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Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Friend Shout Out: Gardens For Health International

This friday I would like to give a big shout out to a small organization in Kigali, Rwanda called Gardens For Health.

When I decided to move to Rwanda I knew that I wanted to use my health counseling training to do work here that involved nutritional counseling, but I wasn’t sure what opportunities I would find. So I began searching the internet for organizations that might have opportunities for me, that I could also feel good about working with.

When I came across Gardens for Health I was both impressed and excited, as it seemed a perfect fit for me. To date, GHI (Gardens for Health International) works with 10 different co-operatives in the Gasabo district of Kigali, an area on the outskirts of the urban center of the city. They have teamed up with these co-ops in order to supply land for planting gardens that not only feed households who have members living with HIV/AIDS, but also teach members of those households how to plant, sustain and harvest the crops. With this, they can maintain a level of food security, all while introducing them to healthy foods to support their immune systems, which is essential while being treated with antiretroviral therapy. Most of the crops that are grown on the co-operative land are used directly to feed the households, but they are also starting to grow maize (corn), a main component used in food aid in impoverished countries, that can be sold and used to support the families’ incomes.

GHI also supports 150 individual households by supplying them with seeds and tools to start their own home garden. I will be helping GHI conduct surveys with these households to see how well they are sustaining their gardens and how well they benefit from them.

All pretty amazing right? Even more impressive is that the organization is run in Kigali by country director Julie Carney, a 23 year old fellow New Jersian! Julie leads a team consisting of two agronomists, a nutritionist, and a project coordinator, to make sure that the communities and cooperatives are working together seamlessly, providing security to those in need.

The first time that I met Julie, she was showing me GHI’s demo garden when a beautiful young girl named Francoise came to visit. I took the photo above of Francoise picking dodo, a local green in the demo garden that day. When I inquired about the girl, Julie told me that her mother, a former prostitute who suffers from AIDS, is one of the members that participates in their program. She also told me of 14 year old Francoise’s battle with cancer. She had lived with a massive tumor for many many years that was recently removed and she is now receiving chemotherapy at a local hospital. I was further impressed by Julie’s compassion for helping people when I asked how Francoise's family can afford the medical bills and she admitted that she has paid for Francoise’s operation and chemo treatments herself.

I am so happy to be able to help out Julie and Gardens for Health as much as I can while I stay here in Rwanda. I can not wait to visit the homes of their members and see first hand what they have done to help them!

You, too can help GHI receive funding by voting for GHI as a favorite hunger-related charity. Vote by visiting the following website, clicking on the yellow “give here” button, scroll to the Hunger Charity Poll and vote for Gardens for Health! You will help out Julie and her team and feed the hungry in the process!


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Food Safety Modernization Act: Take Action to Protect Fresh Growers

Wednesday, November 18th the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions approved the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) to move forward for full vote. FSMA grants the FDA more power to regulate and oversee the nation's food supply is gaining popular support. Generally, FSMA requires the FDA to step up on inspections and promulgate new rules to improve food quality and prevent contamination in fresh produce. In its call to action, the bill intends to "protect the public health by preventing food-borne illness, ensuring the safety of food, improving research on contaminants leading to food-borne illness, and improving security of food from intentional contamination." The bill was introduced to the House (and passed) last year after the flurry of ecol i scares that ripped spinach, peanut butter and pistachios off supermarket shelves from Maine to California. While government always seems well intentioned, the results of the legislation may inevitably cause more harm to Jersey growers and organic consumers than good.

While it is not my intention to get on an FDA soapbox and their modernization approach to pharmaceutical-health care. I call it Pharmaceutical Health Care because our health care system today is actually a drug care system. FDA's modernization contributes to thousands of drug-related deaths and leads to the fast track approval of many unsafe drugs that are inevitably recalled. Additionally, the FDA is increasingly dependent upon the financial support it receives in the form of registration fees from big pharma. Do we really want corporate farming in the back-pocket along with the pharmaceutical industry? I am quite sure Monsanto does, but that's another blog post entirely.

Modernization is a green light to corporate everything... specifically factory farming. This approach to the age old practice of farming and food supply simply isn't working. Developing an arsenic spray for beef to eliminate e coli isn't the answer. Factory farming is making us sicker. Corporate farming has been the source of the most egregious threats to our food so far. If passed, FSMA will give powerful incentives to large, concentrated food manufacturers. These incentives coupled with imposing burdensome record-keeping requirements on farmers, would contribute to the eventual closing of the already struggling smaller, safer, local, Jersey Fresh farmer. Modernization and corporate farming and further regulation is not the answer. It's bad for the environment and it's bad for our health.

One of the main reasons we Healthy Chicks do what we do and blog about is is to urge our readers and clients to practice healthy, sustainable living by eating locally grown produce. We're very lucky to live in the Garden State and have access to such an abundance of fresh produce. From May through October we are blessed with the opportunity to shop for produce grown by Jersey Farmers at more than 130 farmer's markets and farm stands state wide. Local foods produced by small farms and small-scale food producers benefit both the local economy and consumers.

As with most blessings, you have to work hard to ensure you continue to receive them. Now more than ever we need our readers to reach out to their representatives and let them know that FMSA as written is bad for local growers! TAKE ACTION: Call your U.S. Representative and Senators. If you do not know who represents you, you can find out at www.congress.org or by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. Ask to speak to the staffer who handles food safety issues.

Talk with the staffer about why you support local foods. Tell them you oppose S510 Ask that they support a food safety bill that focuses on the real threats to food safety, such as lack of inspections of massive slaughterhouses and other factory processing.

Tell them you want any food safety bill to explicitly exempt small farmers. Explain that this issue cannot be left to the agencies' discretion, and you want new regulations expressly applicable to the large factory farms and processing facilities, not small and local producers.

New Jersey State Senators:
Contact Frank Lautenberg (D)
Contact Robert Menendez (D)

hmmm this post got me all fired up! I am ready to take on the world....one step at a time. You should be to! ;-)

Keep it Fresh!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Keep it FRESH! Oh yeah!!

Hello all to all of the beautiful followers out there in blog land!! I wanted to take a moment to express my gratitude for all of you that faithfully follow and read our blog. Your comments and encouragement have helped 3 Healthy Chicks keep loving what we do. AND WE LOVE IT!!!

We have a lot of really amazing things coming up in the next few months that we wanted to let you know about. Our first newsletter will be published and sent out very shortly. If you aren't already on our email list, please join! You can sign up on the safe subscribe button below!

Second, get your Tivo and DVR ready, because 3 Healthy Chicks are going to be on News 12 NJ!!! Well, actually it will be just Lauren and I as Jill is busy being a do-gooder in Rwanda. For those of you that didn't know, Jill is currently volunteering for Gardens of Health in Kigali, Rwanda where she is working with HIV/AIDS clients helping them to make better nutritional choices. So proud of her! But anyway- back to the NEWS!! Tune in on Saturday, December 12th at 9:30am and 1:30pm and Sunday, December 13th at 9:30am and 1:30pm. You'll have 4 opportunities to see us!

We have a multitude of workshops and offerings coming up in the next two months, so please sign up for the Newsletter and find out more!

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