Author Archives: Ashley Cobb

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Urban Agriculture: Growing, Selling and Eating Locally

The recession has hit people hard.  Many of us are either unemployed or underemployed, and with the rising cost of produce and meat, it’s hard to put dinner on the table every night.  That’s why millions of people are taking to Urban Agriculture, which is an industry created in urban and peri-urban areas that produces and markets fruits and vegetables, as well as meats, in response to residential and local consumer needs.  Many of the urban communities are called food deserts, areas that have no access to clean, healthy food; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food deserts are “…areas that lack access to affordable fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk and other foods that make up the full range of a healthy diet.” Lettuce leaves with white space

Thankfully, with urban agriculture and urban farms popping up in residents’ front and back yards, and even on rooftops, food deserts are gradually disappearing.  Places like Detroit and Cleveland, known for their factories and de-industrialization, are now becoming prime locations for urban agricultural projects—fresh water, low-cost housing, and available vacant land and empty buildings to use for farming are all prime advantages in the Urban Farming Movement.  D-Town farm, located in Detroit and founded by the Black Community Food Security Network to produce fresh, healthy food, has farmed two acres of land that was previously used as a park.  It’s now a thriving plot that grows 25 different vegetables.  A recent study showed that Detroit could produce 76 percent of all vegetables and 42 percent of all fruit eaten in the city each year by introducing urban farming practices on 568 acres of land, which, coincidentally, is only a small dot in terms of the sprawl of the city.

Another large city taking advantage of unused urban space is New York City; one specific Urban Ag group leading the way is Brooklyn Grange.  Started in 2010 by five friends and their family members, the group plopped 3,000 pounds of dirt upon a rooftop and ended up breaking even the first year by selling over 40,000 pounds of veggies to local restaurants and the public, via weekly farmer markets.  Brooklyn Grange has grown so large that it now covers two acres of rooftop farms in Queens and Brooklyn, and has added egg-producing hens and honey-producing bees.

Many urban farms, instead of accepting donations and grants, work together with local restaurants to build partnerships, in which the restaurants would grow their own produce and/or use unused space for their restaurant’s garden.  One such successful urban farming project is Riverpark Farm, located in Manhattan; it grows thousands of pounds of produce for the Riverpark Restaurant.  The restaurant’s employees actually run the farm, as the farm is located in an empty space adjacent to the restaurant.  In 2008, construction halted on the Alexandria Center for Life Science West Tower due to the recession, leaving a vacant lot in place.  Riverpark’s owners had the brilliant idea of using the space to farm, resulting in Riverpark Farm.  Now the farm manager, Zach Pickens, grows food out of a milk crate system that if construction ever resumes will be moved somewhere onto the Alexandria Center Tower.  As for right now, Pickens grows produce into December and January by building little hooped houses over the crates to shield the produce from the cold and snow.  Although the winter doesn’t produce as much food as the peak summer months do, Riverpark Restaurant is still able to serve beautiful, tasty salads year-round.MP900384695

Tips on Selling to Restaurants

So, you’re an urban farm that’s trying to establish relationships with a few local restaurants, but don’t know how to start?  Here are a few tips on how to sell small farm produce to restaurants:

  1. Think about the type of restaurants you want to target, and form a small farm business plan.  Decide on payment terms, delivery dates, and where you will store the produce for the restaurants.
  2. Develop relationships by approaching restaurants directly and before the season starts of what you are planning to grow.  Bring recipe ideas, your best samples, and examples of invoices and packaging, making sure they are all top-quality.
  3. Give them quality.  Always be sure you aren’t bringing in wilted produce; be sure it’s fresh, clean, unblemished.
  4. Grow Extra.  Make sure to have enough supply for a restaurant; overestimating a restaurant’s need is better than not having enough supply and suffering for it.
  5. Diversify markets.  Sell in other places and markets besides restaurants, such as farmer markets.  But try to develop and network among a handful of chefs and restaurants so you are known among the community.
  6. Keep good records.  Don’t mean to go all IRS on you here, but keep a good system of invoicing and payments!  And don’t pester restaurants that are past due on accounts, but be sure to keep a buzz in their ear that it needs to be paid.
  7. Always go the extra mile.  Customer service is always number one.  It doesn’t matter what business you are in, if you treat your customers, restaurant owners and chefs with respect and go out of the way to give them extra freebies and samples while delivering their other produce, it will go a long way with your established relationships.  And those relationships could build onto other relationships with other known chefs or restaurants wanting to cook and serve local food, hopefully creating more business in the long run for you.

Whether you’re a grower supplying food for your family, an impoverished community, or local restaurants, Urban Agriculture is a growing movement that hopefully will be here to stay.  So, if you ever felt like you had a green thumb but weren’t sure how to do it living in an urban area, check out many online sites that can help you get started, like Urbanfarming.org, A Starter Guide To Urban Gardening, and many more.  Good luck and happy farming!

 

Box with a Hamburger and French Fries

Week in Brief–July 27

Looking for some of the week’s top information? Check out these five stories from the foodservice industry from July 23-27.

McDonald’s Introduces New U.S. Menu Featuring “Favorites Under 400 Calories”

From RestaurantNews.com, read full story

McDonald’s introduced a new menu this week, “Favorites Under 400 Calories,” which focusing on existing products at stores nationwide.  A select few of the products are also running in the “Win When USA Wins Gold” promotion, which spotlights the London 2012 Olympic Games by using online games and prizes.

“Favorites Under 400 Calories is one more way we’re making nutrition information accessible.  Like our mobile app, this platform aims to empower our customers and employees to make choices that are right for their nutrition needs,” said Neil Golden, Chief Marketing Officer, McDonald’s USA.  “We’ve found that customers are surprised to learn about the calorie content of some of their favorite menu options at McDonald’s.  In fact, customers may be surprised to know that about 80 percent of national menu choices are under 400 calories for the standard recipe.”

Customers can also access nutritional information about all food and beverage choices at the stores by going to www.mcdonalds.com, McDonald’s mobile app, toll-free customers experience line, brochures located in-stores, on reverse sides of tray liners and on select packaging of products.

Sysco Pledges to Stop Use of Gestation Crates for Pork Products

From Huffingtonpost.com, read full story

In a release issued online Monday, Sysco, the world’s largest broadline food distributor, vowed to stop using pork distributors that employ gestation crates.  Although a timeline has yet to be determined, the Humane Society is applauding the move.

In a statement from Sysco, it said:

“Sysco takes its role as a responsible corporate citizen in the food supply chain seriously.  We use science-based standards for animal welfare and work diligently with our suppliers to ensure humane treatment of animals.  We also listen closely to our customers desires.  Although there are many ways to house sows, several customers and suppliers have expressed their desire to eliminate gestation crates from their supply chains.”

Considering Sysco made $40 billion in sales last year, it’s a huge impact for the movement to ban gestation crates.  The company is joining other big companies, such as McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King, who have all pledged to end the use of gestation crates.

Ice Cream Food Trucks Feuding in NYC Streets, Making “Mafia”-esque Threats

From NYPost.com, read full storyThree Ice Cream Cones

It’s like a scene out of “Goodfellas,” the movie starring Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci, except instead of turf wars between New York City Mafia, the turf wars are between New York City Mister Softee ice cream trucks and rival ice cream trucks.

The fights began in 2010, and have resulted in sabotaged trucks, punched noses and death threats.  One Yogo frozen-yogurt driver, who refused to be identified for fear of retaliation, claimed one team of Mister Softee double-parked next to his truck and distracted him, while another man jumped out of their truck and cut his brakes.  Although the Yogo driver was fearful of the attack he did not contact police, and things were eventually settled privately.

Even violence has occurred between Mister Softee drivers.

“They walked up to the truck and said, ‘Next time we see you here, we shoot you,’” said Leon Zaid, 34, a seven-year Mister Softee veteran.  “They are the Mafia.  They are one big Mafia.”

Cash is the main driver in the ice cream truck turf wars.  A Mister Softee truck can bring in $1,500 on a good day in cash.

“They get a spot and don’t want to relinquish it,” a police source said of the rivalry.  “God forbid one of them gets sick or something and they leave their spot for one day and some other vendor takes his place,” the source said.

Yet, veterans of the ice cream truck industry say there are unwritten rules that are just not being followed.

“The routes are [based on] a gentleman’s agreement,” said Maria Campanella, a second-generation Good Humor operator, who says that once a truck is bought, the route is also bought with it.  “I have my route, you have your route, and we stay away from each other’s route.”

Customer “Plays a Little Game” with Server, Tries to Take Away Tip for Every Wrongdoing

From Servernotservant.com, read full story

According to a server on the blog, “I’m Your Server, Not Your Servant,” a customer came in and tried to “play a little game” (in the words of the customer).  The customer proceeded to place $20 on the table and explained, “I’ll take one away (from your tip) every time something goes wrong.”

The server contacted his manager, who proceeded to talk with the customer outside, abruptly ending the “game”.

“Demeaning fellow human beings is never funny or cute.  You don’t play games with hard-working people who are just trying to make a living,” said Patrick Maguire, the manager.

USDA Retracts Meatless Monday Endorsement

From The New York Times, read full story

On Monday, an office newsletter floated through the intraweb of the United States of Agriculture, promoting simple practices that could make government employees healthier and the environment cleaner.  One paragraph of the newsletter asked for its employees to begin the practice of ‘Meatless Mondays,’ the idea of avoiding meat on Mondays in favor of vegetarian options.

Yet; by Tuesday afternoon, the newsletter was nowhere to be found on the agency’s website, instead replaced by a spokeswoman’s statement saying, “U.S.D.A. does not endorse Meatless Monday…the newsletter…was posted without proper clearance.”

Evidently, for a bevy of livestock producers, as well as Representative Steve King, of Iowa (R), changing up their menu to be a little healthier for one day is too much to ask.  As Rep. King tweeted, “USDA HQ meatless Mondays!  At the Dept. of Agriculture?  Heresy!  I’m not grazing there.  I will have the double rib-eye Mondays instead.”

Copies of the newsletter were originally on the USDA website, but are now located around the Web.

 

 

 

Looking for some of the week’s top information? Check out these five stories from the foodservice industry from July 23-27.

McDonald’s Introduces New U.S. Menu Featuring “Favorites Under 400 Calories”

From RestaurantNews.com, read full story

McDonald’s introduced a new menu this week, “Favorites Under 400 Calories,” which focusing on existing products at stores nationwide.  A select few of the products are also running in the “Win When USA Wins Gold” promotion, which spotlights the London 2012 Olympic Games by using online games and prizes.

“Favorites Under 400 Calories is one more way we’re making nutrition information accessible.  Like our mobile app, this platform aims to empower our customers and employees to make choices that are right for their nutrition needs,” said Neil Golden, Chief Marketing Officer, McDonald’s USA.  “We’ve found that customers are surprised to learn about the calorie content of some of their favorite menu options at McDonald’s.  In fact, customers may be surprised to know that about 80 percent of national menu choices are under 400 calories for the standard recipe.”

Customers can also access nutritional information about all food and beverage choices at the stores by going to www.mcdonalds.com, McDonald’s mobile app, toll-free customers experience line, brochures located in-stores, on reverse sides of tray liners and on select packaging of products.

Sysco Pledges to Stop Use of Gestation Crates for Pork Products

From Huffingtonpost.com, read full story

In a release issued online Monday, Sysco, the world’s largest broadline food distributor, vowed to stop using pork distributors that employ gestation crates.  Although a timeline has yet to be determined, the Humane Society is applauding the move.

In a statement from Sysco, it said:

“Sysco takes its role as a responsible corporate citizen in the food supply chain seriously.  We use science-based standards for animal welfare and work diligently with our suppliers to ensure humane treatment of animals.  We also listen closely to our customers desires.  Although there are many ways to house sows, several customers and suppliers have expressed their desire to eliminate gestation crates from their supply chains.”

Considering Sysco made $40 billion in sales last year, it’s a huge impact for the movement to ban gestation crates.  The company is joining other big companies, such as McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King, who have all pledged to end the use of gestation crates.

Ice Cream Food Trucks Feuding in NYC Streets, Making “Mafia”-esque Threats

From NYPost.com, read full story

It’s like a scene out of “Goodfellas,” the movie starring Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci, except instead of turf wars between New York City Mafia, the turf wars are between New York City Mister Softee ice cream trucks and rival ice cream trucks.

The fights began in 2010, and have resulted in sabotaged trucks, punched noses and death threats.  One Yogo frozen-yogurt driver, who refused to be identified for fear of retaliation, claimed one team of Mister Softee double-parked next to his truck and distracted him, while another man jumped out of their truck and cut his brakes.  Although the Yogo driver was fearful of the attack he did not contact police, and things were eventually settled privately.

Even violence has occurred between Mister Softee drivers.

“They walked up to the truck and said, ‘Next time we see you here, we shoot you,’” said Leon Zaid, 34, a seven-year Mister Softee veteran.  “They are the Mafia.  They are one big Mafia.”

Cash is the main driver in the ice cream truck turf wars.  A Mister Softee truck can bring in $1,500 on a good day in cash.

“They get a spot and don’t want to relinquish it,” a police source said of the rivalry.  “God forbid one of them gets sick or something and they leave their spot for one day and some other vendor takes his place,” the source said.

Yet, veterans of the ice cream truck industry say there are unwritten rules that are just not being followed.

“The routes are [based on] a gentleman’s agreement,” said Maria Campanella, a second-generation Good Humor operator, who says that once a truck is bought, the route is also bought with it.  “I have my route, you have your route, and we stay away from each other’s route.”

Customer “Plays a Little Game” with Server, Tries to Take Away Tip for Every Wrongdoing

From Servernotservant.com, read full story

According to a server on the blog, “I’m Your Server, Not Your Servant,” a customer came in and tried to “play a little game” (in the words of the customer).  The customer proceeded to place $20 on the table and explained, “I’ll take one away (from your tip) every time something goes wrong.”

The server contacted his manager, who proceeded to talk with the customer outside, abruptly ending the “game”.

“Demeaning fellow human beings is never funny or cute.  You don’t play games with hard-working people who are just trying to make a living,” said Patrick Maguire, the manager.

USDA Retracts Meatless Monday Endorsement

From The New York Times, read full story

On Monday, an office newsletter floated through the intraweb of the United States of Agriculture, promoting simple practices that could make government employees healthier and the environment cleaner.  One paragraph of the newsletter asked for its employees to begin the practice of ‘Meatless Mondays,’ the idea of avoiding meat on Mondays in favor of vegetarian options.

Yet; by Tuesday afternoon, the newsletter was nowhere to be found on the agency’s website, instead replaced by a spokeswoman’s statement saying, “U.S.D.A. does not endorse Meatless Monday…the newsletter…was posted without proper clearance.”

Evidently, for a bevy of livestock producers, as well as Representative Steve King, of Iowa (R), changing up their menu to be a little healthier for one day is too much to ask.  As Rep. King tweeted, “USDA HQ meatless Mondays!  At the Dept. of Agriculture?  Heresy!  I’m not grazing there.  I will have the double rib-eye Mondays instead.”

Copies of the newsletter were originally on the USDA website, but are now located around the Web.

Bowl of Salad

Week in Brief June 11-15th

Looking for some of the week’s top information?  Here are the five top stories from the foodservice industry for June 11-15.

9-Year-Old Who Changed School Lunches Through her Blog – Shut Down by Politicians

From wired.com, Read article

Remember the cute Scottish girl, Martha Payne, who began blogging about her unhealthy, unappealing school lunches being served at her public school?  Each day she would post a picture of her lunch, which usually consisted of unhealthy food.  Luckily, her blogging created a buzz, and within a few weeks she had a million viewers, and even got support from TV chef/celebrity Jamie Oliver.

Unfortunately, the blog is now down.   Yesterday afternoon, Martha blogged to her followers that she may no longer take her camera into her school.

Her father, Dave, added to the post, “Veg’s Dad, Dave, here.  I felt it’s important to add a few bits of info to the blog tonight.  Martha’s school has been brilliant and supportive from the beginning and I’d like to thank them all.  I contacted Argyll and Bute Council when Martha told me what happened at school today and they told me it was their decision to ban Martha’s photography.”

Apparently, politicians don’t agree well with kids eating “unlimited salads, fruit and bread.”  Read the full article on Wired.com’s website.

McDonald’s Chef Claims None of Their Food is ‘Unhealthy’

From huffingtonpost.com, Read article

Chef Daniel Coudreaut, senior director of culinary innovation for McDonald’s USA, recently was heard talking about their menu, saying, “I don’t see anything on the menu that’s unhealthy.”

Chef Coudreaut was first speaking with Lisa Abraham of the Akron Beacon Journal about obesity and how it relates to children’s diets when he threw out the comment.  He even mentioned that he and his children eat at McDonald’s about once a week, preferring the Big Mac.  But last time we checked, the Big Mac wasn’t very healthy.  Read the full article on huffingtonpost.com’s website.

Subway to Test Vegan Subs

From gma.yahoo.com, read article

In an effort to expand their customer base, Subway is now testing out three vegan sandwiches at Maryland, Washington D.C., and Virginia locations.  The three options include Sweet Riblet, Malibu Greek and Italian Black Bean, and the bread varieties include:  Roasted Garlic, Sourdough, Light Wheat English Muffin, Hearty Italian and Hearty Italian White.

The prices are also comparable to the regular subs that the restaurant makes; a foot-long costs $7.00, while a six-inch costs only $4.50.  Read the full article on gma.yahoo.com’s website.

T.G.I. Friday’s Introducing App Allowing Guests to Pay Via Smartphone

From NRN.com, Read article

“My Friday’s Tab,” an app offered at about 300 of the 900 T.G.I. Friday’s restaurants across the nation, allows customers to start their tab on their smartphone, track it, and close out the tab without the waiter giving them any type of bill.

“This new app puts the Friday experience at guests’ fingertips – whether they’re looking for the closest Friday’s to celebrate and indulge, or if they want to pay their bar tab quickly,” Ricky Richardson, COO at Carrollton, Texas-based T.G.I. Friday’s, said when the app was released.

The app can be downloaded for free from Apple’s App Store or the Android App Market.  Read the full article on nrn.com’s website.

Obama Offers Dinner to His Donators

From TheDailyMeal.com, Read article

For anyone donating to the Obama campaign, he/she will have the chance to win a dinner with the President himself.

The winner and a guest of his/her choice will be flown out to meet the President on the campaign trail.

“These dinners mean something more than just a meal among friends,” Obama said in a press statement this morning.  They represent the kind of politics we believe in.”  Read the full article on thedailymeal’s website.

 

Woman Pushing Shopping Cart

Gender-Biased Marketing Strategies: All That It’s Cracked Up to Be?

Dr. Pepper 10 – “Only 10 MANL Y calories…it’s not for women.”

Chick Beer – “Witness the Chickness!”

Skinnygirl Cocktails – “Drink Like a Lady”

Ruffles Ultimate Potato Chips and Dips – “An unapologetic bro-centric snack with deeper ridges and real pieces of meat.”

Looking at these well-known brands, it’s quite obvious that gender-stereotyping is an ongoing trend for food and drink.  But is that a good thing or bad thing?  Sure, men and women have both been stereotyped by the marketing/advertising world for years—beer commercials are usually filled with guys drinking the “wrong” beer in a bar while trying to pick up a woman.  Insert the “wing man” who gives him the “right beer” and voila!  The woman is now interested in this obviously “cool” guy that drinks a “cool” beer.   And marketing doesn’t leave out the female crowd, either. Friends Having Beer Together Turn on any channel and you’ll see yogurt commercials, specifically Activia, aimed at “real women” to discover what they’ve been “missing.”  Their website includes facts, inspirational quotes, and “Real Women, Real Stories.”  Not one man is featured on the website.  (I guess the marketing team figured men don’t like yogurt filled with probiotics?)  No!  Men (obviously) love big beefy, juicy hamburgers, hearty steaks…there’s even a hot sauce in Canada named “Mansauce”!  According to the brand, it claims to be “the manliest condiment…ever.”  (Wondering what makes a condiment the manliest?  Me too.)  But according to Company partner Chris Galvin, these “manly” ingredients include jalapenos and banana peppers: “stuff that’s typically associated with men.”   (Uh, sorry, but this gal is a jalapeno-lover, too…can I get some Mansauce, or is it against the rules?)

Well-known chefs and publications are even getting into the gender-biased food game.  It all started with the “queen” of food and entertainment, Martha Stewart, whose publication has always had a focus towards women.  Her empire has gained her millions of fans; yet, the majority of those are women who love to create beautiful cakes, test out interesting new recipes, and build tasty cocktails for bridal/baby showers.   Another example is Paula Deen.  While her down-home Southern-style cooking is loved by all, Deen’s sons are now getting into the game as well. They have now started a quarterly special-interest publication, Deen Bros Good Cooking, which, while Mrs. Deen claims is aimed at a “dual audience”, its focus is expected to have strong appeal with men.  Even Reader’s Digest Association has launched a site called Mantestedrecipes.comSuzanne Grimes, president of U.S. Affinities, RDA, said research found that most men like to cook but 70 percent prefer a male-tailored site when it comes to food.  “They approach cooking differently from the way women do,” she said.  “It suggested we should build something just for them.”

Differences in Marketing Towards Men and Women

Why does gender-biased marketing exist?

  1.  Communication.  Men prefer having the information up front and providing background information later, while women prefer background information in terms of how it might be beneficial in the future.  Essentially, men want the facts straight up, while women want an emotional context she can relate to.
  2. Differences in Decision-Making.  Men tend to make decisions based on a process of elimination.  Key factors seem to matter the most when deciding on a product, thereby allowing them to eliminate products that lack those qualities.  Women, on the other hand, tend to look at the overall picture before making a decision.
  3. Gender Identification.  Men are much more concerned with products conveying gender perceptions then women; they tend to shy away from anything that would convey femininity.  In a recent series of studies done in Britain and the U.S., it was found that foods such as steak, hamburgers and hot dogs were identified as “boy foods,” and that ordering other food was “considered wimpy.”     Yet, when it comes to women, they don’t seem to care about gender identification.  Thus, the confusion among many women when the trend among alcoholic drinks geared towards the female gender began.  Most women just don’t care.

Should We Care About Gender-Bias Stereotypes?

While there may be physiological reasons as to why males and females tend to pick certain products over others, many consumers are offended by some of the stereotypical food and drinks that are being marketing toward only women or only men.  Take Chick Beer, for instance.  The light beer is packaged in a pink and black polka-dot six-pack “purse”, with the bottle label designed as a little black dress.  Shazz Lewis, Founder of Chick Beer, told the Village Voice, “I wanted to use pink and black and do something extremely iconic (by depicting it using an image of) a purse and a little black dress.  I wanted it to be fun and sexy and I wanted people to have a good time with it.  Beer’s about fun.”

Okay, stop.  Many women agree that beer is fun, including myself.  But many women don’t depict themselves as Paris Hilton when going out and having fun with their friends; they want a nice, craft beer; heck, maybe they’re even wearing a ratty t-shirt with jeans!

Then there’s the new Dr. Pepper Ten and how it’s ‘not for women’.  The ad campaign has decided that in order to appeal to men, it must make the can gunmetal grey with bullets, TV commercials featuring huge guys fighting snakes and shooting lasers in the jungle, and a Facebook page for men ONLY; it has an app that allows it to exclude women from entering the site, which includes shooting games and a “man quiz”.

Jim Trebilcock, executive vice president of marketing for Dr. Pepper, said he’s not worried about the campaign driving women customers away from the brand.  The drink and ad campaign was tested in six markets across the country and about 40 percent of people who tried the drink were women.

“Women get the joke,” he said.

But do they really?  Time will only tell.

mixed nuts

The New Bully in our Schools — Food Allergies

Looking back 20-30 years ago, food allergies in schools were practically unheard of.  Sure, each class may have had one or two asthmatic students, but for the most part, kids were kids.  There was no “peanut-free” classroom or cafeteria assigned seating, nor were any of us afraid that our child might become so allergic to something that he/she would begin carrying around an EpiPen®, an auto-injector filled with epinephrine that treats signs and symptoms of a life-threatening allergic reaction, also known as anaphylaxis.

Unfortunately, things have changed in the past 10 years; studies have shown that food allergies have increased by almost 20% in the last decade, with the biggest increase among Hispanics.

“Reported food allergy is increasing among children of all ages, among boys and girls, and among children of different races/ethnicities,” says Amy M. Branum, MSPH, of the National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC.  “However, it cannot be determined how much of the increases in estimates are truly attributable to increases in clinical disease and how much are attributable to increased awareness by physicians, other health care providers, and parents.”

Types of Food Allergies

There are a multitude of food allergies one can acquire; the most common allergies include:  milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, seafood, shellfish, soy and wheat (these are often referred to as “the big eight.” ) Cooked LobsterAllergies to seeds, especially sesame, seem to be increasing as well.

Food allergies can start at any age, but usually cow’s milk, egg and soy allergies begin in childhood and are outgrown by the age 16.  Unfortunately, for those who have acquired peanut and tree nut allergies, the allergy stays with them throughout adulthood.  In the U.S. alone, approximately three million people have peanut or tree nut allergies; the number of children with peanut allergies went from one in 250 to one in 125 between the years of 1997 and 2002.  Fish and shellfish allergies tend to be life-long; 6.5 million adults are reported to have an allergy to the animals.

Along with plant and animal allergies, environmental allergies, such as asthma and hay fever seem to be increasing over the years as well.  Celiac disease, caused by an immune system defect, has also increased.  Scientists are stumped as to why allergies to both the food we eat and the air we breathe is making us much, much sicker.

Food Allergy Symptoms

So, as a teacher or parent that has a child that may have never experience an allergic reaction before, how do you recognize the symptoms?  An allergic reaction can actually affect various parts of the body, including the skin (in the form of hives), the gastrointestinal tract, the respiratory tract, and, if the allergic reaction is severe enough, the cardiovascular system.

While one child may react mildly to his/her soy allergy another child may have a peanut allergy that causes a life-threatening reaction, called anaphylaxis.  Here’s a list of just some of the symptoms one would get when experiencing an allergic reaction:

  • Stomach pain or cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing and swallowing
  • Fainting, light-headedness, and/or dizziness
  • Slurred SpeechAmbulance at Emergency Entrance

When someone has this type of reaction, it requires urgent medical care and must be treated as a medical emergency.  Hopefully, the child’s parent and school have discussed this issue and have in place an allergy plan.  Unfortunately, that was not the case for seven-year-old Virginia student, Ammaria Johnson, who died January 2 of cardiac arrest and anaphylaxis, according to a statement from Chesterfield County police.  Another child, unaware that Ammaria had a deadly peanut allergy, gave one to her on the playground.  Ammaria ate it, began breaking into hives and had shortness of breath and then went to her teacher, who took her to the nurse.  While the school did call 911, responding firefighters and police were unable to save her life.

A spokesman for the school district said that parents have to provide any prescribe medications to the schools, and sign a form allowing the school to give it to the child in case of an emergency.  But in Ammaria’s case, no EpiPen® or other medication was given by her family to the nurse.

Universal School Allergy Policies

Due to the increase of food allergies and students visiting hospitals due to allergic shock, the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Management Act (FAAMA) was signed into law by President Obama on Jan. 4, 2011.  This bill calls for national assistance to schools to manage students that have to deal with allergies on a daily basis.  While this bill is on a voluntary basis, the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, or FAAN™, is working on a bill called the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, that would encourage states to create laws that would allow school to stockpile EpiPens ® for those who don’t have prescribed pens.   This law would be similar to those passed in Illinois and Georgia in 2011.

While some people are encouraged by these laws coming into the schools, other parents and teachers weren’t as excited.  For example, an elementary school in Edgewater, Fla. had to rinse out their mouths twice daily to avoid spreading peanut residue to another student with a severe peanut allergy.  The teachers had to monitor the mouth washing as well as hand washing, and clean surfaces continually with Clorox.  All peanut products were banned, as were snacks in the classrooms and outside food for holiday parties.  There was even a peanut-patrolling dog in the halls, making sure no peanuts got through the door!  It all came to a head, when other parents began to complain, saying that the allergy-aware policies forced them to buy more expensive foods, such as soy or sunflower butter instead of the normal peanut butter.  The food-allergy rules have become too costly—is it really worth it?

“You don’t want to be careless and make another child sick, but you really had to stop and think every day what was okay and where it was okay,” said Anita Lavine, a mother of two in Seattle, whose children’s schools also enforced extreme food allergy plans.

Although it may be hard for allergy-free families to get used to, these children are protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act.  Dr. Stanley Fineman, a board certified allergist, emphasized that although the schools are legally obligated to protect children with allergies against discrimination, the policies they enforce must also be reasonable and practical, as well as have scientific validity.

We Need a Plan Put In Place, But How Do We Do It?

If you’re an administrator, nurse or teacher and your school has no allergy guidelines put into place, there are some great links and tools on the web that can educate you on how to begin an allergy plan.

FAAN also has a great tool that has a list of some states’ food allergy guidelines for schools.  It’s a great resource if your child has recently acquired an allergy and you need to know how your schools deal with them.  The Statewide Guidelines for Schools is a great help for both parents and teachers, as it’s written down plainly, instead of any legalese.  The only unfortunate thing is that it doesn’t include all 50!

If you are a parent, you might also notice a one-page form that will ask you a few questions about the allergies; this is to determine if an EpiPen® will be needed on site.  You can find the Food Allergy Action Plan form here.

Tips For Managing Food Allergies

Hopefully, your child is lucky enough to attend a school that has an allergy plan in place, but let’s not forget that you, the parent, and your child need to know as well how to manage your allergies so you can avoid any allergic reactions.  Although those reactions are obviously never planned, there are some tips you can use to help keep your allergies under control.

  1.  Your diet and lifestyle must change in order for your allergy to be successfully managed.  It’ll be hard, especially for the child, but as time goes by, you’ll both get used to it!
  2. Avoidance of the food is the only way to prevent a reaction, because, unfortunately, there have been no prescriptions created to combat food allergies.
  3. If your doctor prescribed you or your child any medication, have he/she carry it with him/her at all times.
  4. If your child has been prescribed an EpiPen® but feels uncomfortable with it, your doctor could give him an auto-injector “trainer.”  These devices look almost identical to an EpiPen®, but do not contain a needle or medication.  It’s a great way to get students, parents and teachers to practice with the tool and learn how to use the real thing.

Learn all you can about your child’s allergy, and be sure to teach him/her the basics of what to do in case of an emergency.  Because if you choose not to educate yourself or others, it’s like playing Russian Roulette with your child’s life.

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10 Tips for a Successful Health Inspection

As a restaurant owner, you have probably experienced that dreadful feeling—shortness of breath, increased heartbeat, sweating—and it’s all due to one person arriving and deciding your fate.   I think we all know what I’m talking about:  Health Inspection Day.  It’s pass or fail, and, unfortunately, if you don’t get a passing grade, it can interrupt the everyday flow and operation of your foodservice and business.  And although the Health Inspector is human just like you and me, he can pop up at any time—like a thief in the night—just waiting to find that one day when you’re not ready for inspection.

So, the best thing to do is to treat every day as Health Inspection Day, and fortunately, we have ten helpful tips from our friends at San Jamar-Chef Revival.

Health Inspection Requirement #1

Food must be cooled by an approved method whereby the internal product temperature is reduced from 135° to 70°F or less within two hours and from 70° to 41°F or less within four additional hours.

Tip #1

With San Jamar’s Rapi-Kool® Plus, you can chill soups and stews quickly and safely from the inside-out.  Special cooling “fins” provide maximum surface area for quicker chilling.  Its screw-off top allows for easy filling with ice or water for on-demand use.

Health Inspection Requirement #2

Food must be protected from potential sources of contamination during storage, preparation, transportation, display or service.

Tip #2

With San Jamar’s Saf-T-Grip®, its patented food safety hook allows for sanitary transport and storage.  Anti-slip grip corners hold the board in place, eliminating the need for the use of a wet towel, which carries bacteria and germs.

Health Inspection Requirement #3

Food contact surfaces must be washed, rinsed or sanitized after each use and following any activity when contamination may have occurred.

Tip #3

The Kleen-Pail®by San Jamar eliminates confusion between cleaning and sanitizing solution pails.  Green equals cleaning solutions, while red are used for sanitizing solutions.  It also meets HACCP guidelines for cleaning/sanitizing cloths used to wipe down surface areas.

Health Inspection Requirement #4

Accurate thermometers and test kits must be provided to measure sanitizing solution to ensure proper sanitation at appropriate level.

Tip #4

Saf-Check® helps to ensure that your sanitizer is effective.  Available with refillable 15-ft. rolls of Quaternary or Chlorine test strips and an optional thermometer to monitor the temperature of your cleaning solution.

Health Inspection Requirement #5

Personal cleanliness must be observed.  Outer garment should not be soiled with possible contaminant.  Effective hair restraints should be worn in areas where food is exposed.

Tip #5

Apparel and headwear should not only provide for a sanitary environment, but also allow your staff to look their best.  Chef Revival offers contemporary designs for all members of your restaurant staff, including chef hats, jackets, pants and crew caps.

Health Inspection Requirement #6

Soap and hand drying devices must be provided.

Tip #6

San Jamar leads the industry with the Universal Touchless Electronic towel dispensing; it offers a line of durable dispensers that use any brand/quality of paper.

Health Inspection Requirement #7

Food must be properly stored, covered and labeled in accordance with HACCP plan; proper date marking and disposition.

Tip #7

San Jamar’s all-in-one food labeling/rotation system, the Saf-T-Wrap® system has an interchangeable safety blade or slide cutter.  It cuts film, foil or wax paper from 12” to 18”.  A pen and cutters are also included while also providing a writing surface for dating labels.

Health Inspection Requirement #8

Cold foods must be held in proper temperatures.

Tip #8

With Chill-It®pans, crock and pitcher, a non-toxic gel keeps the food chilled while being refrigerated or frozen.

Health Inspection #9

Ice container must be protected from potential source of contamination during storage, preparation, transportation or service.

Tip #9

The durable, NSF certified Saf-T-Ice® Tote and Saf-T-Scoop® & Guardian System™, by San Jamar, safely transport ice. It features a HACCP Hanger that makes transporting ice easy and lessens back injuries.  The Guardian Scoop Holder protects scoop from ice splash up and encloses it as well.

Health Inspection Requirement #10

Hands and arms must be protected to prevent cuts and burns that could lead to the spread of transmissible diseases.

Tip #10

When you want the best hand protection around, turn to Chef Revival.  Their Kool-Tek® Conventional Oven Mitt, BestGrip™ Oven Mitt, and Spectra® Cut-Resistant Glove keeps you safe from extreme heat and offers cut protections and utility needs.