Recapping 2011 in food

  While I am not one for establishing resolutions simply because we are able to plaster a new calendar on the fridge, I am a proponent of reflecting on the year past. 2011 has been crowded with both exciting and discouraging news, as well as various revelations and issues concerning farming and our food system. Food Day, a national event modeled after Earth Day, made a reappearance after a 34-year hiatus. This day’s purpose includes uniting people from all backgrounds to promote the consumption of healthy, affordable food produced in a sustainable, humane fashion. Despite the USDA’s contrast with federal subsidies, it replaced the ancient food pyramid with the new MyPlate — a colorful dinner plate redundantly instructing us to eat our fruits and veggies. The government wants us to eat these healthy, vibrant foods but continues to protect industry by subsidizing commodity crops like corn and soybeans rather than local beets. I’m sorry . . . am I missing something? Tom Vilsack, agriculture secretary and Monsanto buddy gave the OK on genetically modified alfalfa, the fourth largest crop by acreage, putting organic farmers at risk of cross pollination and furthering our distance from the true origin of what we eat. Vermont and its Agriculture Agency sued McDonalds for not having any actual maple product in their “Fruit and Maple Oatmeal.” This violated Vermont’s maple law that protects maple producers. Furthering Vermont’s badass-ness was ice cream guru Ben and Jerry’s, seen scooping anti-corporate cones at New York City’s Occupy movement. More recently, Gov. Shumlin launched a fundraising campaign to support backyard T-shirt artist Bo Muller-Moore, who faced trademark infringement charges from the fast food business, Chick-fil-A. C’mon, seriously? Stick it to the man and Eat More Kale. No, but really. Things weren’t entirely easy street for our beloved state. The spring of 2011 brought record flooding and August’s Irene was truly the icing on the cake. Farmers rushed to their fields in an effort to prevent damages, but the crop losses were more devasting than we could have imagined. With overwhelming support from the community, the resiliency of Vermont’s local food system prevailed. Irene also took the legendary Alchemist Brew and Pub from Waterbury, but the town came back strong with The Alchemist Cannery and so came the beautiful Heady Topper. In addition, the Brewers Association put Vermont at the top of the list for U.S. states and their breweries per capita. Yay microbrews! Grow Team ONE, a community organization developing leadership through gardening in Burlington’s Old North End, hosted a harvest potluck dinner at the Chittenden Food Shelf. Slow Food USA launched their first ever $5 Challenge, proving to people that eating well doesn’t require wealth. The percent of the American population enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, hit an all-time high with 45.8 million receiving benefits in August, the USDA reported. Likewise, the New York City Council accounted for an over-all 23 percent increase in the use of food stamps at farmer’s markets throughout New York City. The Environmental Working Group released “The Meat Eaters’ Guide to Climate Change and Health,” which supplemented the common knowledge that a diet with minimal or no animal products is the most eco-friendly. The group also provided the statistic that organic milk has a similar carbon footprint to beans, legumes and other vegetables. The Triple Double Oreo debuted on grocery shelves, which was as necessary, as well . . . nothing. Other non-necessities included the need for Congress to dub a cafeteria classic, a quarter of a cup of pizza paste on a slice of dough, as a serving of vegetables. Once again, we saw Congress more interested in protecting industry than the health of its children. Speaking of wellness and youngsters, first lady Michelle Obama did more than ever to promote a lifestyle of regular exercise and balanced diet for Americans in 2011. Foodies rallied together, believing we have a right to know what’s in our food, and launched the Just Label It campaign urging the Food and Drug Administration to make GMO labeling mandatory. It’s funny how the organic industry seems to have no problem with labeling its products. UVM Dining Services committed to the use of Eco-Ware, reusable take-out and to-go dining containers. This gained an incredible amount of popularity last year, helping UVM reduce the environmental impact of their dining units. Re-vamped Redstone Market and Redstone Unlimited opened in the spring. These units provided a place where all students, but especially raging ‘Redstoners,’ could gorge themselves on kung pao chicken. Also introduced was Vermont Kosher, meals for dedicated Jewish students observing their religious beliefs. Perhaps the change prompting the most applause was the transition to dining locations being open late, some until two in the morning. Ali Nord, the previous Student Sustainability Intern for UVM Dining Services, calculated that Brennan’s was averaging 53 percent real food, with 50 percent of that being entirely local for the fall of 2011. Congrats UVM, we’re really onto something.