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Archive for February, 2013

Eating Organic on a Food Stamp Budget

Hannah Wallace is a writer. She is chronicling her Food Stamp challenge on her blog. Take a look

Every year, my partner Don and I give up something for Lent, even though neither of us is particularly religious. Two years ago, it was plastic. (Try grocery shopping without buying anything shrouded in the stuff—it’s not easy.) This year, I floated an unorthodox idea. Why don’t we take the Food Stamp Challenge, only we’ll limit ourselves to organic ingredients?

I’ll admit that I came up with this challenge in part because I’m annoyed by the common perception that organic food is somehow “elitist.” Most recently,this meme was perpetuated by New York Times contributor Roger Cohen. (If you really want to know what I think of his line of thought, see here.)

The notion that only well-heeled Whole Foods shoppers care about organic food is misguided. As I’ve written about food justice organizations and urban farming projects over the past few years, I’ve met plenty of low-income people who go out of their way to find food that hasn’t been doused in pesticides. (What’s really elitist is the assumption that they wouldn’t want healthy food, too.) Many low-income people find ways to afford it—be it growing veggies in a backyard garden, combing through items at the food bank, shopping at Walmart, or using food stamps at farmers’ markets. If you don’t believe me, hear this: SNAP sales at farmers’ markets increased 42% from 2011 to 2012. (In total, SNAP recipients spent $16,598,255 at farmers’ markets in 2012.)

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Hundreds of Clevelanders rely on this community garden for food

That’s not to say that organic food is cheap. In fact, as you probably know, it’s typically more expensive than conventionally grown/raised food—especially when it comes to meat and dairy. (Though that’s changing as demand for organic food increases and economies of scale reduce the cost of production.) So I was really curious: Could my family of three survive on a food stamp budget buying nothing but organic food?

When I moved to Oregon three years ago, I was living alone and making so little as a freelance writer that I qualified for the maximum food stamp allotment: $200 a month. Currently, the maximum allowance for SNAP benefits (the technical term for food stamps) in Oregon for a family of three is $526. That’s $131.50 a week for groceries. That doesn’t sound too bad until you break it down per meal: $6.25 total, or $2 per person. (Though most people who do the SNAP challenge limit themselves to the average food stamp benefit in their state, we chose to limit ourselves to the maximum allotment. I’ll explain why in a later post.)

Don and I are both frugal by nature—and we both know how to cook—but I worry: Does this mean six weeks of organic rice and beans?

Here are our ground rules:

• Because we abhor waste, we’re allowing ourselves to use up whatever was already in our cupboard (or fridge) before this Challenge began—whether it’s organic or not. Fortunately, we typically buy 95% organic food anyway. But this does give us an unfair advantage—we already have olive oil, spices, sour cream, almond butter, and random hunks of cheese. We also have some basic staples like flour, lentils, and rice. That said, we’re doing this Challenge for six weeks, so we’ll need to replace most if not all of these with our lower budget.

• We will always buy USDA certified organic unless the food meets our conditions for “beyond organic.” For example, the raw milk we buy from adairy down in Champoeg is not certified organic because our dairy farmer has only three cows and it wouldn’t be worth it for her to go through the organic certification process. However, we’ve visited the farm on several occasions and know “our” cows graze on organic pasture nine months out of the year, rotating to fresh pasture every 24 hours. (They get organic hay in the winter.)

• Friends and family are welcome to take us out to dinner (or have us over for a meal)—as this might happen in real life—but if they expect us to pay our share at a restaurant, we’ll tell them about our Food Stamp Challenge and invite them over for dinner at our house instead. While this may stretch our budget, it’d still be much cheaper than a night out at a Portland restaurant.

• We don’t have a garden (yet) so we won’t be supplementing our shopping with free veggies. Also, since we’re not actually receiving SNAP benefits, we won’t be eligible for the matching programs at local farmers’ markets that I used three years ago. (Portland’s program, which gives you $7 extra to spend for every $7 of SNAP benefits you spend at the farmers’ market, has been so popular that they’ve had to reduce the matching amount from $10 to $7.)

 

Hopworks-bottles
organic beer will be too expensive for us

Can we do it? The jury is out. Don thinks it’ll be fairly easy since we don’t buy much processed food anyway and we’re mostly vegetarian. But I have a feeling that we’re going to have to sacrifice quite a bit—even considering we have some basic staples and spices already in the pantry. (We can say goodbye to beer, for instance, and we may have to cut back on organic condiments, which are astronomically priced in my opinion.) In the coming weeks, I’ll share our struggles, favorite recipes, and shopping secrets.

Hannah Wallace is a Portland-based journalist who writes about food politics, integrative medicine, and travel. She writes for the New York Times, Portland Monthly, and (until very recently) Whole Living and her articles and book reviews have appeared in Salon, Vogue, O, T:Style, Mother Jones, Travel + Leisure, Monocle, and the Los Angeles Times. She is a contributing writer at CivilEats.com.

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Attention: Urban Agriculture Enthusiasts

Invitation From Nathan McClintock, Assistant Professor, Toulan School of Urban Studies & Planning

Dear Urban Agriculture Enthusiast,

We are very excited to invite you to participate in a Portland State University survey of organizations and businesses across the US and Canada involved in urban agriculture projects.

Urban agriculture is growing rapidly throughout North America, and we are interested to learn about the experiences of the organizations involved, as well as any obstacles they face. Municipalities have begun to craft new policies and regulations related to urban agriculture, and we hope that the information obtained from this study will help guide city planners and policymakers as they develop policies and programs that effectively meet the needs of practitioners.

This survey is intended for organizations and businesses, big or small, formal or informal, that are engaged in urban agriculture on any scale. The survey should take about 20 minutes to complete.  Feel free to email us

Calf High on 7/4.Stupid backyard.

Calf High on 7/4.
Stupid backyard.

(urbanagsurvey@pdx.edu) or call Nathan McClintock at 503-725-4064 if you have any questions about the study.

We appreciate your time and interest.  We’d also be grateful if you could forward this widely to your urban agriculture networks throughout the US and Canada – we know that there are many exciting urban agriculture initiatives that do not have a web presence, and we would like to hear from all the organizations that are doing this great work. Apologies in advance for cross-postings.

Follow this link to the Survey:

Take the Survey

Or copy and paste the URL below into your internet browser:
http://survey.qualtrics.com/WRQualtricsSurveyEngine/?SID=SV_9TOXJEPPQKIUSqx&RID=MLRP_5C08kHoqWQWMu21&_=1

Sincerely,

The PSU Urban Agriculture Survey Team

 

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In, err, On The Bag

News from our Friends & Sponsors at COUNTRY

Artistic designs will be germinating in the minds of Willamette Valley area high school students as COUNTRY Financial and Portland Farmers Market launch their third annual reusable bag design contest. This year’s theme is “Sprouts in the City.”

For the first time, all Willamette Valley area high school students are invited to use their creativity to show what Portland Farmers Market, and this year’s theme, “Sprouts in the City” means to them. Ideas can be inspired from farming, Portland landmarks and little-known facts, images from the farmers market and everything in between.

The student with the winning design will receive a $1,000 scholarship. In addition, his or her artwork will be showcased on thousands of reusable canvas bags distributed to farmers market shoppers throughout the season. The bag contest will supplement initiatives to reduce waste and promote recycling at market locations.

Two runners-up will receive a $500 scholarship and have their designs featured at the unveiling ceremony.

The winning designs will be unveiled during the Arbor Day/Earth Day event at the Portland State University Farmers Market on Saturday, April 20. All three finalists will be invited to attend.

Entries must be submitted to either address below by Wednesday, March 20 at 5 p.m. PDT:

COUNTRY Financial

Farmers Market Competition 

2012 Scholarship Winners

2012 Scholarship Winners

 

2150 Country Dr. South

Salem, OR 97308 

Or:

Portland Farmers Market

Farmers Market Competition

240 N. Broadway St., Suite 129

Portland, OR 97227

For more information, contact your school’s administration or visit www.CountryFarmersMarkets.com.

2012 Winning Bag

2012 Winning Bag

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Last Call For Winter Market

Post by Kelly Merrick

In just a few months I will be sitting in the Newmark Theater listening to my favorite author and food advocate Michael Pollan discuss his latest book Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation and talk about why cooking matters. And I can’t wait.

Ever since I read Pollan’s book An Omnivore’s Dilemma a few years ago, I’ve completely changed my eating habits. Instead of relying on packaged food as meal inspiration, my weekly meals rely on the fresh produce, eggs, cheese and other goods available at the Portland Farmers Market. I plan our meals based on what’s in season and on recommendations made by the vendors themselves, and as a result I have developed a great love for cooking.

Whether you’re an avid from scratch cooker or prefer to heat up prepared foods, the market can meet your needs.

If you prefer takeout:
Try Souper Natural, which offers fresh homemade soup you can bring home. They have gluten free, vegan and vegetarian options.
Visit Gathering Together Farm and grab a jar of their delicious leek marinara sauce.
Choose from one of many varieties of pesto from Pesto Outside the Box (my favorite is the one with pistachios).
Grab a loaf of your favorite bread from Delphina’s Bakery or Fressen Artisan Bakery to dip in your soup, slather with leek marinara sauce or dip in pesto!
Get yourself a sweet treat from Cherry Country or Two Tarts Bakery.

If you prefer to cook from scratch:
Grab a $5 bag of your favorite kind of mushroom from Springwater Farm and make your own stock to add to soups and risottos.
Pick up a dozen eggs from one of many vendors, including Dancing Chicken Farm, Pine Mountain Ranch and Sweet Briar Farms and prepare a breakfast quiche with your choice of cheese from Ancient Heritage Dairy or Rogue Creamery and smoked salmon from Columbia River Smoked Salmon.
Stock up on winter squash from Rick Steffen Farm and make stuffed squash, squash soup or even a pie!
Visit Kiyokawa Family Orchards and ask for their special juice apples to make your own apple juice.

Of course these suggestions only scratch the surface of what’s available at the market this week, so you’ll have to visit the market yourself to see what’s available.

But you better hurry because tomorrow is the last day the winter market will be around in 2012. After this week we’ve got a two week break and then the market moves back to its regular spot on March 16 at Portland State University in the South Park Blocks between SW Hall & SW Montgomery.

Happy cooking!

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In my early days of cooking, Alice Waters’ triad of “fresh, local, & seasonal” was the answer to all my food questions. At the same time, there was an explosion of regional Italian cookery – even though this is certainly a platitude – French cooking is about the cook, Italian foods are about the ingredients, and I learned to love the ingredient. For most of my cooking life, these two forces have influenced my cooking decisions above all else. So I never really had any inclination to add cream (or butter or cheese) to veg – why neuter them with heavy sauces and long cooking times? Al dente or the highway, right?

Except food tends change and the pendulum has swung back to the other side. Ron Swanson, bacon, comfort foods and the centenary of Julia Child have helped usher in a neoclassical era to our kitchens. Take an item like meatballs, considered unserious; possibly pedestrian a decade ago, now they’re cause for some passionate debate and cravings.

Spinach

Fresh


It’s good to keep your perspective fresh, not only in the kitchen but it’s a good idea to periodically revisit thoughts, ideas and ideals every now and then to make sure you aren’t shaking your fist – either literally or figuratively – at what the kids are doing these days. So I did something I’ve never have done before, I creamed spinach.

That stuff, that came in cans when I was a kid, the side cigar smokers order at steak houses after they’ve obliterated their taste buds with a stogie. Creamed spinach isn’t cooking with reverence for the ingredient; it’s what a teevee chef on a competition show would do. But because I had nothing else in the fridge except a bag of spinach that wasn’t going to last through three; possibly four days of salad, I let down my guard and now I know – So easy, so good, so quick. Creamed spinach did everything right except photograph well.

8 oz. Spinach, cleaned and salad-spun.

1/3 cup heavy cream

A healthy amount of salt, some pepper and a little nutmeg

photo

Cooked

2 oz of grated cheese (optional)

Add cream to a pan, place on high heat with spices and seasoning. When cream reaches a boil, take spinach – tear/rip into thirds, add to pan, stir until cream nearly evaporates and spinach is 1/37th of original volume. Remove from heat and stir in cheese. Adjust seasonings and don’t be mortified at the amount of salt your adding – sometimes you just have to have the heavy hand.

Serve.

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128 BEETS per Minute

Post by Debra Meadow of Blue Raven Wellness

Raw Beet and Broccoli Sprout Salad: Spring Cleaning; for Your Insides

Looking out the window just now, you may not see spring in the air, but below the surface – that’s where the action is.  Traditionally, spring means a return to movement and out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new, not just in our homes and gardens, but at the level of our very cells.  That means it’s detox time!

Don’t go running away, thinking I’m going to recommend a juice fast or master cleanse that will leave you starving for a steak.  While those protocols have their places when carefully and safely done, I’m a fan of using real, whole food to do most of the work of getting and staying healthy, and detoxification, or cleansing, as it’s often called, is no exception. It’s no accident that many of the plants soon pushing their way up through the chilly soil and into gardens, farms and markets, are the very foods we need to mop up the cellular sludge we’ve accumulated over the winter.

It’s the liver that does the yeoman’s work of cleaning up after us.  Think of it as a maid for your insides.  This maid doesn’t work for free; she needs to be paid in nutrients, and lots of them.  Fortunately, those specific nutrients will be found in abundance in the garden and on the farm very shortly.

Can't Stop; Won't Stop

Can’t Stop; Won’t Stop

Here’s just a partial list of delightful produce that will help cleanse and protect your liver:

  • Bitter greens, like arugula, sorrel, dandelion, and mustard
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Broccoli sprouts
  • Jerusalem artichoke
  • Kale
  • Cabbage
  • Nettles
  • Purslane
  • Watercress
  • Beets, beets, beets!

Did I mention beets?  Perhaps you’ve read stories of healthy Russian centenarians.  Lots of borscht and pickled beets may have something to do with that.  Beets have loads of liver-loving nutrients, including the betalains, phytonutrients that give beets their rich color.  Beside being a powerful source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, betalains support Phase 2 detoxification, where toxins are paired up with a chemical “escort” to make them water soluble so they may be shown the exit (in urine).

The beneficial nutrients in beets are especially concentrated in the skin and at the juncture of the root and leaves, so don’t trim off these precious parts (the maid loves them!)

Here’s one of my favorite cleansing salads right now.  Not only are the beets so supportive to the liver, so are the broccoli sprouts, lemon juice and mustard.  In addition, it’s a raw salad, so the enzymes remain intact.  It’s a great dish for those who think they don’t care for beets, as raw beets actually taste less “beety” than cooked.  It’s quick to make and inexpensive, so beet it!

Raw Beet and Broccoli Sprout Salad with Lemon Mustard Vinaigrette

1 small beet, unpeeled, and shredded to make about 2 cups

½ cup broccoli sprouts *

Dressing:
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 tablespoons top quality extra virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon mustard

Unrefined sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Place shredded beets and broccoli sprouts in a medium bowl.  In a small bowl combine all dressing ingredients and whisk until well blended.  Pour dressing onto beet mixture and toss well to coat.

Serves 2 to 3

*Broccoli sprouts are available at some natural foods stores.  If you can’t find them, any fresh sprouts will do, like alfalfa or radish, or use microgreens.

Debra Meadow, NTP, is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and GAPS™ Practitioner at Blue Raven Wellness (blueravenwellness.com).  She helps people eat their way to health with real food that satisfies the senses and supports vitality and ideal weight.  Contact her at debra@blueravenwellness.com.

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Market Matchmaking

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What’s not to love?

With all the focus on LOVE this week, it got us thinking about the things we heart.  We heart farmers, for sure.  We heart eating fresh local food in the heart of winter too.  We heart the hardy vendors who bring their harvests and handcrafted foodstuffs to market each week and the equally dedicated shoppers who show up rain or shine to support them.

We also have to admit, some foods–like some people–just seem made for each other.  Here are some market matches that we love:

  • Raymond Kuenzi Walnuts + Packer Orchards Pears
  • Tails & Trotters Bacon + Greenville Farms Eggs
  • Columbia River Smoked Salmon + Persephone Farm Watercress
  • Sudan Farms Lamb + Copper Crown Pesto
  • Alsea Acres Goat Cheese Fromage Blanc + Tastebud Bagels
  • Spring Hill Organic Farm Chicory Mix + Old World Apples
  • Ancient Heritage Adele Cheese + Fressen Bakery Pretzel Bread
  • Jacobs Creamery Hand-Churned Butter + All these butter vehicles
  • Boyco Varietal Honey + Rogue Creamery Blue Cheese
  • Two Tarts Cookies + Your Mouth

Try these combos or make your own market love connections this Saturday, 10-2, at SW Park & Salmon.  Only two more markets left!  PSU opens March 16th.

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