SARASOTA, Fla. — Karen Maxey, 69, grew up on a farm eating fresh fruits and vegetables and maintained that healthy diet throughout her life. But in 2007, the economy took a toll on her personal and professional life; she lost her real estate business and her home, and then her marriage collapsed. She went back to school and graduated with a business degree at age 65, only to find her job search was in vain.
And so, though no fault of her own, she wound up a recipient of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – known as SNAP – which supplies her with $64 a month for food.
“So many seniors are really suffering,” said Maxey, who was thrilled when she found out that at some Florida farmer’s markets, her benefits could be doubled, up to $20, to enable her eat healthy, Florida-grown foods under a program called Fresh Access Bucks. Some markets even double that per shopper, per market day, allowing SNAP recipients to purchase $40 worth of fresh fruits and vegetables grown locally. (more …)
LAKE WALES, Fla. — Among the music of carillon bells, beneath a lush oak canopy, a new partnership is emerging between the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension and historic Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, FL.
The partnership between the state’s preeminent land-grant university and this historic garden will provide onsite demonstration gardens, education programs and conservation research, as well as outreach programs to help people better see, appreciate, and connect with plants. A new school and community gardens program has already begun operations to teach food gardening to students and residents. (more …)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For the second year, University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty members predict the food-related trends that could end up on your dinner plates and grocery store shelves in 2015:
Wow, that’s … pungent: Americans continue to develop a fondness for fermented foods, which often create strong, unique flavors in such products as kimchi, sauerkraut, beer, wine and yogurt. Besides being fun to eat, such foods are said to be good for digestive health. Doug Archer, email@example.com, 352-392-1784, 352-392-5507.
Cheetos have left the (school) building: School foods will continue to become healthier, thanks to Smart Snacks in School standards that took effect earlier this school year. For instance, a pack of cookies might be replaced by light popcorn; a vending machine chocolate bar by a small serving of peanuts. Karla Shelnutt, firstname.lastname@example.org, 352-273-3535.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — While Floridians believe they do a fairly good job of keeping themselves safe from foodborne illnesses, they aren’t always clear about which foods, preparation techniques or cooking methods pose the biggest risks.
But they may be a bit overconfident.
A survey released by the University of Florida’s Public Issues in Education, PIE Center today shows that the state’s residents have many concerns about food safety and genetically modified foods but want to know more.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Ongoing weather issues have forced the University of Florida to cancel its Family Day at the Dairy Farm open house, which was scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 25.
“We’re very sorry to have to cancel, but heavy rainfall in late September and early October created wet conditions in the pasture that serves as our visitor parking area,” said Jerry Wasdin, one of the event organizers. “We’re concerned that the ground will not dry out in time to provide reliable parking at the event, and cars might get stuck in the mud.”
Organizers have ruled out the possibility of rescheduling the event for a later date in 2014, Wasdin said. Possibilities for a 2015 open house will be discussed in the weeks to come.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Taste trumps health benefits for blueberry buyers, sending a strong message that fruit consumers value flavor most, new University of Florida research shows.
About 61 percent of blueberry consumers buy the fruit for its flavor, while 39 percent do so for psychological reasons, according to two national online surveys. By “psychological,” researchers mean those consumers may buy blueberries because they believe the fruit, which contains antioxidants, provides health benefits.
UF horticultural sciences assistant professor Jim Olmstead will use the data as he breeds new types of blueberries. Olmstead uses traditional breeding methods to create blueberry cultivars that have traits consumers want.
“What we’re trying to determine is: What is the consumer’s perception of the ideal blueberry? What should it look, taste and feel like?” said Olmstead, a faculty member with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – While necessary for some, many people eat gluten-free diets because they believe they’ll gain certain health benefits, but these beliefs are not all supported by research, a University of Florida nutrition expert says.
Those with celiac disease, or about 1 percent of the U.S. population, must follow a gluten-free diet because it’s the only treatment for their condition, said Karla Shelnutt, a UF assistant professor in family, youth and community sciences. But gluten-free diets can lack essential nutrients if a person does not eat a balanced diet and/or take a multivitamin supplement.
Unlike their conventional counterparts, refined gluten-free foods, for the most part, are not enriched or fortified with essential vitamins and minerals.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Many parents presume their children will shun whole grains because they think they don’t like them, a University of Florida researcher says, but a new UF study may start to debunk that idea.
If whole grains are offered, kids eat them, according to a new study by researchers at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Specifically, former graduate student Allyson Radford and two faculty members found children ate whole- and refined-grain foods in equal amounts.
“We tried to choose foods we thought kids would enjoy, such as cereal bars, macaroni and cheese and SunChips and found that they ate the ready-to-eat snack foods the most,” said Radford, one of the study’s authors. “We were interested to see if they would eat the whole-grain foods as much as the refined-grain foods, and so we were pleasantly surprised that they would eat the same amount whether the food was whole or refined.”
From farm gate to dinner plate, consumers are looking for more local food options. According to the latest USDA Census of Agriculture, industry estimates put local food sales at $7 billion in 2011, reflecting the market’s growing importance.
A revamped online tool, called Florida Food Connect, at www.floridafoodconnect.com, offers agricultural producers an easy-to-use way to reach new customers and offers consumers an easy way to find local growers of the freshest foods.
Florida Food Connect offers large and small producers and growers opportunities to diversify sales and build profitable relationships.