Roanna Martin

"make [food] simple and let things taste of what they are." {Curnonsky}


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Apples in October

This time of year, I adhere to a personal mantra of “three apples a day keeps the doctor away”. Seriously, it’s not that unusual for me to slice an apple into my morning oatmeal, snag an apple as an afternoon snack, and enjoy applesauce or apple crisp or cake or pie for dinner. A large dose of cinnamon, a few cloves and ginger thrown in for a rounded out fall flavor. Can’t beat it.

October is “National Apple Month”. It’s also “Farm to School” month. For this reason, I’m going to share about a little project that I completed in my most recent rotation. It has to do with apples, and farms, and schools.

The Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Design is not only home to the Division of Animal and Nutritional Sciences (where my program falls), but also the Division of Plant and Soil Sciences.

This division operates the Kearneysville Tree Fruit Research and Education Center located in Jefferson County, WV- in what is referred to as the “Eastern Panhandle” of the state. The fruits of this labor are then sold through the Plant and Soil Sciences farm, about 2.9 miles away from the dining hall where I was rotating. The apples are brought in large crates, and anyone can come to pick out their own apples. Varieties include Golden Delicious, Rome, Red Delicious, Honey Crisp and I believe a few others too. Availability varies, and this year was more limited than some, due to less than ideal growing conditions.

 

So how does this connect to my rotation? I needed to complete a “Process Improvement Project”, and chose to work on bringing local produce into the dining hall.

I first spoke with the Director of Dining Services. They had gotten apples from the farm in the past, but this year it had not been made a priority, so my assistance in the project would be much appreciated.

I made some phone calls, visited the farm, coordinated with dining facility personnel to cancel current orders of apples from the standard supplier, and got the ball rolling.

One of the common issues with purchasing local food is the increased amount of labor required in bypassing the “conventional” food system. In this case, the individuals working at the farm did not have time to sort out apples that were needed for the cafeteria, and likewise dining facilities was short-staffed and unable to provide this labor and transportation. So myself and the Director of Dining Services stepped in the labor gap and counted out 2,300 apples. Yeah, it was a lot of apples. 

 

 

 

Apples were brought into the dining facility. Here they are- ready to be washed and put out for tasting!

 

The apples were then placed in the cafeteria, along with point-of-sale advertisement that the apples were grown in West Virginia.

 

 

 

I may get a little bit too excited about fresh food- especially when it is grown locally. 

When calculating the cost of purchasing the West Virginia apples, even including the additional labor required for sorting, the cost of purchasing these apples was slightly less than ordering through the produce contract. Buying local foods for use in foodservice operations can be done- but I will be the first to admit that it takes creativity, hard work, and persistence. To date, 176 colleges and universities nationwide have completed a survey on the Farm to College website indicating that they are integrating local food into their operation. There are also now Farm to School programs in all fifty states. Movement towards connecting consumers with the source of their food is growing (pun intended), but a lot more work remains.

As a random bit of trivia- the Golden Delicious is the State Fruit of West Virginia- discovered in Clay County, WV around 1912 by a man named Anderson Mullins. There’s even a Golden Delicious Festival to celebrate it.

 


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Healthy Snacks

First off, my apologies to Emily  since this post is very similar to hers. But I figured that not everyone who reads my blog is also reading hers, although I highly recommend you take time to read her blog as well!

Today over lunchtime we got to set up shop in the dining hall, complete with a white table cloth.

We were surrounded by a variety of examples of snacks- some healthy, and some NOT so healthy. 

Armed with a stack of beautiful brochures that Emily designed, and a “MyPlate” wheel for quickly calculating calorie needs and servings from each food group, we set up to educate the student population about healthy snacking.

The station generated some interesting conversations, and it was fun to make ourselves available to anyone who had an interest in stopping by. 

Here are a few examples of the snacks that we had:

Celery with Peanut Butter

 

and an apple…

 

and a not so healthy snack of nachos and nacho cheese…

Although, it wouldn’t be hard to turn those unhealthy chips and cheese into a healthy snack, by swapping in whole grain tortilla chips, and a 1/4 cup salsa instead of the cheese!

Happy Snacking!

 


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How to Eat Healthy in the Dining Hall

College students often have some sort of complaint about the nearest dining hall. Either there isn’t “enough” food, there aren’t the specific foods they want, the food is “gross” or the classic “I promise they put laxatives in the food.” Well, coming from someone who ate at a college dining hall for 3 years during my undergrad, and now cooks for myself, here’s some advice for college students, “Take advantage of it!!!” Seriously. Particularly after working with the foodservice staff here at WVU for the past few weeks, they truly care about your dining experience. They want you to have healthy and delicious options!

Yesterday, Emily and I were able to give a presentation, by the same name as this blog post, to a group of students as part of a wellness program. We started off by distributing plates and cups from the dining hall, and a dry erase market to each student. Their assignment was to draw what proportion of their plates and cups should come from the five food groups: grain, vegetables, fruit, protein foods, and dairy. Here is one of the responses we got: So the student was pretty close, although she overestimated fruit and vegetables slightly. However- I’m not going to complain about that. You can hardly ever go wrong by adding more vegetables to your plate. Here’s what a plate ought to look like, according to the United States Department of Agriculture MyPlate initiative.

 

If you want to see the artwork of some of my younger students in a previous rotation, check out this post.

After this activity, we talked through each section of the cafeteria with the students. We listed healthier options at each station, and gave suggestions on spicing up cafeteria meals. Students also had the opportunity to draw on their plate what they typically get as a meal, and then we talked through some small changes they could make to improve the nutrient profile of what they are putting into their bodies. So, for example, on this plate, we suggested replacing the hash browns (which are high in fat) with another starch, preferably a whole grain. A slice of toast, a scoop of oatmeal, or a half a bagel would be a better choice than the high fat hash browns.

We also brought some food models and test tubes of fat and sugar content of foods to share with the group. The fact that the amount of fat in a cheeseburger fills up three test tubes is pretty startling. That doesn’t mean you can never eat a cheeseburger, it simply means that you shouldn’t have them every day.

One of my favorite models is the five pounds of fat and five pounds of muscle models. Both of them are the same weight, but the muscle is much more dense and compact. Think about what this means in your body. Plus, muscle is more metabolically active than fat. This means that if your body muscle composition is higher, you will burn more calories at your basal metabolic rate. The exact number of calories that muscle burns versus fat is hard to pinpoint, and there are differing numbers thrown around. In addition, there are many other factors affecting calorie burn, so working with exact numbers is not necessarily helpful.

Bottom line: healthy choices can be made anywhere- it just takes a bit of critical thinking and creativity!