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Chicago moms learn how to make better food choices

Going to the grocery store isn’t as easy as it used to be. We’re not talking about the impossible hummer-sized shopping carts: It’s the food.

We all try to fill our families’ dinner plates with healthy nosh, but really, what’s in a name? Is “organic” that much better than “vegetarian-fed”? What about those other catchy labels? Grass-fed, corn-fed, cage-free, hormone-free, free-range.

It sounds more like a line from a Dr. Seuss book than a grocery list. So how do we know what’s what?

A group of Chicago moms took a trip to the farm to learn about food from the source.

Before Field Moms: Most of the moms bought
beef, pork and grass-fed chicken. Some only bought organic and a
few had tight budgets restricting them to whatever was the most
affordable.

After Field Moms: The majority of moms did not
change their buying habits, but said it was more important to know
where their protein comes from.

Insight: “I started buying different types of
meat from different places and realized that the label ‘organic’
was not necessarily the best indicator of good quality. Instead of
focusing on organic, I now focus on the origins of my meat.” -Amy Hansmann, mom of two

Beef, pork or chicken


Before Field Moms: The moms bought all
varieties of milk, including whole, 2 percent, skim, organic, soy
and raw whole milk.

After Field Moms: A couple of moms changed the
kind of milk they purchased. Both said they no longer buy organic
milk because they better understood the role of antibiotics and
hormones in dairy production.

Insight: “After my experience as a Field Mom, I
made a few changes. First, I do not buy organic milk unless I
mistakenly grab the wrong gallon. I am just not convinced it is
worth it.” – Amy Hansmann

Milk


Before Field Moms: Most moms were concerned
about or unclear on food safety practices and protocols.



After Field Moms: Overall, the moms came away
with a better understanding of federal regulations on food
production.

Insight: “Before being a Field Mom, it was so easy to
hear any bit of information on food safety or what I should feed my
family and feel paralyzed by it. I wasn’t able to see the whole
story. By visiting the farms and getting the information firsthand,
I feel like I am now much more able to take the information I hear
from different sources and put it together to see the bigger
picture.” – Farrah Brown, mom of two

Food safety


Illinois Farm Families has a program that aims to help momsfigure it all out by giving them a front-row seat to life on alocal farm. Each year a group of Chicago-area moms are chosen to be”Field Moms” who visit farms where corn and soybeans are grown andhogs and cattle are raised.

It shows them what goes into growing crops and caring for thelivestock, and the technology and business behind farming.

“We think the best way to answer moms’ questions (about food) isto give them first-hand experiences; to let them see farms, meetthe people who grow and raise their food and to have conversationsabout what happens on today’s farms,” says Lori Laughlin, aspokeswoman for the Illinois Farm Bureau, one of the fiveorganizations behind Illinois Farm Families.

To find out what these Field Moms learned, we emailed andchatted with 11 current and former ones. Here’s what they had tosay about how the program influenced their approach to feedingtheir families:

Cows, soybeans and pigs, oh my!


Before Field Moms: Most moms felt the marketing
of food was misleading.

After Field Moms: Almost all the moms felt themarketing was much more misleading than previously thought.

Insight: “I realized that I was susceptible to theidea of ‘natural’ and ‘antibiotic-free’ or even the status of thename brand milk. Although the program did not specifically talkmuch about marketing, some of the things I learned about made mestart paying attention to my labels and then to the overallmarketing I was seeing.” – Amy HansmannBefore Field Moms: Most momsfelt the marketing of food was misleading.

After Field Moms: Almost all the moms felt the
marketing was much more misleading than previously thought.

Insight: “I realized that I was susceptible to
the idea of ‘natural’ and ‘antibiotic-free’ or even the status of
the name brand milk. Although the program did not specifically talk
much about marketing, some of the things I learned about made me
start paying attention to my labels and then to the overall
marketing I was seeing.” – Amy Hansmann

Food marketing


Before Field Moms: The majority of moms were
very wary about the use of antibiotics and hormones in food.

After Field Moms: All the moms came away with a better
understanding of the regulations on hormones and antibiotics,
though some became more concerned and others felt less
concerned.

Insight: “I was getting a lot of information thrown at me
via Twitter and Facebook about why I shouldn’t be feeding my
children genetically modified objects, but when I saw someone who
works the land feeding it to his kids, I realized I could feed it
to mine. My pockets simply aren’t deep enough to feed my children
organic and GMO-free foods; that’s why I say grace over my meals.”
– Natasha Nicholes, mom of four

Hormones and antibiotics in our food


Before Field Moms: The moms felt buying local
was a great idea, but many didn’t know how to begin to do so or
worried it would be too expensive.

After Field Moms: The moms learned that many
items in their grocery store would qualify as “buying local.”

Insight: “I think it feels even more beneficial
to minimize time and distance between the farm and my table. I like
the idea of supporting local farmers and feeling more connected to
my food. It just feels more natural.” – Farrah Brown

Buying local


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