Addressing Food Insecurity: Three Local Food-Assistance Programs Helping Neighbors

According to the United Way ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained, Employed) Report, in 2014 roughly half the population of the city of Eau Claire fell below the ALICE Threshold, meaning they were either living below federal poverty levels or earned more than federal poverty level but less than the basic cost of living for the county.1   Food insecurity is also increasing in Eau Claire County. In 2005, only about 5 percent of the population was receiving FoodShare, the Wisconsin food benefits program. By 2012, that percentage had risen to over 19 percent. Poverty and food insecurity are interrelated.

Poverty increases the risk of food insecurity and hunger. Food-secure households have enough safe and nutritious food for an active healthy life at all times. In contrast, food-insecure households have uncertain access to food. Due to lack of money, they may run out of food, cut back the size of meals, or skip meals altogether. Hunger and food insecurity, in turn, are linked to other problems. For children, these include poor health, and behavioral, learning, and academic problems. Impoverished adults often report choosing between medication, rent, heat, transportation, or food. Food-insecure seniors are more than twice as likely to report bad health as food-secure seniors.2
Local Food-Assistance Programs Offer Help
Community Table
Through the cooperation of the area food bank, several local businesses, churches, and other groups of volunteers, one meal a day is served every day of the year, with no special screening or permission needed to have a meal at Community Table, 320 Putnam Street in Eau Claire. Each day about a dozen volunteers work three hours to prepare the meal for around 120 guests.3 The Community Table began in 1993. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, the meal is served between 11:30 am and 1:00 pm. Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, a great meal is available between 5:00 and 6:15 pm. Sunday dinner is available between 3:00 and 4:00 pm.

Rachel Keniston has been concerned about food insecurity in Eau Claire, working at the Community Table since 2008, becoming its director in 2010, and recently retiring from it. “Food is one of our most basic needs, regardless of our financial situation,” she says.

However, Keniston noticed that as volunteer groups brought food to share in the early days of Community Table, some of the food was not as nutritious as it could be. The group then partnered with Target to use some of their past-date produce. She explains: “At the Community Table we were able to partner with several local businesses who donated fresh produce when it was past its shelf life but still good. Vegetables are now a component in many tasty dishes served to guests.”

Feed My People Food Pantry
Another local hunger-relief program is Feed My People (FMP)Food Bank, operating since 1982. FMP links food producers and suppliers with individuals and families who are food insecure. At this time FMP is the only food bank in this part of the state, supplying food to over 125 organizations in fourteen counties. In those fourteen counties, “69,950 people live in poverty according to 2010 Poverty and Population estimates from the US Census Bureau. This is a 76 percent increase from data recorded in the 2000 census.”4 The food bank is especially helpful to those who may not qualify for government food assistance but still need help with obtaining food. One at-risk group is young children. “According to U.S. Census Bureau, one in five children in west central Wisconsin experience food insecurity. Many struggle with hunger when school meals are not available.5 Another high-risk group is seniors. “Among food pantry clients 65 and older, more than half reported visiting a pantry on a monthly basis, the highest of any age group.”6 Visit www.fmpfoodbank.org/get_help.phtml to find the food bank location closest to you and its hours, or call 2-1-1. You can call ahead for help with completing your application (Contact Tami at 715-835-9415 ext. 106 or Christine at 715-835-9415 ext. 108.), or you can enroll when you stop in during operating hours.

FoodShare and Market Match Token Program at Eau Claire Downtown Farmers Market
FoodShare Wisconsin is a government program to help those who are food insecure and to improve nutrition and health. People with limited income who qualify for FoodShare are then able to buy the food they need for good health. “They are people of all ages who have a job but have low incomes, are living on small or fixed income, have lost their job, retired or are disabled and  not able to work.”7 To learn more about FoodShare Wisconsin and how to apply go to access.wi.gov, where you can fill out an online application.

The Eau Claire Downtown Farmers Market has been growing and thriving since 1994. Beginning in 2015, the market has been offering a program to further assist those on FoodShare have access to healthy local food. It’s called Market Match. As part of the program where market shoppers can buy tokens (with credit or debit cards) to then buy market goods, the Market Match program provides a“one-to-one match to farmers’ market patrons who use their FoodShare benefits at the farmers market, up to $10 per week. That means, when a farmers market patron spends $10 of their FoodShare benefit at the farmers market, they receive an extra $10, in the form of wooden tokens, to spend on fresh, local food at the market.”8 This program not only helps low-income shoppers, but also helps vendors to sell more. In 2015, 288 people used the Market Match program and $5,903 of matching funds were used to help families in need buy healthy food. To use the program, look for the table at the farmers market, an assistant will help you obtain Market Match tokens with your FoodShare card. Then you shop! If you don’t use them all on one visit, you can use them at a subsequent visit.This program is sponsored by several area businesses.

Sources:
1. https://c.ymcdn.com/sites/unitedwaywi.site-ym.com/resource/resmgr/files/Eau_Claire_County.pdf.
2. www.apl.wisc.edu/resource_profiles/pfs_profiles/eauclaire_2014.pdf.
3. http://thecommunitytable.org/.
4. www.fmpfoodbank.org/whos_hungry.phtml.
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.

You Can’t Beat Beets!

As we slog through these winter months, the choices of fresh local vegetables become fewer. But just when you thought all was almost lost, root vegetables come to the rescue, and beets are the star players of the root vegetable team. Whether you kept yours in the garden under special mulch or safely stored in your root cellar, or if you purchase yours at a local winter farmers market or from an organic produce section in your grocery store, you can count on beets to be a great part of a late-winter meal.

Beets have been around for a long time, and I don’t mean the ones you still have from LAST winter! “Beets are an ancient, prehistoric food that grew naturally along coastlines in North Africa, Asia, and Europe. Originally, it was the beet roots that were consumed; the sweet red beet root that most people think of as a ‘beet’ today wasn’t cultivated until the era of ancient Rome.”1

Beets have many health benefits, including that they:

  • Are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxifying
  • Fight cancer
  • Help lower blood pressure
  • Boost stamina
  • Are chocked full of vitamins and fiber2

Tip: For a vegetable, beets are high in sugar and carbohydrates, so eat in moderation

For a thorough breakdown of nutritional data on beets, go to http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2348/2.
A Chef’s Take on Beets
Joey Meicher, chef at The Local Lounge in Eau Claire, offers his insight and inspirations regarding beets.

“Beets are an incredible ingredient available almost the entire year. A fall planting, followed by proper storage in the root cellar (or the bottom drawer of your fridge,) results in one of the few ‘fresh’ vegetables that is still available toward the end of winter. Not only are they almost always available, but they are an incredibly versatile ingredient. Beets can be roasted, boiled, pickled, fermented, juiced, canned, sautéed, or even served raw. I love how they are used in so many different ways across a broad spectrum of cuisines.

“The beet + cheese + nuts combination seems to be a staple at almost every restaurant these days (and for good reason), but there are so many other directions to go with this vegetable. Pickled beets are a fantastic accompaniment to Nordic dishes and flavors (salmon, dill, dense rye breads, and cultured dairy products). Borscht is a name that can be applied to any sour Eastern European soup, but most are made with fermented beets. My favorite beet dish is a chilled soup in which fermented beets are pureed with a light broth and topped with raw cucumber, salted cabbage, sour cream, cilantro, mint, and dill. It is incredibly complex while still remaining vibrant and refreshing.

“One must not forget about the greens either! If you have ever grown beets, you know that the greens often need to be thinned out before the beetroot is mature. This is because beet seeds are actually pods that contain about six separate seeds all trying their best to grow into a big, beautiful beet. The easiest way to handle the excess beet greens is to warm a little onion, garlic, and chili in a lot of olive oil, add the washed (but not dried) greens and a splash of vinegar, than let them cook for a few minutes before piling on toast and topping with a fried egg, grated cheese, and maybe a few pickled beets from last year.”

Sources:
1. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/01/25/beets-health-benefits.aspx.
2. Ibid.

Natural Sinus Help

by Debbie Koteras, Owner, Mother Nature’s Food, Inc

“My nose is all stuffy so I cannot get a good night’s sleep and I feel awful!” At some point this has probably happened to you. This happens when the mucous membrane lining of the nasal cavity becomes swollen or inflamed due to cold or allergies. The channels can become blocked, making it difficult for the sinuses to drain correctly. This can lead to infection and inflammation of the mucous membrane. Below are some natural alternatives to try when you find yourself in this situation.

Essential oils have been around for many years and continue to be recognized more and more for their medicinal properties. Oils like eucalyptus, helichrysum, peppermint, melaleuca, and rosemary, to name a few, are all oils that may be helpful in opening up those sinus cavities. Knowing the quality of your essential oils is very important when deciding how to use them. Diffusing them into the air or inhaling directly from the bottle are both ways to enjoy these oils. With many oils, in order to apply them topically, they may need to be diluted in a carrier oil first so that it will not be too irritating to your skin.

Bio-Active Silver Hydrosol in a convenient vertical spray is another option to help clear out those passages. For thousands of years, silver has played an essential role in safeguarding human health. With the development of technologically advanced refinements in the production of silver colloids, the particle size is so small that it allows for easy absorption and excretion from the body.  I know people who get yearly sinus infections that have used this product and have been able to prevent a sinus infection from happening.

Xlear–you may be thinking I spelled something wrong, but I did not. This is a product that combines purified water, xylitol, and grapefruit seed extract in a nasal spray. Now some of you may use xylitol for your oral health, and you would be right to do so. But xylitol also helps ensure that beyond just cleansing the nasal cavity, it also moisturizes and protects the delicate tissues. Xlear Nasal Spray is gentle enough for infants but effective in adults as well.

Have you ever been swimming in the ocean and gotten salt water in your nose? If you think back to it, if you had a stuffy nose before that you probably felt better afterward. A neti pot is something that you can use in the privacy of your own home to give you the same effect. I recommend trying it the first time when in the shower because most people do not love the thought of putting salt water into their nose, but in the shower it does not seem as odd. By doing this it is obviously helping to flush those irritants out of your nasal passage.

Without getting into homeopathy and how it all works, I have to say that Sinus Relief by NatraBio was actually my first experience with sinus pressure and using a homeopathic blend to relieve that pressure. I have talked to my share of sceptics where homeopathy is concerned, but I have a handful of homeopathic products that I always keep in my home and would not be without because they have worked so well for me.

There are many more options out there, and I guess my hope is that after reading this, you will do your research, and if you find yourself or a loved one having sinus issues, that you will think about a natural alternative to relieve the symptoms and help rid yourselves of the irritant that is causing the problem. Getting to the root cause instead of just covering up the symptoms will ultimately leave a healthier you!

 

For more information, call 715-834-2341, or stop in at 2434 London Road, Eau Claire.

Resolve to Eat More Plants this New Year!

It’s the start of the New Year and many of us are resolving to take better care of ourselves by eating healthier and exercising more. With the endless amounts of nutrition information out there, it may seem like a challenging task to find the right approach. Luckily, many strategies to eating healthier have one key component in common – eat more plants … or rather, plant-based foods!

Plant-based foods include lots of delicious and nutritious options like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. Filling our plates with these types of foods is commonly referred to as plant-based or plant-forward eating. And, plant-based eating serves as the basis for several different popular lifestyle approaches including Mediterranean, vegetarian, vegan and paleo. Although each lifestyle approach is varied and may be appropriate for different individuals, there is a common theme between each – plates are filled with mostly plant-based foods.
Filling our plates with a variety of mostly fruits and vegetables, but also whole grains, nuts or seeds can help promote health and prevent serious medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. In fact, followers of the Mediterranean diet, a plant-based approach, have some of the lowest rates of cancer, diabetes and heart disease in the world. Enjoying a variety of nutrient dense, plant-based foods can help us achieve and maintain a healthy weight, while promoting long-term health.
Not only do plant-based foods provide a lot of quality nutrients, but plant-based foods also promote sustainability. According to the United States Geological Survey, it takes roughly 2600 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat compared to the 110-250 gallons needed to produce one pound of wheat. With staggering figures like this combined with the knowledge of our steadily growing world population, eating a plant-based diet may promote sustainability.
Resolving to eat more plants this year is the easy part. The “doing” is often a little more challenging. So, here are some ideas to help you make this 2017 resolution easier:

• Remember that all forms matter – meaning that fruits and vegetables, whether they are fresh, frozen, canned or dried or 100% juice, are all important and count toward your daily intake.
• Discover the world of herbs and spices! Add flavor to vegetables, whole grains or beans without adding calories or sodium.
• Experiment with global flavors! Many traditional cuisines from around the world consider plant-based foods staples.
• Magical meat extender! Substitute cooked beans or lentils for half of the meat in some of your favorite recipes for soups, casseroles, meatballs and more
• Sneak in plants! Blend beans into brownies, zucchini into cake or butternut squash into macaroni and cheese for extra nutrition.
• Join Festival’s #halfplateplants campaign for a little support and accountability by sharing pictures of your plates filled with mostly plants on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Looking for even more plant-based or healthy food ideas this New Year? Visit FestFoods.com/health for additional nutrition information, product recommendations, tips and meal ideas.
Emily Schwartz is a nationally accredited, registered dietitian-nutritionist (RDN) serving the Eau Claire and La Crosse communities as Festival Foods’ Western Wisconsin Regional Dietitian.

Starting Your Child Out Right with Dentistry

By Neal R. Benham, D.D.S., KiDZ.R.US Pediatric Dentistry

When should child have their first dental visit? Before the rest of the information, it is important that you keep your teeth clean starting in pregnancy. Decay is passed from the main caregiver to the child. The AAP, ADA, and AAPD recommend a first visit by age one.
What should you expect to happen at the visit?

• Expect some crying. All children cry except those who don’t. It’s a new experience, and it is normal for children to cry.
• A review of concerns of the parents.
• Hygiene instructions.
• Review of flouride use, both topical and systemic.
• Cavity check. Yes, one year olds do get cavities.
• Feeding issues, bottle, breast, and snacks
.
What should parents do before the first visit?
• Work with your child about opening and showing their teeth. Be persistent and consistent. This should start with cleaning gums before teeth erupt and brushing when they do erupt.
• Be positive. If you have issues with going to the dentist, have your spouse or a grandparent be the one to bring your child for their visit.
• Read books about visiting the dentist. Bernstein Bears is a good example.

How often do children need to visit the dentist?
Every six months is usual due to the rapidly changing development. Different things happen as the child grows and develops. They get used to the office. They get more teeth. Teeth get closer together. Children become more cooperative.

What happens if my child gets cavities?
Options depend on the number, location, and severity. Postponing with daily topical fluoride applications, removing decay with hand instruments, and a fluoride-releasing filling being placed, or if more involved, sedation or general anesthesia in the hospital.

The key is start early – be positive – it’s a life-long journey, not a single visit.