By Supriya Kumar
“Nutrition is the objective,” said Dan Kittredge, Director of the Real Food Campaign (RFC), when asked about his project’s main mission. Housed under the organization, Remineralize the Earth, RFC is educating and collaborating with farmers, scientists, researchers, and consumers to produce healthier and more “nutrient dense” crops. These nutrient dense crops are not only better for us, but they are often more vibrant, tastier, and have longer shelf lives.
Real Food Campaign is working to help producers and consumers gain access to nutrient-rich produce. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)
Processed foods dominate grocery store shelves—it is estimated that up to 90 percent of processed foods in the supermarket contain either a corn or soy ingredient. And the amount of nutrients we receive from food has declined. In the United States, for example, there has been an average 63 percent nutrient decline between 1941 and 2000.
Nutrient dense foods, however, have very high levels of vitamins, carbohydrates, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, and trace minerals, which all help to improve health and fight diseases.
RFC is working with farmers to ensure that crops are grown to their full nutritional potential. The project conducts year-long seminars for crop growers in the North East states of America, where they inform farmers of innovative and reliable practices, such as the use of cover crops, to grow healthy and nutritious food. And, it is not just consumers who benefit from this – when farmers grow nutrient-rich crops, they are likely to experience healthier and higher yielding varieties.
Encouraged by the popularity of the seminars- the past years have witnessed over-registration for courses- Kittredge and his team are working on creating a handbook for growers, to ensure that farmers across the country have access to this information. Other upcoming projects include a research project that focuses on identifying the most appropriate environments that produce nutrient dense crops.
Through the use of already existing infra-red technologies that have the ability to identify crop nutrients, Kittredge hopes to find correlations between the way crops are grown and their nutrient levels. With that information, he plans on helping farmers to improve their crops, as well as helping consumers by providing better food for their dinner plates. He is trying to make this technology readily available for consumers, so that they too can measure nutrient levels of individual vegetables as they purchase them from markets.
Supriya Kumar is a research fellow with the Nourishing the Planet project.
To read more about improving nutrition, see: Delivering Improved Nutrition, Keeping Weeds for Nutrition and Taste, Improving Livelihoods and Nutrition with Permaculture, and Meeting Nutritional Needs with ‘Biofortified’ Staple Crops.