Production support for Earth Eats comes from Bloomingfoods--providing local residents with locally-sourced food since 1976. Owned by over 12,000 residents in Monroe County and beyond. More at Bloomingfoods dot co-op. And Elizabeth Ruh, enrolled agent with personal financial services. Assisting businesses and individuals with tax preparation and planning for over 15 years. More at personal financial services dot net
(Earth Eats theme music)
KAYTE YOUNG: From WFIU in Bloomington Indiana, I’m your host, Kayte Young, reporting from Earth Eats’ Mc Doel Gardens location.
"They don't have gas in their vehicles, they don't have groceries and they don't have the ability really to go get groceries."
On this week’s show Harvest public Media has a story on the challenges of delivering school meals in Rural communities. We share some thoughts and tips on home gardening in the COVID19 era, And we have a depression-era dessert recipe that might be fitting for these times, as well. That’s all just ahead on Earth Eats, so stay with us.
KAYTE YOUNG:We’ll start with food news with Renee Reed. Hello Renee
RENEE REED: Hello Kayte
Supermarket giants like Kroger, Safeway and Walmart have started to ramp up their social distancing efforts to keep customers from passing COVID-19 from person to person inside stores.
Many have imposed more restrictions on store capacity, such as Kroger’s pledge on Monday to limit occupancy to 50 percent of each building’s capacity nationwide.
Many stores are also turning aisles into one-way paths to keep people from shuffling past each other in close quarters.
In a release, Kroger said it would use scanning technology to track the capacity.
Walmart has launched one-way movement through some of its stores with direction markers outlined on the floor.
Some areas have been ahead of the trend. Colorado governor Jared Polis wrote a letter on March 24 to King Soopers and Safeway chains urging stronger social distancing measures.
Those stores implemented barriers for cashiers and 6-foot markers at checkout lines the next day.
Keeping social distance at grocery stores has proved to be a major challenge amid stay-in-place orders and restrictions on non-essential outings.
With restaurants and other stores shuttered, grocery shopping has emerged as a hotspot for risk of exposure to the virus.
In New York City, the use of capacity restrictions and traffic-routing measures has been inconsistent.
Many smaller stores with narrow aisles have posted personnel at doors and marked lines in chalk to keep entry queues spaced out. But many larger stores have not put such measures in place.
Some stores have been using shield guards in front of cashiers for weeks, and have regular announcements over loudspeaker to remind customers to maintain distance.
The pork industry estimates an African swine fever outbreak in the United States could lead to $50 in lost revenue. That figure is the finding of a new study from Iowa State University and an agriculture biosecurity company. Study author Dermont Hayes--an Iowa State University economist--says tracking the virus spread would look very much like understanding how COVID-19 has infected people.
DERMOND HAYES: The circumstances are almost identical. We have pigs out there that may be infecting other pigs, but we don’t know it. But once the infection becomes clearer we would like to be able to trace that pig’s movement to find all the other pigs they were in contact with.
RENEE REED: Hayes advocates spending as much money as it takes to create electronic movement records for all pigs, trucks and people in the pork industry. He says reducing imports of products that could harbor the virus are also necessary because keeping it out is the best way to prevent the losses.
(Earth Eats news music)
RENEE REED: Thanks to Amy Mayer and Chad Bouchard for those reports For earth eats news, i’m Renee Reed.
KAYTE YOUNG: Thank you, Renee, Stay safe.
RENEE REED: You too, Kayte
(spacious, ambient music)
KY: Last week we had a story about our local school district getting meals to the families who rely on them during the COVID 19 restrictions. Rural communities face additional challenges now that schools are closed. Katie Peikes (PIKE-iss) reporting for Harvest Public Media, tags along on a school meal delivery in rural Southwest Iowa.
MIKE WELLS: Where’s everybody at? Hey! How are you? Good to see ya. Are you doing good?
MIKE WELLS: Good to see ya. (0:09)
KATIE PEIKES: That’s Mike Wells. He’s the superintendent for the Essex and Hamburg school districts in southwest Iowa. He’s video chatting with me as he delivers lunch and breakfast to Nicole Hinds’ home in Hamburg.
Hinds and three of her kids are all outside on this warm and windy day.
MIKE WELLS: So how’s internet working?
KATIE PEIKES: Wells recently gave Hinds and her family a WiFi hotspot so they can have internet access and do online learning with their teachers. Today he’s brought 7 meal bags for the 7 children in Hinds’ house.
HINDS: I have three of my own. The other four are my nieces and my nephew.
KATIE PEIKES: Hinds and her fiance have been caring for all four of her sister’s kids since last year. With all of the kids out of school, school districts like this are giving kids two meals a day, five days a week. Hinds says the meals save her from spending money on extra lunch meat and bread for the kids.
They’re 9, 6, 5, 4, 12, 12 and 13. So they’re eating constantly. I think every five minutes I hear ‘I’m hungry’ come out of someone’s mouth, if not everybody’s.
KATIE PEIKES: And getting food in rural areas isn’t always easy. A couple weeks ago, Lora Dumler’s (DUM-ler’s) family ran out of cereal. So she sent her husband from their home in Essex to the closest grocery store -- about 7 miles away.
And the aisle was desolate. All the shelves were like, vacant. There was nothing there. And it finally clicked in my mind, “oh my god, what are we going to do?”
She and her husband don’t have enough money to stock up on tons of food, and they only have one car--making frequent trips to the store hard. The food pantry they go to has closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But the school meals have been one sure thing.
(4:38) To have something that we can count on - knowing that the kids are going to have a lunch and a breakfast every day through the week, is one thing that puts our mind at ease. (4:55) ((Dumler 2)).
KATIE PEIKES: School districts in large urban areas have meal pickup sites at schools and near some apartment complexes. But it’s up to staff at the Essex and Hamburg school districts to hand-deliver meals to kids’ homes. So that means sometimes Dumlers’ kids get to see a familiar face like their teachers or principal.
(3:51) Usually they don’t even make it to the house. My kids meet them out on the street. And I have to remind them that we have to be social distancing ourselves and, you know, air high fives and things of that nature. (4:02).
KATIE PEIKES: Superintendent Mike Wells says as good as it is to see the kids, it’s more important to the many families living paycheck to paycheck.
They don't have gas in their vehicles, they don't have groceries, and they don't have the ability really to go get groceries. (0:07).
KATIE PEIKES: So he wanted his staff to deliver the meals so they could check in on families, and see what else they might need.
Back at her home in Hamburg, Nicole Hinds says the meal deliveries and a quick visit really brighten the day.
It’s a big joy. He’s helped out tremendously.
KATIE PEIKES: Southwest Iowa hasn’t been a hotbed for COVID-19, but if that changes, Wells says the in-person visits may have to end.
And we’ve talked about that - that we’d go more to a knock on the door, not greet. (0:04) And we would put a notice to our parents: It’s nothing personal // OR: probably a system of knocking on the door and asking them not to open the door until we’re in our cars. (15:11-15:18)
KATIE PEIKES: A move to protect families from community spread of COVID-19. But his school districts won’t stop getting kids the food they need. For Harvest Public Media, I’m Katie Peikes.
KAYTE YOUNG: Find more from this reporting collective at Harvest public media dot org. Production support comes from Bill Brown at Griffy Creek Studio. Architectural design and consulting for residential commercial and community projects. Sustainable, energy positive and resilient design for a rapidly changing world. Bill at Griffy Creek Studio dot come. Insurance agent Dan Williamson at Bill Resch Insurance. Offering comprehensive home, auto, business and life coverage in affiliation with Pekin Insurance. Beyond the expected more at Bill Resch Insurance dot com and Bloomingfoods Co-op Market providing local residents with locally-sourced food since 1976. Owned by over 12,000 residents in Monroe County and beyond. More at bloomingfoods dot co-op.
(spacious, emotive, ambient music)
KAYTE YOUNG: In the past few weeks, I’ve heard a lot of talk about growing food. It’s showing up in the media I consume-Tajel Rao, the piece I just read)
Folks planting gardens, building raised beds in backyards, getting chickens, starting seeds in a greenhouse. And granted this isn’t that unusual in the community I move through, especially in early spring. That’s when gardening gets started. And I host a food show. I’ve been growing food in my yard for years. So have many of my friends and neighbors.
But I am hearing a new sense of urgency in this garden talk, since the COVID-19 crisis began. People saying things like “now more than ever, we need to be growing our own food” and “a lot of people are wanting to get more self-sufficient with food.” One of my neighbors let me know that she and a few friends were getting seedlings started in a greenhouse, they’d have extra to share, if I knew anyone who would want to grow some food, especially people who maybe haven’t grown food before.
It’s got me thinking. Wondering.
On the one hand, of course, I love it. More people, growing more food in their home gardens--that’s a win!
But, also, it’s complicated. First of all, I am questioning where this drive to grow food is coming from. Is it a ‘victory garden’ type of response. Citizens, we each need to do our part!
Or is it a knee-jerk response to crisis, from a particular demographic, to ‘taking control of our food system?’
I mean, I get that. We have an Earth Eats promotional piece with Susanne Babb stating “being able to grow your own food is freedom.” Growing food means different things to different people.
But practically speaking, I don’t see that our food supply is being disrupted all that much right now. Yes people have made runs on the grocery store, there is some hoarding going on. And the people who can might be buying more food at one time, to limit trips to the store. Many who don’t normally cook at home are stocking their pantries.
So yes, at first some shelves were thinned out or empty. But they are generally getting restocked. Growers are still producing food, truck drivers are still delivering, grocery store employees are still stocking the shelves. Even locally, our small-scale farmers and producers are finding ways to get food to their customers.
As far as I can tell, Our access to food hasn’t changed much. If you have money, it is still pretty easy to come by and if you don’t it is still a struggle. But maybe what’s changed is our anxiety about taking care of ourselves? And it might be expressing itself in this drive to plant a home garden.
I worked for years at a food pantry with a strong community gardening program. They focus on teaching home gardening skills, and on growing food to share with those using the pantry.
(Sadly, in this crisis, they’ve had to put most of their gardening efforts on hold this season, while they focus on getting groceries to folks lined up in their parking lot)
But one of the things I learned quickly in that job is how unrealistic it was to think we’d grow enough food to consistently supply a food pantry.
Any farmer can tell you, growing food is hard. There are so many variables. And the learning curve can be steep. When to plant what? How much to plant, how close together? How to tend to the plants, how to protect them from extreme temperatures, from pests and disease, building healthy soil.
It’s unlikely that a beginning gardener will be anywhere close to food self-sufficient, even vegetable self-sufficient, from their home garden.
At best, it will be a delightful supplement for a few weeks of the year.
But let me be clear.
I don’t mean to be discouraging. Quite the opposite. I want people to grow food (anyone who wants to, that is).
I am suggesting a shift in focus, or intention.
I think there are very good reasons to start a garden right now. But it’s not to supply your household, or your neighborhood with the food you need to survive.
The reason to grow food now is to get your hands in soil. To move around outside with a purpose. To feel the temperature of the air on your skin and wonder how it might affect your fragile tomato seedlings.
Gardening gives us so much more than food. It connects us to something greater than ourselves. It can help take our minds off our worries, drops us fully into the present moment. Relieves stress and brings pleasure. Brings joy. Observing and participating in a growth cycle can be healing and centering.
So, go. Go grow.
But not for the future. Grow for now.
(music fades out)
KAYTE YOUNG: Producer Josephine McRobbie had gardening on her mind when she spoke with Dr. Lucy Bradley horticulture professor and extension specialist at North Carolina State University. Doctor Bradely has some truly practical tips for getting started.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: Historic varieties of long scarlet radish, date of test: January 2012.
(music, quirky, low key)
I’m in my shed in North Carolina looking through some really old seed packets. I'm in my shed in North Carolina looking through some very old seed packets I packed them six years ago when I moved from Indiana, and I'm just now finding them while working to start a garden without ordering any new supplies. Parsley packed for 2011 sell by 11/11.
LUCY BRADLEY: Well, I would start with your seed-- well, I wouldn't start with your seeds but since you brought it up, let’s talk about your seats first.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: Dr.. Lucy Bradley is an Urban Horticulture professor and extension specialist at North Carolina State University. I called Dr. Bradley to get some tips for people who are interested in growing food gardens while under shelter in place orders.
LUCY BRADLEY: many seeds stay viable for years after their expiration date. So if you have kept them in the dark, if you kept them dry, kept them from being in extreme temperatures, they may still be viable. So you can try a couple of paper towel into a ziplock bag and put 3 to 5 seeds in that bag and see if they terminate or not. That's a great way to test what you’ve got, to decide whether it’s worth your time to go ahead and try and plant them out.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: Dr. Bradley is working from home this month. she's been tasked with managing new procedures for essential field labs greenhouses and gardens.
LUCY BRADLEY: We are in, um, shelter in place. It's only the projects that are considered mandatory, where we have genetic material that we need to protect for breeding or other projects that have really high value that you have to figure out how to keep going. A lot of the stuff that we've done, probably 95% of the research has just been put on hold.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: As an extension specialist Dr. Bradley fields questions from budding gardeners around the state. She's seen an increase in inquiries in recent weeks. She thinks that beyond the practicalities, home gardening can help to manage anxieties in a difficult time.
(melodic sparse music)
LUCY BRADLEY: It’s a whole different feeling and space to be in when you have the skills and resources to take care of yourself.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: Her own backyard, filled with fruit trees and veggie beds, is serving her and her neighbors well.
LUCY BRADLEY: Right now we have plenty to share which is a wonderful feeling in a time where things seem scarce.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: Dr. Bradley says that in her neighborhood households are coordinating street-side seed exchanges.
LUCY BRADLEY: people are saying ‘hey, I’ve got some extra cucumber seeds I'm going to put them in separate packages, I’ll set them out, spaced out, help yourself as you go by, if you want one.’
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: She notes that it's important to sanitize seed packets and not to touch any but the ones you take.
(music-quirky, clapping rhythms)
I asked Dr. Bradley how to proceed if you have limited green space at home she says that for a novice gardener, this can actually be positive.
LUCY BRADLEY: Excellent! That is the way to go. It’s a whole lot better I think, having a well managed 4 foot square area than having a ten by ten foot square area that you can't keep up with. And the weeds are out-competing your vegetables, and it’s demoralizing everytime you go out. It’s hard to have it be a joyful thing when it is such a heavy load. So, start small, you can expand over time as, as you improve the soil and you manage the weeds and you get into the rhythm of the garden.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: She encourages gardeners to look at non-traditional yard space for planting
LUCY BRADLEY: You know you can nestle them in around your yard. If you don't have a vegetable garden that doesn't mean you can't grow vegetables. You can have an ornamental landscape it still plop in a couple of lettuce here, a couple of kale there--so it doesn't have to be all or nothing. You can produce a lot of food in little niches.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE:Apartments can be more challenging But most vegetables and herbs can grow in a container.
LUCY BRADLEY: On the balcony, if you have some room to have some fairly larger pots--the larger the pot you have the easier it is for you. The more leeway you have in terms of watering. If you have a large pot and you water it really well you can go a couple days without without watering it. If you have a really small pot, you may have to water it every day.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE:For indoor spaces with sparse light she recommends leafy greens or culinary herbs.
LUCY BRADLEY:They do better because they don’t have to go through the whole life cycle, right? We’re gonna eat the leaves. We're don’t have to wait for the leaves to grow and then for it to produce a shoot and then a flower, and then the flower to produce a fruit, and that fruit to mature.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: It's best to plant in a Sunny Spot in flat or gently sloped areas and in spots that are accessible to both the water source and your own daily routine.
LUCY BRADLEY:I have walkways from the street to my house, I have two different walkways that come in. And I just kind of line those walkways with easy edibles that I can harvest on the way in from the office -when I used to work in an office (laughs) before I moved home. You know, so I have lettuce and basil and all different kinds of herbs along there, so it’s really easy to manage, and I go by it every single day, it’s not back in the back forty, where I never go back there.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE:As director of NC State's Urban Horticulture program Dr. Bradley helps to support community gardening, school gardens and even therapeutic gardening programs.
LUCY BRADLEY: They do everything from working with people with substance-abuse issues to children with developmental disabilities to people who've had brain injuries. Just all sorts of different ways that that Horticulture is used as a therapeutic tool.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE:Our talk quickly moves from practical tips to a pep talk.
LUCY BRADLEY: Gardening is Therapeutic in so many ways. It’s good physically that you're out there in the sunshine lifting and stretching and carrying. It's great emotionally just being able to play and be creative in your in your own way. To have space to just relax and to enjoy the peace of nature is really important.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE:She sends me back to my vintage seed packs with a final nudge of encouragement.
LUCY BRADLEY: It's totally doable it's easier every year. The hardest-- the first year is the hardest year, for sure. So, so don't despair. If you're trying to do it now in less than optimal circumstances. You know, just starting is great. Every time you work with the soil, you're improving. Say you're adding compost when you can, putting mulch on top to suppress the weeds, and that’ll break down and improve the soil. Every year it gets better and easier so this a good time to start.
(sound of water hose turning on)
KAYTE YOUNG:That was Producer Josephine McRobbie speaking with Dr. Lucy Bradley horticulture professor and extension specialist at North Carolina State University.
(Jazzy, depression-era tune)
KAYTE YOUNG: Our recipe today is one we’ve shared before. It’s a chocolate cake from Susan Mintert of The Indiana Home Cooks Podcast. She calls it a crazy cake, but it also goes by the name “Depression Cake” The recipe came about during the depression, when rich ingredients like eggs and butter might have been difficult to come by. With many of us cooking from diminished pantries, limiting trips to the store and trying to make do with what we have on hand, it seemed like an appropriate choice this week.
Here’s Susan in her kitchen with her mother and her daughter.
SUSAN MINTERT: This cake consists of flour, cocoa powder, sugar, salt and soda for your dry ingredients; and then you're going to add some vanilla, some vinegar and some salad oil, and then two cups of water. So those are the ingredients and we're just going to put this together. You mix it all up in your baking pan. So I have just a 9 by 13 baking pan here and we're going to put all the ingredients in the pan and we are going to mix it up and then bake it! So it's just as easy as that.
So we've combined all the dry ingredients into our baking pan and we're going to just thoroughly mix those together. I like to use it a flat wire whisk it works really well for this you can also use a fork.
(scraping mixing sound in a metal pan)
This is the only part of this cake that even takes very long. Now this is kind of the fun part. When you get this mixed together, make three wells in the dry ingredients. Here into the first well we're going to put two teaspoons of vanilla. Into the second well, 2 teaspoons of vinegar, and into the third well we're pouring in a scant 2/3 cup of oil, and I always use canola oil. On the top of this we're going to pour over 2 cups of cold water.
(sound of water pouring)
So we're just going to pour this over the top and you want to be careful here so you don't splatter. There; we’re going to take that whisk again and just whisk it together. We just about got this, and you know, it's not going to be perfect, like without lumps but you do want to get all the dry ingredients well Incorporated.
(scraping mixing sound in a metal pan)
Get that oil mixed in. Our oven is preheated to 375..
SUSAN’s DAUGHTER: So the leavening agent of this cake is baking soda, right? So that’s reacting with the vinegar, right, probably?
SUSAN MINTERT: Yes. The baking soda with the acid, would create the bubbles
SUSAN’s DAUGHTER: Mmm hmm.
SUSAN MINTERT: And therefore the leavening
SUSAN’s DAUGHTER:There are some little tiny bubbles in there
SUSAN MINTERT: Already, yeah. Already some bubbles, that’s right. So we’ve got it ready, we’re going into the oven,
And it only takes 30 minutes to bak. We’ll have dessert in no time. The other thing about this cake, which we didn't really comment on, but we mix all the ingredients in the baking pan and the baking pan was not greased or flour ahead of time. Nothing at all it, was ungreased. It works. It will come out of the pan when it's done. So we'll see how it comes out.
(Jazzy horn music)
KAYTE YOUNG: The cake bakes for about 30 minutes in a 375 degree oven. But don't worry about writing it all down-- this recipe can be found on our website, earth eats dot org.
(sounds of forks on plates)
SUSAN MINTERT: So our cake has been out of the oven now for a couple hours. We have it served with strawberries with a little sugar and a dollop of creme fraiche on the side. This cake has a nice texture is nice and moist. And the creme fraiche gives you a little, a little of that creamy element, but it's not too sweet
SUSAN’s DAUGHTER: No, it’s not too sweet.
SUSAN MINTERT: All right, I think it's a keeper!
(Jazzy horn music)
KAYTE YOUNG:That was susan Mintert of The Indiana Home Cooks Podcast
Susan’s depression cake recipe and links to her podcast can be found on our website, Earth Eats dot org.
(Earth Eats theme music)
KAYTE YOUNG: That’s all we have time for today, thanks for listening. We'll see you next week. Stay nourished, stay safe.
RENEE REED: The Earth Eats team includes Eobon Binder, Chad Bouchard, Mark Chilla, Abraham Hill, Taylor Killough, Josephine McRobbie, Daniel Orr, the IU Food Institute, Harvest Public Media and me, Renee Reed. Our theme music is composed by Erin Tobey and performed by Erin and Matt Tobey. Earth Eats is produced and edited by Kayte Young and our executive producer is John Bailey.
KAYTE YOUNG: Special thanks this week to Lucy Bradley and Susan Mintert. Production support comes from Elizabeth Ruh, enrolled agent providing customized financial services for individuals, businesses and disabled adults--including tax planning and Estate Services. More at personal financial services dot net. Bill Brown at Griffy Creek Studio. Architectural design and consulting for residential commercial and community projects. Sustainable, energy positive and resilient design for a rapidly changing world. Bill at Griffy Creek Studio dot come. and Insurance agent Dan Williamson at Bill Resch Insurance. Offering comprehensive home, auto, business and life coverage in affiliation with Pekin Insurance. Beyond the expected more at Bill Resch Insurance dot com.