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Culture & Artsby Francine Halvorsen10:53 amMar 22, 20120

Feed your head! Resources from a food policy gathering in Baltimore

FOODWISE BALTIMORE: Movies and discussion on ways to improve the food supply for residents.

Above: Cristin Dadent, chef and co-owner of Clementine Restaurant, which provided food for the gathering.

I know a lot about food, but recently I got schooled in the lack of food resources in Baltimore, about factory farms and about sustainable agriculture at “Feed Your Head,” an evening of films and discussions at the Creative Alliance, sponsored by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF).

Here are some of the films and other resources I discovered and pass along to you.

“Out To Pasture.” The 2010 film compares the factory farm approach to raising chickens, cows and hogs using pasture farming.

Directed by Allen Moore, an instructor at Maryland College Institute of Art, and produced by Leo Horrigan, of Center for a Livable Future, the documentary shows how the use of antibiotics and animal byproducts in livestock feed creates meat that’s not healthy and promotes “super bugs,” antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The whole unsavory process used in these Confined Animal Factory Operations (CAFOs) is shown. Confinement animals’ waste is collected, diluted and sprayed as fertilizer over adjacent crops, making them carriers as well. Then, of course, everything sinks into the soil and the water table causing an ever-spreading toxic condition.

The second film, BFED: Baltimore Food Ecology Documentary, was another MICA documentary directed by faculty member Hugh Pocock and student filmmakers.

BFED uses old footage of food markets in Baltimore and visits the huge distribution center in Jessup where truckloads of fresh, frozen and processed foods are re-portioned and redistributed to local markets and stores.

It is a disturbing picture of the irrational lengths producers and packagers go to get sanitized but otherwise not very healthy food to the city.

Illness from Poor Diets

Among the speakers at the event was CLF director Robert S. Lawrence, professor of environmental health sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He he said he began focusing on the topic of food processing because he observed as a physician that a great deal of illness was caused by food and lifestyle choices.

Another speaker was Brent Kim, CLF Project Director, the primary developer of the online curriculum for Teaching the Food System, which is available free from the center. The free downloadable curriculum emphasizes the relationships among food, public health, equity and the environment.

The multidisciplinary curriculum explores topics that can be integrated into classes covering social studies, environmental science, biology, nutrition, English and family and consumer sciences.

Robert Lawrence (Photo by Francine Halvorsen)

Robert S. Lawrence of Johns Hopkins. (Photo by Francine Halvorsen)

The download includes slides, handouts, vocabulary builders and other supplemental materials.

The center announced, by the way, that there are a limited number of $2,000 grants available for high school teachers interested in teaching the program to their students next semester. If you are a high school teacher and interested in applying for a grant go here.

The evening ended with a panel consisting of filmmaker Hugh Pocock, Jakir Manela, President of Future Harvest/CASA, Jamie Nash, Food Accessibility coordinator for the Baltimore Sustainability Office and Dru Peters, who with Steve Belkoff, are award winning farmers, using sound ecological and bio-diverse methods.

Introducing Locally Grown Food

The panel shared insights about the political cultural environment that has led to the expansion of factory farms and the dangers of water loss, global warming, general pollution and ill-health.

They spoke about how simple it is to grow at least a portion of what the city needs, locally and in the city itself, as demonstrated by Real Food Farm and Great Kids Farm, a Baltimore public schools project.


Brent Kim and Leo Horrigan of the Center for a Livable Future. (Photo by Francine Halvorsen)

As someone who has traveled a great deal and interviewed many people about food, I have encountered quite a few who are enthusiastic and understand and prioritize their food needs.

Others, though, complain about time and expense. In the long run, I think, a healthy diet is much less expensive than any other.

Once processed foods and beverages are eliminated from the budget, the price of weekly shopping averages out.

It is very clear that we have to change the direction of food production. Globally we consume 8 billion animals a year – 7 billion are chicken. This must be stemmed.

Corn consumption is over 2 billion tons a year. Quite simply, our food expectations have become unsustainable. Nutritional supplements and over the counter digestive aids are sold in unreasonable abundance.

The Hopkins Center for a Livable Future is reaching out to our community to participate in a thoughtful informed dialogue. We have the resources in our region to improve the quality of nutritional life for all Baltimoreans, and move in the direction of healthier people and a healthier eco-system.

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