Thank you to everyone who attended! I’ll have a separate post with the next steps. This is a recap of the forum for those who missed it. Last week we had a fantastic gathering with about 65 people attending, and many more who wanted to come. Our survey was taken by almost 250 people, most were parents and students. It was a fairly broad sample taken from about 50 schools. Out of the 90 Mt Tabor students, it was a cross-section of students who were not necessarily interested in vegan options.
We had community interest and support too, Higher Taste brought their tasty sandwiches and pasta salad, and Oatly donated vegan pizza, salad, and their chocolate oat milk. We also had delicious samples from local Gonzo Hummus, granola from Margalaxy and Tofu dip from Toby’s Foods.
Amy Hall (main parent organizer) started the evening talking about her personal story, the climate change implications, urgency and need for more plant-based options, as well as a vision of how Greener World Lunches can appeal to all students. Not only is this about climate change, but it is also about social justice. Students on Free and Reduced Lunch may eat a majority of their meals at school. If parents lack the time or money to supply them with healthy veg options, this especially impacts them. Here are a few paragraphs to share with those who weren’t able to make it.
“If lowering our city’s carbon emissions through more plant-based food is our city’s goal (Portland Climate Action Plan 12A/B), we must take the steps needed. We can’t just continue as normal and expect something to change.
Our youth understand this and in the face of inaction are striking around the world on Fridays, and demanding that leaders do something. As these students continue to learn about climate change, the plant-based options will become even more important to them. They will live with the consequences of what we do or do not do, right now. The longer we delay, the harder it will be for them.
On a hopeful note, a more sustainable world is definitely possible, but we will need to stop our current trajectory and make real changes to our system, quickly. Moving to a more plant-rich diet is one of the steps we need to take and something we can do every day. Just in the last couple of years, I have seen that the news and the environmental movement are finally acknowledging that intensive animal agriculture (factory farming) is a major contributor to climate change.”
In just the last 20 years, the 18 hottest years on record have occurred. Climate change is not in our future, it is happening now and progressing rapidly. If there is just one chart that shows the issue we face, it is this one:
Next, we had Brennan from Raven Corps speak about their organization and give student’s perspective.Raven Corps started as two clubs from Franklin and Cleveland but last year became a youth-based non-profit to support youth activists to advocate for a plant-based diet to help animals and the environment. It gives youth the opportunity to engage in the type of advocacy that they’re interested in and reflect back on what’s most effective.
They have hosted FFAC to give presentations to environmental groups, and have done vegan taste tests. They often hear comments about how students are interested in trying vegan food but it’s not accessible to them so having more access through school lunches would be really valuable. There’s a lot of excitement about helping the environment. Having options would be a great way to get people excited, especially if there’s education about how it’s good for the environment and good for people’s health.
Amy Higgs gave an overview on Eco-School Network. ESN is a great partner for Greener World Lunches as they have a broad network, support and resources for parents and students shaping sustainable schools. There are ESN parents and students in most of our schools who are involved in the cafeteria on different food waste, recycling, reusable silverware projects and more.
Next, Katie Cantrell, Factory Farming Awareness Coalition/Green Monday discussed how even one vegan meal a week makes a big difference.
My organization, FFAC, provides free presentations to schools, community groups, and businesses about the power of our food choices to help animals, the environment, and our own health. We are partnered with Green Monday, an international food sustainability initiative based in Hong Kong. I’m going to talk very briefly about the potent connection between food choices and the environment, and then provide some examples that have worked for other schools.
As the other speakers here tonight have done a great job of explaining, and as National Geographic summed up, “When we think about threats to the environment, we tend to picture cars and smokestacks, not dinner. But the truth is, our need for food poses one of the biggest dangers to the planet.” Eating less meat and dairy is the single most effective way that we can take action on a daily basis to help stop climate change, deforestation, air and water pollution, and a host of other environmental problems.
Young people are the ones who are going to have to bear the brunt of this, and we’ve seen an incredible movement of students here in Portland and around the world taking action to demand that the older generations leave them a habitable planet. We want to empower them so that they can take meaningful action on a daily or weekly basis with the support of their school and community.
Green Monday recognizes that for many people, the idea of going vegetarian or vegan overnight is overwhelming, and so people give up and don’t even try. Rather than presenting it as all or nothing, Green Monday encourages lots of people to work together to make small changes to their diet, adding up to a huge cumulative impact.
In Hong Kong, Green Monday works with 800 schools to offer plant-based meals to over 600,000 students.
In the US, we work with schools and businesses on both supply and demand. We work with dining services to ensure that one day every week (doesn’t have to be Monday), the featured special of the day is plant-based. We don’t advocate for removing meat from the menu entirely, because that tends to cause a backlash. Rather, we ensure that delicious plant-based food is available and use marketing to make it appealing.
To increase demand, we empower students to take this campaign on for themselves. They can encourage fellow students to pledge to go Green Monday by choosing that special option in the cafeteria. They can also do art contest, host cooking demos, have speakers, movie screenings, there are lots of ways to use this as a platform for education and empowerment around sustainable eating.
Then Chlöe Waterman from Friends of the Earth told us how other schools have successfully transitioned to more plant-based meals. Some of the Case Studies she referenced are here.
Lastly, Whitney Ellersick, PPS Nutrition Director spoke. She has kindly provided us her slides and permission to post them here: PPS-Presentation 5-20-19
Recap: PPS has 50,000 students in our district, 90 feeding locations, 9,000 school breakfasts, 19,000 school lunches, 1,800 suppers (38 sites), 5,000 summer meals (60 sites), 23 schools with fresh fruit and vegetable program grants. Approximately 240 staff.
Values and vision: Farm to school is huge, big interest in local purchasing. If you follow any of our activities we’re often talking about supporting farm to school bill efforts. OR was the first state to initiate and has put the most money towards it, which is very helpful to fund our purchases for school food. In 2016-2017, had $4.9 million in federal funding reinvested in the local economy. We also try to minimize the number of ingredients and make sure school lunches are for everyone.
I hear about the increase in satisfaction and participation and it warms my heart because it means students feel supported in choosing school food. There’s often a stigma that goes with it and our staff works very hard to make sure that it’s for everybody. A bill that just went through the legislature will expand our ability to offer free breakfasts and lunches and increase the poverty level to 300%. It’s huge, never been done in the country, it’s a very big move. Currently, 13 schools offer free breakfast and lunch to all students. If this goes through, looking at expanding to 36-40 schools starting in 2020.
What does local mean? Within 400 miles of Portland, includes OR, WA, NorCal, and Western Idaho. Where does the money come from? None of it comes from PPS general fund, comes entirely from federal reimbursement from USDA. They provide $3.39 for each free and reduced meal and 39 cents for each paid lunch sold. That includes all of the ingredients, labor costs, supplies, everything. We have a central distribution site. All the partners we purchase from deliver to one site. Then we have a team of 9 drivers and warehousemen that deliver the ingredients for the next day or two’s menu. One of our initiatives is to reduce delivery as much as possible to reduce carbon footprint, so most sites will get delivery every other day.
Equipment: The team only has ovens to prepare food in. Most equipment is old from 1950s off of WWII ships. Trying to replace it so that they’re able to do more effective cooking and better quality cooking. With new schools they’re able to add new equipment that’s safer to use but requires training over time. Most kitchens have warmer for holding hot food after it comes out of the oven and a service line. Some sites have sinks, some have dishwashers. That varies from site to site. One of the things that’s been limiting is the electrical capacity loads. I’m having to figure out what equipment I can keep in the Llewellyn kitchen because they have a low electrical availability. Some of those limitations that we have to work with are not apparent or visible.
Environment – we’re talking about a very short period of time to feed a lot of kids and have kids eat lunch. That’s really taken effect because of the pressure for academic time during the school day. We’ve seen a reduction in the time allocated to eating and enjoying meals together. That’s a hard one for us to navigate because we’re often told to have the kids come through the line quicker. We can get 12-15 kids per minute but we’re asked to speed it up. Depending on the size of the cafeteria, sometimes we can only fit one grade at a time. My team doesn’t always have the amount of time to interact as much as they would love to with all of their students. That’s the number one feedback we get from families is not enough time for lunch, and unfortunately, that’s not something I can control. Each principal sets their own schedule, and there’s so much they’re trying to navigate. That impacts food waste, when students are eating on the way to the garbage can.
Local suppliers: Finding suppliers is always a challenge. We had this great hummus meal but the hummus producer is no longer supplying K-12, so we have to look for new hummus supplier. That’s one challenge we’re facing.
Purchasing rules from the federal government: Because they have so many meals we’re serving, we have to do formal procurement and bid process that takes longer.
New this year: Added lentils to the menu in February. In a pasta dish as a protein source, and served a lentil salad. In January revisited the Indian curry and had garbanzo beans instead of chicken. That was our focus this year, to have a local option be plant-based in January and February. In the past, the local lunch has usually focused on meat and/or fish. Offered at every school.
Most recently, had a new menu item out of Richmond Elementary with yakisoba with organic, locally-produced, women-owned business providing the yakisoba. We talked about the fact that we really want to blend the excitement with culturally-relevant food. We have a very diverse community that can offer up recipes that are naturally plant-based and have good flavor.
Also, have been trying to highlight mushrooms over the last several years on the menu. They’re organic and out of Oregon, have had them in salads and on pizza, trying to expand student palates.
Challenges: One hiccup I’m trying to navigate is regulations around beans. In the USDA world, beans can be either a vegetable or a meat alternative. But they can’t be both on the same day. I have to navigate because I’m required to have beans as a vegetable weekly on the menu. On the same day, I can’t serve beans as a protein in a vegetarian or vegan dish. One of the things to navigate is how to plan that out and meet the requirements, otherwise, we won’t get the reimbursement. If students take 4 carrots instead of 5 we have to give back money. It’s for real, that’s the level they look at. If you hear me hem and haw, it’s because I’m trying to navigate all of these requirements and regulations.
It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I was even able to purchase tofu. Prior to that, it was not a recognized food according to the USDA child nutrition program. It’s a great equity and diversity conversation for sure. Just last week I got a memo about how to credit tempeh. So we’re getting there but we have to have the backing for that in order to get funding from USDA.
How we can help:
Parents and others supporting school meals, it’s amazing what that means to other students who participate in school meals. If students hear adults saying bad things about school food or school meals they’ll choose not to eat or make different choices. It makes a lot to have the backing and have students feel they have support for good food choices.
One of the things that’s very helpful is being able to have adults in the cafeteria to allow students the chance to taste the foods, either before or while they’re standing in line. There’s so little time that it makes it less risky if they can sample the food first before they choose it.
Spend time at the schools (with permission), either just to see what it’s like or working in the cafeteria. Experience it, then give me some of the honest feedback about what you experienced and saw.
Advocate at the state and national level for child nutrition reauthorization. Write your congressman. The more parent voices we have behind what we want to see in school meals helps. In particular, Suzanne Bonamici is chair on that and she’s been very good at listening to what works and what doesn’t. On a national level, that’s huge. There’s always a threat to school meal funding, particularly when there’s talk about block grants. The more students choose lunch, the more I can do.
Local partnerships. Have had partnerships with slow foods and Growing Garden and OSU Extension snap services to bring in samples of different vegetables to get them to try new foods and be more adventurous. Stuff my team doesn’t have the time or capacity to do as much as they would love, so that’s where it takes these partnerships to make it happen.
Finally, Q&A was at the end, and unfortunately, we ran out of time to get to everyone’s questions. Here are a few:
Q. When it comes to cost, meat and dairy are subsidized and fruits and veggies are not. How does that situation affect serving non-dairy and non-meat foods? A. Within child nutrition programs right now, I have access to over 200 foods, so they’ve expanded it. Includes garbanzo, black, pinto beans, PB, other vegetarian protein sources, as well as fruits, vegetables, and grains. One of the limitations that still exists is the distribution of that food. Because OR is such a small state, we have to fill a truckload of that food item in order to get it here. That limits us to about 30 common items out of those 200. What I would like to have doesn’t always match with what my colleagues at other OR school districts would like to have. USDA is working to change how they distribute the foods. That’s a shortfall because CA can order tons of truckloads of items because they’re a larger state with larger truckloads of items. But we do have access to things outside of meat and dairy. That’s why it can take 1-3 years to roll out a new recipe district-wide. Local procurement is a two-year conversation. It took 2 years of conversation until farm to school funding came through to buy local ketchup.
One thing that concerns me right now is tracking weather impacts on food purchases. Floods in the midwest are delaying planting of legumes, so that might mean delayed sourcing or increased costs for beans.
Q. Is there a way to creatively restructure how you put the ingredients together so that there’s a way to serve at least one plant-based option without adding new options? My son for medical reasons cannot eat dairy, and all of the vegetarian options have dairy in them. If there were a way to take the pasta dish and remove cheese and add chickpeas, that could be a more immediate and practical thing to make change while working on the bigger picture.
A. That was the play with the lentils. Definitely work with my team because we should be able to work with you to make appropriate substitutions if you have a student with allergies.
Q. Is it true that students have to take milk with school meals?
A. No, that’s not true and has never been true
Q. What about soy milk?
A. Right now the district only allows Pacific plain soy milk as the only acceptable meat substitute, and also lactose-free milk. That’s all that I’m able to work with right now. We have tried serving soy milk as an a la carte option years ago but it was not as popular because it was plain.
Q. Could Green Monday be a reality in the near future, as a stepping stone towards more plant-based? A. One thing that’s hard to capture is the variety of programs we’re responding to. We menu throughout the week, and we try to look at where can we plug in the variety of options throughout the week. From a school standpoint, could be a particular school or community initiative, but not one that I could promote from a district standpoint. I try to menu things that match these various initiatives so that students can take this on themselves.
Q. We worry about other types of waste, like plastic. Don’t understand why it’s falling on parents, seems like an education opportunity. Is there overlap between nutrition services and curriculum?
A. Ties into work with Betty. NIH grant submission is specifically trying to integrate food waste into STEM electives, first targeting middle school. Integration both studying food waste in cafeterias and in the home with teachers providing an avenue for students to explore research-based questions about what that looks like for them in their environment. That would be the first time that we’ve had that type of integration. It’s often something that comes out of our district, we tend to work in a siloed environment. Really excited about this opportunity, learning a lot about the academic world. Becoming a behavior that’s embedded in the culture of our schools is so much richer and hopefully can carry through as students advance in each grade.
Q. Want to acknowledge and appreciate the creativity in the menu and the fact that you still serve whole grains. I’ve worked at different schools and they’re such different experiences that it’s amazing to me that it’s the same system. You mentioned that the equipment and school culture are different. Is there a way for the kids to give feedback so that they feel more empowered? Just takes a few bad experiences for students to stop choosing school lunch, especially when it’s free because then they’re not valuing it. A.We love to get feedback from students. Students will often say bad things about the food before you can say it. At high schools, when school lunches are free they saw participation go up to 50% even though they have open campus policies. I met with Alliance High School at Meek, so they can tell me what they do like and want to see more often and what doesn’t sustain them through the day.
Beyond the Richmond cultural events, we also did it at Woodstock and we’ve done 2 events at George. Did Hispanic cultural, and black history month. PPS let them choose what foods they wanted to serve.
So many different avenues, have done focus groups on select food items, have done other feedback forums like surveys at certain schools, trying to tailor it to what the students are doing so there’s a presentation coming up on plastic in school meals.
Q. Parent and pediatrician at Bridlemile, have been trying to get parent-sponsored salad bar. Do you have any type of pathway or plan on how PTAs can get salad bars installed? A.We’ve had salad bars since 1995 and always offer unlimited fruits and veggies with them. In 2012 there were new regulations rolled out. One was that students had to select a ½ cup of fruits or veggies for their meal and all of that had to happen before the point of sale. Most of the salad bars were out in the cafeteria, after the cash register. During that time, we also had health inspectors tell us that we needed to get rid of the physical salad bars because it was a safety hazard. So we’ve transitioned to having all of the fruits and vegetables in the service line along with the entrees as part of the actual service line. We’ve found a reduction in waste where it’s moved onto serving line because they can keep them restocked but not too much so that it’s creating waste at the end of the day. That’s in transition in all sites to move away from a physical salad bar.
Q. Was there a change in the amount of fruits and veggies taken?
A. No, not really. We haven’t seen so much a decrease in consumption, more a decrease in the amount of waste that’s being produced. Always exceed the number of fruits and veggies required of us, and always offer unlimited as part of our meals, it just might look different.
Q. Who’s the decision-maker on using reusable plates? A.In middle school, reusable is a little tricky. Elementary is easier because they’re a captive audience, they only eat in the cafeteria, raise your hand to get up, etc. In middle school, kids eat in various locations throughout the school. When we first piloted the reusable trays they would go missing and not make their way back to the cafeteria. Or there was less coordinated effort to separate and stack trays and silverware. One of the conversations is how do we change what sustainability looks like with plastic use in middle and high schools because they’re larger populations that are less regulated. Don’t want to buy those options only to see them thrown away and disappear. Nutrition services makes the decision as to whether or not a school has reusables. To date it’s a community initiative to do a silverware drive, if they have it they’ll wash them and use them.
Q. With Green Monday, you said to get involved at the school level but if all of the food is coming from central distribution, how can we decide by school?
A. What hopefully will come out of this, what I need help knowing, is what to add on to our menu. How the menu gets shaped takes time, making a bunch of changes on our menu can cause fights and boycotts if it’s done too quickly. Because I’m federally funded and asked to be part of a lot of initiatives I have to be careful about which ones I sign onto. From a community standpoint, I can help build menus that allow schools to take place in their initiatives. Having that voice helps me know how to better meet the needs of the community.
Thank you to Katie Cantrell for taking such great notes! Next steps to follow. Sorry for the quality of the photos, will try to replace with better ones.
Earlier this week I traveled to Washington D.C. to be trained and lobby our representatives as they came back from their recess. This was immediately following the midterm elections. There were 621 of us total, many of us (like myself) were there for the first time. Citizens’ Climate Lobby was impressively organized with full-day presentations and break out sessions to prepare us for our day on the Hill.
We had a schedule with multiple meetings to speak with representatives from our State about making Climate Change a priority issue. As I have mentioned before, CCL is a bipartisan grassroots organization. Their proposal is a Carbon Fee & Dividend, which would provide a fast, efficient and fair way to transition away from fossil fuels. However, the main ask we were proposing in all our meetings was to make Climate Change a bridge issue, not a wedge issue. We feel that these policies will only happen when there is support in both main parties, not just the Democrats.
In order to participate in this event, I needed to raise over $800 to fund the airfare, food, and lodging. CCL offered to give me a stipend as they encourage new people to go to this event. I needed to raise an additional $650 myself. I have never publicly asked for donations, but it was easier to do when I thought about WHY this was important.
I was touched with the donations that came in from family and friends. It gave me a feeling of support to take on this new project of being more politically and civic-minded than I ever have by meeting and talking directly to our elected officials. During this entire trip, I felt the presence of each of my donors, and that I represented them and their families as well.
I participated in 4 separate Oregon meetings: Senator Ron Wyden, Representatives Earl Blumenauer (from my district), Peter DeFazio, and Suzanne Bonamici. In each of these meetings, we ended up talking to their top aids, although I did see Senator Wyden as he walked through our meeting room several times. We started the meetings by introducing ourselves and stating the reason we were there (regarding our concern about climate change issues). In each of those meetings I let them know about my team of 15 families (16 groups total counting CCL) who I represented. The fact that we would travel across the nation to meet with them also indicates the importance of this issue.
Our different teams all had roles and had help preparation meetings in advance. I took notes, was time tracker, and answered specific questions. There were very experienced people in each of my groups which helped a lot. I can see why CCL also wants new people to join so they can see it is not just the same people coming each time. We were very respectful and professional.
I came away from all these meetings feeling like while there was agreement, there was not necessarily any optimism about passing bills with Republicans in control of the Senate. There were discussions of needing to wait for the new representatives to join in January (understandable), but also talk of waiting until after 2020 in order to take action because of Trump and McConnell. This was frustrating because we can’t wait two more years. Not with the IPCC report telling us we have 12 years to get to significantly lower carbon emissions (and it could actually be less).
At the same time that we were meeting in the different offices, around 200 young people descended upon Nancy Pelosi’s offices to demand a New Green Deal. They received more attention, and I believe made a great impact. Although CCL has a different approach, I was glad to see these activists doing their direct action too. I’m encouraged by the new representatives joining forces, and they seem more forceful (or less jaded at this point). As awareness and inaction have increased and time has decreased, it is time for all of us, and the young people especially who will be the most affected by this, to demand change!
People need to demand that their elected officials work on carbon emissions because we have fossil fuel and large corporations fighting against this due to profits. After seeing the research done, we can have more jobs and lower energy costs once we bypass these groups. Most importantly, we can have better health and a future for our children.
After our meetings on Wednesday the 13th, we had a reception with all vegan food, speakers and music. They asked for first-timers to come up to a microphone at the front and share their experience. I decided that was even more out of my comfort zone that all the rest of it- raising money, lobbying, etc. As people who know me well can attest, I really don’t enjoy public speaking in general (except for doing climate change presentations). I didn’t even speak at my best friend’s wedding as a maid of honor (sorry Christy)! As I stood in the back listening to the others share their experiences, I was tapped on the shoulder by a fellow CCL Oregonian. “You should go up there, it inspires and motivates the others”. I wanted to just stay in the audience but realized that I was only here thanks to the generosity of CCL and my donors. I went up and spoke to the large crowd about why I was here, and who helped me get there. I’m not even sure what I said, but I know I mentioned that we all have to push ourselves to get out of our comfort zones, this is just too important. I had many people thank me later, and tell me they really liked what I said. It was a great feeling for me to overcome that fear, and grow.
A personal unexpected bonus of this trip was deepening friendships with my fellow CCL group, and getting an amazing roommate from Bend who made it an even better experience.
I want to personally thank again, these 15 families in addition to CCL who helped me talk to our representatives and make our voices heard. These individuals also represent their spouses and families.
Matthew Bailey (my brother-in-law, a parent and fellow climate activist)
Karen Tingey (friend, a parent and concerned citizen)
Kathy Nyetrae (my aunt, a parent, grandparent, and concerned citizen)
Marci Hall (my aunt, parent, and concerned citizen)
Beth Redwood (friend, a parent, concerned citizen and fellow vegan)
Jennifer Hammer (friend since high school, a parent and concerned citizen)
Alison Huey Walcott (my newest best friend, a parent and concerned citizen)
Vickie Moskowitz (my aunt, grandparent, and concerned citizen)
Christy Babcock (best friend since college, a parent and concerned citizen)
Tawni Eisenhart (best friend since college, a parent and concerned citizen)
Marlene & Marv Rosengarten (my aunt and uncle, parents and grandparents)
Francine Chinitz (CCL friend and fellow climate activist)
Hindy Garfinkel (my cousin, a parent, and concerned citizen)
Meg Eberle (friend, neighbor, parent, grandparent and concerned citizen)
Phil & Helene Hall (my parents who simply support these efforts because they believe in me).
Thank you, I will never stop pushing for change for you, and for all of us.
After attending my first meeting, I was impressed with the organization and approach. It was especially gratifying that it is a grassroots, nonprofit bipartisan solution to fight climate change at a national level. CCL has created a House Climate Solutions Caucus in the US House of Representatives which will explore policy options that address the impacts, causes, and challenges of our changing climate. It has grown to 90 members already, joined in pairs- Republican and Democrats together.
Their main climate solution is a carbon fee and dividend. While it seems complicated to explain, it’s actually quite simple. Basically, the carbon fee places a price on carbon at the point of extraction (mine, well, or port of entry). This will start at $15/metric ton and increase each year. All the money collected will be distributed to households as a monthly dividend.
This will cause consumers to be more aware of the price of carbon choices, and hasten the move to less expensive and cleaner renewable energy. How will this help with Climate Change?
(From CCL’s website) A study from REMI shows that carbon fee-and-dividend will reduce CO2 emissions 52% below 1990 levels in 20 years and that recycling the revenue creates an economic stimulus that adds 2.8 million jobs to the economy.
A structured rising price on greenhouse gas emissions will focus business planning on optimizing investment priorities to thrive in a carbon-constrained world.
Additionally, Carbon Fee and Dividend is projected to prevent over 230,000 premature deaths over 20 years from improved air quality.
Republicans should appreciate that it does not increase the size of government, require new bureaucracies or directly increase government revenues.
As part of implementing this policy, CCL trains and supports its volunteers in many ways.
I had mentioned in the last post how incredibly motivated I have been to work on climate change efforts, so I jumped in as usual and started getting signatures, and even helped at a booth right away. I received a call soon after asking if I would like to join the NW chapter of CCL headed to Washington D.C. in November after the midterm elections to make sure our Representatives know that Climate Change is a priority issue. The head of our chapter told me they like to have at least one new member go on these trips. I had marked on the form passed around in my first meeting that I was interested but would need financial help to attend. CCL would have a small stipend to give me if I could raise the majority of the money myself. I told them I needed to think about it for a few days.
It’s not cheap. Based on sharing a room for three nights and using some of my miles, it would still cost over $800 at least to attend (not even counting the meals on my own). I didn’t feel excited about the idea of traveling to Washington D.C., or doing this type of political work. But, I am learning to overcome this type of fear and take action anyway. At one point, I had talked myself out of it since I really wasn’t comfortable asking for money on top of everything. Then I had a revelation of sorts, “this is not really even about me”. I am not going to Washington D.C. because I want to, or for enjoyment, I am doing it because I believe this is one of the best shots at curbing carbon emissions for our future generations.
Not to say that going on this trip will be a hardship, there will be new people to meet and skills to learn. It has been called a life-changing experience. I’m embracing the idea of saying yes to things that push me, and it keeps opening up more opportunities.
So, here I am over half way to my fundraising goal of $650. There is no turning back now — the 10 friends and family members who have contributed to this trip are now part of this mission, and I can’t thank them enough for their support! I’ve committed to CCL that I will attend, but have not reached my goal yet.
If you would like to make any size donation, you will be part of making this happen. And I will do my very best in every way to make this trip successful. There is simply too much at stake for anything less.
I just returned home from 3 days in LA attending Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Training. Anyone can apply to attend and the conference itself is free, you are responsible for lodging and transportation. Jonathan and I both were accepted as I later found out it was the largest training event they had ever hosted. One of us had to stay home and make sure kids went to school, so he offered the opportunity for me to go. My thought process was that this Climate crisis is the most serious issue we face, I needed to do everything I could and possibly even find some hope.
Truthfully, I wasn’t sure that it would be “worth it” in the sense that it would be a significant expense, I wasn’t able to find many reviews from participants, and the brief agenda only listed a few local political leaders, a singing group and a youth poet. Also, I don’t like LA. Maybe because it is a big city and the six or so times I have gone there did not impress me, I just don’t like going there.
As I watched the FB page and a more detailed program was revealed, I started to get more excited. To save money, my mom offered me her Southwest Air voucher, and I booked a hotel room with extra beds at the cool Freehand hotel to share costs. I did decide to come the night before the conference so I would not have a 4am trip to the airport.
My roommate was from San Francisco, and we immediately bonded and went out to meet other Climate Reality people. Up on the trendy rooftop bar at the Standard, I realized there was no way I could read the gray 6 pt type drink menu in the dark- damn those designers- and ordered a cocktail someone was holding that looked good without even seeing a price. The interesting thing about this conference, and I have been to many alone where I know no one, is that we all were very open and willing to connect. Many of us were from out of town and arrived alone with just our shared interests in saving the planet for future generations.
The three days I spent in the cold LA Convention Center were inspiring, depressing, and very illuminating. I felt like I was back in college taking an intensive course with the best professor (Al Gore of course), subsisting on very little sleep due to our “dorm room”, and a lot of socializing and making new friends. Exhausting but completely fascinating. At one point Al Gore gave a 2.5 hour long presentation that was complex, yet simple. Horrifying, yet had hope. Listening to him speak for hours was the best part, and enjoying his intellect and humor.
There were panels and speakers featuring dedicated people ranging from renowned scientists, entertainers, political leaders and even an amazing teenage girl who grew up in poor health, next to an oil field and SHUT IT DOWN. Social justice stories ran deep throughout the sessions and I understand how and why the people most impacted should be involved, and at the forefront to find solutions. And I surprised myself by gaining an appreciation for LA after hearing more about it’s history and everything they are doing as a city to lower carbon emissions.
Animal agriculture was barely discussed, it was touched upon as far as fertilizers polluting the water, but they focused on transportation, building, the energy grid, and manufacturingj as the main culprits. These issues need to be addressed from the top down through our elected politicians. We need to join together collectively as a group to demand they address the climate crisis. We are still part of the Paris agreement until November 2020, and we should still try to reach our goals. Just as tobacco companies lied to people for decades about the risks of smoking, fossil fuel industries are lying to us now by continuing to promote their products. Renewable energy is cheaper and better, and there is no reason we should not embrace it as well as the new jobs they offer. The air we breathe, our children’s futures, these are not partisan issues. If Republicans don’t work on these issues, they will lose. We are currently experiencing the worsening storms, floods, fires and all the changes that we were warned about for decades. It may be too late to escape them, but we can try to slow this down!
Anyone who likes animals, nature, their children, their nieces and nephews needs to understand the urgency we face. This is completely unprecedented and the human mind just can’t really comprehend that anything can really get that bad… like facing extinction. It’s easier to keep putting short-term interests first, pretending that something will change our collision course, or just ignoring it completely.
While our current political administration proclaims “America First”, our skies and oceans don’t have walls and borders for carbon emissions. We are all connected on this blue marble in space and this terrible challenge which threatens all of us could possibly be the one thing that will unite us.
I just returned from a two week trip to Japan. With 85 teenagers. And it was amazing.
Our son has been in a Japanese Immersion Program since preschool age and this Research Residency trip is the capstone of all his studies. These 13-14 year-olds are given the outlines of a trip that has been happening at the end of the 8th grade year since the inception of the program 21 years ago. Within the planned trip, the students are in charge of navigating, translating, and researching a topic for which they have a large presentation. They conduct surveys in USA and in Japan, visit Japanese schools, stay in Japanese families. It is a very special learning experience. They even get to choose their chaperones for the trip, and I was very grateful to have made the cut. The chaperones are there for safety and to remind the students of etiquette and if issues arise. But our main role is “guide on the side”. That is fairly easy for me as I am not the best at directions, I don’t speak Japanese, and I am happy to let them lead.
Since this is a blog about food mostly, I will stick to that portion of the trip mostly, but the entire experience was so much more than that. It was life-changing in many ways for me, and extended far beyond finding veg options.
Our large group branched into two separate paths, Group A and Group B, which left us with a more manageable size of 42 students, 6 per chaperone. We stayed at a hotel in Hiroshima for 3 nights at the beginning where they served a large breakfast buffet with Japanese and Western items. Every day the kids gave out per diem money to use for transportation, lunch, dinner and activities. This was money each family had pre-paid for the trip.
I was with my group of really amazing kids all day. I could go on and on about them, but they were just nice people who got along with each other and were motivated. They had their days where enthusiasm flagged, but overall I had no complaints, they were actually fun to hang out with.
One day at lunch we ate at a ramen place where you pay using a machine ahead of time, and then go in with your ticket, and circle special options. I ordered the veggie ramen with onions, mushrooms and a fancy vinegar, but I am pretty sure the broth was not vegetarian. When you can’t communicate, you are with a group, and it is a society that puts just a little (or a lot) of meat and fish into almost everything, it is hard to avoid.
Hiroshima was such a memorable city that was both vibrant and sad, but mostly left me with a message of peace and hope.
After a side trip to Miyajima, we went to Asago City, where we spent the next 5 nights or so in a Nature House. The Nature House is like Outdoor School, but much nicer. It had 5 levels, a gym, cafeteria, meeting areas, ofuro baths and large rooms with tatami mats for sleeping. Every morning and evening we had group meals at the Nature House where a model tray was displayed. Everyone was meant to use it as a guide as far as how much food to take. Every morning there was rice, a type of miso soup and some other items like egg, fruit, or fish. Evenings were similar, but usually had some greens too and maybe some fried roll, gyoza or piece of meat. Our group had 8 vegetarian kids, and myself. Out of that, I would say about 4 of them stayed strictly vegetarian. I asked our Japanese teacher and trip leader if it would be possible for the cooks to leave the little pieces of meat out of the greens or other dishes where they were intermingled but not integral. Apparently, they don’t do custom orders!
That was one of my takeaways from this trip is really understanding how a collective society functions vs an individual one. In a food sense for example, in the US, even things like a coffee order are specially customized. You can order your coffee with specific milks, espresso shots, flavors, etc. That is not to say that in Japan they don’t have many choices- especially with their ubiquitous vending machines! I did notice that everyone sticks to the choices given the group whether that is for the lunch cafeteria meals, the options for a hotel meal, or in restaurants. One time I attempted to ask if I could have vegetable tempura instead of the shrimp tempura with my udon, but it wasn’t going well so I reverted back to just going with the kitsune (fried tofu) udon option instead. Maybe there is something to that “special snowflake” concept after all.
In some ways I found it pretty disheartening that there were so few vegan options added since I had been to Japan over 5 years ago. I did find that there were some almond and soy milk coffee options in the prepared beverage options in some convenience stores which was new. Japan is so wonderful that even if I did have to eat only white rice, I would still go back in a heartbeat. Fish and seafood are part of their culture because of their geography, and I worry about what effect that will have on them as we overfish the oceans.
They do a lot of things really well, and I have never been as clean as in that country. There are separate shoes for being outdoors, indoors, inside the bathing area, and for inside the toilet!
We all spent much of our free time (pretty much any break between traveling and studying) with shopping. Every single 7-11, Lawson’s and convenience store was invaded in our wake. I’m pretty sure all the vending machines had to restock early too! My environmental side really struggled with the amount of plastic bags and one use disposable items that entailed in many cases. Also, the amount of plastic bottles. There is much work to be done as far as using less plastic and packaging. One of the student’s field studies took us to Himeji Castle where every visitor removes their shoes before entering and puts them in a clean plastic bag. I really hope that they reuse those bags, because that is thousands of bags per day. Just have people carry them in their hand, or use reusable bags.
My favorite meal of the trip was a house made somen place in Kyoto that I went to with 3 other chaperones and our cool 24-year-old Japanese intern/teacher. We all ordered separate noodle bowls that tasted like udon which came with hot or cold broth on the side. In the center of the table there were seasoning and ingredients, and some sauces with sesame seeds. It was the best meal of the trip. Part of it was sharing it with awesome people after bicycling all around town on an e-bike probably. Memories for a lifetime.
We also had a couple of fun meals at an Izakaya in Wadayama where we stayed for several nights. There were delicious salads with tofu, tempura bamboo roots, fried lotus chips and other items that were all shared in addition to the mostly meat options. I did skip one final dinner that was at a fancy steakhouse, but was so tired by that point it didn’t feel like I was missing out.
Although I ate a lot of snacks and sweets throughout the trip, I returned at the same weight as when I left. Probably just because we were walking at least 20,000 steps a day, bicycling, and just way more activity than my normal desk job.
The other chaperones and I really laughed more than I have laughed all year. Many “inside” and immature jokes later… I feel deeply grateful for that trip and the ability to connect with my own inner teenager. I hope to return someday, but no matter what, the friends and experience will remain with me.
Recently we decided to get our very first family dog. My daughter has wanted one since she could talk. She is now 14. Although it was very tempting to get a specific breed we liked, I wanted to adopt a rescue dog. It seems like it would be so easy to adopt a dog, so many need homes. I found that it actually required some patience and persistence which was more than rewarded.
We looked at many local shelters like Oregon Humane Society, Pixie Project, and Petfinder which consolidates many of those into one searchable database. Our parameters were that we wanted a “young or adult” dog- not puppy or senior. Not too large.
We struck out several times where we found a dog we liked but someone else adopted him/her first, or we were found not to be suitable because of the age of our children, having a cat, and even not having another dog already. It can sometimes seem like there is a lot of detail and information needed when filling out applications, however these rescue organizations go through a lot of time, cost and effort, and need to ensure that these animals get a permanent home.
In the end we were fully rewarded with a dog I never would have expected to get, and wasn’t even on my radar. Boots Walker Texas Lowrider caught my eye on One Tail at a Time’s website. He looked pretty small with short legs and like a mellow couch potato. His bio said, “He’ll steal your girlfriend”.
When we went to his foster family’s home to meet him, I was surprised at how much larger he was in person. He is a Basset Pit Bull mix and has a sturdy body. He weighs 60 pounds and is impossible to budge when he plants his paws. His personality is pure sweetness and he has a very calm demeanor. We fell in love with him right away.
Our dog had already been neutered, immunized and microchipped.
I still love pugs, frenchies and other purebred dogs- but Oreo (formerly Boots) is such an amazing unique guy that I would choose above any other. “Adopt, don’t shop” now has new meaning for me once I learned that this amazing pup was just days from being put to sleep due to treatable kennel cough. Oreo looks at me in a way that says he is so grateful to have a loving home (or maybe he just adores me). If you work with a shelter who does do fostering first, there is the bonus of knowing what your dog’s personality is like beforehand. I think my husband does feel like Oreo stole his wife, but it’s okay because he fell for him too.
We got extremely lucky to have found our match. Oreo is a great example for how adopting can be amazing. Do some research, read this guide about pet adoption, and learn how to find and care for that very special animal who needs a loving home.
Last month I went to the very first Reducetarian Summit in NY. I was excited to go and meet the founder, Brian Kateman and others who also have a pragmatic approach. Seeing Tobias Leenaert, the Vegan Strategist again was an added bonus as well. I was able to make it a time to visit my aunt and all of my cousins (except one) and their families too.
I’ve been to a fair amount of conferences, and was impressed with the quality of this one. Everything was very organized with well-moderated panels of great speakers, perfect location at NYU across from a park in Soho, good use of technology for online questions to be submitted (cutting out all the long-winded types), nice swag book which included Brian’s new book, delicious vegan snacks and food. And best of all: unlimited very decent coffee. As a designer, I also appreciated the graphics which were bright, fun and memorable.
The people attending were a wide range from all different areas- environmental, food innovation, nutrition and health, animal rights, and social justice. They ranged from students and individuals to those from larger organizations like the Humane Society, OxFam and Rainforest Action Network.
It felt professional and non-judgmental. We came from many different areas, and not all vegan, but everyone shared the common goal of working together to change our food system.
There was a photo booth set up where you could hold up a sign as far as why you reduce: for animals, the environment or health (or all three).
Brian was extremely nice and welcoming. As I was attending on my own, knowing only one other person there, I found the group to be less cliquish than some that have a more narrow focus. I met a lot of interesting people during the breaks and at a social evening Saturday night. I love the inclusive message that we can all do something, no matter where we are.
I would love to come to the next one, and I am happy to see that they have posted all the videos on their website if you would like to see some of the topics and watch those yourself.
The only changes I would make would be to have it during the week so that I could have selfishly had my weekend to explore New York, try more vegan restaurants and spend more time with family!
One big highlight of this conference was being able to meet Tobias Leenaert in person. We’ve corresponded by email and Facebook from his home in Belgium and mine in the U.S. for about a year. Through my design firm, we worked on his identity and some presentation/book illustrations that have not yet been finished.
When I discovered his blog, The Vegan Strategist, it was like a breath of fresh air for me. I had been struggling with the dogmatic ideas I had about veganism, and some abolitionists in the movement. I felt like I didn’t fit in, and that my ideas weren’t accepted.
In person, Tobias was just as he is online, more of a listener than a talker with a dry sense of humor. I attended a few of his talks, mostly panel discussions. He presents his ideas as open for discussion, but has clearly thought everything through evident in his responses to the audience questions.
He is working on a book that I was fortunate enough to read an early draft. This is a book that needs to be written, and to be read by vegan advocates and activists. “Practice slow opinion” is his tagline. If our goal is to make change, than being effective is more important than being right.
I actually saw this in practice one evening as I listened to a direct activist actively try to change the mind of a non-vegan. The non-vegan had plenty of time and opportunity to learn about veganism and was not opposed to the ideas. He just felt differently about animals than the vegan activist.
The vegan activist was speaking very loudly, and asking rapid-fire questions that weren’t questions (“would you kill babies?!”). It was intense and included physical pointing along with the verbal pointed questions. I felt stressed myself just as a spectator. In the end, the non-vegan was playing a game of defense the entire time. It stayed in a respectful zone, but definitely didn’t create any change in either of their minds.
I would encourage you to watch Tobias’ video “Making compassion easier”. I hope very much to meet up again one day, hopefully bringing him to Portland. It was great meeting his wonderful partner Melanie, and colleague Carolina as well during this conference!
This is more of a personal post… My son turned 12 last week, and part of the birthday tradition is that I make him a homemade cake. When he was little, I used to have fun creating themes for his parties around his interests at the time. I remember in somewhat chronological order: Thomas the Train, Pirates, Rockets, Star Wars Legos, Angry Birds, Minecraft and last year was Zelda. Last year as I sat pondering whether I had the time and skills to make a cool fondant Zelda shield cake or not, our cat caught one of my son’s pet parakeets. The bird lived, but the shield cake was replaced with an emergency vet visit. I made a more simple tri-force cake in the end I think.
Here are a few of the photos- as you will see, the cakes are made mostly with love not artistry. I wish I could find all my photos, taking photos on phones has really destroyed my photo collections, although the quality of the photos has improved.
This year, I am sad to say there was no theme. Although we briefly discussed Japanese anime. We are entering the teen years and I guess the cool thing to do is to play video games either together or just sitting in the same room on individual devices. It is kind of weird to watch, but the boys are happy.
I didn’t have quite enough coconut oil so I used half canola. I think I could have cut back on the oil a bit anyway. The cake itself was not too sweet, and the frosting was really delicious. This is one of those recipes no one would know it was vegan. My only mistake was starting to frost it while it was still a little warm and the center layer melted, so I didn’t put any frosting on the sides but piled the rest of it on top instead.
I only have one photo of it, because I didn’t think about artfully staging it until right as it was set on the table in front of excited boys.
After they ate all the sugar, we went to the park to burn it off. They were all armed with a variety of weapons found in our garage: one plastic light saber, two rubber swords, a Zelda Shield, 2 bouncy ball discs (that can be hurled at each other like frisbees or used to deflect like a shield), and one bamboo stick (yikes!).
During their battles, my teenage daughter and her younger friends spied on the boys wearing floppy hats, with newspapers in front of their faces. None of the boys even noticed them! Sorry girls, maybe later.