SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Food is the foundation for providing what is essential to optimal health and prevention of disease according to Dr. Pam Duitsman, nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
“Food is complex, with many health-promoting substances that go far beyond what can be provided in any other package,” said Duitsman.
Food also dictates to our cells how to perform, kicks off biochemical cascades throughout our body that turns genes on and off, makes hormones, and initiates and maintains endless essential multifaceted biological processes. Food also provides taste, pleasure, and enjoyment.
For something that important, why would we substitute real food with highly processed junk foods? Most people know that regularly eating junk food is linked to a variety of chronic health conditions, yet many choose junk foods over healthy nutritious whole food.
“Convenience is often stated as the reason. But once we begin choosing the unhealthy option, studies report that we can develop the junk food habit. Neurochemical changes can occur in the brain, driving us to choose more and more junk food,” said Duitsman.
Duitsman says we need to create environments that make choosing the healthy food the easy choice, the delicious choice, and the affordable choice.
SEVEN STEPS OF SUPPORT
How can each of us support our Community Food System to allow greater access to affordable healthy food for all?
“First, make recommendations at your local supermarket to stock locally-sourced foods. Many grocers will provide local products if they know there is demand from their customers,” said Duitsman.
Second, plan your meals around what is in season, and build seasonal foods into your favorite recipes. To know what’s in season in your area, download University of Missouri Extension’s Seasonal and Simple app to your smartphone or tablet. The App is free and offers help for finding, selecting, storing, and preparing fresh produce found in Missouri.
“The newer version of the app contains many new produce items, recipes, and food preservation techniques produce, as well as a map feature which plots local farmer’s markets on a map,” said Duitsman.
Third, sign-up for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) to receive a share of fresh produce from a local farm. Some CSAs may even deliver to your door.
Fourth, support a local Farmer’s Market. Markets are becoming more diverse, and offering a wider assortment of produce and unique items. Get to know the farmers, and ask about best ways to prepare foods.
Fifth, check-out Farm to Table restaurants that buy directly from local farmers.
Sixth, get involved with the Community Garden program in your area. Many communities in the Ozarks are benefiting nutritionally, socially, physically, and economically from these school, church, and community-based projects.
Seventh, encourage family and friends to take advantage of the many resources from University of Missouri Extension, available in every county in Missouri. Many nutrition, food, and agricultural resources can be found at http://extension.missouri.edu.
“When you choose fruits and vegetables in season, you get all the benefits of great tasting food, with health-promoting nutrients at reasonable prices. You’re also supporting the health of your local community food system – improving the quality of life, health, environment, and economy for all,” said Duitsman.
For more information on nutrition contact any of these nutrition specialists in southwest Missouri: Dr. Pam Duitsman in Greene County at (417) 881-8909; Lindsey Gordon Stevenson in Barton County at (417) 682-3579; or Mary Sebade in Dallas County at (417) 345-7551. The regional office of the Family Nutrition Education Program is located in Springfield and can be reached at (417) 886-2059. Nutrition information is also available online http://extension.missouri.edu.
Source: Dr. Pam Duitsman, (417) 874-2957