Stirring Interest In Organic Foods

Farm is part of effort to offer schools fresh, local items

By John-John Williams IV | Standing amid rows of lush, multicolored vegetables, Jeanette Orrey of England basked in the sunlight drawn to the main greenhouse of the Baltimore school system’s Great Kids Farm at the Bragg Nature Center. She ate a handful of leafy sprouts, urged on by her enthusiastic tour guide. She shook her head with approval.

“This is how every school system in the States should be,” Orrey said. The former school lunch employee-turned-advocate was among a group of six who visited the school system Wednesday to learn more about the city’s efforts to provide school lunches made of fresh, local organic foods. In addition to Baltimore, the group’s tour includes schools in New York City and Arlington County in Virginia. “My goal is that no child will go hungry and that the next generation will have an idea where their food comes from and how it is produced,” said Orrey, who has led her nation’s efforts to provide local, organic foods in schools.

Tony Geraci, director of food and nutrition services for Baltimore schools, served as the group’s tour guide of the 33-acre farm equipped with several greenhouses, a number of honey-producing beehives, 50 chickens and six goats. In the less than two years since the farm has opened, Geraci and his staff have transformed the former orphanage into a self-sustaining organic farm with the potential to become the home of an “agri-hospitality” charter school.

Farm to School programs:

  • Help farmers access new markets
  • Provide students with healthful, local food
  • Keep dollars circulating locally
  • Help fight the growing childhood obesity epidemic

More than 2,000 students have visited the farm. In addition, fruit and vegetables grown there have been used to support 25 families with food, according to Geraci, and six local restaurants purchase produce from the site. Since Geraci took the job two years ago, he has made a major push to offer organic, locally grown foods in city schools and launched “meatless Mondays,” which encourages students to include more fruit and vegetables in their diets. Geraci also hopes to convert a former Pulaski Highway warehouse into a 37,000-square-foot central kitchen where cooks can prepare local foods and then ship them to school cafeterias for final heating and assembly. The project is expected to cost $3 million.

The visitors were exposed to another of Geraci’s planned initiatives when they ate lunch prepared in part by hospitality students at Edmondson-Westside High School. Eventually, Geraci hopes that the students will be able to cook meals using foods grown at the farm.

“I think there is a huge problem with the disconnection between children and food and where it comes from. I think that Tony is trying to address that with the children and the whole community,” said Orrey, whose visit was sponsored by Animal Welfare Approved, an Alexandria, Va.-based group that monitors family farmers who raise animals and have high standards for the animals’ welfare.

Orrey and the other guests gushed over the lunch prepared by the students. It was Orrey’s first time eating cornbread. Noelle Bright, a 16-year-old junior at the school, said she would enjoy cooking with products grown locally. “I think it’s better,” she said. “It just has a better texture. It’s fresh.”

Copyright © 2010, The Baltimore Sun

In Wisconsin

In May, legislators passed changes that will enable more schools to buy food from local farmers, cook fresh meals, teach healthy eating, and plant school gardens. Wisconsin-based Organic Valley has been a huge supporter of this legislation and explains the significance of this legislation in their monthly newsletter Rootstock: “This is an enormous opportunity for families and for farmers. Helping more schools serve healthy, local food would be a major step forward towards a future where everyone can enjoy food that’s good for us, good for the planet and good for the farmers who produce it.” Slow Food USA’s Time for Lunch campaign website (www.slowfoodusa.org/index.php/campaign/time_for_lunch/) makes it easy for you to email your legislators and learn what can be done right in your own neck of the woods.

Learn more about other Wisconsin and national efforts:

  • www.farmtoschool.org – the national Farm to School site
  • Farm to School connects schools (K-12) and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities, and supporting local and regional farmers.
  • www.reapfoodgroup.org – Research, Education, Action & Policy on Food Group is a non-profit organization located in Madison
  • www.cias.wisc.edu/economics/great-lakes-region-farm-to-school-program-network/ – Great Lakes Region Farm to School Networkwww.farmtoschool.org/state-programs.php?action=detail&id=12&pid=59 – Information on the Wisconsin Homegrown Lunch Group
  • http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/food_fight_round_1/ – Seed Magazine has started a very interesting series of debates focused on food production. They ask the question: What does “sustainable agriculture” truly mean—and what should it look like? Visit this site where two experts square off on the true causes of food insecurity.

Maximize the Benefits of Green Tea


Adding a spritz of lemon to green tea might give you a bigger health boost. Researchers say the citrus juice creates an acidic environment that can help free up more antioxidant compounds for the body to absorb after digestion.

Green Goodness

By now, your garden lettuce is probably on hiatus until fall, but that doesn’t mean your greens intake has to diminish to nothing for the next eight weeks. True, many greens just taste best from the garden, but chances are you’re not growing things like collard greens, mustard greens, beet greens, fennel, and bok choy…so the grocer’s varieties may suit you just fine. Don’t pass these beauties up! They’re full of nutrients and fiber and can be eaten in a variety of ways. Here are a few top picks of some good greens and how to consume them.

Mustard Greens – the leaves of the mustard plant, Brassica juncea, have a pungent, peppery taste. Use them in place of swiss chard or collards or add them to any dish for extra flavor. Mustard greens provide 9 vitamins and 7 minerals, including the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E.

As a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, it has powerful cleansing properties. Cruciferous veggies help prevent cancers including breast, prostate, and colon; however, eat them cooked or fermented because the raw form of these vegetables can disrupt thyroid function.

Bok Choy – Another member of the cabbage or cruciferous family, bok choy’s crisp mild texture makes it ideal for stir fries. Whether you use regular or baby bok choy, choose leaves that are crisp and green, not yellowed. Bok choy is also delicious when finely or coarsely chopped and added to quinoa or millet. High in vitamin C, calcium and vitamin A, bok choy also contains glucosinolates, which may prevent cancer. Where thyroid concerns exist, be sure this veggie is cooked or fermented when eaten.

Fennel– The seeds of this plant are a common cooking spice; the fresh variety is also very pleasant. Fennel is crunchy and slightly sweet, a refreshing contribution to Mediterranean cuisine. It is rich in phytonutrients (rutin, quercitin, and various kaempferol glycosides), vitamin C, fiber, potassium, manganese… it’s basically a nutrient powerhouse. The stalks can be cut up and added raw to salads or sautéed with your favorite vegetables. For an out-of-this world treat, make a soup of puréed broccoli and fennel in a vegetable broth.

Beet Greens – Have you been throwing out the tops of your beets? Give those greens a chance! Sautéed with other veggies, added to soups, or eaten as a side dish, beet greens add color and flavor to any meal. They are high in vitamins K and A as well as anti-oxidants beta carotene and lutein.

Kale – The deep green leaves of the kale plant provide an earthy flavor and more nutritional value for fewer calories than almost any other food. It is exceptionally high in vitamins K, C, and A, and manganese. Not only that, in one serving of kale, you can fulfill over 10% of your daily recommended intake of fiber, calcium, B6, potassium, iron, copper, and tryptophan. In addition to its glucosinolates, kale is rich in a flavonoid called maempferol, which has been shown to protect against ovarian cancer. Yeah, it’s a keeper. Eat it raw with other greens in a mixed salad, fermented, or cooked in any array of dishes.

Swiss Chard – Available throughout the year, Swiss chard’s season runs June to August – so when lettuce ends, Swiss chard begins! This veggie, similar to kale and spinach, is easily added to salads or cooked dishes, and boasts a vast array of nutritional benefits. Chard belongs to the same family as beets and spinach with a similar taste: beet green bitterness and spinach leaf saltiness. Both the leaves and stalk of chard are edible, with the white stalks being the most tender. One serving alone provides 716% of your daily recommended value of vitamin K! (vitamin K plays a role in skin elasticity, blood clotting and bone health.) Chard also has high values of vitamins A, C, and E, plus magnesium, manganese, potassium, iron, fiber, calcium, folate… it’s all in there. One great way to gobble it up: sautée chopped leaves and stems with some chopped garlic in a small amount of animal or vegetable fat until the leaves are just wilted. Season with salt and pepper.

So if you haven’t figured it out already, greens are good for you! They’re packed with nutrients and fiber, yet low in calories and low on the glycemic index. Rich in phytochemicals, carotenoids, flavonoids, and other powerful antioxidants, greens are good cancer fighters. And in lactose/dairy sensitive diets, leafy greens are a great dairy alternative. They’re lower in calories and fat than milk, have no sugar like some non-cow “milks,” and are not highly allergenic foods. Yet you still get the high levels of calcium, plus a lot of other great nutrients. Don’t pass these beauties by on your next trip to the farmer’s market or grocery store. Green is good!

(Nutritional information for this article taken from World’s Healthiest Foods, www.whfoods.org, and www.nutritiondata.com).

TUSCAN KALE SOUP

Ingredients:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 lb of Italian sausage
3 large potatoes
1-2 cloves fresh garlic, finely
minced
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
Sea Salt
1/2 cup white Arborio rice, do not
rinse
4 cups spring or filtered water
4-5 leaves fresh kale, rinsed well
Roasted red peppers, to garnish

Directions
Place about 2 tablespoons oil, garlic, and onion in a small soup pot and turn the heat to medium. When the vegetables begin to sizzle, add a pinch of salt and saute until the onions are translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in rice to coat with oil. Add water, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for 20-25 minutes, until the rice is quite soft. Season to taste with salt. Slice the kale into bite-sized pieces just before stirring them into the soup. Simmer, uncovered, just until the kale is tender, about 3 minutes. Serve garnished with minced roasted red pepper. Makes 4-5 servings.

Note: To roast a pepper, rinse and dry the pepper and place over an open flame. Cook, turning, with tongs, until the outer skin of the pepper is completely charred. Transfer the pepper to a paper sack, seal, and allow the pepper to steam for about 10 minutes. Gently rub the charred skin from the pepper and rinse gently to remove any charred residue. Roasted peppers will keep, refrigerated, for about a week. Or simply open a jar of roasted red peppers.

Should You Go Raw?

by Mary Anderson, Genesis Acres

Recently newspapers and television news have been discussing the issue of raw milk. The issue at hand is whether raw milk sales in Wisconsin should be legalized. Fifty years ago legislation was passed that prevented the sale of raw milk even though raw milk had been consumed for years prior to the invention of pasteurization and other modern milk processing practices.

Raw milk is essentially just as it sounds. Milk that comes right out of the cow, only being filtered before it goes into the bulk tank. The bulk tank is a stainless steel container that acts not only as storage but also as the refrigerator in which the milk is cooled to a temperature of 36 degrees. Milk from dairy farms is accumulated in the bulk tanks for 24 to 48 hours (most cows are milked 2 times a day, so 48 hours worth of milk is only 4 milkings). Then the milk is picked up after being weighed and sampled by a bulk milk hauler that will take the milk to the creamery where it is pasteurized, homogenized, and processed into bottled milk, cheese, butter, etc. Most of the dairy products consumers have access to today are those of processed milk, and unless purposefully sought out, consumers do not have easy access to “raw milk”.

Although farm families have the ability to, and often drink raw milk, the sale of raw milk is prohibited in Wisconsin. But growing consumer demand is pushing farmers and consumers to go underground to source this wholesome, unadulterated product. Several business models have been attempted by dairy producers to allow their consumer families legal access to raw milk. Some milk is picked up on farm by consumers as a dividend to their investment in the dairy operation. Some consumers own a cow within the herd. But even these carefully thought out strategies are considered suspect by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection in Madison. Most dairy farmers have been threatened with censure or loss of their state license to produce and sell milk if they do not cease raw milk trade.

Fast Facts

  • Twenty-eight U.S. states do not prohibit sales of raw milk. In some states, consumers may purchase a cow share, which gives them access to raw milk.  In others, raw milk can be purchased for animal consumption, but not for humans.  In Wisconsin, raw milk sales are currently prohibited.
  • Most countries that prohibit the sale of raw milk, allow the sale of raw milk cheeses.
  • In 2002, the FDA reported that 200 cases of illness were traced back to raw milk consumption; in 2006, 262 people became ill after eating E. coli contaminated spinach, 1 died.
  • In 2010, over 4.9 million pounds of beef (processed at federally inspected industrial processing plants) were recalled due to E. coli contamination.

So why the big issue? The consumers who are rallying behind raw milk feel that raw milk has nutritional benefits that are not available once the raw milk has been pasteurized (heated to 160 degrees). Stories voiced at the public hearing held at Chippewa Valley Technical College and hosted by the Assembly Committee on Rural Economic Development and the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Higher Education on the issue, discussed the benefits such as reduction in lactose intolerance symptoms, reduction in asthmatic symptoms, better immune system performance, and many more. Doctors, homeopathic practitioners, and individual consumers voiced this information.

Because this was a public hearing, scathing testimonials were also voiced by the Wisconsin Department of Health, the Wisconsin Association of Veterinarians, and the Wisconsin Farm Bureau. They spoke in opposition of the proposed new legislation that would legalize the sale of raw milk (Assembly bill 628/Senate bill 434). Why the opposition? Health risks associated with the consumption of raw milk. Raw milk has been blamed for illnesses associated with camphobacter, salmonella, and E. coli. These are also very common food borne pathogens that have been linked back to improperly handled beef and chicken, as well as lettuce, spinach, and other vegetables.

To help consumers who desire the option of purchasing raw milk, contact your state legislator and urge them to support the proposed Assembly Bill 628/Senate Bill 434.

Pasteurized vs. Raw

Pasteurized cow’s milk is the number one allergic food in this country. It has been associated with a number of symptoms and illnesses including:

  • Diarrhea
  • Cramps
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Iron-deficiency anemia
  • Skin rashes
  • Allergies
  • Colic in infants
  • Osteoporosis
  • Increased tooth decay
  • Arthritis
  • Growth problems in children
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Acne
  • Recurrent ear infections in children
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Infertility
  • Leukemia
  • Autism

Raw milk, on the other hand, is not associated with any of these problems, and even people who have been allergic to pasteurized milk for many years can typically tolerate and even thrive on raw milk. Raw milk is truly one of the most profoundly healthy foods you can consume, and you’ll feel the difference once you start to drink it.

Going Gluten Free

by Rebecca Gorski

Exhaustion, weight gain, constant bloating, abdominal cramps, joint pain, headaches, behavioral shifts…just a few of the many symptoms one could have if they are intolerant to gluten. Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, and it is the reason that you are probably not hearing the term “gluten-free” for the first time. These days, there seems to be a lot of people talking about gluten-free diets, and for good reason.

People can be gluten intolerant or have a confirmed case of celiac disease, which is an immune reaction to gluten. When people with celiac or gluten-intolerance eat foods containing gluten, their immune system reacts by damaging the small intestine. The tiny, finger like protrusions that line the small intestines, called villi, are damaged or destroyed. Lacking healthy villi, people with celiac cannot get the nutrients they need to stay healthy. This lack of nutrients can cause a wide range of health problems, including all the ones listed above as well as diarrhea, constipation, osteoporosis, hair loss, anemia, infertility, weight gain, and an ongoing list of abdominal complaints. According to the National Institute of Health, as much as one percent of the U.S. population has celiac disease, or about 1 in every 133 people. However, as much as 95 percent of the population goes undiagnosed because celiac can manifest in so many ways.

I spent my youth being in an extreme amount of unexplainable abdominal pain. Constant bloating, abdominal cramps that would make it almost impossible to walk, and stomach spasms that made me scream and curl into a ball. I saw doctor after doctor and had many unpleasant probing tests, all with the result of the general diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. What to do? Eat more fiber. Where to get this fiber? Mostly wheat. It wasn’t until I had a medication to offset the severity of my stomach spasms and had otherwise learned to deal with my unpleasant stomach issues that my second child came along. He, much like my first, was suffering from horrifying bouts of abdominal pain, which would be classified as gastroesophogeal reflux. Unlike the route I took with my first son, which was putting him on medication to help reduce this, I went on a very strict elimination diet. Because I was breastfeeding, everything that went into me, went into him. I dedicated myself to eliminate a great number of things, but the big ones were dairy (a very common irritant for infants) and gluten.

Within days I noticed a drastic improvement. No more screaming fits after his feedings. No more violent back-arching. And not so long after I knew I was on the right path for my baby, I realized I was on the right path for myself too. I started learning more about food intolerances and kept up my dairy-free, gluten-free diet. The stomach pains, cramping, and bloating that I had gotten so accustomed to having, were no longer there. I was loosing a nice amount of weight, and despite chasing around a toddler and nursing an infant around the clock, I started to have more energy. I actually felt great.

Gluten-free Grains and Flours

  • Almond (flour)
  • Amaranth (grain and flour)
  • Buckwheat (seed and flour)
  • Chickpea (flour)
  • Coconut (flour)
  • Corn (grain and flour)
  • Hazelnut (flour)
  • Millet (grain and flour)
  • Rice, brown and white (grain and flour)
  • Quinoa (grain and flour)

At first, there was a little deprivation from the bread, the pizza, crackers, things like that. But as I got used to eating a little differently, I realized that all of the things that contain gluten (namely, every single processed food), no one should be eating anyways. And the nut and rice breads I started eating, I was enjoying more than any other bread, because there were no filler ingredients in them. I actually knew what all the ingredients were in the bread I was buying. As time went on, I began experimenting with making my own breads and finding better substitutes for things like breadcrumbs. After all, how do make meatloaf with no bread crumbs? Easy. Use mashed potatoes, or beans, or the bread crumbs of your home-made bread. And I was constantly upping the nutritional value of all the foods I was giving my family.

In addition to healing my own gut, I realized that not only was my newborn benefiting from my diet, but so was my toddler. His skin that used to go through bouts of eczema and random rashes, cleared up and has not returned.

Going gluten-free can be fun, but it takes a little practice, and some support. I’m blessed to have a wonderful group of like-minded moms surrounding me and a community that is ever-evolving in their attempts to provide wholesome nutritional options, but it is a journey. It’s one that I’ve found leads to a much more healthful diet, rich in whole, nutrient-dense foods. Eliminating gluten from your diet, or that of your family’s takes hard work. It is everywhere. Buns, sandwich breads, soups, baked goods, cereals, snack mixes, the list goes on and on. Unless you are eliminating gluten from your diet and have to pay attention to all the places gluten hides, you would have no idea how many things contain this troublesome protein.

Part of the gluten-free journey begins with social gatherings—playgroups, family events, barbecues, work outings—anywhere people gather, they gather with gluten-filed products. They taste good and they look good, so it’s hard to stay away. However, once you have eliminated these foods from your body and are able to recognize the difference, it will be a lot easier to prepare yourself for social events that center around food. It also helps to be educated on the topic, so you can explain your diet to your family and friends. This will in turn help them accommodate your needs, or at least understand when you bring your own versions of foods to an event.

It is also getting a bit easier to eat at restaurants. Not that it’s really easy, but people are speaking up and businesses are listening. Locally, we have Boston’s Pizzeria now offering a gluten-free pizza crust, Harmony Corner Café, whose soups are gluten-free and is working on some breads and paninis, and don’t forget about the naturally gluten-free ethnic foods like Mexican, Indian, Thai, etc. (think rice, beans, veggies).

There is an ever-expanding line of GF products to use for baking at Festival Foods, Weaver’s, and our wonderful co-ops.

If you suffer from any of the ailments listed above, it cannot hurt to eliminate gluten from your diet for a period of one to four weeks and see how your body reacts. Too many people suffer with their stomach ailments far too long, only because they think stomach issues run in the family. Well, they do, and the genes for celiac disease are passed along as well. Unfortunately, many people only discover their celiac disease after some other type of chronic disease has already set in, like diabetes or Parkinson’s. However, even if you don’t have celiac disease, you might notice that you are like many people who just don’t tolerate gluten. This is explained by the fact that humans are unable to completely metabolize gluten, and since wheat wasn’t used until 10,000 years ago, our ancient DNA has not had time to catch up with modern foods.1

You may be one of the 95 percent of people who are not diagnosed, and most likely it is because you are so used to living with your symptoms, you don’t realize that there is anything wrong. You could also just be one of those people who don’t realize that symptoms you have may manifest in an unsuspecting way. Either way, it is wise to remember that, “People who focus on healing their digestive system through gluten elimination and proper diet could potentially transform their health and how they feel.”

1 Erinn Morgan, Natural Solutions Magazine, March 2009

GLUTEN-FREE EATERIES

Randy’s Family Restaurant
Eau Claire, WI
Open Mon-Sat
6am-9pm
Boasting an entire gluten-free menu with everything from breakfast to baked fish and steaks.

Boston’s
Business 53 in Eau Claire
832-5100
Gluten-free pizza options

Harmony Café
Barstow Street in Eau Claire
Gluten-free soups, cookies, muffins and working on an original gluten-free sandwich bread.

Green Bakery
Wheeler, WI
Gluten-free bread made using ancient-style grains and legumes. Found at Menomonie Market Food Co-op and Just Local Food.

Grandma Ferdon’s
Hayward, WI
100% gluten free foods
www.grandmaferdons.com