In the summer of 2015, the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank went solar with Baker Electric Solar in order to save money on energy and mitigate their impact on the environment.
Joan and Irwin Jacobs donated $1 million to cover the cost of the 350 kW (kilowatt) system. The solar installation will yield $120,000 in annual savings. This huge reduction in electricity costs allows the Food Bank to further invest in the community they serve. In fact, the savings the Food Bank realizes from going solar will result in 600,000 additional meals to San Diegans in need each year.
The significant reduction in energy costs also allows the Food Bank to afford more costly fresh produce on top of doubling its cooling capacity, allowing them to keep more food than ever fresh. Kevin Weinberg, of Baker Electric Solar’s commercial solar division, explained that “any nonprofit that handles refrigeration or has a lot of lighting, such as SDFB, is a good candidate for solar.” He continued by saying, “It’s about energy consumption. If an organization has a large roof or space on the ground, such as a parking lot with existing carport structures, they can benefit from solar.”
In addition to the Jacobs’ generous donation, the Food Bank also tapped into an incentive through the Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE) to supplement the funds spent on going solar. According to Casey Castillo, Vice President of Finance and Administration for the Food Bank, because they’re able to meet targets for energy use reductions, they’ll receive $90,000 annually from CSE over the course of five years, which will bring their ROI down to just five short years.
The solar system isn’t just financially sustainable, however. It will also save the CO2 emissions equivalent of 594,747 pounds of coal, the equivalent annual greenhouse gas emissions of 1,318,356 miles driven by an average passenger vehicle and produce 803,000 kWh of energy for the Food Bank annually – enough to power 125 family homes for an entire year. Each 4-foot-by-5-foot solar panel alone will enable the Food Bank to provide an additional 513 pounds of food to families in need through energy cost savings.
Switching to solar was one step in the Food Bank’s goal of becoming a LEED certified organization. The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification program was launched in 2000 “so that the world’s leading businesses would have a tool that would deliver the immediate, measureable results they need to prove that what is good for the environment is also good for the bottom line,” said Rick Fedrizzi, CEO and founding chair of USGBC.
On top of installing solar, the Food Bank also undertook related projects including installing energy-efficient lighting and controls in order to achieve their LEED certification. This involved a lighting retrofit from old, inefficient incandescent bulbs to newer LEDs, as well as the installation of new highly efficient air conditioning units and participation in SDG&E’s demand-response program. Through this program, the Food Bank has agreed to reduce energy usage in peak demand times in order to increase savings.
Going solar also benefited the Food Bank by demonstrating to donors that they’re responsible stewards of funds. Castillo said that “because we are a non-profit, that is something that also helps to bring in more donors.” This allows them to do even more in the communities they serve, effectively allowing the Food Bank to reach more families that struggle with food insecurity in San Diego.
The food we eat is our fuel, our sustenance. Food can get spoiled, which makes it unappetizing, not as nutritious and even dangerous to our health. Consuming spoiled food can cause food-borne illnesses including food poisoning and botulism, which can be fatal.
Older adults, pregnant women, newborns, and people with kidney disease, cancer, diabetes or AIDS are more susceptible to food-borne illnesses. So how do we keep food safe and unspoiled, so as to get all the goodness it has to offer without getting sick?
Here are some suggestions to keep food safe:
- Wash your hands thoroughly before, during and after preparing and handling foods.
- Wash produce thoroughly before us.
- Cook meat, poultry and seafood to proper temperature.
- Thaw food in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave – but not on the counter.
- Do not consume raw eggs or food containing raw eggs like cookie dough.
- Replace dish rags and sponges periodically, while sanitizing them daily.
- Perishable foods (including cooked food, produce, meat, poultry, seafood, eggs and milk) need to be stored by refrigerating or freezing. If refrigerated, perishable foods need to be
consumed in a few days.
- Semi-perishable foods (like flour, grain products, dried fruit and dry mixes) can be safely stored up to 6-12 months.
- Non-perishable foods (like sugar, dried beans, spices and canned foods) do not spoil if handled and stored properly, but they may lose quality over a long period of time.
- Leftovers should be stored in shallow, airtight containers for rapid cooling and preventing the spread of bacteria.
- Refrigerate leftovers as soon as possible – there is no need to cool leftovers to room temperature before refrigerating them.
Some useful tips on how to handle and buy food safely can be found. Just click here.
This September, let’s start keeping our foods safe and disease-free, while celebrating Food Safety Education Month!
It’s fall and school is in full swing. Growing children have additional nutritional needs to meet for growth, development apart from regular wear and tear and maintenance of body organs. It is important to send a variety of healthy, substantial and appetizing foods to school as kids spend at least half their waking time at school. A little bit of planning, shopping and prepping can go a long way for packing kids lunches.
Here are some useful suggestions to send your kids lunches they will eat and enjoy:
1. Plan ahead and make a list of lunch box foods including fruits, vegetables, fruit juice, cheese, yogurt, milk, crackers, cookies and other ingredients.
2. Shop for ingredients from the list, preferably before the week starts, on weekends.
3. Prep ingredients – cut, chop, slice, and store fruits and vegetables in individually portioned boxes.
4. Make a list of plan-ahead recipes and/ or instant, quick recipes and use them throughout the week.
5. Invest in good quality, leak-proof containers, cold and hot packs and lunch bags to pack school lunches in.
Plan-ahead recipes can be make the previous night and stored, like zucchini and banana muffins, stews or chili, cornbread, breads and rolls, dips like hummus.
Quick recipes like quesadillas, pasta with veggies, fried rice, sandwiches, mini pita pizzas, burritos and wraps, and whole grain blueberry pancakes may be made and packed just before going to school.
I like to add a note with a message or a riddle to my kids’ lunch bags – as a special touch.
Here is a simple and delicious recipe for veggie sushi.
Recipe: Veggie Sushi Bites
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Number of servings: 8-10 bites, enough for 1 kid
- 1 sheet nori seaweed
- ¼ – ½ cup cooked calrose or sushi rice
- 6 strips of julliened carrots
- 6 strips of julliened cucumber
- 6 strips of julienned avocados
- 6 strips of julienned red bell pepper
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar or to taste
- ½ tsp sugar
- Salt to taste
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- A few pieces of pickled ginger (optional)
1. Mix vinegar, salt and sugar together.
2. Add the vinegar mixture to the cooled, cooked rice and set aside the rice.
3. Take the nori sheet and spread a thin layer of rice on it, pressing the rice to the sheet.
4. Arrange the julienned vegetables in a line on one end of the sheet on top of the rice.
5. Roll the nori sheet with rice and vegetables, and once the vegetables are covered with the nori, compress the sheet slightly and roll the rest of the sheet tightly.
6. Seal the roll using a little water and slice into sushi bites using a knife.
7. Drizzle with soy sauce and top with pieces of pickled ginger if desired. Pack the sushi bites in the lunch box.
For more lunchbox recipe ideas, click here.
September is Whole Grains Month! Whole grains are the entire seed of plants that contain three parts – the germ, bran and endosperm; whereas refined grains may not have 1 or more parts. For example, refined wheat flour is mostly made up of the endosperm. Whole grains are important dietary sources of fiber, B vitamins, iron, magnesium and selenium.
Eating whole grains regularly may help lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers like colon cancer. Whole grains also aid in weight management and help reduce cholesterol.
Whole grains may be included in soups, pastas, salads, as part of stuffing for vegetables and meat and a variety of other dishes. Snacks like popcorn, whole grain crackers and breakfast cereal are made of whole grains. Choose foods with whole grains (like whole oats, whole wheat and brown rice) listed as the first ingredient on the food label. Note that oftentimes, terms like multi-grain and stone-ground or even the brown color of certain cereal products may contain little or no whole grains.
Here is a recipe of curried fried rice using whole grain brown rice.
Recipe: Curried Fried Rice
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Number of servings: 2
- 2 cups cooked (short grain) brown rice
- ¾ cup superfirm tofu, finely chopped
- ½ cup carrots, diced
- ½ cup green peas, boiled
- 2-3 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 tbsp sesame or peanut oil
- Salt to taste
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- ½ tsp curry powder
- 1-2 tsp cilantro, finely copped
- A dash of lime juice (optional)
1. Heat oil in a pan and add the carrots and garlic. Stir for a few minutes until carrots are cooked but still crunchy.
2. Add tofu, peas, salt, soy sauce and rice. Stir well.
3. Add the curry powder and cilantro. Mix into the fried rice.
4. Add a dash of lime juice if you like.
1. Jonnalagadda, Satya S. et al. “Putting the Whole Grain Puzzle Together: Health Benefits Associated with Whole Grains—Summary of American Society for Nutrition 2010 Satellite Symposium.” The Journal of Nutrition 141.5 (2011): 1011S–1022S. PMC. Web. 1 Sept. 2016.