Pedal Co-op: a model of sustainability

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Michael Dollich of Four Worlds Bakery just sent out a link for the following National Geographic video. The video features West Philly’s own Pedal Co-op and makes reference to various sustainable businesses and organizations in Philly. Check it out!

Posted by Melanie on 04/05 at 02:09 PM

March? Winter Squash Three Ways and a Quiche!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How can it possibly be the last day of March? March 31, 2009! Does anyone else have the feeling that March was stolen from under their very eyes? It was a funny month. It began with a snow storm. Temperatures varied from the teens to the 70s. Just this past Sunday I got caught by a flash hailstorm whilst strolling through Washington Square. At my university there were weekly (or multiple in a week) conferences, colloquia and symposia to add to regular graduate student demands. Luckily, for my sanity, I continued to pick up my weekly CSA share from Keystone Farm, shopped at Mariposa, picked up my weekly bread order from Four Worlds Bakery and cooked any number of local and eco meals. Cooking really is meditative and good food provides the best comfort. Let me catch you up a bit on some of the highlights of this month’s eating!

Inspired by Naomi’s delicious post on butternut squash pasta sauce, I thought I’d put up a few things I did with the puree from a kabocha squash I had gotten in my CSA share. The squash sat prettily on my counter for months, before I finally decided what best to do with it. I knew that I would be committing myself to intensive solitary squash eating, so I needed time to consider how exactly I wanted to address the dear kabocha. Finally I chose to halve it, poke holes in the outside and roast it. I then pureed the roasted squash, and that is where the fun began. Kabocha is a sweeter squash with a delicate flavor and firm, brightly orange flesh.

I have a true love of apple butter and cheddar cheese sandwiches (on the spelt levain from Four Worlds). The squash puree, however, beckoned and I found that equally delightful is a sandwich of this sweet kabocha puree and the sharp cheddar cheese I regularly receive in my share.  I have mentioned before too, that I often make variations of Alice Waters’ soup of many vegetables. The addition of pumpkin puree to the vegetable soup not only gave it a beautiful color (which, for some sad reason is not apparent in this photo), but also added the most subtle pumpkin-y flavor to the broth.


Longing for pancakes one weekend morning, I decided to use the last bit of kabocha puree to make, what turned out to be, the best pancakes I have ever made. Really incredible - if I may say so myself! They were light, fluffy and unbelievably tasty. I long for the fall to make these pancakes again!

Soup of Many Vegetables
adapted from Alice Waters The Art of Simple Food

2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 carrots, sliced evenly
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp thyme
2 tsp salt
1 bay leaf
1 cup white wine
4 cups water
3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 cup winter squash puree
Half of small head of cabbage (green), shredded
2 cups prepared cranberry beans (cooked in water—3 inches above beans—with a bay leaf and garlic clove, allowing them to simmer after five minutes of a hard boil for about an hour, reserving the cooking water)

In a soup pot over medium-high heat, sautee the onion and carrot until soft—about 10 minutes. Add garlic, bay leaf, salt and thyme. Cook another 5 minutes. Add 1 cup of wine and allow to boil for 2-3 minutes, add 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Add in potatoes, allowing to simmer/boil gently. Stir in squash puree. After 5 minutes add cabbage (you could cook cabbage ahead of time and add at the end with the beans). Cook another 10 minutes and add beans and reserved water. All the while stirring occasionally. Salt and pepper to taste. Once everything is cooked (potatoes are tender) serve.

Best Pumpkin Pancakes
adapted from many sources

1 cup flour (I used a local PA white pastry flour)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
3/4 cup plain whole milk yogurt (you could use buttermilk or a mixture of milk and yogurt)
1/2 cup squash puree

Mix dry ingredients. In a separate bowl mix together egg, yogurt and puree. Add the wet ingredients to the dry until just mixed (don’t over beat). Then cook them up in a pan with butter and enjoy with a drizzle of maple syrup or just as they are!

On another note. Spring is creeping in and spinach is starting to show up in my CSA share. Keystone Farm has experimented for the first time with greenhouses this winter, and lettuces have been making their way into my box. The spinach, however, is a great treat. In a sea of potatoes and onions, there is nothing quite like some local organic spinach! For the first time ever, I decided to make a quiche. The picture will reveal that I make funny pie crusts. I use (again) a recipe from Alice Waters, and this dough does not shrink at all! I always forget to take this into consideration, which is why my pies and now quiches tend to have wavy crusts hanging over the sides of the pie dish….

Spinach Quiche

1 cup flour (again, local white PA pastry flour)
3/4 cup cold butter in 1/4 inch cubes
1/4 cold water

I used my food processor and cut the butter into the flour and slowly added the water until the dough formed a ball. You could also use the more conventional way of cutting the butter into the flour with either knives, a pastry cutter or your fingers and then add the water. Form a loose disc with the dough and refrigerate for at least an hour. Roll out the dough and prebake for in a 375˚ oven for 15 minutes.

(my pie dish is 10”)

1 small onion, diced
1 large bag spinach (I don’t actually know how many cups this is, but it is the size bag I got from the farmer’s market!)
6 eggs, 3/4 cup plain yogurt
ca 1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used cheddar)
Salt and pepper to taste

Sautee onion in olive oil. Add spinach and sautee until just wilted. In a separate bowl mix together 6 eggs, yogurt and salt. Sprinkle 1/3 of cheese over crust, add layer of spinach/onion mixture. Sprinkle more cheese and add rest of spinach and onion. Sprinkle rest of cheese and then carefully pour over the egg mixture. Bake for 45 minutes in an oven preheated to 375˚. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes.

On another note: The other posters have been doing an excellent job of keeping Farm to Philly readers up-to-date on all the fantastic coverage that the slow/local/eco food movement has been getting. It is a really exciting time to be a food activist (or a conscientious eater). For further inspiration and information, “The Garden” will be showed at the Rotunda this coming Thursday (4/2 7pm).

Posted by Melanie on 03/31 at 02:21 PM

“Traceability”: Friend or Foe to Locavores?

Monday, March 30, 2009

There’s an article in today’s NY Times that leaves me with ambiguous feelings. The concept is “Traceability” and it’s meant to, as the name suggests, give consumers the ability to “trace” their food to it’s producer. What leaves me with a sour taste is that when I quickly perused the Find The Farmer site, I saw what I had feared was coming — namely, that Big Business would attempt to co-opt some of the finer points of the Buy Local movement.

The article states that the “Stone-Buhr flour company, a 100-year-old brand based in San Francisco, is giving the buy-local food movement its latest upgrade.” (My emphasis). The internet is a wonderful tool and I push it whole-heartedly on local farmers. But how is this “buy local”? The Find The Farmer website has all the trimmings of a gosh-golly earnest site. But on closer inspection, you see the bread trail of a much larger marketing effort. A look at the footer of the site reveals the copyright is held by JOG Distribution. Google that name and you see that they recently acquired “the venerable Stone-Buhr Flour brand...” (My emphasis). Notice that they say “brand”. Not “company”. Not “product”. “Brand”. That’s telling because that states that for these companies, it’s the name of the product and all that name conjures up in the consumers mind. That’s what they are paying for. But here’s the best part: JOG didn’t purchase it from the original owners of Stone-Buhr. Read the article and you’ll see that they purchased the “brand” in 2002 from Unilever/Bestfoods!

This is not mom-and-pop farmers organizing to let consumers know where their food comes from. This is marketing departments realizing that there is a.) a Trend (“Buy Local”) and b.) problems with the public’s perception of food safety. They aren’t really changing the way they do business, they’re simply changing the appearance by piggy-backing on a genuine movement. This is why marketing is important to small scale farmer’s and local business people. These are the tools that your fearsome competition welds.

Think of it like this: people are trusting. That’s a good thing. So when they see a NY Times article; when they see an earnest-looking website; when they see smiling pictures of commodity farmers and their families; when the sites state explicitly things like “Direct Seeding” to imply that their entire farming methods are more friendly (Direct Seeding seems innocuous enough, but it’s prominently name-dropped as a way to intimate that the farm is environmentally sound); when they see all of this, they think “Oh, in addition to the Farmer’s Market, I’ll shop online. Their prices may be better, maybe I’ll forgo the Market this week…”  Or, perhaps, “I really want to connect with how my food is produced, I’ll just go to this website…” It begins to chip away at your business, whether it’s what you currently have or any potential business that’s down the line.

I need to stress that being able to trace your food is a good thing. Not only does it make producers and companies more accountable, but it also appears to pave the way for single-producer products. If there’s traceablilty, then that means you can’t mix several suppliers in a huge grain bin. And that’s good for people. What I don’t think is good is the sneaky way that businesses are hinting that they, too, are “local” (or have any of the ideals of the people who would Buy Local) when it’s still business as usual. They see the desire in the public’s mind and they act in the most cost-effective way. And that is by keeping the mechanism’s in place but using marketing and promotional tools to control the “message”.

People are ready for local, sustainable foods. If they weren’t, there wouldn’t be interest in co-opting the terms and the ideals, by large corporations. If there ever was a time to invest in keeping your message relevant and making the case for the real differences, now is the time. It really is a sound investment because the desire for information is there.

Posted by Charlotte on 03/30 at 01:26 PM

100 Mile Challenge on Food TV

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The first episode of Food Network Canada’s 100 Mile Challenge starts April 5th. Based on “The 100-Mile Diet” by Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon and hosted by the authors, the show challenges the citizens of Mission, BC to live for 100 days eating only foods that originate within 100 miles of their home.

Episodes will be available online the day after they air in Canada (which is good for me because 1. we don’t have cable and 2. even if we did, I don’t think Food TV Canada airs in Philadelphia). I’m curious to see how the show plays out and if the network shows that eating locally is not only possible, but pleasurable. Because it is reality television, not reality, the six families that sign on for the challenge are forbidden from eating household staples like beer, coffee, tea, chocolate, olive oil, pepper and most spices. (Notice where my priorities are- no beer!) While that makes for great television, I hope that at some point it’s made clear that eating locally isn’t an all or nothing proposition. Supporting the local economy and local farmers is ideal, but it is not necessary to deprive your family of coffee or bananas simply because they don’t grow in a 100-mile radius of your home.

In addition to bits about the 100 Mile Challenge show, the show’s blog features recipes and tips as well as information about different vegetables.

Posted by Jackie on 03/26 at 04:20 PM

The Presidential Garden!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Although not local to us, still a pretty big deal worth celebrating here at Farm to Philly!
The Obamas are digging up the White House lawn for a big garden! Here’s a link to an article in the New York Times. More of the great backstory is here at the WHO farm site (“White” “House” “Organic”). As a teaser: “TheWhoFarmMobile is two school buses fused together with an organic edible garden on the roof. It was originally designed by Stefan Sagmeister and Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s, built by Tom Kennedy, and named Topsy Turvy.  TheWhoFarm acquired the bus, ripped off the roof and planted an organic edible garden….”

Maybe the next stop for the WhoFarmMobile should be Harrisburg!

Posted by Allison on 03/20 at 10:58 PM

Locavore iPhone application

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I have never really been all that interested in getting an iPhone…until now:

An application that helps people locate local, in season food has just been released for the iPhone. Simply titled Locavore, it determines your location when you open up the app (and depending on where I am in the house it says I’m in Pennsylvania or New Jersey; I live right on the border). It then gives you information in four categories[...]: in-season, markets, food, and states.

Just being able to find out what’s in season could be a really big help, particularly for people just getting started in eating the local foodshed and don’t know where the find that information.  The local markets locator is apparently a joint venture with LocalHarvest.

Posted by Nicole on 03/19 at 11:24 AM

All politics is local

Monday, March 16, 2009

Things have been pretty quiet around here lately about milk and growth hormones.  Just because the issue isn’t in the news very often doesn’t mean there isn’t activism happening.  Food and Water Watch has mounted a nationwide campaign to convince schools to source their milk from farms that do not inject their cows with rBGH.  The Philadelphia School District sources its milk from Wawa (you might remember that Wawa, who I believe gets their milk from local farms for the most part) went rBGH-free just a few days before Pennsylvania banned rBGH labeling) but do not currently have any rules regulating what the school district is able to serve students.

The Food and Water Watch folks are working to pass a School Reform Commission resolution making Philadelphia school officially rBGH-free.  It would make the Philly school district the biggest district in the country to make this step - and that sends a powerful message.  Susan Hildebrand, the local Green Corps organizer for this initiative, got in touch recently about some nationwide initiatives she’s working on that may impact Pennsylvania, like the Children Nutrition Act.  She said,

Senator Casey sits on the Agriculture Committee and we want him to champion the issue and make sure the Child Nutrition Act includes language giving schools to explicit right to preference rBGH-free milk.  On March 12th, as a part of a national “Know Your Milk” Day of Action, we generated over 110 calls into his office letting him know that his constituents care about this issue.  I’ve attached a photo of that event.


Posted by Nicole on 03/16 at 04:25 PM

Alice Waters on 60 Minutes


If you missed the 60 Minutes segment with Chez Panisse owner Alice Waters last night, you can catch it online.  One of my favorite parts:

The centerpiece of the event was a sprawling, urban victory garden - a real vegetable garden in front of City Hall. Waters called it “the ultimate symbolism.”

The garden, Waters’ idea, was planted to encourage people to grow their own.

There are all sorts of things going on in this article of interest to me.  I love the idea that there’s an edible garden at City Hall in San Francisco, and I wish they would do something like that in the gardens at City Hall (or in Love Park!) here in Philly.  Yes, of course the flowers are lovely…but how cool would it be to raise crops that could be given to local food banks?  Tending a vegetable garden doesn’t take any more time and effort to take care of then the flower gardens, really.

[Photo from the SF Gate]

Posted by Nicole on 03/16 at 11:13 AM

Farm to City CSA shares available

Monday, March 09, 2009

This email arrived in my inbox today. If you haven’t already chosen a CSA, now is your chance.


Please forward this announcement to others you know who may be interested. This is the best way to spread the word about these CSA farms.

This year Farm to City is assisting 5 farms to find members for their CSAs:

  * Lancaster Farm Fresh - certified organic, 200 shares available, ready for sign-ups

  * Wimer’s Organics - certified organic, 200 shares available, ready for sign-ups

  * Pheasant Hill Farm - no synthetic chemicals, uses organic methods, 50 shares available, ready for sign-ups

  * Red Earth Farm - no synthetic chemicals, uses organic methods, 70 shares available, ready on April 1 for sign-ups

  * Dancing Hen Farm - no synthetic chemicals, uses organic methods, 50 shares available, ready on March 23 for sign-ups

Go to our website and select the CSA you are interested in; pay with PayPal or check:

Each CSA delivers to different locations in and around Philadelphia as well as at the farm or close by. They differ in products offered and cost. The first three are farmer choice CSAs; Red Earth Farm offers member choice. Details on our website.

Wimer’s Organics CSA is looking for hosts for the locations listed below. Site hosts get a free share, provided their site has at least 15 members, good security, shade, and access for delivery and members. Contact info at if you are interested.

· Ardmore
· Bryn Mawr
· Center City, Philadelphia
· Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia
· Eagle/Downingtown area
· Fairmount, Philadelphia
· Havertown
· Morgantown area
· Mt. Airy, Philadelphia
· Northern Liberties, Philadelphia
· Phoenixville/Kimberton area
· Pottstown/Limerick area
· Radnor/Wayne
· Reading
· Society Hill-Queen Village, Philadelphia
· South Philadelphia
· Villanova
· West Philadelphia
· Wynnewood

Bob Pierson
Farm to City

Posted by Jackie on 03/09 at 08:45 PM

Farm to Philly in the news!

Friday, March 06, 2009


We’ve been keeping a little secret around here, but now that the latest issue of Grid magazine has hit the streets we feel safe letting the cat out of the bag: Farm to Philly is featured in this month’s issue (see page 5)!  If you haven’t heard of Grid, it’s a new monthly mag that focuses on what all of us can do to live more sustainably in the Philadelphia area.  This is their third issue.

A few other things in this month’s issue: a recipe for turnovers featuring the really fantastic canned peaches from Three Springs Farm (I tried them a month ago while volunteering at the Fair Food Farmstand - they are amazing!), a primer on home brewing, and an article about Southwark restaurant (they have a seasonal menu focused on locally grown foods!).  You can get the entire magazine online, or you can pick up a copy in your neighborhood.

Where The Locals Eat featured blog

We also have more good news: Farm to Philly will be a featured blog when Where the Locals Eat launches its online list of “The Best Food Blogs in Amerca”.  You’ve probably seen dining guides from Where the Locals Eat - they’ve been publishing yearly guides since 1996.  Recent editions include New York, Los Angeles, Nashville and Las Vegas. Last September they released an iPhone application called LocalEats (look in the Travel categories to find that app).

Posted by Nicole on 03/06 at 11:25 PM

In the News…

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Having been a hectic few weeks preparing for vacation, I haven’t done too much cooking.  I did, however, find time for some reading, and few interesting pieces come through my Inbox, The New York Times’ Dining section, and from Plan Philly. 

First, Wednesday’s Dining Section had a long article on artisanal products handmade in Brooklyn (where else?).  These craftsmen are all coming at this from other careers; for some, these products are just a side business.  Far from being in competition, they promote each other’s work, and even barter amongst themselves.  There is definitely a defiant, you-could-never-do-this-in-Manhattan strain to it - not to mention the New York-centric attitude of the writers and New York Times in general.  Nonetheless, it’s worth reading.  I’ve had fun try to imagine which local producers would appear in a similar article on Philadelphia.  Are you listening Inquirer

Second, from Plan Philly, there is an exciting announcement about the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (RDA) permitting urban greenhouses on RDA land for the short-term (three to five years).  The first project could be up in running as soon as this Spring.  Yet more evidence that we deserve far more credit than we get for local food.

Finally, I was excited to learn that Michael and Charis, of Red Earth Farm, are coming to Philadelphia to meet CSA members in late March.  The meeting will be at Mugshots Coffeehouse, on 21st and Fairmount, from 5 - 7pm..  For all Red Earth members, this should be an enjoyable experience.  Going on my third year as a site host and having had many e-mail and phone conversations with Charis, it will be nice to meet them face to face.  Incidentally, Red Earth Farm - if you can believe it - is expanding.  They’ve offered advanced purchases of 2010 shares to help finance the purchase of an adjacent tract.  Amazing to think that a local farm is actually growing in size. 

Posted by Kevin on 02/28 at 01:25 PM

The People’s Garden…maybe

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack took a jackhammer to the concrete in front of USDA headquarters in Washington to begin construction on the inaugural People’s Garden earlier this month.

The new garden will add 612 square feet of planted space to an existing garden traditionally planted with ornamentals. The garden will showcase conservation practices that all Americans can implement in their own backyards and green spaces. As a component of the garden, pollinator-friendly plantings will not only provide important habitat for bees and butterflies, but can serve as an educational opportunity to help people understand the vital role pollinators play in our food, forage and all agriculture. The garden plot is adjacent to the site of the USDA Farmer’s Market.


According to Vilsack, the People’s Garden illustrates President Obama’s commitment to “responsible stewardship of our land, water and other natural resources, and one way of restoring the land to its natural condition is what we are doing here today”.  The garden will contain fruit trees and vegetables (although the larger project includes things like window boxes on adjacent buildings and conservation techniques), the output of which will be donated to soup kitchens in the D.C. area.  And we hear that more of these little gardens are scheduled to pop up at other USDA facilities across the country.

Michele Obama supported the initiative by dropping off a heritage breed Magnolia seedling to the ceremony, saying “I’m a big believer in community gardens, both because of their beauty and for their access to providing fresh fruits and vegetables to so many communities across this nation and the world.”

Apparently, none of us should get too excited, though - the pavement that was torn up by Vilsack won’t really be a garden: it’ll just be grass.  Yes, grass is better than concrete, but how about some edible landscaping?  And there are some who say this entire initiative was little more than a photo op gone horribly, horribly awry.  There’s not much of a plan for the garden: there’s no budget and the growing of any vegetables or fruit will be a volunteer gig and there’s no real plan to determine how food banks would get these theoretical vegetables.  So what’s the bottom line?  Well…a garden may or may not be planted.  That’s kind of a bummer.  To quote Fox Mulder, I want to believe.

Posted by Nicole on 02/24 at 01:02 PM

Philly in the NY Times - Again!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

I’m not sure I can believe it, but Philadelphia has made The New York Times again, and there isn’t a hint of condescension.  Don’t get me wrong; our house is devoted to the “paper of record.” However, the Times can occasionally take a “the-natives-are-surprisingly-sophisticated” attitude when they venture outside of the five boroughs (or is it just Manhattan?) and act like when something is new to the New York Region, it must be new everywhere (i.e., nothing happens anywhere else first). 

Nonetheless, there is a feature on some of our finest local beer.  Between the article and the accompanying slideshow, they touch on many of the best local breweries.  Couple this with a fawning review of Vetri by Frank Bruni, and it’s starting to look like Philadelphia is earning some respect. 

P.S. Local food is the subject of this week’s Splendid Table

Posted by Kevin on 01/17 at 09:55 PM

Local Green Heroes: The ChallaMan

Friday, January 16, 2009

As a compliment to Jackie’s post about making bread and Four Worlds Bakery, I bring you a video clip. I am a loyal patron to Four Worlds Bakery. I generally buy a half loaf of bread a week (my favorites are the multi grain levain, cranberry-walnut levain and spelt levain), along with the occasional bulk order of local flour, sucanat or bran litter. Customers receive a couple of emails a week concerning news, updates and order information. This week’s email included a five minute video showing interviews of the ChallaMan himself and documenting the move from baking in his own basement to a professional baking space behind Kaffa Crossing at 45th and Chestnut. This move was orchestrated not by U-Haul, not by Philly Car Share, but by the Pedal Co-op—bicycles! Michael Dollich has the noble goal of going carbon neutral, and moving via bicycles is an excellent way to support that goal.

Indeed, Michael Dollich offers the community with his bakery a true sustainable business model. He bakes to order. Bread that is not sold is frozen and sold at half price. He mills his own grains to ensure freshness and sells the remaining bran as kitty litter (my cats are living proof that this litter is just as good as S-Wheat Scoop, only much much cheaper at $0.25/lb, and perhaps a bit more powdery). To save waste in terms of packaging and payment envelopes, there is a reusable bag system into which regular customers can buy (a one time $10 investment), and for drop off payments, envelopes are offered, which are constantly reused and recycled for future order payments. All of this waste reduction is not for naught. After one month of baking out of the professional kitchen, Four Worlds Bakery produced one single bag of trash. If that is not commendable, I don’t know what is!

In the ChallaMan and his Four Worlds Bakery Philadelphia finds a true, green, community-oriented hero! Keep up the inspiring work, Michael.

Posted by Melanie on 01/16 at 02:36 PM

A localvore’s wishlist for Obama

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Yesterday the New York Times ran a column about how federal food policy may change in an Obama White House.  Many point out that since Obama is taking office during a time of economic recession and crises for the financial and auto industries, recent attacks on women’s health care and human rights, as well as those two wars we’ve got going on and the energy/environmental cluster&%#@...well, maybe the food policy might not be right up there on his list of things to overhaul.  And Obama’s choice of Tom Vilsack doesn’t exactly speak to his interest in small scale farms.

Still, it doesn’t stop many of us from fantasizing what this could mean.  The column writer speculates that Obama is more of a ‘foodie’ than the current occupant of the White House (something tells me that wouldn’t take much - I envision private moments in the White House as such: the President in his boxers sitting around in a lounge chair, one hand in his waistband, the other clutching a Bud Light, a plate of Triscuits with Easy Cheese at his side), and Michele Obama has put it out there that she buys organic produce whenever possible.  The new Chief of Staff belongs to a synagogue that runs a CSA program.  The local foods movement is not entirely foreign to these folks.

My gut tells me that of all the things people would like to see happen, the one that may have a chance of getting tackled is the issue of school lunch programs.  If you have a kid who regularly buys lunch at school, you know that the lunches are generally not the highest quality (who can forget the “catsup is a vegetable!’ fiasco during the Reagan years?).  As an alumni of the reduced cost and free school lunch welfare program (we were fairly po’ growing up), I vividly remember school lunches of dismal, grey mystery meat “salisbury steak” and fake mashed potatoes. 

There are a million studies that have looked at alternative school lunch programs where the cafeterias focus on healthy meals, fresh produce, and even sourcing locally grown foods - all say the same thing: kids who eat better have better focus and do better in school (not to mention it helps combat the growing obesity epidemic).  Considering how badly U.S. school students lag behind other countries in math, science, etc., and given President-Elect Obama’s commitment to education, overhauling the federal school lunch program might be a possibility.

An overhaul could not come at a better time for Philadelphia.  In October of 2008, the USDA decided to terminate Philadelphia’s Universal Feeding Program.  The UFP is a model that many other cities around the country were looking to adopt - it basically eliminated the paperwork needed to opt into the school lunch program.  In a school system in which at least 75% of families qualify, it seems like a good idea.  It saved the school district a lot of money in paperwork processing fees and the stigma of getting a free lunch was reduced.  The new schools superintendent also began a program to offer breakfast that depended on the continuation of the UFP.

Now granted, the Philadelphia program was by no means a healthy program.  Like all school programs, it relies on giant quantities of frozen and prefab foods that aren’t exactly super quality (and the Philadelphia school district never has the kind of money they need to provide quality education to its students, let alone quality nutrition).  With our wealth of local farmers and the many organizations in the area devoted to sustainable agriculture, my guess is that it wouldn’t be all that hard to put together a more healthful program focused on fresh and locally sourced foods - if the federal government were backing such an initiative.  And taking Philadelphia’s dismal high school graduation rates into consideration, this kind of an overhaul could help at least a little bit.

[graphic is from the NYT column]

Posted by Nicole on 12/24 at 02:00 PM

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Support a local farmer, crave the freshest produce, worry about what's in or on your food - whatever your reason for eating locally grown and produced food in the Philadelphia area, Farm to Philly is probably writing about it. We're focused on where to find it, how to grow it, and what to do with it!

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