CORAL GABLES, Fla. (October 21, 2016) — The plant-based menu—peanut soba noodles, cauliflower with goat cheese, and sweet potato casserole—at the World Food Day discussion last week was palate pleasing. And the topic—how we need to change our food habits and agriculture practices as the climate warms—was eye opening for South Florida, ground zero for rising sea levels.
The faculty and students who spoke at the Food for Thought forum, held at the Lowe Art Museum in advance of the University’s World Food Day observance on Monday, October 24, agreed that what we eat and how we get it will have to change with the changing climate.
“Most of the food carbon footprint comes from transportation and the fact that you, as a customer, expect to see grapes every month of the year in Publix, not worrying about the fact that the grapes are coming from Chile,” said Teddy Lhoutellier, UM’s sustainability manager who urged the audience to imagine a different, local food system. “Local means local growing, local cooking, local distribution, and here in Miami-Dade we have that local distribution network. We have some of the best growers right down in Homestead.”
The UM community can see—and sample—that local system at the Fair Food Fair that will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at University Center Lower Lounge on Monday, October, 24. Fair visitors will be able to enjoy a free local dish, a nutritious drink made from the “superfood” Moringa tree, and learn more about healthy and local eating, as well as community gardens such as UM’s burgeoning food forest. (View the schedule for other events.)
The food forest, which began as a class project and is sprouting on the grounds of the University of Miami’s Baptist Collegiate Ministry, won’t keep seas from rising or the climate from changing. But junior Annie Cappetta, president of the CommUnity Garden, hopes other students will learn to love and grow the boniato, bananas, leafy spinach substitutes, asparagus, and other tropical and perennial foods that thrive in South Florida—and can be included in our diets when the climate and our food supply change.
“The days are coming when some of your favorite things are not going to be available at the grocery store—coffee, chocolate, specialty products that can be grown only in certain regions and are going to get very expensive,” Cappetta warned. “So we have to be very adaptable and know what your local community can grow and what we can grow here is astonishing. It’s not just avocados and citrus. There are lots of fruits and perennial vegetables that people need to be aware of and incorporate in their diets so when the change starts happening we can be adaptable and open to new foods.”
The discussion was moderated by Andrew Porter, assistant professor of clinical at the School of Nursing and Health Studies, who concluded the program by urging the audience to be part of a big change by doing—or not doing—one small thing every day.
“Not eating meat one day a week. Changing to a plant-based diet one day a week. Not drinking carbonated water,” Porter said. “There’s lots of little things you can do and plenty of options.’’
That’s the message senior Asmaa Odeh, who organized the Food for Thought panel, most wants to convey. An independent major who discovered her passion for educating people about healthy eating after her mother was diagnosed with colon cancer at a young age, Odeh is developing a program that The Lennar Foundation Medical Center, the new Coral Gables location of the University of Miami Health System, plans to use to promote healthier living and eating in the community.
“Our planet is heating up. Glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising, and extreme weather events like droughts, cyclones, and floods are becoming more common. This is why the global message for World Food Day 2016 is ‘Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must, too,’” Odeh said. “If we each take a few small steps, governments will change policies, business will change practices, impacting generations with the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to eat good, nutritious food for healthier lives. This event united individuals from different disciplines to make small changes from the ground up.”
All who take an initial step on UM’s National Food Day are encouraged to share their actions on social media via #wfday2016.
In addition to Cappetta and Lhoutellier, the panelists included nutritionist Linda Parker, research assistant professor at the school of Nursing and Health Studies, and Thomas Harris, associate professor in the Departments of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. The entirely plant-based meal was prepared by UM alumnus Peter Kwa, the pastry and pantry chef at KYU restaurant in Wynwood.
— UM News