When I think about the month of April, images of blooming flowers, spring rains, and well, pollen - at least in the state of Georgia, come to mind. Then it’s no surprise that April is a month for celebrating all things green. April is “National Garden Month”, established by the National Gardening Association, and is home to “Earth Day”, a holiday in its forty-second year of celebration across the nation.
Promoting sustainability, conservation, recycling, reduction of waste, and the beautification our earth are causes definitely worth a month of celebration. In addition, these causes encourage us to remember the benefits of healthy eating, and to take notice of the effects our food choices have on the earth and our environment.
According to the National Gardening Association, “National Garden Month” is a way to promote gardening which improves health, strengthens communities, and encourages better nutrition. The organization’s website includes a list of “101 Ways to Celebrate National Garden Month” including ideas for planting a garden to benefit those in need, helping in the garden of a local school, or organizing a neighborhood clean-up. And for those of us with less than a green thumb, the site offers advice on how to start small by planting an herb garden in a pot.
If you’re reluctant to pull out your gardening gloves, there are other ways to incorporate the principals of sustainability and healthy eating into food choices including:
1. Purchase local! Reduce the environmental burden of food travel over hundreds or thousands of miles when you purchase produce grown in or around your state.
2. Visit your local farmer’s market or food co-op, or join a Community Supported Agriculture group (CSA). To search farmer’s markets, co-ops, and CSAs near you, search the Georgia Organics Online Local Food Guide at http://www.georgiaorganics.org/OrganicDirectory.aspx.
3. Go meatless for a day. Join the “Meatless Monday” movement which encourages Americans to trade in their beloved steak for a veggie alternative in order to cut down on fossil fuel usage, conserve water, and reduce greenhouse gas emission. At the same time, reap the health benefits of replacing a food high in saturated fat and with fiber rich vegetables, legumes, and grains. Visit www.meatlessmonday.com for more information.
4. Know what’s in season. Buying seasonal produce is a great way to reduce your grocery bill, ensure that fruits and vegetables are at the peak of their nutrient content, and provide some variety in your diet. Better yet, purchase extra produce at its peak and freeze for an out-of- season winter treat. At a loss for creative ways to incorporate veggies into your meals? Check out the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ “20 Ways to Enjoy More Fruits and Vegetables” at http://www.eatright.org/nutritiontipsheets/.
The good news is that even small changes can make a difference. Start by including one local, seasonal fruit or vegetable into a meal, or by planning one meatless meal for your family. For the months of April and May, incorporate fresh cabbage, Lima or pole beans, collards, okra, onions, or potatoes into your dinner, and finish with a bowl of fresh, locally grown, juicy, red strawberries for dessert. In addition to doing your part to reduce your carbon footprint, you can feel good about adding vitamin and mineral rich fruits and veggies to your diet. Check out the Georgia Farm Bureau’s “Georgia Harvest Calendar” to determine what produce is available each month in Georgia.
Georgia Harvest Calendar. The Georgia Farm Bureau. Available at: http://www.gfb.org/commodities/cfm/harvest_calendar.html. Accessed March 21, 2012.
1. 101 Ways to Celebrate I National Garden Month: It’s About Good Food. The National Gardening Association website. Available at: http://www.nationalgardenmonth.org/index.php?page=101ways4. Accessed March 18, 2012.
2. The Earth Day Network. Available at www.earthday.org. Accessed March 18, 2012.
3. Georgia Organics. Online Local Food Guide. Available at: http://www.georgiaorganics.org/OrganicDirectory.aspx. Accessed March 21, 2012.
4. Meatless Monday. Why Meatless? Available at: http://www.meatlessmonday.com/why-meatless/. Accessed March 18, 2012.
5. Eat Right Nutrition Tips: 20 Ways to Enjoy Fruits and Vegetables. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website. Available at: http://www.eatright.org/nutritiontipsheets/ . Accessed March 25, 2012.
6. Georgia Harvest Calendar. The Georgia Farm Bureau. Available at: http://www.gfb.org/commodities/cfm/harvest_calendar.html. Accessed March 18, 2012.
Contibuted by Brittany Bingeman, Coordinated Program Student, Georgia State University