Local Foods Connection Blog

Local foods, hunger relief, sustainable agriculture

LFC Named 2007 “Local Hero”! February 26, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — caroline@LFC @ 12:59 pm

Our thanks go out to the readers of ‘Edible Iowa River Valley,’ who named us Best Food Related Non Profit in their 2007 Local Heroes Competition. For the last several months, Edible Iowa River Valley has been polling readers about the best foods and beverages in the Iowa River Valley and we’re honored to have been chosen this year.

The announcement came in a feature in Edible Iowa River Valley’s Winter 2008 issue, included here in pdf format:

Local Heroes from EIRV

The piece includes a nice write-up about the history of LFC, including the growth of LFC from a small (but great) idea in the 1990s (not the 1980s) to the extensive program that exists today. It’s almost hard to believe, but last year we distributed $20,000 worth of local food to 45 families and local agencies throughout Iowa. And, of course, LFC couldn’t do what we do without the work of our clients, volunteers, and supporters (some of whom are pictured here).

Laura and the Crew

As Laura reminds us in the Edible Iowa River Valley piece, LFC does what it does because “as local food becomes more popular, we want people to remember low-income folks and make sure they have access.” It sounds like that message is getting across!

Our congratulations go out to the other winners, as well: Bob Braverman, Friendly Farms, Iowa City (Best Farm/Farmer), Fireside Winery, Marengo (Best Beverage Artisan), Enosh Kelley, Bistro Montage, Des Moines (Best Chef/Restaurant), and Simone Delaty, Wellman (Best Food Artisan).


Did you know? A Local Foods Connection Index. February 19, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — caroline@LFC @ 4:03 pm

Iowa food insecure households: 132,000 (up from 112,000 households in 2003).

Iowa households which have at least one member that goes hungry at some time: 42,280 (23,500 in 2003).

Iowa food insecure individuals: 421,350.

Iowa poverty rates in 2005: 11.3% (up from 8.9% in 2003).

Each day, one in four Americans visits a fast-food restaurant.

Obesity-related illnesses will kill around 400,000 Americans in 2005 – almost as many as smoking.

French fries are the most eaten vegetable in America.

77% of African-American women and 61% of African-American males are obese.

Mexican American women are 1.5 times more likely to be obese than the general female population.

31% of low-income children between 2 and 5 years of age in Iowa are overweight or are at risk of becoming overweight.

Obesity prevalence is highest (28.2%) in those with income less than $15,000.

Ethnicity data is not available for Iowa.

Obesity rates decline as level of education increases:

less than high school: 27.4%
high school degree: 23.2%
some college: 21%
college or above: 15.7%

Iowa 2003 Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables:

Consume 5 or more servings per day:

17% of Iowa adults
23.6% of older adults
19% of adults with income less than $15,000
11.3% of adults without HS/GED degree
22% of US adults

The cost of vegetables and fruit rose 120% between 1985 and 2000, while the price of junk like sodas and sweets went up less than 50% on average.

Lower-income neighborhoods have an overabundance of predatory fast-food joints, bad takeout and small corner grocery stores stocked with less nutritious food.

Lower-income children depend on the federally funded National School Lunch Program for their primary hot meal of the day – and get basically the same high-fat, low-nutrition food as they would get at a fast food restaurant.

Families who rely on government assistance have a tendency to splurge when the monthly check or food stamps arrive, then find the cupboard bare toward the end of the month. This cyclical feast-or-famine diet unbalances your metabolism, so its east to store fat and hard to get rid of it.

To date, most characterizations of consumers who purchase organic products result from industry studies and offer conflicting views. The studies have focused on consumers of organic foods in general, not just consumers of organic milk. One element that has remained generally accepted through the years is that parents of young children or infants are more likely than those without children to purchase organic food.

Adapted from the 2003 and 2007 Hunger in Iowa Report by Susan Roberts and Erin Feld, Don’t Eat This Book: Fast Food and the Supersizing of America by Morgan Spurlock, Iowans Fit for Life, Active and Eating Smart: Nutrition and Physical Activity by the Iowa Department of Public Health, Retail and Consumer Aspects of the Organic Milk Market by Carolyn Dimitri and Kathryn M. Venezia for the US Dept. of Agriculture, May 2007.


Defining Our Terms February 12, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — caroline@LFC @ 4:40 pm

Ever wondered just what we’re talking about when we use the term “community food security”? You’re probably not alone. So Laura compiled this helpful list of working definitions.

Community Food Security: a condition of a healthy, functioning, local food system.

Community Food Security:

a. adequate resources from which people can purchase foods.
b. available food purchasing resources are accessible to all community members
c. available food is sufficient in quantity or variety, such as more than just a convenience store
d. low health problems, such as obesity, associated with inadequate access to nutritious foods
e. food available is competitively priced and affordable
f. local food production resource available, such as farmer’s markets and community gardens
g. local ecological sustainable food production
h. no household food insecurity

Community Food Security Advocates: work to fill gaps in community resources, such as poor access to locally-grown produce, lack of markets for local farmers, or public transit that fails to connect residents to supermarkets. They develop comprehensive solutions through a methodology that addresses the roots of community problems

Food Security: access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.

a. the ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods
b. an assured ability to acquire acceptable food in socially acceptable ways (e.g. without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing or other coping strategies)

*definitions adapted from the 2007 and 2003 Hunger in Iowa Report by Susan Roberts and Erin Feld and “The Hartford Food System: A Guide to Developing Community Food Programs, Replication Manual” put out by World Hunger Year


Volunteer & Sponsor of the Week February 5, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — caroline@LFC @ 10:55 pm

Volunteer of the Week: Saurabh Skukul. Saurabh is an absolute computer wizard; he answers all of our (probably amateurish) computer questions politely and quickly!  And he fixed an old computer, got us a low-cost flat screen terminal, and created a network for our office. Wow.

Sponsor of the Week: Polly & Armond Pagliai. The Pagliai family makes multiple donations to LFC every year, and always includes a kind note in the mailing.

Thanks to you all!


Barriers to Local Food Access for Low-Income Individuals

Filed under: Uncategorized — caroline@LFC @ 6:23 pm

Thank you to all of you who made it out to the INCA conference this past weekend and supported Local Foods Connection. We couldn’t do what we do without your help.

For those who missed the conference, or those who want a refresher course, we are including here the Top Ten Barriers to Local Food Access for Low-Income Individuals that Laura Dowd presented at the conference. As you probably know by now, the work we do with LFC is all about connecting low-income individuals with healthy, nutritious, local foods. While it’s important for us to support these connections, it’s also crucial that we understand the barriers to access in the first place. And so, in an effort at doing that, we offer:

Top Ten Barriers to Local Food Access for Low-Income Individuals

1. Financial Restrictions

Faced with limited resources, people
-skip meals
-substitute less expensive, less nutritious alternatives
-go to soup kitchens or food pantries
-parents skip meals to make sure there is enough food for their children
-for parents, it is more important to ensure that their children have enough food and “are full” than it is to provide children with a healthy diet
-cannot afford a balanced meal
-paying bills (e.g. rent, utilities, and prescription drugs) takes precedence over food
-one out of six Americans turns to government food assistance programs

Cost of fresh food (healthy, or organic, or local)
-eating a variety of colorful fresh fruits and vegetables, as recommended by the USDA, is expensive
-eating out-of-season fresh fruits and vegetables is even more expensive
-the cost of vegetables and fruit rose 120% between 1985 and 2000, while the price of junk like sodas and sweets went up less than 50% on average

2. Lack of Education – Families

Low-income families need to learn:
-the meanings and benefits of fresh, organic, and local food
-confidence in preparing fresh food
-fast, easy ways to prepare fresh food
-ways to make produce attractive to children
-health benefits of eating produce

3. Lack of Education – Agencies

The agencies that serve low-income families need to be educated on:
-the meanings and benefits of organic food and local food
-how to prepare fresh food

4. Lack of Education – General Population

General population needs to be educated on:
-extent of poverty in Iowa
-causes of poverty
-how poverty affects food shopping habits

5. Distribution of Food – Individuals

Varies by location: Urban, suburban, rural
Low income individuals might live in areas with restricted access to affordable, healthy/fresh foods.

-one-stop grocery shopping is easier for low-income folks. It saves time and gas money. Going to the farmer’s market or a grocery store featuring local foods would require making an additional trip.

Public transportation
-not always adequate or easy to use
-carrying groceries on a bus is difficult, especially with children
-especially a problem in rural areas

Food delivery service
-some Hy-Vee stores offer fee-based service ($12 for shopping & delivery)
-New Pioneer Co-op does not
-Farmer’s Markets do not

6. Preparation & Storage of Food

Individuals might lack:
Basic Ingredients
-might be lacking for food prep (cooking oil, garlic/onion, butter, milk, flour, spices…)

Basic Equipment
-might be lacking (blenders, adequate pots/pans for recipes that aren’t “one-pot” meals…)

-might be inadequate for storage/prep. Lots of low-income folks live doubled up (with friends or family members) or in rooming houses where they may be lucky to have one shelf in the fridge for cold storage. Appliances can be unreliable – a cooktop with one working burner, for instance.

Agencies might lack:
Refrigeration and Freezing
-Few have adequate space or appliances in which to store fresh food

Kitchen Space and Equipment
-Few have adequate space or appliances with which to prepare fresh food
-Lack of volunteers to process and store fresh ingredients safely.

7. Meeting Government Nutrition Standards

-State and Federal Restrictions on Food Purchasing
-If government money is used to purchase foods at an agency, the agency might be required to meet government nutrition standards. Reconfiguring their menu to meet these standards incorporating local foods might be a burden.

-Restrictions on where government food assistance coupons can be used. WIC coupons cannot be used at the New Pioneer Co-op, the natural food stores in the Iowa City/Coralville area.
-Organic foods are not always eligible. Individual states make the decision

8. Social Service Agency Staff Time

Overworked agency staff
-Few staff members at social service agencies have the extra time to add the component of local foods to their work

Commit from supervisors
-in order for agency staff to integrate nutrition and food into their interactions with clients, there must be interest in and commitment from the agencies’ supervisors or board of directors

9. Disabilities

There is a very high correlation between having a low-income and having a disability.
-To remain eligible to receive services through Medicaid, individuals are forced to remain at a very low-income level

Mental Retardation:
-Undiagnosed individuals with mental retardation usually don’t know how to use the store or even the oven. They often rely on microwave and take-out.
-Diagnosed individuals with mental retardation might receive funding for services and have access to Support Community Living (SCL).
-SCL is a one-on-one service that teaches, assists and creates skills for individuals with disabilities
-SCL goal is to work toward specific goals and increase client’s independent living skills and community development.
-SCL clients can have goals that help them learn about nutrition and how to cook and shop wisely.
-Workers might not be educated in these areas.
-Recipes need to be easy and only a few steps long.

Physical & Mental Illness and Brain Injury:
-These individuals might be eligible for Consumer Directed Attendant Care (CDAC).
-Workers can grocery shop and prepare meals for clients
-Workers might not be educated in nutrition and cooking.

10. Cultural Values & Lifestyles

Comfort Food
-many comfort foods are made with lard, fat, sugar, salt and starches
-many foods use for holiday celebrations are fattening

Fast Food
-low-income families are accustomed to eating fast food
-many fast food commercials target low-income families
-fast food restaurants are built in low-income communities

Emergency Food Assistance
-low-income families often receive processed food from food pantries