Tuesday, July 28, 2015

CAUSES participates in Lotus and Water Lily Festival

by Arielle Gerstein 

On July 11, 2015, CAUSES participated in the annual Lotus and Water Lily Festival held at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. The festival had an estimated 6,000 visitors who came out to see the beautiful gardens and enjoy food, music and other activities. The festival spotlights these free activities:

  • A spectacular display of lotus and water lilies in full bloom
  • Gardening workshops & traditional Asian & African dancing performances
  • Hands-on activities including face painting, lotus tea tasting, and painting demonstrations
  • Educational and cultural exhibitors 

Promoting Pollinator Health

Photo by Carilyne Vance
Pollinator populations which include bees, butterflies, bats and beetles, support terrestrial wildlife, providing a healthy watershed and more. Honey bees play an important part in our agricultural ecosystem. According to the USDA, one-third of our daily diet comes from honey bee pollinated crops. Pollen is transported by bees, allowing plants to produce fruits, vegetables and seeds. 

Despite their critical role, these pollinators are being increasingly threatened by extreme weather, parasites and disease, and reductions in forage areas. Surveys of honey bee colonies as measured since 2006 have shown average winter losses of nearly 30 percent. Of particular concern is the impact of the invasive parasite, the Varroa mite, which the USDA considers “the single most detrimental pest of honey bees” and the one factor most closely associated with colony decline.

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) was brought to national attention almost a decade ago. According to Michael Rauch, an extension specialist and professor of Entomology with the University of Maryland, contributing factors for CCD are: 1) Infesting Varroa mites, 2) nutrition and weakened diets, and 3) pesticides, which can weaken the immune system of bees. Read more at his Bug of the Week website.  

Encouragingly, urban beekeeping is gaining in popularity, especially in Washington, D.C., with even the White House cultivating its own colonies. Honey bees thrive in pollinator patches, which offer bees blooming opportunities and a variety of flowers to support different bee species, increasing pollinator diversity.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Sustainable Urban Ag Certificate Program Begins August 31

By Arielle Gerstein
The fall 2015 session of the Sustainable Urban Agriculture certificate begins August 31, 2015! First offered in 2014, this program runs twice per year and teaches residents in the DC metro area how to farm using organic methods and how to start their own urban agricultural businesses.  This will be the program’s third session and will run from late August to mid-November. Learn how to register!

The certificate offers two tracks: Urban Agriculture Techniques and Business Principles in Urban Agriculture along with a prerequisite course that participants are required to take - Principles of Sustainable Urban Agriculture - so everyone has the same starting point for the two tracks.  

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Coming Soon: East Capitol Urban Farm

Have you heard about the East Capitol Urban Farm?

CAUSES is collaborating with the District of Columbia Housing Authority and other partners to operate an urban farm and aquaponics facility on a site across the street from the Capitol Heights Metro Station. Located in Ward 7 at 5959 East Capitol Street, SE, the 3-acre site will promote urban agriculture, improve food access and nutrition through community-centered farmers markets, provide job skills and entrepreneurship training, implement stormwater management best practices, and establish a nature playscape for neighborhood youth to play outdoors. 

There will also be educational components for local schools, residents and UDC students. The final site will include aquaponics, hoop and greenhouses, pollinator and raingardens, green infrastructure and farmers market. 

CAUSES Welcomes Two Volunteers

Thomas Wheet, Center for Sustainable Development and Center for Urban Agriculture

Thomas Wheet recently graduated from the University of Virginia. As a Government and Global Sustainability major, he became increasingly interested in the policies and systems that dictate human's interaction with the planet: the structures that control where we live, how we build, what we grow, and how we dispose, for example. This fascination led him to academic and work experiences focused on the systemic (mis)treatment of certain communities compared to others.

Thomas comes to CAUSES with experience in urban farming--specifically hydroponics and aquaponics--as well as community development and sustainable design. 

"I'm thrilled to be able to continue learning about designing spaces with the public's interest in mind from everyone at CAUSES." 

Rose Amolo, Center for Nutrition, Diet and Health

Rose Khasiala Amolo has joined the Center for Nutrition, Diet and Health (CNDH) as a program and monitoring evaluation intern. She is a post graduate student at American University pursuing a graduate certificate in monitoring and evaluation, and holds a MPH in Nutrition from New York University, and a Bachelors of Education from Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya.  

Her study focus is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education ( SNAP-Ed) program. She is working with the staff various program evaluation components including reviewing the existing data collection instruments, developing a logical framework and articulating a theory of change for the SNAP-ED program. She is also running statistical analysis with the existing data and will be doing a snapshot evaluation of the program progress on the current 2015-2016 fiscal year plan goals and objectives. Ms. Amolo has 15 years of work experience in international development, reproductive health, and maternal and child health programs in Africa. 

Dr. Monroe-Lord is delighted to add her expertise to the Center for Nutrition, Diet and Health and the SNAP-Ed program, stating "She is an outstanding addition to the Center."

Friday, July 17, 2015

CAUSES TV Lecture: Biogas, Climate Change, Reduction of Poverty

This CAUSES TV lecture on biogas technology presented by David House, a renewable energy expert, designer and author of Methane Systems: The Complete Biogas Handbook. He is the designer of a low-cost, plastic-bag-based biogas digester for equatorial belt countries and inventor of a patented new technology for cochlear implants. 

Presently, he is developing a low-cost biogas digester for use in the U.S. and around the world. Watch his lecture to learn more.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

UDC inaugurates 20,000 sq. ft. food-producing green roof!

The College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences of the University of the District of Columbia has opened a 20,000 square foot green roof, which sits on top of Building 44 on the Van Ness campus. The official opening and ribbon-cutting of the site was held Thursday, July 9, 2015, with special guests Sonny Ramaswamy, director, USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Tommy Wells, director, District Department of the Environment, and Ronald Mason, incoming president for the University.

While green roofs promote energy efficiency and storm water management by helping to cool buildings and reducing stormwater runoff, what makes the green roof unique is that it was constructed to produce food. The roof is the anchor of the CAUSES Urban Food Hub on UDC’s Van Ness campus. The Urban Food Hub concept consists of: food production, food preparation, food distribution, and waste and wastewater management. As the world’s population increases and cities, in particular, continue to grow in size, it is of utmost importance to meet the food and water security needs of urban populations. In urban areas as densely populated as Northwest Washington, rooftop food production is one method to grow food in a small space. Other Urban Food Hubs are emerging in other Wards across the District of Columbia.

“The green roof stands as a model of progress not only for the University of the District of Columbia, but also as a positive step in the fight to ensure that all District residents have access to fresh and nutritious food,” stated CAUSES Dean Sabine O’Hara.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Green roof featured in USDA Week in Review!

Dr. Catherine Woteki, USDA Under Secretary for USDA Research, Education, and Economics, visited the UDC green roof on Friday, June 12. That visit is captured in the USDA Week in Review for the week of June 19!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Spike Mendelsohn Visits UDC Food Hub and Farm

On Monday, June 22, CAUSES played host to Spike Mendelsohn, the recently appointed Chair of the DC Food Policy Council. A former Top Chef contestant--and the "bad boy" of his season (but not in real life, mind you)--Spike now owns six restaurants in the DC area, and nine restaurants total in Philadelphia and Chicago, and recently opened the first of two locations in Saudi Arabia.

As chair of the DC Food Policy Council, the restaurateur is tasked with addressing food access/security across the city, with an emphasis on advancing DC's burgeoning local food movement. The Food Policy Council was established by Mayor Muriel Bowser to promote food sustainability, nutrition education, the District's local food economy and of course, urban agriculture (which we know a thing or two about). Mendelsohn was appointed by Mayor Bowser in early 2015.

Spike and his business partner Vinoda Basnayake, got a firsthand tour of the Ward 3 UDC 
Urban Food Hub, which included a tour of the recently completed green roof, the almost completed teaching and demonstration kitchen, the Environmental Quality Testing Lab (all on the Van Ness campus) and of course, the hub anchor, our research farm in Beltsville, Maryland. 

"This has been eyeopening and inspiring," Mendelsohn commented. 

CAUSES could not ask for a better ally. We look forward to working with Chef Spike in the future!

Touring the food-bearing green roof.
Talking shop with Urban Ag Director Che Axum and Dean O'Hara.
Spike picks carrots for use at Restaurant Bernaise.
Peering into one of the aquaponic tanks.
Additional photos of Chef Spike's visit are available on our Facebook page!

Volunteers help support UDC's sensory gardens

On Friday, June 19, several CAUSES staffers and community volunteers came out to tend to the UDC Garden of the Senses. Thanks to a grant from the Verizon Foundation, the gardens were first created to represent the senses of vision, smell and touch. 

Several Ward 3 community volunteers worked alongside CAUSES staff to give the gardens a little TLC after 2015's extended winter. Two of those volunteers, Mary Beth Tinker and Keshini Ladduwahetty, shared their thoughts on the community service gardening project.

"Projects like these are absolutely critical for UDC and CAUSES because we are at a turning point in this country and in this city in terms of developing urban agriculture. It's a huge part of the whole sustainability movement and there is no other institution that can do it except for the landgrant university, explained 
Ladduwahetty. "The fact that we have it right here and are lucky enough to live in the neighborhood is just excellent!"
Mary Beth Tinker and Kesh Ladduwahetty building a trellis for the blackberries.

Wards 7 and 8 Healthy Cooking Dates Announced

(Click to enlarge)

Around CAUSES June 2015

Here's what's been happening around CAUSES:

CAUSES has recently implemented an internal CSA! Using produce grown at the farm (and soon from our new green roof), participants in the Community Supported Agriculture program receive a weekly bag of produce until Dec. 3. The pilot project serves to demonstrate the viable income potential which the farm can generate. Above, Che Axum and Dean O'Hara inaugurate the first delivery on June 11, 2015. 

CAUSES will be exhibiting at the Annual Lotus and Water Lily Festival on July 11, 2015. The free environmental and cultural festival will include traditional fashion, music and dance exhibitions, arts and crafts, native wildlife, nature hikes and more. 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, 1500 Anacostia Ave., NE DC, 20019.

SNAP Education in the District of Columbia

By Dr. Lillie Monroe-Lord

SNAP-Ed nutrition educator, Chef Herb Holden, teaches students about growing food at the UDC Research Farm.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) at the District of Columbia provides education programs, behavior-change initiatives, and social marketing campaigns designed for individuals receiving or eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP-Ed programs seek to increase healthy food and active lifestyle choices among District residents. The University of the District of Columbia implements the SNAP-Ed program throughout the District through the Center for Nutrition, Diet and Health (CNDH), a landgrant program housed under the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES).

CNDH conducts programs with a variety of age groups, going to daycare centers and schools, health fairs and gerontology programs. Each month, different topics are covered that introduce participants to healthy food using all the senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch.  Using the senses method and instilling an understanding of where food comes from, youth participants will more likely want to eat it again.

In one example, students from Seaton Elementary School’s Garden Program celebrated the end of the year with a Make Your Own Salad party. This fun event was suggested by one of the program’s enthusiastic participants and enjoyed by all.  Having attended weekly nutrition education and food demonstrations since February, the students were excited to share their knowledge of fruits and vegetables.

Institute of Gerontology Update

Time to catch up with the Institute of Gerontology (IOG):

  •   On May 4, 2015, IOG implemented a new Low Impact Aerobics class on Mondays from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Arthur Capper Senior Center located at 900 5th Street, SE, Washington, DC 20003.  As of On June 23, 2015, a new movement and chair class is now being offered on Tuesdays from 10:00 a.m. -11:00 a.m. at Roundtree Senior Living Facility located at 2515 Alabama Ave., SE. Washington, DC 20020. 
  • The Senior Companion Program held a four days orientation for seven new senior volunteers.  Upon Completion of the orientation, Senior Volunteers received a certificate.  Congratulations to: Beatrice Small, Doris Fairell, Mary Cypress, Carolyn Potter, Denise Smith, Lorraine Watts and Willie Decoster, Jr., and welcome to the family!