Organic Melinda

healthy living with a Latin twist


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Day 7 – Capoeira Love

To My Sleeping Beauty,

It has been a long day, today, and one when I am super grateful for all that capoeira has brought into my life.

Capoeira gave me you, of course.

This morning, Mami did a presentation in Newark to inform the local community about Organic Melinda.

I had a total duh moment when I realized that most of the community in Ironbound Newark speaks only Spanish and Portuguese and all of my flyers were in English.

Note to self: Translate LIVE to Spanish.

I served green smoothies to anyone who would take them and explained my mission: to make healthy, non-gmo food available to everyone.

When that was done, I went home to take care of you. We washed clothes together and then headed to a roda with Grupo Senzala.

It was a great roda, and I got to play a lot. I thank you for your musical spirit and your patience to let mami have a fun day of capoeira.

We also went out to dinner at a Mexican restaurant.

As I watched people interact with you, I was so happy for you.

You get to live your whole life always knowing the strum of the berimbau, forever recognizing the beat of the atabaque and pandeiro. You will have access to axe all of the days of your life.

I hope that the capoeira community will be part of your long-term family for many years to come.

I wish for you the peace and joy that I feel with every cha-cha-ding-dong-dong.

Axe meu bebe,
Mami Loves You

—-
About this Series:

In honor of Latino Heritage Month, I will write 30 letters for 30 days to my beautiful daughter. This series is entitled, Mami Loves You. In these letters, I will tell her about the world around her, and reflect on her development.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, I will honor a Latina woman that I believe is a great role model for my daughter to admire. Through these letters, I pay homage to my role as a mother, and I will teach my daughter about one of the cultures that has birthed her.

To Subscribe to the series Mami Loves You, follow the link: http://mamilovesyou.com/ and fill out the form.


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Farm to People: Buying Locally Grown Food – Review of Nourishing Newark Farmers’ Market

Many of the supermarkets in Newark do not have a large supply of fresh fruits and veggies. Instead, most of the supermarkets are full of processed and packaged foods. Access to healthy and affordable fresh fruits and vegetables is one of my main concerns when it comes to food justice, and programs like Nourishing Newark Farmers’ Market exist to address this concern.

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Figure 1

While walking to Question Mart a few weeks ago, I noticed what appeared to be a festival in Washington Park (across the street from the Main Public Library in Washington Street, Newark, NJ). It was not a festival at all; it was the Nourishing Newark Farmers’ Market. I felt like I hit a gold mine. I really, really love fresh foods, and it does not get much fresher than a Farmers’ Market when you don’t own your own garden.

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  Figure 2                                                                        Figure  3

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Figure 4

I walked into the park seduced by the live Jazz music, and immediately noticed the large crates of romaine lettuce, garlic, potatoes, watermelon, corn, peppers, herbs, tomatoes, zucchinis, and various greens (See Figures 1-4). The farmers’ market had all of the fresh veggies that Question Mart was lacking on my visit there. I, immediately, noticed a white sign that read “No GMOs” (See Figure 5) on the Matarazzo Farms stand. Before purchasing food, I walked around and spoke to the various stand employees, but most of the employees did not have opinions on GM foods. When I asked an employee of one stand where he sourced his seeds, he said, “I don’t know. The regular way?” Unconvinced by this response, I went back to the Matarazzo Farms stand.

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Figure 5

The employees at the Matarazzo Farms stand had a lot to say about GMO foods, the politics of USDA Organic labeling, and the need for people to buy locally grown food. I was told that Matarazzo Farms has been run by the same family for almost 100 years. The current head farmer is Jim Matarazzo, who I met on a subsequent trip to the Nourishing Newark Farmers’ Market. Jim is very knowledgeable on the food industry and the infiltration of GM foods into supermarkets. He was very patient with my many questions and provided me with a list of organizations that I should research in order to have a deeper understanding of USDA Organic labeling, which I was informed is very expensive in New Jersey. Many New Jersey farmers grow foods in a way that would be considered organic, but they cannot afford the certification of USDA Organic labeling. In other words, many farms in New Jersey are GMO-free and pesticide-free even though their foods are NOT labeled USDA Organic.

Not only were the employees of Matarazzo Farms well informed on the issues that interest Organic Melinda and my readers, their prices were significantly cheaper than what I have been paying at Whole Foods Market, Pathmark, and Trader Joe’s. It appears that one of the main reasons organic food is more expensive than non-labeled food is to cover the costs associated with Organic Certification. On a Wednesday trip to the Nourishing Newark Farmers’ Market, I spent only $10.00 on a nice amount of produce (See Figure 6). On a Thursday trip, I bought some fresh fruits and vegetables for only $18.50 (See Figure 7). I have paid upwards of $50.00 for the same amount of produce. I am, now, exclusively, buying produce in the Nourishing Newark Farmers’ Market until it ends for the season. The market is inspiring quite a few of the recipes for my upcoming cookbook.

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Figure 6                                                                             Figure 7

The Nourishing Newark Farmers’ Market is available in Newark three times a week. I attend on Wednesdays or Thursdays before 3:00 p.m EST. The Wednesday market is located at Washington Park across the street from the Newark Main Public Library. On Thursdays, the market is located on the corner of Raymond Blvd and Broad Street in the PSEG Plaza.

On my visits, I find that the Wednesday market is smaller than the Thursday market. On Wednesday, I only saw 2 farm stands, a smoothie stand, a honey stand, and a snack stand. On Thursday there were three farm stands and various stands of cooked food and desserts. Both days feature live music.

I am very happy to report that Nourishing Newark Farmers’ Market is available to Newark residents. They accept SNAP/Food Stamp benefits, WIC benefits, and, of course, cash, debit and credit. The Farmers’ Market most definitely received the Organic Melinda stamp of approval!

For more information and to locate a Farmers’ Market near you, visit:
http://nourishingnewarkfarmersmarkets.org/
http://www.farmtopeople.com/
http://www.jerseyfresh.nj.gov/
https://www.facebook.com/MatarazzoFarmersMarket


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Where Can I buy Organic in Newark, NJ? – Review of Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart

Living in an inner city with a limited income can create many barriers to accessing affordable organic food options. If you don’t own a vehicle, it becomes extra difficult.  In Newark, NJ, which is where I was born, raised and currently live, Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart has opened to fulfill the need for local access to organic products.

I discovered Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart after launching a complaint on my personal Facebook page about the lack of organic foods in the city.  Stop & Shop was two bus rides away from me, and the local Pathmark only carries very limited organic produce, which is very over-priced.  I, often, had to call in a favor to get a ride to the nearest supermarket with ample organic produce, which is a 25-30 minute drive from my house.  I was super excited when a friend mentioned Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart, and I decided to talk a walk from my house in the Ironbound section of Newark to Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart.  It was a nice, warm day and a great opportunity to take my daughter for a walk in her stroller, get some light exercise, and see what Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart had to offer my taste buds.

Located at 392 Broad Street near the heart of Newark’s business district, Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart is easily accessible by walking. You can also take the Newark Light Rail to the location from Newark Penn Station and get off near the Newark Main Library.  The market is located near the entrance/exit for route 280 on Broad Street by the Newark Bears’ Stadium. It is also easily accessible by bus since many lines run on Broad Street.  The hours of operation are 8:00 am to 7:00 pm Eastern Time on Monday thru Friday, 9:00 am to 7:00 pm on Saturday, and 9:00 am to 6:00 pm on Sunday.

When I first walked in to Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart, the first thing I noticed was a single step to get into the supermarket, which I required that I lift up my daughter’s stroller.  It was easy enough for me to do so, but I imagine this could pose a problem for someone in a wheelchair or with a disability.  I would recommend that the owners put a ramp where the step is to make it wheelchair accessible.

Personally, I judge a market by its availability of produce.  I prefer to eat fresh produce in every one of my meals.  I do eat some grains, but I avoid boxed, packaged, and canned food.  I do consume them on occasion, but I try to eat food as close to its natural state as possible.    Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart’s produce section was very small for my preferences (see Figure 1), but it did carry some staple items.  There were broccoli, carrots, corn, nectarines, apples, pears, watermelon, and a few other items. Not all items, however, were organic, which is not necessarily a problem on its own.  I will talk more about the politics of organic labeling in a future post.  There were quite a few locally sourced produce items, but all in all, the produce section was quite small for my taste.  It lacked ample greens, which are my favorite thing in a market.  However, with a farmers’ market located a short walk away during the summer months, this is not a real problem for me.

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Figure 1

I was very excited to see environmentally friendly household and personal products (see Figure 2) at Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart, which are things I usually have to travel 20+ minutes away to get, as well.  I will definitely consider going to Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart when I need to restock on household products.

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Figure 2

There is no shortage of packaged organic goods, which I know many people are a fan of for reasons of convenience.  I purchased a package of flour to bake vegetable bread for my daughter.  I noticed that Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart carries a mix of both organic and conventional products.  You will see Eden Organics side by side with Goya products (see Figure 3).

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Figure 3

The freezer section (see Figure 4) also has a mixture of organic and conventional products.  As a vegan, it was great to see that the store carried vegan items as there tends to be a shortage of vegan options in Newark.    There were also quite a few drinks in the refrigerator, including one of my favorite coconut waters by Harmless Harvest (see Figure 5).

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Figure 4

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Figure 5

While I wish that Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart had a much larger produce section for the winter months and for days when the farmers’ markets are not in Newark, it is definitely a step forward in this wonderful Renaissance City.  Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart gets the Organic Melinda stamp of approval for being one of the first markets to actively promote organic produce in Newark, NJ and for carrying affordable options that are easily accessible to the Newark population as well as the wonderful and friendly customer service that I received.  Thank you Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart for doing your part to end food insecurity in our great city.

All photos taken by Organic Melinda (Melinda Gonzalez).