Food Agriculture & Nutrition Network of Solano County
If you pay any attention at all to eating advice, you know that getting more fruits and vegetables is a sure way to work on a path to better health. In fact, the USDA recently revised its ideal “plate,” giving more space to produce and less to grains and protein.
But eating the same-old stuff every day can quickly get boring—so there’s another way to get creative with your greens. Backyard plants may not be the stuff that you want to dig out and toss, but dig out and eat. Loads of plants that are probably growing outside, nestled in your other “desirable” plants and amidst the grass, may be edible.
Learning their characteristics and how to use them, as well as how to distinguish them from other poisonous plants, isn’t hard, and this graphic can help.
Learn more here!
Source: Fix.com Blog
By: Allison Williams, Napa State Hospital Dietetic Intern
Research has consistently demonstrated that young children truly thrive in a hands-on learning environment where they are provided with the opportunity to touch, smell, and taste. In turn, these interested students are more motivated and successful. During this critical time of growth, forming a positive experience with fresh and healthy foods is critical primarily because these foods are the foundational building blocks for good nutrition and overall healthy development.
Implementing cooking lessons into the classroom allows children to develop a positive connection to different types of foods including fruits and vegetables. In addition, exposure to different foods and the skills required to purchase and prepare them provides these students the opportunity to develop a multitude of skills which can be carried with them into the future. During each cooking lesson, children are not only being exposed to new nutrition-laden foods, they are developing talents such as reading, following directions, and measuring. Getting involved in cooking can aid in developing fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and concepts of math and science.
In addition to exposure to healthy new foods and skills, these cooking lessons provide an opportunity to educate children on the nutrients found within each of the foods being utilized. During each cooking lesson a child is exposed to basic knowledge on vitamins and minerals that are in each of the individual foods, and how they benefit their bodies. The educational opportunities are endless!
This exposure and developed affinity for healthy food choices will ultimately permeate throughout the entire family unit. From the information obtained during these lessons, children can work together with their parents or guardians in creating a shopping list and participate in grocery shopping; strengthening the child’s autonomy while creating a stronger family bond.
Further, studies have shown that children who are involved with and exposed to the preparation and cooking process are less likely to be picky eaters. The confidence obtained from involvement will likely decrease the obstacles that caused the child to become a picky eater. In turn, the child will be more willing to try unfamiliar foods and improve their nutrition status.
According to the CDC, over the last 30 years, obesity has more than doubled in children, and quadrupled in adolescents. Studies show that low-income communities are less likely to have access to nutritious foods. In order to battle childhood obesity, programs such as NEOP (Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention) provide critical help. NEOP is a program in California working to improve the health of low-income Californians through education regarding healthy foods and physical activity.
Various organizations within Solano County have taken the initiative to tackle childhood obesity. Heathy Cooking with Kids, Inc. is just one of the several programs within NEOP that is promoting healthy living and reducing the prevalence of childhood obesity by providing cooking lessons to children and youth. Through programs such as Healthy Cooking with Kids, Inc., Solano County can continue to empower children and youth to make healthy, nutritious food choices for themselves, and can spread the messages of healthy eating to families and friends. Together we can make small steps to reach further goals in battling childhood obesity.
Childhood Obesity Facts. (2015, August 27). Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/obesity/facts.htm
Children and Weight Coalition of Solano County. (2015). Retrieved from University of California Cooperative Extension: http://cesolano.ucanr.edu/C-W/
Cooking Class Benefits Kids in Many Ways. (2011, November 10). Retrieved from US News : http://health.usnews.com/health-news/diet-fitness/diet/articles/2011/11/10/cooking-class-benefits-kids-in-many-ways
By: Kristina Todini, Fork in the Road
As food prices continue to rise, many Americans are turning to community or urban gardens to supplement food costs. Backyard chicken and bee keeping are becoming more popular, and planting tomatoes or basil on a balcony can provide harvests for years to come. However, the chances of a small family surviving off a garden plot is slim and shopping for local, seasonal, and organic food can take a toll on the pocket book. But what if the answer to food insecurity and rising food prices was growing next to your own backyard garden?
Once part of our ancestor’s daily lives, foraging for plants has become a long forgotten way of life and was replaced with our current dependency on stores and markets. Collecting wild weeds, berries, and nuts was a complement to traditional agriculture, and provided naturally local and seasonal fare in a time when the majority of one’s day was spent on the preparation of food. The invention of food systems and a large-scale agricultural industry has freed up the time we spend on food gathering, but has also caused us to lose of knowledge of wild edible plants.
That is all changing with new movements toward wild food foraging. Across the country, and even the world, people are literally and figuratively returning to their roots. From wild blackberries in Berkeley to fields of dandelion greens in Napa Valley, Californians are looking beyond traditional fare to rummage for ruffage. While amateur pickers are safe plucking wild fruits from low hanging backyard fruit trees, newbies should scrounge with caution. Here are the 5 safest wild foods to forage, according to experts:
Stumbling upon a wild berry patch is like finding oil for foragers. Berries are juicy, flavorful, and packed with vitamin C, and can easily be frozen or made into jam for long time storage. The best time of year to forage for berries is mid-late summer, when they are bursting with sweet flavors. Try looking for berries in sunny areas around the perimeter of fields, lakes, or roads. Try this wild berry picking guide by the USDA.
Yes, those pesky things we usually want out of our gardens can actually be nutritious! Some more traditional plants we think of as healthy greens, such as arugula, were once weeds that have been cultivated into the healthy vegetables we know and love today. Some of the most popular and abundant weeds to forage are dandelions, clovers, and amaranth. Most weeds are bitter in taste, so boiling and seasoning are a must!
Nuts are great sources of protein and healthy fats, and can be very expensive in stores. While California is known for it’s nut industry, there are plenty of places to find wild nuts across the state. Wild walnut and pine trees can be found growing in many forests, and a bevy of acorns can usually be found under any oak tree. While finding wild nuts can be a treat, be sparing with what you take. Many local birds and animals depend on nuts as a main source of sustenance.
Taking a walk through most California neighborhoods will result in passing backyard citrus trees, however fig and small apple trees also grow wild in the state. An average lemon or orange tree can produce up to 100 fruit each harvest, which could provide a small bounty throughout the warm California year, and wild kumquats are known to grow throughout the state. Keep your eyes peeled for local, low hanging fruit in your area. And to keep your fruit bearing neighbors happy, always ask before picking their harvest!
With over 800 miles of coastline, California is a prime spot to scrounge for seaweed. The edible marine plants can be found on most rocky shores during low tide, and can be collected by cutting off leaves and leaving stems. It’s best to consult an expert for preparation and cooking methods, and while edible seaweed grows generously, it’s best to only take what’s needed so as not to disrupt natural ecosystems.
While food foraging is a great way for an urban foodie to expand their palate, there are some foraging ethics to remember when picking. First, always consult an expert before eating something unknown found in the wild. Many of our traditionally farmed plants have lost their natural toxic defenses over time and their wild cousins (like mushrooms and some weeds) may cause gastric distress, or worse. And second, know the laws on food foraging in your area and don’t be greedy. Some wild fields and forests are protected for a reason and overpicking can disturb natural ecosystems. Finally, be open to trying new, and often unheard of, foods. Be conscientious and open, and the earth will provide you with what you need!
Andrews, Avital. (2014) The 5 best foods to forage. The Sierra Club. Retrieved from http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2014-6-november-december/enjoy/5-best-foods-forage#1
Kramer, Jane. (2011). The food at our feet. The New Yorker. Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/11/21/the-food-at-our-feet
The University of California – Berkeley. (2016) Berkeley Open Source Food. Retrieved from forage.berkeley.edu
United States Department of Agriculture. Berry Picking. Retrieved from http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5318876.pdf
Author: Aly Hite, Project Assistant, Healthy Cooking with Kids, Inc.
Gardening is a fast-growing trend in the United States as people are leaning towards a more sustainable lifestyle. There are many reasons gardening is a personal health benefit as well as an environmental benefit. Some people turn to gardening as simply a means of nourishment, while others depend on their gardens to help them unwind from their fast-paced lives.
People across the nation are planting personal gardens in their back yards to offset costs of buying produce from the grocery store. There is also a reduction in a person’s carbon footprint associated with the transportation of produce from the source to the consumer. If it is grown outside a person’s house, there is no transportation needed! It is a gratifying experience to consume fresh produce after laboring in the garden for several weeks or months. Fresh fruits and vegetables generally are more nutrition-rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, compared to more processed alternatives found at a typical grocery store. In an “anit-GMO” and “organic only” political climate, some people find it easier to control such variables by simply growing their own food.
Communities and schools are also rallying to create safe growing spaces for residents and students. There are many types of financial incentives, such as grants, for school districts to promote fully functioning school gardens. If gardens can obtain Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification through the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), produce procured from the garden can be served to students as a part of meals served in the cafeteria (1). This in turn offsets food production costs for the school system. Enriching curriculum through garden activities and demonstrations is an innovative way for teachers to get students focusing on the physical world outside the classroom.
Gardening has also been proven to be an even more effective stress-reliever than other leisure activities, according to the Permaculture Research Institute’s published study from the Netherlands. Increased moods and lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, were reported in participants who gardened for 30 minutes versus a group who read for 30 minutes (2). It is believed that contact with a harmless bacteria found in dirt, Mycobacterium vaccae, increases serotonin production, which is a mood-regulating hormone responsible for happiness (4).
In a society that is so dependent on pharmaceuticals, gardening may actually be a new wave of treatment for depression and bipolar disorders. A study conducted in Norway suggests that a mere six hours of gardening a week for three months may be enough to reduce symptoms of depression, with results lasting for several months following exposure (3).
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), gardening classifies as a moderate-intensity level activity. Gardening for 2.5 hours per week is thought to reduce the risk for obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis, among other illnesses (5). School gardens are especially helpful in keeping youth physically active during an otherwise low-activity school day.
Many helpful resources are available online from federal programs, non-profits, school-based gardening initiatives, and other community collaborations for people are interested in getting started on their own sustainable food source.
The California Food Policy Council Grows, Linking Nearly 500 Organizations
Vallejo, CA – A report released this week by the California Food Policy Council (CAFPC) and Roots of Change reveals the 2015 food and farm policy votes of California’s 120 elected state legislators. The 2015 CAFPC Report on Legislation Related to Food and Farming (also found under the resources tab) illustrates how despite some progress on food and agriculture issues, the Legislature and Governor continue to miss most opportunities to pass bills that will actually have the greatest impact on the people most harmed by the challenges connected to California’s food and farming system. Wages remain low for food and farm workers, healthy fresh produce is more expensive, sugary beverages are overly consumed and the impacts of climate change are least addressed for those most at risk from heat, water shortages and poor water quality.
Created by 17 local food policy councils and 16 key nonprofits or advocates that form the CAFPC’s Food Policy Work Group, this report represents a unified perspective from a large number of constituencies representing the diversity of California: rural and urban, conservative and progressive, affluent and low-income. In order for the state to achieve significant policy reform their must exist a broad and active base of Californians from north to south and east to west, who are determined to push their legislators toward positive change.
Of the 18 priority bills tracked this year by the CAFPC, Governor Jerry Brown signed eight into law (44%). Included in this group were bills that end the subtherapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock (SB 27); improve the composting of organic waste (AB 1045 and AB 876) and create a nutrition incentives grant program (AB 1321) within the Farm to Fork Office of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, although it remains unfunded. SB 27 and AB 1321 are the first bills of their kind passed by a state. The Governor vetoed three of the tracked bills. The remaining bills stalled in committees or on the floor. “We continue to be impressed by the Legislature’s willingness to consider a broad range of food system issues because there are many needing attention. And we are disappointed that the Legislature missed its opportunity to help farmers and ranchers build soil as a means to combat global warming and drought (SB 367 and AB 761) as well as commit state funds for nutrition incentives. It is particularly frustrating that the Assembly Health Committee would not advance AB 1357 to create a revenue source for building local food systems through a fee on sugar sweetened beverages,” said Roots of Change President Michael R. Dimock. “That bill would transform our local food systems to greatly enhance the health of our families, but as the report reveals, the beverage industry and the California Chamber of Commerce funded members to block its advance, protecting corporate profits, but not our kids,” he added.
The biggest influence on California’s food and agriculture politics remains that of large corporations and trade groups. In addition to defeating the sweetened beverage fee, industry again killed Senator Mark Leno’s bill to add a cost of living adjustment to the state minimum wage (SB 3). Industry also stopped SB 32, which would have done more to combat global warming.
Without further support of the legislature to create policy and provide financial support to improve local food systems, food access in California will continue to leave the most vulnerable populations and communities behind.
With this report, the California Food Policy Council completes its third successful year of collaboration on statewide food policy, and celebrates the addition of seven new members. The CAFPC now ties together the vision and goals of 29 food policy councils, 16 national or state policy organizations and 647 community based organizations seeking food system policy change. In addition to tracking legislators’ votes and the Governor’s actions on key bills, the report contains an analysis of the 2015 legislative session and a new section entitled the California Food and Farming Index that presents key facts that set the context and underline the critical need for food system change.
Community event calls attention to healthy food and celebrates national movement toward a greener diet.
Author: Franny Wong
Vallejo, CA – On Saturday 10/24, over one thousand people attended Loma Vista Farm’s Annual Harvest Festival, which also doubled as the debut for Food Day in Solano County. Food Day is nationwide celebration that inspires Americans to change their diets and our food policies. Besides the usual events of the Harvest Festival, special events were focused on making healthy food fun and to encourage Americans toward a greener diet.
The biggest hit was the blender bike with over 300 participants and Congressman Mike Thompson having fun making delicious smoothies with a bike powered blender. Other activities include the Big Apple Crunch with participants biting into an apple at the same time and voting for their favorite apple - Team Red or Team Green. Local growers and the Food Bank provided fresh ingredients for Food Day festivities, including apples for the Apple Crunch and mandarin oranges as prizes. Team Red won by just 2 votes! The Touro Nutrition Club added a special surprise to the event by bringing the Vallejo People’s Garden mobile garden van out and offered samples of fresh caprese fresh from the garden. Overall the info/activities booths were visited by an estimated 500 community member families!
Thank you again Loma Vista Farm for partnering with us on this year's successful Food Day!