Harlem Word: Pam Koch on cooking healthy food, farmers’ markets and CSAs (Part 1/2)

Editor September 3rd, 2013

Pam Koch, EdD, RD, Executive Director of the Center for Food and Environment at Columbia University’s Teachers College, gives examples of how she, as a food educator, helps people find easy, fun ways to change food behaviors.

Q: How might a food educator help someone to eat more vegetables?

A: A food educator might teach easy, fast and delicious ways to prepare vegetables. They might also help people try vegetables they never ate before. I encourage shopping at farmers’ markets or CSAs. Buying fruits and vegetables in season usually costs less. They also are fresher and more nutritious.

Q: What would be an easy and fast way to prepare vegetables that taste good?

A: Adding vegetables to soups and stews are a great way to get more in your diet. Roasting vegetables is fast and easy. You just chop everything up, toss with olive oil and some seasonings and put it in the oven. Buying vegetables that are in season usually costs less. I recently brought roasted vegetables [see recipe below] to a fair at my church. People said “Oh my gosh! These are so delicious. I would never have thought of this.”

Q: How do you know what vegetables are in season?

A: Because farmers’ markets and CSA’s have the latest crop, you get fruits and vegetables that are in season here in the Northeast. These locally-grown vegetables are very fresh and more nutritious because they haven’t traveled from thousands of miles away. Also, locally-grown vegetables just taste better. However, they aren’t always cheaper, but are usually a better bargain when they are in season. A better bargain means you look at the full value of your purchase, not just price. So, as seasonal foods taste better and have more nutrition, in the long run, you are getting more for your money.
When your family gets more enjoyment out of eating them, they are definitely worth buying.

Q: Can people on limited food budgets afford to shop at farmers’ markets or CSAs ?

A: Most farmers’ markets and many CSA’s now take EBT cards and some farmers’ markets offer “Health Bucks”. This is a great program.  When someone purchases five dollars worth of produce with their EBT card, they can get two dollars worth of additional produce as a bonus. It’s like buying seven dollars worth of food for only five dollars.  Also, many CSAs allow shares to be purchased over time, and are sometimes subsidized to make them more affordable to a wider group of people. To find a CSA near you go to Justfood.org and look for a CSA near you by zipcode.


Roasted Root Vegetables: a New York Winter Treat

1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes*
3 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch slices
2 parsnips, cut into 1/2-inch slices
4 turnips, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 tablespoons olive oil
5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried parsley
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper

Thoroughly mix all ingredients in a large casserole dish, cook at 350F for about one hour, until a fork  goes easily into the vegetables.

NOTE: the root vegetables listed here are a suggestion, feel free to substitute or also add in rutabaga, celeriac (celery root), kohlrabi, beets, radishes, sweet potatoes or other root vegetables.

Roasted root vegetables are excellent served with brown rice, barley, quinoa or other grains. Also try sprinkling some toasted nuts or seeds on top just before serving.

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