Friday, October 29, 2010

First Big Belly On Campus

On Tuesday, GW installed their first solar trash compactor called BigBelly. The can has a solar panel on the top that automatically compacts trash and cuts down the number of times of emptying the can. There is a computer inside that alerts facilities when the bag needs to be changed or if there is a problem. This BigBelly was installed at the most popular trash spot on campus--right outside Gelman library and Starbucks. Usually, the bag is replaced at least twice a day, and now is replaced every two days! This BigBelly is acting as a pilot for future BigBelly's on campus. If it is successful, hopefully we will see more around foggy bottom.

Lucky for me, I got to be the first person to put a piece of trash in our BigBelly!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Food Deserts: A Major DC Issue

 Eliminate DC Food Deserts, Pass the FEED DC Act of 2010
Go here to sign the petition

"If you visit Washington, D.C.'s Ward 7 or 8, you'll notice several kinds of businesses — fast food joints, corner stores, and gas stations, to name a few. But one type of shop is conspicuously absent — grocery stores.
Folks who live in the city's Ward 7 and Ward 8 reside in food deserts, areas that lack supermarkets, farmers' markets, and other places where folks can get fresh, healthy goods. Wards 7 and 8 are also the two regions of the city with the lowest average household incomes. While the wards boast 23 percent of the D.C.'s population, they only contain 16 percent of the city's grocery stores. In contrast, Wards 2 and 3, the region's with the highest average household incomes, boast 27 percent of the city's population but contain 44 percent of its grocery stores. Anyone else notice a massively unjust discrepancy there?" -Sarah Parsons,

Tell the Gates Foundation to support Real Solutions for Hunger

"In 2006, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) was launched as a joint initiative of the Gates Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation. AGRA's primary goal is to alleviate poverty and reduce hunger in Africa through agricultural development that targets small-scale farmers.

Unfortunately, the Foundation promotes industrial farming, inappropriate technologies, and pro-corporate policies that threaten to make things worse for the hungry, small farmers, consumer health, and the environment in Africa. A handful of large-scale farmers and transnational agribusiness corporations, like Monsanto and Syngenta, may be the only real beneficiaries of AGRA. In the words of a representative of the Kenya Biodiversity Coalition, "AGRA is poison for our farming systems and livelihoods. Under the philanthropic banner of greening agriculture, AGRA will eventually eat away what little is left of sustainable small-scale farming in Africa."

Many farmers in Africa are calling for an alternative approach to sustaining their communities and land. "African farmers are seeking food sovereignty and not imposed unhealthy foods," says Kenyan biointensive farmer Samuel Nderitu. "Indigenous knowledge that has been embraced by farmers in Africa for decades has been farmer friendly, environmentally sound and humane, as opposed to modernized agriculture...African food is healthy and nutritious. We don't need GMOs!" Indeed, scientific studies show that small-scale sustainable agriculture has the potential to revitalize rural economies, mitigate climate change and its effects, restore and preserve the environment, eradicate poverty, and provide healthy, culturally appropriate food for all.

You can make a difference TODAY by pressuring the Gates Foundation to support real solutions to hunger, poverty, and climate change. Stand with civil society organizations, farmers, farmworkers, and farmer organizations, grassroots groups, health and consumer organizations, environmental groups, scientists, and academics in the US, Africa, and around the world in urging the Gates Foundation to support African solutions to African problems.

This petition is the companion to an organizational sign-on letter to the Foundation. Visit the AGRA Watch website to learn more!"

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Two-Day Healthy Food Workshop Saturday & Sunday

This is a great looking workshop that is being offered in DC this weekend. Melissa and I had the pleasure of meeting Julia and Andrew, the leaders, at the FRESH event last night and they said they would be happy to give anyone from FJA a reduced student discount of $50 to attend the event. Consider going, it looks awesome.

The Deepening Roots ( weekend workshop is a dynamic, hands-on educational program in which we discuss and put into practice five elements we believe are key to sustainable development: meditation, health, agriculture, empowerment and community. People of all backgrounds and experience levels have enjoyed this workshop, and walked away with enthusiasm, new knowledge and the tools to apply it. Our overall goal is to inspire, get people thinking about food and community from a fresh perspective, and provide some basic practical knowledge to implement the elements in their own lives.

Date & Time:
Sat. Oct. 30th & Sun. Oct. 31st, from noon to 5 pm each day
Location: 2401 15th St NW Washington, DC map
$95 regular/$75 students (if cost is a barrier please contact us)
To Register: click here
contact Julia at with questions or for more information

Shopper's Guide: Pesticides

Not all of us can afford to go 100% organic every time we shop, especially those of us that are students on a budget. The solution is to focus on the foods the come with the heaviest amount of pesticides, additives and hormones. According to the Environmental Working Group, consumers can reduce their pesticide exposure by 80% by avoiding the most contaminated fruits and vegetables.

Why should you care about pesticides?
  • The growing consensus among scientists is that small doses of pesticides and other chemicals can cause lasting damage to human health, especially during fetal development and early childhood. Scientists now know enough about the long-term consequences of ingesting these powerful chemicals to advise that we minimize our consumption of pesticides.
What's the difference?
  • EWG research has found that people who eat five fruits and vegetables a day from the Dirty Dozen list consume an average of 10 pesticides a day. Those who eat from the 15 least contaminated conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables ingest fewer than 2 pesticides daily. The Guide (EWG's Shoppers Guide) helps consumers make informed choices to lower their dietary pesticide load.
Will washing and peeling help?
  • The data used to create these lists is based on produce tested as it is typically eaten (meaning washed, rinsed or peeled, depending on the type of produce). Rinsing reduces but does not eliminate pesticides. Peeling helps, but valuable nutrients often go down the drain with the skin. The best approach: eat a varied diet, rinse all produce and buy organic when possible.
About the guide:
  • EWG analysts developed the Guide based on data from nearly 96,000 tests for pesticide residues in produce conducted between 2000 and 2008 and collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. You can find a detailed description of the criteria EWG used to develop these rankings and the complete list of fruits and vegetables tested at their website,

    Foods you should ALWAYS buy organic:

    • apples
    • blueberries
    • nectarines
    • bell peppers
    • spinach
    • kale
    • leafy greens
    • cherries
    • potatoes
    • grapes
    • carrots
    • pears
    • tomatoes
    • meat
    • milk
    • coffee
    • celery
    • peaches
    • strawberries

      Foods you don't have to buy organic, lowest in pesticides:
      • Onions
      • Avocado
      • Sweet Corn
      • Pineapple
      • Mangos
      • Sweet Peas
      • Asparagus
      • Kiwi
      • Cabbage
      • Eggplant
      • Cantaloupe
      • Watermelon
      • Grapefruit
      • Sweet Potato
      • Honeydew Melon

      Dr. Andrew Weil is a renowned medical expert on natural health and wellness, here's what he has to say about pesticide laden food:

        Info and Data from the Environmental Working Group
        Learn more at

        Monday, October 25, 2010

        How to GroW a Kombucha SCOBY

        You may be asking yourself "what is kombucha?" Kombucha is an effervescent and tangy health drink made from fermenting sweetened tea, and something I drink just about everyday. My mom and I joke that we like to drink it for "cocktail hour" since we like to enjoy a glass before dinner. Kombucha contains multiple species of yeast and bacteria, as well as the organic acids, active enzymes, amino acids, and polyphenols produced by these microbes.

        Go here to learn more about Kombucha

        To make kombucha you only need two things, sweetened tea and a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast), AKA “mother,” or “mushroom.” Kombucha mothers are pretty easy to find these days if your friends are making this drink, but if your friends haven't jumped on the kombucha wagon yet you have two options for obtaining a SCOBY, 1) you buy one off craigslist for anywhere from $15-35 or 2) you grow your own for less than $4.

        What you need to grow your own mother:

        • 1 bottle of Organic, Raw Kombucha
        • 1 glass jar or bowl
        • 1 kitchen towel
        • 1 rubber-band
        • 1 cup of room temperature sweetened tea

        You can buy the kombucha at just about any health food store. I got mine at Columbia Plaza Market, they also carry it at the GW Deli and Whole Foods. If you can’t find it near you though, you can buy a bottle of it online. IMPORTANT: Make sure it’s organic, raw, and unflavored with juice. You just want the plain, original beverage.

        The sweetened tea can be as simple as a cup of black or green tea, sweetened with a tablespoon of sugar. I used Yogi Green Tea Kombucha and a tablespoon of white sugar.

        Pour the kombucha and room temp sweetened tea into your bowl or jar
        Cover it with a towel so it can breathe but be protected from insects and other contaminants and let it sit. Over time, a new SCOBY will start to form on top of the liquid. First it will appear as a thin film, then slowly it will thicken up. Once it is about 1/4 inch thick it is ready. It takes about 3 weeks to grow a SCOBY that is around 1/4-1/3 inch thick, it really depends on the temperature of the room you are trying to grow the SCOBY in. For example, in the summer it might only take 2 weeks. Above is a picture of mine sitting on top of my microwave in my kitchen.

        Sunday, October 24, 2010

        MicroFarm on First and K NW

        Several omens have led me to this farm in the past few months. First, a photographer from GW mentioned it to me to find. It has been on my go-to-visit list in my planner since August. Next-- I saw a video clip about this farm on Then--I went on a bike tour of gardens in elementary school grounds in DC, a stop on the tour was here. I arrived and immediately recognized it from the video clip. The tour wasn't more than a cursory glance which made it even more imperative that I come back again. This morning, I grabbed Erin, fellow food justice member and just...kind of..showed up at this said MicroFarm, hoping to be put to work by creator and farmer, John Cochran.
        Lucky for us, John welcomed our help and we tended the collards patch together. As we picked off harlequin beetles, some neighborhood kids came to join us, watering, weeding, and asking endless intuitive questions.

        John started this farm in July and donates the majority of the harvest to DC Central Kitchen. (Sounds like another urban agriculture project I know..) Students from Walker Jones Elementary School and residents from the neighborhood all come out volunteer on the farm. The photo above is of John, KK, and Erin all tending the massive collards patch. Also growing on the farm is kale, swiss chard, turnips, carrots, sunflowers, herbs, figs, and other fall vegetables. To learn more about the Farm at Walker Jones, go to John's blog,

        Fall = Apples = Apple Desserts

        Apples are one of the best parts of fall in my mind. I have lots of recipes for apple desserts but today I decided to make an old family recipe for Chopped Apple Pudding Cake. Sounds weird, pudding and cake? But I promise it's not like pudding, it's more like a super moist, gooey, spiced apple cake. This recipe is super simple, uses minimal ingredients, and highlights some of the best flavors of fall.

        Chopped Apple Pudding Cake

        1 stick butter
        1 cup sugar
        1 egg
        1 tsp baking soda
        1/2 tsp nutmeg
        1/2 tsp allspice
        1/2 tsp cinnamon
        1 cup flour
        2 cups chopped apples
        1 cup chopped walnuts

        1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
        2. Cream butter and sugar and then add the egg. 
        3. Sift dry ingredients together and add to wet mixture, blend. 
        4. Fold in apples and nuts.
        5. Spread evenly in baking dish and bake for one hour.

         I used a mix of golden delicious and rome apples

         Fresh out of the oven

        I enjoyed mine warm and à la mode.

        nomnomnom Sweet Virginia Honey

        FJA spent Saturday at Sweet Virginia, post on the entire day to come later. Until then check out the goodies we each left with...

        Beautiful flowers and Sweet Virginia HONEY!!!

        GroW Community Garden Turns 1!

        The Garden turned 1 in September so last Thursday we threw it a little birthday party. All of the gardens friends and supporters were invited to join FJA for a celebration and potluck. FJA members supplied the feast, there was apple cider, Asian coleslaw, pumpkin feta muffins with cranberry sauce, fresh fruit, baked brie, squash, pasta salad, black bean brownies, and zucchini cupcakes! Everyone had a really great time eating and mingling.

        Everyone brought jars and forks from home for the guests to use, always trying to cut down on waste!
        Some of our beautiful radishes were reading to be picked!

        Thursday, October 21, 2010

        The Purple Chicken

        In the lovely BonWit 504 (home to Melissa and Caroline, where we love to build forts!) our love of seasonal food results in many memorable experiments.

        Some good, some bad, some purple. This meal was the latter. A few weeks ago we discovered concord grapes from our CSA. (Community Supported Agriculture) After just munching on them raw...and Melissa realizing she was allergic..we decided to try to cook with them. We found many great grape dessert recipes, but we wanted to spice things up and try a savory dish. Chicken seemed fitting and we knew that the grapes would reduced into a beautiful sauce.

        Off we went, to cook our chicken breast with a red wine concord grape reduction topped with fresh rosemary complimented by garlic mashed potatoes and roasted broccoli. this being our first experiment with red wine, we learned some very valuable lessons. We had sauce reducing in one pan, chicken in the other, when Caroline decided to jazz up the meal by pouring some red wine into both pans. It turns out that when you prematurely add red wine to chicken, you get a tie-dyed chicken!

        Caroline, being the perfectionist that she is, did not enjoy the result of this otherwise delicious chicken, she claims she even had nightmares about it. While purple chicken may not rouse your taste buds, in the end, the rich flavors of the wine melded beautifully with the salty chicken and juicy concord grapes to create a beautiful fall meal.

        Purple chicken aside, we loved this dish. With a few quick alterations you too can create this dinner (without enduring the mishaps of purple chicken).

        Concord Grape Sauce:

        • 1 Quart of concord grapes
        • 1/4 cup chicken broth
        • 1/4 cup water
        • 1/2 cup red wine
        • 1/2 cup sugar
        • sprigs of rosemary
        • 1 tablespoon flour (We used a gluten-free flour blend)
        • salt and pepper to taste
        Combine the grapes, chicken broth, water, wine, and sugar in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat. As the sauce begins to simmer the liquid will begin to plump up the grapes. Stir the mixture, while not being too gentle, you do want to pop some of the grapes to make sure they combine in the reduction. Continue to simmer over medium-high heat while adding some springs of fresh rosemary and salt and pepper to taste.

        As the sauce begins to thicken mix in the flour to add some density. When the sauce is reduced and almost at a syrup-like consistency run it through a fine sieve to remove the seeds and skins (you can later add some of these skins for texture). Pour the reduction over the cooked chicken breasts and enjoy!

        --By Caroline and Melissa

        Mural finally finished

        Thank you Alicia, Peter, and Sebastian for painting us a beautiful mural!

        Gluten-Free Pumpkin Whoopies

        Pumpkin Spice Whoopie Pies with Cream Cheese Frosting
        1/4 cup butter, melted
        1/2 cup applesauce
        1 cup light brown sugar
        2 large eggs at room temperature
        1 cup canned pumpkin puree
        1 Tbs. pumpkin pie spice
        1 tsp. vanilla
        1 tsp. baking powder
        1 tsp. baking soda
        3/4 tsp. salt
        1 2/3 cup gluten free flour mix

        4 Tbs. butter, softened
        4 oz. cream cheese
        1/2 tsp. vanilla
        1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
        pinch of salt

        Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Sift dry ingredients together and set aside. Beat butter and sugar until smooth. Add eggs, pumpkin, applesauce, vanilla and mix well. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix just until combined.

        On a parchment lined or silpat lined baking sheet, drop tablespoon sized balls of dough, making sure to press down any points or jagged edges. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cakes are "springy" to the touch. Cool completely before icing.

        To make the frosting, cream butter and sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer. Add in the sugar, salt and vanilla. Beat on high speed for about 2-3 minutes.

        Spread frosting on the flat side of one half of the pie and find a matching sized pie to complete the "sandwich."

        All photos and hard work all done by Caroline Wilson, the greatest gluten free baker ever!

        Wednesday, October 20, 2010

        Garden Birthday Party!

        Come join the Food Justice Alliance at the Garden Birthday Party!

        It's tomorrow from 5 - 7 at the GroW Community Garden! Help celebrate the one year anniversary (roughly) of a great gardening experience! It's a potluck, so come enjoy some Fall treats and/or bring some of your own!

        Happy Fall!

        Tuesday, October 12, 2010

        Epic Building Day

        This past Saturday day, some pretty amazing volunteers came out. GW's Epsilon Sigma Alpha Community Service Sorority lent a hand building our new perennial herb circle out of recycled bricks and bunch of brand new cold frames.

        Thank you so much ESA!

        Monday, October 11, 2010

        Hatchet finally finds the garden!

        After being featured on Fox Local News, DC Channel 7 and 9, GW Today, GW Magazine, Northwest Current, and many a blog, the GW Hatchet finally got around to doing a story about us. Thank you Hatchet, we love you!

        Media Credit: Elizabeth Cookson | Hatchet Photographer
        With gardens on the Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon campuses, students in the GW Food Justice Alliance promote sustainability through locally grown food.

        Gardening in the city

        Cultivating sustainability through locally grown food

        by Samantha Zeldin
        Hatchet Reporter

        On Saturday mornings, senior Melissa Eddison hops into a bee suit.

        As part of an urban beekeeping initiative she started last summer, Eddison helps maintain four hives of about 100,000 bees on the Mount Vernon Campus. The bees provide homemade honey and help pollinate a newly formed garden on the Vern.

        "It was a tangible way to spread education and awareness about eating healthy and sourcing food locally," said Eddison, who is president of the GW Food Justice Alliance, a student-run organization dedicated to restoring the environment and increasing sustainability on campus.

        "First came people with gardening experience, and next people who wanted gardening experience," said Justin Ritchie, a member of the FJA. "On any given day, you can see students watering the plants in their spare time."

        Despite being surrounded by concrete walls, the garden blends into its urban atmosphere.

        "It's not an in-your-face [thing]," said Ellie Smith, communications chair of the GroW Community Garden.

        The Foggy Bottom garden is home to a variety of fruits and vegetables, including eggplants, jalapeño peppers, squash, broccoli, tomatoes, zucchini, arugula and kale. It also contains pawpaw, persimmon and fig trees.

        In addition to being eco-friendly, the garden serves the surrounding community through food donations. The FJA donates 80 percent of its harvest to Miriam's Kitchen, an organization that provides healthy homemade meals to the homeless.

        The remaining harvest goes to volunteers who tend the gardens.

        By working with the Office of Sustainability on campus, Smith said the FJA hopes to expand "this little visible piece of sustainability" so that students will begin to question where the food they eat comes from.

        "There is something pleasurable about food when you know its origin and have been a part of its whole life before it landed on your plate," Smith said.

        Friday, October 8, 2010

        Gardens in the GW Magazine

        In the Summer 2010 issue of GW Magazine, the garden was featured as one of the new highlights of campus.

        Urban Gardening Takes Root at GW

        Food and foliage make campus plots more sustainable

        "Our welfare and prosperity depend upon the cultivation of our lands and turning the produce of them to the best advantage." —George Washington, 1788

        A cornucopia of fruits, vegetables, and herbs is ripe for harvest in GW's new student-run gardens. Started by the Food Justice Alliance, two GroW Gardens—a productive food plot in Foggy Bottom and an ultra-native patch in Mount Vernon—have begun to produce and benefit local urban ecology.

        Foggy Bottom's GroW Community Garden, on H Street between 23rd and 24th streets, has nine triangular raised bed planters filled with sweet and hot peppers, summer squash, zucchini, eggplant, collards, kale, a half-dozen varieties of tomatoes, and herbs such as sage, basil, lemon basil, and mint. Spring crops included sugar snap peas and Swiss chard. Flowers, such as marigolds and salvia, attract butterflies and other beneficial insects. The alliance also planted young fruit trees—fig, persimmon, pawpaw, serviceberry—that will produce fruit in future years.

        A handful of students, overseen by garden fellow and GW rising senior Melissa Eddison, water and maintain the garden during the week. Each Saturday, more volunteers—including community members—join in for bigger garden projects and harvesting. Some 80 percent of the garden's harvest goes to the local nonprofit Miriam's Kitchen, which provides meals for the homeless.

        GroW on the Vern is a more structured garden program that uses student volunteers from the eco-friendly Pelham Hall's Green Earth living and learning program—which teaches urban sustainability—as well as faculty and staff gardeners.

        This garden has a twist: "More than 90 percent of plants in the Mount Vernon garden are native to the D.C. and Northern Virginia area," says Ms. Eddison, who describes this plot as a "smart garden" for its use of plants to naturally restore soil nutrients and ecological processes.

        Many of the Vern garden's plants are unconventional: There's a native variety of plum tree, and a native variety of strawberries helps restructure the soil. Butterfly weed bears a fiery orange blossom that attracts its namesake insect. Adam's needle, a species of yucca, absorbs excess salt used on roadways in winter. Bayberry fixes nitrogen in the soil, making the nutrient more available for roots.

        A native garden such as this resembles the garden that George and Martha Washington would have planted. "He knew the folklore of the time and what each plant was good for," Ms. Eddison says. That field of knowledge has gone by the wayside, she says, but some gardeners are beginning to realize the benefits of planting native varieties—from easier garden maintenance to a healthier local ecosystem.

        "There's value to planting local, historic plants," Ms. Eddison says. "And it takes a lot of research to do it right."

        —Carrie Madren

        Photo courtesy of William Atkins.

        Wednesday, October 6, 2010

        Help Support Alt. Winter Break

        I (Ellie) am going on Alternative Winter Break to Puerto Rico to work on an organic farm and my group is having a bake sale to raise money. Stop by Ivory (near Potbelly's) tomorrow night (Thursday Oct. 7th) between 9pm-12am to buy some tasty treats and help support our trip!

        PS. I made the Vegan Oatmeal Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies

        Monday, October 4, 2010

        Early Root Vegetable Roast

        Fresh from the Arlington Farmer's Market came wonderful beets and carrots this week. I had never been to the market before it was so quaint with a tea and coffee stand mixed among the apple and hearty greens.
        I decided to slice and dice the carrots and beets in order to roast them, but was unsure of what shape would do best. In the end, I did all kinds of shapes and sizes. I added a pinch of course sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil before putting it in the oven at 350 for about 40 minutes. Half way through I tossed them around in effort to flip them, but not all flipped. They came out wonderfully soft, but still held their own shape.

        Most people eat carrots raw, but cooking them actually enhances the availability of their beta-carotene by breaking down the fiber and making it easier for the body to utilize the beta-carotene. There's nothing wrong with eating them raw though, carrots provide the highest source of pro-vitamin A carotenes of all the commonly consumed vegetables. They also provide sizable amounts of vitamin K, biotin, fiber, Vitamin C, B6, potassium and thiamine. Carrots are best from your farmer's market because they are noted to have high levels of pesticide residue on them when bought conventionally.

        All this wonderful info is from The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, by Michael Murray, M.D. It is a bible of a book with hundreds of types of food ranging from grains, to fruits, to herbs, to meats, to vitamins. Be on the lookout for more posts highlights super foods that are cheap to find and easy to prepare!