Filling In Where Food Retailers Drop Out


Growing plants at Watson, Inc. for the West Haven (CT) Emergency Assistance Taskforce

While hardly a new phenomenon, community gardens currently are thriving across the US – and in several instances, they are doing what supermarkets are failing to do: Provide fresh food choices to people in ‘food deserts’ – areas where fresh produce is hard to come by.

I remember years ago – more than four decades ago, in fact  — some ambitious soul was growing sweet corn (maize) on a patch of barely-soil in between two pairs of subway tracks in Harlem, New York City. The tracks at that point are elevated, probably 40 feet (12 m) above Broadway. Despite the poor soil quality, the corn was thriving.

Similarly ambitious entities – some simply private citizens, others organized in one or another fashion – are providing food servings and sometimes space for community members to grow food for themselves and their families across the country.

Feeding Food Banks

In the town of Orange CT, Watson, Inc., which is primarily in the business of producing nutritional enrichment and similar products for food processors, four years ago opened what it calls its fellowship garden, where food is grown for food banks.

The company provides 4,800 plants each year, and those not used are donated to the food bank for use in its gardens.

More recently, having space to spare, the company created a garden where children with autism spectrum issues can grow pumpkins, melons and other items.

Christina Cole, 47, a graphic designer at Watson told The Guardian: “The plot for Milestones Behavioural Services gives kids with autism and developmental disabilities the chance to not only have fun and be outside, but also learn life skills and take home what they grow and learn to cook with their families.”

This year, they’re adding a corn maze to that garden, she noted.

Hunger, Often Hidden, Is Too Common

The Connecticut Food Bank told The  Guardian that one in eight citizens struggle with hunger.

In Louisville, KY, a non-profit restaurant called The Table is run by volunteers who use food grown in urban gardens in the Portland neighborhood. Founded by Pastor Larry Stoess and his wife, Kathie, along with John Howard, a volunteer, the restaurant was featured in AARP The Magazine’s April/May edition.

In 2016, the State Fair of Texas introduced Big Tex Urban Farms, a revolutionary, mobile agriculture system in the heart of Fair Park.

As a testing ground for the project, the Fair used an 80-by-80-foot area normally used to house the Gateway Pavilion during the State Fair season. Employees from various departments worked with a Fair Park TX-area company to develop 100 raised planting beds created out of products normally used for packaging and shipping.

Promoting Healthy Lifestyles

By the end of 2016, the project proved itself to be a successful experiment by investing financial and human capital into immediate Fair Park neighborhoods and companies. It connects like-minded agriculture entities and provides fresh, organic produce to organizations focused on hunger and healthy lifestyle programs.

This year, the project expects to grow more than 5,900 pounds of fresh produce, 77,882 total servings, 11,230 heads of lettuce, and, oddly, 303 eggs.

Considering the dynamics of Fair Park’s numerous events and National Historic Landmark designation, developing a mobile solution for the farm was imperative to the program’s success. Through a partnership with General Packaging Corporation, the urban farm’s 40-by-48-inch beds were designed and manufactured by a Fair Park-area company. Each bed, created with a shipping-pallet base, is easily constructed by one person, optimized for storage, and moved by forklift.

Throughout the growing season, all produce (more than 6,000 fruits and vegetables) was donated to Fair Park-area organizations including the Baylor Scott & White Health and Wellness Institute in the Mill City neighborhood, Cornerstone Baptist Church, and Austin Street Shelter.

As of 2017, Big Tex Urban Farms has grown to 520 boxes, a 15×30-foot-deep (4.5 x 9m) water culture bed capable of producing more than 20,000 greens a year, and various community locations throughout South Dallas.

One recipient, Glenda Cunningham, of the Baylor Scott and White health and wellness center, praised the project’s work. “The community looks forward to the Big Tex urban farm delivery each week. The food is fresh, free and beautiful,” she told The Guardian.


To bison, a ‘discouraging word’ is a helicopter’s repeating ‘whoosh’


Something wonderful may be on the hooves of happening in Colorado: There’s a move afoot to open land adjacent to Denver’s international airport – which occupies a calf-sized chunk of the 50 square miles (129.5 sq km) it occupies – to the US’s largest, and closest-to-being-extinct mammal – the bison.

Often erroneously called ‘buffalo’, these four-hooved monsters can weight more than 2,000 pounds (907 kg). They once roamed the Great Plains in the tens of millions. But over-hunting, aided by human population growth resulting from the westward expansion of what would become the transcontinental railroad, when “hunting by rail” was a popular sport, which left countless bison rotting where they were dropped, cut sharply into their numbers. The population decline persisted well into the second half of the 20th century. Then the federal government, recognizing (at long last!) that the nation’s ‘National Mammal’ was at serious risk of fading out if existence, placed restrictions on killing them, and slowly the population began to recover.

Now, thanks to several federal programs (including severe penalties for killing them) their numbers are continuing to increase – but at a rough count of around 30,000 in total, they continue to need all the protection they can get to return to something like their former majestic population.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is coordinating efforts across several federal agencies to give the giants of the plains back land that was once all theirs. As much as 200 acres (81 hectares, abbreviated as 81 ha) of the Denver Airport property is expected to opened up to bison grazing through an expansion of their ‘reservation,’ as it were, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge. No timetable has been established for the plan, but it has been noted by the feds that, while the local bison would no doubt by happy to have all that land to themselves, since they don’t need such a large grazing area (in addition to the land they already call home), their population is due to be supplemented by bison from elsewhere in the west.

Sadly, or fortunately, saving the bison isn’t the only aim of opening up more grazing land for them: They’re also seen as a tourist attraction – something to (hopefully) be visible to arriving and departing airline passengers.

It’s likely that some enterprising person will also arrange for helicopter flights over the area for paying passengers, for their photographing pleasure. Never mind the fact that some enterprising individual or company will overlook the fact that the helicopters’ whoop-whoop-whoop aural signature will tend to frighten the animals more than the railroad apparently did.

It’s sad how often man does something good, then shoots himself in the foot: Bison are used to a quiet environment. Having an airport as a neighbor is bad enough, but having helicopters flying the photograph-mad masses over their heads is likely to be more than some will be able to bare – causing them to go back where they came from: The far more peaceful Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge.

Trash Spawns Super Ad Message


Forty or so years ago, New Orleans’ Canal Street was spotted with cans intended to take in a sizable share of the throw-aways generated by citizens and visitors alike – in an area, just opposite the edge of the French Quarter, where drinking in public is not just legal, it’s virtually encouraged. (Where else could you ask for a take-out cup for a beer you didn’t finish in a restaurant, as I had occasion to do last week.)

To encourage the proper disposition of empties and similar detritus, the cans were labeled, “Hey, Mister, Toss Me Something!”

The idea was a clearer one. Whether it accomplished the intended goal or not is an open question. But those cans now are minus that slogan.

Meanwhile, in Texas, where self-pride in one’s heritage is an apparent birthright, a less and more subtle approach has been taken to reducing what had become, a few years ago, an intolerable trash burden. The Texas Department of Transportation took the proverbial bulls by the horns and advertised for ad agencies to come up with a way to address the issue. They did, in spades. recently described how an exec at one agency noted, on walking somewhere one day, that all the trash was, as he put it, “a mess.” In a flash, he had the slogan: “Don’t Mess With Texas.”

The slogan was initially promoted during the 1986 Cotton Bowl, when an ad put out the “Don’t Mess WiTh Texas” message.

Within three years, trash volume on the streets dropped 72% from the 1986 level. And the ‘Don’t Mess With Texas’ phrase took on a life of its own.

In time, the Texas Department of Transportation copyrighted the phrase in order to reap rewards from its use. As if it hadn’t already!

Air India Addressing Groping Incidents with Restraints


A BBC report said yesterday (1/25) that in response to some females complaining that they’d been groped by other passengers, Air India is setting aside the first six rows in the coach class area for females only.

The airline also announced that cabin staff would have physical restraints available to them and crew will be authorized to use them to contain unruly passengers who refuse to cooperate voluntarily.

The station said that Air India is seeking to “enhance comfort level to female passengers” and reassure female passengers traveling alone.

In my limited experience flying Air India I’ve witnessed no groping incidents or anything of the sort. But I have been offended – to the point I felt I was being assaulted – by both bad breath and excessive body odors when flying with that carrier. And on transatlantic flights, that’s nevertheless a good deal less offensive than being groped – an experience I underwent once, on a NYC subway train at the 34th Street/6th Avenue station. That was more than 45 years ago, and the memory lingers on. I can only imagine what an unsuspecting female’s reaction would be.

I have no idea if air marshals continue to accompany all or most flights, but I were involved with security for Air India, I would work to address that issue – and let them, not ordinary cabin crew, deal with super rude fliers.

Throw Something Away In Mumbai, Win Free WiFi Time


A five-year-old startup in Mumbai, India is aiming to help keep discarded “stuff” off its home city’s street by rewarding users of its WiFi Trash Bins with free WiFi access. Called ThinkScream, the idea behind the company’s initial product was “to solve everyday problems in an innovative way, one solution as a time,” company co-founded Raj Desai told The Economic Times of India.

The company’s 4.5-foot (1.4 m) tall plastic bins are equipped with an LED screen that produces an access code when someone tosses something in the bin. Desai told The Times that the bins employ several technologies “to enable this seemingly simple function; The first is the WiFi technology, which is optimized to make sure that all codes work in sync; The second is the technology used for motion sensing totrace thee movement of the trash as it hits the bin; The last is to link the motion sensor with the WiFi network for a seamless operation,” he explains.

The company premiered the bins at a music festival in 2014 to provide attendees easy access to WiFi. Since then, ThinkScream has hooked up to similar networks in retail stores and at trade shows. They’ve also received queries from companies seeing the bins as offering a great branding opportunity, but that was never the premise behind the product’s creation, Desai says. “It was always to trigger positive changes in deepp-seated behavior around public cleanliness in India,” he declares.

Though no timetable has been announced, the company’s aim is to eventually see their bins set up alongside streets.

German’s Death At Olympics Has Saved Four Lives



Stefan Henze, who coached Germany’s Olympic ‘canoe slalom’ team – whatever that is – died as a result of an automobile accident in Rio de Janeiro a few days before the end of the Olympics. Unfortunate as his death was, its aftermath has been hailed as ‘one of the greatest moments’ of this year’s often-troubled Olympics.

Henze had designated himself as an organ donor, and no fewer than four individuals are beneficiaries of that generosity.

“Heart, liver and both kidneys have been successfully transplanted. Thus he has saved four lives,” a spokesperson from the Brazilian health ministry told the German newspaper Die Welt. Henze’s family, who travelled to Rio after the accident, reportedly gave their consent to the transplants.


Several news reports say his heart, liver and both kidneys have been successfully transplanted. Henze’s relatives reportedly gave their consent to the transplants, Britian’s The Independent newspaper confirmed.

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, one person is added to the national transplant waiting list every 10 minutes, and around 22 people die every day waiting to get an organ transplant. A single donor can make a huge difference and save up to eight lives.

“One thing to remember is that every number in the statistic you view is a person — a person who either needs your help and is waiting for a lifesaving transplant or a person who has left a lasting legacy through organ and tissue donation,” the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states on its website. “Either way, each number represents a life, a mom, a dad, a brother, a sister or a child—someone who is important to someone else, maybe even you.”

The Health & Human Services website provides information on becoming an organ donor.


Bike Thief Captured by Rope-Tossing Cowboy


Robert Borba, a 28-year old rancher, stopped a would-be bicycle thief at an Oregon Walmart parking lot by lassoing the suspect. With his lariat still in place around the legs of the suspect, identified by police as a transient named Victorino Arellano-Sanchez, 22, Borba dragged the man to an isolated end of the parking lot and held him, tied up, until police arrived.

Hardly surprisingly, the very surprised officers told the Medford Mail Tribune that this was the first time ever they’d seen a suspect lassoed. And Arellano-Sanchez’s look of surprise at being chased by a man on horseback “was priceless,” Borba told the Mail Tribune.

Borba had stopped at the Walmart on his way to help a friend brand some cattle in Davis Creek, CA. When he heard a woman scream that someone was stealing her bike, he quickly got his horse, Long John, from the trailer attached to his truck, grabbed a rope and took off after the biker, who was at the time struggling with the gears.

“I seen this fella trying to get up to speed on a bicycle,” Borba told the Tribune. “I wasn’t going to catch him on foot. I just don’t run very fast.”

Borba said the man tried to grab a tree and get away, but he kept the rope tight and the man in place.

“I use a rope every day, that’s how I make my living,” Borba said. “If it catches cattle pretty good, it catches a bandit pretty good.”

Eagle Point police Sgt. Darin May said officers arrived and found the lassoed man and bike on the ground in the parking lot.

“We’ve never had anyone lassoed and held until we got there,” May said. “That’s a first for me.”

Police arrested Arellano-Sanchez, whom they described as a transient from the Seattle area, on a theft charge. The suspect is jailed in Jackson County, OR. Staff members at the jail say they don’t think he has an attorney.