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Eat Up

The farm-to-table movement is more than a fad. It’s here to stay—it’s good for your health

Chances are, you’ve heard of the farm-to-table movement. It’s a trendy term that’s often thrown around at local restaurants and eateries. Many hotspots these days advertise “locally made products” or “farm-to-fork ingredients” on their menus.

But the farm-to-table movement isn’t just a fad; it’s a whole new way of eating. And it’s good for your health, according to Ed Mauludi, a culinary service director at CareOne. “We’ve long believed that the best thing to do is use fresh, all-natural products from local sources in our meals,” Mauludi says about CareOne’s dietary programs. “The farm-to-table movement has just made it easier for us to do so.”

Broadly defined, “farm-to-table” refers to food made from locally sourced, seasonal ingredients, often natural or organic. “Seasonal food has better flavor, and it’s fresher and more nutritious than food consumed out of season,” says Mauludi.  Take strawberries, for example. The best time to eat strawberries is when they can be purchased directly from a local farm shortly after they’ve been harvested. “They’re juicier and the taste is better because they haven’t been sitting on a truck traveling across the country,” Mauludi says. What’s more, studies have shown that fruits and vegetables contain more nutrients when allowed to ripen naturally. Another benefit of farm-to-table produce, he says, is that it’s less likely to contain preservatives than produce that’s transported from other areas.

In addition to their health benefits, eating farm-to-table foods has other benefits as well, according to a Rutgers University study:

Farm-fresh is good for the environment. Purchasing locally supports nearby farms and maintains farmland and open space. And a USDA study found that direct-to-consumer producers were less likely to apply pesticides and herbicides than were conventional producers (with the exception of chemicals to control insects and weeds in fruit, nut, and berry crops).

Local food supports the local economy. Buy from a farmer and the money stays in the community and is reinvested with other local businesses. On a larger scale, food grown, processed, and distributed locally (for example, to local restaurants) generates jobs, which also stimulates local economies.

Local growers can tell you how the food was grown. When you know where your food comes from and who grew it, you know a lot more about your food.

The  farm-to-table movement is more than a fad. It’s here to  stay—and it’s good for your health.

As part of its commitment, CareOne recently partnered with Jersey Fresh, a New Jersey program that connects people to farm-fresh options, to provide residents with more dishes that include local, seasonal ingredients. Last summer through the program, residents got to enjoy locally  produced items like arugula, baby spinach, and beets. “For some residents, it was the first time they ever got to enjoy fresh beets,” says Jullian Yabut, a CareOne  senior food services director. 

CareOne now grows its own organic produce year-round through an indoor grow-rack system.  And soon, Yabut says, residents with green thumbs will be able to help CareOne’s dietary professionals grow and harvest the plants. 

“We’ve come a long way from out-of-the-can cookery,” he says. “Our food is made from some of the best, and freshest, ingredients available. Not many large facilities like ours can say that.”

What’s for dinner tonight? Be smart and choose produce that’s in season and available locally. 

Spring: Early vegetables include radishes, asparagus,  delicate leafy greens like arugula, fiddleheads (a type of edible fern), ramps (a mild, soft onion), mushrooms, strawberries, and peas — first the shoots and flowers, then peapods and full-grown peas.

Summer: The bounty includes “stone fruit” (peaches, apricots, and nectarines), cherries, melons, raspberries, carrots, blackberries, blueberries, beets, zucchini, summer squash, string beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, brussels sprouts, eggplant, corn, okra, peppers, and potatoes.

Fall: This is the season for apples, pears, cauliflower, broccoli, kale and mustard greens — heartier produce that won’t die if there’s a cool night.

Winter: Now is the time for root vegetables, like turnips, winter squash, celery root, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes,  and rutabagas.

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