Hear from Luis Chavez, a strawberry farmer from Santa Maria. He came to California from Mexico with nothing. Hear his heartfelt story about how strawberry farming gave him the opportunity to make a better life for him and his family.
Eating a healthy diet is key to a child’s development, school performance, and overall health. However, getting kids to eat more fruits and vegetables can be challenging. One key is starting with fruits and vegetables kids like and building on that – such as kid-friendly fruits like strawberries.
This past summer I had the pleasure of expanding my knowledge about the science, agriculture, and culinary delights of strawberries. I was invited on a sponsored harvest tour on California’s Central Coast and got to speak with farmers, researchers, and chefs to learn about the farm-to-table journey of strawberries. To share with you some of the insights I learned on the trip, here are my #12Reasons strawberries are ripe for back-to-school nutrition.
1. Low In Calories – High In Fiber
One cup of sliced strawberries contains only 54 calories and has 3 grams of fiber. Eating foods low in calories and high in fiber is important for weight management and overall health.
2. Boost Vitamin C Intake
A powerful antioxidant important for maintaining connective tissue and immunity, vitamin C is found in abundance in strawberries. With more vitamin C than an orange and loaded with nutrients, California strawberries are a nutritious and versatile fruit to enjoy every day.
3. Benefit Bone Health
Strawberries contain magnesium, potassium, and vitamin K, which are important for bone health. For added bone-building nutrition, enjoy strawberries with milk or yogurt for added calcium.
4. Ultimate Convenience
Strawberries are wash and go fruits that can be enjoyed in a wide variety of ways. Whether you pack some whole in a lunchbox, make a fruit salad to keep in the fridge, or include them in a savory dish like sautéed salmon, strawberries work with practically everything, adding a boost of nutrition, flavor, and color.
5. Support Family Farmers
With family farmers growing 90 percent of the nation’s strawberries in California, odds are the strawberries you’re enjoying came fresh from the Golden State. Enjoying strawberries makes it easy to give back to family farmers and teach your children where their ruby fruit comes from.
Owners of Providence Farms, Tom and Ruth Jones have been growing strawberries and blackberries in the Salinas Valley and Santa Maria for 28 years. Continuing the family farm legacy, their daughters help out as needed and their son Parker is a ranch manager.
6. Always In Season
While most fruits and vegetables have a limited growing season, I was surprised to find out that California strawberries are harvested and freshly available year round.
7. Perfectly Portioned Dessert
Another reason I love California strawberries is that they make for an easy and delicious dessert as is or topped with chocolate (yum!). Two chocolate-dipped strawberries have about 100 calories and is usually all I need to feel satisfied. Now what kid wouldn’t go for that?
8. Reduce Added Sugars
With children and adults consuming 3-4 times the amount of added sugar that is recommended for good health, finding (non depriving) ways to cut down on added sugars is key. Naturally sweet, one cup of sliced strawberries contains just 8 grams of naturally occurring sugar (and 57 calories), while a cupcake has 31 grams of added sugars (and 320 calories).
9. Kids Love Finger Foods
Getting kids to eat more fruits and vegetables can be challenging. One simple trick that has been shown to get children to eat more produce is simply cutting it. However, to make it even easier, strawberries already come in the perfect size for kids to enjoy with their hands. Simply rinse off the berries and serve them with a fun dipping sauce.
10. Make Recipes More Kid –Friendly
Whether you’re serving French toast, cereal, or yogurt, adding fresh strawberries to the mix is going to make it all the more appealing for kids. For kids, I love cutting up toasted whole-grain waffles into small squares and skewering them with fresh strawberries to make a breakfast berry kabob. It makes for a really fun and nutritious breakfast in five minutes or less.
11. Promote Eye Health
Studies show that the antioxidants in berries reduce the risk of cataracts, macular degeneration, and other eye diseases. While your kids are still too young to worry about macular degeneration, as a parent steady strawberry intake might just help you keep a better eye on what they’re up to!
12. Simply Delicious
Maybe the most important reason to eat strawberries… they are simply delicious! Whether you like them clean off the stem, sliced for a topping, or heated into a sweet sauce or jam, strawberries provide taste, nutrition, and versatility that are appreciated at any age.
About Patricia Bannan
Patricia Bannan, M.S., R.D., is a Los Angeles-based registered dietitian specializing in nutrition and health communications. She develops news segments for television stations, writes articles for magazines, and serves as a consultant and spokesperson to PR agencies and industry groups nationwide. She is the author of Eat Right When Time Is Tight: 150 Slim-Down Strategies and No-Cook Food Fixes.
Disclosure: While I was compensated by the California Strawberry Commission to write this blog, all opinions are my own.
Originally posted in Salinas Californian
by Carolyn O’Donnell, California Strawberry Commission
For more than 500 years, the story of the United States is told by waves of immigrants. Many came with few possessions or skills; they had limited options, but carried the drive to make a better life. My immigrant grandparents arrived from Hungary nearly 100 years ago, with few possession, some education, and no English language skills. They found jobs in the coal mines, steel mills and oil refineries of the Midwest. The jobs were hot, hard, dirty and dangerous, but my grandparents worked these jobs to make sure that their children had more education and work opportunities than what they had in “the old country.”
Immigrants make up much of the current agricultural labor force. Like the work available to my grandparents, the jobs are hard, but the safety measures and wage protections are far greater now. In California, regulations are much more protective than the rest of the country. These regulations are intended to keep the workplace and the workers safe, and include a myriad of rules governing wages, working conditions, and health and safety precautions.
Strawberries are a labor-intensive crop: they are hand-planted, hand-weeded, hand-harvested, and hand-packed in the field. Workers are vital to strawberry production: California strawberry farmers care about their employees, and a safe and fair working environment is essential.
Every year, the California Strawberry Commission conducts more than 40 interactive workshops, in Spanish, for strawberry farm crew supervisors and ranch managers to improve their supervisory knowledge and skills. Topics include sexual harassment prevention, heat illness prevention, on-farm safety, as well as communication, team building and leadership skills. In the past year, nearly 3,500 participants attended supervisor development, food safety and irrigation management workshops.
Workers on strawberry farms have the opportunity to earn more than the minimum wage. According the California Employment Development Department labor statistics, California berry farms pay an annual average wage of over $12.50 per hour: $12.62 per hour in March 2014, the most recently posted statistics. (Minimum wage in California will increase to $10/hour January 1, 2016.) Seasonally, harvest workers can earn more than $30 per hour during peak harvest. These wages are better than comparable jobs in retail and tourism. In addition, most farm employees receive health insurance: farms with 50 or more employees comply with the Affordable Health Care Act health insurance coverage options. All farm employees receive medical and disability insurance for work-related injuries. Under California’s worker compensation system, employees are provided prompt, effective medical treatment for on-the-job injuries or illnesses, no matter who is at fault.
California strawberry farms have been a ladder to success for many immigrants to improve their lives. Field workers can advance to crew supervisor, quality checker, tractor driver and truck driver positions. Some gain the skills and education to become pest control advisors. Others may advance to ranch manager positions. Strawberries have also given immigrants more ownership opportunities than any other major crop, with Latinos now comprising two-thirds of the strawberry growers in California. The California Strawberry Commission recently determined that more than one third of the current strawberry farmers in the state started as field workers themselves.
Although, my grandparents found their way to a better life in the Midwest, immigrants from all over the world have come for the potential to succeed in California. Strawberry fields can be a starting place, where it takes many different kinds of jobs to raise and harvest fruit for market. With opportunities for training and advancement, and even the potential to become a grower, workers can find their path to their own American Dream.