As part of my new position with FIRST 5 Santa Clara County, I had the privilege of speaking to the program manager of Maine Senior Farmshare. They generously extended their time to share information about this incredibly innovative program, which will eventually be published as one of several case studies that will be used to create a free guide for anyone wanting to increase food access to low-income customers using the CSA (community supported agriculture) model.
Maine Senior Farmshare serves over 18,000 low-income seniors every growing season. Funded by USDA grants, it provides individual farms $50 at the start of the season for each senior enrolled. Farms range in size from having 1 senior to having 400+ participants. The seniors themselves can spend the $50 any way they like – they can hit the farmstand every week, use it toward a CSA share, or buy their favorite vegetables as soon as they become available. Most of the folks involved use the farms well beyond the $50 — developing a relationship with the farmer in the process.
There are ‘voucher’ programs all across the country that incentivize shopping at farmers’ markets and local farms. But this is the first time I’ve seen a state-level program that puts the process of attracting and enrolling low-income consumers into the hands of the farms. So simple, yet brilliant. Anyone who’s worked in food access can tell you how hard it can be to get enrolled in food assistance programs. Here in Santa Clara County, only 46% of eligible households receive CalFresh (food stamp) benefits. It’s a multi-faceted problem, but part of it is the difficulty of outreach. I could see a program like this giving small local farms, and larger CSA programs, and even more distant vendors at local farmers’ markets, the incentive to market directly to low-income consumers in our urban centers. And for the farms that participate, income up front would be guaranteed – modeling the simplicity and risk-reduction that CSAs bring.
So now my big question is – how could such a program be modeled here in Santa Clara County? Whether for seniors or for families with young children, I could see a program modeled on Maine Senior Farmshare where farms in Santa Clara and San Benito counties could sign up low-income consumers for an upfront chunk of change. Dollar for dollar, I’d guess that it would do more to increase fresh fruit and vegetable access for the most vulnerable households than any program in existence today. It’s not just a season’s worth of fresh produce, it’s a season’s worth of contact with a local farmer, a season’s worth of home cooking, a season’s worth of trips to the farmstand — in short, it’s building a healthy, empowered relationship with food — well worth the $50 price tag.
Recovery from a broken elbow (clumsy+roller skating = ouch) has made blogging these last few weeks nearly impossible. Just now, I’m getting enough use of my right arm back to type for 10 minutes at a time. Brevity -not my strong suit – has become imperative. On the other hand, being wrenched away from writing gave me a new perspective on what I do day-to-day. I realized something: I need to do more than write about my passions. I need to live them!
To that end, I’m embarking on two new career adventures, totally different but both equally exciting:
First, I’m starting Little Bee Pops — an artisan popsicle business using all-local ingredients. We’ll start out on Sundays in downtown Mountain View, and if successful, grow from there. There are two things I love doing the most — spending time with my daughter, and puttering around in the kitchen. This allows me to do both, while supporting local farmers. My daughter Helen is our CTO — Chief Tasting Officer. All joking aside, it may be possible that (at age 6) Helen has better business sense than I do. The business afterall was *her* idea. I hope you can come out and support us at our launch on June 12!
Second, I’m starting work next week with First 5 Santa Clara County as their new Healthy Food Resources Coordinator. In a nutshell, I’ll be helping to start a CSA and Farmers’ Market for low-income families in San Jose. Both will utilize SNAP/EBT and incorporate culinary and nutrition education. It’s been so inspiring to discover how jazzed the staff at First 5 are about really changing the food system. In my interviews, I felt like I kept pushing boundaries – airing my “radical views” about food system change, seeing if anyone got uncomfortable. All I got were nods of approval. I guess I’m not such a radical anymore! I’m excited to be back on the ground, creating something that supports a strong local economy AND healthy families. I’m so grateful to First 5 for the chance to do it with their support and resources — it’s really a privilege.
Well, my 10 minutes of typing are up and it’s time to stretch out my arm. I’ve been pretty neglectful of this blog in the past without the virtue of a good excuse, but I expect to step away from blogging for at least the summer while I get the lay of the land with both endeavors. Or who knows? Maybe I’ll be inspired to write about both!
The Un-Boring Potato: Nutritious, Cheap, and a Beautiful Sight!
Make the potato – wholesome, delicious, versatile, cheap – into the villain. Make Kraft’s Stove Top – nutritionally devoid, scary sugary chemical concoction – into the hero and YOU could win a $100 gift card!!!
C’mon bloggers, sell your soul for a chance to win a measly $100! It’s fun! People will love you for bashing affordable, healthy food. Like the email below says, it’s satire. Like The Onion, but without a conscience!
What, you don’t feel like joining in to villanize healthy food and promote crap? That’s not your style?
In that case, how about writing a post like this one and submitting it to Tecnorati’s contest.
And you can always let Stove Top know how you feel about their campaign on Facebook.
FYI – here’s the email “call to action” I received today:
Dear Liz Snyder,Are you ready to show that STOVE TOP Everyday Stuffing Mix “tops” the
STOVE TOP Everyday Stuffing Mix is challenging families to escape the
same old, boring potato routine through a contest held by Technorati
Media – you could win a $100 American Express gift card!
What We Want You to Write About
We’re inviting the blogosphere to participate in a contest to create
humorous posts about how potatoes are a boring alternative to STOVE
TOP Everyday Stuffing Mix. By providing creative, funny and memorable
content that takes a jab at potatoes as “boring,” we want to encourage
families to consider STOVE TOP Stuffing Mix as an everyday and
easy-to-make side dish alternative to instant potatoes. STOVE TOP
Stuffing Mix is so “un-boring” it’s the “un-potato!”
With its everyday meal appeal, delicious taste and easy prep, STOVE
TOP Everyday Stuffing Mix is the perfect side dish solution that
complements meat and vegetables alike. Each serving from the
convenient STOVE TOP Everyday Stuffing Mix flex canister takes just
two minutes to prepare in the microwave no extra pots or dishes to
wash. The STOVE TOP Everyday Stuffing Mix canister is re-sealable, so
you can make as little or as much as you need, as quickly as you need
- An image and story of talk show host potato that has put its guests
- An image and story of a potato totally underdressed in it’s plain
old skin for an event
- Showcase kids talking about how boring potatoes are and how they
love STOVE TOP Stuffing Mix
- Showcase how potatoes don’t cut it – they’re so worthless to eat -
doorstoppers, brick-fixes (spoof on home entertainment show sponsored
by Stove Top)
Seriously, the more creative your posts and images are (as well as
appropriate and non-offensive) the better! If it helps, think of the
type of humor found in The Onion (http://www.theonion.com) and
incorporate that style of comedy into your story.
All you need is your sense of humor (and we know bloggers have the
best sense of humor in the world)!
Post Requirements For Contest
- At least 200 words with your “story” about the STOVE TOP Stuffing
Mix being the “HERO” over th BORING POTATO.
- At least one image and/or video about your BORING POTATO or STOVE
TOP Stuffing Mix.
- Include An outbound link to:
http://www.facebook.com/stovetop?sk=app_172727006112120 – mentioning
the STOVE TOP Stuffing Mix campaign.
- Include the following tag in your post – #unpotatofest
- Post a minimum of one Facebook update, a tweet, or an upload to
YouTube (if applicable) to promote your post.
- Video stories about your potato or STOVE TOP stuffing as the “hero”
are highly encouraged, though not required.
- Submit your entry by 4/26/11 at: http://bit.ly/fX9q1c
Looking forward to your creativity and good luck!
Blogger Outreach Manager
Official Contest Rules:
That’s Dr. Lidy Pelsser of the ADHD Research Center in the Netherlands talking.
In a groundbreaking study, researchers found that diet alone basically reversed moderate to severe cases of ADHD. We’re not talking about kids with sugar highs here, we’re talking kids that have been clinically diagnosed. Basically, someone finally got around to testing the Feingold Diet – which parents of kids with ADHD, Asperger’s and a host of other sensory processing issues have sworn by for years.
The conclusion: remove processed junk from kids’ diets, especially those pesky food dyes that have been banned in the EU, and kids feel better and act better. Shocker!
It was great to be interviewed by Foodia’s Tastemakers blog last week – it delves a little deeper into some themes that have been weighing heavily (pun intended) on my mind lately. You can read the whole interview here, but here are some excerpts I thought worth sharing:
Q. What are some of the changes that need to happen at the public policy level in order to improve our national diet?
How much time do you have? The national diet… I don’t know that we have a national diet so much as a national eating disorder. As eaters, most of us are caught in a cycle of dieting, failure, and shame. Each diet gets more extreme, each failure more catastrophic. In the meantime, we’re bombarded with health messages that say that with willpower and the “right” diet, radiant health and a “perfect BMI” will be yours. The first thing I’d do at the policy level is to stop trying to promote health through shame and fear. Walk away from the Food Pyramid and never look back. No one can achieve permanent change that way. We need instead to create a culture that celebrates fresh, healthy food and lets people get out of the dieting vortex. We need a nation of intuitive pleasure-eaters who know and love their bodies, their kitchens, and the land that sustains us.
Q. You also work with individuals as a holistic food coach. Do you have any general tips for readers who want to eat better?
Most of my clients start out really wanting me to tell them what to eat. It’s a long, involved road convincing them that only they can tell themselves what to eat. There are no outside experts, myself included. As a culture, we are so incredibly caught up in the nutritional value of foods that we ignore the single most important role that eating has in our lives: pleasure. In a world where eating is viewed as a battle between willpower and temptation there is absolutely no room for the sensual experience that comes with real, satisfying food.
According to Evelyn Tribole, author of Intuitive Eating (read it!), one of the most common forms of overeating is to chase phantom foods – any food that you view as pleasurable to eat, but try to deny yourself. Then you chase this phantom food around the kitchen all day. What you really want is a slice of cheesecake. So in trying to deny yourself that pleasure, you substitute with a gazillion rice cakes, fat-free cardboard cookies, popcorn, sugar free chocolates, dried fruit, some lowfat yogurt, and a glass of orange juice. Voila! You’ve just eaten 5 times more calories than one slice of cheesecake. And yet you don’t feel full, and you didn’t enjoy a single bite.
Q. In your blog, you tackle a variety of challenges related to feeding our children more healthfully. What do you feel are the most important changes that need to occur to feed our kids better?
The article I wrote for Natural Life Magazine called Real Kids, Real Foods, Real Love is the closest I’ve ever come to articulating my stance on how to change how we deal with food for the next generation. Policy-wise, it’s got to start with how we approach nutrition education – moving from a shame-based approach to one that honors all cultures, promotes size acceptance, and gives everyone (especially kids!) an emotional, awesome, joyful bond with fresh, healthy food. Nobody can be shamed or scared into eating better – over 50 years of research shows it just doesn’t work. We are all emotional eaters – it’s something nutritionists deny and food marketers employ. Who’s winning?
One of my greatest pleasures is talking to groups of parents, physicians, and educators about how to help kids become healthy, intuitive eaters. I apply the principles of intuitive eating and add in a few special spices: gardening, culinary education, and media literacy. It makes for a highly effective ‘recipe’ that can guide kids toward their own internal motivation to eat healthy food. It’s a motivation that lasts a lifetime!
The only scale my daughter will ever be subjected to...
Anti-Obesity. The phrase is so common in my circles I barely even see it any more. And yet, when I get blogged without my permission by an anti-obesity website, I am forced to pay attention. I cringe to have my work or words characterized under a paradigm that I believe has done as much to harm to a generation of American eaters as food marketers and food deserts combined. We are not just preyed upon by junk food advertisers and fast food peddlers, we are also plagued by a national eating disorder of epic proportions predicated on the faulty belief that no one can be fat and healthy, and that fat kids in particular are suffering an “epidemic” while thin kids are just fine — regardless of their food choices.
Recently, nutrition researcher Linda Bacon was accused of being “in denial” on a major food-focused listserv for proposing the radical notion that both thin AND fat kids are harmed by a diet of nutritionally devoid, industrial food. Well, wipe my jaw off the floor. Are we so stuck in this rhetoric that we can’t see how manipulated we are by the food and diet industries? As long as we keep raising our kids with a need to ‘diet’ to be ‘perfect’ the food & diet industry will have a firm foothold in this country. Our yo-yo diets (and soon, our children’s) translate to a better first quarter. Jenny Craig is owned by Nestle, and Weight Watchers is owned by the same multinational conglomerate that owns Keebler Foods. So who is really in denial here?
Acknowledging the emotional harm caused to real people by our words and beliefs is not denial. Acknowledging that the focus on fatness does NOT help anyone get healthier – and that this has been quantified over and over again – is not denial.
To understand, you have to unveil the history behind the use of fatness as a measure of health: BMI was developed as an epidemiological tool. It was not intended to measure individual health. Human adiposity exists on a bell curve – the thinnest folks being on the far left, the very fat folks on the far right and the majority in the ‘bell’ in-between. There will ALWAYS be people ‘at the tails’ that are ultra-thin or ultra-fat but naturally so. Yes, that bell curve is skewed to the right by our industrial food system — but the THIN people that eat industrial food, those on the left of the curve, they are also suffering ill health effects. The skinny kid that lives on cheetos and soda is going to be just as screwed as an adult as the fat kid who does (and even more screwed than the fat kid who eats well). We’re just not focused on him because we can’t SEE the harm being done.
In the meantime, all the screeching about obese kids is doing more harm than good. Fat kids that are made to feel subhuman because of what the scale says don’t get thinner, they get messed up in the head. They’re not reading about obesity prevention in the medical journals, they’re getting stuffed in dumpsters by their peers for being “made wrong”. And well-meaning adults reinforce that message on a daily basis. Fat kids spiral – many of them perfectly healthy to begin with (those naturally on the right end of the curve) – into social isolation, eating disorders, and a cycle of failed diets that sets them up for a LIFETIME of struggle.
We need to re-create the way we talk about sustainable food. Farms and gardens have an ability to reach ALL kids, regardless of size – and create life-long emotional bonds with healthy food straight from the plant. It’s these bonds that create health later in life, not messages of fear, hate, and doom and gloom.
We have a unique opportunity in this field to break the cycle of our nation’s collective eating disorder. I hope we actually come down from our anti-obesity rhetoric long enough to take that opportunity.
Say it with me:
Jenny Craig can kiss my asparagus.
Nobody can be shamed or scared into eating better – over 50 years of research shows it just doesn’t work. Wait, what’s the definition of insanity again? Oh right — doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. By that definition, we are a nation of insane eaters.
If we want the next generation to eat better, we’ve first got to learn how to trust our own inner intuitive eater. Most of have broken ‘food clocks’ — we’ve spent so many years dieting, so many years waiting for outside experts to tell us how to eat, that we have NO CLUE how to read our body’s own cues. We are all emotional eaters. The sooner we accept that, the sooner we can build a healthy emotional framework around food.
If dieting has been a huge part of how you’ve been eating for many years, it can be a real challenge to reclaim the joy and pleasure to be found in eating. You may have put pretty significant emotional resources into divorcing your food and pleasure centers. This is not an easy road, but it starts in a pretty simple place: with your senses.
When you have time to go out alone, head to the best supermarket you know or to a farmer’s market if that’s available to you. Bring no grocery list, and have no plans to do a full-on shop. Head straight to the fresh produce. Plan to spend at least 20 minutes there, engaging your senses. Try your best to forget what you know about fruits and vegetables. Walk down the aisles the way you might wander through a fine art gallery. Take it all in with your eyes. The colors, textures, and variation. Then, pick some things up. Really feel them. Squeeze, turn, and brush your fingertips over the surfaces. And then comes smell. Inhale deeply, like you would a bouquet of fresh flowers. Even if it’s a potato – smell that earthy, damp sweetness!
Really take your time with your senses: your vision, touch, and smell. Using nothing more than your senses – not what you think is healthy, not what you know how to cook – pick three fruits or veggies and take them home.
Theses three veggies represent your first fiber of connection between food & pleasure. Like the knitting of a broken bone, this strong but microscopic bond is the first step to healing. Take them home, and cook them with love. Browse some recipes if you need inspiration, but try not to follow one to the letter. These veggies? They’re for you, and you only. Nobody else in your family has to like them, nobody else has to even try them. It is your body, your mouth, your food, and your pleasure.
Silicon Valley is a shockingly inequitable community with a sad legacy of pollution and shortsighted land use decisions. With more superfunds per acre than anywhere else in the country, the high-tech industry has made this valley home to many of the country’s top one percent of earners. It’s also the same industry that has polluted our lands and waterways.
Daily reminders of both poverty and excess are everywhere—in homes, schools, and gathering spaces. Vulnerable families, who find their kids given the short end of the healthy living stick, suffer incredible health disparities—not surprising when you see the junk food being marketed and sold in schools, the distinctive lack of affordable fresh food, and the unsafe outdoor environments without green space.
READ MORE ON CIVIL EATS…
Today in the San Jose Mercury, Hank Herrera and I make the case for an urban agricultural land trust, moving beyond dot-com to model a new economy in what was once The Valley of Heart’s Delight!
Farms should be the new new thing for Silicon Valley
It’s time for us to start connecting the dots between children’s health, food justice, and the agricultural potential of our urban areas! I’m proud to be helping Hank Herrera at the Sacred Community Land Trust do just that!
*** huge props to @myfoodia for the catchy title!
Did you know that the number of small farms in California is actually increasing? For the last decade, California has gained an average of 680 farms between 1-9 acres, and 160 farms between 10-49 acres each year. Many of these new farms are urban and urban-edge sustainable agriculture like Veggielution in San Jose or Dig Deep Farms in Oakland. At the recent Eco Farm Conference, sessions for new and beginning farmers were packed to the gills, and people like Reggie Knox from California Farmlink were mobbed after sessions with questions, suggestions, and business cards galore. California Farmlink connects new farmers with both land and knowledge by getting them connected retiring farmers’ and their land.
While there were many sessions about how to write a model farm lease, how to make a living farming, and how to build community around urban and rural farms alike, very few of these sessions dealt with the issue of permanence. When I stood up and asked a panel on “Securing Access to Land” about creating land trusts for the purpose of permanently securing urban farmland, the response was — it really hasn’t been done systematically yet, but it should be! And then I was the one mobbed with outstretched hands holding business cards! Aspiring, new, and seasoned farmers across the state all apparently have the same question on their minds: how do we make the phenomenal growth of urban farms and gardens in the past 5 years permanent? How do we protect our livelihoods and this burgeoning new economy?
It’s a very good question, and one I plan to spend the next few years tackling.
At a later session, I came to see that established land trust organizations are starting to think about this very same issue. Traditional land trusts focus on preserving large acres of open space outside urban areas; they are held accountable by the number of acres preserved, not the usage or community value of those acres. It’s about the ‘viewshed’ not the ‘foodshed’.
This is slowly changing. In particular, I was impressed with the Big Sur Land Trust‘s ‘Conservation 2.0′ strategic plan, which outlined their new intention to preserve urban and peri-urban land and to work with community groups and nonprofits to give that land a productive, community-building purpose — be it an ‘incubator program’ for new farmers, a community garden, or a production farm that feeds fresh produce into local schools. This ‘mission based’ approach to preservation of land is the kind of mindset that makes urban farmland preservation a priority. For a community to use preserved land and benefit from it, being close to it helps. A lot.
Here in Silicon Valley, there’s a growing coalition aimed at starting an urban land trust. The idea would be to put land (both “at risk” existing farms, and those ubiquitous vacant and abandoned parcels) into conservation easements — taking developers’ dollars out of the equation, and preserving land for agricultural use. Farming is an occupation on the rise, but land access is on the decline. I just keep thinking about “Field of Dreams”, but instead of baseball uniforms it’s Carhartt overalls: If you save it, they will come.