Florence Vincent Wants You to Know What’s in Your Food

Florence Vincent Wants You to Know What’s in Your Food

florenceEvery October, Florence Vincent launches a personal campaign to label foods that contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Although the U.S. government and the state of Washington have yet to join the 64 countries around the world* that mandate labeling, including Vietnam, Jordan, Sri Lanka and most of the European Union, for one month in one small corner of Yelm you can find out exactly what’s in your food. That corner? The Yelm Food Co-op.

“I go around the store and I label everything. I look at all the packaging,” she says.  “Anything that is organic is automatically GMO-free, but with anything that doesn’t say so on the package or have a non-GMO verified label on it, I look up the company and find out what their policies are. I’ve been doing that for quite a few years.”  Fortunately, she says, “We have very, very little in the store that is not GMO-free.”

Florence’s passion for the subject arises out of her love of healthy, organic food. Back in her native England during the 1980’s, she helped a friend run the legendary Odette’s restaurant and eventually started her own – the first entirely organic establishment in the country, Elephants and Butterflies. “At the time there were vegetarian organic places, but none that also had organic meat,” she explains.  

After moving to America, she became involved with the Yelm Co-op just three months into its existence. “I just loved the concept,” she says. “I decided to volunteer to help. Because I’d had retail experience in my life, they jumped on it because nobody else had that.” Soon, she was asked to be manager and buyer, and for five years was the primary buyer for the store.

The experience taught her something about herself. “Managing was not my strength; buying was my strength,” she says. “I love buying. I have always loved looked at new things, and tasting.” These days, she and General Manager Barnaby Urich Rintz travel to trade shows to try new products and bring back the best for Co-op customers.

Throughout her years with the store, she’s noticed a common thread. “The customers make the co-op what it is. There is this core group, getting larger all the time, that will not let go of the co-op. They support it right the way through. The co-op just keeps going by the sheer will of its customers that want it to be there.”

As for the future?  “It’s been nice getting more involved with the community,” she says. “I hope that more and more people will take a look at what we’re doing and realize that eating good food is actually going to save them money in the long run.”


*To learn which countries mandate labeling GMO products, click here.


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Olykraut May Have You Rethinking Your Relationship with Sauerkraut

Olykraut May Have You Rethinking Your Relationship with Sauerkraut

olykraut1Multiple choice question. Which best describes your feelings about sauerkraut?

  1. Love it!
  2. I enjoy it during Oktoberfest, accompanied by a large stein
  3. I know it’s really healthy, but . . . no thanks
  4. Sauerkraut?

Whichever category you fall into, get ready for a new experience. Olympia-based Olykraut has developed its own line of locally sourced, certified organic sauerkraut with year-round flavors like Spicy Garlic, Smoke & Kale and Eastern European. Additionally, they have seasonal flavors like Curry, Nettle, Sea Greens, and Cumin Jalapeno that are in high demand. “We get a lot of messages wondering when our seasonal flavors are going to be ready,” says Marketing and Communications Manager Carley Mattern.

Recently, the company won a 2015 Good Food Award.  The winners were chosen from 1,462 entries in a blind taste test by 182 judges. Good Food Awards describes the winners as being at “the forefront of American craft food, making products that are delicious, respectful of the environment, and connected to communities and cultural traditions.” In Mattern’s words, Olykraut is “working to grow our local food system, support our local farmers, and increase access to fresh local foods for consumers. We also try to be as environmentally sustainable as we can in our

The Olykraut team.

The Olykraut team.

decisions.”

That’s not surprising, given the company’s origins. Sash Sunday, one of the founders, has an MBA in Sustainable Systems and studied Food, Fermentation and Sustainable Agriculture at the Evergreen State College. “Sash wants to get people excited about eating delicious and nutritious fermented foods,” says Mattern.

Nutritious is right. Sauerkraut functions as a natural probiotic and is rich in vitamin C, which is why in bygone days sailors, including Captain Cook, took it on long sea voyages to prevent scurvy. With the variety of flavors that Olykraut offers, eating healthy just got a little more appetizing.

Olykraut products are available at the Yelm Food Cooperative in the refrigerator near the herbs and teas.

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Practical Ideas for Co-op Meals From Chef Blu

Practical Ideas for Co-op Meals From Chef Blu

pasta1Several weeks ago, Manager Debbie Burgan stated a goal: for more customers and members to shop first at the Co-op, and look elsewhere only if they couldn’t find what they were looking for. So how does that translate into regular meals for everyone from vegetarians to people who are new at trying to eat healthy? We asked chef Blu Helida to take a look at what the Co-op offers and consider the issue from a meal-planning perspective.

In her eyes, the store has the right inventory for a diverse group of shoppers.  “The Co-op offers so much to choose from for everyone from vegans to people who want roast dinners,” she says. “There’s everything from the simple to the exotic.”

She looked at potential meals according to which type of customer would be doing the shopping. “If you’re gluten-free,vegan, or vegetarian, there are a lot of options for you,” she says. “For people who are new to the Co-op, look for things that are similar to what you normally buy. It’s all there. If you’re going to make pasta, it’s all the same ingredients, but the penne might be gluten-free, the tomato sauce is probably organic and you can use a substitute for meat if you want to.”

Meat lovers who care about locally-sourced food can find pork sausage that goes well with Olykraut sauerkraut or whole chicken that can be roasted with vegetables.  “They could also do curries, many different beef dishes or roasts,” she says. Those who are feeling more adventurous can find the ingredients for Asian chicken noodle soup, fajitas and a variety of other less common fare.

Vegetarians also have a lot options. “They can use locally made sauces, dressings and salsa or buy fresh ingredients and make their own.  If you’re looking for ways to add flavor or spice, there are plenty of choices for you to create your own fusion dish,” says Blu.

She is a global traveler who’s had the opportunity to learn about a wide variety of cuisines from far-flung places, including Japan, Sri Lanka, Morocco and many more. She has also participated in the organic food movement as both chef and gardener, and she knows what it’s like trying to shop for specific diet preferences. Her conclusion: “There’s enough at the Co-op that you can make the meal that you want, whatever your tastes.”

We hope this encourages you to plan your next breakfasts, lunches and dinners with the Co-op in mind. Thank you Chef Blu!


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Embrace Spring With Local Honey and Bee Pollen

Embrace Spring With Local Honey and Bee Pollen

beekeeping class

If you’re one of the millions of people who suffer from seasonal allergies, consuming local raw honey and bee pollen is a great place to start getting your body in tune with the local flora. Bee Forever Apiary offers raw, unprocessed products developed in the Bald Hills area.

Thomas Mani, owner and operator of Bee Forever Apiary, explains why that’s important.  “A lot of stores offer honey that’s been ultra-filtered,” he says. “That process removes small particles like pollen.” But pollen, he says, has a fingerprint, just like people do, which reveals its origin. “Ultra-filtered honey loses its fingerprint, which opens the door for cheating or adulterating the honey,” he says. “A lot of honey that’s offered in grocery stores has corn syrup in it, molasses and water content of up to 25%,”

In contrast, Bee4ever’s honey has no corn syrup, and the water content is kept below 17% so that it can be stored for long periods.  No heating is applied during the extraction and bottling process, which means that all of the valuable ingredients like enzymes remain intact.

Additionally, some local residents have found that Mani’s honey helps them with issues that have plagued them for decades. “I have always experienced severe allergies not only during the hay fever season, but all year round,” says Judy Mezen. After trying Mani’s pollen and honey, she decided to give up he antihistamines ‘cold turkey’ and only use the pollen and honey, supplemented during the strongest part of the season with freeze-dried stinging nettle. “Beginning with day one, I was successful,” she says, “All I have to do is take a small pinch of the pollen and about a teaspoon (or less) of honey and within about 5-10 minutes I can breathe clearly, and it even takes away my sinus headaches. I have been able to do weeding in my garden and even mow the lawn.”

Bee4ever Apiary’s Raw Honey and Bee Pollen are available in the second aisle of the Yelm Food Co-op.

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Sneaky’s Takes the ‘Junk’ Out of Junk Food

Sneaky’s Takes the ‘Junk’ Out of Junk Food

tish and sneakysThere you are, strolling the aisles of the Co-op and virtuously filling your cart with fruit, vegetables, and a few products whose names you can’t pronounce but they look healthy. Your intentions are good, your heart is pure – and then you get home. “If you’re like me, you buy all of these healthy foods but then the first thing to go is a bag of potato chips,”says Tish Watford. “Where we tend to break down a lot is in the snack department.” Her solution was to invent Sneaky’s, popcorn dusted with nutrient rich spirulina powder that is made of all organic, non-GMO, gluten-free ingredients.

“I hope that people will see it as a way of creatively incorporating  superfoods in something other than smoothies,” she says, “especially parents. Maybe it will light a creative spark.” She also hopes that Sneaky’s will help people “rethink what they’re buying; each ingredient and the purpose it serves. In the broader sense, it’s about understanding what’s in our food. Why is this in here?”

“Where we tend to break down a lot is in the snack department.”

Tish’s first taste-testers were her parents. She was living in a small town in Alabama that didn’t really have any healthy food options. After a visit to neighboring Tuscaloosa, she brought home some spirulina. Her son wanted popcorn, so she decided to experiment with it. “It was a little salty at first,” she laughs. Since moving to Olympia, she’s perfected the product and introduced it into local health food stores, including the Yelm Food Co-op.

Before launching Sneaky’s, the only business she’d owned was in tax preparation. Tish holds a master’s degree in accounting and financial management. “The food world is so much different from offering a service,” she says. “It’s so good to be in this area. I’ve learned a lot on my own but also from other Olympia-area foodpreneurs. Everyone is ready to share their knowledge.”

Her next step is an alternative version of kettle corn “without the corn syrup,” she says. For now, look for spirulina Sneaky’s in the snack section of the Yelm Food Co-op. You can put it right next to your vegetables.
Photo by Jennifer Crain

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