wingspan • may 20, 2011
Rise in food allergies results in gluten-free options Local farms offer any exposure to gluten can cause an autoimmune reaction in the body. The immune system sees the gluten as a foreign object and attacks it. Taylor’s daughter has multiple food allergies, including an allergy to he was singing and almost dancing as she drove to the grocery store, cel- wheat, and Taylor has worked around her need for allergy-safe foods. “In the five years we have been doing this, it has gotten so much easier,” ebrating the new Whole Foods health food store opening in Greenville, S.C. No more surfing the Internet for expensive and nasty tasting foods, Taylor said. “You get a choice now; you don’t feel so stuck. When I first started, I had to order online; you couldn’t just go to the grocery thought Jennifer Taylor, West’s early childhood and developstore and get allergy-friendly foods.” ment teacher. We’re trying A growing number of grocery stores, including Ingles, She was beyond excited. Now taking care of her 5-yearhave whole aisles dedicated to allergen-friendly foods. old daughter, Caroline, would be much easier. Caroline is to bring the There are many theories regarding the sudden rise in one of a growing number of children and young adults dealcommunity gluten, nut and dairy sensitivities. The “hygiene hypothing with food allergies and sensitivities. esis” holds that children are growing up in environments In fact, the number of people with food allergies together. This that are too clean, not giving their immune systems the went up 18 percent from 1997 to 2007, according to www. gives people an chance to fight off allergy-causing pathogens. cnnheath.com. “We are too clean,” biology teacher Alexsandra Lawson Hypersensitivities to gluten are becoming common in outlet to be a part said. “We need to eat and play in dirt. When we don’t chala country that loves its pasta and bread. Gluten is a proof something lenge our immune system, it overreacts; that’s what an altein that is found in most grains, like wheat, rye and barley. lergy is.” There are many different levels of gluten sensitivities. Some better. Another theory involves the way food is stored in people lack the enzymes necessary to digest certain proCharles Keefer America. In store houses, foods like grains and nuts sit and teins containing gluten, causing a gluten intolerance. owner of Harvest-Thyme get moldy before being shipped off and sold. Intolerance to gluten is not technically an allergy; inFood Co-op Many restaurants now have allergy-friendly menus. stead gluten causes a physical irritation in a person’s digesAcropolis on Airport Road recently started serving a glutentive system. The undigested grains inflame the microvilli, a membrane that increases cell size. If the microvilli are damaged it becomes free pizza; Olive Garden has gluten free pasta options. “Traveling is tough; snacks are tough. We always say, ‘If only we could much harder for the small intestine to absorb nutrients, resulting in anemia, get rid of wheat.’ It’s in everything,” Taylor said. “If you think about fast food, nausea and even depression. With “celiac disease,” a much more serious form of gluten intolerance, there is no fast food that is gluten-free.”
Angela Gross Feature Writer
Local organization promotes community garden Rachel Shoemaker Feature Writer
alking down the brightly lit aisle, a customer inspects the options in the organic vegetable section of her neighborhood store. Upon finding the vegetable she was looking for, she looks up to check the price. The look on her face shifts from contentment to shock, and for good reason. The sign reads $2.49/lb., 29 cents more than last week’s price. Just down the aisle, the non-organic version is $1.59, nearly a dollar less Charles Keefer, co-owner of N.C. HarvestThyme Food Co-op with wife Tarah Singh, sees community gardens as a solution to counteract the increasingly high prices of food (contributed to by escalating oil prices). “What are we going to do when gas gets to $4 or $5 a gallon? We have to go more local to afford food as prices get higher,” Keefer said. “We can water our gardens, but it will become increasingly difficult for farmers to water their huge fields.” Keefer has worked with gardens since he was a child. Previously, he initiated a food coop in Raleigh and transformed several plots of land into Harvest-Thyme and a vegetarian restaurant. “We’ve been doing community gardening for years and just moved back here last year. We were part of the Highland Lake Inn Gardens; I took over last year, and we’ve started to develop at least two (gardening plots),” Keefer said.
“We’ve had at least five spaces offered to us, but if your area is too spread out, you can’t do it well. Gardening takes a lot of work; it requires you to be attentive.” Keefer owns several plots of land that members grow on in Clear Creek, Laurel Park and Sugarloaf Mountain. He also offers lots to apartment owners lacking growing space. Members are required to pay a monthly fee to participate in Harvest-Thyme. “Our co-op is a group of people; we’ve got 35 people right now that all go in together. We’ve got a set fee, which is $50 a month, and we distribute the produce out,” Keefer said. “We gather all the crops and put together a mixed box; you get lots of food. We’ve really had to quell the amounts of food we put in our boxes because there is so much.” According to Keefer, co-ops benefit the community because their prices differ significantly from those in local grocery stores. “You pay the retail price of the store who’s paying for their electrical bills and everything else. Instead, we are dealing with the farmer, so our prices are less than what they would be from a grocer,” Keefer said. “Buying from the farmer is a lot cheaper, and you get more food.” Though Keefer continues to travel back and forth to his farm in Raleigh, he considers Harvest-Thyme a change of direction from previous trades. “Raleigh was very different from here. This is part of our attempt to change direction about what we’re doing, from just being craftsmen — Tarah’s a local artist — to doing more than just
that because food is one of our basic things,” Keefer said. “You have to have food to survive; it’s a basic, primal issue. Every time I put together boxes and work with our customers, I feel great; it’s something totally different.” Like Keefer, sophomore Ally Pfotzer has grown up around gardening and considers the task worthwhile. “My mother has a huge garden, and we eat from it almost the entire summer; it’s a lot of food. She grows a variety of fruits and vegetables, and I help out, especially during the summer,” Pfotzer said. “Gardening is very rewarding. It’s such a tangible thing; a grade at school isn’t as tangible as a tomato or something you grew.” Pfotzer also considers organic food a wise substitute for processed foods and often buys specifics from Hendersonville Co-op and Earth Fare. According to Pfotzer, chemicals and additives in processed foods can negatively affect the way she feels. “My mom and I have gluten intolerance, so we have to buy gluten-free and organic foods. You feel better because there aren’t chemicals in your food,” Pfotzer said. “If I slip up and eat something that’s been processed, I feel sluggish or get a headache.” Besides health benefits, Keefer also considers his organic co-op to be a community opportunity. “It’s not just about growing food; it’s about people — people who work together at the garden start to become friends and understand each other; that’s a whole other part of what this is really about,” he said.
fresh alternatives Katie Miller Feature Writer
endors from across the area assembled on Saturday for the weekly farmers’ market in Mills River. The market, open from 8 a.m. to noon every Saturday, provides a place for 16 different vendors to sell their produce. “The reasons for having the farmers’ market was that there was a growing demand from area residents for fresh, local food,” Jim Reed, leader of the market’s board said. “There was also a food scarcity in meats and milk. The customers tend to claim that the food tastes better than imported food.” Local farmers’ markets allow consumers to interact with the growers. “Locally grown food provides the consumer with the ability of knowing where their food is coming from. A lot of the farmers either are at the markets that they sell at, or someone who works on the farm is there to sell the products,” Dawn Creasman of Creasman Farms said. “Some area farms actually allow you to come and pick or visit their roadside stands to buy products. It allows the consumer to talk to the people who actually grow the products. It also helps stimulate the local economy if you buy local; then the money stays in our community.” An experiment conducted by www.foodbuzz. com comparing store-bought eggs to fresh eggs clearly showed that the fresh farm eggs were more appealing in color, texture and shell strength, although little difference in the taste of the eggs was reported. North Carolina’s main crops are soybeans, corn, peanuts, wheat and a variety of fruits and vegetables. “The establishment of CSAs (community supported agriculture) and new small farmers’ markets have helped to provide the community with safe, fresh products to feed their families as well as help boost our local economy,” Creasman said. Freshman Gavin McWhirter’s family grows food that is sold at Smiley’s Flea Market and Antique Mall on Asheville Highway in Fletcher. “I have sold green beans, tomatoes and a lot of other vegetables,” WcWhirter said. “We have sold everything but eggplant. We didn’t sell eggplant because they went bad in about a week.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3,000 Americans die and 48 million become sick each year from salmonella and other forms of food poisoning. “When you are shopping in the grocery store, you need to look at where your food is coming from. The United States has all kinds of rules and regulations that growers and processors must follow to ensure food safety,” Creasman said. “Not all countries from where our food is imported have to follow the same standards.” Events such as Hendersonville’s Apple Festival honor the area’s homegrown foods. This event, featured annually each Labor Day weekend, gives local farmers the chance to sell their apples and promote locally grown food.
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