Roanna Martin

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


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Food Safety During Power Outages

I’m going to jump on the bandwagon and talk about what everyone else has been talking about the past few days: Sandy. The “frankenstorm” that hit the northeast, leaving millions without power, has also hit the home where I live.
I woke up early yesterday morning to peek outside before reporting to the hospital for work, and being the snow-bunny that I am, my eyes were delighted with what they saw.
Before the busy-ness of the day started, I took a few moments just to savor the glorious white of the powdery film on the trees.  When I was little I would wake up EARLY on two hour delays to go out and play in the snow, and I am still a big fan of winter activities: cross country skiing and ice skating being at the top of the list. So although I’m not quite accustomed to a snowstorm at the end of October, I wasn’t completely opposed.
Then a resounding “CRACK” and a faint flash captured my attention. A limb fell in the front yard, and the “host dad” that I’m staying with attributed the flashes to exploding transformers.
The reality of a storm isn’t always pretty. And this is a record-breaker- I don’t have to pull together the stats for you- it’s all over the news.
And I’m sure it’s hit home for a lot of my readers, considering how widespread it was!
When refrigerator and freezer units lose power, temperature will rise, bringing food into the danger zonewhere bacteria  grow most rapidly.


Here are some recommendations from the USDA for after a power outage:

  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.
  • The refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours unopened, and a full freezer can maintain temp for about 48 hours (24 hours if half full) and you keep the door closed.
  • The following perishable foods should be discarded after 4 hours without power:
    • meat
    • poultry
    • fish
    • soft cheeses
    • milk
    • leftovers
    • deli items
  • Food can be safely refrozen if it still has ice crystals, or is lower than 40 degrees Farenheit.

My recommendation is that if you have some meat that has thawed  to just above 40 and your power has come back on, go ahead and cook it up, and then quickly chill and refreeze it. It’s no different than if you had intentionally been defrosting meat to cook.
Here’s a picture of the fridge- which was without power for more than 4 hours. The only things we left in the fridge were things that don’t really need to be stored below 40 degrees, such as carrots, bread, apples, condiments, etc (and my “host dad’s” bottled Starbucks cappucino!).


If the weather is less than 40 degrees outside, and you have a safe place to keep food where animals won’t get to it- you can set food outside for a short while (This statement is not taken from the USDA- this is my own common sense speaking).
And what exactly does one eat during a power outage? Well, last night we fired up the grill for some fantastic turkey burgers, and the grill even has a gas burner so we were able to cook up some green beans, and finish off the lettuce that was in the fridge.
Don’t take any chances- never taste food to test safety. If in doubt, throw it out!

Food safety recommendations courtesy of the WVU Extension Service.

ps. To write this post I visited a nearby Panera (we’re still without power!), and a lot of others here are without power as well. For example, there’s a little 4-year-old girl singing a song about “Susy has power”… And there’s a long line- I don’t usually go out to eat during the week, but the staff are yelling “No more potato soup!” Everyone’s ready for some hot and tasty food, and a warm place to enjoy it.


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“Making Everyday Choices for a Healthy, Sustainable Diet”

I recently came across an excellent handout on a sustainable diet through the Hunger and Environmental Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group (HEN DPG), of which I am a member. HEN is a special interest group within the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, formerly known as the American Dietetic Association.

This handout was compiled by Mary Meck Higgins, a Human Nutrition Specialist and Registered Dietitian working with the Kansas State University Cooperative Extension Service. I think she does an excellent job of highlighting some of the principles helpful in promoting personal health as well as the health of the planet. She reminds us of the importance of personal choice- we can’t expect the government or big industry to solve the world’s sustainability problems. These entities are shaped primarily by consumer demands. So how are you, as a consumer, going to respond?

 Her suggestions are organized into seven categories:

  1. Choose nutrient-rich foods: Base meals on whole grains, fruits, legumes, and dark green, red, and orange vegetables. Choose fat-free or low fat dairy, lean red meats, and poultry without skin to reduce calories and saturated fat intake. Vary your protein- try non-animal sources. Choose water most of the time, and cook at home often. For more specific recommendations for your age, gender, and body size, visit myplate.gov.
  2. Eat locally produced foods when available: Choose foods that are in season. Visit a local farmers market or farmstand, join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), or try growing something of your own.
  3. Buy from businesses with sustainable practices when possible: This can affect not only the health of the environment, but local economic vitality. Support local restaurants who purchase from local producers. Choose certified sustainable seafood products. When you buy tea, coffee, or chocolate, choose at least some that is certified fair trade.
  4. Minimize avoidable food losses and waste: On average, households in the US throw away at least 14 percent of food purchases. Store perishable foods appropriately. [An example: since I shop for myself and I don’t eat a loaf of bread very quickly, I often store it in the freezer and simply pull out a slice or two and toast it to prevent waste]. Even excess milk can be frozen if you won’t drink it by the expiration date! Instead of peeling potatoes or apples, simply wash them well and eat the peels. Extra fiber, less scraps. Speaking of scraps, try composting them! For a variety of reasons, restaurants often generate a sizable amount of food waste- another reason to cook and eat at home.
  5. Limit energy use: Of the energy consumed in the U.S., nearly 20 percent is used for food production, transport, processing, packaging, distribution, storage, sales, and household food handling. Limit how often you drive to the grocery store. Better yet- walk or bike to get a bit of exercise at the same time! Wash with hot water, but rinse with cold water. Let your dishwasher air dry instead of using the heated dry cycle. 
  6. Limit water use: Conserve water when preparing food by keeping an empty pitcher to capture water from the faucet while waiting for it to heat up. Use this to water plants. Use water-efficient kitchen appliances. Turn off the faucet in between rinsing dishes.
  7. Minimize packaging and wrapper waste: Carry a reusable water bottle instead of buying packaged bottled water. Keep your reusable grocery bags in the car so you remember to actually take them with you to the grocery store! Eliminate packaging when possible: purchase whole, unprocessed fruits and vegetables. Instead of buying small packages of food (i.e. individual yogurt cups), try buying a larger container and separating the amount you plan to eat out into smaller containers.


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Community Nutrition: WVU Extension Services

After completing three weeks in a rotation at a community hospital where I was learning about clinical dietetics as well as patient services, I began a rotation at WVU Extension Services this week. So far, I have been learning more about the role of Extension Services here in West Virginia and the resources available for community education programs. West Virginia University is a land-grant institution, so there is a mandate to share research based, practical information with the people of the state.

I want to share the mission statement of the organization:

“WVU Extension Service educators and volunteers build and help sustain collaborations and partnerships with people and organizations in West Virginia, to improve their lives and communities.

Our programs and services strengthen leaders of all ages, youth, and families. We develop and teach best practices for sustainable agriculture, for responsible use of renewable resources, and stewardship of natural resources. We work to improve our state’s communities, workforce, and the economy.”

In each of WV’s 55 counties, the Extension Service helps people to protect their resources, increase their income, improve their health, and build their leadership and career skills.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to see some of the community work that Extension Services does by visiting two sites where a summer literacy program is held. This program is known as “Energy Express”, and you can find out more about it by clicking here. It was great to see the children engaged in creative summer learning, and they also receive breakfast and a family-style lunch as part of the program. School walls were filled with arts and crafts, and little tents and reading nooks in the rooms made the setting an inviting place to learn and expand young minds.