Think Global, Act Local

Where and how we source our foods is a major factor in our overall health. Remember the story from two weeks ago where we examined what the food we eat has eaten?
Current society’s plethora of falsely cheap, hollow calorie foods has fueled the epidemics of obesity, heart disease, hypertension, and other dietary-related chronic illnesses that are bankrupting the medical system and causing misery for people and their families nationwide. 87% of current medical expenses are associated with chronic diseases—issues that can be lessened, relieved, or even cured with dietary change.
But there are many barriers to this essential change. Some of these are social pressures from family and friends that make it easier to stay with our current dietary patterns than create a new normal, even if we know that the change is beneficial. Some of the barriers are related to access, where a culture of convenience stores as a primary food source narrows choices to highly-processed, low-nutrient items that feed our pre-wiring to find pleasure in salt, fat, and sugar.
Some of the barriers are in skillsets. We’ve accepted WIC and Senior Farmer Market Nutrition Program vouchers at farmer’s markets for over a decade, and it is not uncommon to find clients shy about purchasing vegetables because they honestly have no experience preparing them. Even simple vegetables like green beans can seem overwhelming when a young mother has no idea what to do with them if they’re not already in a frozen package. And in our hurry-hurry culture, the thought of having to prepare something beyond sticking it in the microwave can sound like a barrier in itself. We have come to believe the story that we don’t have time to eat healthy, or that we don’t have the money to do it.
For most of us, the money issue is a widespread myth, which I’ll tackle in another article. But for some of us, the combination of financial constraint, lack of food preparation skills, and inexperience with selecting or purchasing fresh produce right from the farmer can be a personal, social, and environmental deterrent to change.
What if there was a way to overcome these hurdles? What if there was a way to offer a supportive, positive experience that could create first steps towards making healthful dietary change? Even though this is a national (even global) issue, what can we do right here in our own community to make a difference?
This was all part of the questions we asked ourselves when developing the vision between partnering with NorthLakes Community Clinic to host a twice-monthly farmer market at the waiting room in the Hayward clinic on 1st and 3rd Thursdays. That market presence, which runs all year, is now in its 4th season.
As the relationship grew, we became farm providers for their Farm-to-Patient program, which provides CSA shares to patients with financial need who also would benefit from positive dietary change and access to fresh and wholesome foods. A staff member provides recipes and advice for preparing foods patients might find unfamiliar, as well as answers questions about storage and creative pairings.
The original program grant included funds to print vouchers so that patients who were not in the CSA program could “spend” them at the farmer market. This offered a way to touch more community members and create a supportive ice-breaker for interacting with a farmer market experience. Targeted for fresh fruits, veggies, eggs, and meats, vouchers allowed clients to take home something delicious to try that was also nourishing and wholesome.
When the original grant ran out, NorthLakes refunded the CSA program internally, but the voucher element ended. For a season, we noticed how this impacted the rate of patient participation in the market atmosphere. Even though the product had been brought into easy access, patients found it hard to take the next step. That icebreaker was essential to making the connection happen.
So last winter, we held a series of community dinners at Farmstead Creamery & Café to raise funds to re-instate the voucher program—ultimately printing 100 vouchers, all of which were utilized by the end of 2018. For this year, we’re targeting a series of upcoming breakfasts at the farm, with the hope of being able to touch even more families in need for 2019. With SNAP credits on the line with the current government crisis, it seems even more poignant this year, so here’s the scoop:
Share the Bounty Breakfasts at Farmstead Creamery
Join us on Sundays, February through April, 9 am to 3 pm for Chef Kara’s signature sweet or savory Bismarks, featuring ingredients from the farm. We will also be offering Open Mic time, so you can bring something to share with the community! Breakfast is $18.50
All profits from this event will be donated to NorthLakes Community Clinic’s Farm-to-Patient program in Hayward. This will fund the 2019 voucher program for patients with medical need to access healthy, whole foods. Last year the effort impacted 100 patients, so help us reach a new goal of 200 families! Can’t make it to breakfast but want to help? You can donate directly.So even though the global issue of access to healthy, nutritious, and wholesome foods may seem daunting, let’s focus on what we can do right now, right here in our own community. Join us for breakfast on Sundays in the next three months, and we’ll share that bounty right back. See you down on the farm sometime.