Saturday, August 30, 2008

Local (vegan) color

Pasta Primavera D'Estate (that's Italiano for summer kids): Whole wheat macaroni with local collards, summer squash, tomatoes and garlic sauteed in earth balance with salt, pepper, red chile flakes, oregano and chopped walnuts.

Summer is coming to an end and I'm really going to miss the fresh local produce even if I havent been as diligent as I should have about getting my butt to all the Greenmarkets New Yorkers have to choose from. Recently I checked out the Red Hook Farmer's Market run by Added Value which is just a 15 minute walk from my apartment in Brooklyn. Added Value is a non-profit focused on sustainable development in Red Hook and youth-powered urgan agriculture helps supply the market with gorgeous fresh produce. When I was there I picked up onions, tomatoes, garlic, collard greens and tiny yellow sugar plums. I only wish I had started checking out the farm sooner; they are doing some amazing things over there. In addition to youth empowerment through urban agriculture (including the market and farm-to-school education programs), they also work on sustainable business development and restaurant partnerships, critical in a community where, according to the Added Value webiste:

"Twice in the past three years Red Hook's only full-service grocery store closed, forcing residents to walk three miles and cross an eight lane road or take a $10 cab if they want to shop there. If you are have limited resources or are physically unable, as much of our population is, the only options are corner stores and delis which stock few fresh fruits and vegetables, carry meat and dairy products of questionable quality and charge inflated prices. With few healthy choices available, our neighbors eat many meals at fast food restaurants; and the preferred diet among teens is chips, honey buns, and a "fruit drink".

Limited access to healthy safe and affordable food and limited understanding of proper dietary practices has contributed to a neighborhood health crisis. Red Hook residents suffer disproportionately from asthma, hypertension, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. Child hospitalization rates for diabetes are over twice that of NYC; for adults, the ratio is roughly three to two."

Lucky and priviledged person that I am, I can generally afford to pay for the more expensive organic foods and have the luxury of time, transportation and education to think about these issues both generally for my city and our planet and also specifically as they apply to my dinner table. Unfortunately many New Yorkers do not have access to these resources and as a result poverty is the largest idicator of obesity and many other diet-related illness. Currently I am doing some research at work on how to integrate food security as a social justice concern into my office's best practices. Since all of our clients are all indigent and low-income people in crisis situations, many of them could benefit from our assistance with issues of hunger and nutrition.

Speaking of lucky, lucky me and my fantastic workplace, I came into some organic produce from Norwich Meadows Farm of Norwich, NY, when a foodie enthusiast co-worker generously offered to let me pick up her weekly CSA (community supported agriculture) share at the Stonehouse Olive Oil shop near our office while she was out of town. I was pretty excited to recieve baby salad greens, assorted summer squashes, tomatoes, garlic, red onions in addition to some sizeable red beets which I have previously been too intimidated to cook. That's one thing I love about the seasonable, local food available through CSA's and farmers markets: unfamiliar or uncommon vegetables inspire culinary innovation and bravery in the humble home cooks like myself. Anyway, I'll let you know what I make with the beets and also how much surface area of my kitchen has been stained hopelessly red.

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