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Popular Japanese tea matcha has health benefits

Matcha, finely ground powder made from baby green-tea leaves, is growing in popularity due to health benefits and the natural woodsy flavor it imparts to drinks, pastries and savory dishes, reported Jenice Tupolo and Carla Meyer in the Sacramento Bee

To find out if the most-prized tea in Japan lives up to its purported health benefits when scrutinized scientifically, the reporters contacted UC Cooperative Extension specialist Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr.

“The health benefits are similar to that of green tea in general,” Zidenberg-Cherr said. Possible benefits of green tea include lower risk of cardiovascular disease and some types of cancers, and bone-density improvement. Though "the studies are pretty inconclusive," she said, some have been promising.

"Some have shown a benefit of maybe three cups a day in terms of reduced risk of cardiovascular disease especially," she said.

Zidenberg-Cherr cautioned against taking matcha or green tea with dairy milk.

"There is a protein in cow's milk that will bind to those important catechins and reduce how much you actually get in your body," she said.
 
A matcha tea latte from Starbucks. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Posted on Friday, July 22, 2016 at 9:33 AM

UC students in 'protected environment' are vulnerable to food insecurity

Many people are surprised to learn that students enrolled in the state's premiere higher-education system are vulnerable to food insecurity, said Suzanna Martinez, a researcher with UC ANR's Nutrition Policy Institute, on the KPFA radio program Up Front. (Martinez's segment begins at the 20:23 mark.)

Martinez was interviewed for the program by host Pat Brooks, who was sitting in for Dennis Bernstein. Martinez said that anecdotal evidence of food insecurity on UC campuses was already popping up when UC President Janet Napolitano provided funding to each of the campuses to address the issue. The UC president also provided funding to the UC Nutrition Policy Institute to survey students across the system to document and understand food insecurity on UC campuses.

The report, issued last week, was based on the responses to a survey by about 9,000 students. Nineteen percent indicated they had “very low” food security and an additional 23 percent were characterized as having “low” food security. The greatest impact, Martinez said, was on the Latino and black student populations. Most of the students struggling with food insecurity had never experienced such circumstances before going away to college.

In response to the survey, Napolitano approved $3.3 million in new funding over the next two years to help students regularly access nutritious food on campus and off. 

Brooks asked Martinez what is the new report's 'call to action.'

"Our hope is to eliminate food insecurity, and with this report we are hoping that others will be dedicated to this and committed to the work as well,” Martinez said. 

Students eat lunch on the West Quad at UC Berkeley. (Photo: SERC at UCB)
Posted on Thursday, July 21, 2016 at 4:00 PM

Pistachio industry targets navel orangeworm with sterile moths

A navel orangeworm moth perched on a pistachio. (Photo: Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The pistachio industry is funding an effort to control navel orangeworm with sterile moths reared at a USDA facility in Phoenix, reported Annika Cline on KJZZ's The Show.

The same approach was used in a long-running battle with pink bollworms, which used to be the bane of cotton farmers. The story said USDA is checking fields this year before declaring pink bollworm officially eradicated.

Navel orangeworm isn't a serious pest of citrus, as the name might suggest, but it is devastating in tree nut production, said David Haviland, the UC Cooperative Extension entomology advisor in Kern County. Navel orangeworm moths lay eggs inside nuts, which mature and eat the nut meat. The cost of dealing with the pest is "huge," Haviland said.

Currently, the best strategy for keeping the pest in check is mummy removal - clearing nuts leftover after harvest.

"On every acre of almonds or pistachios in California, growers will spend two, three, sometimes $400 on an acre just doing what's called mummy removal," Haviland said.

Farmers also use pesticides against naval orangeworm. Haviland said they are expensive and require tedious paperwork.

"If the growers can use the sterile technique to actually avoid pesticide use altogether, that would be an ideal situation for both the farmer as well as for the consumer that's concerned about how their food is produced," Haviland said.

The USDA facility expects to send a shipment of sterile moths to California in August to see how well they disperse.

Posted on Tuesday, July 19, 2016 at 9:15 AM
Tags: David Haviland (1), pistachio (1)

Grafting tomato transplants could improve taste and yield

A larger assortment of tastier tomatoes could be in Californians' future.
Two UC Cooperative Extension advisors are conducting field research to determine whether grafting tasty tomato plants onto high-performing root stock will increase yield and disease resistance while improving tomato flavor, reported Ezra David Romero on Valley Public Radio.

Romero spoke to Scott Stoddard, the UCCE vegetable crops advisor for Madera and Merced counties, and Margaret Lloyd, the UCCE small farms advisor for Yolo, Solano and Sacramento counties.

Stoddard has planted 3,500 grafted tomato seedlings on a farm north of Madera.

“Now we got them in the field and so approximately 83 days from now, if all goes according to plan, we will be harvesting out here and we will see if we can see some yield differences,” Stoddard said.

Lloyd grafted heirloom tomato varieties onto disease-resistant roots on a quarter acre at UC Davis.

“We're kind of working at this level of finding non-chemical management tools that will help overcome these challenges so they [farmers] can continue to grow these nice heirloom varieties,” says Lloyd.

Both scientists will collect data from their trails to see whether it makes sense for growers to implement the practice on their farms. Romero reported that both agreed consumers could, in time, have a tastier, larger assortment of tomatoes to purchase at farmers markets and stores.

Posted on Monday, July 18, 2016 at 2:20 PM

UC commits $3.3 million to improve student access to nutritious food

Guided by the findings of a survey conducted by UC ANR's Nutrition Policy Institute, UC President Janet Napolitano announced July 11 she would commit $3.3 million in new funding over the next two years to help UC students regularly access nutritious food. UC's survey findings and response were reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, East Bay Times, Los Angeles Times, KCBS and KPCC.

The online survey was administered to a randomly selected sample of students from all 10 UC campuses in spring 2015. It is part of the UC Global Food Initiative, which promotes a nutritious, sustainable food supply.

According to the NPI survey, 19 percent of the nearly 9,000 participating UC students indicated they had “very low” food security, which the USDA defines as experiencing reduced food intake at times due to limited resources. An additional 23 percent were characterized as having “low” food security, defined by the USDA as reduced quality, variety or desirability of diet, with little or no indication of reduced food intake.

Lorrene Ritchie
“I wasn't expecting that level of food insecurity in students,” said NPI director Lorrene Ritchie, who led the study, to Jessie Qian of the Daily Californian. “Adults who aren't informed would think students are just passive, spending their money on other things or just complaining … but it's really that big of a problem.”

According to the UC news release, UC has developed an action plan tailored to the needs of individual campuses while maximizing coordination among them. The plan includes:

  • Expanding food pantry storage and access
  • Increasing collaboration with state and county offices to register students for CalFresh, California's nutrition assistance program
  • Establishing and expanding awareness campaigns on student support services and food access
  • Expanding the existing Swipe Out Hunger programs, which allow university students to donate excess dollars on their meal plan to reduce hunger on campuses
  • Integrating food preparation and secure storage space into new student housing design and construction
  • Enhancing financial aid communications about housing and food costs

“Among students who reported food insecurity in the past year, we found that for 57 percent this was a new experience – not one they had faced as children,” says Ritchie. “This suggests that students who are on their own for the first time would benefit from financial literacy training and additional information about financial aid, nutrition assistance, and making healthy choices on a limited budget.”

The report Student Food Access and Security Study, authored by NPI research analyst Suzanna Martinez, UC Santa Barbara sustainability coordinator Katie Maynard and Ritchie, can be downloaded at http://npi.ucanr.edu.

Posted on Friday, July 15, 2016 at 7:22 PM

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