Food Day, food inspired and food harvest

October 23, 2011

Mike welcomes U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky

Last week I reported on Food Day, which will be celebrated tomorrow, Monday, October 24. The organizers, including the Center for Science in the Public Interest, have a goal of educating Americans about healthy, affordable food produced in a sustainable, humane way. If you’re interested in being a part of this celebration, it’s pretty easy to get involved. This link takes you directly to events being staged in and around Chicago.

One of the people on the advisory board of Food Day is the Hon. Jan Schakowsky, U.S. Representative from Illinois’ 9th district. I am pleased to have her on the show this morning to talk about Food Day issues. I saw her a few days ago when I attended a Move the Money Chicago rally at Chicago Temple last Thursday. She spoke eloquently about the need for a more equitable American society, making reference to her plan to tax millionaires at a 45 percent rate and billionaires at 49 percent. This would raise $4 trillion over the coming decade…and it still doesn’t approach the tax rates of the Reagan years. She has also, along with 44 colleagues, introduced “The Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act” (H.R. 2914) to create over 2.2 million jobs for two years. But I digress.

After the gathering, which also featured words from Representative Danny Davis, Jesse Jackson and others, there was a march to Grant Park, to meet up with the Occupy Chicago group. I was impressed Rep. Schakowsky not only marched all of the way, but stayed to listen to Occupy Chicago conduct their business for the evening.

We will talk food issues this morning but you never know what else will come up.

BTW, here’s something that came to my attention this week. It seems, perhaps in honor of Food Day (that’s irony, folks), the powers that be will begin spraying a very toxic chemical, methyl iodide, on strawberry crops in California on…wait for it…here it comes…October 24. Also known as Food Day. Gotta love it.

[Podcast of interview with Rep. Schakowsky is now available here.]

Sustainable Food Fundamentals
Inspiration Kitchens now inspires people in Garfield Park

I had the pleasure of enjoying a lunch at a fabulous dining establishment several weeks ago, made even more enjoyable by the knowledge that it was helping the homeless and lower income people.

Several years ago, when I was working at Gargantua Radio down the dial, I was invited to visit what was then called Cafe Too in Uptown. Since then, they have renamed themselves Inspiration Kitchens, and they assist more than 3,000 individuals and famiies through employment, housing and supportive service programs.

In this case, I need to thank Sarah Batka, who is not only a friend of the show, but who is an Illinois Master Gardener who I have been privileged to meet on several occasions, and who is also a volunteer at Ellis View Cooperative Garden in Chicago. She is now an advocate for Inspiration Kitchens and it couldn’t be a better fit.

Frankly, I didn’t know that Inspiration Kitchens was now operating just down the block from the Gafield Park Conservatory. If you’re visiting the conservatory, which, as Beth Botts reported on this show a couple of weeks ago, is in need of funds to help repair storm damage from last spring, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t walk less than a block to the Inspiration Kitchen and be treated to a gourmet meal.

At the same time, you will be supporting a 13-week job training program that enables homeless individuals, ex-offenders and other low-income individuals to obtain career-track employment in the food industry. Students receive pre-employment instruction, restaurant training, sanitation certification, internship experience, and job-placement and follow-up support services.

In class, students learn knife skills, soups and sauces, baking and how to work with meats, poultry, fish, and vegetables. All students test for a City of Chicago and State of Illinois food service sanitation management certificates. Training also includes employment preparation, such as writing resumes and interviewing. During the thirteen week program, students should be prepared to train during brunch, lunch, dinner, and weekend shifts. They work along side chef instructors and graduates of the program to learn on the job.

Oh, and did I say that the food is wonderful? Call 773.275.0626 for IK-Uptown or 773.801.1110 for IK-Garfield Park. They accept all major credit cards, encourage guests to BYOB, and offer free wireless Internet. In addition to Sarah, I’m joined today by Mike Webb and Master Gardener volunteer Anna-Marie Leon (who are both cultivating the small but productive garden outside of the restaurant), and Director Margaret Haywood.

[Podcast of Inspiration Kitchens interview is now available here.]

Finishing the harvest at Sweet Home Organics

Even though I’ve never met Kim Marsin of Sweet Home Organics, she is my favorite organic farmer. That’s possibly because she’s willing to be on a radio program and talk about what it’s like to be an organic-farmer-in-training. Regardless, we’re getting to the tail end of the growing year at the fields she works with partner Rachel Reklau at Primrose Farm, which is part of the St. Charles Park District.

Today we heard stories of trying to grow tomatoes in fields that retain too much water. Can I see some hands out there from people who have been down that road? She also talked about the productivity of the broccoli plants, which, wonderously, continue to send up side stalks after the main florets are harvested.

The Sweet Home Organics farm stand will be up for one more week, so if you want to take advantage of local, healthy food, stop by. The address is 5N726 Crane Road (near the intersection of Crane and Bolcum) in St. Charles, Illinois.

Some stories I’ve been following that you might have missed

  • In June of 2009, the Illinois General Assembly passed a bill that legalized commercial food-scrap composting in Illinois. How are we doing so far? Um, not great.
  • The planet’s population just hit 7 billion. How do we feed it when there are 10 Billion, which is being predicted for the end of the century?. Grist says it can be done…but it won’t be easy.
  • Chicago City Employees are handling the managed competition to retain their recycling jobs better than many people expected, according to the Sun-Times.

Free Green Can, which I’ve talked about on this show, continues to show up in and around Chicago.