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NWEI Staffer Liz Zavodsky and OCI Chef Instructor Ramona White

NWEI Staffer Liz Zavodsky and OCI Chef Instructor Ramona White

Oregon Culinary Institute Chef Instructor Ramona Lisa White has begun what is now an ongoing commitment to using the NWEI course books Menu for the Future and Hungry for Change: Food, Ethics and Sustainability in her ongoing culinary arts classes. “The students really responded positively to the readings,” says Ramona. At least 45 students have already completed her first course using the NWEI course books, and her second course began this week. Student Michael Gent noted “I thought the readings were helpful. I have noticed my general attitude regarding (food) ethics have changed over the course of the class.”

At NWEI, we believe the solution to many of Earth’s biggest challenges lies in the power of collective change: by taking action in our own lives and inspiring the people around us, each of us contributes to a world of impact. Over the last 20 years, NWEI has helped more than 140,000 people from around the world make small steps that lead to big changes for our planet. Thanks to the Spirit Mountain Community Fund, Northwest Earth Institute is pleased to offer 1,000 free discussion course books to Portland-area students during the 2012-2013 school year. Oregon Culinary Institute has been one of the most active participants in the Spirit Mountain Community Fund Grant.

More than 300 colleges and universities throughout North America have successfully used NWEI course books in a wide range of academic disciplines and institutional settings. The student-led curriculum encourages critical thinking and active learning, and helps students find “Aha!” moments about the way they live, work, create and consume.

Oregon Culinary Institute student Tom Kelch reflected that “whether the readings were sad or uplifting didn’t matter because I learned things I never  thought about before.” Emelio Sansone noted that “each reading served very valuable lessons and I am making a great deal of effort to apply them to my life whenever possible.” Other students in Ramona’s class cited the NWEI readings as “eye opening” and “useful not only in our career life but in our personal lives too.”

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NWEI is celebrating 20 years of shared discovery, shared story and shared action – and we’re calling on you, our supporters both new and old, to help us reach 3,000 more participants before June 30th. We’re aiming to have 145,000 participants connecting, reflecting and taking action by June, and need your help!
One way you can help us reach this goal is to organize a Menu for the Future discussion course, using the newly revised and updated version of this course book, available on Earth Day. The updated Menu for the Future discussion course helps you explore the connection between food choices and sustainability with new authors, including Wes Jackson of The Land Institute, Alexandra Zissu, Gary Paul Nabhan and Robert Gottlieb.
Find out more about our new Menu for the Future here,and join us in celebrating Earth Day 2013 and NWEI’s 20th Anniversary by organizing a discussion course in your community.
photo by Amanda Dempsey, Edible Cleveland

photo by Amanda Dempsey, Edible Cleveland

We just got word that the Edible Cleveland magazine covered one of NWEI’s Menu for the Future courses in Cleveland, Ohio. Thanks to Noelle Celeste for this piece!

Every Monday night for six weeks Felicia Tiller and her boyfriend, Travis, talked about food with a dozen familiar strangers from the neighborhood. They were there to participate in a pilot program for Menu for the Future, an experiment that grew out of Sustainable Cleveland 2019. The idea is to inspire community dialogue around food issues by using the Northwest Earth Institute’s “Menu for the Future” course on a broad scale through faith communities, organizations, businesses or, in this case, neighbors gathered by Felicia’s friend from work.

“It was like a mini book club except we discussed how we eat and who we eat with—not just local food, but the role of food in our lives,” said Felicia. “Overall the experience made us feel more connected to the people in our community and it reminded us that every little thing you do is valid and important—even the simple habit of sitting down with your family to eat.”

Felicia was most surprised to learn that it wasn’t until the end of World War II that families shifted their eating habits and stopped growing their own food. Until then the bulk of an American’s food came from their communities and their gardens . This fact inspired her. “If they could grow it, why couldn’t I?”

So what’s changed in Felicia’s world as a result of those six Monday nights? She and her boyfriend committed to starting a balcony garden. “Originally, we were going to spend the time we would have been in the meeting each week on garden work, but instead it’s become a daily ritual: watering before bed so we don’t water our neighbors on their way to work in the morning and checking on sprouts every morning. We love watching our garden grow.”

In the Cleveland area and want to start or join a conversation near you? Call 216.264.0181 or email menuforthefuture@gmail.com.

 

This article just in from Axiom News per the effects of Northwest Earth Institute’s programs and the work of Clevelanders in creating more sustainable local food systems. Thanks to all the people taking part in this inspiring effort! Read on to see what Clevelanders are doing as a result of participation in Menu for the Future.

With its array of homemade goat cheese, pasta made with basil pesto grown onsite, chili with local venison and spicy collard greens, a local food potluck last night captures the difference a growing underground movement around local food is making in Cleveland.

The potluck’s location, Gardens Under Glass, is a story in itself. Situated in Cleveland’s downtown Galleria mall, the core of Gardens Under Glass is a demonstration greenhouse with food grown there now used in some of the food court businesses…Then there’s the fact the potluck was held at all.

Clevelanders talk local food.

Capping off six weeks of small group conversations around food, it was intended to be a celebration of what the more than 30 people engaged in these conversations have learned, and the new micro-communities they’re beginning to create.

Perhaps most powerful is how these conversations are sparking change at the citizen level, as people shared at last night’s event, says champion for the effort Nancy King Smith.

A young couple has been inspired to start growing some food even though they don’t have any garden space. So they put buckets of dirt on their balcony and have planted several vegetables.

Someone else has learned more about CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture), and now he and his family have joined one.

A woman noted that in spite of her busy schedule, she has a new commitment to put time into her food choices and preparation because that’s what’s important to her.

The owner of a local business  is now committing to become a City Fresh stop and provide fresh, local, sustainably-grown produce in the Buckeye-Shaker neighborhood.

One urban farmer noted that through these conversations he could “see the light bulbs” of understanding going off for people.

Based on a curriculum developed by the Northwest Earth Institute, called Menu for the Future, the conversations spin out of handbook readings and a set of questions. They have been credited with changing the nature of the food conversation in the community of Port Townsend, Washington.

The goal for the budget-less Cleveland project, relaying entirely on word-of-mouth, is that 50 groups have met by the end of the year, with a farmers’ potluck in the fall to celebrate and share experiences.

“They had a fall potluck in Port Townsend, and people did share some pretty exciting things that they were motivated to do as a result,” says Nancy, noting she’s hoping for a similar experience in Cleveland.

The Menu for the Future movement was sparked at last year’s Sustainable Cleveland 2019 summit, an initiative to turn the city into a world-leader in sustainable practice.

For the initiative, a theme is chosen for each year, with events, education and activities all lifting it up. Local food is the 2012 theme.

The city’s chief sustainability officer, Jenita McGowan, who is the lead connection point on this citizen-driven project, points to Menu for the Future as a favourite example of several highlighting the growth of the local food ecology in Cleveland.

It certainly aligns with what she sees as the greatest possibilities for the local food movement in the city in 2012, which is “lots of unsolicited comments from regular Clevelanders around the fact that their city is a leader in local food, that they’re proud about it and know how to participate in it.”

For the full article, please click here.

One of our long time course organizers, Nancy King Smith, has been busy mobilizing community dialogues around food and sustainability in the Cleveland, Ohio area with a  working group that emerged out of the Sustainable Cleveland 2019 Summit. Nancy not only serves on the board for Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth (one of NWEI’s 30 partner organizations), but also is actively starting courses in the metro Cleveland area via an initiative inspired by NWEI organizers in Port Townsend, Washington. The Lakewood Observer just posted this article with details:

The Menu for the Future project is involving Lakewood residents in learning about and discussing the issues affecting their daily food choices. The expected outcome is to create more literate consumers, which in turn will drive sales of local, healthy food. The program is based on a six-week course developed by the Northwest Earth Institute that involves selected readings and self-facilitated discussion. It is part of the Local Food Celebration Year for Sustainable Cleveland 2019.

In September of 2011, a working group came together at the Sustainable Cleveland 2019 Summit and set a goal to get as many groups as possible to use the Menu for the Future course within their faith community, organization, business or neighborhood during 2012. About a dozen pilot groups, with a farmer or food producer in each one, are meeting in February and March, and plans are in motion to scale up during the remainder of the year.

The course, designed for groups of eight to twelve participants, is based on a source book of readings that includes directions for self-facilitation by the groups for guided conversation about our food systems. The course has been successfully used in Port Townsend, WA, where they ran 25 simultaneous courses with a farmer or food producer in each course (most groups were ten to fifteen people). It changed the nature of the conversation about food in the town and established relationships between producers and consumers that have been of economic as well as personal benefit…

Currently groups are meeting in a variety of settings and geographic areas: River’s Edge, Carnegie West Library, the Galleria, the Catholic Diocese Headquarters, Preterm, Gates Mills Library, Unitarian Universalist churches in Shaker Heights, Akron and Kent, and a Hudson Ecumenical group. The pilot groups and interested conveners will hold a celebration potluck at the Galleria on April 19th. Additional groups will launch in April and May, including a group at the Lakewood Public Library. Anyone interested in convening a group (no special expertise needed) or joining a group should contact menuforthefuture@gmail.org or call 216-264-0181.

Late last month citizens throughout Oregon and Washington’s Columbia River Gorge area began participating in a series of Menu for the Future discussion groups as part of the “Let’s Talk Food” initiative, hosted by the Gorge Grown Food Network, a citizens’ and farmers’ initiative working to build a regional food system in the rural Columbia River Gorge region of Oregon and Washington.

The Mosier, Oregon group of Gorge Grown kicked off an ambitious project this winter: they’d like to help set the record for the largest number of food discussion groups running at the same time. Groups began convening the week of February 20th and are now in full swing, with groups running from Goldendale to Parkdale, Oregon.

Using the Menu for the Future discussion course books, the groups are exploring the confusing number of food choices and contradicting information around health, fair trade, industrial agriculture, organics, family farms, sustainable food systems, GMOs and more. At the end of the courses, the Mosier group will be hosting a community potluck with all participants from all of the individual groups.

If you are in the Gorge and would like to be involved in the future, contact Emily Reed at 503.360.3532 or learn more at the Gorge Grown Food Network’s website.

Last month, a Menu for the Future group in Reston, Virginia started blogging about their experiences and findings while participating in Menu’s six sessions of discussion and action. They kicked off their new blog, which offers “thoughts on how food impacts our earth, our communities and ourselves” with this post, entitled What’s Eating America (after the first session title of Menu for the Future):

“It’s confusing knowing what to eat these days…

In her article, Organic, Local and Everything Else: Finding Your Way Through the Modern Food Fray, Zoe Bradbury captures the guilt of purchasing a pineapple (it’s not local), and the consumer quandry about eggs:

Do you take home the certified organic, cage-free dozen

from California, or the non-organic but vegetarian-fed eggs from the family farm in nearby Willamette Valley? Do you spring for the Omega-3 eggs at a dollar more a dozen, or wait for your next trip to the Feed & Seed, where you can buy 9-year-old Nathan’s mismatched rainbow of

uncleaned eggs packed into re-used cartons? Not to mention large or extra large, Grade A or Grade AA. Is the notion that brown eggs are healthier real, or is the difference from their white counterparts only shell-deep?

(If only we had 9-year-old Nathan in Reston!) But for those trying to make informed decisions about food, it doesn’t stop with eggs.

Is organic milk from Walmart better than conventional milk from a mom & pop store?

What’s better, organic or local?  Whole Foods CEO John Mackey and Michael Pollan talk organic vs. local here.

In the end, Zoe concludes:

What I’ve started to wonder amidst all the ferment about local and organic is this: Why turn it into a boxing match? Why the reductionist, either/or mentality? Why not local and organic, and while we’re at it, grass fed, family scale, socially just, economically viable, carbon neutral, humane, culturally vibrant, community based, and ecologically renewing?

And that sounds great. But how can we make it happen? What changes need to take place?

And is it any wonder we’re baffled when it comes to buying food in America?”

Thanks to this group for taking their musings to the blogosphere and for sharing this information with others! You can read other posts on their blog here.

The Northwest Earth Institute is excited to announce that Colorado Mountain College has become NWEI’s newest formal partner, and NWEI’s first formal higher education partner!

Colorado Mountain College has been using Menu for the Future in several courses over the past few years with positive feedback from students, hence a commitment to integrating both Menu for the Future and Hungry for Change into ongoing and future sustainable food related courses.

A perfect resource for CMC’s Sustainable Cuisine program, NWEI course books will be used in classes ranging from Introduction to Environmental Science, Food Politics, Policies and People, Introduction to Sustainable Cuisine, and Agroecology. The NWEI course books will also be used in CMC’s Bachelor of Arts Program in Sustainability Studies.

Colorado Mountain College serves nine counties in north-central Colorado. Each year, nearly 25,000 students take classes at CMC’s 11 locations and online. We look forward to serving faculty, students and staff at CMC in the years to come, and are grateful to be a part of inspiring young people to take responsibility for Earth in new ways!


This spring the Sound Policy Institute at the University of Puget Sound will host one of NWEI’s community discussion courses, Menu For The Future.  The Sound Policy Institute builds the capacity of individuals and groups, both on campus and in the regional community, to actively and effectively engage in environmental decision making.

The Menu for the Future group will meet on Wednesday afternoons from 12:00-1:50, beginning January 25th, 2012.  Participants should bring their own lunch.  There will be reading packets available for you to purchase for the cost of $21.00.
Registration is required.  Please contact Katharine Appleyard at kappleyard@pugetsound.edu to reserve your space. We are excited that the University of Puget Sound is offering this course to the community!

Recently, A University of Washington professor brought Menu for the Future into her classroom, tasking students with meeting in small groups outside of class to delve into the complex world of sustainable food choices.  Here is what a few of them had to say in response to NWEI’s discussion course process.

“My fondest memory of food has got to be standing beside my mom, barely tall enough to see the large saute pan filled with a creamy white mixture, asking “why don’t you just put the cheese in all at once?”  The first Menu for the Future meeting  continued on this theme as we answered the question, “how do the foods you ate as a child compare with the ones you eat today?”  There was a varied response to this question: some ate better today, some ate the same, and some ate worse.  This led to discussions about why.  The reason for eating worse today was mostly about money and convenience, but also an overload of information (labels, media reports, educations).  They couldn’t afford to eat healthy, and didn’t have time to…  The first session has a lot of great articles that reduced defensiveness associated with all the food choices we have today:  local, organic, conventional etc.  And, it is hard to navigate amid warnings about metals in fish, fat content, high fructose corn syrup, and now the condition of conventional cows and chickens…

I learned in my ethics class about values, and they seem to be categorized by either human centered (and usually self-centered at that), biological (all living things), or eco-centric (all living things plus the air, water, and atmosphere).  Personally, I look at every living thing, as well as water and air as having intrinsic value – born within.  And we now have a good understanding of how anthropogenic (human action) disturbances affect all of these things.  Therefore, we have an obligation to respond with better than sustainable choices and actions (because sustainable by today’s standards is not really sustainable).

Yes, the Menu for the Future sessions have motivated me to change some of my actions.  It is painful to see that in the heart of the issue, is my own resistance to change despite my knowledge and personal values.  I believe this is the perfect example of acts and omissions…As individuals we have an obligation to respond, and therefore we should at the very least voice our issues with industrial agriculture by way of food choices.”

Another student reflects on getting housemates in on new food choices and habits:

“The information I learned from the readings has inspired me, and that inspiration has spilled onto my friends and family.  After learning about the environmental, health, and social implications of CAFO’s, I told my parents… Since then, they have found a grass fed free range beef supplier.

I also gained a new perspective on food.  Food had become something I would hurry up to finish as I’m running out the door… In the first reading, there was an article that spoke of the dinner table as an outlet for personal expression and a time to bond with family.  The article took me back to my childhood: mom, dad and I sitting around the table talking and laughing.  Them showing love and care for their child, and me growing and learning how to express myself and learn rules of society.  Can you pass the potatoes?  Yes, of course! Dinner time was a time to bond, slow down and reflect upon our lives… This article opened my eyes to what food has turned into for me, and I have since made changes.

I’ve made myself wake up 20 minutes early, to ensure that I have enough time to enjoy my breakfast.  I take my one day off and dedicate at least half of it to preparing salads and healthy foods to eat throughout the week.  The most special one, and the one my roommates love the most, is the Tuesday evening dinner that I’ve implemented…There has been more of a sense of love and warmth in our house since then.

A general consensus amongst the Menu for the Future group was that we are doing the best we can with regards to what we are given.  A majority of us feel that provided the options we have to choose from, we choose the best we can.  By best choices, I am talking about local, organic, and humane.  I also noted, that the students who were really able to make conscience decisions regarding food, had support.  My roommates have turned out to be very open to the things I’ve learned, and want to incorporate better choices into our lives.  It has turned out to be quite a process.  Going organic is not too hard, you can find organic produce and processed items at any Fred Meyer or Safeway.  But buying local is definitely a goal of mine.  This means once, if not twice a week running down to the local market for veggies and fruits.  When it comes to local grass- fed meats, they are just not worth the price.  But this has lead to us eating not as much meat, and pretty much no beef.  The changes that I’ve made that were inspired from the readings of Menu for the Future have allowed me to make a better impact on my health, my environment, and my local community…”

What happens when you organize over 28 small groups to discuss food values and issues, and include a local farmer or food producer in each one? Find out at the NWEI North American Gathering this year with our co-hosts, innovative organizers Judy Alexander, Dick Bergeron and Peter Bates.  They facilitated Menu for the Future small group discussions to support local farmers and educate eaters, and as a result local eaters changed their food choices, and the market for local food products expanded.

Thanks to Peak Moment TV, which is dedicated to building local reliance, you can meet our Port Townsend NWEI North American Gathering co-hosts by clicking here to watch a clip from their interview about their work creating more sustainable local food systems and a more vibrant, healthy community.

They’ll be offering a workshop during the conference weekend (September 15-18th) on Community Building, Sustainable Food and Neighborhood Activism, where they will share how in 2010 their local NWEI Steering Committee undertook an ambitious project to see if a tipping point might be reached in support of local food, farms, and farmers. NWEI, in partnership with The Port Townsend Farmer’s Market, The Port Townsend Food Co-op, and the Chimacum Grange, in a county of 30,000, launched over 28 Menu for the Future courses.

Each group had participant food producers informing the dialogue, from local farmers, fishermen, restauranteurs, cheese makers, and community gardeners, bringing home the message that being able to source our food locally is critically important for reasons pertaining to health, economy, ecology, and community.

Thanks Port Townsend for setting such an inspiring example of change!

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