Quality Eats Lead to Quality Zzzs

By Bethany Soderlund, dietetic intern, Festival Foods

Sleep is a key lifestyle factor that can positively or negatively affect our health. When it comes to sleep, the quantity and quality of those resting hours make all the difference. Whether you struggle to fall asleep every once in a while or it seems to be a chronic issue, finding a solution will greatly benefit your mood and ability to function throughout the day. Did you know food and nutrition can play a key role in the quality of your sleep?

The quantity, quality, and timing of meals can positively or negatively impact your sleep. First let’s look at how food can disrupt our sleep. Large meals, high fat or high protein meals, and spicy foods during the day, and especially before bed, may cause gastroesophageal reflux, or heartburn, which is a potential sleep disrupter. Many foods also contain substances that act as stimulants to the brain including alcohol, caffeine, and tyramine.

Alcohol before bed can cause frequent sleep disruptions, headaches, and less restful sleep, so it is best to avoid alcohol four to six hours before bedtime. For many Americans, caffeine is the life-sustaining liquid that flows through their veins. Whether a cup of coffee, energy drink, or soda, the high levels of caffeine consumed during the day can lead to a night of tossing and turning. For optimal sleep, avoid consuming caffeine four to six hours before bedtime. Another potentially problematic component is tyramine. It is a naturally occurring substance derived from the amino acid tyrosine that causes a brain-stimulating effect. Some of the tyramine-containing foods to minimize or avoid before bed include bacon, ham, pepperoni, raspberries, avocado, nuts, soy sauce, and red wine.

Fortunately, not all foods are sleep disrupters. In fact, some foods can actually be sleep promoters. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that acts to increase the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of deep sleep. Meat, dairy products, eggs, nuts, seeds, bananas, and honey are some of the sources of tryptophan. Carbohydrate foods help increase tryptophan’s access to the brain. What does this mean for your meal plan? In general, eating a balanced diet containing protein at each meal during the day and a small snack one to four hours before bed will promote this normal body physiology to increase the stages of deep sleep. Example bedtime snacks include yogurt and crackers, wheat toast and cheese, and cereal and milk. Just remember to keep your portion sizes small to help avoid sleep disturbances.

Sleep is a key element of a healthy lifestyle that can affect mood and productivity during the day. Our food choices and the timing of those food choices can be the difference between counting sheep and a deep restful night’s sleep. Whether you opt for two cups of coffee instead of three or switch your bedtime snack from hot wings to a glass of milk, small changes each day can get you on the right track to waking up energized and rejuvenated.

Bethany Soderlund is a dietetic intern with the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay and is currently working with the Mealtime Mentors at Festival Foods. Learn more about Festival’s registered dietitian team and their many resources and recipes at FestFoods.com/Mealtime.

What About Donating Half Your CSA Share to Help Fight Hunger Locally?

Who Is Rachel Keniston?
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.

While she worked at Community Table, Keniston and her family were building a sustainable agriculture farm, Solheim Market Gardens, using permaculture principles, with the mission to grow clean, fresh local produce in ways that respect and build the soil with minimal mechanical cultivation, hoes and hands for weed control, crop rotation and row covers to minimize pest issues. To Keniston and her family, the farm too is part of community building. “We all need healthy food regardless of our income levels. Our community (country and world) also need more small local food producers. It is important that our food not be traveling from all ends of the world, that it not be sprayed with chemicals. The way we grow food is important.”

One of the goals with Solheim Market Gardens was to eventually have a community supported agriculture program. In studying CSA good practices, Keniston was given the advice to not put too much food in the weekly share box. “People feel guilty if they can’t use it all,” she says. “None of us likes to throw good food away. The up side of partnering with a farmer through CSA is that people do eat more vegetables! But too much waste is the number one reason people give for dropping a CSA share.” Keniston read about a farm in Monroe, Wisconsin, that is a nonprofit that grows produce specifically for Feeding America, which distributes produce to food banks. She explains, “Instead of providing shareholders with produce, they grow to give to the food bank. Shareholders can also make donations to help purchase seed, equipment, and labor.”

What Is Her New Idea to Fight Local Food Insecurity?
While pondering both her concern for those experiencing food insecurity and her CSA goals, a light went off in her head. “I started to wonder if it would be possible to offer shareholders the option of subscribing to half a share but then donating the other half to Feed My People Food Bank, which would welcome more produce to share with those in need.” She describes how this would work: “First, could the farmer grow a crop specifically to be donated to a food bank for the food insecure? Yes, of course, but most farmers producing at this level are barely making ends meet themselves. That donation from a farmer would be a little like the poor feeding the poor. My thought was if people are willing to partner with the farmer to help create an economically stable farm operation where members are assured the highest quality produce, then maybe they’d be willing to help the farmer and the food bank by subscribing to a full share but donating half to the food bank.” If thirty half boxes of produce were donated weekly, that would be a big help to Feed My People and to the people coming to the food bank. The farmer could plan ahead of time to grow a large bed of certain vegetables for just that purpose. She explains, “At the end of the season, shareholders who donated could be notified of the total weight of produce they donated and the monetary market value of that produce. This could be used for tax documentation.”

Keniston has high hopes for the project, saying, “If it works this growing season, we would like to expand the effort and encourage other local farmers to join in.”

For more information and to sign up to donate a half share, visit www.solheimwi.com or www.facebook.com/solheim.wi.

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.

Cut Your Carbon Footprint with Festival Foods

A study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (https://food-hub.org/files/resources/Food%20Miles.pdf) on the environmental effects of agricultural products shipped into the state of California found:

  • “In 2005, the import of fruits, nuts, and vegetables into California by airplane released more than 70,000 tons of CO2, which is equivalent to more than 12,000 cars on the road.”
  • “Today, the typical American prepared meal contains, on average, ingredients from at least five countries outside the United States.”
  • Neighborhoods near airports and other transport centers tend to be inhabited by low-income people of color, making this an environmental justice issue.
  • “Almost 250,000 tons of global warming gases released were attributable to imports of food products—the equivalent amount of pollution produced by more than 40,000 vehicles on the road or nearly two power plants.”
  • “More than 6,000 tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxides were released into the air—the equivalent of almost 1.5 million vehicles or 263 power plants!”
  • “300 tons of sooty particulate matter were released into the air—the equivalent of more than 1.2 million cars or 53 power plants.”
    “Approximately 950 cases of asthma, 16,870 missed schools days, 43 hospital admissions, and 37 premature deaths could be attributed to the worsened air quality from food imports.”

 

What can you do? Buy local from Festival Foods!

  • Taste the difference–buying local usually means that produce has been picked very recently (usually within the last twenty-four hours)
  • At Festival, we’ve developed unique relationships with our suppliers allowing us to bring fresh produce items from Wisconsin growers straight to you as part of our Days Fresher program.
  • Eating locally allows you to eat seasonally, which often means enjoying produce at peak ripeness.
  • Wondering what’s at peak ripeness? Check the “Peak This Week” feature at FestFoods.com where you’ll find out what’s in season and at peak, what’s coming up, what’s out of season, and what to watch.
  • Although transportation times are increasingly getting shorter, local produce often takes less time to get from field to fork.
  • After harvest, some nutrients in fruits and vegetables may degrade over time. Antioxidants, like vitamins A, C, and E, and B-vitamins, like vitamin B6 and thiamin, are particularly susceptible.
  • Loss of nutrients is inevitable but can be managed or reduced with proper storage.
  • Ideal storage conditions (temperature, humidity, lighting, etc.) can vary quite a bit based on the fruit or vegetable.
  • Our knowledgeable produce experts at Festival can help provide information on proper storage.

 

Emily Schwartz, MS, RDN, CD – Western Wisconsin Regional Dietitian at Skogen’s Festival Foods.