to eat fresh, whole foods.


Resources

There are several online services available to help you locate local farmer’s markets, CSA programs, restaurants and more. We’ve listed resources specific to Sonoma County and the North Bay, as well as databases that our nationwide.

Rohnert Park & Sonoma County

Farmer’s Markets in Sonoma County
Map & Guide to find local farms in Sonoma County
Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) in Sonoma County
Community Supported Agriculture(CSAs) near Rohnert Park
Pick Your Own Produce in Marin and Sonoma Counties

San Francisco and the Bay Area

Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture
San Francisco Bay Seasonal Vegetable Chart
San Francisco Bay Seasonal Fruit & Nut Chart
Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) in San Francisco
Organic Produce Delivery for the Greater San Francisco Bay Area
Pick Your Own Produce in San Francisco
Resources to Eat Local in Marin County
Farmer’s Markets & Farm Stands in Marin County

Nationwide Databases

Local Harvest - Database of local farms and programs
Happy Cow - Food Finder for travelers and those desiring vegan or vegetarian stores and restaurants in your area.
Sustainable Table - This website endorses education and eating in a sustainable manner with articles, ideas, shopping guides and frequently asked questions answered.
Eat Well Guide - another finder of sustainable food operations in your area.
Organic Food Stores, Clothing, Co-ops, CSA programs


Get involved

There are endless opportunities to get involved in supporting the environment locally and on a larger scale. Planting the seeds of progress in your own life and community is a key step for closing the loop in a sustainable system. It could be volunteering with projects that encourage sustainable practices or groups of individuals working towards a common goal. You could also participate in the movement by educating yourself and others on how to grow fresh herbs or other foods in your own home. Many resources exist to help the urban farmer develop agricultural knowledge and skills.

Join Us Making Progress (JUMP)
Sonoma State University has many ways for you to connect with your community. JUMP is the co-curricular service learning branch of the Associated Students. You could volunteer at the campus ETC garden, Petaluma Bounty Community Farm, Redwood Empire Food Bank, or various other centers for services that support social and environmental justice.

Eco-Projects
Eco-Projects connects Sonoma State students with environmental issues facing our global community. Service projects have included: working with Cotati Creek Critters, Sonoma Land Trust, Heifer International, CA Coastal Clean-Up, Plastic Bag Campaign and Earth Day. More info at JUMP’s website.

Petaluma Bounty Community Farm
This event will take place in Petaluma off of Shasta Ave. Healthy, hearty snacks will be provided (let me know if you have any food allergies). Please bring your own water containers as you will be parched from working up a sweat weeding, mulching, pruning and planting spring crops. Come on out and dress for work and weather! Wear comfortable clothes and closed toe shoes. A half hour session will be devoted to SSU JUMP participants in learning how the farm utilizes compost in their operations. Petaluma Bounty Community Farm will provide tools and gloves. Sign up is available in the JUMP office under Special Programs: TAB: Eco-Projects OR you may e-mail Eco-Projects coordinator: Paulette Loubest ssu.ecoprojects@sonoma.edu.


ETC Garden Day

Thursdays, 11-2pm and Fridays, 10-2pm
Come lend a hand at the garden. Take a break from your studies and celebrate the garden's thriving abundance, see the changes of soil composition with a new compost practice.

JUMP's Hunger and Homelessness Programs
DID YOU KNOW. . . children make up the largest group of people at-risk of hunger in our community? There are 9,762 children living in poverty in Sonoma County according to the latest statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau. If you would like to be added to our listserv or if you have ideas for more Hunger and Homelessness Programs, please contact Jamila Dozier at ssu.endhunger@gmail.com or call (707) 664-4277.

Redwood Empire Food Bank (REFB)
Mondays, 4:30pm-7:30pm
Redwood Empire Food Bank was founded in 1987 and is Sonoma County's largest hunger-relief organization. They serve approximately 60,000 people, of which 37.2% are children. The REFB’s Agency Shopping Program provides food to 133 member charities that operate 223 programs throughout Sonoma County. While serving at REFB, Sonoma State students help bag groceries and package meals for individuals coping with food insecurity. For more info visit REFB webpage. Volunteers also sort and repackage food for REFB to send to local food pantries. Carpool is available and will leave the SSU flagpole at 4:30pm each service day.  Please wear comfortable clothes and closed toed shoes. To sign-up to volunteer contact, Nancy at ssu.refb@gmail.com or call (707) 664-4277.

 

Catholic Charities Family Support Center – Café Program
Thursdays from 4:30pm-6:30pm
This comprehensive shelter program supports families experiencing homelessness with food, shelter, medical screenings, employment and housing counseling, and other services designed to move clients into stable housing. Sonoma State volunteers serve meals and build community at the center through the café program. Volunteers serve food to approximately 130 residents and support kitchen staff with various tasks associated with the food program. Carpool is available.  To get involved in either of these programs, contact Rebecca at ssu.ccfsc@gmail.com or call (707) 664-4277.

Serving Our Unfed People Everyday Re-packaging (SOUP-ER)
Thursday’s, 6:30pm-7:30pm. The Caf Gives Back! JUMP is working with SSU Dining Services to send the leftover cafeteria food to a local food pantry! Volunteers help re-package leftover food to be picked up by St. Vincent De Paul and then served to people experiencing food insecurity in our community. Why let the food go to waste when we have the ability to provide it to families in need right here in Sonoma County?! To become a part of this inspiring program, sign up in the JUMP office or contact Jamila at ssu.endhunger@gmail.com for more information.

Backpack Project
3rd Friday of each month, 2:00pm – 3:30pm. JUMP is teaming up with Rotary to assist children and youth in Sonoma County, who may not have enough food to eat at home by providing them with easy-to-prepare weekend meals and snacks throughout the year. By helping to sustain these children, we seek not only to help meet their nutritional needs but also to promote their physical, cognitive and social development, and to enhance their overall sense of well-being. Volunteers pack the food items in backpacks to be distributed. If you are interested in volunteering with this program, sign up in the JUMP office or contact Jamila at ssu.endhunger@gmail.com.

SSU Slow Food Club
Right here at SSU there is a chapter of the International Slow Food Movement, a community of students who are invested in the food justice, local support and sharing good meals and recipes. For more info visit them on OrgSync, their blog, or the Global Slow Food organization. 

Windowfarms
An organization dedicated to open source collaboration for designs of revolutionary technologies, which help people in urban environments grow food at home. Visit their site for more info and receive free instructions for constructing your own windowfarm.


Garden for the Environment
Garden for the Environment is a San Francisco based organization that offers environmental educational programs on organic gardening, urban composting, and sustainable food systems. They work with not only curious and inspired urban farmers, but the San Francisco Unified School District as well, to provide educational programs, workshops (many are free of charge) and events for the community. The demonstration garden is located in San Francisco on 7th Avenue at Lawton Street. ,

World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms (WWOOF)
WWOOF is an international network that provides exactly that for volunteers, travelers and people who wish to share sustainable living techniques. This is a program of exchange where in return for volunteer help WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles. Each country has its individual organization branch and membership sign-up, allowing volunteers (usually for a small fee) to fully access contact information and descriptions of farm, homesteads or other communities to arrange a true hands-on experience. To search specific countries, visit WWOOF International.

The Food Empowerment Project
The Food Empowerment Project is Santa Clara County based organization, which discusses a variety of pressing issues in the food industry such as human slavery, animal welfare, and environmental justice. Tips are given to actively choose a better world through your purchases and involvement.