Food Day is a nationwide event created to promote awareness around eating healthy, sustainable foods. Since the needs of each community are different food day a grassroots campaign, where each community celebrates food day in its own way.
The five focus areas for Food Day are; 1. Promote safer, healthier diets, 2. Support sustainable and organic farms, 3. Reduce hunger, 4. Reform factory farms to protect the environment and animals, and 5. Support fair working conditions for food and farm workers.
Last year when we lived in Sault Ste. Marie, MI the local Food Policy Council sponsored a few events around the community. One was a healthy canned food drive. We encouraged people to help support the local food bank but instead of getting rid of stuff in their kitchen they do not want, we had lists of “healthier” options to give. We also sponsored a cooking class with the local elementary school.
This year in our new home of Honolulu, HI there are Food Day events being sponsored by many agencies including, WIC, Head Start, and local colleges. In New Jersey a local man is bringing technology to help increase access to fresh foods by creating a mobile application (app) to help people to give money to local pantries for fresh healthy foods. He is using Food Day as a fundraiser event to help get the app launched.
Some ideas you could do to spread the message of food day:
- Shop at a local farmers’ market and get to know the farmers
- Initiate a healthy meeting policy at work, serve fruits and water at meetings
- Volunteer in a soup kitchen or food pantry
- There’s many ways you can get involved and help spread the message of Food Day, remember to “eat real”
Previously, we discussed how many people in inner cities do not have access to quality, fresh foods. As metropolitan areas continue to sprawl outwards it turns local farmland into subdivisions and asphalt, eliminating the ability for a community to provide its own food. There are several ways communities are trying to combat this problem through farmers’ markets and healthy corner stores. An increasing popular approach is through “urban farming.” Using small vacant lots and rooftops for farming gives easy access to locally grown healthy foods and has environmental benefits.
urban roof top farm
Photo Courtesy of: sustainablesouthsound.org
The benefits of urban farming go beyond creating a healthy, local food source as detailed in this report for Boston. Farming creates dozens of direct, local jobs as well as hundreds of indirect jobs. The increased city greenery reduces greenhouse gas emissions and lowers a city’s heat-island effect. Best of all this is accomplished by utilizing previously unused urban land and rooftops.
Farming in Chicago has had more benefits than expected. Not only has the farming been used to change eating habits it has also impacted people’s lives. Farming has been an educational tool to teach families where their food comes from. Many of those who have worked on the farm have also started their own gardens at home and many have started up at local schools.
In Hawaii 80-90% of the food consumed is not produced on island, meaning it traveled thousands of miles to get to our plate. Food that travels is less fresh and costs more due to shipping and preservation costs (not to mention the impact transit has on our environment). An upcoming documentary “Ingredients Hawaii” looks at our food system in Hawaii and ways to encourage more local food production for the people who live here.
If you want learn more about urban farming in your neighborhood and to get involved look up and see if there is a Food Policy Council in your area. A Food Policy Council is an organized group of various stakeholders, policy makers, food producers and consumers, who evaluate the needs of their community. The goal of most Food Policy Councils is to create sustainable food systems.
In light of the recent 50th anniversary of Silent Spring, we decided to share our thoughts about one of the most well-known environmental books which many people believe sparked the environmental movement.
Silent Spring, written by scientist Rachel Carson, it documents the harm caused to birds and other animals by pesticide use. This book had a lot of political impact, leading to the banning of certain pesticides. It showed evidence that what we do to the environment can have much broader and serious consequences. Although environmental public health is not a big interest of ours, we thought it would be worth while to read such an important piece of literature. Maybe it was because we had such high expectations of the book going in, or maybe it was just not our style, whatever the case we found the book disappointing. Each chapter simply described another anecdotal incident, of pesticides harming some animal in some part of the country, it just got really boring. Do not get us wrong, we believe this is an important piece of literature in our history, we just get more out of knowing the story behind the book itself and the impact it has had worldwide. Our official recommendation is LEAVE and instead READ about the impact the book has had since its publication.
We love riding TheBus in Hawaii. It gets us to work, the store, wherever we need to go. One can get most anywhere on the island using public transportation. It is a great transit option because it gives its riders flexibility that cars can not (on top of being environmentally friendly). We can read a book, play on our phones, take a nap, and after a few drinks it gets us home safely. Best of all it costs just $60 per month for an adult. Studies have shown that young professionals today are not as interested in buying cars as their parents in favor of public transit. However, TheBus has some pitfalls that is limiting its attractiveness to new riders.
picture courtesy of wikipedia.org
Suggestions to make TheBus even better
GPS/Timing: One of the biggest complaints about riding the bus is the time schedule and how inconsistent buses are. TheBus has been proactive by initiating a GPS phone application and digital signs at a few bus stops. The app could be more user-friendly and only caters to those with smart phones and the digital time boards have displayed “standby” ever since installation. Some routes are long and traffic is unpredictable, so having a working display board and GPS app can help us riders. Additionally, if a bus is at a stop early then it should wait until it is back on schedule.
Comfort: When the bus is full it is too hot, but when it is half empty it is freezing. When its 80 degrees outside people are probably wearing shorts and t-shirts and do not want to carry around sweaters, but the bus seems to want to blast the air conditioner and make it uncomfortable for all of us. WiFi access would be a nice amenity, I know Greyhound and other charter busses do it. Overcrowding is another comfort issue, more busses on busy routes and during peak times can help.
Stops: In order to make express busses truly “express” they must have fewer stops only at the main transfer stops. All other busses need planned stops at major destinations, a stop is not needed every at block (people can walk a block to catch the bus, it is good for them).
For more ideas to improve upon public transportation check out this article.
We talk a lot about pedestrians and cyclists being the victims of motor vehicle accidents but have not yet touched on the effects of car pollution. According to the World Health Organization, in some countries more people are dying as a result of air pollution from vehicles than being killed in accidents. Emissions from motor vehicles have several health effects on the people who breathe it in including, allergies, asthma, and heart failure. This is a serious problem that continues to rise as people become more dependent on motorized transportation. Fortunately this public health problem can also be solved through policies and planning.
In 2009, 1 in 12 people in the U.S. suffered from asthma up from 1 in 14 just eight years earlier. The group that saw the biggest increases of lung diseases were inner city kids as they are more susceptible to acute and chronic respiratory effects from pollution. Children with higher exposure to pollutants such as tobacco smoke and vehicle emissions have higher rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America asthma is the most common chronic condition among children, and is also very costly with an annual cost of nearly 18 billion dollars in healthcare costs and days lost from work and school.
During the two weeks of the 1996 summer olympic games, Atlanta restricted private vehicles from being used in the downtown area. The CDC took this unique opportunity to measure the impact of motor vehicle use and asthma. Research shows that over this time hospital visit for acute asthma attacks reduces over 40% and the ozone levels reduces 27%. This shows that efforts to cut motor vehicle use has a dramatically positive impact on pollution levels and help keep us all healthy. To learn more about sprawl and its effects on air quality check out Public Health and Urban Sprawl.
“This (intersection) has caused a death. That one will, too, unless they do something.”
As pedestrian safety becomes a major issue across American cities and states we explore how to improve safety standards where many accidents occur: intersections. Creating safer intersections is not rocket science though, it is just difficult to convince city officials and traffic engineers to change their old auto-centric way of thought to make things safer.
We apologize but things are about to get a bit technical. The greatest threat to pedestrian safety at an intersection is the radius of the curb. This determines how sharp any given corner is and effects the travel speed of vehicles and the width of the street (see diagram below). Unfortunately, a wide curb radius has become the norm in today’s design standards. Traffic engineers advocate for them because their design manta is “to move cars quickly” so they want traffic to not have to slow down for a tight corner because traffic will clog up behind them. Another advocate for the use of a wide curb radius are emergency response vehicles. They believe that a wider curb will help them to respond to emergencies quicker. However, this has a catch 22 effect because the wide curbs to get to emergencies faster but what is actually happening is creating more accidents due to unsafe intersections. You can read more about this in Suburban Nation.
There are several design elements to improve crosswalks. The goal is to make pedestrian crossings as visible as possible by ladder stripes and signage. The safer it is for pedestrians because it is more visible it will be for vehicles. Some communities are taking an initiate and being creative with crosswalks markings to make them unique to a community and more visible. Some communities are learning the benefit of installing roundabouts at intersections to improve traffic flow and enhance pedestrian safety. While there is some opposition to roundabouts they are proven to help control traffic flow and be safer for pedestrians.
Fast cars and poor planning is not the only thing to blame though. Pedestrians need to take responsibility for their own actions. Jaywalking sounds like a minor offense but it is the same as running a red light. Pedestrians should cross the street only at a crosswalk and if a signal is available only go ahead when it is your turn. If there is no walk signal be sure no cars are coming before you cross. Always remember what your mom and dad always said, “look both ways before you cross the street.”
With all the recent talk about mixed-use development, just what exactly is it and why is it important? The goal of mixed-use is to create a community where people live, work, and play in the same neighborhood. Mixed-use development is the epitome of what a traditional downtown looks like; shops, restaurants, businesses, and residential units all sharing the same space. It occurs at varying scales such as; within a building, a street, or a neighborhood. This is the opposite of most of today’s new development is; big box stores, subdivisions, and office parks. These are all single-use districts with limited access to the rest of the city, usually only serviceable by car. This type of development is the result of archaic zoning codes aiming to separate industries that were once incompatible with the rest of the city.
Typical Mixed-use building
Image courtesy of milhausmixeduse.wordpress.com
In order to create a mixed-use community stakeholders must come together with a common goal, architects must plan mixed-use buildings and policies set by cities and planners must support it as well. Another reason mixed-use development is good for a community is the economic benefit, mixed-use development creates more tax revenue for a city, while taking up less acreage. Mixed-use development offers more residents and more jobs per acre.
From a health perspective, mixed-use communities are ideal because they have everything a person needs within walking distance. Research has shown that people who live in mixed-use communities are more physically active. They are able to walk to their daily needs which increases activity, but also the time saved fighting traffic allows them to engage in more activities. With many amenities in walking distance and a raising walking population it is important that communities encourage safety for pedestrians and other non motorists.
Businesses have started to see the benefits of mixed-use development as well. We mentioned in a previous article how major companies are transforming their corporate campuses into mixed-use developments. The US military has also shifted their policies to alter how they build military bases. Mixed-use development is a great way to support healthy and sustainable communities from the planning and policy level and work at a smaller scale such as businesses or at a larger city scale.