by Jenna Zimmerman

pgc-2014-logoOn our planet of 7 billion people, everyone must eat in order to survive. Food is not a luxury; it is a necessity. It is a pillar of our lives upon which all else depends. As our youth move into adulthood, feeding the world in a way that is sustainable for both people and the planet will only become more difficult, but necessary.

With this in mind, student-led non-profit Teens Turning Green has developed an easy acronym, FLOSN, which it has implemented in the Conscious Kitchen, an initiative that provides nutritious, sustainable and scratch-cooked meals to public school students while educating them about conscious food choices. FLOSN stands for Fresh, Local, Organic, Seasonal and Non-GMO, terms you’ve likely heard before, that reflect the organization’s philosophy on how food should be grown, produced and consumed.

But FLOSN isn’t just for kids. These are terms to live by. Make them a part of your life, and you’ll be on your way to eating foods that are good, in every sense of the word.

1. Fresh – Food tastes the best and packs the most nutritional punch when it has the shortest journey from the farm to your fork. Fresh produce gives you comprehensive nutritional benefits without the preservatives or chemicals found in processed foods. Tip: Stick to the outside aisles of the grocery store, and check to see where your food is coming from.

2. Local – As Michael Pollan has said, “Shake the hand that feeds you.” The average produce travels approximately 1,500 miles from farm to plate, requiring a massive amount of fuel and energy. But produce that’s grown in your community doesn’t have to travel far at all, and by supporting local farmers you support your local economy. Tip: Check out your local farmers market, CSAs and green grocers. Of course, don’t forget: it doesn’t get more local than your own garden!

3. Organic – Organic products are free from harmful pesticides, chemical fertilizers and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that lead to the pollution of air, soil and water. Buying certified organic means prioritizing your health and supporting farmers and businesses that do the same. Tip: Look for a #9 on bar codes, which indicates that an item is organic. And keep an eye out for the USDA Certified Organic, Non-GMO Verified and Fair Trade labels.

4. Seasonal – As the seasons change, so too should your ingredients. Buying foods that are in-season and opting for seasonal specials when you go out to eat means your meal wasn’t shipped from another hemisphere to get to you. Tip: Check out Care2′s guide to September seasonal produce options.

5. Non-GMO – Results of independent studies find GMO foods to be toxic, allergenic and nutritionally inferior to their organic counterparts. They’re engineered to withstand pesticide and herbicide use, increasing our dependence on them and perpetuating a vicious cycle. GMOs snuck onto our supermarket shelves with Flavr Savr tomatoes in 1994, and they have dominated our food supply ever since. The long-term implications of GMOs on people and the planet are unknown, and once released into nature, the process can never be reversed. In fact, most of today’s students have been consuming GMOs their entire lives without their knowledge. Tip: Any USDA Certified Organic food or product is also non-GMO.

ou may have heard one or more of these terms before, but what about the students in your life? Are they eating FLOSN foods in their dining halls and cafeterias? Do they know why these ideas are not only important, but vital to their future and the rest of the world?

Share this with them, and if they want to learn more, tell them about Project Green Challenge. PGC is a month-long eco lifestyle challenge beginning on October 1 that empowers thousands of students globally to realize their visions for a healthy, just and thriving planet. Participants complete fun, informative and mobilizing challenges each day for 30 days on topics such as non-GMOs, organic and fair trade. In the process, they effect changes in their own lives, on school campuses and in local communities.

Finalists will be flown to San Francisco for a one-of-a-kind, three day eco summit, and the PGC Champion will win a Grand Prize package valued at more than $12,000.

Please encourage the students you know to sign up now for this year’s challenge! It will be the beginning of an unforgettable journey toward becoming an active global citizen and finding an authentic voice for change.

Jenna Zimmerman is the editor-in-chief of the Conventional to Conscious blog and vice president of the Teens Turning Green Student Advisory Board.

Teens Turning Green is a student led global movement devoted to education and advocacy around environmentally sustainable and socially responsible choices for individuals, schools and communities. TTG seeks to engage youth in the transition from conventional to conscious living, empowering this generation and mobilizing action to sustain a healthy planet.

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