Minestrone Soup–Kids love to make this!

Minestrone Soup with Farro

Serves 8

3 cups carrots, chopped

1 1/2 cups celery, chopped

1 bunch kale, chopped

1 whole onion, chopped

3 cups tomatoes, chopped or 1-28 ounce can diced tomatoes

2 quarts vegetable stock

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon fresh oregano

1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

3 cups cooked farro. Follow the directions on the package.

Sea salt and pepper, to taste

In a stockpot, sauté the onion, garlic, celery & carrots for 5 minutes. Add the kale and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and herbs and cook 10 minutes longer. Next, add the cannellini beans and stock. Let simmer 30 minutes.

Optional: Puree 1/3 of soup with immersion blender or use food processor.

Add the farro & serve with drizzling of olive oil or basil oil or pesto and parmesan cheese.

Farro is an ancient form of wheat and is generally soaked before using. A hearty grain, it’s also wonderful in grain salads. Just add vinaigrette, seasonal raw veggies and you’re set!

I wish I had a nickel….

I have been asked so many times over the past 20 years how I get all the kids I teach to eat their veggies and other healthy foods. Two things come to mind:

1) Get them involved with the process–helping to choose recipes, going to Farmer’s Market or grocery store, have the kiddos wash and help prepare the meal, even if that is simply adding the veggies to the pot of soup.

2) Most important by far. Lead by example. If you’re eating a bag of chips and tell you child to eat their broccoli, it might not work.


Answers to the interview questions

I would love to make this trip across the country interviewing kids again to see if the answers to the below questions are similar.

How we began

Kids are much more intuitive and wise than most adults give them credit for. We knew that we could learn a lot from the kids themselves and that we needed to chat with as many kids as possible if we were going to create a program to assist with the health crisis our kids are facing. It was Patty’s experience teaching her own children, and the kids at her cooking school, that if they are part of the process, they are much more likely to be part of the solution. In this case the process is education and the solution is improved health leading to a healthier, happier, more productive life.

In the fall of 2009, Patty founded a non-profit then called Shine The Light On America’s Kids, as the data she was about to collect was from kids in the United States. She spent most of 2010 traveling the United States interviewing kids from all walks of life about their health. The data was collected and subsequently analyzed by Sonoma State University, and the ‘America’s ‘ was dropped as the programs being developed were for all kids. Eventually, the name was changed to DirectionFive Health, because there are five programs and it’s a whole new direction—a fifth direction— as these programs were based on what the kids wanted to learn, not what adults think they want to learn.

The Data

The videotaped interview questions and answers:

What does health mean to you?

56.8% of the kids said health is how they felt physically, 14.8 percent of the kids said health was being both physically and mentally healthy, 20.5% weren’t sure what being healthy meant exactly, 3.4% thought health was being healthy mentally.

Do you think you are healthy? If yes, why? If not, why not?

77.8% of the kids said, yes, they were healthy, 7.8 % said no, they weren’t healthy, and 14.4% said they were ‘sort of’ healthy. The not-healthy kids blamed the consumption of junk food.

Is your family healthy? Do you think they have healthy habits?

80.2% of the kids said that their family was healthy, 11.6% said their families were not healthy and 8.1% didn’t know if their family was or was not healthy. 78.9% of the kids said that their family did have healthy habits, 15.8% said they did not and 5.3% weren’t sure.

One note about these statistics is that some of the kids told me after the interview that their families were not healthy and didn’t have healthy habits, but they didn’t want to say that earlier because their parents would be angry with them. By far this question was the most discussed question after the interview.

How do you know what food is healthy and what is not?

29.8% of the kids said they went by ingredients, 2.4% went by how food made them feel, 9.5 % said they looked at preparation to decide, 34.5% looked at the kind of food (vegetables were almost always healthy, as an example), 14.3% looked at other things, like if their Mom bought it for them, it must be healthy-I heard that one quite a bit) and 9.5% didn’t know.

Are you ever hungry because your family does not have enough to eat?

10.7% of the kids said yes, 79.8% said no and 9.5% of the kids said sometimes they were hungry.

Do you know how to read the nutritional value label on your food? If no, would you like to learn?

91.6% of kids had noticed the food labels on packaged foods, 8.4% had not. 65.4% of kids knew how to read them, 32.1% did not, and 2.5% knew a few things. 32.4% of kids learned about food labels at school, 29.7% learned by a family member, 24.3% were self-taught, and 13.5% learned from someone else. 73.1% of the kids wanted to learn more about food labels, 22.4% did not, and 4.5% said they wanted to know more later in life, or else, they wanted to know only one or two items. 81.8% of kids said that is they really understood food labels they would be healthier, 12.7 did not think they’d be healthier, and 5.5% weren’t sure.

What foods give you the best energy?

42.4% of kids said fruit, with an apple being by far the first choice, 8.2% said some sort of vegetable with carrots being the leader, 5.9% said protein helped them (eggs, steak), 16.5% had a combination answer, with fruit being part of that combination most times, 9.4% didn’t know, and 17.6% had widely varied answers (granola, chips, etc., not all junk however)

Do you think your diet affects your grades?

47.0% of kids said yes, their diet affects their grades, 45.8% said it did not, and 7.2 weren’t sure.

Is there something you really love to do, a passion? Do you think you could do that if you weren’t healthy?

38.4% of kids said that some sort of sport was their passion, 22.1% said other physical activities such as dancing, horseback riding, etc., was their passion, and 8.1% didn’t have anything they were passionate about.

Do you exercise? How often?

90.7% of kids said that they exercised, 5.8% said they did not, and 3.5% had varied responses. 45.3% of kids exercised everyday, 1.3% said six days per week, 12.0% said five days per week, 10.7% said four days per week, 8.0% said three days per week, 9.3% said two days per week, 8.0% said one day per week, and 5.3% were ‘other.’

Do you think P.E. should be mandatory in schools?

92.0% of kids said that Physical education (P.E.) should be mandatory in schools. 2.3% said no it should not be mandatory, and 5.7% said other. Sometimes I heard from kids that if they were on sports teams, they should not have to do P.E. as well.

Do you think the food you eat affects your how you feel; your mood?

54.5% of kids thought that the food they eat affects their mood, 35.2% said food did not affect their mood, and 10.2% said ‘other.’ Sometimes, ‘other’ meant only one certain food, as an example.

Do you know how to cook? What can you cook?

74.2% of kids said they knew how to cook, 18.0% said they did not, and 7.9% were in the ‘other’ category, meaning perhaps they could cook one thing. Of these, 26.8% knew how to cook some sort of breakfast food, 15.5% said lunch, 14.1% said dinner, 18.3 said ‘other,’ meaning perhaps they could put milk on cereal, and 25.4% of kids said they knew how to cook ‘everything,’ meaning something for each meal. 85.4% of kids wanted to learn how to cook more things, 8.3% did not, and 6.3% said ‘other,’ which usually meant they wanted to learn how to prepare one certain thing, generally something, ‘fancy.’

Do you eat at a table? With whom?

88.8% said they ate dinner at a table, 6.7% did not, and 4.5% said once in a while or ‘other.’ 90.5% ate dinner with parent(s) or family member, 4.8 % ate without parents, 3.6% ate alone, and 1.2% was ‘other.’

Do you understand how your body works? If not, would you like to learn? Do you think you would you be healthier if you understood?

65.1% did know how their body works, 20.9 % did not know, 14.0 were in the ‘other’ category, generally meaning, they knew a few things. 93.5% learned about their bodies at school, 6.5% learned from family. 82.5% of kids said they thought they’d be healthier if they understood more about their body function, 17.5% said they wouldn’t be healthier if they knew more.

Did you have breakfast today?

91.5% did have breakfast, 8.5% did not.

What vegetables did you eat yesterday?

76.3% of kids had some sort of vegetable, 23.8% did not have any vegetables. As an aside, sometimes that vegetable was simply a piece of lettuce on a sandwich. The vast majority of kids did not come close to consuming enough vegetables.

Do you think that where you live affects your health? Why?

62.1 of kids said yes, 33.3% said no and 4.6% weren’t sure. The answers were varied; the kids who lived in the country said country was healthier because they had better water and air and less trash, as well as less access to junk food. City kids said they had more choices for healthy food, but that air, water and again, trash, were problems. Some kids in both city or country, were concerned about secondhand smoke.

Are you concerned about the affordability of your food?

36.1% of kids were concerned about the cost of food, 51.8% were not concerned and 12.0% of kids said sometimes they were worried.

Do you think the Earth’s health affects your health?

85.1% of kids thought there was a correlation between the Earth’s health and their personal health, 14.9% of kids didn’t think there was a correlation.

Are you concerned about the safety of your food and water?

68.8% of kids were concerned about the safety of their food and water, 23.8% were not concerned, and 7.5% of kids were in the ‘other’ category, generally meaning, sometimes.

How many hours of sleep to you get a night?

91.6% of kids said they got enough sleep, meaning at least 8 hours a night and they felt rested, 8.4% said they didn’t get enough sleep and were not rested. Of those, stress was the most common answer.

Is religion or spiritual practice a part of you and your family’s life?

62.2% of kids said that yes, some sort of religious practice was part of their lives, 37.8% said not it was not.

Do you know where does your food come from? How it is processed?

36.4% of kids knew where their food came from and how it was processed, 59.7% did not know, and 3.9% of kids said ‘other’ often times they knew where an item or two came from. 69.2% of kids wanted to know where their food came from, 25.0% did now want to know, and 5.8% were in the ‘other’ category, generally meaning they weren’t sure.

Do you have a garden or have you or your family grown or raised any of your own food?

59.0% had grown some of their own food, 39.7% had not, and 1.3% said ‘other.’

What is the weirdest food you have ever eaten?

This question was just to end on a fun note. One boy said ants after watching the Jungle Book; one girl, who was Hispanic, said Chicken Alfredo because she had never seen white food; one Native American boy said scorpions with his Grandpa, who had cut the stingers off for him. The answers were really varied.

Interesting, isn’t it?

This was my home for almost a year. Another big doggie joined me, Patch, who now lives in my memory. Wilma, pictured on her pink heart blanket, still sleeps on the same blanket–she’s just has white sprinkles now.:)

DirectionFive and Staying at Home

We understand that the coronavirus has changed, well, everything. With your kids at home, let us help you with tips on kids in the kitchen.

Here is the beginning of DirectionFive, which is the Culinary part of our program. DirectionOne through DirectionFour will be discussed at a later date.




Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives is the mantra for this program.

When you understand the foods that support your health, and then you learn to create sumptuous meals for you and the people in your life, you feel satisfied and contented.

In the Kitchen

Kids, like most adults, simply want to jump in and make homemade pizza, but there are basics that need to be learned first, for safety and sanitation reasons, of course, but also so one knows how to measure properly, what size and type of pan to use and other basic information needed for a successful kitchen experience.

Safety and Sanitation

Before you enter the kitchen, tie your hair back if you have long hair, and if you’re sick, stay out of the kitchen altogether. Next wash your hands in warm, soapy water. If you have any cuts or sores, be sure to cover with a bandage. While you’re in the kitchen, if you sneeze, cough, touch your hair, nose or any other body part, or eat, please wash your hands again. You obviously wash your hands well after you use the restroom. If you handle raw meat or fish, please wash your hands before touching any other food. Ideally your clothes and aprons should be clean.

Here are some very important tips to always keep in mind when you’re in the kitchen:

  • When you work with food, keep raw foods away from cooked foods.
  • Keep food away from cleaning products.
  • Wash all raw fruits and vegetables before preparation.
  • Rinse off your meats and fish as well, pat dry and leave in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use them. Raw and thawing meats and fish should always be kept on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to avoid dripping and contamination.
  • Do not thaw foods at room temperature; thaw in a proper container in the refrigerator. Do not refreeze food after it’s been thawed.
  • Food needs to be held at proper temperatures to avoid the growth of bacteria that can make you sick. Cold foods should be kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Stuffed meat and reheated leftovers should be kept at 165 degrees, beef and other hot food, 140 degrees, fish and poultry, 145 degrees and cooked pork, hamburgers and eggs, 155 degrees.

Kitchens can be dangerous places, with sharp equipment and hot stoves! It was my experience when I had my cooking school that, in order of accidents, potato peelers, graters, knives, and hot stoves and ovens, were the major culprits. With some very basic and very important rules, well learned, accidents rarely happen.

A tip for adults working with kids in the kitchen is to try not to hover. I understand the nervousness about watching an eight-year hold with a knife, but hovering only makes them nervous and makes the kitchen a stressful place, when it should be a warm, nurturing place. When they understand basic kitchen safety and the proper use of equipment such as knives, they’ll be fine.

There is one basic rule when working in the kitchen-stay focused on the job at hand! If you are grating or chopping, your eyes are on that knife and cutting board and nowhere else. When this is learned, accidents rarely happen.

Let’s begin with knives. When choosing a knife, how does it feel in your hand? A ten year old with relatively small hands wouldn’t be comfortable using a twelve-inch chef knife. A good knife can last a lifetime, so choose your knife carefully. A knife store with salespeople who really understand all the intricacies of knives is an invaluable source of information. Here are some basics:

The knife has a blade, which does the cutting. The example, below, is a typical western knife that is sharp on both sides. Japanese knives have blades that are sharp on only one side, as they believe they cut more effectively.

There are various types of blades:

Carbon steel – Our ‘knife –guy’s’ favorite knife because it takes a great edge but discolors when they come in contact with anything acidic like tomatoes or citrus fruit. A carbon knife will rust so be sure to clean and dry them after every use.

Stainless Steel – They don’t rust so taking care of them is much easier, however, they are difficult to keep a good sharp edge.

High carbon stainless steel – Tough, holds an edge and they don’t discolor. The carbon adds strength to stainless but also more cost. A good choice.

Titanium – Much lighter than steel, holds its edge, and is also flexible, so it is a better choice for boning and filleting knives.

The spine is opposite the blade and adds weight and stability. The tip of a knife is at the point and is used for inserting the knife into something and for cutting small items. The tang is that piece of metal that extends from the blade to the back of the knife and the handle attaches to. The tang also gives a knife some weight and balance. Better knives have tangs.

The bolster is that little collar that separates the blade and the handle and adds strength and balance. The bolster can run from the spine to the edge or just part way. You hold onto the handle and it’s important for the handle to feel good in your hand. It can be made out of wood, plastic, composite or stainless steel.

Knives are blocked, forged or sintered.

  • Blocked knives are cut from a single sheet of metal usually of the same thickness. Think of using a cookie cutter on rolled dough. The blades are then ground to form the edge and handles are added to the tang. They typically don’t have bolsters and are less expensive to make and therefore buy.
  • Forged knives, as the name suggest, are forged, and not stamped. The manufacturer takes metal, heats it up and pounds it into the correct shape using a drop forge machine. These knives typically have bolsters, more weight, and thicker bolsters and cost more to produce. They are better balanced knife that when taken care of properly, can last a lifetime.
  • Sintered knives, or Eastern-style knives, is a process where they take a separate blade and fuse it to a separate tang.

Whatever type of knives you choose, you must frequently sharpen them, as a sharp knife is safer than a dull knife. With a dull knife you exert more pressure on the knife, which generally means more accidents. Always hand-wash your knives, dry properly and store where they won’t rub against other knives. Besides a chef’s knife, you will also need a paring knife, which has a short blade and is used for small jobs, a bread or serrated knife, a boning knife for removing meat from joints and a carving knife, for carving and slicing meat.

A few last tips: never try to catch a falling knife! When you carry a knife it should point down and the blade should face backwards. Carry it close to you but not against your body. When you carry your knife to the sink, carry it by itself and not on your cutting board where it could fall. Do not place knives in a sink full of dirty dishes as in retrieving them; you could grab the blade by mistake.

Cutting boards can be made of any number of material, wood, plastic, bamboo or composite, which are various material fused or glued together. Wood boards are the easiest on your knives, but cannot be put in the dishwasher, plastic boards and composite boards can be washed in the dishwasher, but gouges can harbor bacteria, bamboo is a sustainable wood product; whichever you choose, wash it carefully between uses.

Now that you understand more about knives, you need to learn basic knife cuts. The proper knife cut affects cooking time and visual appeal.

Basic Knife Cuts:

  • Julienne: A stick cut. Strips 2-2 ½ inches long. 1/8” X 1/8”
  • Brunoise: A dice cut. 1/8” X 1/8” X 1/8”. Made from cutting a julienne.
  • Batonnet: A strip cut. Strips 2-2 ½ inches long. ¼” X ¼”
  • Small Dice: A dice cut. ¼” X ¼” X ¼”. Made from cutting a Batonnet.
  • Medium Dice: A dice cut. ½” X ½” X ½”.
  • Large Dice: A dice cut. ¾” X ¾” X ¾”
  • Mince: Small cut with no specific dimensions made by rocking the knife back and forth.
  • Chiffonade: Stacked leaves, rolled up, then sliced thinly.
  • Roll Cut: Slice vegetable on the diagonal, roll vegetable 90 degrees and slice gain
  • Diagonal Cut: Oval shaped slices. Made by cutting the ingredient at an angle. The knife is held at an angle–the more the angle the shorter the cooking time.

Minestrone Soup–a kids favorite.

We have made Minestrone Soup with all age kiddos so many times! It’s always a hit! Kids love to make it, and everyone loves to eat it.

Minestrone Soup with Farro

Serves 8

2 cups cannellini beans, cooked. You may use 1-15 ounce cans

3 cups carrots, chopped

1 1/2 cups celery, chopped

1 bunch kale, chopped

1 whole onion, chopped

3 cups tomatoes, chopped or 1-28 ounce can diced tomatoes

2 quarts vegetable stock

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon fresh oregano

1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

3 cups cooked farro. Follow the directions on the package.

Sea salt and pepper, to taste

In a stockpot, sauté the onion, garlic, celery & carrots for 5 minutes. Add the kale and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and herbs and cook 10 minutes longer. Next, add the cannellini beans and stock. Let simmer 30 minutes.

Optional: Puree 1/3 of soup with immersion blender or use food processor.

Add the farro & serve with drizzling of olive oil or basil oil or pesto and parmesan cheese.

Farro is an ancient form of wheat and is generally soaked before using. A hearty grain, it’s also wonderful in grain salads. Just add vinaigrette, seasonal raw veggies and you’re set!


DirectionOne covers the basics: cells, the eleven body systems, nutrition, metabolism, dietary guidelines, safety and sanitation in the kitchen, and more. Understanding how your body system’s work and work together is vital to your good health. If you understand how the choices you make affect your health today and in the future, you will make healthier choices for you and those in your life.

Let’s start with a lesson about cells. We promise that kids are interested!

The Basis of Life


Cells are the basic and smallest unit of life. The word cell comes from the Latin cellula, meaning a small room. There are cells that are organisms onto themselves, such as bacteria cells. Some organisms are made up of many cells that only function when they are part of a larger organism, such as the cells that make up your body. In the body, there are brain cells, kidney cells, skin cells, liver cells, stomach cells; several hundred distinct human cell types, each with its own function. Each type of cell has recognizable differences and similarities. Each body system is dependent upon the harmonious interaction of organs and tissues, and it is at the cellular level where we learn the basis of normal functioning as well as disease states, so it’s important to begin with the cell.

All cells are surrounded by plasma membrane, which is a thin layer of protein and fat that protects the cell from the outside environment.  The cell membrane is semi-permeable, allowing some substances to pass into the cell while blocking others. The cell membrane regulates the movement of water, nutrients and wastes into and out of the cell.

Inside of the cell membrane are the working parts of the cell.  At the center of the cell is the cell nucleus. You can think of the nucleus as the cell’s brain. The cell nucleus contains the cell’s DNA or deoxyribonucleic acid, the hereditary material or genetic code that determines if you are born a human or an elephant with brown or blue eyes. The combinations are endless! DNA contains the instructions needed for an organism to develop, survive and reproduce. DNA produces RNA or ribonucleic acid, which is a very long complicated molecule made up of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. Just remember that DNA strands store information, while RNA takes the information from the DNA and transfers it to different places in the cell, to decode and read the information.


There are many organelles inside of the cell – small structures that help carry out the cell’s day-to-day operations.  Organelles are located in the cytoplasm, a jellylike material outside the cell nucleus. One important cellular organelle is the ribosome.  Ribosomes are protein builders or protein synthesizers and all cells require proteins. They can float in the cytoplasm or attach to endoplasmic reticulum (ER). There are two types of ER, rough and smooth. Rough ER creates and packages proteins. Smooth ER is important in the creation of steroids and ions and acts as a storage center both. ER also works with RNA and the Golgi Complex.

The Golgi complex (also called the Golgi apparatus) is located near the nucleus and is a sac-like organelle that looks like a stack of pancakes. The Golgi complex gathers simple molecules and combines them to make more complex molecules. After gathering the molecules, the Golgi complex packages them in vesicles and stores them for later use or sends them out of the cell.

Another cellular organelle is the mitochondrion. Mitochondria (in the plural mitochondrion) are often referred to as the power plants of the cell. They take in nutrients, break them down and create energy for the cell. Also important in the life of a cell are the lysosomes.  Lysosomes, built in the Golgi Complex, are organelles that contain enzymes that aid in the digestion of nutrient molecules and other materials.

The cell waste is stored in what is called a vacuole. The vacuole fills with food being digested and waste material that is on its way out of the cell.

Types of Cells:

  • The egg is the largest human cell. Once it is fertilized, all other cells begin forming.
  • Bone cells help build your skeleton by secreting the fibers and minerals from which bone is made.
  • Fat cells store fat. They can shrink or grow. Once you have them you can’t get rid of them.
  • Muscle cells are organized into muscles, which move body parts.
  • Nerve cells pass nerve messages around your body.
  • Red blood cells carry oxygen around your body.
  • White blood cells fight disease.

Good health and poor health begins at the fundamental level; cell health. To maintain cell health:

  • Consume whole, natural, fresh foods while avoiding refined foods
  • Exercise to improve circulation as circulation helps to remove toxins and bathes cells in nutrients
  • Drink adequate pure water and ideally breathe fresh air outside and inside. The water we drink and use to bathe and the air we breathe affect each cell in our bodies.
  • Get enough rest, learn how to manage stress and have a positive attitude. It has been scientifically proven that a positive attitude makes you feel better and helps you fight disease.
  • Avoid exposure to toxins, including pesticides, radiation, and other contaminates, including alcohol and drugs.




The Third Direction is Body/Earth Connection

The below is from the D5 teaching manual. We hope it’s useful for you and your kids! It’s a long Direction, but here are a few common terms to get you started.

DirectionThree: The Body/Earth Connection

 The whole problem of health, in soil, plant, animal and man is one great subject.”

— Sir Albert Howard, 1939


The information available today on the state of our Earth’s health and its relation to our health is overwhelming, sad and often times discouraging. Shortsighted thinking leaves our planet and our very future in peril.

Consider the words from The Constitution of the Iroquois Nations:

“In all of your deliberations in the Confederate Council, in your efforts at law making, in all your official acts, self-interest shall be cast into oblivion. Cast not over your shoulder behind you the warnings of the nephews and nieces should they chide you for any error or wrong you may do, but return to the way of the Great Law, which is just and right. Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground – the unborn of the future Nation.”

We need to live today as if it’s seven generations from now and make decisions not only for ourselves but also for those who will walk on this Earth in 200 years. They will thank us for keeping them in our minds and hearts.

In order to make good choices we need to understand how our decisions affect the Earth’s health and our health. Keep in mind that only 1/32 of the earth’s surface is suitable for food production. We all share the world’s resources and as of 2008 the global population is 6.83 billion people with one billion overweight or obese and nearly one billion without adequate nutrition.

Here are some common terms:

An Aquifer is an underground source of water. This water may be contained in a layer of rock, sand or gravel.

The Body Burden is the total amount of a chemical in the body. Some chemicals build up in the body because they are stored in body organs like fat or bone or are eliminated very slowly.

An ecosystem is a system formed by the interaction of a community of organisms with their environment.

Energy is usable heat or power with the major sources being petroleum or coal. Renewable energy sources include solar and wind power.

Exposure refers to contact with a chemical by swallowing, breathing or direct contact such as through the skin or eyes. Exposure may be either short term (acute) or long term (chronic).

The Farm Bill is an omnibus bill, which is a Latin word that means ‘for everything.’ It is the primary agricultural and food policy tool of the United State government. The Farm Bill impacts the environment, our food and water supply and safety, organics, food assistance programs and the health of rural communities. It can be controversial because of food subsidies, meaning the government pays farmers to grow or not to grow certain crops and subsidizes farmer’s incomes. The Farm Bill is hundreds of pages long and can be found at:


Food miles refer to the distance food travels to the point of production to the time it reaches the consumer. Food miles are one factor used in assessing the environmental impact of food. On average food travels between 1,500 and 2,500 miles before it arrives in your kitchen.

A Foodshed is a term used to describe the flow of food from producer to consumer. This general definition considers a geographic area that supplies a population area with food.

Global Warming is the gradual increase in the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere, believed to be due to the greenhouse effect, caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and other pollutants.

Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) are organisms whose genetic characteristics have been altered by the insertion of a modified gene or a gene from another organism using the techniques of genetic engineering. This relatively new science allows DNA from one species to be injected into another species in a laboratory, creating combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.

Inputs are defined as what is put in, taken in, or operated on by any process or system.

A kilocalorie, commonly referred to as kcal, is a unit of energy equivalent to 1000 calories.

A life cycle assessment, also known as Cradle to Grave Assessment, is a technique to assess environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product’s life from-cradle-to-grave. As an example, you would ‘follow’ an apple from the farm where it is grown to the store where it is sold to your table and analyze all the impacts to the Earth and therefore your health.

A pathogen is a bacterium, virus, or other microorganism that can cause disease.

Pesticides are chemicals used to eliminate or control a variety of agricultural pests that can damage crops and livestock and reduce farm productivity. The most commonly applied pesticides are insecticides (to kill insects), herbicides (to kill weeds), rodenticides (to kill rodents), and fungicides (to control fungi, mold, and mildew). Of these pesticide classes, herbicides (weed killers) are the most widely used. Today, over 1 billion tons of pesticides are used in the US every year.


A watershed is the area of land where all of the water that is under it or drains off of it goes the same direction and into the same place.




Bone Health for Kids

Bone Health for Kids:

Here are some basic facts about bone health for kids. Use this checklist when teaching groups of kids or your own children. Involve them by asking the questions and waiting for the answers. It’s really fun!

 How many bones in an adult human body?

  • There are more in a kid’s body, as some bones haven’t fused together. More than half of our bones are in the hands and feet!

 Does a human or a giraffe have more bones in their neck?

  • They’re the same!

Peak ages for bone density and growth is 9-12 years of age. By age 17, 90% of bone mass is established.

Think of bones like a bank account: You put in calcium until you reach the age of 18, then the bank is closed and you can only withdraw.

Sources of calcium:

Dark, leafy greens such as collard greens and kale, spinach, chard, and bok choy.


Calcium-fortified orange juice and tofu.


Dairy products

Milk also contains vitamin D, which helps absorb calcium

Some cereals

How much calcium do you need a day as kids?

  • 1300 mg, 1100 mg for adults

What else is good for bone health?

  • Exercise! Weight-bearing exercise is particularly good for bones. This can be from light weight lifting or by using their own weight for weight bearing exercise; such as you do with pushups.

Osteoporosis means porous bones. Ask the kids if they know what this word means. Explain that porous bones are weak bones.

What is not good for bone health?

Phosphoric Acid, which is found in sodas. It interferes with calcium absorption.

Caffeine also interferes with calcium absorption.

Kids like this next one and I am always surprised at how many kids know the meaning of the word. Ask them, do you know what ‘Euphemism’ means? Definition: The act or an example of substituting a mild, indirect, or vague term for one considered harsh, blunt, or offensive. Here is a real life example of a euphemism; ‘Energy’ drinks. ‘Energy drinks’ only give you short-term energy while doing a lot of damage to your good health.

Supplements: Vitamin D- 400 IU/day. Please ask your health professional for supplement advice.

Kids want strong bones and once they know the facts; they are more likely to lessen their soda and caffeine intake and increase bone-health foods.





Always a Favorite! Spring Rolls.

The kids we have taught always loved this recipe–making them and eating them. Some prefer peanut butter and some almond butter; it’s up to you!


Spring Rolls and Almond Dipping Sauce

Servings: 12


2 small cucumbers, seeded

2 medium carrots

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

12 sprigs fresh cilantro

12 mint leaves


1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 ounce rice noodles

6 spring roll wrappers (rice), 8 1/2 inch size

8 leaves Bibb lettuce, torn into small pieces, ribs removed



2- 1 inch piece ginger root, peeled

5 cloves garlic, peeled

2 teaspoons chili paste

1 cup peanut or almond butter

1/4 cup Tamari soy sauce

1/4 cup Rapadura

1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce, vegan

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1 lime, juiced, to taste

Water, if too thick

Slice the cucumbers and carrots into matchsticks.

Optional: Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the oil, noodles and the remaining salt. Boil until the noodles are tender, about 2 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water and arrange them on a baking sheet, loosely covered with a damp towel.

To assemble: Set up a large shallow bowl of hot water. Slip a spring roll wrapper into the water. When the wrapper becomes pliable (after about 30 seconds) remove it from the water and lay it flat on a piece of waxed paper. Place lettuce on the bottom half of the wrapper. Arrange vegetable mixture over the lettuce along with mint and cilantro. Spread out 1 heaping tablespoon of the noodles over the vegetables, if desired.

Roll up the wrapper, tucking in the ends as you roll, and rolling as tightly as possible.

Cut each roll in half across the middle on the diagonal.

Stand the rolls flat on their ends and serve with peanut dipping sauce.

DIPPING SAUCE: In a blender add the ginger, garlic and chili paste. Blend until smooth. Add remaining ingredients except the water. Blend until smooth and taste. You’re looking for a balance of taste that includes, hot-sweet-salt-tart-pungent. If it tastes balanced and it’s too thick add a little water. Re-taste you might have to re-adjust the key ingredients.

Eating Seasonally

Spring: Peas, avocado, green onions, mustard greens, raw grated beets

Summer: Red pepper, Jicama, radishes, lettuces, zucchini and other summer squash

Autumn: Bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, cabbage

Winter: Daikon radish, bok choy, carrots


SafetyNEST: Healthier Babies

 Here is SafetyNEST’s Mission:

Please peruse everything this wonderful group of women are doing, and then join me on April 5th at The Commonwealth in San Francisco, to meet them in person and to hear more.

Here is the link to the Program:https://www.commonwealthclub.org/events/2019-04-05/prenatal-care-healthier-toxic-free-babies



To educate the medical community and families about the health risks associated with exposures to toxic chemicals, particularly during vulnerable periods of development.

SafetyNEST’s vision is simple: we want every pregnant woman to have easy access to clear, credible information to keep your pregnancy and your baby healthy. We provide the support and tools to prevent diseases linked to toxic chemical exposure. We help you make your NEST safe.

Every day, we are awash in chemicals. There are 85,000 of them surrounding us in everything from our bed mattress to our hand lotion. But the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires toxicity testing on just 200. That leaves 99% to do their thing. And evidence increasingly shows that exposure to these chemicals, particularly during vulnerable periods of development, can cause problems from preterm birth, birth defects, childhood asthma and obesity to a range of cancers.

You might wonder, if this situation is really so bad, why hasn’t my doctor told me, my friends, my sister, my daughter? Turns out, only 1 in 15 doctors has been trained in toxic chemicals, and only 1 in 5 say they talk to you about it. It’s just not top of their list – yet. But, it’s top of ours.

SafetyNEST Science reinforces its sister organization, mySafetyNEST, Inc., which delivers digital tools that educate and empower moms-to-be to make safer choices to safeguard her pregnancy. All the tips and recommendations you will find on mySafetyNEST.com (our sister organization’s digital health platform launching soon) come from the most credible research centers in the United States, including University of California San Francisco Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment, Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health and Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center.

SafetyNEST Science and mySafetyNEST, Inc. were created by Alexandra Destler, a mom of two who was struck by how hard it was to reduce our exposure to toxic chemicals – even in her own home. Interested in learning about more, from Alexandra and the team?