It’s time we had that talk, yes, I am talking about “the birds and the bees!”
I was shocked when I learned that one out of every three bites of food is pollinated by honeybees, bumblebees, hummingbirds, and monarch butterflies, as well as the hawk moth and the firefly!
Many of us make a conscious effort to show appreciation for where our food comes from and the hard work that goes into growing, raising, and harvesting it. I love to shop locally, meet local farmers, and learn about their farming practices. But I too often forget to give thanks to the unsung heroes: bees and their fellow pollinators. Shame on me!
At this point, you are probably wondering why a registered dietitian is getting all sappy about bees. Here’s why…
- Since 2006, U.S. honeybee colonies have been dying at an annual rate of 30 percent.
- Nearly 1/3 of America’s bumblebee species are now at-risk of extinction.
- Bees and other pollinators are needed for more than 100 crops in the U.S.
No matter what type of diet you follow, we all share a favorite food on the long list of foods whose future relies on our pollinators! (If nothing else, note that coffee beans and chocolate are on this list – yikes!)
Imagine guacamole with no avocados, onions, or tomatoes (You better be prepared to dip your chip into a bowl of salty lime juice...). Imagine your morning smoothie without any berries (also known as…. “slushy ice water”, yum!). With no tomatoes, you can say sayonara to marinara! And with no apples, you can say goodbye to apple pie…
In fact, a Whole Foods Market store in Berkley, CA removed all pollinator-dependent produce from the store’s salad bar to demonstrate what life could be like without pollinators.
Only about 40 percent of the store’s original salad bar offerings remained. Though many of the foods affected are plant-based foods, our animal proteins and dairy products are also at risk since pollinators are vital to crops that feed cattle. So let’s recap: no pollinators = no feed for our animals = no meat and no dairy!
Why the decline? Most research points to a variety of factors, including loss of habitat (deforestation and decline in wildflowers), as well as toxic pesticides, and harmful parasites.
All this talk about “the birds and the bees” is not meant to be a total buzz kill of a blog! Instead, let’s “share the buzz” and work together to put the world in a better state to pollinate! Here’s how…
1. Plant Seeds: Get into the gardening spirit and find your green thumb this spring! This year, Whole Foods Market is partnering with High Mowing Organic Seeds to sell 100,000 packets of wildflower seeds for just $1 each (April 15 to 28). Each seed packet allows shoppers to plant a pollinator-friendly garden, while 100 percent of the sales will support The Xerces Society's goal of planting 100,000 acres of pollinator habitats within the next 12-18 months. Win-Win!
2. Shop Organic: Organic plants, seeds, flowers, and produce limit the use of harmful pesticides, including neonics, which have been linked as one of the many variables associated with our decline in pollinators.
3. 365 Everyday Value® Pollinator Friendly Almonds and Almond Butter: For every jar sold, $0.50 will support The Xerces Society to help reach its goal. (April 15 to 28, available exclusively at Whole Foods Market)
4. Support Responsibly Grown. Responsibly Grown is a rating system created by Whole Foods Market that rewards farmers who work hard to protect human health and the environment. Among other things, the system rewards farms for protecting wildlife—including pollinators
The rating system provides shoppers with an at-a-glance “Good”, “Better”, “Best” rating system for sustainable farming practices. By purchasing produce and flowers rated “Best” you are supporting farmers who protect pollinators by planting “bee-friendly” wildflowers, improving conservation areas and taking steps to protect beneficial insects from harmful chemicals.
5. Bee Appreciative. It’s Earth Month, which means ‘tis the season for conscious consumption. Ask questions about your food, where it comes from and how it’s grown. Be thoughtful about your food choices. Practice mindful eating. Slow down, embrace each meal, give thanks, and pay respect for the food in front of you. Do this, and you will find yourself making informed food decisions that are healthier for you, and the environment.
6. Bee Inspired to Eat Healthy: In honor of the birds and the bees, I invite you all to join me at my monthly Supper Club! This month, our menu theme is “Bee Inspired to Eat Healthy”. Special guest, Patrick Ryan from Fruitwood Orchards Honey Farm, will be sharing his beekeeping expertise as you enjoy a four-course, gourmet, plant-based meal featuring spring’s finest produce. And of course, I will be there bite-by-bite to answer nutrition questions and share the health benefits and cooking techniques behind each dish. You can register using the links below, hope to see you there!
This article was originally published on Philly.com’s Goal Getter column.