Satsuma mandarins...the perfect winter snack, gift, everything!

Satsuma mandarins...the perfect winter snack, gift, everything!
peel, eat, repeat

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Closing the food gap and what the hell is a food desert??

There is a growing food gap in the United States just like the one that has been present all over the world for years. Food gaps as well as food “deserts” represent a growing financial gap as well. Food deserts are areas where there is literally no access to fresh food for the folks that live there. Large grocers have deemed these areas not profitable enough to have a chain there and farmers markets usually don’t operate in these areas because it is usually a merchant association or similar group that seeks out a market to come and revitalize a downtown or some other spot where people are trying to make money. If it is a location that would not prove profitable for the farmers it aint gonna happen. Usually transportation is difficult in economically depressed areas and people tend to not have cars. There is a twenty year life span difference between affluent areas and poor areas. So where do the people shop? Corner liquor stores and fast food franchises are where food is purchased daily. There are entire generations and cultures of people eating this way proven by the statistics of heart disease, obesity and diabetes among children as well as their parents and grandparents.

What to do? Simply offering produce stands and farmers market access to the neighborhoods is doomed to failure. Education is key. Teaching people how to cook, eat and enjoy fresh fruits and vegetable is a daunting task. In our school garden programs we have been presenting food tastings for a few years now. We are this year really making some progress with what kids will taste, eat and actually come back for. A lot of what they taste is grown by them in the school gardens. Beets sautéed with their greens in olive oil and garlic, coleslaw with cabbage, carrots, celery, herbs and a light herb vinaigrette, sautéed kale with brown rice pasta are a few of the items sampled. We are finding more and more that given the opportunity to try the food, they now trust us enough to do so. Imagine taking on the task of educating a whole community of all ages, races, colors, cultures with the common factor being little money, poor health and poor eating habits. Education must be followed immediately with some sort of subsidized farm stands, after school programs, in school programs, in home programs and then all must be not only constantly followed up on in the neighborhood but the tastings and education must be ongoing for several years to take hold and actually change eating and buying habits. This is a good place for Michelle Obama to start at with her campaign to eliminate food deserts in 7 years. Understanding the issues is a good place to start as well and her 400 million bucks will certainly make a starting dent. Act locally if you see an area that you can help in. Ask me any questions anytime!

That brings me to my rant about the broken food system in America, a noble rant but altogether too big for this blog.
Michele Simon,, creator of Appetite for Profit, a great site that has all kinds of great radical activist food facts and rants she can educate you about. Looking at it today I found a campaign called Retire Ronald, . Awesome in its hilarious simplicity, the movement is essentially directed at and an offshoot of food marketing to children. Ronald McDonald was the first time anyone ever tried focusing on the kid instead of the parent holding the wallet. It worked and is an industry worth billions of dollars annually. Build loyalty and brand recognition among children and you have a lifelong flow of cash as a direct result of said marketing. Genius, diabolical, and immoral are words that come to mind. She also has a great story about Yale and PepsiCo sealing a deal to finance a new research center about food and nutrition. Wow.

Spring has really sprung and thanks to some prolonged rain we are actually out of the drought. Recent hard rains may delay some of the strawberries coming in season right now but not for long. You can get berries at the markets from Santa Barbara but it is always nice when the more local ones start showing up. You always want the organic ones because of the methyl bromide on conventionally grown berries. Not good for you or your kids. Bought Brentwood asparagus today at the Concord Farmers market. Yum, yum. Look for fresh cut ends for best flavor. Grill, sauté, steam, whatever it is all good.
News on the street is that the Pleasant Hill farmers Market will be located on Crescent Drive downtown in front of the theatres! Yay! More room for more choices, hopefully lot’s more organic and lots of parking in the garage. Good be a perfect storm for finally getting a market that reflects the needs of Pleasant Hill. Market opens May 1st with a grand opening celebration May 8th.
Wildflowers are out in abundance in our hills. A walk up the Falls Trail on Mt. Diablo will reward your efforts tenfold with an amazing show of flora and fauna only seen this time of year. Briones has here show going full tilt right now as will and a walk out Carquinez Scenic this weekend was mind blowing with the flowers as well as the unforgettable views.

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