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Dr. Susan Mathison, Published March 08 2014

Positively Beautiful: Good-for-you food goes local

I spent a recent Saturday with other members of the Prairie Roots Food Co-op, whose mission is to build a healthy community by providing access to natural, organic and local food.

We watched the livestream of TEDxManhattan’s Fourth Annual “Changing the Way We Eat.” The talks featured chefs, farmers, educators and scientists discussing sustainable food, farming, and how to improve our nutrition.

The more I practice medicine, the more evidence I see of the impact of our food choices. The standard American diet is more about convenience than nourishment. But food can and should be so much more. I love this quote by Richard McCarthy, Slow Food USA Executive Director: “Food is the sweet spot between tradition and innovation, richer and poor, young and old, pleasure and responsibility.”

It’s inspiring to think about all the ways that we can work to improve the quality of our food, and it should be a major focus of real health care reform.

This list, while far from exhaustive, is my attempt to celebrate and share the wonderful groups and initiatives that are already hard at work in our region. Many of these groups are connecting as well, and make a collective effort to support healthy, abundant food choices for all people in our community.

1. Prairie Roots Food Co-op is a membership group with plans to open a retail market that will be a one-stop shop for all your natural, organic and local food in the Red River Valley. This dream is close to a reality, and you can help by becoming a member. Email them at info@prairie-roots.coop, and check out their great Facebook page.

2. NDSU Cass County Extension Service features spring gardening workshops and a full-day event for high-tunnel gardens that can extend the growing season to eight months. They have urban youth garden programs and master garden programs for juniors and adults. They also have a wealth of information about healthy eating. See what’s happening at www.ag.ndsu.edu/casscountyextension.

3. CassClay Alive is housed at Dakota Medical Foundation and run by the always-moving Rory Beil. It is the umbrella organization that supports StreetsAlive which reminds people of the joy of movement by bike, feet, handsprings or pogo stick. They also support ChildCareAlive, SchoolsAlive and GardensAlive.

They will be distributing free growing kits to college students at MSUM, NDSU, and Concordia as part of a Tri-College Container Garden Challenge, as well as promoting the “One Million Square Feet of Gardens” initiative along with the city of Fargo.

Their Facebook page has lots of great content and resources.

4. If you are inspired to garden, consider “Plant a Row for the Hungry.” Since 1995, over 20 million pounds of produce providing over 80 million meals have been donated by American gardeners.

Our local Great Plains Food Bank accepts produce donations of your garden abundance.

5. Farmer’s markets are now common in the community. The original is near Dike East in downtown Fargo, and now you find smaller markets in almost every corner of the community.

6. In a CSA, which stands for community supported agriculture, you pay a certain amount at the beginning of the season and usually receive a box of produce once a week during the growing season.

You share in the small risk that this might not be a great tomato year. Producers strive to give great value to their subscribers.

Groups with local drop-off include: www.redgoosegardens.com, www.bluebirdgardens.net, www.lakesandvalleycsa.

com, www.Lidafarm.com, www.meadowfarmfoods.

com, YellowBird/Larsen Farm, Feather Pond Farm, and Kragnes Family Farm.

The city of Fargo website has the complete list with contact numbers.

7. Grocery Stores: Tochi’s Natural Food store in north Fargo has been around since I was a child (in other words, a long time). They consistently try to make fresh foods and interesting natural products available.

Sydney’s Health Market in south Moorhead is another great resource for natural and organic foods.

As consumer demand grows, our bigger grocery stores are listening too, and more shelf space is being devoted to these items at Cashwise, Hornbacher’s and SunMart.

8. LetsEatLocal.org is the fun name for the Cass Clay Food System Initiative (CCFSI), whose mission is to increase access to safe, nutritious and affordable food for our residents by strengthening all aspects of the local food system.

The local food system includes producers, processors, distributors, sales, and consumers. They work on big issues like food infrastructure, urban agriculture, economic development, outreach and education, and food access.

9. When we dine out, it’s hard not to indulge, but our chefs are becoming more mindful of our interest in local foods and healthy options.

HoDo’s restaurant has always proudly featured their local food sources. Doolittle’s recently presented me with a beautifully printed gluten-free menu. And chef Eric Watson of Mezzaluna organized the Red River Valley chapter of the American Culinary Federation to convene local chefs for deeper conversations about food and cooking.

10. Home cooking can be fast and flavorful. DMF’s Kitchen Revolution and healthy cooking classes at Family Wellness Center have sell-out crowds and they continue to create new classes.

Cooking can be creative and artful. Enjoy, and eat to nourish your body, mind and spirit!

Dr. Susan Mathison founded Catalyst Medical Center in Fargo and created PositivelyBeautiful.com. Email her at info@catalystmedicalcenter.com.