School Snacks: Stay on Track and Pack the Best
By Susan Clair
How can it be that the new school term is starting already? Didn’t we just celebrate the summer solstice and figure out what to do on our summer vacation?
Along with buying school supplies and new clothes, it’s time to consider healthful foods that can be easily packed for snacks and lunches. Transportability is important, but it’s essential to pack nutritious foods that your children like and will eat, so the foods don’t end up in the trash or get traded for highly processed, sugary “food-like products,” as described by Clean Gut author Dr. Alejandro Junger.
Two of my friends are K-6 teachers, and they spend many hours talking with parents about healthful foods that their children can easily bring to school. Many parents get it and their kids come to school with creatively prepared, tasty and nutritious foods. Because others don’t get it, the classroom can sometimes become a difficult environment for learning. The day after Halloween is always the worst, they say, when kids’ backpacks are loaded with sugary treats collected at parties the previous evening. Many of the children have eaten several pieces of Halloween candy by the time they arrive at school. With several ounces of refined sugar or, worse, high-fructose corn syrup coursing through their system, the last thing these children are able to do is focus on classroom activities or even sit still for more than a minute. My friends, the teachers, are constantly amazed at how many parents still do not make the connection between out-of-control behaviors and ingested low-quality products.
When helping people to understand the importance of eating real foods, I offer an analogy of fueling one’s vehicle. We would never consider pouring Kool-Aid into the gas tank of our car and expect it to run properly. So, why would we think we can eat highly processed, sugary food-like items and expect our body to function properly and keep us from getting sick? In other words, why do we take better care of our cars than our bodies and our children’s bodies?
Teaching children to choose foods that are healthful and will build strong bodies that will grow into brain-nourished healthy adults is no simple task. Avoiding sugary, high-sodium, over processed foods is the first place to start. Fresh is always best. Most of us are familiar with the array of available whole fruits and fresh veggies. These foods are “alive” and full of nutrients that the body recognizes and can absorb for energy and structural growth and repair. With a little creativity and a few minutes of prep time, we can provide school snacks and lunches that the children will actually eat and not trade away.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Make a fruit smoothie or green drink, and pour it into a thermos or other nonbreakable container.
- Heat up the previous night’s homemade chunky vegetable soup, pinto beans and brown rice, or quinoa pilaf, and scoop it into a preheated, wide-mouth thermos.
- Spread almond or peanut butter onto celery stalks.
- Fill a baggie with a variety of bite-sized fresh foods: grapes, berries, dates, figs, veggie florets, and a few nuts.
- Fill a whole wheat tortilla or pita pocket with easy-to-make hummus, sprouts, avocados, sliced cucumbers or other veggies.
- Scoop bite-size pieces of melon into a nonbreakable container.
- Slice a prebaked sweet potato, sprinkle cinnamon on the slices, and reheat. Cool overnight in the refrigerator and, in the morning, wrap the slices in wax paper to take to school.
- Dry your own fruit: apples, apricots, pears, peaches, nectarines, bananas, and more.
New Mexico’s arid climate makes drying food easy with a nonelectric, sun-drying food dehydrator, available for about $70 (http://www.herbkits.com/food-pantrie-dehydrator). Or make your own hanging food dryer for just a few dollars (http://www.ehow.com/how_7699049_make-hanging-food-dehydrator.html). Science project, anyone?
Make this school term the best ever; with a little imagination and planning, you and your children can come up with many tasty, nutritious snacks and lunches!
Eating for your Health
For more than four years, I have been helping people learn how to stay healthy through organic, plant-based nutrition. I invite you to join me at the next “Eating for Your Health” workshop on Saturday August 30, at 10:30am at the Highland Senior Activity Center, 131 Monroe NE. Registration is required, seating limited. Suggested donation is $5. For more information call 505-281-9888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Co-op Connection News
La Montañita, in business since 1976, represents several generations of good food, family, and cooperation.
Read about many of the families who have multiple generations working at La Montañita, and so much more.
And, now you can get many of the Co-op Connection articles on our Community blog!
Hands on Organic Integrated Pest Management:
Farm Walks Scheduled for August and September
By Joanie Quinn, NMDA Organic Program
Squash bugs, grasshoppers, flea beetles, aphids, borers, hornworms, codling moths and bagrada bugs will be front and center in a series of Organic Integrated Pest Management Farm Walks presented by New Mexico State University and the New Mexico Department of Agriculture Organic Program this August and September. The Spotted Wing Drosophila—new to New Mexico in 2013, and a very difficult-to-manage pest of soft fruits and berries will also be up for examination.
‘Farmscaping’ and other techniques aimed at increasing the numbers of beneficial organisms will be discussed including the use of ‘insectary’ plants, hedgerows, cover crops, nest boxes or roosting sites, etc., that can attract and support beneficial organisms such as predatory and parasitic insects, spiders, birds, and bats, all of which can help suppress insect pests and/or problem vertebrates such as mice and gophers. Use of pheromones, trap crops and row covers will also be discussed in this holistic, all-farm approach to management of agricultural pests. Monitoring for pests will also be covered.
The farmwalks are hosted by certified organic producers of a variety of crops throughout New Mexico. The walks will provide organic farmers and market gardeners (and those thinking about converting to organic practices) with an informal overview of approaches to pest management in organic systems, and – perhaps more importantly – an opportunity to connect with other growers and share experiences. Each walk will be led by Dr. Tess Grasswitz (Urban/Small Farm IPM Specialist at the New Mexico State University Agriculture Science Center at Los Lunas) and Joanie Quinn (New Mexico Department of Agriculture Organic Advisor).
To insure that everyone is able to participate fully in the discussions, attendance at the walks will be capped at 50 participants. No refreshments will be provided, plan to bring at least one bottle of water. Please wear closed-toe shoes and comfortable clothing. Bring sun protection and a hat. Restroom facilities may not be available in all locations. In consideration of the farm hosts and their pets, and the well-being of your pets, dogs will not be allowed on the walks and will not be allowed to stay in vehicles during walks. This will be strictly enforced. Parking may be in fields off-road. The walks are free, but you must register at least one week in advance by calling (505) 865-7340. The walks are funded by a grant from the USDA/National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Schedule (all walks will take place from 1:00-4:00 pm):
Wednesday, August 20, ARCA Organics, Corrales: Mixed vegetables, berries, cover crops, strip tillage
Wednesday, August 27, NMSU Ag Science Center, Los Lunas: Fruit and mixed vegetables, pollinator plants, field trials of organic pest management techniques, and habitat for beneficials and predators
Wednesday, September 3, Hidden Acres Farm, Hobbs: Mixed vegetables on drip irrigation, wildlife shelter belt
Wednesday, September 24, Farside Farm, Mendanales: 6,000 grape vines, cut flowers, hoop houses, mixed vegetables, constructed wetlands
In late June, the Co-op Distribution Center learned that the Nichols Ranch and Orchard, near La Luz, NM, had extra produce. The fruit was ready to harvest, but Nichols Ranch owners knew they did not have the labor force to pick or the market to sell the entire crop. Rather than let the cherries and apricots spoil, they opened their orchard to volunteers from the USDA Forest Service Albuquerque Service Center and the Lincoln National Forest to glean produce for hunger relief.
La Montañita Coop, Roadrunner Food Bank and volunteers for the Feds Feed Families food drive joined forces to hold the first gleaning event of the summer season, collecting 1,000 pounds of fresh cherries and apricots for Roadrunner to distribute to New Mexico families threatened by food insecurity. Roadrunner Food Bank will distribute it through its network of partners including food pantries, soup kitchens and other meal programs.
Gleaning programs can make a difference by bringing volunteers out to harvest excess fruits and vegetables on local farms, neighborhood gardens and other venues to benefit hunger-relief organizations.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are important elements of a balanced diet for children, adults and seniors. Too often, families at risk for hunger cannot afford to buy produce, and experts say that vulnerable populations are often in poorer health and likely to experience diabetes, obesity and other health issues when they don’t have access to nutritious food.
Michelle Franklin, Director of the Co-op Distribution Center said, “Being able to connect local farmers to organizations supplying important sources of food to hungry people has been a remarkable experience for us. If food products aren’t able to make it to a local market for whatever reason, gleaning programs like this can help hunger-relief organizations make nutritious food available to vulnerable people.”
Jennifer McDowell, USDA Forest Service champion for the Feds Feed Families food drive, said, “Feds Feed Families gives federal employees an opportunity to show their commitment and compassion to their local communities by donating non-perishable food items. By volunteering our time to glean produce from local fields and orchards, we have the added opportunity to redirect fresh food that would otherwise go to waste to the people who need it the most.”
Roadrunner Food Bank distributed more than 10 million pounds of produce last year. Roadrunner Chief Operating Officer Teresa Johansen said, “One of our roles is to provide as much nutritious food as possible. Working with local farmers and volunteers like the folks from the Forest Service gives us a new way to source and obtain healthy fresh foods. Our goal is to maintain a consistent supply of produce through gleaning and other food rescue activities throughout the year.”
Albuquerque Approves Memorial for GMO Labeling
By Eleanor Bravo, Southwest Organizer Food and Water Watch
On May 19, Albuquerque City Council voted unanimously in favor of a city memorial calling for the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods. Albuquerque City Councilman Isaac Benton, District 2, and co-sponsor Diane Gibson, District 7, introduced the memorial in the Albuquerque City Council that supports labeling of genetically modified foods (GMOs) on a statewide and national level.
GMOs are plants altered in a laboratory with foreign genetic material to create novel genetic combinations. They exhibit traits that do not occur in nature. Although health risks associated with eating GMOs are not fully understood, these altered foods have become pervasive within our food system since they first became available in 1996. Companies conduct their own safety testing, and independent research is limited because biotechnology companies prohibit cultivation for research purposes.
Labeling GMOs is not a novel idea. Statewide movements to label GMOs are active throughout the nation, and Vermont recently became the first state to require GMO labeling. National polls consistently show that more than 90% of Americans favor GMO labeling laws. More than 60 other countries— including the entire European Union, China, Japan and Russia— already require GMO labeling.
Albuquerque joins the City of Santa Fe in supporting giving people more transparency about whether or not their food contains GMOs. Since most processed foods contain some derivative of GMO corn, soybeans, canola, or cotton, the city of Albuquerque would support labeling under this memorial.
“Labeling will give us the data we need to draw solid conclusions about GE foods, and it will give consumers the ability to make fully informed decisions about what we are eating and feeding our families,” said memorial sponsor Benton. “Right now, the companies that stand to profit from genetic engineering are making those decisions for us.”
“It’s our right as citizens to know what is in our food,” said memorial co-sponsor Gibson. “In a democracy, corporations should not have special privileges that make it difficult for the average consumer to have transparency in what they consume.”
The impact of genetically engineered foods goes beyond consumer health. It also threatens the livelihood of farmers that grow non-GMO crops since GMO seed and the GMO-related pesticides can contaminate neighboring fields. Consumers should be able to decide for themselves if genetically engineered foods should be fed to their families.
A community wide thanks to Benton and Gibson for their courageous introduction of the Memorial and the City Council for their unanimous approval.
For More Information contact: Eleanor Bravo, email@example.com or call 505-633-7366