Hood River's bounty is delicious and healthy

September 17, 2011

Today's cartoon suggests the long shadow of poverty extends into the lives of America's middle class.

Few citizens, no matter their economic status, can avoid the reality of rising food prices, either at the grocery or in restaurants.

We in Hood River County are lucky to live close to the source of so much agricultural goodness, from fruits and vegetables to wine and other value-added products.

For many Americans, in urban and rural settings, "food deserts" are a growing problem. USDA and the Centers for Disease Control note that variables in transportation options, costs, consumer choices and other factors make it hard to specifically define "food deserts," but the term generally refers to places that lack convenient access to reasonably priced commodities such as fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, dairy and whole grain.

Food deserts force many low-income citizens to spend inordinately high amounts of their income on quality food, or to depend on less healthy fast-food options.

According to a USDA report, "A primary concern is that some poor or rural areas do not have access to supermarkets, grocery stores, or other food retailers that offer the large variety of foods needed for a healthy diet …

"It is hypothesized that the relative lack of access to full-service grocery stores and the easier access to fast and convenience foods may be linked to poor diets and, ultimately, to obesity and other diet-related diseases."

Fortunately, in every community in Hood River, there are large-scale, medium-sized or small groceries aplenty, along with smaller specialized stores with ample food choices at varied prices. In addition, organizations including Gorge Grown Food Network offer a steadily expanding menu of products that are grown or raised in our community

When it comes to fruit, this county is not a desert but an oasis, and this weekend is a great time to enjoy the abundance. Turn to page A1 for details on the Pear Celebration this week. The event is about pears as well as other fruit of the valley. We also provide readers with a guide (page A10) to where to pick your own fruit, vegetables and flowers. (Ask first about eating the flowers, though!)

Pears are the leading crop of Hood River Valley, and the county is the top producer of the Oregon state fruit.

Pears are not just sweet to eat and pretty to look at. They are also a great source of nutrition.

The Pear Bureau Northwest has recently been accepted as a National Strategic Partner with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion's Nutrition Communicators Network, introduced in June 2011 at the same time that the USDA's new MyPlate icon was unveiled as a simple visual reminder for consumers to make healthy food choices. The MyPlate icon replaces the USDA's previously used Food Pyramid.

The Pear Bureau plans to provide resources like healthy pear recipes and pear nutrition facts to help ensure fresh pears have a place on Americans' healthy plates for their nutritional benefit.

Reasonably priced pears are available most of the year at area groceries, but late September and October are the prime times to buy Anjous, Barletts and Comice (simple as ABC) directly from our neighbors who grow them.

Those that are ready to eat are a simple delight, and those that are still firm need just a few days sealed in a paper bag to bring them to preferred ripeness.

Good things come for those who wait.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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