Whether it’s date night at the theater or a cozy family night on the couch, movies have a way of bringing us together. When it’s warm in South Dakota, it can be fun to take the movie magic outdoors and gather under the stars. Here are our tips for planning a night that’s sure to please family and friends.
A projector, audio speakers and computer are essential technology. A free projector might be tough to track down, but they are available at most rental companies and easy to purchase. Need a portable screen? No worries. Just hang a white sheet or painter’s drop cloth. You could also skip it and project onto the side of a building if it’s clean and light colored. Don’t forget extension cords.
Pay attention to sunset and plan your festivities accordingly. You want to start the movie when it’s dark, so this could be 9 p.m. or 7:30 p.m., depending on the time of year. Starting later gives you time to host dinner and play yard games. Starting early may mean you can squeeze in two movies; family-friendly first for the kiddos and then one for the adults after they go to bed.
Comfy and Cozy
Keep your audience comfy by providing blankets and pillows for lounging or ask them to bring their own. Hang bistro lights to set the mood, segment food from the theater seating and make sure your guests can see where they’re going. Set out mosquito repellent spray and fire up citronella candles to protect your guests against bugs and other pests.
The best part of any movie night is the food. Snack stylishly by creating a buffet table out of pallets or cement blocks and plywood. Cover with a cute tablecloth and add a flower centerpiece for a touch of greenery.
When it comes to the menu, keep it simple. Finger foods like kabobs or meats and cheeses paired with crackers work well for flexible dining. A popcorn bar with butter and assorted toppings transforms the traditional snack into a bold, salty or tangy mix. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, a selection of classic movie candies or toasty s’mores are two of our favorites. In fact, we have the perfect recipe for campfire ice cream s’mores.
No matter what’s on the menu, South Dakota soybean farmers have you covered. Pigs, cows, chickens and turkeys love to eat protein-packed soybeans as part of a balanced diet. Healthy animals mean you’re serving up quality milk, eggs, cheese and meats for your guests.
Select your movie based on your guest list. The classics or a comedy are always a great bet. Depending on who’s there, it might be “Grease,” “8 Seconds” or “The Goonies.” When it comes to kids, you can’t go wrong with anything Pixar or Disney. “Jurassic Park” or “Jaws” might be fun if you’re feeling adventurous, but watch out. Your backyard may never feel the same again.
Now that you have the basics for hosting an outdoor movie night, it’s time to get the invites out and start planning the menu. Here’s a recipe for Green Chicken Souvlaki Kabobs that’s sure to please. See our recipes for more ideas.
Walking through the aisles at your local grocery store, you may have wondered how many of the foods you eat contain GMOs. For as much as you hear about them online and in social media, you may have questioned if GMOs are safe. The quick answer is there are only 10 GMO crops approved and grown in the U.S. today, many with nearly 20 years of research proving they are safe to eat.
Let’s start with the basics: What is a GMO? GMO stands for genetically modified organism. The term refers to plants that have been bred through a process called biotechnology, which adds naturally existing genes into a plant to achieve certain characteristics like disease resistance or drought tolerance.
Some benefits from GMO crops are easy to spot, such as healthier soybean oils for cooking, apples that don’t turn brown and potatoes that resist bruising. Others are less apparent, but help farmers grow food more sustainably. Since the introduction of GMO soybeans more than 20 years ago, farmers have reduced pesticide use by 37 percent.
The number of GMO crops is relatively small because they require a significant investment in research to ensure their safety. Each GM seed variety takes an average of $136 million and 13 years to bring to market. Learn more about the approval process here.
So which foods made the list? You may be surprised to learn that wheat, rice, milk and most fresh fruits and vegetables are not GMOs. Here’s what’s approved:
GMO corn was first planted in the mid-1990s as a way to use less pesticides. Today, about 89 percent of field corn in the U.S. is a GMO variety. While most of the corn is processed into feed for animals, it can become corn syrup and cornstarch, which are found in many foods you find at the grocery store.
GMO soybeans have been around just as long as corn and for many of the same reasons. Pest-resistant soybean seeds allow farmers to grow more and improve their productivity. In 2016, approximately 94 percent of the U.S. soybean crop was genetically modified. However, most soybeans are processed into animal feed.In the grocery store, soy can be found as vegetable oil used in mayonnaise, dressings, margarine, cookies, cakes and snack foods. High-oleic soybean oil used in some foods is high in unsaturated fat, low in saturated fat and contains no trans fats. Tofu and edamame are produced from food-grade soybeans and are mostly non-GMO.
GMO cotton accounts for about 89 percent of the total U.S. cotton crop. Its main benefit is the ability to protect itself from a pest called the cotton bollworm. Most cotton is used for textiles and clothing, but a small portion is processed into cottonseed oil for food use.
About 90 percent of the U.S. canola crop is genetically modified. Canola oil is used in cooking.
Alfalfa is the fourth largest crop grown in the U.S. Farmers feed it to beef cattle and dairy cows. Milk, butter, cheese, beef and many more foods come from these animals, but like other types of animal feed, alfalfa doesn’t affect the foods that end up on grocery store shelves. Alfalfa’s genetic modification protects it from the herbicides sprayed during the growing season.
About 55 percent of the U.S. sugar supply comes from sugar beets and approximately 95 percent are grown from GMO seeds that help protect them from diseases. A high percentage of this crop is grown near South Dakota in the Red River Valley region of North Dakota and Minnesota.
The GMO papaya was originally designed to protect the crop from ringspot virus, which nearly wiped out the entire crop until the creation of a GMO variety. Today, 75 percent of Hawaii’s crop is genetically protected from the disease.
Squash and Zucchini
GMO varieties of these delicious garden vegetables were developed in the mid-1990s to defend against the cucumber mosaic virus, zucchini yellow mosaic virus and watermelon mosaic virus. Though the actual acres grown in the U.S. are small, the yellow straightneck, yellow crookneck and green zucchini squash are genetically modified.
The Arctic apple by Okanagan Specialty Fruits™ is the newest GM food set to arrive at select stores in 2017. It took 20 years to bring the flavor and freshness of these non-browning, golden apples to produce aisles. Learn more about their journey to harvest by watching this video.
Innate potatoes were developed with consumers in mind. These GM varieties resist bruising and black spots, reducing the potential for post-harvest potato waste by up to 400 million pounds per year. Innate potatoes are also healthier than regular potatoes. They are also better for the environment because they’re grown using 20 percent less water, fertilizer and pesticides.
Continue learning about GMOs and their safety by checking out these resources:
How much do you know about GMOs? Take the quiz.
Are GM foods safe to eat?
Read this study “Will GMOs Hurt My Body?” from Harvard University, which features research from South Dakota State University: http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2015/will-gmos-hurt-my-body/
Have questions about GMO labeling?
SPOILER ALERT: Cuteness overload!
It’s time for our latest episode of Across the Table. Host Melissa Johnson from Oh My Cupcakes! shares some of her favorite kid-friendly cupcake toppings with local farmer John Horter and his son Dane for a fun, springtime activity. Plus, Melissa talks with John about why sustainability matters so much in farming.
As a fifth-generation farmer who wants to pass on the farming tradition to his kids, John knows how important it is to take care of his land so he can leave it for future generations. From using new technologies to implementing advanced farming practices, farmers like John continually find new and more effective ways to ensure their farm is in better shape than they found it.
Watch the full episode to find out about how John uses some of those technologies and practices, like GMOs, responsible pesticides use and conservation practices, on his farm.
If you can’t get enough of Dane’s cuteness, you can watch his adorable harvest crop report from last fall.
Don’t forget to check out our other Across the Table episodes here.
Even if you’ve heard a lot of talk about GMOs, you might still wonder why farmers choose to grow them and how they actually help crops. We have three examples showing how GMO technology helps farmers and all of us have a safe and healthy food supply.
Want to know more about the process of creating a GMO? Read all about it here. If you have any questions about why farmers use GMOs, be sure to leave them for us in the comments.
Product dates such as “use by,” “best by” or “sell by” listed on food packages can be confusing. When the date on the package comes and goes, does that mean the food is no longer safe to eat and needs to be thrown out? Find out what you should do.
According to the USDA, the date listed on food packages is only meant to be an indicator of quality, not safety. Whether you use a product before or after the date listed, be sure to always check for signs of spoilage before assuming it’s safe to eat. The USDA and other federal regulators do not require food dating labels. It is up to the manufacturer or retailer to include them.
While there aren’t federal regulations directing this, excluding infant formula*, manufacturers and retailers often choose to provide a date on packaged and fresh foods. If they choose to include a date, then the Food Safety and Inspection Service requires that those labels are not misleading and include the day, month and year for shelf-stable and frozen products. They also must include a “best by” or other phrase along with the date.
Some states have their own requirements. For example, some states do not allow for the use of a sell-by date on egg cartons.
Here are a few common phrases and what they mean:
While these dates can be helpful for knowing when your food is at its best quality, they don’t mean you necessarily have to throw out food once it passes that date or that you should still eat foods that show signs of spoilage before the date listed. Want to know how long you can trust different foods in the fridge? Check out: Food Safety 101: How Long Can You Store Foods and Leftovers?
Recently, two large grocery trade groups, the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, announced they’ve adopted standardized, voluntary regulations for product date labels. While these labels are voluntary and won’t show up on your grocery store shelves until 2018, be on the lookout for these new changes.
Want to know about food safety and expiration dates? Check these out:
*The “use by” date on infant formula is required by the FDA. Formula past the use-by date should not be consumed.
It’s the moment of truth in the grocery store. You’re trying to decide between organic or non-organic. The organic strawberries and chicken cost a couple dollars more, but you’ve heard that organic foods are better for you. Is it worth the extra money?
It’s important to understand what the term organic really means. Organic refers to how a product is grown, not its nutritional value. While farming techniques might vary, there’s no nutritional difference between organic and non-organic foods.
Another thing to keep in mind is that organic doesn’t necessarily equal local. If you want to buy local products, it’s important to know that “local” is not a regulated term and has no clear definition or guidelines. Organic foods don’t always come from places closer to home. You might be surprised at how little many foods in the grocery store travel to get to you, organic or not. Milk is a great example of that. You can see its farm-to-shelf journey here.
The USDA regulates the use of the organic label and outlines specific requirements farmers must meet in order to be certified as organic. Many conventional farmers also use these practices, but the big difference with organic comes from what you can’t do. Here’s the rundown on the main points of certified organic farming:
1. Preserving natural resources and biodiversity
Organic farmers add compost, animal manure and green manure to give the soil nutrients from natural sources in place of synthetic fertilizers. Soil conservation is also part of organic farming standards.
2. Supporting animal health and welfare
Organic farmers try to prevent disease with a healthy diet, a low-stress environment and plenty of exercise to build up strong immune systems in their animals. They may also use certain approved vaccinations and other preventative measures to try to prevent illness.
3. Providing animals access to the outdoors
Livestock on organic farms must have access to the outdoors, including shade shelter, clean drinking water and direct sunlight. Grazing animals, like cattle, sheep and goats, need to have access to pasture during the grazing season.
4. Using only approved materials
To be certified organic, farmers may not use most synthetic fertilizers for soil nutrition, or pesticides for controlling insects, weeds or diseases. Some approved products may be used, but many rely on the PAMS method: prevention, avoidance, monitoring and suppression.
5. No genetically modified ingredients
Organic farms may not plant GMO crops, and livestock may not have any feed that includes GM ingredients. Not sure if GMOs are something you should be worried about? You can get all the facts here.
6. Receiving annual on-site inspections
The application process for becoming certified organic is extensive. In fact, land must be in organic production for three years before it can be certified. USDA inspectors visit the farm each year for recertification.
7. Separating organic food from non-organic food
Organic crops can’t come in contact with unapproved substances, and the seeds and foods of organic and non-organic must not mix. All equipment used for non-organic products must be thoroughly washed each time before it’s used for organic products.
If organic farming practices are something you feel strongly about, then you’re probably comfortable paying more for organic foods. But if your decision is based on nutritional value and safety, there’s no need to pay extra.
According to dietitian and local farmer Charlotte Rommereim, RDN LN LD, “Both organic and conventionally raised foods adhere to standards from the USDA to ensure their safety. Studies show little to no difference in the nutritional content between organic and conventionally raised foods.”
When it comes to making healthier choices, “The goal for a healthy diet pattern is to increase the fruits and vegetables you consume,” said Charlotte. “The health benefits from adding fruits and vegetables to your diet outweigh any difference in the methods by which they were raised, and studies show it is negligible at best. So, increase fruit and vegetable consumption with what you can afford and know that the foods are safe and nutritious whether you buy organic or non-organic.”
Hungry for Truth supports choice. No matter what you pick up at the grocery stores here in South Dakota, you can feel confident it’s safe for you and your family. What questions do you have about how you can make healthy decisions for your family? Leave us a comment here or send us an email to get your answers.
Get more information about organic farming practices and sustainable farming:
Soybeans are a resilient plant. They’re able to thrive in South Dakota’s demanding climate to produce a crop used to feed people and livestock the world over.
But, like the rest of us, sometimes they can use a little help.
Soybeans are tasty, nutritious seeds that are key feed ingredients for poultry, hogs, cattle and fish. The plant is also pretty tasty, at least if you’re a soybean aphid, spider mite or other critter that likes to feed on soybean plants. Millions of insects and even fungi attack soybeans each year to steal their nutrients, causing plants to get sick or even die.
Soybeans also have some pretty rude neighbors at times. Weeds like pigweed, waterhemp and kochia try to crowd out soybeans to steal their sunshine, nutrients and water. If that happens, soybean yields can be dramatically impacted.
Like people, soybean plants face diseases that threaten to make them sick, or worse.
Farmers know this so they take steps to protect plants by fighting off soybean snackers and pushy neighbors. One of the ways they do this is by using products that kill weeds, pathogens and insects.
Crop input products, like pesticides and fertilizers, have come a long way in our lifetimes. Today, we can be confident they are safe for people and do not affect the food we eat. Pesticides, which include insecticides, herbicides and fungicides, are specifically designed to target bugs, weeds and diseases that are invasive to our crops.
You’ve probably seen farm equipment like sprayers traveling across many of the state’s soybean fields, and maybe you’ve had questions about what is in those tanks. You might be surprised to learn that the vast majority of what’s inside is water. In fact, to protect one acre of cropland, which is about the size of a football or soccer field, the amount of pesticides farmers use would fit in a cup of coffee. That’s not very much.
Farmers also have technology on their side. They can control the amount and size of the droplets being sprayed on the plants to make sure it’s effective while using as little as possible. Farmers also have technology that prevents them from spraying an area that’s already been sprayed, or from applying products over water or a waterway. That precision helps to ensure pesticides are only put where they are needed and not overused.
Farmers do all of this because soybean crops can’t fight for themselves. They are careful with the products they use and how they are applied because farmers live and raise their families on the land. They also want to pass their land on to the next generation in better shape than they found it.
Want to learn more about how farmers use pesticides? Check out these resources:
Just how long is too long to store leftovers, raw meat or eggs in the fridge? Is it safe to eat that leftover dinner from a few days ago or should you throw it out? What about making a sandwich with week-old lunchmeat? It’s time to take the guesswork out of those decisions. Read on to find a helpful chart that can serve as a guide for safe food storage.
Before you check the chart, don’t forget these basic fridge safety tips:
• Always keep the temperature at or below 40° F
• Don’t pack too much in the fridge. Make sure there’s room for air to circulate.
• Refrigerate perishable foods within two hours.
• Don’t thaw frozen foods at room temperature. Put frozen food in the fridge to let it thaw out.
Never leave your food safety questions unanswered again. Bookmark this page and print out this helpful chart so you always know how to answer “Is this OK to eat?”
Looking for a food item that’s not on the list? The USDA has a handy FoodKeeper app that lists out even more storage times for different food categories. Check it out here.
We’ve heard many different ideas about GMOs over the years. Some people think they’re some new creation made in a lab, and others say they’re made with chemicals and syringes. We’ve even heard the term “Frankenfood” used to describe GMOs. So just how are GMO crops developed? Read on for a step-by-step guide to the process.
Step One: Identify a Helpful Trait
Plants get directions from their DNA for growth and development. DNA is made up of thousands of genes, so first, researchers look for a gene that delivers a desired trait, like the ability to resist harmful pests. One of the first GMO crops approved for commercial use was made from a naturally occurring soil bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis. The gene produces a protein that kills European corn borer larva, a bug that poses a serious threat to corn plants.
Step Two: Find the Switch
Once they find the right gene, scientists choose specific “switches” or regulators so the genes are expressed in a way researchers want. Senthil says it’s like a lawn sprinkler system that is told when and where to turn on and off.
Step Three: Insert Gene Into Plant
After the switches have been identified, geneticists insert the gene into the plant, often using a machine called a gene gun. There are many methods researchers can use, but the goal is to transport the new gene and deliver it into the cell nucleus.
Step Four: Plant Growth
Once the traits have been inserted and the plant grows, the seeds it produces will contain the new genes. Those seeds are then planted and grown in a specialized greenhouse or in other controlled environments.
Step Five: Obtain Approval
If a new variety shows promise, the plant needs to get USDA, FDA and EPA approval before it can be grown commercially. On average, every GMO plant is tested for 13 years before it is approved for farmers to use. The approval process is rigorous and includes testing on birds, mammals, beneficial insects, fish, frogs and other organisms to ensure the crops are safe and have no adverse effects.
All scientific, peer-reviewed research by independent and government health organizations shows that GMOs are safe for people, animals and the environment, and that GMO foods are just as nutritious as their non-GMO counterparts. You can rest assured that whatever food choice you make, it will be a safe one for you and your family.
There you have it. No Frankenfoods, no syringes, no creations from the lab, just precision plant breeding. What questions do you have about GMOs? Leave them for us in the comments and check out these links for more information:
Holiday celebrations and family gatherings just aren’t complete without plenty of mouth-watering food. Whether its turkey and stuffing for Thanksgiving or a ham for Christmas, what’s on the dinner table is one of the focal points for most holiday get-togethers.
What no one wants at their holiday celebration are uninvited guests that can cause food-borne illnesses. To keep bacteria and other pathogens from spoiling your party, the USDA recommends four steps to keep foods safe:
• Clean: Wash hands and preparation surfaces often.
• Separate: Separate raw meat from other foods.
• Cook: Cook foods to the right temperature.
• Chill: Refrigerate food promptly.
Cooking dishes to the proper internal temperature is a vital food safety practice. Meat dishes need to reach specified temperatures to ensure that any pathogens present in the meat are killed, reducing the risk of food-borne illness. This is especially important for ground meat products where bacteria can be mixed throughout.
Beef, Pork, Veal & Lamb
Steaks, chops, roasts: 145 °F and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes
Ground meats: 160 °F
Ham, fresh or smoked (uncooked): 145 °F and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes
All Poultry (breasts, whole bird, legs, thighs, and wings, ground poultry, and stuffing): 165 °F
Eggs: 160 °F
Fish & Shellfish: 145 °F
Leftovers: 165 °F
Casseroles: 165 °F
The best way to be sure meat is cooked to a safe internal temperature is to invest in a good meat thermometer. Some thermometers are meant to be left in meat products while they’re being cooked. Push the thermometer at least 2 inches into the thickest part of the meat, but be careful to avoid fat and bone. When the thermometer reading hits the proper temperature (see below), your dish is ready to enjoy.
Other instant-read thermometers can be poked occasionally into the meat products while they’re cooking to give you the current temperature reading. You’ll know quickly if your meat has reached a safe temperature and is ready to serve.
The USDA has developed safe minimum internal temperature standards for a range of common meat cuts to provide a guideline for cooks. Follow these recommendations and your dining experience should be both tasty and safe.
Once food is prepared and your guests have finished eating, refrigerate leftovers quickly. That is, if there are any leftovers!
Check out our holiday recipes and more information about food safety below:
The holiday season is officially here. Feeling pressure about hosting the perfect Thanksgiving meal for your family or friends? Farmer Morgan Kontz from Colman, S.D., knows a thing or two about hosting large groups and has some tips for making everything run smoothly in this guest blog post.
I am so thankful every year when this holiday rolls around because it signifies the end of a season. Harvest is complete and we have “bushels” for which to be thankful. We work hard on our farm throughout the year to grow our crops and raise our animals in a sustainable manner. To us, sustainability means farming with the future in mind. That means preserving the land so that we leave it in even better condition than when we found it.
As a mother, when it comes to food, I enjoy being a part of the farm because I know where the quality food comes from that I put on our table and feel confident feeding it to our family. I love preparing large meals for people, being a host and opening our home for fellowship. Here’s a rundown of what I do to make sure those big events go off without a hitch.
A few weeks before the event
To get ready for big meals or occasions, my number one piece of advice is to plan ahead. I make note of everything I want to make and make a grocery list of what I need. I do my shopping a few weeks before the event, except for any fresh items. This way, in case I forgot anything, I still have time to get it all ready while avoiding panic mode.
One to two days before the event
At this point, I start making a pile of ingredients and serving dishes for each item on my counter. This helps me to visually make sure I have space for all the food and everything I need.
The day of the event
Right away in the morning, I cook as much as I can. If anything needs to be chilled, I do that the night before. I discovered that if I spend too much time cooking that day, I never have time to get myself ready. So I wake up early and get as much done as I can so I can enjoy chatting and visiting with our guests when they arrive and not be rushed.
Spend time with friends and family and enjoy the fellowship. One thing we do during the month of November is talk about what we are thankful for each day. We write our blessings on leaves and add them to our blessings tree. What I love about the holiday is simply spending it as a family. After we feed our cattle, we spend the entire day together just enjoying each other’s company.
You might see the famous Hungry for Truth table in some familiar spots around South Dakota on your TV screens this fall. From the beginning, the table has been a focal point of Hungry for Truth. In many homes, the kitchen table is where most conversations occur, and family and friends are food and fellowship. In the newest Hungry for Truth commercial, the table journeys across South Dakota and shows the connections made with fellow South Dakotans.
The Horter family, who farm in Andover, are featured in the commercial sitting around the table having meaningful discussions with another family about food, farming and everything in between. John’s wife, Jaclyn, and their two children joined in for the Hollywood treatment.
“It was an interesting experience because we’ve never been involved in something like this,” said John. “It was a new experience for me, having make up done, wardrobe … I’ll tell you that.”
John says life ended up imitating art on the set. Sitting around the table with their fellow South Dakota family, they had conversations about where our food comes from and what life is like on the farm.
“In between takes, we talked about our farm, and they had a lot of questions. We loved sharing our story and learned things from them too. Being on the farm all the time, it’s nice to hear the perspective of people outside of that life. After all, we all have to eat.”
“This commercial is about connecting with South Dakotans and hopefully enticing them to talk with a farmer, finding out more on our website or engaging with us on social media,” said John. “Today, not many people grew up on farms or have family who farm, so it’s important for people to have a real person to connect to. We want to talk with people every day about how food gets from our farm to their table. We want everyone to know the way it really works and understand why we make the choices we do. We’re putting the same food on our family’s table.”
What do you want to know about the Hungry for Truth initiative? Do you have questions for John and his family about what they grow on their farm? Leave them in the comments.
Also, check us out on social media:
Food labels and wrappers are a carefully crafted blend of art and science. The colorful, attention-grabbing packages are designed to get shoppers to pick them off the store shelves, while the nutrition panel gives them full disclosure of what the food product contains.
Despite efforts to simplify and clarify, terms frequently used on food labels can be confusing, and it can be difficult to define what they truly mean. If you’re looking for a healthy treat, does a “healthy” label on the front of the packaging really mean it’s the best choice for you? The FDA recently announced they want help defining the term “healthy” on food labels, saying that much of our nutritional knowledge has changed in recent years.
Currently, terms like “healthy,” “low in fat,” “good source,” or “natural” may appear on the front of food packaging as companies try to differentiate themselves from their competitors, but are not clearly defined or regulated by the FDA. Therefore, the meaning of these terms can vary greatly. Check out our Easy Guide to Food Labels for more on this.
Our understanding of things like fats and sugars is changing. We now know that fat free isn’t necessarily the way to be, and that there are healthy fats to incorporate into our diets. We also know that many products that seem healthy contain a great deal of sugar. That’s why the FDA began soliciting feedback on how to define use of the term “healthy” in September. The agency is asking for public input on a range of questions about what “healthy” should mean from a nutrition perspective and how we understand and use “healthy” food label claims.
The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 dramatically changed how food companies labeled products. The measure was created to help clear up any confusion about the nutritional content of the food on grocery shelves. It was also designed to help people make healthier food choices by providing more detail.
By May 2017, restaurants and other retail establishments will also be required to carry nutrition and calorie information on their menus so customers can make the best choices for their dietary needs.
But the front-of-the-pack terms can be subjective and potentially confusing. FDA officials say while they are working on the “healthy” claim, other label claims are also being reviewed to see how they might be updated. Their goal is to give people the best tools and information about the foods they choose in an effort to improve public health.
Most of us are busy, and we often spend just a few seconds making food purchase decisions. Experts say that having uniform definitions for common food labels will help Americans make better and healthier food buying decisions. Check back to the blog for updates on new food label definitions.
What do you think about the “healthy” food label? What does the term “healthy” mean to you? Let us know in the comments.
We’ve talked at length about how to interpret the facts behind the many labels we find on our food. Many labels, like certified organic, are regulated by the FDA and USDA and have standards that farmers and food manufacturers need to follow in order to use the label. Some labels, however, are not regulated at all.
Marketers can use unregulated labeling terms at their own discretion, and some will add the latest buzzwords to packaging in order to attract customers. While these labels can be helpful on some food products, there are some instances where they mean nothing at all. Here are some food labels we’ve seen that made us say, “Hmm …”
Non-GMO grapes – Although technically accurate, there is no option to choose GMO grapes. The only GMO fruits grown in the U.S. are papayas, squash and apples, so all grapes are inherently non-GMO.
Gluten-free water – The gluten-free label is very important to many people who have celiac disease or gluten intolerance. However, gluten is only found in cereal grains like wheat, barley, rye and oats so, on a food product like water, it’s not necessary.
Hormone-free chicken – If you see chicken, turkey or pork labeled “no added hormones” or “hormone-free,” it’s simply a marketing term. Hormone use is not allowed in any poultry or pork. No need to pay extra for that label because all chicken is guaranteed to be free of added hormones.
These examples serve as good reminders to look at what really matters when it comes to making decisions about food. Turn the packaging around and look at the Nutrition Facts panel to see if your food is healthy and nutritious. No matter what type of food you are looking for – GMO, non-GMO, organic, hormone-free – you can rest assured that all food in the grocery aisle is thoroughly tested and is safe.
Have you seen any labels in the grocery store that make you say, “Hmm …?” If you have questions about a label or a practice, you can always ask a farmer. Hungry for Truth is all about connecting South Dakotans to the farmers who grow their food, so leave a comment and we’ll connect you to a local farmer who can tell you all about what they do.
Read on for more about food labels:
Charlotte Rommereim is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and farmer from Alcester. Her family has been farming the same land since 1874. She says her family is the whole package because, “My husband and I grow the food, and then I advise people how to eat it in a healthy way.” We sat down with Charlotte to learn more about her career and how she connects food and farming every day.
HFT: Tell us a little bit about your career path.
Charlotte: I’m a registered dietitian. For the majority of my career, I have been a consultant dietitian for long-term care facilities and rural hospitals. I’ve also done some work in the local cancer clinic and with WIC.
HFT: What does a typical day as a dietitian look like for you?
Charlotte: I spend time interacting with the residents of the long-term care facility to make sure they get the best nutritional care possible. I also advise the food service operation. In the hospitals, I do the same work with patients, but on top of that I provide outpatient education. I teach patients who have diabetes, heart disease or any other diagnosis how to eat properly and take care of themselves.
At the end of the day, I come home and help on the farm where it’s needed. Much of the time, I help in the pig barn and manage the financials.
HFT: What’s the best part of your career?
Charlotte: I enjoy helping people eat healthy and well. I love helping someone find something new they’ve never tried or a healthy new way to prepare something. I also love helping people reach results. To be able to help someone lower their blood sugar or manage their weight through what they eat is very rewarding.
Lately, I also work with my fellow dietitians and food professionals to help them understand farming and where our food comes from. Coming from the farm, I love to share stories about how much care and attention we put into raising safe and healthy food. It’s important for all of us to remember that no matter what practices are used to raise food – organic, non-organic, GMO, non-GMO, etc. – it’s all safe and all equally healthy.
HFT: What motivated you to become a dietitian?
Charlotte: When I was a kid on the farm, I started cooking when I was very young. At 12 years old, my mom had an injury so I stepped in and became the full-time cook for all the people who worked on our farm in the summer. My mom would instruct me and I would prepare the noon meals for all eight people. I fell in love with cooking.
My uncle was a surgeon, and he encouraged me to pursue medicine, which was also an interest of mine. So the career path I chose was a combination of those two things I loved to do. Plus, it was a natural extension of my life growing up on the farm where we raised food.
HFT: What is your educational background?
Charlotte: To become a dietitian, you need a minimum of a four-year degree plus an experience like an internship. I received my degree in nutrition and food science at South Dakota State University, and then I took a national exam to become a registered dietitian. After college, my husband and I moved to the Alcester area to start farming with my dad. I was able to find work in the area as a consultant to long-term care facilities and small rural hospitals.
Have more questions for Charlotte or about being a registered dietitian? Leave them in the comments!
It’s officially September, and we all know what that means – kids are back in school! Food safety might not be on the top of the list when you think about packing lunches, but it’s an essential part of planning a healthy meal. Whether it is a bag lunch for kids in the cafeteria or for your own lunch break at the office, here’s everything you need to know about packing a safe lunch.
Food safety starts in the kitchen. Always remember to clean, separate, cook and chill when preparing your meal. Wash your hands and any surfaces before cooking, and rinse fruits and vegetables. Separate raw meat from other food – that includes using separate cutting boards and storing them in different locations. When cooking, use a food thermometer to be sure your food is cooked thoroughly, and remember to chill leftovers in the refrigerator within two hours.
Keep It Cool – Or Warm!
If you have perishable foods as part of your lunch – meats, eggs, cheese or yogurt – be sure to have two cold sources packed in your bag. Frozen juice boxes or water work great as freezer packs. Also use an insulated lunchbox with perishable foods.
Looking to keep hot food hot? You can use an insulated lunch box for that too! Fill the lunchbox with boiling water, let stand for a few minutes, then empty it and put in your hot food. Be sure to keep the lunchbox closed until it’s time to eat.
Always remember to leave your lunch in the refrigerator if you pack it the day before.
Pack disposable wipes for easy cleanup of hands and surfaces. Because foodborne illnesses can easily spread through containers, throw out any wrappers or disposable packaging.
Recipes to Get Started
- Caesar Steak Wraps
- Italian Turkey Panini
- Sirloin Pita Salad Sandwich
- For a healthy side: Fiesta Fruit Medley
- For a twist on the traditional meal: Healthy Mango Banana Smoothie
What tips or tricks to you have for packing an amazing lunch? Let us know in the comments!
Summer is in full swing. What better time to take advantage of this beautiful weather and go on a picnic? A lot of prep goes into planning the perfect picnic, but don’t fret! We’ve got some helpful packing tips to make picnic prep as easy as pie.
First things first: planning your menu. Think of foods that are easy to eat on the ground, involve minimal cutting and don’t require many serving utensils. This will make your picnic easier and will save packing space. Here are some picnic-able ideas to get you started:
- Avocado and Egg Salad Sandwich, On My Plate blog
- Sirloin Pita Salad Sandwich, Hungry for Truth blog
- Pressed Sandwich, “South Dakota Magazine”
- Outback Chicken Sandwiches, South Dakota Farm Wife blog
After planning and preparing the menu, it’s time to pack your basket. When packing the food, it is important to keep food safety in mind. How are you going to keep that potato salad and lunchmeat cold? Ice packs are an easy fix for this. Place them near the items that need kept cold. While hot air rises, cold air tends to stay in a smaller area since it is denser.
Once your picnic is packed, remember it’s best to eat your cold picnic food within two hours. Leaving cold food out for longer than this increases the rate at which bacteria multiply and increases the chances the food might make you sick.
Don’t forget the plates, utensils, napkins and storage baggies for leftovers. We also recommend packing a trash bag and wet wipes for easier clean up. Enjoy your picnic and bon appetit!
The first Hungry for Truth Farm-to-Fork Dinner on June 24 was the perfect night, from the delicious local food to the conversations between South Dakota farmers and their Sioux Falls neighbors. The dinner took Sioux Falls residents outside the city limits to Jeff Thompson’s farm in Colton, South Dakota. Dinner guests enjoyed alfresco dining overlooking the Thompsons’ fields while talking with local farmers, exploring questions about everything from family life on the farm to antibiotic use in livestock.
Monica McCranie, a Claremont farmer involved with Hungry for Truth, was excited to have the chance to talk with other South Dakotans about how she and other local farmers raise crops and livestock.
Monica talked about her passion for farming while greeting dinner guests. She shared the legacy that’s been passed down through generations, drawing herself and others to continue the farming tradition.
“Many people were surprised to learn that so many farms in the state are multigenerational. For me, farming has always been a family affair,” said Monica. “My grandfather was actually one of the farmers who helped establish the first soil conservation district in South Dakota.”
The goal of this event, and the Hungry for Truth initiative as a whole, is to spark conversations between South Dakotans and the farmers who grow their food. South Dakotans learned about how their food gets to their plates and farmers heard what people care about when it comes to food and farming. Those conversations build greater community connections around two things we all have in common: food and family.
“A lot of guests I talked with didn’t know most South Dakota farms are family owned or that farmers always strive to be more sustainable so they can leave the land even better than they found it,” she said. “It was great to have the opportunity to visit with our neighbors about what we do. The setting and food made the whole event wonderful.”
Prepared by Sioux Falls Chef Jeni, the four-course meal featured foods sourced from the same local farmers who sat next to guests that evening. The dinner event ended with ice cream made nearby at South Dakota State University.
If you want to read more about the dinner, check out local blogger Kaylee Koch’s Apple of My Ivy blog. Find out what she loved about the event and her conversation with a Mitchell farmer. Have questions of your own about food and farming? Let us know in the comments, and check out our other blogs to learn more about everything from GMOs to sustainability.