Florida grows food too

Last month I was able to take a trip to the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow (ACT) Professional Development Conference, and luckily enough it was in Orlando, Florida! I headed south with 7 fellow Purdue ACT’ers and our great advisor! It was nice to soak up the sun before returning back to the snow and ice in Indiana and have a little fun before school was back in session.

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While in Florida I had the opportunity to learn more about Florida’s agriculture which was such a great experience, especially because living in Indiana the only agriculture I really see is corn and soybeans! The first day of the conference we went on an Ag tour. The first stop was at Fancy Farms, which is a strawberry farm. This stop was especially one of my favorites because not only was the farmer full of jokes but we were able to pick strawberries right out of the field and eat them! They were the best strawberries I have ever had in my life! While eating as many strawberries as I could I also learned that strawberries have around 200 seeds and all of them are on the outside which is the only fruit made like that.

me and a strawberry1

Our next stop was at a landscaping nursery, this was interesting to see because I really never thought of this as agriculture. We walked through a lot of greenhouses that were filled with different types of flowers, trees, bushes, and plants that I had never seen before. This stop was great to take pictures of the beautiful flowers that people can decorate the outside of their homes with.

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Stop number 3 was a visit to the Keel and Curley Winery, which is known for their blueberry wine! We were able to see the blueberries being grown and then take a tour of their brewery, where they are now even brewing specialty beer at this same location. It was really awesome to see the process of how the blueberry was grown to see it being used to then being able to walk into the store and see people purchasing their products, right there all in one spot. Something cool I thought they were making was canned wine, each can was the same amount as one glass of wine.

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Our final destination was at the groves of Florida’s Natural Orange Juice. We were able to see the groves that they pick the oranges from that they use in their orange juice. The group was also informed about the history of Florida’s Natural Orange Juice and learned about the difficulties that orange farmers face. My favorite part was sampling the new products that they are coming up with, which I must say were very delicious.

While in Florida, I learned a lot and it made me think more about where our food does come from. I never really thought about where my orange juice was coming from that I drink each morning or the difficulties that an orange farmer has to face to get an orange out of the groves to get into a carton of orange juice. I think that there are many agriculture food and non food products that many don’t think about where they come from. Think you know where your food is coming from? Take this quiz that the Washington Post has put out that quizzes you to see if you know where your food is coming from in the United States. Here is one hint… if it asks you about alligators, oranges, or strawberries…. choose Florida!

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Thankful & Grateful for Farmers

Thanksgiving Day! Where we sit around a table with our loved ones and eat a delicious meal, think of what we are thankful for, and reflect on the gathering of the Pilgrims and Indians. The first Thanksgiving was celebrated because of the hardships and hunger that the pilgrims had to face. Few of us know what it is like to face hunger because we have so many options! There are restaurants and grocery stores on every corner, and not only that, now you can choose to buy food that is organic or grass fed!

After traveling abroad to Romania this summer, my outlook on life has changed quite a bit. Romania is a developing country and in the rural areas there is so much poverty. They do not have choices on what they want to eat each day. They eat what they have available and depend a lot on their livestock and that is just if they are lucky to have that luxury.

Romania woman

Many forget that in the United States we have the security of knowing we have enough food each day and we don’t have to worry where we are going to come up with food for the next meal. Especially with the technologies we use in modern farming. Farmers are able to produce a huge supply of foods that keep the stores stocked with more than enough food and restaurant’s menus loaded with a variety of options.

American farmers all have a common goal and that is producing enough nutritious food for the worlds growing population. Some may have different process of doing it but at the end of the day they all want to do it right. This Thanksgiving I am so thankful for the different options of food and the safety of our food we get to eat and enjoy each and everyday. I believe as a society we do not fully appreciate not having to worry about where our next meal is going to come from because of the new technologies we have in modern farming and the hardworking farmers behind it.

So this Thanksgiving when you sit down to enjoy a delicious meal, think about the hardships that others have to face each day and be thankful for the food your blessed with. Give thanks to the farmers who produced and harvested it. Be thankful for the new technologies that give us plenty of food each day and be grateful for the commitment farmers have to feed America.

thank a farmer

Facing Food Insecurity

Did you know that September was Hunger Action Month? The goal of Hunger Action Month is to educate the public on food insecurity and create a movement that has a lasting impact on others to help end hunger in America.

This past week I decided to accept the SNAP Challenge. What does SNAP stand for you ask? Its The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program … aka food stamps. SNAP provides monthly benefits to supplement the food budgets of families in need, but in many cases families are still struggling to put food on the table, even with these benefits. Many Americans benefit from the program; as of August 8th 2014 the average monthly participants in SNAP were 46.5 million people.

The SNAP challenge encourages its participants to gain a sense of what it is like for millions of Americans that live on a low-income budget that face hunger each day. This past week I chose to commit to two days of eating my meals from a limited food budget comparable to a SNAP participant that would live on $1.50 a meal. During the challenge I could only spend $4.50 per day on all of my food and beverages and I couldn’t use previously- bought food.

This task was harder than I thought. The first day I chose to eat yogurt for breakfast, and drank a glass of water, which I normally do. But once lunchtime rolled around and all I had to eat was Ramen Noodles, it began to sink in. I was still hungry after that meal, and dinner was far away. After breakfast and lunch I had already spent $1.74. I wanted to eat a snack but they were almost more expensive than a dinner meal. For dinner I chose to eat a microwavable meal of cheesy rice and chicken.  The total cost of my meal that day was $2.93. By the end of that day I realized I could spend more, but by the time I pay for a product plus tax I would be over budget.

That next morning I woke up pretty hungry. I woke up and had my everyday yogurt for breakfast and went on with my day. By 11 a.m. I was ready for a big home cooked lunch but had to stick to the challenge by eating a bowl of the discounted chicken noodle soup, which I could have ate 10 more cans of! By this time I was getting grumpy because I was hungry and just annoying the person sitting next to me in class because my stomach was grumbling. I was realizing the struggle that many have to go through on daily basis. It was so distracting because all I could think about was my hunger. Finally dinner rolled around, and I was able to have a little bit of meat in my system. I had a microwavable chicken potpie and a glass of water, finishing the day with only spending $3.37.

After doing this challenge, it was a wake up call. The meals I was eating were neither nutritious nor fresh. It was hard to imagine that many of all ages have to eat this way constantly and some may run out of food before they can receive more for the next month. I also couldn’t imagine the stress of living this way; not only does a person have to worry about managing their money on food but also other expenses life throws their way like rent, medical issues, car payment, gas, etc.

I decided I wanted to do a little research into food insecurity in my area. I  realized that there are many misinterpretations of hunger. When I think of hunger, I think of the sad commercials that are  shown on TV of the starving children playing in a dirty environment. But I was wrong! Hunger happens to families that are just like mine! I found that 70% of SNAP participants consist of families with children or ones with disabilities or have an elder person living in the household. Not only that, but many people that use the program have jobs and are making an income.

 

Next, I wanted to look into what is happening in my area to help with this big issue! I found that there are shelters and facilities in West Lafayette that help with these issues like Lafayette Transitional Housing. I also found that the Indianapolis Colts are partnered with Indiana farmers through Indiana Soybean Alliance and Indiana Corn Marketing Council doing a project called “Tackling Hunger.” For every tackle that Cory Redding and the Colts defense makes this season, the Colts and Indiana farmers make a donation to Kids Against Hunger of Central Indiana. How cool is that?!

So what is happening in your area to end hunger?