Sierra Harvest gives salad bar to Grizzly Hill School

by Erika Kosina

Things have always been a bit different up on the Ridge, and Grizzly Hill Elementary School in the Twin Ridges School District in North San Juan is no exception. With only about 100 students, it’s easier for the school to experiment with new ways of doing things, and Grizzly Hill is doing just that with its school meal program.

First of all, the school provides a free breakfast and lunch to all of its students — a much-needed supplement for its students, since over 90 percent of them qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch. Just because these meals are free, though, doesn’t mean they are low quality. All of the meals and beverages meet state and federal requirements, based on USDA dietary guidelines. Even better, Grizzly Hill’s food service program uses as much organic and local produce as they can afford, supplementing the cost of food with community fundraisers. The community is extremely supportive of the school’s meal program. The shift to organic and local started when a few passionate parents not only wanted to see better quality food in the school’s meals, but also took the initiative to figure out how to pay for it.

saladbar_GrizzlyHillUSEWith a little help from Sierra Harvest, who donated a salad bar to the school earlier this year, Grizzly Hill is making even more changes to their meal program. The salad bar is stocked with an abundance of salad fixings three to four days a week, and the kids and staff (and parents) are “eating it up.”

Kids can choose from 16 different ingredients to accompany a green lettuce mix: tomatoes, pepperoncini, baby corn, black olives, red bell peppers, carrots, onions, and hard-boiled eggs are often in the mix. Some of the produce is locally sourced from nearby Mountain Bounty farm, but their favorite produce is about as local as you can get — the school garden! Students are free to “graze” in the garden to supplement their school meals. Grizzly Hill also recently planted an orchard on the school property.

It’s not just the students who are enjoying the salad bar. Paraprofessional Karen Peake, who works at the school, says, “The faculty are totally wild about this.”

Another benefit is a reduction in food waste. Erika Triglia, a Grizzly Hill parent, points out, since the kids “get to pick what they want, they don’t throw it away.”

The salad bar has enabled everyone associated with the school to eat a healthier diet and enjoy those one-and-a-half (for kids aged four to eight) to three (for adults) cups of vegetables the USDA recommends we consume daily. Adds Peake, “The bottom line is that the kids and staff are eating more veggies since we got this salad bar.”

Grizzly Hill isn’t stopping with fresh, organic, local vegetables. They are working with Sierra Harvest to include locally raised, grass-fed beef in the school meal program. Mike Blagg donated a live dairy steer to the school in November, and Charlie Grande is raising it on his ranch in Penn Valley. The only cost the school will need to cover is the processing of the animal in a USDA facility.

This pilot program is bound to get the attention of other schools that are looking for creative ways to get more local food on their school menus. With the generous support of a business sponsorship from BriarPatch Co-op, Sierra Harvest is looking forward to helping these dreams become a reality in Nevada County.

Erika Kosina is the Communications and Events Coordinator for Sierra Harvest, a local non-profit whose mission is to educate, inspire, and connect Nevada County families to fresh, local, seasonal food.

Mood—food connection goes both ways

JulieDeHollanderEver wonder why we often reach for food when we are upset? We know that the foods we eat affect our mood and energy level, and the reverse can also be true: our mood and energy level influence the foods we choose. In fact, research indicates that we tend to reach for crunchy foods when we’re feeling angry, sugary foods when we’re feeling depressed, soft and sweet foods when we’re feeling anxious, and salty foods when we’re feeling stressed.

Carbohydrate-rich foods (grains, fruit, dairy, etc.) increase our level of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that regulates mood and appetite. Foods rich in carbohydrates create a feeling of calmness. High-sugar carbohydrates supply a short burst of serotonin, which can make us feel good for a little while, but can also cause a spike in our blood sugar level, which is then followed by a crash. This can leave us depleted and feed our cravings for more sugar. Complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes contain fiber that helps keep our blood sugar balanced. Eating a meal rich in complex carbohydrates in the evening can also help to promote relaxation and restful sleep.

Protein foods enhance our energy, concentration and alertness. Foods that are high in protein increase the amino acid tyrosine, a building block for dopamine and norepinephrine, which are neurotransmitters that help the brain to focus. Thus, eating a protein-rich breakfast with a small amount of carbohydrate promotes optimum levels of energy and cognition throughout the day. Examples of healthy proteins include lean meats, eggs, legumes, nuts, cottage cheese, and Greek yogurt.

Essential fats play another important role in regulating our mood and brain function, especially the omega-3 fats. Low omega-3 levels have been linked to depression, anxiety, inability to concentrate, mood swings, irritability, low tolerance for frustration, fatigue, and poor sleep in adults; and increased ADHD and other learning disabilities in children. Specifically, low levels of DHA, an omega-3 fat, may negatively affect children’s reading, memory, and behavior. Sources of omega-3 fats include fish (especially cold water fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, and pollock), fish oil, flaxseed, algae, and walnuts. It’s good to try to have two to three servings of cold water fish each week, or consider talking to your health care provider about supplementation to ensure you are meeting your needs.

The timing of when we eat also has an impact on how we feel. Keeping our blood sugar balanced throughout the day can help with mood stability and sustained energy. Frequent meals and snacks containing a small amount of carbohydrate and protein at least every four hours during the day can help keep our blood sugar stable. Depending on one’s meal schedule, one may need to add snacks if mealtimes are more than four hours apart. Skipping meals or going too long between meals contributes to blood sugar imbalances and may also increase the risk of mood swings, fatigue, food cravings, and over-eating. A piece of fruit with a handful of nuts or a tablespoon of nut butter, Greek yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit, raw nuts with dried fruit, or smoked salmon with crackers are examples of balanced snacks that help us sustain our energy and a positive mood throughout the day.

From the Nevada County Public Health Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Program.

Chefs and students cook up local produce for tastings

By Erika Kosina A grand total of twenty-five local chefs volunteered their time in Nevada County schools for “Tasting Week,” November 3 through 7. These experienced chefs tickled children’s natural curiosity to expand their experience of different foods and flavors, … Continue reading

Powerful winter defenses — beating the bugs, naturally

By James “Slim” Miles Benjamin Franklin really nailed the ideal strategy for avoiding disease when he said that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” We are now well into that time of year when colds and … Continue reading

New fresh foods offered at Nevada Union High School

by Erika Kosina Students appear to be embracing the new menu items, despite the shift from the candy, soda, and french fries that were common in the cafeteria just a few years ago. Students at Nevada Union High School (NU) … Continue reading

Co-op takes action against GMOs

The call to label GMOs is continuing to gain traction across the U.S. You might well ask, what is the Co-op doing about GMOs? Merchandising Policy BriarPatch’s Merchandising Policy lists both “Preferred Criteria” for products we sell, as well as … Continue reading

Community events feature wine, food, and philosophy

Treks for the Mind – A Book Discussion
Monday, September 8, 3:00 – 4:30 p.m.
Tomes / Sierra Mountain Coffee Roasters
671 Maltman Drive, Grass Valley
Free — everyone is welcome

With Bear Yuba Land Trust’s focus on agriculture, it seemed like a natural to read one of David Mas Masumoto’s lovely books this summer.

David Mas Masumoto works a family farm, growing organic peaches, nectarines, and grapes. When his father has a stroke on the fields of their eighty-acre farm, Masumoto confronts life’s big questions: What do his and his father’s lives mean? What have they lived and worked for?

In “The Wisdom of the Last Farmer,” he tells how to tend growing things, and how to know when to let nature take over, weaving together stories of life and death to reveal age-old wisdom.

With insights full of beautiful, lyrical descriptions on how to nurture both the tangible and intangible, Masumoto’s quiet eloquence reveals how our own destinies are involved in the future of our food, the land, and the farm.

For more information, email or call (530) 272-5994, extension 200.

Nevada City Uncorked
Saturday, September 6, 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Nevada City Veterans Hall
$35 in advance, $30 for Wine Club Members of participating wineries, $45 on the day of the event. Tickets include a wine glass, unlimited wine tasting, and five food tickets.

Nevada City Uncorked is a wine and food event that celebrates the agricultural bounty of the Northern Sierra Foothills. A walk-about-town style format includes 20 different venues throughout historic downtown Nevada City. Each venue, whether it is a retail shop, restaurant, or winery tasting room, will include wine tasting and food sampling.

This year’s event features a farm-to-table theme featuring everything from grapes to zucchini, and lots of basil in between. Participating restaurants and caterers will partner with local farmers, transforming fresh materials into delicious dishes.

18 wineries from Nevada and Placer Counties, as well as two local breweries will be pouring their favorite wines and beers. The wineries will be showcasing their newest releases in celebration of the upcoming harvest.

Uncorked is a collaboration between the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce and the Sierra Vintners Association. For tickets or information, go to or call (530) 265-2692.

Sample the Sierra Farm to Fork Festival
Sunday, August 31, 12:00 noon – 5:00 p.m.
Bijou Community Park, South Lake Tahoe
$30 in advance; (775) 588-1728

Sample the region’s best food and wine at this festival, which pairs local farmers with chefs who produce tasting samples, which are then paired with the appropriate wine or brew. The weekend is full of festivities for the whole family including farm tours, winemaker dinners, music, live entertainment, and art; all culminating with a fireworks extravaganza over Lake Tahoe.

Moms against Monsanto

Congratulations to the NC Label GMOs group for winning third place in the July 4 parade in Nevada City. Photo by Tony Finnerty.


Studies show organic foods’ nutritional benefits, plus less exposure to pesticides, hormones, antibiotics

Julie DeHollander

Julie DeHollander, RD is a dietitian nutritionist practicing at Sierra Wellness Nutrition in Grass Valley.

By Julie DeHollander, RD

Organic farming practices are not only beneficial for the environment, but protect our own health as well as the health of future generations. While many studies have shown that organic foods contain more nutrients than their conventional counterparts, many of the health benefits of organic foods are found not in what you are consuming, but what you are not consuming, a list that includes synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, antibiotics, growth hormones, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), artificial food chemicals, high fructose corn syrup, and hydrogenated oils.

Based on the research, here are some health reasons for buying organic:

Organic farming methods can boost nutritional quality 

The nutritional value of crops varies significantly depending upon the soil quality and conditions. In some studies, organic foods tested higher in the nutrient levels they contained, especially antioxidants. For example, studies have shown higher levels of lycopene, quercetin, and kaempferol aglycones (beneficial flavonoids) in organic tomatoes than are found in conventional tomatoes. And organic blueberries showed significantly higher levels of phenolics and anthocyanins. Other studies have shown higher levels of vitamin C, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and lower levels of nitrates in organic crops.

A study published in “The British Journal of Nutrition” concluded that organic crops averaged higher concentrations of antioxidants and lower concentrations of cadmium (a heavy metal that can be toxic at high doses), based on the 342 studies in their analysis.

Studies have also shown that cows raised on organic pastures produce milk with increased levels of antioxidants and beneficial fatty acids such as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and omega-3 fatty acids.  Organic milk also contains less inflammatory omega-6 fats than non-organic milk.

usda logoEating organic foods reduces your exposure to synthetic pesticides  

Studies have shown that eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, conventional or organic, can increase one’s lifespan and reduce the risk of multiple chronic diseases. And multiple studies have linked pesticides to health problems such as asthma, diabetes, insulin resistance, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, obesity, food allergies, neurological problems, and low birth weight.

Infants and children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of pesticides. Studies have shown that prenatal exposure to several common agricultural pesticides can induce developmental neurotoxicity, and has been associated with developmental delay and autism. Other studies indicate that chronic low-level exposure to OP pesticide may negatively affect children’s neurological functioning, neurodevelopment, and growth. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued an exhaustive report on pesticide exposure in 2012. Their position includes the statement that “Children’s exposure to pesticides should be limited as much as possible.”

As of 2013, the position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is that high levels of organophosphate exposure are associated with a number of neurobehavioral problems in farming communities. A very recent study published in “Environmental Health Perspectives” found that prenatal exposure to pesticides may increase the risk of autism and developmental delay. Researchers at UC Davis looked at the correlation between pesticides such as organophosphates, pyrethroids, and carbamates, and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and developmental delay (DD). They found that proximity to organophosphates at some point during pregnancy was associated with a 60 percent increased risk of ASD, and an even higher level of risk when exposure took place during the 3rd trimester. Children of mothers who were living near pyrethroid insecticide applications just prior to conception or during the third trimester were at greater risk for both ASD and DD. Risk for DD was also increased in mothers living in proximity to the application of carbamate.

A study published in “Environmental Health Perspectives” found that “Organic diets significantly lower children’s dietary exposure to organophosphorus pesticides.” Researchers at Washington State studied elementary school-aged children who consumed a conventional diet. They replaced most of the children’s diet with organic foods for five days. Using urinary biomonitoring, they found that the urinary concentrations of the organophosphorus pesticides malathion and chlorpyrifos decreased to almost non-detectable levels almost immediately after the organic diets were introduced, and remained that way until the previous non-organic diet was reintroduced. The authors concluded, “We were able to demonstrate that an organic diet provides a dramatic and immediate protective effect against exposure to the organophosphorus pesticides that are commonly used in agricultural production.”

The report of The American Academy of Pediatrics mentioned earlier refers to the Washington study as proof that dietary measures can reduce children’s exposure to harmful pesticides. The authors concluded that “the consumption of organic produce appears to provide a relatively simple way for parents to reduce their children’s exposure to OP pesticides.”

Another study, published in the “Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology” found a link between food allergies and pesticide exposure. Researchers found an association between pesticides such as dichlorophenols (DCPs) and the increasing prevalence of food allergies.

Eating organic foods reduces your intake of hormones and antibiotics

A recent study published in “JAMA Internal Medicine” shows that antibiotic use on pig farms could lead to human infection by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Another reason to avoid foods produced with antibiotics is that beneficial gut bacteria are critical for a healthy immune system. In fact, a new research study published in “Cell Host & Microbe,” suggests that a healthy ecosystem with a strong population of beneficial gut bacteria can help promote resistance to certain diseases.

Things you can do

Eating organic reduces your exposure to certain toxins. If you want to lower your pesticide intake and eating organic is not an option, you can go to the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) list, “The Dirty Dozen,” to learn which fruits and vegetables contain the most pesticides, and then avoid these foods. Choose from items on their “Clean Fifteen” list instead. Of the 32,000 samples they took, the EWG found the highest amount of pesticide residue in apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, and spinach, while avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, sweet peas, and onions contained the lowest amounts.

Since we all have accumulated toxins throughout our lives, it is only logical to avoid exposure to toxins in our food — and in our skin care and cleaning products — whenever possible. In addition, an annual comprehensive detox program is a good idea for most people. Many such programs, though, are not effective at dislodging stored toxins and successfully eliminating them, and some can be potentially harmful. It is best to work with a qualified clinician who is familiar with safe and effective approaches to detoxification.

Organic food production uses methods that promote plant, human, and animal health and also promote a sustainable food system. Organic practices preserve the quality of our drinking water, protect the health of farm workers and neighboring communities, and protect our planet and food system for future generations.

Julie DeHollander, RD is a dietitian nutritionist practicing at Sierra Wellness Nutrition in Grass Valley.