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Volunteer with the Mobile Market

Our Seacoast Area Mobile Market (SAMM) is in need of volunteers to help successfully operate the program this summer. If you aren’t familiar with SAMM, learn more here. We need volunteers for both one-time events and weekly recurring Mobile Market stops. Sign up for our volunteer mailing list to receive updates and requests for volunteer opportunities throughout the year.

Here’s a look at what some of our volunteers for the Mobile Market do:
–  Lift, stack, and move products as needed (up to 50 lbs)
–  Pick up products at farms
–  Prep product for sale (bagging, weighing)
–  Set up and break down mobile market stops (tents, tables, signs, etc)
–  End of the day cleaning of SAMM vehicle and equipment
–  Help creatively setting up displays that are visually pleasing to customers
–  Operate point-of-sale and process customer transactions
–  Assist with daily reports and inventory
We ask the following of all volunteers:
–  Interact professionally and positively with producers, customers, and staff
–  Be sensitive with all populations
–  Be willing to learn and contribute in a meaningful way
–  Adhere to all COVID protocols
–  Follow all health and safety guidelines as presented by staff
–  Communicate clearly to staff about experiences, problems, and important information

Click here to signup for our volunteer email list. If you are interested in volunteering for the Mobile Market this summer contact our Mobile Market Coordinator, Celeste Gingras, at [email protected] It never hurts to ask what we have available!

Simple Seasonal Side Dishes: THANKSGIVING EDITION

Written by Leila G., UNH Dietetic Intern

Turkey! Mashed Potatoes! Pumpkin Pie! Oh my! 

It’s that time of year again: Thanksgiving. 

Certainly, this has been an unexpected year for all of us. Despite that the holidays may look a little different this year, hopefully, we are able to gather around the table with our loved ones and give thanks for all of our blessings.

We all have our own unique holiday traditions. Some of us may spend Thanksgiving with family. Some of us spend it with friends. Some of us may eat in the early afternoon, and some of us eat late at night. Some of us may even add our own cultural spin on the foods we serve and eat! The one thing that we all share in common, however, is a Thanksgiving meal. Although turkey is usually the star of the show, it’s the side dishes that really amp up the feast. Filling the table with delicious and nutritious side dishes will make for a wonderful meal as well as lots of different flavors! Incorporating seasonally available produce specifically into our recipes has many benefits:

 

  • Eating seasonally available produce improves your nutrient intake and allows you to enjoy it at its optimal harvest.
  • Purchasing produce seasonally saves you money and benefits the environment.
  • Buying produce from a farmer’s market, farm stand, or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), allows you to form a closer connection to where your food is coming from and benefits the community as a whole.

 

Below are 5 seasonal side recipes you can try at home! Nutritional benefits are highlighted along with simple tips and tricks to up your nutrient intake, while still enjoying a tasty dish!


Beets are an excellent source of phytochemicals, antioxidants like betalains and carotenoids, and inorganic nitrates and nitrites, all which have unique health benefits. This root vegetable is also a good source of dietary fiber, folate, and potassium. Beets can be enjoyed many different ways. When they are roasted, they have a much sweeter flavor. Try roasting smaller, cubed beets and adding salad greens, red onion, lemon, honey, fresh thyme, and walnuts to create a delicious winter side salad! 


Green beans are rich in vitamin A, which helps with vision and vitamin K, which improves bone health and blood clotting. They are also a great source of vitamin C, which aids in wound healing and maintaining healthy skin. When possible, it’s better to use fresh or frozen green beans as they provide a better source of nutrients than canned green beans. If you do end up using canned green beans, make sure to rinse and drain them – this will reduce the sodium content! Choose low-fat milk for this recipe and if time permits, consider making homemade crispy onions using whole wheat bread crumbs, olive or canola oil, and your own amounts of seasoning!


It’s a common misconception that potatoes are not healthy for us, especially with the recent fad of low-carb diets.This myth is likely because most of the time, potatoes are cooked or eaten with large amounts of butter and sour cream. However, on their own, potatoes are pretty low in calories and provide us with a variety of nutrients that are preventative against chronic diseases. They are an excellent source of potassium, a major player in maintaining healthy blood pressure, along with many other vitamins and minerals. Try substitutions like plant-based butter and low-fat milk and cheese when making this dish!


Butternut squash is a seasonal favorite among many – it’s low in calories and loaded with vitamins A and C. Peeling and seeding a butternut squash is quite simple and doesn’t take too long! There are many tutorials online showing instructions. Try tossing cubed butternut squash with olive oil, maple syrup, cinnamon, and a little bit of salt to create a sweet, yet savory side dish. And since butternut squash is naturally sweet, you only need to add minimal amounts of maple syrup! Kick up the flavor by adding a pinch of cayenne pepper or paprika.


Kale is a dark leafy green vegetable and like green beans, is also an excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin K. In fact, one cup of raw kale has more vitamin A and vitamin K than you need in an entire day! It’s considered a superfood because of all the brain-boosting nutrients and antioxidants it contains. Adding kale or another leafy green to your stuffing will increase its nutritional value and add a unique flavor sure to please your friends and family! Use olive or canola oil instead of butter to include more healthy fats instead of unhealthy fats for this recipe.

 

https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0220p26.shtml

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/285753 

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/280579#nutritional_profile 

https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/the-many-types-and-health-benefits-of-kale#:~:text=Kale%20is%20a%20nutrition%20superstar,friendly%2Fweight%2Dfriendly%20vegetable

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/kale/

USDA Announces: All School Meals will be FREE Through June 2021

Written by Leila G., UNH Dietetic Intern

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, national school meal programs, like the School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program, had been providing breakfast and lunch to roughly 30 million students from low-income families each day. These programs have played a crucial role in providing these children and teens with adequate nutrition who may not be receiving nutritious meals at home. 

Due to the pandemic, an overwhelming number of individuals in the country became unemployed, which has consequently resulted in many more people facing serious economic hardship. Immense stress has been placed upon families with children especially, as parents continue to juggle working remotely while caring for their children who are learning online from home. Food insecurity has also become a significant stressor, as there are now triple the number of households with children being classified as food insecure. Many of these households have already struggled, and now continue to struggle, to provide enough food for their families. 

Several months ago, shortly after the pandemic began, the USDA announced the nationwide meal waivers under the Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Option, for all students under the age of 18. These waivers ensure the following: 

  • Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Option meals can be served anywhere and at no cost
  • Group settings and mealtimes that are usually required are not pertinent to meals being served 
  • Meal pattern requirements are waived as necessary
  • Parents/caregivers can pick up meals for their children from any school site

The waivers were administered under these two programs as they offer greater flexibilities than the School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program. With this, many families were reassured that their children would be provided with nutritious meals at no cost. However, there were expiration dates on these waivers, as it had been indicated by the USDA that they would last till the end of 2020 or until funding ran out. This created question and uncertainty for families with children, school nutrition directors and administrators, child nutrition advocates, registered dietitians and other healthcare professionals, and more. Therefore, many of these individuals were pleased to see the USDA extend these waivers multiple times within the past few months, once to last till August 2020 and again, modified to last till December 2020. These extensions have allowed school districts to continue serving all school children free meals regardless of school enrollment. They also have allowed parents/caregivers to continue being able to pick up meals from any school site, rather than be required to only pick up from the school in which their child is enrolled in. 

About a month ago, on October 9th, the USDA announced that these waivers will again be extended throughout the 2020-2021 academic school year, specifically till June 2021. This update attempts to meet the hunger needs of all children as the nation continues to navigate through the pandemic. It also attempts to avoid placing more stress on school administration and eliminate stigma associated with receiving free (and/or reduced meals). 

This extension is a positive for sure, as school districts nationwide will be able to continue providing nutritious meals to children and teens. In some school districts, meal sites have been centralized in places such as churches or large apartment complexes. Meal sites have been placed at bus stops along bus routes and have even been delivered to homes. Even locally here in the Seacoast region, schools have made great efforts to feed students and provide them with the access they need to nutritious food. In fact, the City of Portsmouth has already updated their specific website regarding the recent waiver extension update, emphasizing free meals for all students and providing clear instructions on how families can continue to obtain these meals. Breakfast and lunch will continue to be served daily to students attending school in-person. And for families with remote learners, curbside pick-up at either the local middle or high school will continue to be available. The Rockingham County Food & Nutrition Services website also has clear indication on free school meals for all students and instructions for parents/caregivers on how to obtain these via curbside pickup for remote learners. The York School Department (YSD) has updated their Facebook page with information of the recent news, along with other resources on free school meals, and marketing lunches via aesthetically-pleasing photos of the food they continue to serve. YSD has also been providing the ability for students who are learning via the hybrid option to have breakfast and lunch sent home with them to last for a couple days until they attend in-person the next week. Similar to Rockingham and York county, Strafford County has also developed an organized system since the start of the pandemic to ensure nutritious meals are served to all students, utilizing several towns and locations within the county as sites. Many of the schools in these counties are utilizing an online customized meal order form, similar to grab-and-go services like DoorDash and Grubhub. It looks like these systems will continue to be used throughout the academic year.

However, there remains a question: are all the students who need school meals the most actually receiving them? It appears that despite these extraordinary efforts made by schools, counties, and towns, the participation rates remain quite low. Unfortunately, some schools, even here in the Seacoast region, are only providing curbside pickup on specific days of the week. This poses an issue for parents/caregivers who may not be able to pick up food on those days or even pick up meals at all, if they don’t have means of transportation. Schools allowing pick up for multiple days of meals in a single visit, like YSD, seems to be a minor solution, at least for the parents/caregivers who can pick up on at least one of the specific days. The nutrient-density of meals is also something to consider, as the grab-and-go-/delivery options previously mentioned are typically associated with packaged, processed foods, which can often be less fresh and less nutritious. 

Moving forward, more must be done. Schools have made attempts, but it’s going to require further innovative efforts to improve the issue of child hunger, especially as it relates to the pandemic’s impact. Schools need more funding as they continue to adapt to the new norm. Providing schools with more money will assist them in addressing the increasing rates of food insecurity and allow them to achieve better health outcomes for students and families, especially those who need it most. In a broader context, there needs to be more thought and resources put into improving protocol for school pandemic safety. Ultimately, if schools can fully reopen safely, they’ll be able to provide children access to free meals as it all once was.

 

References:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/usda-free-meals-for-kids-schools-program-extended-as-children-start-school-amid-coronavirus-pandemic/ 

https://www.ednc.org/usda-extends-free-meals-for-all-students-through-2020/ 

https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2020/10/09/trump-administration-extends-free-meals-kids-entire-school-year 

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2020/10/28/how-politics-keeps-14-million-american-kids-getting-enough-food-column/6051427002/ 

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-10-21/covid-pandemic-online-teaching-means-fewer-students-get-free-school-meals 

COVID-19 and Local Food Access

The increase in unemployment has left many of our neighbors food insecure. Food insecurity is not a new problem, however it is growing more rapidly due to the increased rate of unemployment due to COVID-19. Some individuals may have never experienced the stress related to having to choose between paying for a place to live versus putting food on the table, but it is becoming increasingly more common. The good news is there are local resources to help those in need at this time. If you are familiar with other resources that are available but not listed please share in the comments. 

Food Access Resources

Listing of local food pantries

Do you have an excess of food in your garden? Click here for Food Pantries that accept fresh foods

Where you can use your SNAP benefits locally. 

Local Farmers’ Markets Schedule

Updates on our Winter Farmers’ Markets in Exeter and Rollinsford


NH Food Access Map was created to enable food access organizations to offer and list services and share them with the public. The map includes a directory of pantries/meals, local food discounts/benefits, nutrition assistance, and summer meals.

The New Hampshire Food Bank works to distribute millions of pounds of food to partner agencies each year. If you are in need of food, please contact your local Food Pantry or call the NH Food Bank SNAP Outreach Coordinator who can assist you in applying for SNAP (Food Stamps) at 603-669-9725 ext. 1147.

To sign up for SNAP go to www.nheasy.nh.gov

Gather is an agency committed to ending hunger in Seacoast, NH located in Portsmouth. Gather offers many services, a few include:

Gather’s Pantry market is open:

MONDAY-THURSDAY:  10A-5PM (PANTRY MARKET)

FRIDAY:  9A-1P (COMMUNITY FRIDAY: OUTDOORS AT COMMUNITY CAMPUS)

Please bring a photo ID + proof of residency. 

Meals 4 Kids is a program offered by Gather that is available to all school aged-children that are eligible for free or reduced school lunch. Each week children receive healthy ingredients and recipes for 10 meals.

Local Food Access News

The NH Food Bank in partnership with the NH Food Alliance, NH Farm Bureau and NOFA-NH  are proud to announce the pilot launch of “NH Feeding NH” a statewide initiative designed to support the purchase of NH grown food to feed our food insecure neighbors with nutritious locally grown produce throughout NH communities during COVID-19 and beyond, something we believe every Granite Stater should have access to.

While unemployment continues to rise, many restaurants, schools and farmers markets are closed across the state, which also means many of our farms have lost their outlet to sell their product. This program, modeled after our neighbors in Vermont and Maine, will not only support our local farmers, but will also help nourish communities in need.

SAMM, The Seacoast Area Mobile Market, is Seacoast Eat Local’s mobile market, and was the first mobile market of its kind in New Hampshire! This year, we’ve shifted the focus of SAMM to help meet the needs of people most affected by COVID-19. We’re purchasing fresh food from farmers that have lost sales outlets and are donating that food to area food pantries and senior housing communities.  This enables people who have no other option of getting fresh local food to their table an equitable opportunity to enjoy the local harvest. During the season, we’re reaching over 400 households per week. Thanks to our partners for the season: NH Charitable Foundation, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation, Gather Food Pantry, and Tuckaway Farm.

Check out this great article written about SAMM. 

 

*All photos featured in this post were taken prior to COVID-19.

9 Reasons to Shop at Farmers’ Markets During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Shopping of any nature can seem like a daunting task on a normal day, and even more difficult during the COVID-19 crisis. Usually farmers’ markets are seen as a social event along with a food access point however this year things are a little different. Everyone is concerned with hygiene and sanitization in the pursuit of staying healthy and virus free, and farmers’ markets are no different. Here are nine reasons to shop at farmers’ markets during the COVID-19 pandemic and why they are among the safest and best places to grocery shop.

  1. Farmers’ market aisles are the widest of any market, indoors or out! This makes social distancing procedures easier to follow.
 Many markets are even mapping out the route customers should take through the market to keep traffic all heading in one direction. Vendors are spaced out so that it is easier for customers to shop at the same time with different vendors.
  2. You are buying from the farms and often times even the farmers who harvested the produce. 
This means that far fewer hands have handled the food overall reducing the risk of transmission by surface contamination.
  3. Shopping outdoors means you are in the healthiest air you can breathe! Indoor air systems recirculate their air and with it the virus.
  4. When this all done, you will want your local farmers growing things you like to eat
. When shopping outside your local network of producers (usually products from grocery stores or the internet) many other people are included in the process which increases the risk of transmission of any illness or contaminant.
  5.  It’s more fun, and more relaxed! When the social distancing restrictions are lifted you can meet so many amazing people and local producers at the market. Keeping the markets going means when this all passes you can enjoy all the things markets have to offer.
  6. The farmers’ market can be thought of as your pantry.  They have fresh food every week, so you can stock up slowly, and count on us to have food every market day
. You don’t have to worry about inventory shortages like the grocery store.
  7. The food is fresher
. The food is often harvested within a few days if not the same day as the market, whereas at the grocery store the food has traveled long distances.
  8. You are helping to keep many of your neighbors in business and supporting your local economy. When you buy locally you are putting money directly into the pocket of the local food producer where they can use it to support their families.
  9. Supermarkets have many staff members that handle everything from unpacking, stocking, ringing, bagging, and more. When you shop at the farmers’ market usually there isn’t more than 1-2 people per stall and usually they are the ones who packed the product and even harvested it!

To find markets scheduled near you click here.

SNAP Can Now Be Used at Some Farm Stands

SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), formally known as food stamps, has historically been accepted at grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and only a select amount of farm stands. However, with the current COVID-19 pandemic, it seems like we are going to see a shift to more farm stands/stores accepting SNAP/EBT, especially as farmers’ markets are delayed, reduced in hours and/or vendors, or cancelled.  Individuals on SNAP receive a monthly deposit onto their EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) card in which they can use the funds to purchase food at the outlets listed above (online purchasing pilots are currently being tested in other states, but only for a specific set of larger commercial entities). SNAP eligibility is income driven and is a program to address food insecurity among low income individuals.

Resources available for individuals enrolled in SNAP/EBT services include the ability to receive a discount on fruit and vegetable purchases through Double Up Food Bucks and Granite State Market Match. By utilizing one of these services, you can essentially receive 50% off your fruit and vegetable purchases! At Seacoast Eat Local, we work with the New Hampshire Nutrition Incentive Network, who developed Granite State Market Match. Local farmers’ markets and farm stands/stores that participate in this program have the ability to offer this service (50% of fresh fruits and vegetables) to SNAP customers. If you are SNAP customer and interested in purchasing a CSA we also offer a great deal for a fruit/vegetable CSA from a farm of your choice. As of right now these are the farms accepting SNAP on the Seacoast:

Vernon Family Farm located in Newfields, NH

Heron Pond Farm located in South Hampton,NH

Clyde Farm located in Farmington, NH

Dog Rose Farm in Lee, NH

McKenzie’s Farm located in Milton, NH

Riverside Farm in Berwick, ME

Current changes are being made to policies related to SNAP and they may affect you if you are currently utilizing SNAP. The Families First Corona Virus Responce Act of 2020 was recently put into place to alleviate some of the food access and financial issues that have been associated with the COVID-19 crisis. The act implies that it: 

-Temporarily suspends the work and work training requirements for SNAP during this crisis.

-Temporarily removes the time limit on SNAP for Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents.

-SNAP households will be receiving a one-time (at this time, however as the crisis continues there may be more) increase on their current monthly allotment up to the maximum allotment for a household that size. 

If you or someone you know is currently struggling with food insecurity, you can apply for benefits by visiting https://nheasy.nh.gov/#/ or call 1-844-275-3447. There are also other resources including food pantries in the area that are offering food to individuals and families in need. 

Food Pantries in NH

Food Pantries in ME

Food Pantries in MA

If you are a farm and have an operating farm stand or store and would like to offer SNAP/EBT services please contact us at morgan@seacoasteatlocal.org

 

Two Recipes to Try While in Quarantine

Post by UNH Student and Seacoast Eat Local Intern, Chris G.

Having been a few weeks since Seacoast Eat Local’s winter markets have been operational due to social distancing practices related to COVID-19, I wanted to highlight a couple of great recipes. I have attempted to make or modify these recipes with food I have saved from past farmers markets, as well as smaller-scale local markets! As always, please remember to practice social distancing when you go out to shop for local food items, and enjoy!

Green Bean Pasta Salad

Recipe and Photo Credit: https://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/lemony-green-bean-pasta-salad

Ingredients:

12 ounces penne pasta,

1/2 pound French green beans,

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

5 teaspoons lemon zest

1/4 cup finely chopped roasted salted pistachios, plus more for topping

2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar

1 tablespoon minced shallots

1 garlic clove (minced)

1 teaspoon table salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

5 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 cups loosely packed arugula

Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions: Boil pasta, adding green beans to the pot for the last two minutes of cooking time. Rinse/drain when cooked. Next, toss pasta and green beans, thyme, and 3 teaspoons of lemon zest in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk in remaining ingredients, adding the olive oil last and at a slow rate. Drizzle mixture over pasta salad, and season with parmesan cheese.

Why am I a huge fan of green beans? While they boast a high nutrient density,  they also have a low calorie/energy density! This means you can eat a lot of green beans and consume minimal calories. Eating just one serving of green beans provides B Vitamins like Folate, Riboflavin and Niacin, as well as the minerals Iron and Magnesium. Iron deficiency is of concern to me personally, having multiple family members in my past deficient over the years. At the same time, B Vitamins play a host of roles in the body, including digestion, eye health, brain function, red blood cell formation and they support regulation of hunger.

In season availability: Green beans are in season from July to September, but are available in frozen or canned form year round. Arugula will be in season starting in May going through September, but may be available year round locally due to the use of high tunnels or other growing practices.

Sweet Potato Fries

Recipe and Photo Credit: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1014647-sweet-potato-fries

 

Ingredients:

2 pounds peeled sweet potatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut sweet potatoes into sticks approximately ¼-inch wide and 3 inches long. Toss in olive oil. Next, toss in a mix of garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper. Spread fries onto a baking sheet and and bake approximately 10 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Finally, allow fries to cool. Enjoy!

Sweet potatoes are among some of the most beneficial root vegetables you can incorporate in your diet. A serving provides you quadruple the recommended amount of Vitamin A for the day, and over 50% of Vitamin C! Additionally, the roughage from the skin of the potato provides for an excellent source of fiber, and the natural sugars within the fries pair excellently with the savoriness of the spice added. Additionally, baking them to a golden brown adds a crisp texture.

In season availability: Sweet potatoes are available over the winter months when stored correctly, you can learn more about produce shelf life and storage by visiting Chris’ last post here.

As always, if you are looking for a specific farm or food product you can use the Seacoast Harvest search tool.

Storing Fresh Produce During A Pandemic

Post by UNH Student and Seacoast Eat Local Intern, Chris G.

In recent weeks, we have been expected to practice social distancing and are at home for an extended period of time. As a result of this, it has been common in past weeks for people to buy in bulk. If you prefer this method in favor of avoiding person to person contact, it is important to keep track of shelf life related to each item you are using. This post will aim to cover the fruits and vegetables that last the longest.

Onions: All types of onions will last you approximately one month in refrigeration. A good method for prolonging their shelf life is to store at room temperature in a paper or mesh produce bag. Spoiled onions tend to soften, and turn brown in color. 

Potatoes: These root vegetables will last 2-5 weeks at room temperature, and up to four months in refrigeration. Once prepared into foods such as french fries or mashed potatoes, they can be frozen and will last an astounding eight months. Cool, dry storage for potatoes and any other root vegetables is best; if you have space in your basement this works optimally. 

Carrots: Whole carrots will last about a month if kept in a produce bag in refrigeration. On the contrary, baby carrots will last a maximum of four weeks due to the moisture in their packaging. Blanched carrots can be frozen and will last even longer. 

Squash: The most common types of squash will last 1-3 months at room temperature. Ensure they are in-tact; any break in the skin will result in faster spoilage. 

Garlic: Un-chopped can last up to a year, giving it the longest shelf life on this list. As with the root vegetables on this list, a cool dry place is optimal. Can be kept in a brown paper or mesh bag like onions. Once peeled or processed in any way, ensure garlic is kept in a refrigerated container to prevent spoilage. 

Cabbage: Cabbages can have a shelf life anywhere up to two months if handled properly. These vegetables last longest when kept dry; and will last longer if you refrain from washing until use. If you are only using half of the cabbage, the remainder can be dried using a paper towel before refrigeration. Additionally, storing them in a cooled crisper drawer of refrigerators is optimal. 

Apples: These popular snacks can last up to 2 months in refrigeration. A good practice, as always, is to buy local when they are in-season. Bulk apples pre-packaged in bags often come with one or two moldy apples and bruise much easier in transit. Additionally, it is often challenging to notice bruising in bagged apples when purchased at the supermarket. Many apple orchards have sophisticated storage rooms that enable apples to last into April in May.

Citrus Fruits (although not locally available): Limes, oranges, lemons etc. These last approximately 14 days if held at room temperature, but can last a month or two in refrigeration. Ensure that your citrus fruits are stored in draws and not in containers. This is applicable to fruits which are not peeled. You can check for spoilage of citrus fruits simply by the touch, a softer discolored rhine can often mean the fruit has some amount of spoilage.

Remember that even in times of isolation, local food products are still a click away. Many smaller farmers markets still take place in the seacoast area, with the aim to reduce the rapid spread of novel coronavirus. For updates on where you can buy local food products during this time, visit seacoastharvest.org/safe

Does New Hampshire Have Food Deserts?

Post written by UNH student and Seacoast Eat Local intern Meriah M.

Your local convenience store is probably familiar to you for the many times you’ve stopped for a cup of coffee, a pack of gum, or your favorite candy bar. You probably don’t find yourself shopping for groceries among the air fresheners and snack mixes. For one reason, these items cost more than they do at the local grocery store, and for another, in most instances, you can’t find the fruits, vegetables, meats, or dairy products that you need to prepare a balanced meal.  

However, across the United States, there are many people for which these stores are some of the only options to regularly buy food. These areas are known as food deserts, which the USDA defines as areas where people have limited access to a variety of healthy and affordable food. Living in a food desert makes a person more likely to experience food insecurity, even when receiving food assistance because there are few places to use SNAP benefits (food stamps) where nutritious food is available. 

New Hampshire’s food landscape is defined by the state’s rural communities and limited public transportation options, which creates a challenge for many low-income families looking to shop for healthy groceries. Using the USDA’s Economic Research Service Food Access Research Atlas, census tracts (a geographic region used for understanding the demographics of a portion of a county) that have low-income and low-access qualities can be identified (see picture). 

Decoding the Food Access Map (pictured): Tracts highlighted in green, including parts of almost every county in New Hampshire, contain areas that are characterized by low-income and low-access, meaning that a significant number of residents are more than one mile from the nearest supermarket in urban settings or more than ten miles from the nearest supermarket in rural settings. Additionally, tracks highlighted in yellow show areas where lack of vehicle access poses a challenge to residents, with the regions having either more than 100 housing units do not have a vehicle and are more than ½ mile from the nearest supermarket, or a significant number or share of residents are more than 20 miles from the nearest supermarket.

There are many areas in New Hampshire where people have limited access to nutritious food,  some areas are served exclusively by convenience stores, which do not stock fruit and vegetables to the extent that grocery stores do. A 2010 report from UNH’s Carsey School of Public Policy found a correlation in the state where areas that have lower food access also have higher rates of health conditions like diabetes and obesity, which are linked to diet. These adverse effects of lack of food access have prompted innovative ways to make healthy food available in underserved areas. 

In Hawaii, a local organization has pioneered online shopping experiences that empower SNAP recipients to buy locally produced fruit, vegetable, meat, and dairy products online. A similar program supported by the USDA operates in New York, however, instead of local retailers, the food will be supplied by Amazon, ShopRite, and Walmart. 

Right here in New Hampshire, Seacoast Eat Local is bringing food access to residents with the Seacoast Area Mobile Market (SAMM). The SAMM serves seacoast communities that have high concentrations of low-income or at-risk residents, are designated as being at higher risk for food insecurity, or have a reportedly high number of residents with lack of access to consistent means of transportation — targeting some of the green and yellow areas of the food access map. As with the stationary farmers’ markets, shoppers can use their SNAP benefits to purchase food at the SAMM and participate in the Granite State Market Match program, receiving a dollar for dollar match to double their purchasing power of fruits and vegetables. 

In areas where food options are limited to convenience stores, the Seacoast Area Mobile Market serves as an important access point for nutritious foods that everyone should have as part of their diet, regardless of their geographic location or income level. 

Follow the Seacoast Area Mobile Market on Instagram @SAMMVAN!

Safe Food Purchasing and Storage

Due to unprecedented events, Seacoast Eat Local has cancelled our winter farmers’ markets in March and April. This can be disheartening to those who enjoy the fresh food, food samples, and social camaraderie. In the absence of larger markets in the near future, Seacoast Eat Local has encouraged vendors to collaborate on small popup markets of roughly 3-5 to adhere to social distancing rules and avoid the transmission of COVID-19. Many farms and food providers are also developing new and creative solutions such as online ordering and delivery.

For information on how to still access local food vendor options, please visit www.seacoastharvest.org/safe

It is of importance not only to know where local food can be located but how to preserve these foods as long as possible to minimize travel and thus mitigate the risk of coming in contact with others during this crucial time. Many have raided grocery stores, leaving shelves of essential items empty. 

Reusable produce storage bags prolong freshness of vegetables through retaining moisture as opposed to storing them in sealed containers of plastic bags that are not breathable. Mushrooms are the exception to this; they are best stored in a closed paper bag, and not washed. Be sure to keep produce storage bags moist to retain freshness. These can be purchased online through companies such as Vejibag.

Many root vegetables are actually better stored dry, and not in the fridge. Potatoes, onions and garlic, for example, can be kept in a dry place for a month whereas refrigeration speeds up their biodegradation. Citrus fruits are also best stored at room temperature, as opposed to the fridge. 

In many instances, green/leafy vegetables are stored in refrigeration damp due to having been previously washed. If you do not finish consuming an entire head of lettuce, for example, consider drying the remaining lettuce with a napkin or paper towel. This will prevent it from becoming soggy and rotten too quickly. 

Finally, if your produce is pre-cut/prepackaged, or you have processed it and are saving for later, ensure produce is refrigerated. 

If you are curious about the handling and storage of produce, please visit the FDA’s website at https://www.fda.gov/food/buy-store-serve-safe-food/selecting-and-serving-produce-safely. Though the closing of larger markets limits our access to fresh, local food products, there are ways around this barrier through vendor collaboration and proper storage. For prevention of transmitting COVID-19, the most accurate information can be found on the Center for Disease Control’s website, www.cdc.gov.