Food expo feeds hungry minds

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The fourth annual “Food for Thought” expo opened the minds of area residents to a wealth of educational and inspirational opportunities for healthy eating and living.

The March 16 event, sponsored by the Fuel for Learning Partnership, a standing committee of the Fairfield PTA council, attracted more than 1,000 people. Visitors roamed the halls of Fairfield Warde High School exploring displays, samples and education opportunities provided by the 58 vendors.

Organizer Tara Cook-Littman said the attendance this year was the best yet for the expo.

“I would say we are very pleased with the turnout and the quality of vendors this year,” Cook-Littman said.

The free event advocates serving healthy food in the community’s schools and also provides resources and choices for residents who seek more knowledge about healthy ways to feed their families at home.

“The motivation in having this event is to educate the community on how to make better choices for themselves and their families,” Cook-Littman said.

Vendors offered ideas for growing at least some of one’s own food, cooking at home, mindful shopping, and being more in touch with the local environment.

Growing close to home

One of the newest local growing advocates in Fairfield is St. Timothy’s Garden on the Hill. Misty Beyer, garden organizer, was at the expo spreading the word.

The community garden is starting its third year. Area residents do not rent plots for their own use at this garden. Instead, the land is used to raise food for area food banks, and people who help out can pick food to bring home.

“If you work, you can take food,” Ms. Beyer said.

The group has just begun holding workshops to help people grow their own at home, including lessons in composting and square-foot gardening.

“When you have knowledge, it develops a whole different venue about food,” Beyer said.

 

Farm fresh

On a larger scale, Wakeman Town Farm in Westport teaches people to grow their own food and to homestead.

Farmer Carrie Aitkenhead was at the expo representing the organic demonstration farm.

“We’re an educational farm,” Aitkenhead said. “We focus on physically teaching the community what they can do in their own back yard.”

Wakeman Town Farm is open to the public. It offers workshops year-round, Community Supported Agriculture options, and activities for children.

And the opportunities are not just for people with experience.

“We hope to reach children who have never put their hands in the dirt,” Aitkenhead said. “Everyone should be doing this … everyone can do this.”

Wakeman Town Farm has been in Westport for three years and has been completely town-run for a year and a half.

 

Cooking it up

Amie Guyette Hall of Fairfield organized family-friendly cooking demonstrations and workshops for the expo, which included health coach and author Kendall Scott preparing green smoothies for health benefits; chef and food educator John Turenne serving up samples of Fairfield’s new, healthier school food; and chefs Peter Gorman and Jonathan Mathias exploring the worlds of sauerkraut and kimchi.

Hall saw a clear message from each of the guest chefs at the expo.

“If you want to improve your health, start with the greens,” Hall said. “That was the clear, strong message.”

She said communities in the area are “literally starving” for food information.

“People come for the whole day,” Hall said. “And they’re like, ‘I wouldn’t miss this.’”

She hopes word gets out that people want to learn about healthy eating.

“It’s a message to other communities,” Hall said. “This is something all communities need.”

Health Supportive talks included Compost 101, the basics of soil health and how to easily create compost; “Nourish Our Girls,” a talk about healthy eating for young girls aimed at reducing the risk of breast cancer later in life; Right to Know GMO CT,” with Whitney Riggs explaining the ABCs of GMOs; and “Going Vegan.”

There was also a special education center for children at the expo and Lunch and Learn Build-A-Burrito hands-on learning.

 

Buzz about bees

Representatives from the Backyard Beekeepers Association sold 23 pounds of honey, 53 honey sticks — and gave lessons with their demonstration hive.

Patty Heyl, a representative, enjoyed the expo.

“It’s been a nice opportunity to teach about bees,” she said.

Peter Van Hagen, also with the Backyard Beekeepers Association, was impressed by the knowledge of visitors to the expo.

“I was surprised how many people are aware of colony collapse [Disorder],” he said.

Colony collapse disorder is a phenomenon in which worker bees from a beehive abruptly disappear. The dramatic rise in the number of honeybee colonies disappearing in North America over the last decade is often attributed to colony collapse disorder.

Many of the food crops in the United States are pollinated by honeybees.

Heyl said it is crucial for people to learn that using pesticides on yards impacts honeybees, who can feed from flowering plants up to five miles from their hives.

“Bees eat from the flowers and plants treated,” she said. “[Pesticides] can have a negative impact on them.”

 

Time for pizza

Many of the vendors at the expo have been coming since the first Food for Thought event, including Jeff Borofsky of Easton.

Borofsky owns and operates Skinny Pines Caterer, a mobile brick oven pizza caterer that uses local, seasonal ingredients from farmers in Connecticut and New York.

He cooked and served 94 pizza pies made from fresh ingredients for visitors to the expo.

“It’s a great event,” Borofsky said. “It’s a good way to have people learn what’s in the area and how to cook well.”

Feed your children well

Megan Agee of Fairfield learned about the expo from the signs “all over the place” and showed up with daughter Claire, 5, for the sake of her family’s well-being.

“I’m interested in learning about food and feeding my young children healthy,” Agee said.

In addition to Claire, she also has a 7-year-old at home.

Claire had fun at the expo. Her favorite part was the bread sample she got from Michael Mordecai, owner and head baker at Fairfield Bread Co.

She and her mother got a loaf of the Flaxette bread to take home.

Claire said they will come back again next year. But in the meantime, Claire’s mom has learned a few things to tide her over.

“I have a few new ideas [now] of new things to eat,” she said.

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