Monday, June 21, 2010

2nd Annual Poverty Symposium

This past Monday, I had the pleasure of attending the area's 2nd Annual Poverty Symposium. The event was a great resource for networking and getting the most current statistics of poverty and related issues on a national and local level.
I had a chance to talk to the guest speaker, Deborah Weinstein, of the Coalition on Human Needs about what areas still need to be developed in the world of non-profits and aid organizations. The biggest issue we saw is accessibility of information.
For our purposes, "accessible" can be defined in two ways:
1a: of being reached also being within reach b : easy to communicate or deal with
2: capable of being understood or appreciated
These definitions translate into the following questions that must be answered to effectively build grassroots coalitions and change
1. How effective are we at getting out the word about our most important issues, services offered and ways to help?
2. Is the information we are sending out easily understood by people of all races, classes, genders?

5 weeks down and 5 more weeks to go of research!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Clinton Farmers' Market

I have been counting down the months, weeks and days until the Clinton Farmers' Market opened for..well for months. Today, June 10, 2010, the market finally commenced for the summer.
After a long morning of meetings, note taking and strategy talks - I was drained. However, as Anne and Joyce drove me back up the hill after our outing and I spotted the little vendor tents assembled on the Clinton village green, my energy immediately sparked up.
Armed with a tote bag and a wallet full of cash, I made my way through the maze of tents: fresh
bread, jewelry, jam, made to order burgers and my favorite...fresh produce and poultry!
By the end of my stroll, I had a bag filled with beets, lettuce, rhubarb, chicken and tilapia.
I practically ran back to my car from the green and was was so excited when I returned to my dorm that my suitemates thought I resembled a little child on Christmas.
Fresh tilapia in central New York? A man
drives his truck from Maine every week to
sell fresh fish to the local community.
I'm spoiled, I know.

As I went for my run down the hill after shopping, I contemplated what I would make for dinner. Choosing what to use tonight and what to save was a huge decision. Finally, I decided to cook the tilapia because the chicken was frozen (the woman apologized and told me the slaughter was a couple of weeks ago, but next week she would have fresh!), use some of the greens and cook the rhubarb for use on ice cream, pancakes, etc.
Therefore, by the end of the evening, my bounty, shown above, turned into....

I tossed the greens with feta, kalamata olives (left over from that great potato salad!) and balsamic vinaigrette. I sprinkled salt, pepper and paprika on the tilapia before cooking it in butter. Unfortunately the corn was a grocery store purchase...
And for dessert! Vanilla frozen yogurt with rhubarb sauce on top.
I think this is my best meal to date, which means I'll just have to outdo myself in the next week.
Bon Appetit!

Rhubarb Sauce
5 stalks of Rhubarb
1/2 C Sugar
1/4 C Water
2 t Ginger

Cut the rhubarb into 1/2 in. pieces and place in a saucepan with the water and half of the sugar. Let simmer for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sample the sauce and add more sugar to taste. Remove the sauce from the stove and add powdered ginger. As my mom would say, the more the better!

Mt. Markham Visit

A child at Mt. Markham gets excited about planting tulip bulbs

This morning I met with Anne, Joyce, dietitian Kate Dorr and concerned Mt. Markham parent, Chris Merritt. Chris essentially started Mt. Markham's school garden program all by herself in the summer of 2007. With her guidance, a lot of my fears about MLK's garden were assuaged, but a few more popped up in their place.
Chris was great at reassuring us that this project is feasible. In her words: "It's all been done before!" While our garden may not be located in suburbia or an upper middle class neighborhood, the curricular resources and grant money is still accessible to us.
However, Chris and Kate made it clear that our project will not survive without parent and teacher involvement. Within Utica, this may pose a problem - many parents either don't speak English or are working during the day.
Therefore, I arrived back at Hamilton this afternoon with a new set of answers and a new set of problems to be solved over the course of the summer.

I'll leave you with a great potato salad recipe I used for a potluck my suitemates and I hosted this weekend...FYI - bacon makes everything better!

Potato Salad with Arugula, Tomatoes, Bacon & Goat Cheese
2 lbs small red potatoes boiled until tender
4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces and fried
1 c cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 c pitted kalamata olives, halved
1 & 1/2 c baby arugula coarsely chopped
4 oz goat cheese

Balsamic Dressing
2 T balsamic vinegar
4 T olive oil
Salt & pepper

Cut the potatoes into quarters while still warm and place them in a large serving bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and dressing when ready to serve.
Hint: goat cheese crumbles better after sitting in the freezer for 5 minutes

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Coffee Talk

As an Emerson Grant recipient, the Media Relations office at Hamilton interviewed me as part of their spotlight on student research:
Emerson Fellow Kate Northway '11 Promotes Local Food Movement

“I really just want to help people,” declared Kate Northway ’11, an Emerson Fellowship recipient who will be staying on campus over the summer, pursuing an independent research project in the city of Utica. Northway’s project, titled “Urban Agriculture in Utica: Maintaining Immigrant Identity While Creating Economic Self-Sufficiency,” examines and promotes the local food movement in underprivileged communities. She is working with Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies Anne Lacsamana.

Northway has an interest in food production that stems from the documentary, Food Inc, which she saw last summer. Food Inc examines the industrialization of food production, and concludes that mechanized food production results in lower quality products and a consumer base that is further distanced from agriculture than ever before. She also took a class in global feminisms that opened her eyes to issues surrounding social justice.

This summer, Northway is focusing her interest and efforts on residents of the city of Utica. Low-income communities in urban environments often struggle the most with healthy eating for several reasons because imported fresh produce is the more expensive option; fast food restaurants, microwave meals, and unhealthy junk foods are convenient and inexpensive alternatives to fresh produce. However, explained Northway, there is no reason why the locally-grown food movement has to only apply to high-income suburban neighborhoods. Community farms in urban neighborhoods represent social capital and give agency to communities and, in addition, offer healthy and relatively low-cost food.

Northway’s fellowship is more hands-on activism than it is research. She will spend the summer working on starting two community gardens in Utica. One will be at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, a school that just recently purchased a refrigerator because in the past, they had been receiving large amounts of fresh produce but had no way of storing them. Northway hopes to teach the students about nutrition and about the value of being able to grow their own food. Northway’s second garden, at Utica’s Resource Center for the Disabled, will promote a sense of independence and agency among the residents.

Northway is a double major in communication and women’s studies, and sees this project as an attempt to put feminist theory into practice. Women have traditionally been the ones doing a large part of the grocery shopping and cooking, and thus are at the center of the local foods movement. Beyond knowing that she wants to make use of her women’s studies major and help the underprivileged, Northway does not have any concrete career aspirations. “What I’ve been asking myself is, ‘how do I take all the stuff I’ve been learning in academia and apply it outside to help make a better world?’” she said.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Everything But The Kitchen Sink Salad

I am still getting used to cooking for one - so I have been having issues with buying too much produce for one week. What to do with it all at once? SALAD!!

Two handfuls of greens
Everything else edible in the fridge

Mine included: mixed greens, strawberries, blackberries, avocado, radishes, feta cheese & homemade balsamic vinaigrette

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Down On The Farm

On Friday I woke up bright and early at 5:30 AM to head down to the community farm on campus. I figured, if I'm reading about farming and agriculture - I should probably do some of it too. From 6-8, we planted tomatoes and sweet peppers and secured row cover over the squash and peppers.
After a quick break for breakfast, we were out again until noon weeding the swiss chard, kale and turnips. 12-3 was prime napping time and then we worked again until 7 PM - more weeding and row covering!
It felt great to be getting my hands dirty after spending so much time doing research in the library.
The farm was started a couple of years ago by two students who were interested in investing in local agriculture. Since then, a number of students come down to the farm in the fall and spring to help pick, plant, weed, and till. During the summer three interns take care of the communal garden and 16 community members grow their own plots on the land.
This year, the farmers decided to work closely with Bon Appetit, our food service provider, to grow produce that could be sold to Bon Appetit during the summer and fall. The end result - more tomatoes, squash and sweet peppers are being grown over kale, purple carrots and swiss chard. However, the latter products can be sold for a pretty penny at the farm stand held every week on campus.
After spending the day learning the history of the garden and getting a good hamstring workout from weeding - the interns and I had a pot luck dinner to celebrate the end of the week and a very productive day.
Since I have started cooking on campus for the summer, I have only been cooking for myself. Therefore, cooking for 4 people sounded like a daunting task. Thank goodness I had been saving a box of pasta for "emergencies" or group gatherings like this one.
Using my new book Raising the Salad Bar, I made a pasta salad with feta cheese, sweet corn and local tomatoes. To finish the dish off, I created a light dressing of lemon zest, lemon juice and olive oil.
Dinner included: rice salad with beans, miso soup, cucumber salad (with fresh mint from the community farm!) pasta with peanut sauce, and my own pasta salad.
I have plenty left over, so make the trip to my suite to pick some up!

P.S. Abby - I brought all the beer you left me to the pot luck. The Summer Brew was enjoyed by all! The Christmas Porters...not so much.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Debra Richardson has organized a Food For Thought film series this Spring that includes great foodie films such as: What's On Your Plate? King Corn, Our Daily Bread and The Future of Food. Shown in public places all over Utica, these films are pushing local residents to think about what and how they eat. The last two films are being shown tonight and tomorrow night at The Dunham Public Library and Utica College, respectively.
The first film, What's On Your Plate is a film about kids getting involved in their local food movement. Through the rest of the school year, our big plan is to get this movie shown in elementary schools and to parents. At MLK elementary it is amazing how much the kids already know about food, diabetes and nutrition. However, it is also amazing how little their parents know. Therefore, we must educate parents in order to get them angry enough to start demanding and cooking better food for their children.
Here is the trailer for What's On Your Plate:

Research Update 5/26

Yesterday Anne, Joyce and I took a trip down into Utica to meet with Debra Richardson of the Resource Center for Independent Living (RCIL). Walking into her backyard was like walking into Eden. She is growing so much food, preserves her own meats and cans excess vegetables and fruits. After sitting down, each with a glass of homemade grape juice, Debra began talking about her life and the work she does in Utica. Debra's life has been far from easy, but has given her so many valuable experiences - from waitressing to getting a degree in videography to protesting nuclear testing in Nevada to opening her own restaurant in upstate New York and finally working for the community in Utica.
At the end of our meeting, the four of us had a plan of action for the summer:
1. Assess the needs at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary school
2. Research the effects of lead poisoning on the community
3. Plot a garden on site
4. Organize a garden curriculum that can be integrated into all areas of study from kindergarten through fifth grade
5. Get all the teachers on board
6. Apply for lots of grants to get $$$$$$

All of those may seem to fit except for step 2, researching lead poisoning. However, Utica is the 2nd worst city in the United States to live in for lead poisoning. After meeting with the principal at MLK, it became even more apparent that a community garden can help these kids by providing food that is not contaminated by lead dust. Principal DeSalvo said that 10 kids this year have been diagnosed with lead poisoning - and those are just the confirmed cases. Lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities in children. However, because of the large immigrant community in Utica, about 7 different languages are spoken in each classroom. Therefore, it becomes difficult to get a child, his/her parent, a translator and a doctor in a room at the same time to get a diagnosis.

I am really excited to nerd out this summer and help the local community feel empowered through this garden. Things are starting to come together!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Time For Lunch

The children at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary in Utica are fighting for healthier school lunches!
After being educated about food, diabetes and their own school lunches, these children wrote to their Congressional Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Shumer and Representative Michael Arcuri.
Check out their letters here.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The First Supper

Last night was the first night I cooked in the dorms for the summer.
I did all of my grocery shopping yesterday, which totaled roughly $90. However, about $30 was spent on kitchen necessities (cutting board, knife, measuring cup, bowls, peeler, and various spices).
With my groceries in tow, I came back to my room to plan my dinner. I already broke one rule by purchasing some natural chicken sausage that originates in Chelsea, MA (275 miles away). BUT - all of the ingredients were fresh and I could pronounce all of them. When I actually start getting paid for the summer I won't be breaking this rule because I will have the resources (aka MONEY!) to buy from the Utica FoodShed. While these items are pricier than meat coming from CAFO's, I am willing to eat vegetarian most of the week to be able to splurge on expensive chicken breasts for a couple of meals.
SO - enough boring logistical talk. Here is what I cooked last night!
Chicken Sausage
Mixed Greens
Roasted Beets
Goat Cheese
Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette

I used a recipe online for roasted beets that uses both the microwave and the oven to ccok the beets in a shorter amount of time. After 8 minutes covered in the microwave, I transferred them to the oven for 15, drizzling them in olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic. When I finally took the beets out, the bigger slices were harder in the middle than I would have liked. Fortunately, I have lots left over, so when I reheat them in the microwave they will become more tender.

Overall, it was a delicious meal made for one. When the Clinton Farmers Market opens on June 10th, I plan on only going to Hannaford for olive oil, flour, sugar, etc.
I am curious to see if my summer plan will work!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Summer at Hamilton

This summer, thanks to the Emerson Grant committee, I am able to conduct research on the Hill.
Here is a short summary of my proposal:
After visiting Nuestras Raices, a thriving community farm in Holyoke, Massachusetts – a city similar to Utica – I am curious to see if a community farm could help increase Utica’s economic prospects, strengthen ties between Hamilton and the local community, and provide the local population with a sense of agency. I hope an Emerson Grant will provide me with firsthand experience in applying theory to practice. The research I conduct this summer will become critical to writing my Women’s Studies thesis on local food movements, women, and food as a form of cultural maintenance in immigrant populations. I will be implementing community gardens at Martin Luther King Elementary School and the Resource Center for Independent Living. Work will include interviewing local residents and organizations, obtaining demographic and statistical data from the city, looking into issues of soil lead poisoning in the area and conducting grant research to make the actual projects feasible.

Because I am working to increase the local food movement in Utica, I am pledging to personally change the way I eat my own food:
1. Only eat local meats (within 100 miles)
2. Stop purchasing processed foods
3. Buy as much produce from the farmers market in Clinton & Utica
4. Eat in season

This blog will be a documentation of my work in Utica as well as personal food experiences this summer. Bon appetit!