Farm-to-Fork: buying locally can help students eat healthier

Marissa Montoya

College students are notorious for eating instant noodles, frozen foods, and cheap pizza. It is time to revamp the typical college student cuisine and get passionate about where our food comes from.

Students at Sacramento State are fortunate to attend college in the land of bounty. One doesn’t have to look very hard to find ways to regularly eat fresh produce, even on a college student’s budget.

Sac State is located in the middle of a city that has been proclaimed by Farm-to-Fork as the Capital of America. The Sacramento region is home to 1.5 million acres of regional farmland and 8, 000 acres of boutique farms, according the Sacramento Farm to Fork website. Students should take advantage of living in the land of plenty and learn about Sacramento’s rich agricultural spirit, and how it can benefit them.

“People should understand the importance of agriculture in their lives and the process that it takes to get food in the grocery store and not take that for granted,” explained Christine McMorrow, director of development at the Center for Land-Based Learning in Winters, CA. “There is a lot of work that goes into that. We have a lot of people to feed. The future is going to depend on agriculture and finding solutions to today’s issues. Young people are going to be the ones creating those solutions. The more we know now the more we can be prepared.”

The first step is being aware and knowledgeable about the importance of sustainable agriculture and the role it plays in being able to eat fresh and local, no matter the season. The next step of incorporating the farm-to-fork lifestyle into a busy schedule can be challenging for college students juggling a tight budget, classes, projects, studying, working, and having a social life.

Amber Stott, founder and Chief Food Genius of Food Literacy Center in Sacramento, explains that it is okay to eat Top Ramen, but there are ways add nutritional value those noodles. She suggest not using the sodium-packed seasoning that come with the noodles, but rather making a home-made vegetable stock from green onion, shredded cabbage, grated carrots, and celery, or really whatever you have on hand.

“Vegetables are actually way cheaper than buying frozen meals and burritos. Cooking from scratch is really the most cost effective way to eat,” Stott explained. “Go at the end of the farmer’s market and they bag up all the groceries they didn’t sell that day.”

The Sacramento region is home to over 40 farmer’s markets, including one of the largest California Certified Farmer’s Markets in the state. September is Farm-to-Fork month in Sacramento, and the month-long celebration is culminating with a free festival at Capitol Mall on Saturday, Sept. 26.

The festival is a great opportunity to meet representatives from various farms and organizations such as Center for Land-Based Learning and Food Literacy Center. There will also be prizes in the form of produce and cooking demonstrations from top Sacramento chefs like Kurt Spataro, co-owner and executive chef for Paragary Restaurant Group.

Spataro has been an advocate for eating Farm-to-Fork long before it became the trend. He recommends eating what is in season because those items are always the least expensive, the most nutritious and usually the tastiest.

“You have to be willing to learn a little bit about cooking. You don’t have to be a great chef or anything, but you have to be willing to pull out a pot and a knife and learn the basics,” Spataro suggests. “If you do, you will eat better, you will be healthier and it will improve your quality of life.”

The Center for Land-Based Learning and Food Literacy Center depend on volunteers and interns to keep their programs going. Visit their websites to learn how you can get more involved.