Organic Foods – Kids Plan to Eating Healthy
The origin of the term and its meaning
“Organic” foods are on the shelves of supermarkets and grocery stores everywhere because more and more people are turning to organic food options. In fact, more than $24 billion of organic foods and beverages were purchased in 2008 and the industry continues to grow.
In organic farming, strawberries, for instance, will be grown without the use of chemical pesticides or fertilizers. These chemicals are often used in conventional farming to keep bugs from eating or harming plants and crops, and to keep weeds from growing. For foods to be labeled “certified organic,” vegetables and fruits must be grown on farmland where chemical pesticides and fertilizers have not been applied for three years. Where livestock are raised for milk or for meat, the animals must eat feed that has been grown without the use of chemicals or pesticides. The animals must be given access to pasture that has not been treated with chemical agents for a minimum of 3 years, and must not be given any kind of growth hormones or routine antibiotics.
To enhance the fertility of farmland without chemical fertilizers, farmers will practice crop rotation. This keeps the soil from continuously being drained of certain minerals in the same soil layers by certain crops. Also, farmers will use the process of composting and spreading manure onto the soil. They may also release onto their land certain insects that are known to feed on bugs that are eating the leaves of his or her crops.
Organic farming is an age-old practice. It wasn’t until after World War II that chemicals came to be introduced into the agricultural industry. A chemical used for ammunition, ammonium nitrate, was found to be an effective fertilizer. Another chemical disbursed into the air over U.S. enemies, organophosphate nerve gas, was later used in the production of powerful insecticides.
Organic farming looks to improve the quality of crops and crop yields in a way that works harmoniously with nature and doesn’t cause harm to the environment or people.
How to identify an organic food
Consumers now are able to easily tell organic foods and beverages from their non-organic counterparts. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has created standards, or rules, that American farms must follow in order to continue claiming their products are “Organic” or “100% Organic.” Large commercial farms are frequently inspected to ensure standards are being followed, and if found to be placing false organic labels on their products, can face lawsuits and hefty fines. Smaller, “farmer’s market” type operations are inspected, but can also face fines if their supposed organic products aren’t organic after all. Fines can be as much as $10,000 for each offense.
Types of Organic Foods
As organic production grows in popularity, more products, even some you might not have expected, are earning the organic label, like wines, shampoo, or body wash. According to the USDA, Environmental Working Group, and Consumer Reports, there are certain foods that by the time they reach supermarket shelves, most of the actual pesticide chemicals have been rinsed away but some chemical residue tends to remain. Perhaps choosing organic counterparts of some of those food items is a good place to start.
Most tree fruits, such as apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, and cherries are usually sprayed frequently with pesticides during the growing process, and even after washing, still tend to contain pesticide residue. Celery, leafy greens like spinach and lettuce, bell peppers, and potatoes usually contain higher amounts of pesticides than other vegetables. Grapes that are imported to the U.S. from other countries are treated with pesticides that may not be completely removed before they reach America’s grocers. Red raspberries have been found to contain pesticide residue, and strawberries are one of the top items to be found carrying pesticide residue after washing.
Some foods, even when grown by conventional methods, typically don’t require high amounts of pesticides. What is even more helpful is that their skin, which may hold much of the chemical residue, is removed and not eaten: pineapple, mango, avocado, bananas, and onions.
It’s important to note, however, that the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ensure that when food reaches our grocery stores, it is SAFE — even if grown with conventional methods that include use of pesticides. For consumers who are looking for the “best” organic foods, choose fruits and vegetables that are “in season” and grown locally. These are likely to have few preservatives applied because they are transported over short distances.
How eating organic is good for you
Some experts say that organic foods don’t provide any more nutritional value than foods grown conventionally. Other experts disagree. What they do agree on, though, is that with organic agriculture, chemicals are not used in the environment that could leach into water supplies; animals aren’t given hormone or medicinal treatments that end up in their milk or meat. Shoppers can be assured that when they choose foods with “organic” on the label, these edibles are produced using environmentally-friendly practices that pose low health risks for consumers.
Snack suggestions for parents
Parents should know that just because a food is labeled as “organic” doesn’t automatically mean it is a good-for-you food. Some snacks like potato chips could actually have an “organic” label.
Some ideas for healthy, organic snacks for kids include fruit smoothies and smoothies made with yogurt, fruit skewers or kabobs, fresh hummus with multi-grain crackers, or home made granola with dried fruit and nuts!