Local granola company gives back

The Perfect Granola made its first donation to Foodlink on Friday.

What a Perfect end to the week. 

On Friday, Foodlink received a donation of 210 cases of The Perfect Granola, a rapidly growing company that was “created on the foundation of giving back.”

Owner Michele Liddle has taken her homemade recipes from her kitchen in Victor to more than 500 retail locations — including Wegmans — in six states. Her company is growing fast, but this isn’t a money-making venture.

“Our profits go to homeless shelters, outreach centers, and addiction clinics and we’re so happy to be able to make a donation to Foodlink,” Liddle said. 

Other local nonprofits and organizations that have benefitted from The Perfect Granola’s generosity include Teen Challenge, ROCovery Fitness, Open Door Mission, House of Mercy, Western NY Hop Project and the YMCA.

Liddle, a mother of two girls, is showing them what it takes to set goals and reach them.

“We really wanted to do something to show our girls what you could do if you have an idea. You can actually take it from conception to reality — it’s really exciting.” 

More: The Perfect Granola featured in 2016 D&C story

The Perfect Granola, which is based in Victor, donated 210 cases to Foodlink on March 31.

Got a nutrition question? Ask away!

As part of National Nutrition Month, we’re encouraging the public to submit questions to our talented and very knowledge nutrition educators throughout the month of March. 

You can do so in a variety of ways … 

(1) Check out this Facebook post and comment with your question.

(2) Hit us up on Twitter with a question … use #NNM17 and tag @foodlinkny.

(3) Email our Nutrition Education Manager, Alyssa, at avanvalkenburg@foodlinkny.org. 

One of our educators will field your question and give you a detailed response within days. Plus, we’ll compile some of the most interesting questions in a video Q&A, which we’ll share on our social media channels toward the end of the month. 

Want an example? Here’s one question that came in, and the answer provided by one of our Finger Lakes Eat Smart New York educators, Laura Held:

Q: What are the main health benefits of going vegan? Are there any major nutritional drawbacks?

A: Hello! Technically, veganism is actually an ethical philosophy, not just a diet. Being vegan, essentially, means to exclude any animal products from your life — as much as possible. So, for example, vegans do not purchase leather, wool, or silk goods, in addition to not eating meat, dairy, eggs, honey, gelatin, and anything else from an animal source. Veganism is a lifestyle choice for those who do not believe it is necessary for humans to utilize animals for human needs, and that as much as possible, one should avoid doing so. For more information on being vegan and the myriad choices that a vegan makes about what to purchase, wear, or eat, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veganism

That being said, there are many people these days who refer to themselves as vegan, who are following a vegan diet or close to a vegan diet, who may not follow the rest of the vegan lifestyle. And that is what our questioner was really asking about. The more appropriate terminology for this diet is to call it a “plant-based diet.” A plant-based diet could, for example, include honey and maybe gelatin, as the main point of a plant-based diet is to avoid meat, dairy, and eggs, and not necessarily (although it may!) avoiding substances that are derived from animals. There are numerous reasons why someone may choose to eat a plant-based diet. It may include the ethical reasons listed above. It also may include environmental considerations. And it likely includes concerns for one’s health.
A plant-based diet will be naturally low in saturated fat, as this unhealthy fat (which in excess is dangerous to our heart) is mostly found in animal products like meat and dairy. Therefore, this diet is considered extremely heart-healthy. As long as one is sensible with portion control and cooking methods (no trans fats!), and not consuming excess sodium or added sugars, a plant-based diet is extremely healthy. There are several research studies that have looked at this, and several renowned medical doctors, who currently work with patients who need to lose weight and get their biometrics in good order, who prescribe this diet to their patients. Two local examples are Dr. Ted Barnett, MD (Medical Director and CEO of Rochester Lifestyle Medicine) and Dr. Thomas Campbell, MD (Medical Director of the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and co-founder and clinical director of the University of Rochester Program for Nutrition in Medicine). Dr. Campbell, along with his father, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, co-authored a ground-breaking study on the plant-based diet, The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and The Startling Implications for Diet, Weight-Loss, and Long-Term Health. And in 2015, Dr. Thomas Campbell published The Campbell Plan: The Simple Way to Lose Weight and Reverse Illness, Using the China Study’s Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet. To learn more about this book and diet, you can listen to Dr. Thomas Campbell’s July 2015appearance on “Connections with Evan Dawson.”  
Another influential contributor to the world of the plant-based diet is Dr. David Ludwig, MD, PhD, based at Harvard University. In 2016 he published Always Hungry?: Conquer Cravings, Retrain Your Fat Cells and Lose Weight Permanently. Here is a short Q&A with him in The New York Times about his book and research.  
To eat a plant-based diet healthfully, one must make sure to get enough protein (examples: legumes, nuts and seeds, tofu/soy and soy products, some whole grains like quinoa), calcium (examples: fortified non-dairy equivalents like soy milk or almond milk, fortified orange juice, dark leafy greens, nutritional supplements), vitamin D (examples: fortified non-dairy equivalents like soy milk or almond milk, fortified orange juice, nutritional supplements), and iron (examples: dark leafy greens, legumes, nuts and seeds, some whole grains). It is also important to get enough Omega-3 fatty acids(examples: flaxseed, flaxseed oil, walnuts, hemp seeds, seaweed).
Other than that, one must simply eat a well-balanced diet and one will get all of their nutritional needs met — except for one critical nutrient: B12. There is no naturally occurring B12 found in non-animal products. B12 is a critical nutrient for our brain function and formation of red blood cells. But this is easily remedied. B12 is fortified in breakfast cereals and other food products. There are a variety of nutritional supplements. And there is a product called “nutritional yeast” which can be used as a cheese-like flaky topping or can be utilized in cooking numerous foods to create a cheese-y quality. The required daily intake for B12 is quite minimal, but anyone on a plant-based diet should be sure to inform their doctor and have their B12 level tested as regularly as the doctor suggests in order to ensure that they are never too low on this critical nutrient. It is also recommended to have your vitamin D levels tested, especially if you live in Rochester, where we don’t have enough access to the sun to naturally boost our vitamin D levels.

Thank you, AmeriCorps!

During AmeriCorps Week, we’d like to spotlight the three AmeriCorps members who have made their mark at Foodlink within the past year.

Foodlink hosts AmeriCorps members each year to help with their nutrition education (through Cooking Matters) and food access (through the Curbside Market, Urban Farm Stands and Garden Project) programs throughout its service area. Saharra Malloy and Heidi Riegel joined our Cooking Matters team in November, while Eric Lintala began as an AmeriCorps VISTA member in August.

Saharra Malloy.

Heidi Riegel.

Eric Lintala.

Cooking Matters is one of Foodlink’s three main Nutrition Education programs. It helps families shop for and cook healthy meals on a budget, as part of Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. Throughout the year, AmeriCorps members coordinate Cooking Matters courses for kids, teens, families and parents throughout Rochester. On any given day, they are organizing cooking equipment and supplies, planning lessons, shopping for food for recipes and helping to teach the courses with a team of volunteers.

Saharra grew up in Rochester and has a passion for the culinary arts. She recently helped to carry out a Cooking Matters at the Store event in Rochester as part of National Nutrition Month, reaching over 65 people to show them simple ways to eat healthier on a budget while shopping at a grocery store. Seeing as she loves to cook, she sees her term as an opportunity to explore a career in the culinary arts.

Heidi graduated from Roberts Wesleyan this past year and sees her term of service as an opportunity to connect with the participants in classes and expose them to new foods and ways of preparing healthy meals. She loves to introduce participants to new fruits and vegetables and to see their reactions when they realize they like them. Her hope is to take what she learns during her year of service and apply it toward a career in social work.

“Foodlink is so appreciative of the efforts of our AmeriCorps members, adding capacity to our programs and giving back in such a big way,” said Alyssa VanValkenburg, Foodlink’s Nutrition Education Manager.

Eric has made significant contributions at Foodlink in the last seven months with our food access team. One of his biggest undertakings was recruiting and managing dozens of volunteers for our Curbside Market program. He also planned and hosted a focus group with our most loyal volunteers in January. Eric also shoulders the social media responsibilities for Curbside, organizes plenty of data associated with our food access programs and has contributed to the success of numerous projects.

“Eric has been a crucial member of the team,” said Nathaniel Mich, Community Programs Coordinator at Foodlink. “He’s grown our Curbside and Urban Farm volunteer base, increased efficiencies across programs and cultivated new community partnerships. Thanks to Eric, our programs are stronger, smoother and more sustainable, with a clear path for continued growth.”

More than 80,000 Americans join AmeriCorps each year to tackle various issues and problems all across the country. They help with affordable housing, hunger, education, disaster relief, economic development and more. Members spend about three months to a year dedicated to a specific role.

More than 1 million people have served with AmeriCorps since 1994, and have contributed more than 1.4 billion hours of service. Last year, 21,600 sites hosted AmeriCorps members.

Learn more about AmeriCorps at AmeriCorps.gov.

Food banks unite in Albany for day of advocacy

The Capitol in Albany.

We weren’t quite as loud as the librarians (go figure), who seemed to arrive by the busload, but food banks around New York sent a loud and powerful message during their advocacy day Wednesday in Albany. 

The Food Bank Association of New York State (FBANYS), along with partner agencies and the New York Farm Bureau, spent March 1 in Albany advocating for three main items to be (hopefully) including in the next state budget. 

(1) Supporting the Farm to Food Bank bill, which provides tax credits (up to $5,000) for farmers who donate to food banks or other emergency food providers.

(2) An increase in Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP) funding through the Department of Health. 

(3) Supporting the governor’s proposed Food Desert Elimination Grant Program.

Assemblyman Phil Palmesano joins Sen. Rich Funke for a discussion about the Farm to Food Bank bill on March 1 in Albany.

The day began with a Facebook Live discussion with Sen. Rich Funke, though several other legislators dropped by to speak briefly and offer their support. Funke, who represents the 55th Senate District (parts of Monroe and Ontario counties), has co-sponsored the bill with Assemblyman Francisco Moya (Assembly District 30 in Queens).

“This legislation that we’ve put together has been wildly popular throughout the state,” said Funke, whose father was a vegetable farmer in Genesee County. “There are very few people outside of the governor who have been opposed to this. We’re hopeful this time around that it will pass, the governor will not veto it, he’ll approve it, and get it moving. We think it’s a win-win for farmers and certainly those impoverished people in our district.” 

The FBANYS was supportive of the bill last year, and remains supportive as another attempt to pass it makes its way through the legislature and budget process. 

“In my mind, this is a very smart bill, because that healthy food will help feed the healthy communities that the governor is looking to support in New York State’s budget this year,” said Anita Paley, FBANYS Executive Director.

About 6 billion pounds of produce goes unharvested each year in the United States.

Assemblyman Francisco Moya speaks with Randi Dresner of Island Harvest about the Farmt o Food Bank bill.

Food bankers also spoke with representatives about the benefits of HPNAP funding and how our partner agencies rely on this funding to purchase food or pay for rent, utilities or key pieces of equipment (freezers, coolers, etc.) The FBANYS would like to see funding increase to $51 million to help close the state’s meal gap, which currently sits at 472 million meals.

Finally, more than 656,000 New Yorkers meet the criteria of living in a food desert — a term used to describe a low-income area with limited access to a grocery store. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has included $1 million in his budget to help establish the Food Desert Elimination grant program, which would help non-profits (like ours) and others to create retail outlets in underserved communities. 

Collectively, our group spoke with more than a dozen legislators. Foodlink met with the offices of: Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (132nd), Assemblyman Joseph Giglio (148th), Sen. Tom O’Mara (58th), Sen. Pamela Helming (54th) and Assemblyman Bob Oaks (130th).