ACCESS

Philip YatesPhilip Yates at ACCESS is the Nutrition Programs Director at ACCESS, a nonprofit located in Medford, Oregon. Yates has worked for the food program for 23 years.  “In all those 23 years, every single year, we’ve experienced an increase in need.” According to Yates, there are approximately 30,000 people in Jackson County who live below the federal poverty line.  Yates estimates that ACCESS serves approximately 25,000 of those individuals annually.  Philip explained how the high cost of housing affects resident’s food budgets, stating, “The high cost of housing is a huge thing in Jackson County. It has become a place where people want to retire so the housing rates have gone up and it’s very expensive for people to live. People in poverty are finding that they are paying fifty to seventy percent of their income on housing alone. So, we are looking at fifty to thirty percent left of their income to pay utilities and everything else…. Food insecurity is certainly a problem here.”

Currently, ACCESS host’s twenty-five food pantries throughout Jackson County. Individuals who utilize ACCESS’s food pantries are assigned to a pantry closest to their home and are allowed to go to the pantry twelve times in a twelve-month period. Yates explained that patrons receive a five-day supply of food but notes, “Often, that’s not enough.  In fact, in the last two or three years we’ve begun to take on more partner agencies, more nonprofits, that maybe can’t provide a five day supply but could provide some extra food for maybe one day or two days.”

In addition to food pantries, ACCESS has other programs that aim to reduce hunger in Jackson County.  One such program is their food share gardens, which began in 2010. Three garden sites were donated to ACCESS and were staffed with volunteers from each community. In their first year, the gardens produced 24,000 pounds of food. In 2014 ACCESS hosted six gardens that produced 62,000 pounds of food. Food from the gardens is distributed first to the community in which each garden resides; any excess food is distributed throughout the Jackson County.

Other programs are designed to address specific community needs. One example of this is ACCESS’ Cooking Skills Education demonstrations.  The Cooking Skills Education demonstrations were started after a 2013 study identified a need in the community for people to learn and build cooking skills in short repetitive experiences. During a Cooking Skills demo, volunteers teach local residents basic cooking skills that can be applied to a simple, nutritious, affordable recipe, often featuring  local whole-foods. The demos are conducted at food pantries, grocery stores, and Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Markets.

Other programs include the Healthy Corner Store Initiative, which works to get nutritious food into local corner stores, and also partners with local schools that have a high rate of free and reduced school meals. Yates explained, “In Medford we are partnering with Jackson, Roosevelt and Kids Unlimited Academy elementary schools. We have fresh produce going to them every single week… distribution is done when parents are picking up kids.” Yates estimates that they distribute 1500-2000 pounds a week to the schools.

ACCESS’s food programs have changed in the last few years. Yates explained, “What’s really changed over the years that I’ve been food banking is there’s been a case of us looking more at providing more nutritious food because stats show that chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity are growing all across the country and in particular here in Jackson County.”  Programs such as the Food Share Gardens and the Cooking Skills Education Demonstrations aim to provide residents with healthy food and the skills needed to prepare it.

ACCESS programs are mainly volunteer-run. To find out more about their programs, or to volunteer, visit their website at accesshelps.org.

 

The Lunch Show

lunchshowThe Lunch Show is located in downtown Ashland, Oregon and features local and seasonal fare. The Lunch Show is owned by Elisa Boulton, who manages the restaurants, and Dave Winzig, the head chef. The Lunch Show focuses on using fresh, quality, local ingredients. Elisa explains, “It’s always been really important to us to use good quality ingredients and local ingredients. We make everything from scratch here. We make our own condiments, we make our own pickles, and we bake the bread fresh everyday. All the meat is cured here and we buy from local suppliers as much as possible.”

According to Elisa, Dave bases his dishes, “On what is available seasonally. He will change things up depending on what the local market has. We buy a lot from local farmers and try to keep it simple.” Elisa spoke about some of the challenges of getting locally sourced items. She explained, “It takes a lot of effort and coordination. I source directly with the farmers so it’s a lot trickier than just calling up one vendor and ordering everything we need.”

When asked why The Lunch Show chooses to use local food, Elisa replied that, “The quality of local food around here is really good, and to me, it’s just so important to support local farmers. I love knowing where my food was grown, and I love knowing who grew it. The quality is way better than if you buy it and truck it in; it’s going to be fresher. I think that eating food that is grown in the same area you live in is really important.”  Locally sourced items include produce, cheese, meat, wine, beer, kombucha, and locally roasted coffee.  In addition to local food, the Lunch Show serves GMO-free products. Elisa explains that, “Pretty much everything we use is organic; everything is GMO-free.”

The Lunch Show has recently expanded its hours and is open from 11 am – 3 pm. Current menu items include the Pastrueban, the Yammich, other sandwiches, salads, homemade sodas, and more. To view their menu or to order online for pick-up, visit https://thelunchshowashland.com.

Eric Bell, Standing Stone Brewing Company

IMG_8409Eric Bell is the head chef at Standing Stone Brewing Company located in Ashland, OR. Bell’s commitment to sustainable practices and local food is reflected in his work at Standing Stone. Bell explains, “I love working with local farmers. Local, healthy food is really important to me. We raise our cows and our own lambs. We can tell you the entire story of our animals’ lives, what they’ve eaten, and how we’ve raised them. It’s a transparent system that you can go see anytime you want; we never hide anything, it’s out in the open.” Visitors are welcome to tour Standing Stones farm.

In addition to local meat, Standing Stone uses other locally sourced ingredients such as produce, wine, and olive oil; they also brew their own beer. When asked why he cares so deeply about local food, Bell replied, “That’s a little different for me than it might be if you were to ask someone else because I am a chef. No matter what, if you buy food from a farmer at the market it will taste better than what you buy in a store. It’s traveled less of a distance, it’s fresher, and it’s probably an heirloom variety.”

Quality is important to Bell, and as such much of Standing Stones food is made from scratch. “We make our own mayonnaise, I ferment Sriracha, and we make our own kimchi and hot sauce,” explains Bell. All dressings, including ketchup, are also made in-house, from scratch. In addition, 90% of the food at Standing Stone is GMO-free. Bell personally researches every single ingredient that passes through his kitchen; something, which he says, “is an ongoing process that takes constant research.”

When asked why he is passionate about sustainability, Bell responds, “I have children and I care about this planet and the world we are leaving for them.” Bell has done his part to help make Standing Stone an even more sustainable business. “We have very little garbage, we have almost no waste. We recycle everything and what we don’t recycle we compost on our own farm. When I started here we had two dumpsters for garbage and there was talk of getting a third one and we all thought ‘What? Wait a minute, this isn’t right, we need to rethink this process’, so we’ve gone completely in the other direction. Now, we have one 32 gallon household-size garbage can and that’s it.” Olive oil used in the kitchen is purchased in reusable 55 gallon drums so that there is “never any waste, there’s no container that you throw away ever.”

Two of Bell’s favorite dishes that are currently on the menu are the lemongrass beef salad and the kimchi burger. For further information about Standing Stone, or to view their menu, visit http://www.standingstonebrewing.com.