Category Archives: Cape & Islands

National Farmer’s Market Week in Massachusetts

Image courtesy of http://www.menupix.com

The 15th Annual National Farmers Market week is in full swing! This week celebrates local farmers and the markets where they supply fresh food for the community.  Farmers markets are crucial to supporting local, small and mid-sized farmers. It’s important to recognize that they also provide a number of benefits for our health, our community, and our economy.

According to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick,

“Farmers markets are essential to the vitality of Massachusetts farms and are part of the cultural tradition of the Commonwealth; [they] create a festive open air setting which enhances community spirit and civic pride by offering a natural place for community gathering, [and] help heighten public awareness of the agricultural diversity of Massachusetts and the benefits of buying local and preserving open space” (www.mass.gov).

Here’s 10 great reasons to shop at your local farmers market this week, and throughout the year:

  1. Fresh food for you and your family: The produce at farmers markets is as fresh as it gets and that means you’re getting food that tastes better and is more nutrient-rich than food that has traveled hundreds of miles to a grocery store.
  2. Engage with your community: Farmers markets are perfect for meeting others in the neighborhood as well as your local farmers. Shopping at farmers markets is a communal experience, where you create a connection to your neighbors and your environment.
  3. Support local farmers directly: When you buy from farmers, the middleman disappears and they get full retail price for their products.
  4. Help conserve energy: When you buy local food, the environment benefits too. On average, our produce travels 1,500 miles (by air or vehicle) to the grocery store. When you buy local produce, the amount of petroleum used is significantly less.
  5. Create less waste: Buying produce directly from a farmers market, you don’t have to deal with any packaging. You won’t pay for the package, or have to dispose of any.
  6. Ensure a future for local food: In buying food at farmers markets, you keep those farms in your community and ensure that future generations will have access to fresh, nourishing, local food.

There’s no better way to celebrate Farmer’s Market week than to head to one of Massachusetts’ 306 farmers markets! Over 110 farmers markets in Massachusetts participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (accepting food stamps/EBT). To find a farmers market near you, visit MassFarmersMarkets.org.

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This blog grew thanks to many.

Neponset_Health_Centers_Apple-Crunch

Neponset Health Centers Apple Crunch with apples donated by Boston Area Gleaners, Inc.

Our blog started in 2012 to create a virtual town common where individuals and groups supporting Food Day can showcase their efforts.  The variety of content, creativity in expression, and colorful images show commitment across the Commonwealth that inspires.

The most popular blog posts of 2013.

How did they find us?

The top referring sites in 2013 were:

  1. facebook.com
  2. twitter.com
  3. boston.com
  4. learningcirclepreschool.org
  5. mass.gov

Special thanks to Sarah Cadorette, the Food Day Organizer who managed our Social Media efforts in 2013.

Opportunities for Food Advocates in Health Care Initiatives

By Jean Terranova and David Waters

One week from tomorrow, the SNAP/Food Stamp benefit stimulus created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will end. This means that all SNAP recipients will see a reduction in their already meager benefits beginning November 1. With the proposed drastic cuts to SNAP looming in the erratic Farm Bill negotiations, anti-hunger advocates must explore alternative sources of funding to supplement the food resources of people in need.

Black Bean Sweet Potato Soup

Black Bean Sweet Potato Soup

As the Affordable Care Act survived the showdown that brought the Government to its knees and states like Massachusetts are pioneering new models to improve health outcomes while decreasing health care spending, we believe the time is right for anti-hunger advocates to press for the inclusion of sustainable, healthy, affordable foods in the health care system. Studies show that food can be a low-cost means to keep people in their homes and communities, avoiding the need for exorbitant spending on emergency room visits, hospital stays, and nursing home admissions. A recent study estimated that if all states had increased by a mere one percent the number of adults age sixty-five or older who received home-delivered meals in 2009 under Title III of the Older Americans Act, annual savings to states’ Medicaid programs could have exceeded $109 million due to decreased spending on nursing home care. We believe this number would increase exponentially and have a major impact on our food system if these meals were to include high quality locally sourced fruits, vegetables, and other ingredients.

Stuffed Zucchini

Stuffed Zucchini

Here are three ways that you can join us and learn more about our campaign to advocate for the inclusion of food as prevention, treatment, and “medicine” for individuals with chronic disease and critical illnesses in health care reform initiatives:

Join the symposium we are co-hosting with Harvard’s Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation, the Food Law Policy Clinic, and the Food Law Society on October 30;

Attend our session on “Food is medicine and prevention” at the American Public Health Association on November 5;

Contact us if you are interested in joining our Advocacy Committee.

David B. Waters, CEO, Community Servings

Jean Terranova, Director of Food and Health Policy, Community Servings

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Encouraging Kids to Play with their Food!

Hannaford Supermarkets are celebrating Food Day 2013 in over 20 stores across Massachusetts, and they’re inviting you and your kids to play with your food!

HFPPressRelease2013bLowell

FOODPLAY, a national award-winning nutrition theater show, is bringing its cast of colorful characters, amazing feats of juggling, hip-hop music, and audience participation to turn kids on to healthy eating and active lifestyles to the Lowell and Hudson Hannaford locations. 

FOODPLAY makes good eating great fun, but its messages are serious. In the last 25 years, childhood obesity rates have doubled among elementary school children and tripled among teenagers. One in three children is overweight, and less than two percent of the nation’s youth are meeting their daily nutritional requirements. Kids on average are drinking more than 600 cans of soda and consuming more than 150 pounds of sugars a year, missing out on recommended levels of fruits, vegetables and whole grains needed for optimal health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over one-third of the nation’s youth will develop diabetes if current eating and exercise habits don’t improve.

Locations in Leominster, North Brookfield, Lunenberg, Orange and Townsend will be holding an Apple Crunch, in which associates will visit local schools with apples for students to sample and discuss the benefits of a well-balanced diet. In-store displays will invite shoppers to taste test and compare apple varieties.

Food Day is a reminder to eat well all year-round, and we hope you join Hannaford Supermarkets in doing so!

Gleaning and Our Local Food System

By Erin Feeney

According to farmfresh.org, Eastern Massachusetts has over 1,200 fruit and vegetable farms. This profusion of locally available produce is enjoyed by great numbers of Bay Staters. While the local food movement is increasing in popularity in Massachusetts and around the nation, much of the food being produced is lost to waste. On average, up to 40 percent of agricultural production is wasted from ‘farm to fork to landfill’ due to modern farming practices as well as losses, particularly of perishable product, all along the supply chain.

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Boston Area Gleaners’ (BAG) mission is to remedy part of this waste by harvesting and delivering gleaned produce to food pantries, shelters, and soup kitchens. Gleaning is a biblical term referring to the law of those times that required farmers to let peasants onto their farms after the harvest to “glean” whatever produce was left in the fields. Produce is left in the fields for various reasons. Sometimes crops are planted as a bumper in case others fail. If these crops are not needed, the farmer will usually plow it under. Other factors include the imperfection of harvest machinery, impending weather, highly successful seed propagation, closing markets, or slight damage caused by frost or pests, making it therefore difficult to sell.

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All produce gleaned by BAG volunteers is donated to food agencies. Farmers receive no financial benefit; most decide to call in the Gleaners because of their own moral compass. However, because of the cost of labor, even if farmers wish to donate their surplus, they cannot afford to harvest it if it will not be sold. This is the gap that BAG’s volunteers fill with their labor. Volunteers experience the beauty of local farms and learn about the realities of farming, an excellent opportunity for the reintroduction of lost farming and food knowledge. By providing gleaning services to local farmers, BAG aids farmers in improving food in the Boston area. BAG has gleaned over 250K pounds since the project began in 2004 and we can do so much more with your help!

If you want to get out to some area farms to glean with BAG, please e-mail: volunteer@bostonareagleaners.org.  You can also see some great pictures from recent gleaning trips on our Facebook page.

And don’t forget to visit our website at http://www.bostonareagleaners.org!

A Day, a Week, and a Month of Eating Local!

Harvest Week banner.inddOctober is a month for great eating and celebrating local food!  Here in Massachusetts the harvest is at its autumn peak with colorful vegetables and orchard fruits plentiful at markets and on our tables.  Not only is Food Day a major October highlight, but the Massachusetts Farm to School Project also coordinates Harvest for Students Week.  Now in its 7th year, this year’s Harvest Week is planned for September 30 – October 4.  It’s a whole week to showcase local foods in our schools and this year it kicks off October’s National Farm to School MonthA whole month to celebrate eating local?  You bet!

In fact, Mass. Farm to School Project works all year to support our farmers by facilitating sustainable purchasing relationships with institutional food services, ensuring that what they grow finds its way to reliable markets. K-12 schools and colleges are a big piece of that picture.  When local food is served in school meals and snacks, our farms remain viable and our children have access to fresh, healthy, locally grown fruits, vegetables, proteins, grains, and dairy every day.

It’s exciting to celebrate with our colleagues and partners in the regional food system.  There’s a lot to be proud of.  Did you know that in our last survey of school districts across Massachusetts 231 of our 395 public school districts (not including charters) self-reported that they preferentially purchased local foods?  In addition, more than 89 colleges and private schools did too.  Whether they are purchasing directly from a farmer, or through a local distributor, they are supporting the agriculture of our state and ensuring that many thousands of students have nutritious, tasty school meals, regardless of their family income or access to fresh, local food outside of school.

F2S4Mass. Harvest for Students Week is an opportunity for school food service staff to highlight their efforts to serve local foods with a special event or activity in the cafeteria.  Often schools create an all-local lunch, or feature special menu items while area farmers and local legislators are invited to eat with students in the cafeteria.  Some schools plan events with the school garden and classrooms too.  These have included garden parties, field trips to local farms and farmers markets, and fruit and vegetable art projects.  Our website is a great source of activity ideas, recipes, and resource materials for Harvest Week.  We invite you to share your plans for Harvest Week celebrations in your school!

Whether you choose to celebrate the bounty of locally grown foods for one day, one week, one month, or a whole year, it’s a good thing.  Together we are making a difference and supporting the next generation of healthy farms and healthy students.

Worcester KI - City View to CHP

Success Starts with School Breakfast

Food Day is a great opportunity to celebrate the most important meal of the day: Breakfast! This is especially important to remember during the back to school season. A recent report by GENYOUth Foundation called The Wellness Impact, showed more evidence than ever supporting the connection between nutrition, physical activity and academic achievement.

Students from The Mather School in Boston fuel up with a nutrient-rich breakfast at school.

Students from The Mather School in Boston fuel up with a nutrient-rich breakfast at school.

But the reality is that many Massachusetts children don’t eat breakfast and this puts them at a huge disadvantage. In fact, our state ranks a dismal 42nd in the nation when you compare the number of students who eat school breakfast to those who eat free or reduced priced lunch.

There are many reasons that school breakfast is poorly attended- some kids would rather socialize than go to the cafeteria, others are on buses that arrive late, and in some communities, school breakfast may not even be offered. But, the good news is that there are strategies and programs out there to help make school breakfast more accessible and better utilized.

The Massachusetts School Breakfast Challenge is one of those programs. We’re asking school districts in MA to increase participation in School Breakfast by 35% by December of 2014. New England dairy farmers are proud supporters of this initiative and to date have contributed more than $120,000 in grants to help cover start-up costs associated with breakfast, such as equipment.

This year, the USDA’s revised nutrition standards for school breakfast programs go into effect. The new standards require school breakfast to be rich in fruits, whole-grains, low-fat dairy and even vegetables- so parents can feel good about sending their children to school breakfast, knowing they will be getting a nutritious meal.

School Breakfast

School Breakfast

In order for time in the classroom to be well-spent and productive, children need to be focused: hungry kids can’t learn. Celebrate Food Day 2013 in your school by fueling up with a healthy morning meal. For ideas on how to promote school breakfast, visit www.NewEnglandDairyCouncil.org.