Posts Tagged: Food
This month Susan Algert, UC Cooperative Extension nutrition advisor, published research that shows gardeners can save money by growing their own vegetables.
“Low-income people in cities may be able to improve their nutrition by eating fresh vegetables grown in community gardens,” said Algert, who works with UC Cooperative Extension in Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Francisco counties.
To better understand how community gardens affect the affordability and amount of food available, she recruited 10 gardeners in San Jose to weigh the vegetables they harvested from their community gardens during the spring and summer.
The most common crops they grew were tomatoes, squash, green beans, peppers, onions, eggplants and cucumbers.
Algert found that community gardens produced on average 2.55 pounds of food per plant over the four months. For the season, buying the same vegetables at retail prices would have cost $435 more. People saved more money by growing more high-value crops such as tomatoes and peppers that grow vertically and occupy less ground space, she learned.
“We know that community gardens can be an important source of fruits and vegetables for people who don't live near a grocery store or a farmers market,” said Algert. “This study shows that vegetables from community gardens can also be more affordable than buying from a store. That's important to people who live on a low or fixed income.”
The amount of money people save by growing their own vegetables will vary. “Our citizen scientists who worked on this study are all experienced gardeners,” she said, “A novice gardener would likely need training to get the same results.”
Currently Algert is studying the amount of food grown in backyard gardens of low-income families in San Jose.
“It's a wonderful collaboration of nutrition educators, UC Cooperative Extension small farm advisors, UC Master Gardeners, Santa Clara University and Sacred Heart/Catholic Charities,” said Algert.
In addition to fresh produce, gardeners get some exercise. “Gardening is an excellent form of physical activity,” said Algert.
The study “Vegetable output and cost savings of community gardens in San Jose, California” is published in the July edition of the Journal of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at http://www.andjrnl.org.
The community garden study was conducted in collaboration with the City of San Jose's Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services Department, which manages 18 community gardens on 35 acres of land.
Not long ago, a friend asked several of us to jot down some memories about the kitchen tables in our lives. The operating premise of the exercise was that food is central to our relationships, and that much of life occurs around the places where we eat, and those we choose to eat with.
My kitchen table memories are varied. My family moved quite frequently when I was young: our kitchen table was a sort of “movable feast.” In my faith tradition, this term has a very specific meaning that informs my attitudes toward food. (For the very literary minded, it is also the title of a wonderful memoir written by Ernest Hemingway late in his life).
I have wonderful memories about kitchen tables. In our home near Philadelphia, I remember my older sister sitting at the table in the spacious kitchen, trying to cajole me to eat more before we went to church. I was served the best pancakes I’ve ever eaten at that very table. It was at this table where my brother once committed the serious transgression of launching scrambled eggs at my sister, using his fork as the springboard. (This happened exactly once.) A few years later, in the San Fernando Valley, close by some citrus orchards where the California State University campus now stands, I recall eating wonderful meals at our new home, which featured a formal dining room, where my parents proudly used the plastic fruit I’d bought them as a gift as the table’s centerpiece.
I remember my Grandmother Eloise’s elegantly appointed dining room table in Clinton, Miss., where we always drank heavily sugared iced tea from the tallest glasses I'd ever seen, being certain to clink the ice with long handled silver spoons. My grandmother’s was the most modern kitchen I’d ever seen, and she dressed up for every meal. Only a few miles away, in Jackson, we also took supper with my other grandparents, RJ and Pauline, at their kitchen table in a modest home on a quiet tree-lined street. These grandparents, raised in a small rural community, fed us homegrown sliced tomatoes, stewed okra, skillet cornbread, fish caught by my grandfather, and bowls of steaming hot (and spicy!) gumbo.
I also remember the dinette set in my family’s small camping trailer, where my dad prepared and fed his kids Kraft Mac & Cheese and tuna fish. (Different food generation, but great dad!) It was also the table where we played board games and cards by lantern light, watching the Firefall at Yosemite Park. After dinner, games and a soothing cup of hot chocolate, the dinette set was folded down and became the bed I slept on.
When my husband and I got our first apartment, we went to a used furniture store called Egypt's and bought a tiny bowed kitchen table. It was constructed of particleboard and covered with faux wood laminate. We used it for years. It was where we prepared our budget-wise home cooked meals every night, clipped coupons and prepared for graduate exams.
When we bought our home, we found ourselves with more space, but little cash to furnish it. While visiting a second-hand store in our tiny downtown, we fell in love with a large, heavy table. It was a little dinged up, was missing the leaves, but clearly had been loved by a large family. It featured an extra set of legs in the middle of the table, meant to support it at its grand length when fully extended. We paid what was for us a small fortune to purchase the table, and got friends to help us move it. We had no chairs, so a friend gave us three turn-of-the-(last)-century chairs salvaged from the U.S. Maritime Commission Office in Long Beach. They don't match the table or each other, but we've never cared and have kept them. They are simply marvelous.
We live in a small home, so our table serves as both kitchen and dining room table, just a foot or so from the counter and the stove. While a smaller table might make more sense, I'd never let this one go. We refinished it several years ago, and it turns out that it's quite an unusual and valuable table, worth many, many times what we paid for it.
It's certainly priceless to me, mostly because it's anchored our family in this house. As the child of movable tables and movable feasts, I've found its constant presence uniquely reassuring. It's where we prepare food and school projects and where I do much of my writing. It's where I sat my daughter and bandaged her first skinned knee. It’s where the three of us share breakfast together every morning. Where we’ve hosted birthday and holiday celebrations, team parties, teen gatherings, study groups and committee meetings (all involving good food and good people). Where we’ve had important family discussions, shared memories, and laughed. It's where my husband reads the sports page, where I fume over the editorial page, and where my daughter and I craft and sew. It's sited between two windows three feet from our side fence, where honeysuckle grows lush and fragrant, and where the poinsettia transplanted from our neighbor’s yard more than 20 years ago blooms brightly.
The kitchen table hosts ever-changing coverings. A tablecloth given to us by friends after their trip to Guatemala. Another one made by my sister, with matching napkins. An antique lace cloth I found in a small store near home. On very special occasions, we let the wood speak for itself.
I don't know the history of the table before it joined our family, but it has claimed a central place in our family's history. After we purchased this table, the table we purchased from Egypt’s was recycled to hold an ever-growing collection of plants. It finally expired a few years ago. I was sad to see it go.
Have a safe and happy summer, filled with healthy and delicious food, eaten at tables you love, with those you cherish.
“A sustainable food system is healthy and safe for everyone, including all those who work the land,” said Tom Tomich, director of SAREP. “As SAREP continues to support sustainable agriculture research, we look forward to identifying research opportunities that will improve farmworker conditions.”
California farmworkers face many challenges at work and in their communities. Nearly a quarter of California farmworker families live in poverty, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. While farmworkers play a crucial role in feeding Californians, food insecurity is among the many challenges they face daily. Farm work is one of the most hazardous occupations in the state, but nearly 70 percent of California farmworkers have no health insurance, according to a California Institute for Rural Studies report.
SAREP aims to help researchers add context to these numbers by interviewing members of organizations that work with farmworkers and other stakeholders. Participants will be asked to suggest the types of research, education and communication projects they would find most helpful as they work to improve farm laborers’ working and living conditions. The research agenda is scheduled to be completed by September 2012.
“Projects such as this – creating a research agenda with the participation of people who will ultimately use the information for their work – is inspired by the University of California’s land grant mission to serve society,” said Gail Feenstra, SAREP food systems coordinator. “SAREP was founded to help ensure all California agricultural interests, particularly the underserved voices, are supported through scientific research, education and outreach.”
Research regarding California farmworker issues has been conducted, but there is more to do. SAREP aims to assist both researchers and farmworkers by identifying research that workers and community organizations would find most useful.
In addition to identifying research topics, key stakeholders and potential partners and funders, SAREP is forming an advisory committee to guide its farmworker research and outreach efforts.
SAREP provides leadership and support for scientific research and education in agricultural and food systems that are economically viable, conserve natural resources and biodiversity, and enhance the quality of life in the state's communities.
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Media contact: Gail Feenstra, (530) 752-8408, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The associate director of the UC Berkeley Center for Weight and Health, Gail Woodward-Lopez, said USDA's new food icon, MyPlate, is more in line with current nutrition science, according to The Bay Citizen.
"It has the potential to be more effective," Woodward-Lopez was quoted. "The pyramid involved counting the number of servings for the day. So when do you make that decision? When you go to bed at night?"
She said the plate in consistent with the Center's findings on obesity prevention for children and adults: "Lots of fruits and vegetables, less refined grains, don't overdo the protein."
Something interesting I've noticed about the news coverage of MyPlate - including the Bay Citizen story - is references to the pyramid it replaces. The original Food Guide Pyramid, introduced in 1992, was replaced by MyPyramid 2005. However, some journalists have ignored the six years of MyPyramid, declaring that MyPlate replaces the long-retired hierarchical Food Guide Pyramid.
See the CNN story (image below) for another example of this common misunderstanding.
A campaign on Facebook is encouraging Americans to assert "food independence" on July 4th and enjoy sustainable holiday picnics as an inspiration to others.The effort drew the attention of Huffington Post columnist Leslie Hatfield, who declared in an article published yesterday that "eating local food is patriotic."
Hatfield contacted the director of UC Cooperative Extension in Ventura County, Rose Hayden-Smith, to get her take on food and patriotism. Hayden-Smith just finished her dissertation on the history of U.S. Victory Gardens at UC Santa Barbara.
She told Hatfield that demonstrations of American patriotism have often been linked to food, going back to the American Revolution, when Americans dumped British tea into the Boston Harbor rather than pay taxes on it.
"Many of the foods we traditionally associate with the Fourth of July - including apple pie - reflect the diverse mix of immigrant heritages that make our nation strong and unique," Hayden-Smith was quoted. "Like people, food ways have mingled, creating new and unique cultural expressions."
Hatfield seemed taken aback by the suggestion that apple pie is not all American. Hayden-Smith told her apple pie's roots go back to the 14th century, not in America, but in Germany, Holland and England.
Returning to her point, Hatfield wrote that she believes eating industrially-produced foods helps support systems which have put a lot of farmers out of business and made a lot of people a lot less healthy."Let's get patriotic in the easiest, most delicious way possible," Hatfield suggests, "by eating some awesome food."