Category Archives: food

Food Insecurity in America

Food Insecurity is a public issue that I believe should not exist. Food insecurity is defined as “as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.” This issue affects countless individuals, majority being in low-income families. The community’s food insecurity most affects are seniors, children, rural communities African Americans, and Latinos.

Growing up I was lucky enough to have food provided by my parents, but it’s sad to say we all know someone in our past or present that has struggled with food insecurity.

We all know food banks exist as well as food stamps but how good are these programs ran? I’ve seen how food banks mostly consist of a lot of bread, sugar and not many real food options. By real food I mean fruit, vegetables, and meat.

Food stamps are also an ongoing process that takes time and is not always guaranteed. It’s not right that the government has control over whether an individual will have enough money for food. I know college students have use food stamps which is an amazing resource, but is $150 really a lot of money for groceries per month?

I just believe that there needs to be change. I want to share a Tik Tok that I recently watched, and it provided me with a prospective on food insecurity I have never thought about before.

I don’t know what change needs to happen, but I know that there needs to be awareness first.

 Feeding America


The Healthy People 2020

Take Action Against Hunger

September is Hunger Action Month and a great time to think about what you can do to donate to your local food shelf or other local organization to take a stand against hunger and food insecurity.

By Visiting Feeding America, you can find resources to share with those who may be struggling to feed their families or themselves. You can also find a way to join in the fight in your own community. No donation or participation is too small.

Feeding America

Here are some startling facts from their website if you needed anything to convince you to take action:

Facts about hunger in America

Millions of children and families living in America face hunger and food insecurity every day.

  • Due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, more than 42 million people may experience food insecurity, including a potential 13 million children.
  • The pandemic has most impacted families that were already facing hunger or one paycheck away from facing hunger.
  • According to the USDA’s latest Household Food Insecurity in the United States report, more than 38 million people in the United States experienced hunger in 2020. 
  • Households with children are more likely to experience food insecurity. Before the coronavirus pandemic, more than 12 million children live in food-insecure households.
  • Every community in the country is home to families who face hunger including rural and suburban communities.
  • Many households that experience food insecurity do not qualify for federal nutrition programs and visit their local food banks and other food programs for extra support.
  • The rates of food insecurity are much higher for African AmericanLatino, and Native American families because of systemic racial injustice. To achieve a hunger-free America, we must address the root causes of hunger and structural and systemic inequities.

It’s Time to Save the World

“Is my English OK? Is the microphone on?” asked Greta Thunberg, in one of her most recent addresses. “Because I’m beginning to wonder.”

Laughter from the audience.

It wasn’t a joke. No one seems to be listening.

Nine years ago, when I was Greta’s age, I wasn’t aware. I wasn’t politically, globally, socially, environmentally aware. I wasn’t aware of what our biggest problems were–or that I, as a kid, could do anything about it, even if I did know what was happening in the world.

Nine years ago, I was LARPing (live-action role playing). For those who don’t know, LARP is a game wherein you create a character for yourself, dress up in costume, and run around in the woods at night, fighting faux villains with foam sticks. It’s like playing make-believe in the backyard when you were little, but on a larger scale, with maybe a better production value.

LARP comes in a number of forms, but the game I played was mostly like Dungeons & Dragons. It was a fantasy game. Swords and sorcery. Lightning bolts. Storming the castle. All of that.

While I knew that the events in the game weren’t “real” and that the character I played wasn’t “real,” they always felt important. They felt bigger than the small “reality” I actually lived in. I often felt that my character was better than me. She was stronger, prettier, freer. She had more goodness in her; more to give. I wanted to be like her in real life.

This disconnect–the idea that my character was false and somehow separate from me–affected my growth in a number of ways. I could write a book on it. There’s a lot to unpack. But the point here is that even after I managed to quit the game, I had a hard time developing an idea of who I was without that character.

Recently, with the changing of the seasons, I was hit by a wave of nostalgia. It would be the start of LARP season now, if I was still playing.

I’m still sorting through it, but one of the things that finally occurred to me was that I could be like the heroic character I used to play. I already was like her. She came from me.

But there were still situational differences, systematic differences between that character’s world and mine, dragging me down.

I posted this on Facebook:


And, only days later, the sentiment was echoed by somebody else:


I’ve been flailing for a solution. Something I could do to help the environment, and reconcile the reality of my apparent helplessness with the idea of once having played at being someone courageous and able to create change.

In this video, Jane Goodall advises people to act locally. “Quite honestly,” she says, “if you think globally, you get depressed.” Break it down, then. Start with what you know you can do. Do something. Even if it might seem small. “We’re all interconnected.”

I’ve been worrying myself sick. I woke up today with a sore throat, and a headache, presumably from my newfangled teeth grinding habit. In an anxious, somewhat dissociated haze, I drove to the store for some groceries, just to get out of the house. Everywhere, meat and dairy. Things packaged in plastic. Delicious things that I only felt bad about craving. I bought one of those chocolate bars that claims to help endangered species, and felt doubtful about its impact, but I hoped.

On my way home, it seemed like all I could see was trash. Scattered along the side of the road, accumulating in the ditches, washed up along the curb. Plastic bags blowing in the wind and caught up in bushes.

Enough is enough.

I found a metal stick–one of those garden hooks for hanging bird feeders or little candle pots–and I filed the end to a point on my dad’s bench grinder. I walked across the street to the park outside my house, and I attacked the garbage in the rain garden. I chased it through the foliage, piercing it with my makeshift rapier, collecting its remains.

Maybe this will help.

Photo by Robert Stuart Lowden

I’m an adventurer. It’s my job.

And for all the shitheads out there who consume without thinking, and leave their trash lying around; for the people who continue to make a mess of the world, I have just one message:


Switching to Cruelty-free

There was a time in my life where I was a hardcore beauty hoarder. My obsession began in 2010 when beauty revolved around makeup, hair products and skin care. I was that girl who bought any beauty products advertised by the social media, especially if it was advertised by beauty gurus on YouTube or Instagram. I would also spend my most of my evenings at my local drugstore or Sephora to see if I can catch any clearance items. I was very satisfied with my lifestyle of hoarding beauty products. I loved the feeling of being proud of my work when I walk to into my bedroom because it looked like a beauty boutique. I thought life couldn’t get better at that time.

I was scrolling through my suggested videos on YouTube one day and I came upon a video on how some beauty products are being tested on animals. I saw the way rabbits were tested, tortured, and killed; and I also saw the way rabbits lived when they’re not being tested. I exited halfway through video because I was saddened and disgusted, but that didn’t change the way I buy my beauty products.

I was actually buying them more than ever, especially on skin care products. I still bought whatever was advertised by my wonderful gurus. It wasn’t until the end of 2015 when the video really started to bother me. The reason why is because I became a pet owner that year. I adopted a rabbit named Bunzy, and not long after him came Midnight.

Bunzy and Midnight became a huge part of my life. I love them as much as anyone would love their pets; however, my guilt grew because I knew I was still using stuff that are tested on animals. I was tortured by my own desires because I couldn’t choose which one to give up on. I would always imagine Bunzy and Midnight in the lab being tested on. I vision them screaming out of distress and eventually die or get killed. Why do I have nasty thoughts like that? I love my pets, but I also love my beauty products so how do I balance the two? I switched over to cruelty-free products!

I donated all of my existing animal tested products to my premature beauty hoarding sisters. They all laughed at my decision on going cruelty-free and the most annoying question I got from them was “Why do you want to go cruelty-free when you’re not even vegetarian or vegan?” Well hello, it’s my decision! Animals are already being sacrificed to feed us so I’ll do my part and appreciate my food by not wasting it; however, I do not need to sacrifice animals for my beauty. There are many products in the market that are cruelty-free and even vegan that I can hoard on.

What do you all think about cruelty-free? Do you think one shouldn’t use cruelty-free products if they still eat meat?

Another question I got was how do I know if a product is cruelty-free? The best way is to email the company directly to ask them. Otherwise I found a few resourceful website that lists most of the brands of cruelty-free products.

Back then I thought life was good, but life is better now because longer feel guilty loving my rabbits.  Am I still a beauty hoarder though? I think I am, but this time is definitely on a smarter and crazier level.


By Ka Xiong

Essential Oils

I have heard about essential oils for the past 8 years from various friends and family members but didn’t really put much thought into them myself. That is, until recently. I have battled a 6 week illness that continues to plague me. This effects my sleep, my energy level, my work, my school work and my interaction with people. Round 2 of steroids and round 3 of allergy medications along with 2 doses of anti-biotics had no effect on my illness but really wreaked havoc on my body. It was time to do something different. When I got to week 3 of my illness, conversations began to echo in my head about the natural healing effects of essential oils.

I started with the company Melaleuca as I am already familiar with their products. This is a wellness company that surrounds their whole business around health, preserving nature and overall wellness. We currently only use Melaleuca products to clean our house due to their commitment of using natural ingredients, most notably Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca Oil). I their descriptions of the oils and learning what each can do for the body. I ordered some oils to try these for myself. For more information on Melaleuca products you can go to their site at

I next went to an essential oils “class” at a friend’s house to hear about the importance of the purity and potency of the oils we use. The most important tid-bit of information is that the oils should be 100% PURE Therapeutic grade. I also learned some oils are okay to ingest in small amounts, some oils need a “carrier oil” to ensure the oils will not be uncomfortable on the skin, some oils are better when diffused, and so on. With so much information to digest, Melaleuca recommended a reference book called The Complete Aromatherapy and Essential Oils Handbook for Everyday Wellness Paperback – by Nerys Purchon (Author), Lora Cantele (Author). This book is loaded with what each oil can do and provides information on how to blend oils to assist with increasing energy, enhancing sleep, calming an upset tummy, soothing a headache and so much more. Quick tip: Five oils I think everyone should start with and always have on hand are Lemon, Lavender, Peppermint, Tea Tree Oil and Bergamot.

So far, I found I sleep better with oils diffusing in my room at night and I breathe easier. (For my night blend I use Lavender, Frankincense, Peppermint and Tea Tree Oil.)  I also found it helpful to diffuse oils in my office during the day for energy and clarity. (For this I use Lemon, Bergamot, Tea Tree Oil and Peppermint.) There are many websites and Pins on Pinterest to help guide your way into the use of essential oils. One site I find helpful in knowing how to use oils for specific needs is  You can also ask your massage therapist, chiropractor or a local health enthusiast for recommendations on how oils can add to your health and every day life. (We are lucky to have Elise Pederson as a resident expert in all things natural health and wellness.) I hope you are intrigued and inspired to venture into the world of essential oils and benefit from what they can do for you.


Do Food Trucks Have Safe Food?

Embed from Getty Images

I work in downtown St. Paul and over the last couple of years the number of food trucks has increased throughout the area at lunchtime. I see the number of people waiting in line to get food.  I look at the menu boards and think that the prices are reasonable, but I often times wonder, how clean and safe is the food that is being prepared.

Large corporations have jumped on the band wagon and are using food trucks for catering to their employees in their parking lots. This new style of catering is cheaper than paying a catering business within the company. This also keeps their employees on-site which means fewer employees are traveling to restaurants for lunch. The only drawback is that corporations may need to work with the cities they reside in because of city ordinances.  Some cities such as St. Louis Park, Bloomington, Burnsville and Lakeville have changed ordnances to resolve this issue in order for food trucks to sell in the suburbs.

I found that the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has a process that is quite extensive and you really have to a strategy and plan if you want to run a food truck at least 30 days in advance of construction of a truck. You also have to purchase licenses, meet NSF standards for equipment, dishwashing and hand washing facilities, water supply and liquid waste disposal plans that are not hazardous to public health.

In 2012, CBS investigated food truck safety and noted that legitimate food trucks should have a license displayed where people can see it and they need to have an inspection a minimum of one time per year. Inspectors found food temperatures to be the most common problem, but other issues could be heating lamps not working properly, melted ice cube tubs holding soft drinks spreading germs from hands onto the counter, and chemicals used for cleaning that did not have proper labeling and could potentially be mixed with food bottles. In all, even though there were minor issues, they say that none of these issues would be life threatening and that food trucks are relatively safe.

I’m not saying that there aren’t salmonella or other bacterial issues, but after researching food safety on the food trucks, I am now more inclined to purchase food on the streets next time a see a food truck.



Is That a Farm on Your Roof or an Alien Colony? By Charity Kihlstadius


If you look at the top of this building, you may wonder what is up there?
The answer is the future of produce.

Have you ever bitten into a fresh tomato only to b disappointed at the total lack of flavor? So have I. The reason for this is that most produce is not created for flavor but for transportation. Most of the produce we buy in supermarkets and feed our family’s were grown more than a thousand miles away. That means one little tomato has been bouncing around in the back of the truck for quite a while before it reaches the supermarket. And once there, it often sits in a box until placed on a shelf and selected by one of us. All this traveling means farmers need to think of ways to keep that tomato fresh long enough for you to get it home. The end result is farmers often focusing on hardiness over tastiness.

Now you may be wondering what all this has to do with the crazy rooftop. The answer is BrightFarms. BrightFarms is a revolutionary new way to grow produce. By utilizing the wasted space on the rooftops of supermarkets to create sustainable greenhouse farms, BrightFarms has found a way to offer delicious produce at affordable prices, not only for supermarkets, but for you and I as well. The produce grown in these rooftop greenhouses is fresher, tastier, safer along with more affordable and sustainable. Fresher means that the produce will actually have more nutrients in it (healthier) and last longer. Not only will it last longer in the store (saving the supermarkets money on wasted produce), but it will also last longer once you get it home.  Cutting out the need for transporting the produce also means cutting out wasted time and money spent on fuel and labor used to trek it across the country. The farms also help provide jobs by employing local farmers to care for the crops. 

The greenhouse farms are set up at or near the store and are financed, designed, built and operated by BrightFarms. The supermarkets then contract to purchase the produce for a set time (5-10 years). BrightFarms guarantees that the cost of the produce will never exceed market cost. It could be a win-win scenario!

Think about this, the next tomato you purchase could be grown right
above where you buy it by someone who shops at the same
store and buys the same tomatoes. Just that might be worth it.

BrightFarms recently announced partnership with Cub Foods in St. Paul, MN. The greenhouse should be open sometime this year.

Author: Charity Kihlstadius

Visit Pike’s Place!!

Reasons to Visit Pike Place Market: 
An Enthusiastic Tourist’s Thoughts on one of Seattle’s Greatest Attractions

If you are a friend of mine on Facebook (if not–why aren’t you?!), you can’t help but notice that I do a bit of traveling.  Okay, a lot of traveling.  One of my favorite places is Seattle.  In the past 10 months I have visited this city three times.  Each time, I am more convinced that I need to live there at some point in my life.  So what is the draw to Seattle?  There are many factors, but my favorite thing about the city is the Pike Place Market.  If you haven’t heard of it, drop everything you’re doing and look it up.  Then put it on your list of places to see before you die.  In this very biased and enthusiastic post, I will enlighten you on what I consider to be Pike Place Market’s biggest draws.

The Original Starbucks
Okay, okay, I do work for Caribou Coffee.  But this doesn’t mean that I turn my nose up at other brands of coffee.  For me it’s about the whole experience of going to a coffeehouse, regardless of the name.  This means that when I travel to places without a Caribou, I will happily pick up a french vanilla latte from Starbucks.  And what better place to get Starbucks than in its home city?  In Seattle there is a Starbucks on every corner.  No, seriously. Even more impressive is the fact that when you stroll down to Pike Place Market, you can visit the original Starbucks, which opened in 1971.  The line frequently runs out the front door, and street musicians are eager to entertain the waiting customers.  My recommendation?  Get your drink a block over and just visit this store.

Rachel the Brass Pig
In the middle of Pike Place Market is a big brass pig.  Her name is Rachel and she is quite a sight.  She is the unofficial mascot for the market, and according to Piggy Bank World, she weighs 550 pounds and has collected $100,000.00 for the Market Foundation since she appeared in 1986.  Remember when St. Paul had the giant statues of Charlie Brown characters around the city and different artists customized them?  Seattle did the same thing with pigs in the early 2000’s, but Rachel is one of the few you’ll find around these days.  Who doesn’t want to take a picture with a giant brass piggy bank?

June 2012 visit to Pike’s

Flying Fish
It wouldn’t be a pier-front market without fish.  Pike’s has no shortage of fish vendors.  A few too many for my opinion–the smell doesn’t do much for me.   But it’s part of the culture of the market.  Just inside the main entrance of the market, past Rachel the Pig, is Pike Place Fish.  This isn’t just a place to buy something fresh to take home for dinner.  The employees at this fish merchant take pride in being hospitable Seattleites who will gladly talk to visitors about almost anything.  Visiting them is pure entertainment.  The men will revive old fisherman’s chants while tossing the fish to and fro.  It’s a feast for the eyes!  

Image borrowed from Pike Place Fish

Sweet Treats
I am not picky when it comes to desserts. If there is sugar in it, I will eat it.  In fact, I just polished off a bag of chocolate chips while writing this post.  But I also know a good bakery when I see it.  On my last trip to Seattle two weeks ago, I happily explored the Market on a Saturday morning.  There is nothing better for a weary traveler than a cup of coffee and a fresh bakery treat, so I anxiously surveyed all the bakery options before leaving with a chocolate-filled croissant and a bag of cinnamon sugar mini donuts.  Let me tell you, both were amazing.  This place is not lacking in talented bakers!  There are some heavy European influences at the bakeries, which makes it different than local bakeries here, but they are no less delicious.  In fact, they are probably even more so!

The Seattle Gum Wall
My knowledge surrounding the history of this next attraction is a little fuzzy.  There is a brick wall in Post Alley (which runs through the Pike Place Market area) that is covered in gum.  According to Oddity Central, the gum wall started when people waiting in line to get into theatre performances would stick their gum to the wall and then get in trouble for it.  Somehow it turned into a symbol of the area.  There’s more than one story for its origin, but no matter what, it’s a crazy sight.  To go to Pike Place means you have to swing by the gum wall and make an addition to the wall.  If you’re really thinking ahead, you’ll bring enough gum to make some cool design and take a picture of it.  Or, you’ll just sit there and think about how disgusting it is…

Flowers, Flowers, Flowers
Honestly, the flowers at the Pike Place Market are easily enough of a reason for you to go there, even if you didn’t see anything else.  There are multiple merchants selling fresh flowers, and the sight is just incredible.  It doesn’t hurt that the smell of the flowers is a nice break from the smell of the fish, either!  You can buy a gorgeous bouquet starting at just $5.  These aren’t like the bouquets you buy last-minute at Cub on Mother’s Day (yes, I’m talking to all the people I saw doing that yesterday).  These are bouquets that you would want to get for your wedding.  And they are just $5.  For $10, you get a bigger and even more beautiful selection of flowers.  The vendors are knowledgable and willing to let you just stand there and take pictures of their displays.  If you bring a decent camera, you will want to stay in one spot all day to capture images of these floral delights.

Everything Else
I feel like I’ve made my point.  Pike Place Market is great and you should go there.  But maybe you’re not convinced.  Let me give you a quick run-down of what else you would experience if you went there: gorgeous fresh produce, the best Greek gyro ever (in my opinion), eclectic street vendors, a kitchen store with every gadget imaginable, great antique stores, beautiful views of the pier, and a huge variety of ethnic foods.  Next time you’re looking for an adventure, consider Pike’s.  Even if you can only visit Seattle for a weekend, do it.  The longest I’ve ever been there is two days, but it’s enough to see, smell, and taste every part of the market.

Have you been to Pike Place Market?  What is your favorite place to visit?