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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.

 

A Spotlight on Salami

Salami also known as salame has a history that predates ancient Rome. Salami as a term refers to any form of encased meat, but is most commonly a pork sausage, pork blended with pork fat and a variety of spice mixes. Different types of salami can not only vary in flavor but also the part of the pig that is used to create it. Salami can be in fresh, cook, or dry-cured varieties and should look compact with a red or pink dominant color with speckles of white fat throughout. When cut, the fat should stay within the slice and not separate. Seasonings can vary and may include salt, pepper, garlic, fennel, wine, cinnamon, and many more. All the ingredients are mixed together and formed into the shape of a sausage, it is then encased and stored in a dark, cool place to age depending on the variety. Once stored, fermentation begins and that is how the salami continues to gain its flavor. When kept in a dark cool place, the salami can have a long shelf life. Another way to increase shelf life is to add coriander as a spice to the salami mix.

When preparing to eat, soft or cooked varieties should be sliced thin and hard or aged should be cut thick.  Depending on the variety, salami can be served in a number of ways including on a pizza, in a sandwich, on a charcuterie board, as antipasto, and many other ways. Different types of salami include but are not limited to chorizo, ciauscolo, finocchiona, genoa, kulen, pepperoni, and soppressata. The United States even has a salami capital, San Francisco. This is because the humid weather is the perfect environment to cure meat. Salami is both high in fat and protein, and the carbohydrate content depends on the additives in the mix. B vitamins are plentiful in salami however, it has a very high amount of sodium so it should be consumed in moderation. Similar to other fermented foods like kimchi or kombucha salami offers beneficial bacteria to the diet. You can purchase salami from Short Creek Farm and at some of these local markets.

A Spotlight on Honey

Honey has been around since the start of written history and most likely before that however there is not records prior. Since 2100 B.C.  it has been recorded as the first commonly used sweetener by humans. The first record is in Sumerian and Babylonian cuneiform writings and writings from Egypt and India. In years past it was used as currency, to make cement, polish and varnish, and in medicine.

Honey does not spoil and is best kept in a cool location out of sunlight. It is mostly sugar but does have some antioxidants depending on the bees and plants is comes from. There are different types of honey depending on the type of flower the bees go to. Some examples include lavender, clover, acacia, chestnut, sage, and many others. Honey can go threw different production and can be created into liquid in raw and pasteurized varieties, it can be in honeycomb, and also whipped. Honey can be used in many different recipes including baked goods, marinades, and can be added to tea.
Honey begins as nectar collected from flowers by bees. The bees then store the nectar in their honey stomachs. Those bees regurgitate the nectar into the hive and give it to worker bees. The worker bees then evaporate the water in the nectar by swallowing and regurgitating until the water content is lower. Once the water content of the nectar is lowered it is considered honey.
Honey can be found at you local farmers’ markets and from these farms.

The Man Behind Nutrition Incentive Programs

Post by Seacoast Eat Local Intern and UNH Student Meriah M.

Who is Gus Schumacher?

Fresh fruits and vegetables should be found in all of America’s kitchens regardless of the income of the household, however, access to affordable produce is out of financial reach for many low-income families. Gus Schumacher had served as an advocate for these families since 1980 in his capacity as an agricultural policy leader and Co-Founder of Wholesome Wave, an organization dedicated to supporting the healthy food purchasing ability of underserved families. 

Schumacher championed the importance of healthy food access, conceiving a program that would motivate low-income consumers to buy more fruits and vegetables by increasing their purchasing power and in turn, their ability to purchase healthy food. The power and reach of Schumacher’s innovative new approach to promoting fruit and vegetable consumption among underserved populations expanded to a broad network of what are now known as Nutrition Incentive Programs supported by federal grants, including Seacoast Eat Local’s very own Market Match. When Gus Schumacher died in 2017, the nutrition incentive grant program was renamed to the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP), honoring Schumacher’s dedication to universal access to affordable fruits and vegetables. 

We have Schumacher’s innovative agricultural spirit and passion for food access to thank for the implementation of many nutrition incentive programs. After gaining diverse experience in various food and agricultural sectors, Schumacher went on to serve as Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, where he oversaw the Farm Service Agency, the Foreign Agricultural Service, and the Risk Management Agency. Schumacher made invaluable contributions to the Department of Agriculture, impacting the lives of food assistance recipients, farmers, and his colleagues alike. 

In Schumacher’s role as founder and Vice President of Wholesome Wave, he increased the ability of low-income people to access healthy, local foods that spurred the creation of similar programs across the country. Wholesome Wave was built on the Double Value Coupon Program, the same dollar for dollar fruit and vegetable match program that Granite State Market Match provides today. 

Gus Schumacher’s death on September 24th of 2017 was met with great sadness, and his loss was felt deeply by all those in his life, including those involved in his food access advocacy work. It is with great appreciation for Schumacher that nutrition incentive programs move forward, serving his mission to provide healthy, delicious, farm-grown food to all. 

A Spotlight on Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is made by tapping maple trees and collecting the sap. The sap is then boiled until it becomes thicker and resembles a syrup. The sap is clear and looks almost like water but when boiled the brown color comes out. Once boiled the syrup is then filtered to remove any sediment, and that is how the smooth textured maple syrup is created. North Eastern Native Americans were the first known to make maple syrup. European settlers learned how to tap maple trees from indigenous tribes.

Maple trees make sugar in the summer and the starch is stored in the roots over the summer. The trees are then tapped for sap in mid-February to mid-March. Sap collection ends when temperatures stay above freezing or when the trees start to produce buds. 80% of the world’s maple syrup is actually made in Quebec, Canada. Maple syrup can be either grade A or grade B depending on the color of the syrup. Grade A can be either light amber, medium amber, or dark amber. Grade B is the darkest maple syrup available and is created from sap that is collected later in the season. It has a stronger maple flavor and is commonly used in baking, whereas grade A is usually drizzled over food like pancakes.

Maple syrup isn’t only a sugary treat, it is a great source of manganese and riboflavin. It also contains calcium, thiamin, copper, and potassium. However, the sugar content is very high, 1/3 cup supplies about 60 grams of sugar! With this high of a sugar content, maple syrup should be consumed in moderation. You can find maple syrup at your local farmers’ markets.