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Program Launched to Incorporate Organic Food At School and Home
(Beyond Pesticides, August 19, 2003)
In honor of this September's Organic Harvest Month, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) launched an "Organic for Kids" program on August 18th, which includes tips for getting organic food into schools, a cost analysis showing organic, not conventional, foods are the bargain, and an organic family menu guide written by celebrity chefs.

"Choosing organic food is an easy way for parents to protect their families while giving them delicious foods and an understanding of the need to protect our environment. The OTA's 'Organic for Kids' program helps parents incorporate organic food into their children's lives both at home and at school," said Katherine DiMatteo, OTA's executive director.

DiMatteo noted that children are especially vulnerable to pesticides. Organic agriculture minimizes their exposure to toxic and persistent pesticides in the foods they eat, the soil in which they play, the air they breathe and the water they drink. Children who have organic diets have lower pesticide residues in their urine than children fed conventionally grown foods, according to recent research conducted by scientists at the University of Washington.

Getting Organic Food into Schools
A tool kit of resources to help parents get organic foods into their children's school is offered in a series of articles provided by Elaine Marie Lipson, author of The Organic Foods Sourcebook. The greatest successes have been found on the college level with Stanford, Princeton, Colorado College, Bates and the University of Wisconsin among those taking the lead.

The kit includes "Eleven Tips for Change" for getting organic foods into the schools. These advise parents to do their homework, avoid attacking foodservice staff, and "start small, but don't think small." An educational handout for parents to distribute--"Organic Food and Children"--covers the meaning of "organic" and explains why organic foods may matter most to children. Extensive resources listings are provided as well.

Organic Food is a Bargain
In an essay entitled "The Ecology of Pizza (or Why Organic Food is a Bargain)" prepared for the OTA by ecologist/author Sandra Steingraber, the cost of preparing an organic pizza from scratch was found to be a bargain compared to its conventional counterpart - despite its ingredients' higher price.

"The principal reason that organic food costs more than conventional food is that organic food costs more to produce. By and large, organic farming relies more on labor and less on chemicals, and, in the United States, the former costs more than the latter," writes Steingraber. "Except that pesticides are not as cheap as they appear. And here lies the reason why organic food is actually a bargain. The price of organic food reflects, more or less, the full costs of making it. The price of chemically grown food does not."

Costs not incorporated into the price of conventional foods include a wide range of environmental and health effects such as deformed frogs, poisoned wildlife, eroded soil, herbicide-contaminated rain, ozone depletion, and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The "externalities" - costs of an activity that are borne by others - for conventionally grown food are estimated to be at least $10 billion, Steingraber reports, and include costs such as the medical treatments for pesticide-induced cancers and the maintenance of complex regulatory systems to monitor pesticides residues.

Organic Family Menu Guide
Celebrated organic chef Nora Pouillon of Washington, D.C. headed a team of organic chefs from across the country that contributed family-friendly organic recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as personal anecdotes and shopping and preparation tips. The chefs include Akasha Richmond and Jesse Cool from the West, Scott Uehlein from the Southwest, Odessa Piper from the Midwest, and Michel Nischan and Pouillon from the East.

"Food brings families together," said Nora in her introduction to the guide. "Now, with the help of this Organic Family Menu Guide, you can make organic food a part of your life. You will be giving your children delicious, healthful meals, and teaching them an invaluable life lesson about where food comes from and how we can work together to protect the earth."

Representing the $11 billion organic industry in North America, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) is a membership-based business association. Its mission is to encourage global sustainability through promoting and protecting the growth of diverse organic trade. OTA's approximately 1,200 members include growers, shippers, retailers, processors, certifiers, farmer associations, brokers, consultants and others. Learn more at the OTA website: www.ota.com or its consumer website: www.theorganicreport.org. For more information, contact Holly Givens, 413-774-7511, ext. 18.