KU Medical Center students and area farmers bring healthy food to campus

March 27, 2012

By Andria Enns

Mariles Ozias and Brandon Hidaka await their new CSA's first delivery to campus in the Department of Integrative Medicine's Healing Foods Kitchen.

Students in the campus club called Food is Medicine know the value of eating healthy. Now they're aiming to help their fellow students and employees at the University of Kansas Medical Center to eat whole, organic foods while supporting local farmers.

Food Is Medicine is soliciting subscriptions to establish the medical center's first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project. CSAs connect families directly with farmers for local organic foods. The KU Medical Center CSA will provide produce, eggs, dairy, artisan breads and meats to its members. The club is accepting subscribers through March.

"The quality of food is so much higher when it's being grown locally," says Brandon Hidaka, a KU medical student and Ph.D. candidate in the department of Dietetics and Nutrition. "All the food for our CSA is from a 200-mile radius from the medical center. It's all organic — no pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, or hormones."

Marlies Ozias, doctoral student in the Dietics and Nutrition program, says members can taste the difference between store-bought food and CSA food.

"There is a huge difference between a peach picked two weeks ago in California, before it's even ripe, and a ripe peach picked two days ago in Missouri," Ozias says. "We are all so excited for our members to experience that difference."

Students, staff and faculty at the medical center can opt-in to purchase one or more bags per week of fresh local food. The food will vary each week and include alternative options for vegetarian and vegan participants. Each bag is meant to feed one person for one week and costs $27.25 per bag. Each weekly purchase will include a newsletter of recipes and storage tips for the organic foods.

"People will be introduced to food they might have never picked up at the grocery store," says Hidaka. "Things like beets, rutabagas, chard, kale, and bison all might show up in the CSA bags."

Subscribers won't be allowed to specify what they want in their bags, but Hidaka notes that opportunities to trade or sell unwanted items at the pickup site will be plentiful. Ozias says it will be the first time many subscribers eat food in season.

"It's definitely a change from going to the store and buying whatever you want, regardless of whether it's in season," Ozias says. "But the food is so much fresher, and more delicious, when it's locally grown."

Hidaka also says that CSAs foster a strong sense of community among subscribers. "It's not unusual for potlucks and dinner parties to be planned at the pickup place with people you might have never met otherwise."

CSAs are growing in popularity around the country, with several thriving projects underway at local businesses such as Children's Mercy Hospital and UMB Bank. Hidaka says these efforts are popular because subscribers encourage each other to keep on track with health goals.

"You're influenced by the people around you," says Hidaka. "This project is entirely volunteer run, so you'll be around people who are passionate about being healthier and happier."

Hidaka notes that subscribers can pay weekly, monthly, or annually. The total cost for the subscription fee and the whole season is $517.75.

"The benefits aren't just financial," Ozias says. "It is cheaper than store-bought produce, but you also get the satisfaction of supporting the local economy, and of voting with your dollars for a healthier Kansas City."

The deadline for subscribing has passed, but Ozias says the group can take on a limited number of additional subscribers. To find out more information, contact foodismedicine@kumc.edu.

Categories: News

Last modified: Nov 20, 2012
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