Want healthy, “green” fast food? Head straight to Burgerville!

If you don’t live in the Pacific Northwest, and therefore don’t have access to one of these amazing fast food restaurants, all I can say is, “I’m sorry.”

Burgerville uses local, vegetarian fed, antibiotic-free cows for its burgers (they use the same beef source as New Seasons), and cage-free hens for its eggs. Its milk is also hormone-free, and many of the fruits and vegetables are locally sourced.

You can look forward to delicious seasonal treats throughout the year, like their Sweet Potato Fries, Walla Walla Onion Rings, Strawberry Milkshakes, and other delights. They partner with a host of local businesses to give you the freshest, most delicious foods.

All of their nutrition info is available on their site, as well as ingredient lists. They even have a complete chart for people with food sensitivities, and the peanuts in their sundaes are stored carefully and kept separate from other food items, to protect people with peanut allergies.

In addition to local growers and sustainable farms, you can feel good knowing that your money is going to a company that takes good care of its employees, composts its waste, buys renewable energy, turns its used cooking oil into biodiesel, and more.

With so much healthy, sustainable food and such admirable business practices, Burgerville lives up to its slogan – “Where you go when you know.”

To find a location, click here.

No “Specialty” Food for Poor People

Today, I sent the following letter to Activistas. I hope you’ll take a moment to read it, too.

I would like to call your attention to a serious frustration that I have been dealing with as a mom on government aid.

I have two daughters, ages 23 months and 5 months, and I am on WIC and food stamps. It’s common knowledge that it is very difficult to feed a family on food stamps alone, but with my husband in school, we have been doing our best to do just that.

Recently, I have been taking great pains (see budgethippies.blogspot.com) to switch our family over to organic food. As you can imagine, making food stamps stretch to cover an organic diet is a huge challenge, but I believe that my daughters deserve to eat food that is free of pesticides, antibiotics, and artificial hormones. This has meant regular trips to discount grocers in search of soon-to-expire organic goods, a reduction of meat in meals, more cooking from scratch, and paying a premium for produce, but I think it’s worth it.

A sweet little grocery store, The Green Grocer, just opened across the street from my discount grocer. Sweet! I thought. I can go over there after my discount trip and pick up the things that I didn’t find on discount! I was excited to discover that they carried hard-to-find organic produce, like fresh ginger (a good ginger tea is great for a cold!), as well as the best prices I’ve seen on organic bread and organic palm oil shortening.

I was not so excited to learn that they had been denied the right to take food stamps. When I called the USDA to complain, the woman in charge said, “You are not allowed to shop at specialty stores.”

Apparently, pesticide-free food is too good for me.

True, I can get some of these foods other places, although I have to drive 3 times as far for most of it. But it is very frustrating that I can’t frequent the new local market where the sweet owner gives my daughter free snacks and I can buy almost anything in bulk to avoid extra packaging.

This is almost as frustrating as WIC, which is essentially useless to me now, since they do not allow anything that you buy with their checks to be organic (the exception is the $20 in farmer’s market money that they give out every summer). Free milk with antibiotics, hormones, and pus? Free cheese filled with accumulated pesticides from all of the over-treated grain that the cow has eaten? Free hydrogenated peanut butter? I’m thankful that these services exist, but I wish that I didn’t have to choose between what’s best for my family and what’s most helpful to our budget. If WIC allowed me to simply purchase half the quantity of food that they do now, but to purchase organic food instead, it would be such a blessing!

Don’t get me wrong – I am grateful for both WIC and food stamps, and to the taxpayers who are helping us to make ends meet as my husband gets through school. Our experience at the receiving end of these services has caused me to actually look forward to being in a higher tax bracket, because I will know that our taxes will be going to people who are experiencing what we have experienced.

But when the government insists on distributing that money in a way that limits my ability to care for my family, I am upset, not only for myself, but also for all of the taxpayers who are funding this program, and will later have to fund health care to undo the damage that these products are doing to our bodies. These agencies are very behind-the-times scientifically if they think that organic food is elite and unnecessary. And they are bigoted if they believe that lower-income people do not deserve healthy food.

I would like to urge anyone willing to take a stand to contact WIC, the Department of Human Services, and the USDA, as well as the media and anyone else who might be influential, and to tell them that the government should lead the way in healthy eating. With our current epidemics of obesity, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, and diabetes, the current method of taking care of the underprivileged is unwise and unacceptable.

You can go here to contact WIC,  here to contact the Oregon Department of Human Services, and here to contact the USDA.

in my pantry & in my head

even before jenni did her post about her changing kitchen, i had started documenting my also changing pantry.

i can’t say that i’ve bought into the stock up method with quite the gusto that jen has, but i love the idea. i think i still need to sort through some cupboards and carve out some space for stocking up. it’s been a slow purging process, but it’s starting to pick up speed. i’ve kept a box in the kitchen for the last week and any time the thought strikes me, i toss another item into the box to be donated.

probably my biggest realization is just how lazy i can be. i have 2 food processors- one large and one small. i have a chopper that you pound on with the palm of your hand in order to mince your onions. i also have 3 cutting boards and a handful of okay-this-one-will-do knives. i can’t help but wonder how many of these tools i really need. what if i had just decided to invest in one really awesome knife and forgone all of the other gadgets?

well, maybe i’d have to hold on to the large food processor….

it’s a slow process as my pantry reflects. i have my tree top apple sauce next to my organic santa cruz blueberry apple sauce. i also have the S&W tomato paste neighboring the hunts organic tomatoes. i have a nice selection of bob’s red mill beans and irish soda bread mix (mmmm…), but i still need to use up the pizza sauce.

this doesn’t bother me though. we’re making the shift.

to my credit, i gutted the pantry and was able to purge a box and a grocery bag of food that i’ve been schlepping around (probably through the last two moves). these are now in my car trunk and waiting to be donated to the food bank. i’ve also purged the “snack cupboard” and loaded it with whole grain cereals, seeds, and home made bread. the bottom of the fruit bowl hasn’t seen the light of day for days now, but there’s always a hand grabbing something organic, local and juicy out of it. the people in my house are making better choices because those are the only options they have.

after a quick errand yesterday, our clan came home ravenous and in search of a substantial lunch. the girls were content with their usual- a tortilla with sun butter and an apple on the side. tom and i were looking for food though- real food. our eyes settled on the overflowing bowl in the bottom of the fridge. eggs. it was settled. we weren’t shy. i scrambled up 7 of the suckers and laid thick slices of homemade whole wheat bread on the side. thank god my mom has chickens and happily shares the wealth with us. we were singing those hens’ praise yesterday!

i realized later that part of the shift that we’re making is to look at meals differently. who on earth decided that sweet breads and eggs were for breakfast and sandwiches were for lunch? what’s wrong with mixing it up, depending on what you have on hand? eating with the seasons and the changes of the earth seems natural and harmonious.

our final step is to go local. our lunch of eggs was a great start. i fully realize that this will be very difficult to implement, but we’re going to give it a shot. already the challenge has eaten up hours of internet research but fortunately we have outstanding resources all around us so it’s not going to be impossible. expensive and time consuming at first? oh yes. beneficial? you bet.

i’m excited to learn the art of canning and food preservation. it’s something i wish i had learned from my great grandmother, but will be content to learn from anyone willing to teach me (or from a website, if necessary). next winter, instead of seeing hunts canned tomatoes in my pantry, you’ll see my labels facing out.