While traveling this fall, Mim and I were fortunate to share many meals with our Change Clubs. Bread was often a staple. We had various types of wheat bread, bread made with rice and oatmeal, and of course the hearty loaf that we made with my family in Wisconsin. Bread recipes, the type of yeast, methods for kneading, and whether or not to use a bread machine were all engaging topics of conversation. There were also heartfelt stories about learning how to make bread from grandmothers, experimenting with family recipes, and bread baking for stress relief after a long day.
One message emerged over and over again – bread is a labor of love.
Over the holidays, I replicated the bread that we made in Wisconsin at home in Boston. I used the 5-Grain Bread Recipe from the StrongWomen website. When I made it, I did not use emmer wheat. Instead, I used 1/2 cup of steel cut oats, 1/2 cup of spelt, and 1/2 cup of barley. I followed the recipe and in my opinion was successful! I don’t think that I could have made it, however, without the in-person lesson we received in Wisconsin.
We have wanted to share this recipe with readers for a while now, and we hope that you use it as inspiration for your own baking. If you are baking bread for the first time, keep in mind the recipe is no substitute for a good illustrated bread book, or better yet, a baking session with family or friends.
Happy New Year!
As I reflect over the past year, I am thankful for so much. It has been a watershed year for me personally and professionally. The nine week StrongWomen Across America tour was such an adventure and was truly life changing. Just before the holiday break I was able to check in with most of our Change Club leaders in each of the eight communities. The news from the local Change Clubs was beyond my expectations. Despite some barriers, the groups have been able to stay right on target with their work. As we document their progress more systematically, we will be sure to share their stories of success and lessons learned with our readers.
There are two people who played an important behind the scenes role during the tour. Allison Knott and Jessica McGovern, both graduate students at the Friedman School, were charged with managing the videos and blog postings throughout our travels. Eleanor and I would electronically send hours of video and still photographs each week to Allison and Jessica. From the raw material, they would produce a short video diary of each of our stops. The video below highlights the whole tourfrom start to finish! The other link is a podcast that Allison and Jessica produced for the tour. Thank you Allison and Jessica!
For now, I want to wish all of you a very happy New Year! May 2012 bring peace, happiness, and good health to all.
StrongWomen Across America Final Video
Two of our Change Club communities, Pratt, Kansas and Lamar, Missouri, reside in what is considered Tornado Alley, the central plains of the United States between the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains. They both happened to be right next door to Greensburg, Kansas and Joplin, Missouri, respectively, two communities devastated by tornadoes.
Given the closeness and importance of both of these communities to Pratt and Lamar, Eleanor and I decided to visit the towns on our way through. We didn’t know it at the time, but one of our Change Club ladies from Pratt had lived through the Greensburg tornado, given the visits even more meaning. Witnessing the results of the devastating tornadoes was profound and very emotional.
On May 4, 2007 at 9:45 pm a category 5 tornado leveled Greensburg. The tornado was 1.7 miles wide and traveled 22 miles with a wind speed of 205 mph. Ninety-five percent of the town was completely destroyed and eleven people died. In the four years since the tornado hit, there has been a lot of re-building. Shortly after the tornado, the city council passed a resolution stating that all new town buildings would be built with green technology following the LEED Platinum Standard. They have done just that. Furthermore, the primary energy source for the town now is wind power – ironic, isn’t it?
Colleague Mark Fenton was one of the consultants asked to assist with the planning of the new town. To that end, they have made a concerted effort to rebuild so that the town is completely walk- and bikeable. We arrived into Greensburg after a long drive from Boulder, CO. Eleanor and I strolled through the town and witnessed the rebuilding everywhere: great sidewalks, mixed use, flowers, bike racks, etc. While the population isn’t back to pre-tornado census (1,574), it is getting close. And we heard that new residents are attracted to Greensburg because of all the green technology being used.
The Joplin tornado was much more recent. On May 22 this past spring at 5:34 pm, the tornado touched down just southwest of the city. Similar to Greensburg, this tornado was a mile-wide, category 5, with winds over 225 mph. It also traveled 20+ miles through the heart of Joplin and out the other side. The devastation was enormous with 162 deaths and over $3 billion in damages. They estimate that 25% of the city (much larger than Greensburg) was totaled.
We stopped at a convenience store, opened three days before our visit, and talked to the manager. His store was right on the edge of the tornado. What you saw looking out his door were fields, stumped trees, and foundations everywhere. He said it used to be filled with a thriving neighborhood, small businesses, and schools. We drove and walked around following the track of the tornado. There was a lot of clean-up, some re-building, but also a lot of for sale signs. Throughout the town there were small wooden stars on stakes, each with a note, such as Live, Hope, and Bless Joplin.
The blue sky and gentle breezes that we experienced during our two town visits were in stark contrast to the horrors that the residents of these town towns experienced. One can only imagine what it must be like to witness a category 5 tornado in person. We wish both communities well as they rebuild.
After driving a total of 6,500 miles, visiting 16 states, and 58 days on the road, we arrived at our home away from home in Tannersville, Pennsylvania on a snowy Sunday morning. Our work in Pennsylvania was in “the West End” – a group of 4 communities in the western part of Monroe County in northeastern Pennsylvania. Our Change Club often referred to it as a “bedroom community,” since many area residents commute hours by bus and car to the to the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area.
On Wednesday morning, we met with the West End’s two Change Club Leaders, Dawn Olsen, Monroe County Extension Director and Carmela Heard, a retired teacher and stellar StrongWomen program leader and fitness instructor. We were also joined by Carol Kern, Western Pocono Community Library Director.
The West End differs from many of the other Change Club communities in how close it is to two large metropolitan areas and how rapidly it has grown over the past few decades. The lack of sidewalks, time spent in the car, and the dominance of driving makes it difficult for residents to walk.
Carmela’s enthusiastic StrongWomen participants and several other community members, including two daycare providers and the School Food Service Director, greeted us on Thursday at the Western Pocono Community Library. Together these women formed the West End Change Club. The library was a fitting location for the Change Club’s work. In many ways the library acts at the community center – complete with an indoor walking track in the basement! The community has walked more miles on the track since it was built a few years ago than we had driven during the whole tour.
Also joining us from Penn State Extension were Marilyn Corbin, Nancy Wiker, and Lynda Lueck-Stoner. We reached out to additional stakeholders Town Supervisor, Town Manager, and School Superintendant. These stakeholders are currently working to improve some of the built environment challenges that resulted from the town’s rapid growth. From these stakeholders, the group learned how the town is looking to build and increase the connectivity of trails. Impressed by the positive energy and excitement for change in the room, as he left on Thursday, one of the stakeholders said that the Change Club was the “best thing that’s come down the pipeline in a long time.”
In planning meetings, the Change Club was committed to both improving physical activity and nutrition, but in the end, they decided to work primarily on nutrition. The group’s Noble Purpose is to improve the health of the residents by making the healthy food choice the easy choice throughout the west end. They plan to partner with the local grocery store to increase healthy options for consumers eating on-the-go or families buying snacks. They also plan to work with local restaurants to increase the healthy options offered. The group was engaged throughout the planning workshops, there was universal participation, and people volunteered for the tasks as the group developed them.
The walkabout in the West End was particularly large and highlighted some of the built environment challenges that the West End faces. There isn’t a single side walk and high school sandwiched between two state highways. While the morning was beautiful, a little cold and crisp, the whizzing traffic made it understandable why no other pedestrians were out and about.
Another highlight was our Thursday night dinner at the local high school. Over a meal of haddock, brown rice, and steamed vegetables our group heard from School Food Service Director, Bonnie Grammes about changes that she’s been able to make. The schools now serve brown rice, skim milk, and pizza on whole wheat crust.
Instead of a home visit, we visited a local grocery store. The visit highlighted the abundance of refined grains, sodium, and added sugar in most readily available foods. We also highlighted healthy choices throughout the store such as cereals with less added sugar, real whole grains, and produce.
On Friday morning and afternoon, we worked with the Change Club in an intense planning session to develop their road map and vision for the changes they’d like to see. We concluded the Change Club with a walk in the newly acquired West End open space. We were led through a section of the beautiful 250 acres by naturalist Don Miller, who pointed out the diversity of old growth and new growth and the importance of perambulating around your natural area.
The West End Change Club was a great and inspiring group to work with as the last Change Club of the trip. Not only were they dedicated to making change, but they respectful, supportive, and caring toward one another. We can’t wait to see how their group progresses.
Please watch the following short video about the West End Change Club. I hope you enjoy!
While traveling, we saw miles of wheat and cornfields and silos for storage that soar into the air at the edge of small, quiet towns. In Washington State we passed through an area with huge warehouse sized controlled atmosphere storage facilities for apples that lined both sides of the street. In Arkansas, we saw industrial chicken production houses and we were welcomed to Illinois with a sign for a Tyson farm.
We have seen a spectrum of food production while traveling across the US. It was a breath of fresh air to visit Barthel’s Fruit Farm in Mequon, Wisconsin a few weeks ago. The farm is located just outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and has been in the family since 1839. On their 90 acres, owners Bob Barthel and Nino Ridgeway produce apples, pears, plums, strawberries, sugar snap peas, pumpkins, herbs, and perennials. Most of their produce is sold directly to customers, either at farmers markets or to people that come directly to the farm to buy from their barn store or to pick their own.
Being on the farm that sunny, fall afternoon and taking a bite of a crisp, just picked, golden delicious apple, reminded me of the value of good, wholesome, nurtured, nourishing food. Below is a short clip of Nino talking about the farm.
Mim & Eleanor