Continuing the discussion from last week, the Fifth Annual Farmer Foodshare Challenge begins Monday, September 23 - Saturday, September 28th 2013 at 13 markets across the state. The goal of the challenge is to raise 20,000 fresh meals from markets across the Triangle.
Some great viewpoints were shared from local farmers, organizers, and health professionals regarding the program. Margaret Gifford, the President of Farmer Foodshare had this to say:
"North Carolina farmers are some of the most talented farmers anywhere and the farmers markets provide easy access to nourishing, delicious food..." "Farmer Foodshare is working with farmers markets and community members to build a healthy food system where everybody has access to fresh healthy food and where farmers can make a living growing it. It’s easy to help! Come to your local farmers market to buy food for yourself and give food to support local agencies."
Also important to note is the percentage of the effort that actually goes to those in need. Regarding the Durham Donation Station, Durham Farmer's Market Manager Erin Kauffman brought out that it:
... has done three great things in the Durham Community: It has gotten more fresh food to people that have limited access to fresh, healthy foods. It has helped to support the local farmers who work so hard to grow this food. It has given people an opportunity to donate money to a good cause, every penny of the donations goes directly to purchase fresh food for people with out the access to it. There aren't many places where 100% of a donation goes directly to support the cause.
Kauffman further stated that the benefits reaped by recipients goes beyond just filling bellies. Recipients were thankful to get fresh healthy foods because they were such a change from the pantry food norm so prevalent among donations for those affected by circumstances. Not only that, but for many, these fresh foods were a culinary lesson in the availability of seasonal produce in our area.
As Farmer Foodshare noted, typical canned food items are high in sodium and can provide over 100% of the daily sodium levels recommended by the FDA. Berkeley Wellness online made an interesting point under Putting it Into Perspective, stating that the average American consumes 3400 milligrams of sodium per day. The recommended maximum is 2300 milligrams. Imagine how dangerous it is for those dependent upon a diet of canned foods and pantry items!
Dr. Molly M. Demarco PHD, MPH is the Project Director and Research Fellow of the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at UNC-Chapel Hill. Upon asking about the ill-effects of a diet based on pantry foods versus fresh foods, she had this to say:
The highly processed foods that most traditional food pantries have on offer,... are very high in calories, but not vitamins and other nutrients that are more likely to be found in fresh fruits and vegetables. Diets based on calorie-dense foods are related to obesity because people often do not get enough physical activity to burn those calories. Also, the standard food pantry fare, which lacks a full complement of the food groups can lead to deficiencies in iron and other nutrients we need to be healthy.
In addition, Dr. DeMarco noted that in their research they have found that children of parents who have access to fresh foods from local sources are more likely to consume the recommended number of fruits and vegetables. Also children who know where their food comes from are more likely to actually eat them. (Italics ours.)
The World Health Organization and USDA recommend sufficient intake of fruits and vegetables for good health. Particularly in the US, 5 servings or 2-3 cups per day of fresh vegetables alone are advised, depending on age and other factors.
Anyone frequenting farmer's markets on a regular basis may be impressed at the number of young families, especially pregnant, nursing mothers with infants and toddlers. When asked about the nutritional needs of young families and certain vitamins, nutrients, or minerals, Dr. DeMarco confirmed that certain fresh foods are indeed healthier for the proper development of younger populations as listed below:
Folate, often found in cereals, leafy greens, citrus fruits, beans and peas are essential to prevent neural tube defects and proper brain and spinal cord development. Thus broccoli and leafy greens are necessary items for young families and prenatal care.
Choline is important for brain development of fetuses during pregnancy and is found in farm fresh eggs, fish and meat.
EPA/DHA (essential fatty acids, omega 3's) are important for prenatal health as well, EPA/DHA are found in supplements, fortified foods like Horizon milk and some eggs, and additionally fatty fish (such as salmon and other fish). The Association for Reproductive Health recommends 6-12 ounces (uncooked weight) of a variety of fish per week for healthy development, and to avoid dangerous mercury levels. Specifically in NC, one must be on the lookout for large-mouthed bass, a popular sporting fish that could have high mercury levels for young families.
One may also get non-essential Omega-3 from flaxseed and walnuts.
Dr DeMarco further stated, "Iron is very important for moms. Since the mom's blood volume increases, most iron levels drop. You can also get iron from cereal, beans, and spinach (along with meat and poultry)."(Italics ours.)
Getting fresh, nutritious foods into the hands of those needing it most is no easy endeavor. As farmers Darin Knapp and Jane Saiers can attest to, the cooperation of local agencies is critical to the operation's success. During an interview, Knapp stated:
There are many challenges and Jane and I thrive on overcoming them. Farmer Foodshare and our partnering agency, Friends of the Orange County Department of Social Services have also been incredibly supportive partners in our farming endeavors. Having Friends of the OC DSS handle fresh food and be dedicated to supporting local farms is a key to success.
The farmers at Ramblerill farm in Hillsborough, like many other valued participants in the area, also understand how vital their role is, stating that the need is "now, today, and cannot wait to be addressed tomorrow. Hunger is real, local, inadequately addressed, but FFS knows how to make the necessary connections to address both hunger and to support local farms."
Lastly one wonders whether farms have anything to lose regarding their contributions. Not so according to Bobby Tucker at Okfuskee Farms, who is busily engaged in developing a rural scale agroforestry system. Tucker made the salient point that it was better to donate surplus food that could be used well, than devalue it by selling it at cut-rates.
All-in-all, the Farmer Foodshare Challenge benefits every affected aspect of the community. Please consider donating 5 lbs or ten dollars at your next visit to one of the below markets during the 23-28th market openings!
Visit ANY of these markets and take the Farmer Foodshare Challenge:
Carrboro Farmers' Market (Saturday 8a - noon and Wednesday 3:30p - 6:30p)
Chapel Hill Farmers' Market (Saturday 8a - noon)
Chatham Mills Farmers Market in Pittsboro (Saturday 8a - noon)
Downtown Raleigh Farmers Market (Wednesday 10a- 2p)
Durham Farmers Market (Saturday 8-noon and Wednesday 3:30-6:30p)
Eno River Farmers' Market in Hillsborough (Saturdays 8a - noon)
Fearrington Farmers Market (Tuesdays 4-6p)
Hillsborough Farmers' Market (Saturday 8a - noon)
Person County Farmers Market in Roxboro (Saturday 8a - noon and Wednesday 3p - 6p)
South Durham Farmers Market (Saturdays 8a - noon)
Southern Village Farmers Market (Thursday 3:30p - 6:30p)
Western Wake Farmers Market (Saturdays 8a - noon)
Happy Local Giving!
Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informational only. For specific dietary needs, consult a medical professional.
Farmer Foodshare Press Release 9-10-13
UC Berkeley Wellness Online
USDA Choose My Plate.gov
World Health Organization Fruit and Vegetable Consumption
Association of Reproductive Health Professionals - Fish Consumption to Promote Good Health and Minimize Contaminants
NC Department of Public Health Fish Consumption Advisories
Darin Knapp, Ramblerill Farm
Bobby Tucker, Okfuskee Farm
Erin Kauffman, Durham Farmers Market