Farmer’s Markets & COVID-19

May marks the beginning of the farmer’s market season in many parts of the country. With COVID-19, most markets will open as planned, with social distancing, handwashing stations, online ordering, curbside delivery, and other changes to make shopping safe for everyone.

This is a good time to encourage your clients to support their local farmer’s market or farm stand. Farmers aren’t selling as much produce to restaurants, so they need the income as well as something to do with their harvest. And we need healthy food!

Here are six teaching tips for farmer’s market season:

1. Let your clients know the many benefits of shopping farm stands and markets.

  • Markets are a source of healthy, locally-grown food.
  • Locally-grown food is in season and at its peak for taste and nutrition.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables supply a host of nutrients that boost your immune system.
  • If farmers go out of business, this source of healthy local food won’t be available to us in the future.

2. Emphasize that fresh produce from farmer’s markets and farm stands (and for that matter, grocery stores) is safe to eat.

  • According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there is no evidence that food or food packaging is involved with the transmission of COVID-19 (up-to-date information is available on their website and on this PDF).
  • Follow basic COVID-19 safety guidelines when shopping:
    • Check before you go – some markets and farmers are doing online-only pre-ordering.
    • Wash your hands before and after shopping.
    • Wear a mask and stay at least six feet from others.
    • Don’t touch the food. Many vendors will have produce bagged and ready. Let them get it for you.
    • Pay with your debit/credit/SNAP card and avoid using cash.
    • Be patient – with extra safety measures it may take more time than usual.
    • Get what you need and go – avoid socializing.
  • When you get home, rinse all produce (follow FDA’s normal tips).

3. Remind clients that real food grows … and you can find it at the farmer’s market! See our beautiful Real Food Grows poster that conveys this message.

  • Did the food you’re looking at grow into what it now is, or has it been processed with other elements to create a new food?
  • Processed foods are usually calorie-dense, high in unhealthy types of fat, refined sugars, and sodium, and low in fiber.

4. Use our poster to teach people how fruits and veggies from the farmer’s market make you a winner!

  • Weight – fruits and veggies are naturally low in calories and help you maintain a healthy weight.
  • I am healthier – eating a diet rich in fruits and veggies is associated with a lower risk for many chronic diseases.
  • Nutrients – fruits and veggies are major contributors for nutrients most people are lacking.

5. Make it fun to learn about the fruits and vegetables you’ll probably see at the farmer’s market with the Vegetable Cooking Program or Name That Fruit and Veggie Game.

6. Remind clients who use SNAP that their food dollars may go further when they buy fresh produce. Most states have programs that provide a dollar for dollar match when you use your SNAP/EBT card to buy fruits and vegetables at farmer’s markets and some retail stores. (Find out more about Double Up Bucks and similar incentive programs here.)

And don’t forget about community supported agriculture (CSA)! Find out what’s available in your area so you can give your clients all the information they need to get a steady supply of fresh, local healthy produce all season long.

Stick to the Message on Added Sugar

As we await the release of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines, this is a good time to review key parts of the 2015 guidelines that aren’t likely to change much. One of these topics is added sugar.

Specific sugar intake recommendations were included in the Dietary Guidelines for the first time in 2015 (whereas in years earlier they only recommended avoiding consuming too much sugar or moderate intake of sugar). The message: consume no more than 10% of daily calories from added sugar.

Sugar continues to be a hot issue. When the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee last met on March 12-13 (source), subcommittees presented their DRAFT conclusion statements. Here are a few related to added sugars:

  • Mean intakes of added sugar have significantly decreased over time, but remain high across age, sex, race-ethnic and income.
  • There is a notable increase in the intake of added sugars when 1-year-olds are compared with babies less than 12 months of age.
  • Nearly 70% of added sugars come from five food categories: sweetened beverages, desserts & sweet snacks, coffee & tea (with their additions), candy & sugars, and breakfast cereals & bars.
  • A large percentage of daily sugar intake comes from beverage consumption: 30% for young children, 50% for adolescents, and 60% for adults.
  • The top beverage sources of added sugars: regular soft drinks, fruit drinks, sports/energy drinks, smoothies, and coffee and tea with added sugars.

So what messages about sugar do we need to keep sharing?

  1. Clear up sugar confusion. Consumers may not get it — ‘Doesn’t milk have sugar?! Fruit has sugar!’ But when it comes to sugar, ‘added’ is the key word. Don’t worry about the naturally occurring sugar in REAL food when there’s so much added sugar in PROCESSED food.
  2. The new Nutrition Facts label is key! We no longer have to arm our clients with long lists of ingredients that actually mean sugar. Added sugar is now on the label – we just need to remind folks to look for it. See our New Food Label materials for ideas on how to do this.
  3. To understand the food label, you have to understand Sugar Math. Teach clients and students how to get from “10% of daily calories” to the grams of sugar shown on the new Nutrition Facts panel.
  4. Beverages matter. Choosing water and sugar-free drinks can make a big difference in your sugar intake. We have lots of materials on this — a favorite being Are You Drinking Candy?
  5. Switch to fruit for dessert. This is a great way to satisfy a sweet tooth without a lot of sugar. We even have a Fruit Tooth Dessert Cookbook!
  6. Start early for a lifelong low sugar habit. We want to be raising sugar-free kids who eat real food. Parents, grandparents, and childcare providers need our help. Check out our 0 to 5 Baby and Toddler Nutrition PowerPoint show.
  7. There’s no room for added sugar with MyPlate! Use resources from ChooseMyPlate.gov or see all the materials we have.

 

Plant-Based Eating Done Right

From the Impossible burger to the Beyond taco, plant-based ‘meats’ are everywhere. Products like these are fueling the plant-based diet movement.

While we’re thrilled to see this healthy way of eating become more popular, let’s make sure the right messages are getting out there. Today we want to share a few materials and tips to help you quickly put together a class on real-food plant-based eating.

Our Grown, Not Processed poster says it all. The elegant photographs of fresh produce are a reminder of what real food looks like, in stark contrast to the images of fake-meat sandwiches that consumers see every day.

Our Plant Power! poster might be better for younger audiences. They’ll be drawn to the iguana, then realize he’s made up of vibrant photos of plant foods. And the poster comes with a handy plant-based diet quiz!

These are just two examples of materials that can spark a conversation about real food, plant-based eating, and where processed plant-based ‘meats’ fit in. Here are five teaching tips to use:

  • Eating Out: Bring some local restaurant menus to class, or ask participants to look up their favorites on their phones. Have them find plant-based items on the menu. Are these options highly processed? High in fat or salt? Help them find the healthiest plant-based menu items, and discuss how not-so-healthy items could be modified.
  • Some Meat is OK: Ask participants to name their favorite meat or poultry-based dish. How can they change it so the meat is more of a side dish or garnish? Discuss how a plant-based diet doesn’t have to mean a completely meatless diet.
  • Plant-Based MyPlate: Working in small groups, have participants come up with a few plant-based meals that follow MyPlate. On a large piece of flip-chart paper, have them draw a circle (plate) for each meal and fill in the MyPlate sections with the name (or drawing) of the food. The groups can then come together to share their meal ideas.
  • Unprocessed Plant Protein: Do a cooking demo featuring beans, peas, or lentils. Pass around small zip-top baggies holding different types of dried legumes so people can see the huge variety of choices.
  • Processed Plant Protein: Bring in packaging from products you can find in the supermarket, like frozen veggie burgers and corndogs, chicken-less tenders, fish-less filets, etc. Let individuals or small groups take one or two packages and tell the class about the product, its ingredients, nutrition facts, and how they think it fits into a plant-based way of eating.

Let’s show people that it’s not impossible to fit more plant foods into their diet. In fact, if they go Beyond the processed products advertised on TV, they’re sure to find lots of healthy, delicious, real-food options in the produce section of the grocery store!

Use the code PLANTS15 to get 15% off all of our plant-based teaching resources and prizes! Good until February 1st. Hurry!

 

 

 

Real Food Grows

Consumers are easily fooled by processed foods disguised as healthy food. It might a big red strawberry on the front of a box of toaster pastries. Or it might be the name of the food itself, as in banana nut oat bran muffins.

They won’t be fooled if they remember that real food grows. Is it something that grew into what it is today? Or has it been processed with ingredients added to create a new kind of food? 

Our Real Food Grows materials get this point across beautifully. Here are some activities to go along with them:

  • Print out a list of some real foods and processed foods in random order. Have participants circle all the real foods. Then discuss why they are real and why the others are not. For a super-quick way to do this activity, use our Real Food Grows bookmarks, which have a list of items on the back.
  • Pass out a variety of real foods and processed food packages. Have each participant say whether their food grows or not. Ask them to tell what ingredients are in their item. For an apple, the ingredient will just be an apple. For an apple fritter, the list will obviously be longer. You can also ask a volunteer to be the scribe who writes the ingredients on a whiteboard or flip chart. They’ll quickly get tired of writing out the long list of ingredients in processed foods and everyone will get the point!
  • Ask questions to get a discussion going about foods disguised to be healthy… Breakfast cereals that contain fruit or nuts? Fruit and grain bars? Banana nut muffins? Oat bran pretzels? Strawberry frozen yogurt bars? Veggie straws or crisps?

It’s so simple, but we need to be reminded every day that Real Food Grows!