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Food Blog: Live Nutrition Updates

It's time to get serious about food waste

Here's my take on food waste. It goes back in part to lessons I've learned from studying World War I, when the American government set food conservation goals (along with goals for local food production via Liberty - later Victory - Gardens). I'm a big proponent of both reducing food waste and producing more food in communities via school, home and community gardens. Big point: the World War I poster included in this post has advice we'd be well served to heed today.

"Food waste is both an ethical and environmental issue. It should concern us that we waste nearly 40 percent of the food we produce and purchase in this food-abundant nation.

For an interesting comparative statistic, consider this: our nation produced nearly 40 percent of the fruits and vegetables we consumed on the American home front during World War II in school, home, community and workplace gardens."

Poster from the collection of the Museum of Ventura County. (Credit: Aysen Tan)
Period piece or photoshopped image?

It's an iconic poster from World War 1. Food...don't waste it. The image is regularly shared on Twitter and Facebook.

The original was produced in 1919 by the United States Food Administration, under the direction of the newly appointed food "czar" - Herbert Hoover.

The poster was reissued during World War II. It's been revised in recent years, by individuals and organizations interested in encouraging an ethos incorporating local foods and sustainability.

While I'm the UC Food Observer, I also dabble in the history of wartime poster art. I'm often asked if this is a contemporary mock-up made to look and feel vintage.

It's not a mock-up. It's the real deal, produced 95 years ago, with messages we should embrace today.

History of poster art

The First World War marked the first large-scale use of propaganda posters by governments. Posters, with easy-to-understand slogans and compelling images, made powerful propaganda tools. The government needed to shape public opinion, recruit soldiers, raise funds and conserve resources and mobilize citizens to important home front activities ... including gardening, food conservation and food preservation. In an era before television and widespread radio and movies, posters were a form of mass media. And they appeared in windows and were posted on walls everywhere, in as many languages as were spoken in this nation of immigrants.

If you want to dig a little deeper, the poster art of WWI was influenced by the La Belle Epoque - the beautiful era - named in retrospect, after the full horror of WWI had been revealed. The Art Nouveau movement in France and the rise of modern advertising were also important in shaping how posters were used during wartime. Technical improvements in printing, including a process called chromolithography, facilitated mass production of posters.

The original poster: Yes: 'buy local foods' is rule 4

The original poster has six rules that we'd be well served to follow today. The fourth rule - buy local foods - is somewhat of a surprise to people today, because the notion of buying local seems somewhat modern. But in WWI, the U.S. government encouraged the local production and consumption of food, in part, to free trains to more effectively ship troops and war materiel.

Tackling food waste through preservation: today's Master Food Preserver Program

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) hosts a UC Master Food Preserver Program. The program teaches best practices on food safety and preservation to volunteers. The extensive training program prepares the volunteers to work in their community educating others on the safe practices of food preservation, including pickling, drying, freezing, canning and fruit preserves.

Thinking about gardening? Do we have resources for you!

UC ANR also has the UC Master Gardener Program, which fields more than 5,000 volunteers in communities across the state. The Master Gardener Program is a national program, housed at the land grant institution in each state, but it's also connected to the USDA. Free gardening resources are available here. Advice to grow by...just ask.

This is an excerpt of an article from a post on the UC Food Observer blog, used with permission.

Posted on Thursday, October 1, 2015 at 11:01 AM

Fostering changes one #healthyselfie at a time

A group of participants in the UC CalFresh Nutrition Education program will graduate next week ready to use the knowledge and skills they have acquired to make healthy choices for themselves and their families. Let's find out what healthy changes they have made:

A collage of the #healthyselfies by Jobs 2000 participants.

“I added whole grains.”

“Put more vegetables in daily diet.”

“Serving more fruits and veggies.”

“Eating more greens and less fatty foods.”

 “Eating more colorful vegetables.”

“Don't leave meat out!”

“Eating more vegetables and fruits.”

“Being more physically active.”

The UC CalFresh Nutrition Education program is a no-cost, evidence-based course focusing on nutrition, physical activity, food safety and resource management offered to low-income youth and adults. Community partnerships are essential for successful, sustainable programming. 

The Fresno-Madera County UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program is currently hosting an Eat Smart, Being Active class series in partnership with a local job training agency. Participants attending Proteus' Jobs 2000 classes are offered nutrition education as part of their ongoing education, job training and job placement services. UC CalFresh maintains an ongoing partnership with Proteus Inc., enabling us to expand our reach and assist low-income families to make informed and educated decisions when it comes to their health.

Nutrition Educator Angelica Perez engages and teaches participants about lean protein choices and the importance of portion size.

The current class has covered topics including:

  • Incorporating a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins into meals and snacks.
  • The importance of physical activity, and the health benefits one derives from maintaining a healthy diet alongside an active lifestyle.
  • Resource management, to encourage participants to stretch food dollars while making the healthiest food choices.
  • The importance of dairy foods and calcium for bone health.

As a nutrition educator, I always encourage participants to make healthy lifestyle changes, regardless of how incrementally it's done. Whether it means walking around the block during lunch or breaks, or adding more fruits and vegetables to everyday meals, no change is too small. Health changes made gradually enable us to maintain them over time.

Below are a few tips I like to provide series participants:

  • Start with a goal that is achievable and time bound.
  • As you achieve your health goals, challenge yourself further. For example, you may be accustomed to drinking whole milk and have effectively transitioned to reduced-fat milk (2%). Don't stop there, challenge yourself and go for low-fat (1%) milk. 
  • Write down your health goal, this will keep you accountable.
  • Your health goal should be fun and enjoyable, involve your family or friends to make it social. For example, create a neighborhood walking club and encourage others in your community to be more active.
  • Celebrate your successes!
  • For more tips, I encourage participants to visit choosemyplate.gov. There are always new resources available to make a healthy lifestyle easier.

Lifestyle changes happen gradually, and Jobs 2000 participants are leading the way toward building healthier families, while encouraging others to do so too. Together we can inspire others to make healthy changes!

I want to encourage you to take a #healthyselfie to inspire others within your community to make healthy lifestyle changes. 

Pictured above is Donald, his #healthyselfie is centered on adding more vegetables into his daily diet.
Pictured above are Ermila (left) and Abigail. Their #healthyselfies is to keep food safe when preparing meals and adding more whole grains.

Use the hashtags #UCCE and #healthyselfie, and follow @UCCalFreshFC and @UCANR to stay connected with our social media platforms, for more healthy tips, and for updates about events and classes in the Central Valley. You can join and stay connected to the work being done in Fresno and Madera counties across many platforms including: FacebookTwitterInstagram,  YouTube, and our Blog.

Pictured above are (clockwise, from upper left) Brenda, Cheyenne and Mercedes who showcase their #healthyselfie with goals for food safety, eating more leafy greens and being more physically active.
Pictured above are (clockwise, from upper left) Brenda, Cheyenne and Mercedes who showcase their #healthyselfie with goals for food safety, eating more leafy greens and being more physically active.

Posted on Tuesday, September 29, 2015 at 7:54 AM

Will edible native plants be a new food trend?

Antonio Sanchez makes his Cleveland Sage Pesto. (Photo: UC Master Gardener Tim Easton)
Will edible natives plants be a new food trend, the ultimate in eating locally? Antonio Sanchez at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont hopes so. Among California native plants are many overlooked food sources, some with gourmet potential, according to Sanchez, production manager at the garden. As an added bonus, edible natives are often low-water users that look great in landscapes. He recently gave UC Master Gardeners in Los Angeles County an overview of edible natives, and had them taste some of his favorites, including his recipe for Cleveland Sage Pesto.

There are six native plants that Sanchez thinks are especially worth checking out.

  1. Miner's lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata). It's easy to grow and found throughout much of California. Its leaves can be used in salad, soup, or pesto. (It can also be a weed in certain situations, according to UC IPM).
  2. Cleveland sage (Salvia clevelandii). A beautiful, drought tolerant ornamental, it can also be used in pesto, beer, ice cream and baked goods.
  3. One-leaf onion (Allium unifolium). All parts of this native onion are edible.
  4. Honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa var. torreyana). Dried pods can be ground to make a gluten-free flour.
  5. Roger's California grape (Vitis ‘Roger's Red'). This plant, which was recently determined to be a hybrid between a native California grape and a cultivated grape, produces small, sweet fruit with seeds that can be eaten fresh, or used for juice or jelly.
  6. Golden currant (Ribes aureum). Fruit can be eaten fresh or made into jelly.

Adventurous cooks, gardeners, foragers, and anyone else who want to learn about edible native plants can attend the upcoming California Native Food Symposium, which will be held on November 14and 15 at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.

Honey Mesquite


The author is Rachel Surls, sustainable food systems advisor for UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension in Los Angeles County.

Posted on Thursday, September 24, 2015 at 2:05 PM
Tags: Food (30), gardens (2), native plants (1)

Celebrate the harvest - visit a farm

All over California, farmers are harvesting the last summer crops, picking apples, crushing grapes, and watching pumpkins ripen. All over California, farmers also welcome the public to enjoy family-friendly harvest festivals, education and entertainment. To help urban and suburban Californians connect with local farms and agricultural events, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) hosts the UC Agritourism Directory.

Here is a sampler of harvest season fun on the farms this month:

Apple Hill Growers' Association - El Dorado County

About 50 years ago, when a pear blight destroyed the pear crop in the El Dorado County foothill region near the small town of Camino, UC Cooperative Extension pomology specialist and farm advisor Ed Delfino worked with local growers to save their ranches. They began to plant apples, formed the Apple Hill Growers' Association and started inviting their neighbors from the valley to visit the farms for fresh apples and fun. Since the time of the group's first apple press and press picnic in 1964, the original ranch marketing association has blossomed into a very successful ranch marketing endeavor.

Today, Apple Hill includes over 55 ranchers, including Christmas tree growers, wineries, vineyards and a spa. For 50 years, Sacramento region families, along with those from the east side of the Sierras, have made a tradition of driving up Highway 50 to enjoy picking apples, drinking wine, arts and crafts, pies, jams, jellies, music, and other activities. Visitors will find their day filled with old-fashioned fun. 

The ranches are now open, with U-Pick orchards, entertainment, crafts, food and events at multiple locations.  Learn more at www.applehill.com/.

For current information, download the free official Apple Hill™ app available through itunes or in the Google Play Store.

Oak Glen Apple Growers Association - San Bernardino County

Oak Glen is where the Apple Hill growers visited to learn how to share their apple harvest with the public, back in 1964. One of the most scenic spots in Southern California, Oak Glen is nestled in the heart of Apple Country, where it is cooler in the summer and winter offers snow. An hour or so from Los Angeles or Palm Springs, the 30 members of the Oak Glen Apple Growers Association offer a pleasant day trip or weekend away from town.

Visit orchards, pick fresh apples and drink fresh-pressed cider, and enjoy hot apple pie and other fresh baked apple treats at one of the family restaurants. Other attractions include an animal park, the Wildlands Conservancy, horse drawn wagon rides, the historical Oak Glen School House Museum and many activities offered by the different farms.

For apple picking and other fun: www.oakglen.net/

Grape Stomping, food, drink and fun in the Capay Valley, Yolo County - September 19, 2015

The 5th Annual Capay Crush will take place on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the beautiful Capay Valley, with a full slate of activities for all ages, including live music from Hot City Jazz and Dirty Cello, wine tasting, local food and grape stomping. Attendees are invited to camp overnight in the farm orchards. Event proceeds benefit the Kathleen Barsotti Non-Profit for Sustainable Agriculture (KBNP).

Guests can step into a vat of grapes and stomp until their feet are purple. Visitors can also ride the farm's tractor tram, enjoy free honey and olive oil tastings, take part in grape-themed activities and crafts, visit the petting zoo, and take a self-guided walking tour of Capay Organic. 

Tickets are on sale now through Sept. 17, for $15 per person (children ages 12 and under are free) or 4 tickets for $50. After Sept. 17, tickets will be sold at the farm for $20 per person. Guests can also camp overnight at the farm in the orchards. Campsites can be reserved in advance for $35 each at www.capaycrush2015.eventbrite.com by Sept. 17 (admission not included). 

To purchase tickets, go to: www.capaycrush2015.eventbrite.com. Call 1-800-796-6009 with any questions.

Work Day & Barn Dance at Pie Ranch by the coast - Pescadero, September 19, 2015

Pie Ranch is a small working farm by coastal Highway 1 that cultivates a healthy and just food system, from seed to table. Celebrate the spirit of community at this monthly ritual of touring or working together on the ranch, sharing locally grown food, and then spinning, laughing and dosey-doing together into the night. 

RSVP for the work day and/or barn dance by emailing simone@pieranch.org.  Private groups of more than 10 are encouraged to schedule a separate tour/program with the farm as they are attempting to keep the dance open and accessible to the greater community. 

The work day begins at 2 p.m. Park past the roadside barn and check in at the roadside barn. The tour begins at 4 p.m. Entry is $10 to 20 per person, charged on a sliding scale. Pay at the Roadside Barn. A potluck dinner begins at 6 p.m. The event is alcohol free. The barn dance is from 7 to 10 p.m. Entry is $12 to 20 (sliding scale).
Children under 12 are free. More information on the work day and barn dance here. 

News flash from Pie Ranch: "We planted the tomato plants in the spring and now we are up to our ears in tomatoes! While the summer bounty lasts, we will be holding our Cherry Tomato U-Pick everyday! Between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., you are welcome to stop by the ranch and pick cherry tomatoes right off the vine!

Weekend Along the Farm Trails - Sonoma County - September 26 & 27, 2015

On Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 26 and 27, 2015, Sonoma County farmers will open their gates and barn doors to offer a behind-the-scenes peek at life on the farm.

Most of the stops are free.

All you need is transportation, a map of your route, a cooler to keep your purchases fresh, and a sense of adventure!  Register now for your chance to

~ Explore Sonoma County's vibrant agricultural community.
~ Experience life on the farm behind the barnyard gates.
~ Meet your farmers, vintners & artisan producers.
~ Enjoy tastes, tours, & demonstrations fresh from the source.

Please note that some farms are only open one day. Feel free to contact the organizers with questions: farmtrails@farmtrails.org.

Please let the organizers know how many people will be in your car by selecting the corresponding number of tickets.  Register now 

Bloomingcamp Ranch Harvest Festival - Oakdale - September 26 & 27, 2015

Admission is free for this small farm festival near Modesto. Bring the family for live entertainment, chef demos, hayrides, games, kids art patch, pie eating contest, petting zoo, local arts and crafts and a car show. It all happens at Bloomingcamp Ranch, 10528 Highway 120, in Oakdale. For more information: www.bloomingcampranch.com or (209) 847-7437

Farm and Ranch Tour in the Sierra foothills - Mariposa County - September 26, 2015

The Mariposa AgriNature Association invites you to enjoy the bounty of their beautiful foothills. Experience the diversity of California's Sierra Foothills near Yosemite National Park.

The 2015 farm and ranch tour features four farm and ranch locations, along with a special display of the UC Master Gardeners near downtown along the Creek Parkway. Each location will showcase their unique agricultural operations, and vendors and artists will be set up as well.

Tickets are $10 per person, or $25 for a whole car. Kids under 12 are free when accompanying a paying adult. Tickets may be purchased at any tour location and are good for all locations. website/more info

Hoes Down Harvest Festival - Capay Valley, Yolo County - October 3 & 4, 2015

Join 5,000 festival attendees and 200 volunteers on the 300-acre organic Full Belly Farm for a full day, or a weekend, of fun, music, activities and education for all ages.

On Saturday, enjoy live music, circus performances, kids arts and crafts, a kids hay fort, contra dancing, agricultural workshops, farm tours, good food, a crafts fair and farmers' market, and more music. The silent auction features a range of affordable treats.

Camping is available on Saturday night in the walnut orchard, with breakfast and longer workshops and activities offered on Sunday.

All of the proceeds from the Hoes Down Harvest Celebration go to non-profit organizations that support sustainable agriculture and rural living.

Admission Prices:
Adults: $20 when purchased online – $25 at the gate.
Children (2-12): $5
Under 2: Free
Saturday Night Camping: $25 per car – No reservations needed.
website, tickets, more info

For more info about these events and more California farms and ranches to visit, see www.calagtour.org

Author: Penny Leff

Posted on Friday, September 11, 2015 at 9:20 AM

Farm to fingers: Schools provide fresh fruits and vegetables for children’s meals

Congress considers reauthorization of the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act of 2010.

If fresh fruits and vegetables are made available, children will choose to eat them.
Several grade school students set down their forks to eat their green salad, picking up individual lettuce leaves with their fingers and pushing them into their mouths. Not that I was there to judge for style, it was just an observation as I looked around the cafeteria festooned in colorful hand-cut paper banners to see how many of the kids had taken a salad.

The youngsters are required to take at least a half-cup serving of fresh fruits or vegetables as part of a healthful meal to meet national nutrition standards, but I noticed they were voluntarily eating the fresh leafy greens and orange slices.

The children had selected the food themselves from a new serving line, which was made possible by a grant from the USDA aimed at encouraging children to eat healthier school lunches. U.S. Department of Agriculture has been providing a new round of grants since 2013 to upgrade kitchen and cafeteria equipment. Ygnacio Valley Elementary School is in Mount Diablo Unified School District, which received a USDA grant.

About one-third of children in California are overweight or obese, which is associated with serious health risks.

According to The Pew Charitable Trusts, 93 percent of school districts in California, and 88 percent nationwide, need at least one piece of equipment to better serve students nutritious foods.

Students serve themselves in Ygnacio Valley Elementary School's new serving line. When the children select their own food, less food gets thrown away.
With Pew funding, the Nutrition Policy Institute in the University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources is conducting case studies of selected California schools, including Ygnacio Valley Elementary School, to evaluate the effects of the USDA grants program.

Kenneth Hecht, director of policy for the Nutrition Policy Institute organized the Sept. 3 visit to the Mount Diablo Unified School District for Congressman Mark DeSaulnier and USDA executives to see the improvements.

A student's lunch tray. Photo by Deanna Davis.
The school district serves about 20,000 meals each day, nearly half of which (46.2 percent) are free or reduced price for children from low-income families. By replacing a refrigerator bought in 1973 with a new walk-in refrigerator, the central kitchen is able to store and serve twice as much fresh produce while saving energy and energy costs, said Anna Fisher, director of Food and Nutrition Services for Mount Diablo Unified.

The new serving line allows for food to be displayed so the children can select their own food, whereas before, each tray was filled by a server and handed to the students.

“We've seen that when the children select their own food, less food gets thrown away,” said Fisher.

“The examples we are seeing at Mount Diablo Unified School District are perfect illustrations of what these USDA grants can do, from the procurement of food to serving healthy meals to children,” said Hecht.

Ken Hecht, left, Mark DeSaulnier, center, and Jesus Mendoza, USDA Western Region administrator, check out the new walk-in refrigerator.
“At the central kitchen, the modern walk-in refrigerator holds the large quantities of fresh produce the district needs to cook on-site fresh, healthy meals and to keep the salad bars fully stocked,” he said. “The new serving line at the elementary school means the kids can move quickly through the line, pick up fresh food at just the right temperature, and have maximal time at the table to eat.”

Congressman DeSaulnier, who ate lunch with the students, is sponsoring the School Food Modernization Act (HR 3316) to continue and strengthen the USDA grants program.

Another piece of federal legislation aimed at improving child nutrition is the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which includes farm to school support and expires on Sept. 30, 2015.

“This fall is a pivotal time for the future of Farm to School programs across the country,” said Gail Feenstra, deputy director of the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP) in the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

RUSD's Chef Ryan shows visitors his summer salad made fresh from local produce.
On Sept. 2, SAREP and the Urban Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College hosted a tour of farm-to-school sites in the Riverside Unified School District where Los Angeles-area participants were able to meet with farmers, school chefs, food service directors, advocates, researchers and elementary students and to witness firsthand the benefits and challenges of providing farm-fresh fruits and vegetables to Southern California schoolchildren.

Riverside schools have transitioned from heating prepackaged meals to buying local produce and preparing fresh food on-site.

According to Kirsten Roloson, director of Nutrition Services, and Adleit Asi, operations manager, Riverside Unified now buys $400,000 worth of produce from local farmers. One farmer, Bob Knight, who supplies oranges and other produce to Riverside Unified, said he's making five to seven times more money selling to schools than he did before. 

“Farm-to-school programs increase access to fresh, healthy produce among school children while also supporting local farms,” said Feenstra. In California, she noted that 2,626 schools participate in farm-to-school programs, serving 1.8 million students and buying more than $51 million in produce from local California farmers.

Feenstra will be leading a similar farm-to-school tour for policymakers in Sacramento on Sept. 29.

Riverside Unified School District's produce is purchased fresh and whole from local farms and prepared in-house.
Mount Diablo Unified School District is also a recipient of a USDA Farm to School Planning Grant.  “We will be hosting Life Lab to spend a day training teachers at Sequoia Elementary School on Sept. 21,” Fisher said. “We hope to get an implementation grant.”

"With new equipment and fresh produce, schools can prepare healthy and more appealing school meals that may be the most nutritious meal a child receives that day," Hecht said.

Whether children eat with forks or fingers, the nutritional quality of the food they eat can affect their lives, long term.

The University of California Global Food Initiative aims to put the world on a path to sustainably and nutritiously feed itself. By building on existing efforts and creating new collaborations among UC's 10 campuses, affiliated national laboratories and the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the initiative will develop and export solutions for food security, health and sustainability throughout California, the United States and the world.

Posted on Tuesday, September 8, 2015 at 12:11 PM

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