Junk Food Gets Booted From Public Schools

edenpictures

flickr: edenpictures

As of July 1, 2014, public schools must meet the USDA’s new “Smart Snacks in School” nutritional guidelines that eliminate all junk food options. This applies to any school that participates in federal lunch and breakfast programs and all products in vending machines, a la carte lunch items and even baked goods at fundraisers. Standards have been set for both food and beverages depending on grade levels. These standards apply to every part of the dishes including accompaniments like dressing, butter or cream cheese.

Food standards are based on calories, sodium, sugar and fat content. All items must have less that 35% of calories from fat, less than 10% of calories from saturated fat and contain zero grams of trans fat. All items must also contain less than 35% weight from sugar. Snack items must have less than 200 calories and 230 mg of sodium, while entrée items must have less than 350 calories and 480mg of sodium.

In addition, all foods must:

  • Be a “whole grain-rich” grain product; or
  • Have as the first ingredient a fruit, a vegetable, a dairy product, or a protein food; or
  • Be a combination food that contains at least 1⁄4 cup of fruit and/or vegetable; or
  • Contain 10% of the Daily Value (DV) of one of the nutrients of public health concern in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (calcium, potassium, vitamin D, or dietary fiber).

Beverages have their own guidelines based on grade level. All schools may sell plain water, with or without carbonation, unflavored low fat milk, unflavored or flavored fat free milk, milk alternatives as permitted by NSLP/SBP, 100% fruit or vegetable juice and 100% fruit or vegetable juice diluted with water and no added sweeteners. Elementary schools may sell 8-ounce portions of milk and juice, while middle and high schools may sell 12-ounce portions. High Schools solely are also allowed to sell items containing caffeine.There are no limits on water.

The standards do not apply during non-school hours, on weekend and at off-campus fundraising events. There are also some exceptions made for infrequent fundraiser that do not meet these standards, but state agencies will have the final say about how often these exceptions can be made. The video below that explains an overview of the new standards.

Criticisms include an increase in waste, as children throw out undesirable food, and an overwhelming increase in operations and sourcing costs. As well, some of the standards do not necessarily equate to healthier choices, such as 100% fruit juice which can contain just as much sugar as soda. While the intention of these new guidelines is good, it is not clear yet whether or not they will be successful and how many loop holes will be exploited.

Who has the best school lunches in the U.S? Check out this list from the Daily Meal!

IBM’s Supercomputer Becomes A Chef

IBMIBM’s supercomputer Watson demolished his competitors on Jeopardy in 2011 and now he is stepping into the culinary arena. While he may not be able to man the flattop, he is able to come up with over the top inventive recipes and flavor combinations never tried before. Senior Software Engineer at IBM, Florian Pinel explained to The Verge that it is “a collaboration between the human and the computer. There’s that constant interaction with the system.”

IBM partnered with the Institute of Culinary Education in New York to re-program Watson to process on command recipe and ingredient combination requests. What he is able to come up with are original and unique combinations that at first glance may seem odd, but turn out delicious. IBM calls this “creative computing” and the process starts with a chef choosing one key ingredient and a cuisine. Watson in turn shoots out millions of options utilizing multiple ingredients.

Some of these recipes can currently be viewed on IBM’s Cognitive Cookbook and standouts include a “Portuguese Lobster Roll,” “Creole Shrimp-Lamb Dumpling,” and a “Vietnamese Apple Kebab.” The dishes took to the road in an IBM food truck, first hitting the IBM Pulse tech conference in Las Vegas in February and then the SXSW music festival in Austen, Texas in early March.

Chefs feel the pressure to constantly create innovative and awe inspiring dishes and prestigious awards are given to those who consistently deliver stellar performances. Yet, chefs are all human and cannot compete with Watson’s ability to go through a database of millions of possibilities and combinations. The program compares different global cuisines to find instances where a certain pairing has occurred and was well received. .

Currently, the prototype creates a list of ingredients and suggestions for preparing the dish, but what it has lacked is being able to create balance and texture in dishes. This is where a chef’s skill and knowledge is applied and where human ingenuity is needed. For home chefs, IBM is working on launching an app which will deliver detailed recipes.

Pinel explained, “What makes cognitive computing different is that computers are able to learn new things and reason about the world as it is and able to create new products never seen before. We are here to learn what people expect .. and what we can do next to help them in their daily lives.” Cognitive computing can help everyone from musicians to doctors to financial advisers make important decisions. Watson is beyond Jeopardy and ready to change the world.

SFUSD Takes Advantage of Fresh Cuts

Fresh Cuts is our in house processing division which provides fresh cut produce to order. We offer standard and proprietary products in order to meet all demands and needs. Product is sealed in specialized packing to elongate shelf like, maintain quality and preserve taste.

We are proud to partner with San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) who utilizes our Fresh Cuts program to provide fresh, healthy and convenient meals for students. It is always our goal to be able to help schools meet nutritional guidelines, stay on budget and keep students happy and full! Check out our YouTube video below to learn more about our work with SFUSD!

Handle With Care: Stinging Nettles

nettlesStinging nettles are a fierce plant, the name alone scares many people away and if you have had a bare skin run in with them, you know exactly what the name implies. So it may come as a surprise to some, but this combative plant is coveted in the kitchen. Nettles have a very unique and delicious flavor, a cross between spinach and cucumber, and can be used like spinach in any cooked dish.

Nettles are abundant in early spring, from March to April, but will last through summer in the Bay Area.  When foraging make sure to pick young plants and only pick the tops, about 3 inches wide. Nettles are often located near wild blackberries in moist ground as well as in open woodlands. If foraging is not your forte, you can also find nettles from local growers; currently organic grower Coke Farm has stock available.

What puts the “sting” in stinging nettles? Silica hairs cover the outside of the plant and contain formic acid. This is the same acid fire ants have and can really pack a punch. Thus, when handling nettles, you must always wear gloves to protect your hands. If you are harvesting, long sleeves and pants are a good idea as well. In the unfortunate occasion your bare skin does touch a nettle plant, check out these ways to treat the sting.

The only universal rule for preparing nettle leaves is that they must be cooked, for obvious “stinging” reasons. After washing and draining them, remove the stems then blanch the leaves for about 3 to 4 minutes. All of the greens should be wilted, but not falling apart. Drain and shock in cold water to preserve its bright green color and then let drain in a colander. Press down on the nettles to release excess water, then place the greens on a towel, wring out any remaining water and you are done. It is best to use them right away, but they can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Nettles are a popular “old world” ingredient. Scandinavians make a nettle and fish soup, Italians use it in pesto, pastas and fillings and Greeks have been know to add it to spanakopita. What people have known for so long, is that this low calorie green is a super food, high in potassium, fiber, iron, sulfur, vitamin C, vitamin A, and B complex vitamins. They suppress appetite, improve skin, hair and nails, help flush toxins from the body and purify blood. Nettles’ medicinal uses have ranged from treating arthritis and anemia to hay fever and kidney problems. As well, when the leaves are dried, they can be used to make tea to alleviate allergy symptoms.

If you are deciding where to start with nettles, go simple. Try finely chopping the leaves and adding them to omelets, sauces or pizza. If you are interested in focusing on just the nettles, try nettle soup! Substituting nettles for spinach, parsley, basil or even chard or kale in a hot dish is a great way to experiment with this item and perhaps find a new favorite dish.

The Green Squad

With a light winter and temperatures warming up even more, spring vegetables are making their way to the table and this season they will be more prominent than ever! With the popularity of kale, arugula and mustard greens, diners can expect to see greens becoming part of the center of the plate, not just a side dish. Vegetables offer chefs more options and creativity, while also being delicious and healthy. This trend is popular not only with high end eateries, but has also made it way to casual and fast casual establishments.

We have put together our own guide for these superheroes of the vegetable world, including dietary information explaining just how important these items are to your health and excited to introduce you to our “Green Squad.”
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Market Update

1. Asparagus Market Saturated with Mexican Product

Large volumes of Mexican asparagus have flooded the market and are driving prices so low California growers are disking their first harvests and delaying the start of the California season. Mexican growers in Caborca, Mexico tried to hold off their production in order to take advantage of on the late Easter holiday season. However they only delayed harvest by about 10 days, but last lead to an overwhelming amount of product being released on the the market simultaneously.

2. Strawberry Harvest Interrupted By Rain

Strawberry growers are in cleanup mode after heavy rains this last weekend. The heavy rains means growers will be throwing out large amounts of product, especially the many growers who were in heavy production. Berries will be stripped for the next couple days, but picking is expected to start again by the end of the week. Growers are not complaining however, they are appreciative of all the rain they can get right now.

3. Limes Are Short and Prices Are Increasing

Major storms in Vera Cruz, Mexico in December and January have caused growing issues for lime crops. Limes are a 90 day crop and the storms are having a direct affect on the limes that are now being harvested. Demand is far exceeding supplies and prices have increased dramatically.

4. Peruvian Avocado Exports to U.S Could Double in 2014

In 2013, 50 million pounds of Peruvian avocados were shipped to the U.S. In 2014, the Peruvian avocado industry has set a goal of 100 million pounds. While this may sound alarming, there is room for Peruvian product in the market. As well, California avocado growers are expecting lower volumes this summer this is the same time Peruvian avocados are peaking.

5. Kiwi Market Heats Up

Kiwi prices are on the rise as multiple regions experience low volume. Italy, New Zealand and Chile all had lower than expected crop yield this year driving prices up. The increase could be as much as 40%, but this adds up when you take in account that volume in the next 7 months could be down by as much as 50%.

For more market information download DF Weekly, our weekly product and market update.

Spring Forward: A Look At Delicious Seasonal Produce Featuring Coke Farms

The first day of spring is just around the corner on March 20th. Spring is known as a time of rebirth and fresh growth, a time of renewal. This is especially true for produce items. Winding down, but still available, are some of winter’s citrus varieties such as navel oranges, grapefruits and pomelos. Leafy greens such as chard, kale and collards remain as well, but are joined by the long awaited seasonal items.

Spring vegetable favorites include asparagus, radishes, artichokes, fiddlehead ferns, leeks, garlic scapes, new potatoes and fresh peas and fava beans. These items have very fresh tasting qualities and add delicate flavors to dishes. Grilling or lightly sautéing these varieties are a great way to taste the natural qualities and really let them shine.

coke-farm

At the beginning of spring, rhubarb leads the way for fruits. Although technically rhubarb is vegetable, it has long been considered in the fruit category because its culinary applications are most similar to fruits. Next to follow rhubarb are strawberries, which means delicious strawberry rhubarb desserts as well. Following rhubarb and strawberries in the warmer months of April and May are apricots, apriums, pluots and at the very end of spring, blueberries. While not local, Hawaiian pineapple season peaks in April and May and are truly a delicious tropical treat.

Daylight Foods was lucky enough to catch up with local organic grower, Coke Farm, about their specialty spring produce items. “Coke Farm has built a reputation for consistent, quality supply of specialty items such as braising mix, savoy spinach, radicchio, escarole, frisee, baby beets, spring garlic, spring shallots and spring onions. ”

Coke Farm also explained how they decide what to grow to insure that they are not only following trends, but are ahead of them:

Permitting the right growing conditions we can offer a year round supply of many of our specialty produce items. Our mix of produce is based on many years of feedback and demand from our loyal customers (partners). We introduce new items based on requests from our customers. They offer us projections and consistent buys once the harvest comes up. We consider ourselves a mid- sized farm; small enough to react quickly to the tastes and trends of the culinary market and large enough to create consistency in volume and quality.

No matter what your favorite seasonal specialty item may be, remember to get it while you can. Spring never seems to last long enough, and your favorite fruit or vegetable will be gone before you know it. Try new recipes, techniques and experiment with new cuisines. Food is something to have fun with and enjoy
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5 Stress Busting Foods

Huffington Post’s Healthy Living recently released an article, “The Best Foods to Ease Anxiety.” Here’s a breakdown of those foods and how to easily integrate them into your diet.

Flickr:spoOnman

Flickr:spoOnman

Fatty Fish
It is time to break into those Omega-3 fatty acid rich fishes! Wild salmon, artic char, sardines, sablefish, oysters, rainbow trout, albacore tuna, and pacific halibut are all great choices. In one study at Ohio State University, individuals taking an Omega-3 fatty acid supplement had reduced stress levels by approximately 20%.

One of the choices to pay special attention to is Sablefish, also known as black cod. Sablefish is an ecological choice, as well as a delicious fish. It is has one of the highest levels of Omega-3 fatty acids which lends itself to the rich and silky texture of the fish. It is versatile and can be grilled, roasted, broiled, poached, in crudo and even in a confit.

Chamomile Tea
Chamomile tea has been prized for centuries as a natural medicine and modern studies are supporting this belief as well. In a small 2009 study, individuals with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) found “modest” improvement when taking a chamomile extract.
In addition to anxiety, chamomile has also been used to treat cuts and wounds, help with diabetes, antibacterial, calms muscles spasms, soothes stomach aches, promotes sleep and helps promote healthy skin.

Flickr:pietroizzo

Flickr:pietroizzo

Eggs
Eggs are packed with very important B vitamins. A lack of B vitamins leafs to confusion, irritability and anxiety. While there are many options for incorporating B vitamins into your diet, eggs also boast having the highest concentration of choline, the crucial B vitamin linked to brain health.

Probiotics
It really is important to listen to your gut after all! Our brains and bellies communicate and let us know when we are hungry. The bacteria in our bellies are part of this conversation and probiotics are good bacteria to support. They promote healthy gastro function and studies in 2011 showed results that support the conjecture that probiotics also reduce stress, anxiety and depression.

Yogurt may be the most famous probiotic rich food, but sauerkraut, miso, soft cheeses, kefir, sourdough bread and tempeh are all other probiotic rich options.

Flickr: swanksalot

Flickr: swanksalot

Green Tea
This ancient tea is rich in L-theanine, an amino acid known for its calming effects. One study reported students has less anxiety before a test after taking 200 milligrams of L-theanine, but it would take anywhere from 5-20 cups of green tea to reach that level of L-theanine.Green tea is prized as well for it aid in weight loss, digestion, mental health and heart health.

The Dirty Dozen vs The Clean Fifteen

A common question we often answer is, “I’m on a budget, but I want to integrate organics into my menu. Where should I start?” To help our customers out and to give a point of reference, we created this chart which details the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen.” These two lists represent conventionally grown produce with the most and the least amount of pesticide residue. We hope this gives you a better idea of which items are the best options if you are looking to integrate organics into your menu, as well as which items reduce your exposure to pesticides.
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