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Facts and figures for Mother’s Day this year

Think sustainability for Mother’s Day this year

Food Talk Founders

Mother’s Day is a holiday where food plays a central role as a token of appreciation or a gesture of love.

This Mother’s Day, Danielle Nierenberg and Ellen Gustafson, co-founders of the Food Tank, offer tips for how to create a better, more sustainable celebration:
 
1. Buy local.

Consider cooking your a mom meal at home instead of going out to a restaurant and trying to buy as many ingredients as possible from local farmers . 
 
A study by the Natural Resources Defense Council about the environmental impact of food transportation in California showed that importing food products into the state released nearly 250,000 tons of greenhouse gases. That’s the equivalent amount of pollution caused by about 40,000 vehicles. Also, shipping food from far away also means that it's not as fresh, or tasty, when it reaches consumers. 

Local Harvest has a search feature that allows consumers to find area farmers markets’ and farms in their communities.  
 
2. Dine responsibly.

If Mom wants to go out for dinner on her big day, do some research and find a restaurant that follow best practices for sustainability.

Use the The Green Restaurant Association’s search feature that allows diners to locate the most environmentally friendly places to eat. In addition, make sure to eat leftovers. The NRDC reports that consumers eating in restaurants leave an average of 17 percent of meals uneaten, and that more than half of that is thrown away. 

3. Learn something new.

Understanding why it’s important to eat locally and to support sustainable operations is vital. Documentaries such as Food, Inc., What’s on Your Plate, and Food Chains can provide great conversation topics for Mother’s Day dinner.
 
Also, these books are worth reading to learn more about food and agriculture: “Cooked” by Michael Pollan; “VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health . . . for Good” by Mark Bittman; “Bet the Farm: How Food Stopped Being Food” by Frederick Kaufman; “Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America” by Wenonah Hauter; “Behind the Kitchen Door” by Saru Jayaraman; “The Perfect Protein: The Fish Lover's Guide to Saving the Oceans and Feeding the World” by Andy Sharpless and Suzannah Evans; “Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us” by Michael Moss; and “Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity” by Lester R. Brown.
 
4. Make a donation.

Instead of buying another gift for Mom that she doesn’t need, find an organization that supports a food- and agriculture-related issue and make a donation in her name.
 
About 17.2 million U.S. households didn’t have enough food to eat in 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In New York City, City Harvest collects food from restaurants, grocery stores, and other food businesses for donations, and also supports educational programs about nutrition in low-income communities. Oxfam America also has a gift section where you can donate a vegetable garden for a family in need.

5. Help out in the community.

The latest U.S. census report shows that 46.2 million people were living in poverty in 2011, and poverty is the leading cause of hunger. 
 
Share a meal with those less fortunate on Mother’s Day by lending a helping hand at a food bank or a soup kitchen. Food Pantries has a website to locate food pantries and soup kitchens in your area. Sharing a plot in a community garden is another great activity. For example, Chicago’s Green Network offers a map showing area community gardens and information on how to get involved. 
 
6. Buy fair trade.

Chocolate, fresh fruit, coffee, or flowers are often given as Mother’s Day presents. These are all items that can be purchased from fair trade producers. Fairtrade International helps support smaller producers and farmers who may have a difficult time covering their costs while remaining competitive in the global market. Fair Trade USA offers a global reach map that shows organizations involved in fair trade. 
 
Food Tank co-founder Ellen Gustafson recently launched the Apron Project. The first collection of aprons is handmade in Rwanda by Indego Africa, a nonprofit organization supporting women-owned businesses in Rwanda. It helps businesswomen build economic independence through access to markets and education.
 
7. Plant a garden.

Planting a vegetable garden at home is a fun Mother’s Day activity that will help make sure mom has fresh produce available throughout the summer.
 
It’s also a money saver. The National Gardening Association estimates that the average return on the investment of a home garden is $530. For the urban gardener with limited space, these tips from Inhabitat are a good place to start.

Happy Mother's Day. I hope the tips are helpful. I'll be thinking about my mom as I plant my garden this week.

Copyright 2013, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

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