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Connections NOV–DEC 2010

The magazine of Peter Gillham’s Natural Vitality

Philip and Alice Shabecoff Environmental Toxins and Our Children Chef Kevin Gillespie Sustainably Down-Home Anna Lappé The Real Food Revolution

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Why do we have to fight for sustainability?


ood people are making positive changes in the world today. It seems that many of humanity’s best and brightest have understood that we have been heading down a dangerous path. They observed the warning signs in our environment, in our food supply, in our health and the health of our children. They are rising to the occasion and, by their own efforts, helping alter our course from certain destruction to laying the foundation for a sustainable planet and sustainable living. In Hollywood sci-fi disaster epics, whenever Earth is threatened the population pulls together for the sake of common survival. Why isn’t this the case now? Why aren’t we all pitching in to help create and be part of an enlightened, sustainable culture rising from the toxic legacy of the chemical-industrial profit-over-conscience system? The answer is obvious but disheartening. We’re just not all on the same page. Some of us are trying to clean things up and get back to consuming fresh, local and organic food while others are hard at work perpetuating and promoting the unsustainable short-sightedness that got us in trouble. There are too many toxins in our existing agricultural environment being applied every day. We certainly don’t need more. We need less. This particularly applies to the idea of genetically engineering foods. We don’t know the long-term effects of these patented alterations, nor what these genes will do in combination or how they will spread to other non-GE organisms. The Center for Food Safety has succeeded in halting the planting of genetically modified alfalfa and sugar beets pending full environmental impact studies. GE corn is being exported to Latin America. A fast-growing GE salmon has been developed and the company behind it wants FDA approval without the fish being labeled. These are just a few examples, but you can be sure others are in progress and more are on the drawing board. Clearly, in some quarters sustainability is just something that stands in the way of corporate profits. Hire a PR firm for some greenwashing and make it go away, or at least create a distraction; meanwhile it’s business as usual. Isn’t that insane? In a word: yes, particularly when acting in self-interest actually harms the common interest. So, for the rest of us, you and I do have to fight for sustainability. But isn’t the prize of our planet, our food, our health and future generations worth fighting for? We think so.

Ken Whitman publisher

Organic Connections™ is published by Peter Gillham’s Natural Vitality 8500 Shoal Creek Boulevard, #208, Austin, TX 78757

In this issue

or•gan•ic |ôr ganʹik| denoting a relation between elements of something such that they fit together harmoniously as necessary parts of a whole: the organic unity of the integral work of art • characterized by continuous or natural development: companies expand as much by acquisition as by organic growth.

4 Philip and Alice Shabecoff Journalists Philip and Alice Shabecoff, authors of Poisoned for Profit: How Toxins Are Making Our Children Chronically Ill, talk with us about what needs to be done to safeguard the health of our children in today’s world.


Chef Kevin Gillespie Top Chef fan favorite and sustainable southern cooking expert Kevin Gillespie talks about how he makes it work at Atlanta’s Woodfire Grill and the educational responsibilities of being a chef.

Product sales and information 800.446.7462 • © 2010 Peter Gillham’s Natural Vitality. All rights reserved.


11 Anna Lappé Renowned author and food activist Anna Lappé shares her views on the three pillars of a sustainable food system, the importance of interconnectivity, and the positive changes she sees happening.


15 Ashley Koff, RD

Nationally known dietitian Ashley Koff provides guidelines on how to choose a daily supplement for your kids.

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Philip and Alice Shabecoff Environmental Toxins and Our Children

“A quarter of the male kids in the neighborhood of one of our grandsons alone had some sort of neurological behavioral problem,” Philip said. “So we started looking into it. We saw that it wasn’t just neurological problems but also a huge increase in asthma cases, in birth defects, and certain types of Poisoned for Profit: How Toxins Are Making cancers were rising as well. I was an environOur Children Chronically Ill by Philip and mental reporter for many years and I had Alice Shabecoff is an amazingly comprehen- known that there was an increase in a numsive work on the subject of environmental ber of chemicals being produced by industry toxins. It details specific chemical, heavy and put into the environment by commerce. metal and radioactive pollutions, diseases When we began looking deeper into it, we that run parallel to them, and who is respon- saw what to us was an inescapable correlation sible. It also makes an impassioned plea for between the tremendous expansion of toxic changes needed in our system to create a safer substances in the environment—chemicals, metals and radioactive pollution—and the world in which our children can grow up. rising number of sick children. When we How the book came to be is an illustration came across startling data that one of every of the way that conscience can lead someone three American kids today has some sort of to profound and influencing actions. chronic illness, we decided we’d better really look into this in depth. And that’s how we On the Trail of the Truth came to do the book.” Their research led to some shocking revFor many years, Philip Shabecoff has been elations. Of America’s 73 million children, driven to help save the environment. As a almost 21 million—nearly 1 out of 3—suffer New York Times reporter for 32 years, he from one chronic disease or another: 58,000 strove to cover important aspects of the environment—and was fought most of the way by editors who considered topics such as labor, the national economy and the White House more of a priority. Inspired by the very first Earth Day in 1970, Philip covered environmental issues for the last 14 years of his career with the New York Times. Upon his retirement, he founded Greenwire, a daily online digest of environmental news, which is still going strong today. He also began his career as an environmental author and has recently released his fourth book, co-written with his wife, Alice, a freelance journalist and former executive director of the National Consumers League. Poisoned for Profit came about as an observation made in the couple’s very own day-today life. “When our grandchildren were being born, we happened to notice a high rate of disease around their neighborhood,” Alice Shabecoff told Organic Connections. 4 organic connections

are threatened by cancer; nearly 2.5 million live with disfiguring or debilitating birth defects; 310,000 are poisoned by lead; approximately 6 million suffer from asthma; and 12 million have some form of developmental disorder, from autism to ADHD and serious learning disabilities. These epidemic statistics can be viewed alongside the massive toxification of our environment. According to Dr. David Wallinga, director of the Food and Health Program at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, “We’ve created a society with around 80,000 industrial chemicals, most of which have not been tested for safety. Many of those chemicals end up in the food chain one way or another, through drinking water or because they are intentionally put into food packaging or because they are pollutants that accumulate up the food chain. Being at the top of the food chain, we often get the most exposure to these pollutants.” A Question of Values

The Shabecoffs not only report facts and figures but analyze the problem down to an assessment of core values—on governmental, corporate and personal levels. On a corporate plane, the widespread use of chemicals has been motivated by the bottom line. If a corporation can maximize its profits by using certain toxic or questionable chemicals, it will, until expressly stopped from doing so. Unfortunately, the current system allows for chemicals to be “innocent until proven guilty”—meaning that unless a direct threat is shown to exist, a factory or plant can continue releasing them into the environment. And as the book clearly shows, it most certainly will. “Economist Milton Friedman proclaimed some years ago that business has no social responsibility other than to increase its profits,” Philip and Alice write in Poisoned for Profit. “Unfortunately for our children, and for all of us, this is the prevailing— although by no means universal—ethos in

corporate America at the beginning of the twenty-first century.” The Shabecoffs provide an example of General Electric (GE), which operated a factory complex in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, until the 1980s, when the company pulled up stakes and moved out of the area. Up till the 1970s, GE (as well as many other manufacturers of electronics and electrical goods) used PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in their processes. PCBs are fire resistant and are good insulators and were widely in use from the 1920s through to the late 1970s, when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) barred their further manufacture. While PCB manufacture ceased in the 1970s, they are highly persistent in the environment. They are classified by the EPA as a probable human carcinogen and a cause of damage to the liver, kidneys, thyroid, stomach and skin. They have also been found in numerous studies to cause intellectual impairment in children. GE left the Pittsfield area—but also left behind an environment badly polluted with PCBs. The Housatonic River that flows through the town is one of the most contaminated in the nation. A local resident interviewed by the Shabecoffs described the high number of residents in the town still suffering illnesses, and the grossly polluted state of the town’s groundwater. The end of the story is that GE (after years of negotiation with the EPA) agreed to clean up some of their former properties as well as the river—but has still never acknowledged the serious health effects associated with its PCB wastes. The Shabecoffs argue that a change is needed in order to bring these types of situations under control. “There’s only one entity that is strong enough to stand up to corporate power and that is government,” Philip said. “And it can’t be government that is really an extension of industry. What is needed is sort of a veto-proof Congress and a president who is willing to fight, to take on the corporations and do all kinds of things in terms not only of of “green chemistry.” This means replacing I’m not sure whether the corporations have legislation that would restrict the activities the toxic chemicals with environmentally begun loading the amount of money into those initiatives that they should, but we do of polluting corporations but also of chang- friendly ones. “We know that there have to be ways of mak- point out in the book that this would be an ing corporate governance in this country, ing industrial types of products,” Alice said. awfully good way for America to spearhead which is almost nonexistent.” “We’re not going to go back to candles and a new economic revolution, which we would Green Chemistry producing everything from scratch. So green be leading for a change instead of following.” chemistry and alternative energy are ways to In the long term, manufacturing methods save kids’ health, without all the byproducts Changing Personal Values will have to change. One solution of- of the kind of fuel that is driving our economy fered in the book is a process that is fortu- right now. There are a number of universities Of course, it comes down to all of us as well, nately already starting to take hold—that that have fabulous green chemistry initiatives. on a personal level, changing our system. organic connections


According to the book, “Most Americans We will have to change would not dream of exposing their children to poisonous chemicals or criticizing neigh- the way the world now bors who were trying to protect their children. Their values would not permit it. But it is works, and this will be an probably safe to say that, by and large, people running the daily marathon of life and work immensely challenging give little thought to the dangers that surtask. But if we lift our eyes round their children.” “Parents have to become educated consumers,” Philip said. “They can’t believe that a bit, we can see that our what they buy in the stores is safe because man-made environment was somebody is taking care of it—you know, the government or the companies—because once, not so long ago, a that’s not true. Therefore, they have to look at what they’re buying and make sure that much safer place for our it is safe for their kids. Our book has an appendix that addresses this—some things children to inhabit. As a parents can do.” In the end, conscientious parents will democratic society, we have also have to take on some kind of role in steering the government—through their it within ourselves to make votes. The Shabecoffs point out that government representatives are elected and the necessary reforms must listen to their constituents. “People really need to empower themselves,” Alice in our science, our medicine, advised. “We did it in the civil rights movement. We did it in the women’s movement. our industry, our economics, The Tea Party people are figuring out how to do it with their issues. It’s in the hands of and our politics to re-create the parents next. If we would really pull together parent-led groups, we could possibly a safer, healthier, fresher get some kind of a national movement of active parents underway. If we end up with environment. a hundred thousand parents on the Capitol urethras, heart defects and leukemia. One of mall, they’re going to have to listen.” the parents researching the problem actually placed the cases on a map and discovered that Depth of the Problem most of the families with cleft-palate babies Part of the problem in cleaning up our toxic lived near the Dickson County Landfill. The environment is that unless direct causation landfill had violated recommendations by the can be established linking a certain chemical local department of public health and had acto a particular disease, the companies and cepted liquid chemical wastes over a period of their legal teams won’t take action. several years. The pollutants included trichlo“As we point out, it’s almost impossible to roethylene (TCE), a solvent known or susprove that a particular chemical caused a pected to cause several forms of cancer and particular disease at a particular time, in birth defects. There is even limited evidence a particular individual or group of individu- that it can be a specific cause of cleft palates. Unfortunately, no one could trace any of als, in that place,” Philip said. “That’s what the diseases to specific chemicals beyond the industry—the perpetrators—use as their a reasonable doubt—and, according to the line of defense.” Shabecoffs, this has been the problem with The Shabecoffs point to the town of Dickvirtually every such case that ever comes to son, Tennessee, in which 19 cases of children court. Due to publicity, companies tend to born with cleft lips and palates occurred withsettle with victims’ families—but such settlein two years. Under normal circumstances, ments never amount to an admission of guilt 2 such cases might be expected with that required to set precedents for the overall population sample within that period of scene to change. time. Other birth defects were occurring The Shabecoffs argue that the rules of there also—brain malformations, inverted 6 organic connections

evidence in such cases should be turned around to be made similar to what is used in criminal cases, in which circumstantial evidence is allowed. “You can’t prove it but you have a huge weight of evidence suggesting that that is the case,” said Philip. “It only makes sense that, when there is such evidence but no direct proof, you should go with the weight of evidence and protect the kids rather than the companies.” Plea for Change and Action

In their book, Philip and Alice make it clear “The first line of defense for the children is, of course, their families. Parents can do much to shield their children, including providing them as toxic-free an environment as possible. They can remove poison-containing products from their homes and not use them on lawns or gardens. They can give their kids a nourishing, balanced diet of unadulterated food, starting before they are conceived.” There are a number of books containing precautions parents can take to minimize toxic threats. Poisoned for Profit also includes a healthy list of such actions; within the appendixes, there is advice on choosing a clean community and how to get many chemicals out of the home environment. In addition, there are plenty of recommendations on choosing foods. “But given the overwhelming momentum of our technology-based, consumptiondriven economy, our industrial agriculture, the sea of chemicals already out there, the new ones pouring into the environment every day, and the dearth of information about the nature of threats to the children and how to deal with them, there is only so much parents and local communities can do on their own—and that is not remotely enough,” Philip and Alice write. “We will have to change the way the world now works, and this will be an immensely challenging task. But if we lift our eyes a bit, we can see that our man-made environment was once, not so long ago, a much safer place for our children to inhabit. As a democratic society, we have it within ourselves to make the necessary reforms in our science, our medicine, our industry, our economics, and our politics to re-create a safer, healthier, fresher environment. The effort will be met with determined resistance. But we believe it can be done.” Poisoned for Profit is available at the Organic Connections bookstore.


If you’re a fan of the Bravo television show Top Chef, you’ve definitely heard of Kevin Gillespie. Proving to be a top contender on the show by winning several Quickfire Challenges and Elimination Challenges, he stood out as one of the sixth season’s final three “cheftestants” who competed for the Top Chef title in Napa Valley. Gillespie was also voted fan favorite by viewers. But for Gillespie, co-owner and executive chef of Atlanta’s famed Woodfire Grill, being a chef goes far beyond just the technology of cooking. It’s a full-on artistic expression and a complete exposure of the natural ingredients available around his native Atlanta. Also, it’s a mission to show the world—including other chefs as well as the general public—that utilizing sustainably produced ingredients is the way to go.

Chef Kevin Gillespie Sustainably Down-Home

Gillespie’s path to sustainable ingredients started out as it did for many others—in Gillespie’s Journey search of greater taste. “When I began cooking, I spent most of my time in kitchAs with other leading chefs today—such as ens that were driven purely by technique. Alice Waters, Dan Barber, Rick Bayless and To be a great chef you had to be an excelSuzanne Goin—it’s all about creating around lent technician,” Gillespie said. “You had the ingredients that find their way to Gil- to understand the ins and outs of cookery lespie’s kitchen. “I would say the philosophy itself. And to a certain degree that is defithat governs us more often than not here at nitely true; but as I went along I began to the Woodfire Grill is the idea that if we pur- question whether this simply was enough, chase the best quality ingredients we can, our or if combining that understanding of job as chefs really is to begin to understand technique with a better quality ingredient what the makeup of an ingredient is and then would make you a better chef. to construct a dish that highlights it,” Gil“So I went to work at this restaurant— lespie told Organic Connections. “In that way the one where I am now actually—for a you can fully take in whatever it is about the gentleman named Michael Tuohy, who ingredient that makes it unique and special.” really brought the local food movement to

by Bruce Boyers

Atlanta; and I began to explore this idea that when you use the best quality stuff possible in selecting what you start with, technique becomes, to a certain degree, secondary to understanding the flavor profiles of the ingredients themselves.” Since Gillespie took over the Woodfire Grill as co-owner and executive chef, that focus on ingredients has become paramount. The menu revolves around what is seasonably available and is not always “set in stone.” Relationships with Producers

Gillespie has taken the time to fully cultivate relationships with producers of both meat and fresh produce in the local area—and it has paid off in taste. organic connections


On his left arm Gillespie has a large tattoo of a pig—simply because, with his passion for traditional southern cuisine, pork is his favorite ingredient to cook with. It makes sense, then, that he has established a relationship with a producer that runs much deeper than ordinary culinary arts might dictate. “For our pork, we work with Tommy Searcy of Gum Creek Farms,” Gillespie related. “He’s about an hour or so west of Atlanta. He raises purebred Berkshire hogs on his farm in an environment that’s a little bit different from what most people are accustomed to. We try and emulate a more natural environment for the pigs. We’ve fenced in a great deal of wooded area, mostly oak trees for the hogs to live under,

help but believe that our barbecue is far superior, not only due to the technique of the way in which we cook it, but mostly because we start with a better product,” Gillespie said. “I know for a fact that I can taste a drastic difference between commodity pork and a highquality-raised pig. I think that oftentimes in cheaper barbecue, to make up for the fact that the pork doesn’t taste like a whole lot, you see people relying on a ton of smoke and a ton of sauce because they know that the meat doesn’t really have a taste to it.” Gillespie’s barbecue also utilizes his own homemade apple cider vinegar, which becomes the base for a pepper vinegar with onion, garlic, black peppercorns and hot chilis. If you’ve ever had real traditional southern

crops that we use at this restaurant, and he’s managed to create a system where he is able to produce and harvest crops year round here in Georgia, without having to rely on machines and outside influence; he’s just smart about the way that he plants his crops in rotation. We’ve built a very strong relationship with him and his family. His mother is from Belgium and essentially has passed down to him the knowledge of how to do this. She brought over quite a few Old World techniques, things that she learned as a child.”

so it provides them a lot of natural shelter. It also allows them to forage for food, which is what they’re designed to do by nature. These animals are then taken to be processed at Auburn University. Auburn uses their meat science laboratory, which is a teaching facility, to process our animals. They’re dealt with one at a time, in the most state-of-the-art facility possible, under the direction of people who are certified to do what they’re doing and are also teachers. They’re passing on that knowledge to another generation. I’m really happy with that relationship.” Such pork makes its way into traditional southern barbecue—a cooking art form that Gillespie is dedicated to keeping alive. “I can’t

barbecue, just reading this is going to make your mouth water. Fresh produce is also vitally important to the Woodfire Grill operation—and Gillespie has forged great relationships for that as well. Nicolas Donck, who runs Crystal Organic Farm, was providing the majority of produce to the restaurant even before Gillespie owned it, and that partnership continues to this day. “Crystal Organics is definitely a trendsetter,” Gillespie said. “Nicolas is looked to as a person who has a wealth of knowledge and someone who’s constantly willing to try something new. The younger generations of farmers are always asking him questions and sort of following his trend. Nicolas raises the vast majority of

was there he first learned the link between the quality of soil and produce that had superior flavor. “When I was in Oregon cooking, I got to know Gene Kiel, who pretty much created Oregon Tilth,”* Gillespie said. “He is a very old gentleman who is a multigenerational farmer and he grows potatoes, carrots, beets, some onions—pretty basic crops. The land on which he’s been growing these vegetables has been in his family for an extremely long time, and the soil is almost black because it’s so rich with nutrients. As an example of his vegetables, he grows an old heirloom variety of carrots that aren’t very pretty to look at; you pull them out—they’re knobby, they’re sort of

8 organic connections

Down in the Dirt

For a period of time Gillespie was living and cooking in Portland, Oregon, and it

coarse looking. At the same time, if we blind- our industry. Through furthering their tasted those carrots against any other carrot efforts both as a non-profit and in fundwe had in the restaurant at that moment, there raising, they’re constantly helping to move was a drastic flavor difference. I can’t help but people toward an agenda of producing feel as if the reason for that is because he’s food that, in the end, will benefit us all.” put so much time and effort into the soil he grows those vegetables in that it imparts this sort of extra-level intensity of flavor.” When Gillespie returned to Atlanta to take over the Woodfire Grill, he found the same to be true. “We deal with quite a few different farmers at this point, and I’m happy to say that all of them have that same commitment to the quality and care of their soil. You can absolutely say that the ones who have had more time working at it tend to produce a better product.” Making a Sustainable World

But it’s not just for the fun of it, or for patrons (of which he now has plenty), that Gillespie is cooking. He is quite literally out to change the way America eats and views food. In addition to being an example to home cooks and chefs of all kinds the world over, Gillespie is part of an organization called

Food has always embodied that experience. The Atlanta chapter has grown and hopefully we have grown as a restaurant beside them, since our core values are the same.” But above all, Gillespie sees his position as critical in eliminating today’s industrial food system and bringing sustainable agriculture to the mainstream. “I think a chef has a huge role in the way that people perceive food and what they choose to eat,” he concluded. “You can see this every day when the modern moms of the world are preparing dinner for their families, because so much of what they cook is either inspired or dictated by the chefs they see on TV or the restaurants they’ve eaten at. They go home and they try to emulate a dish that they ate somewhere or that they saw cooked on television, or from a magazine they picked up; magazines are loaded nowadays with chef-driven articles. So I feel we have a responsibility to the public at large to teach them and to show them how to prepare foods that are better for their families, more nutritious and more responsibly produced. We’re also hoping over time to make a difference in the direction of what’s

I feel we have a responsibility to

the public at large to teach them and to show them how to prepare foods that are better for their families, more nutritious and more responsibly produced.

Chefs Collaborative, a leading non-profit network of chefs that fosters a sustainable food system through advocacy, education, and collaboration with the broader food community. “Chefs have a responsibility, in my opinion, to other chefs,” he said. “This is an industry where people are taught a trade and they learn by constantly working; but they learn by the work of other people too. I think that being a member of Chefs Collaborative opens up my ability to deal with people who are like-minded and who also have a strong motivation to use food that has been harvested in a way that is more responsible to the earth, or to use fish that have been responsibly farmed or harvested from the wild, and so on. It gives me an opportunity to attach my name to a group of people who I know support the same values. And if I ever have a question about whether or not something that I am doing is the right choice, I have those people at my disposal, and they have me as well. I think the Chefs Collaborative has definitely stood for a lot of change in 10 o r g a n i c c o n n e c t i o n s

Gillespie and Woodfire Grill also support the Atlanta chapter of Slow Food, a global grassroots movement with thousands of members around the world that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment. “Slow Food Atlanta has been really good to us,” Gillespie said. “They’ve definitely promoted Woodfire Grill for a very long time. We share the same values—the idea that food is something that people should spend more time with; that they should allow additional time around meals and try to commit a greater part of their lives to understanding that food is something more than just a way for us to be full. It nourishes our bodies and it nourishes our souls, and I think that the choices we make with food greatly parallel or mirror our choices in other facets of life. If we take the time to be a bit more sensible and think about the things we put in our bodies foodwise, this same mentality will carry through in the choices that we make in our interactions with other people. Slow

really important, which is people beginning to understand that every choice we make with food has an impact that’s a bit greater than ourselves. If a mom teaches her children to eat food that is inherently seasonal and hasn’t had preservatives added and modifications made to it, those children will grow up to be adults who demand this same quality of food once they become consumers. And that will begin to change our methods of agriculture, our methods of raising animals, and our choices as a capitalistic society; in order to make money we will have to move toward what the consumer demands.” Find out more about Kevin Gillespie and the Woodfire Grill at the restaurant’s website: * Oregon

Tilth: a non-profit research and education membership organization dedicated to biologically sound and socially equitable agriculture. Oregon Tilth provides organic certification services to organic growers, processors and handlers internationally.

Anna LappĂŠ

The Real Food Revolution

Renowned author and food activist Anna Lappé has spent most of her adult life working to bring about a badly needed change in our industrial food system. Her mother, Frances Moore Lappé, is the author of 17 books including the bestseller Diet for a Small Planet, and Anna herself is now a national best-selling author and sought-after public speaker, respected for her work on sustainability, food politics, globalization and social change. Listed in Time magazine’s “Who’s Who: The EcoGuide,” Anna has been featured in the New York Times, Gourmet, O: The Oprah Magazine, Domino, Food & Wine, Body + Soul, Natural Health and Vibe, as well as many other publications. In 2002, Anna and her mother founded the Small Planet Institute, an international network for research and popular education about the root causes of hunger and poverty. The Lappés are also co-founders of the Small Planet Fund, which has raised more than $750,000 for democratic social movements worldwide, two of which have won the Nobel Peace Prize since the fund’s founding. In her continuing efforts, Anna has seen much to give her—and the rest of us—a great deal of hope for a sustainable food system in the years ahead. She recently sat down with Organic Connections to share her thoughts on the makeup of our food system and what is really needed to bring about change. The Three Pillars

In helping give direction to a revolution in what we eat and how we grow it, Anna has recently boiled down the sometimes disparate factors of the crusade into three basic core values. “When I talk about the three pillars of a sustainable food system,” she said, “what I’m really suggesting is that we ask ourselves, what are the core values we bring to our food?”


The first of these pillars is ecology. “Ecology emphasizes interrelationships,” Anna explained. “Everything is connected. An ecological food system means one that has a fundamental respect for nature and natural systems. At its heart, this kind of food system works with nature to produce abundance; it’s not an attack against nature with toxic pesticides or raising livestock using highly unnatural methods, such as feedlots. An ecological food system would raise livestock on the diet they evolved with and provide a life that allows them to fully embody their nature.”

the market to help us organize our food system while having that market operate within a set of community values. For example, if some people are shut out from being able to have access to foods because of market forces, how can we have a set of community values that are overarching, ensuring that everyone has access to good healthy food? And how can we ensure that deep-pocketed food companies aren’t lobbying for policies that benefit their bottom line instead of our health?” Fairness

“The third value is one of fairness, that everyone along the food chain—all the workers and farmers and food producers—has been treated fairly and is getting a fair wage,” Anna said. “Just like the community pillar, the value of fairness means trying to create a food system in which every one of us, no matter where we live or what our tax bracket is, can afford sustainably raised real food.” Interconnectivity

As Anna points out, these three pillars are all connected—and interconnectivity is essential “A sustainable food system also has at its core to the entire vision. the health and vibrancy of communities,” “For me the interconnectivity goes to the Anna continued. “It’s particularly important heart of it all,” she said. “When most people to look at this value in the context of the think about eating food—and polling and dominant food system, which is governed focus-group data has borne this out—they largely by market forces. Currently these tend to think of it as an individual act that forces are focused on maximizing profit for you and I do often in the privacy of our multinational food companies that bring us own homes, hidden from the rest of us. We most of the food we eat. What many of my typically don’t think about the food system. colleagues and I talk about is how we can use Yes, eating is one of the most personal things Community

Everything is connected. An ecological food system means one that has a fundamental respect for nature and natural systems. At its heart, this kind of food system works

with nature to produce

abundance; it's not an attack against nature with toxic pesticides or raising livestock using highly unnatural methods, such as feedlots. organic connections


we do, but we tend to forget that the choices you and I make about food have ripple effects that ultimately, I argue, connect us to the whole globe. We’ve all heard the maxim ‘You are what you eat,’ but I like to think of it slightly differently: I am what you eat; you are what I eat. We are what each other eats. When my family and I make choices to support organic farmers, we add our weight to the movement shifting us away from chemical agriculture. Chemicals in the environment affect all of us, whether we choose to eat organic food or not. They affect us through the runoff that ends up creating a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico; they affect us by leaching into our waterways. They affect our neighbors and the farm workers and the farmers. “Interconnectivity is really at the core of the food system, but because food is so personal and individual, I think that interconnectivity can sometimes be invisible to many of us.”

“This is a very exciting time across the country in terms of this kind of city-level innovation in food policy. New York City started the food policy coordinator position two and a half years ago, and Baltimore just announced a food policy director. Kansas City has a food policy coordinator, and Boston announced

Interest in a sustainable

food system today

compared to ten years ago is phenomenal.

that it also is beginning to develop a food policy coordinator position. There are additional cities that have created this position as well, while a lot of states have developed food policy councils. There’s plenty of energy emerging, and I think it’s partly the result of the growing awareness that we have a fundamental crisis on our hands—we have a broken food system that needs urgent repair. One of the ways we are going to get there is through changing our policies. We can and should The Good News be looking at national policy, but there’s also activity that can happen at the local level that From the microcosm of her current home- can make a difference.” town, New York City, Anna has been watching the food revolution take hold in numerous The Critics exciting ways—and expand outward. “Just in the past few years I’ve seen a lot of Of course, while all the positive change is innovation coming out of city agencies. A occurring, detractors—with a big stake in couple of years ago, the Mayor’s Office cre- the status quo—continue to play down the ated the city’s first food policy coordinator. value of a sustainable food system. As Anna Among other efforts, the city has launched indicates, though, their arguments crumble the Healthy Bodegas Program, working under the slightest of scrutiny. with bodega owners to bring healthier food “The strongest criticism of sustainable into their stores. It has also created the agriculture I hear—and have heard year after Green Carts Program, using both public and year since I started working on these issues private funding, to introduce one thousand a decade ago—is the myth that we can’t feed green carts into neighborhoods identified as the world with sustainably grown foods, that those with the least access to healthy fresh we couldn’t possibly feed the world if we produce. These green carts provide fruits shifted away from a fossil-fuel-dependent agand vegetables at relatively affordable prices, riculture. I think the most powerful response and the city is monitoring their impact. to their claim that we need their technology “Another program New York City has is, first of all, how successful has industrial launched that I think is excellent is Health agriculture been in feeding the planet? Today Bucks, a collaboration of different city there are enough calories produced globagencies. This program is one strategy to ally to feed every single one of us—in fact, to encourage people to consume more fruits make every person on the planet overweight and vegetables, while supporting those with too much calorie consumption. Yet people with less income in doing so: Spend about one-sixth of the world’s population is five dollars at a farmers’ market using food going hungry. Clearly there is something else stamps and get a Health Buck coupon worth operating here on a planet that is producing two dollars to spend at the farmers’ market. enough food yet has persistent hunger. One It’s an incentive for people who are on food way I tend to engage with the myth is to say, stamps to go to farmers’ markets, where ‘Look, in order to feed the world we’re going to they’ll get the freshest, healthiest fruits and have to talk about a lot of other things besides vegetables, and it also provides additional food production. We’re going to have to talk about power, and power in the food system. financial support for farmers. 14 o r g a n i c c o n n e c t i o n s

We’re going to have to talk about access. We’re going to have to talk about who has a say in what foods get grown and where. “Secondly, we’ve known for a long time that sustainable methods can produce the same amount of food as, if not more than, industrial agriculture—without the detriments to

our environment of pollution, excessive energy used, or depletion of fossil fuel reserves. What is particularly positive about engaging with this debate now is that there is even more research supporting this argument. In addition, sustainable methods tend to create healthier soils that are more able to retain water and withstand heavy flooding. We’re talking about farms that not only produce abundant foods but also are more resilient.” Looking Forward and Connecting

With everything that’s occurring, Anna sees us going very much in the right direction. “Interest in a sustainable food system today compared to ten years ago is phenomenal,” she concluded. “I just did an event in Portland, Maine, on a Wednesday in the middle of the summer, and the local bookstore was packed, with standing room only. For the past ten years I’ve traveled to cities around the country, and everywhere I have gone I’ve discovered programs working to address these issues. In another example, I just went to the annual gathering of the National Cooperative Grocers Association, which was attended by representatives from food co-ops all over America that are working to bring healthy local food into their communities. I was struck afterwards that many of the co-ops had only started in the last five years. “Overall, I see energy blooming across the country to work on policy—food policy that connects the dots between urban planning, public health, childhood nutrition, energy use and environmental sustainability. What is most encouraging is observing these connections being made. In order to truly transform the food system, it can only happen this way, when we are forging these relationships and thinking in terms of the whole picture.” For the latest news from Anna, visit her websites at and

Ashley Koff, RD How to Choose a Daily Supplement for Your Kids


Ashley Koff is a registered dietitian (RD) who strives to make better nutrition a way of life for all. Her passionate style is effective, resulting in Koff being named by Citysearch as L.A.’s “Best Nutritionist” three years running and a national media favorite. Koff appears monthly on Good Morning America Health, and as the lead expert for the Huffington Post Living’s “Total Energy Makeover” she was selected as Hollywood’s Dietitian; she is also an AOL wellness expert. Start with a wish list: strong bones, focus, calmness, intelligence, healthy digestion, strong muscles, healthy weight, no headaches—I realize the list could go on and on, but this will do as a beginning. What a supplement can offer is a way to balance out the nutrition from the day. Think of Tom Cruise’s famous line from Jerry Maguire (no, not “Show me the money!”)—“You complete me”—and you will see how a daily supplement can enhance your child’s nutrition regime. While organic farming is wonderful and nutrient dense, it still represents a very small portion of fruits and vegetables grown today; and that means that the vast amount of our nation’s soil, which has been chemically farmed for years, has lost nutrient value compared with previous decades. Thus, for optimal health, we can “supplement” these nutrients regardless of our children’s fruit and vegetable intake. So, back to the wish list. Can we deliver? Yes, here’s how:

1. Minerals: Make sure that you are getting sufficient magnesium to counterbalance supplemental and food intake of calcium. Magnesium creates the calmness— whether it’s mental or physical; magnesium turns off our stress response, allows our muscles to relax (which means all muscles, especially our digestive tract muscles), and is critical for strong bones, along with its partner, calcium. Potassium is also key, to counterbalance sodium for optimal hydration. Since we get sodium in the diet, and often too much, the need for potassium, like magnesium, is often supplemental. 2. Amino acids: We need all the essential ones to ensure hormone health (hormones are our messengers) as well as to build muscles and maintain a healthy weight. Sometimes a whole day can go by in which the protein-rich options were low quality or not liked by your child, or both. Thus, supplemental amino acids help prevent operating at a deficit with these important nutrients. 3. Organic fruits and vegetables: While the availability of these organic foods continues to increase (as demand does too— yeah!), they are still hardly ubiquitous. Thus, a supplement that provides organic fruits and vegetables can be a great addition to a day’s nutrition plan. For Ashley Koff Approved, I don’t approve of supplements that contain fruits and vegetables that aren’t organic. It doesn’t make sense, as studies are confirming what we know to be true: the chemicals used in chemical farming challenge the normal operating functions of the body—especially the young growing body. 4. Sugar: We definitely do not need to supplement (defined as “in addition to a healthy diet”) more sugar, even if it’s organic sugar. I am totally comfortable with modest consumption of nature’s organic sugar options: honey, molasses, stevia leaf, and nectars like agave and coconut. But these sugars should come primarily from the diet—not a supplement—to avoid confusing the body as well as a child’s mind (“How come my vitamins taste so much like candy?”). 5. How do you get children to take their supplements? If it’s a great product but they won’t consume it, there’s no gain,

right? The first step is, of course, getting the children to take the supplement. This means it needs to be in a form that children will accept. It’s doubtful that pills and capsules will work that well with kids, as they can be hard to swallow. So that leaves gummies—which can get stuck in teeth, be confused with candy, and provide excess sugar—or something like a liquid. Keep in mind that all supplements have to dissolve (liquefy) before they can be absorbed, but liquids are already in that form. If you can provide something that tastes good either by itself or added to a cup of half juice/half water or a smoothie, the kids will take it.

Read more from Ashley Koff at

Also access exclusive features on Mommy MD Alice Waters Carolyn Dean, MD, ND Toxins and Our Children Environmental High School Healthy Eating in Schools Ending Childhood Obesity The Fight against Allergies Kid-Safe Products and more.

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© 2010 Peter Gillham’s Natural Vitality. All rights reserved.

Organic Connections November-December 2010  

The magazine of Peter Gillham's Natural Vitality. Covering issues of health, food, environment, agriculture and green design