Tupper Lakers set up organic food program

TUPPER LAKE – Consumers here have another option when it comes to buying food.

In February, co-organizers Julie King and Joy Moody started the Tupper Lake Real Food Cooperative, a citizen-based, non-profit program that brings organic food to the town every other week.

The group’s 150-plus members place their grocery orders online, and King and Moody have them ready for pick-up at the Adirondack Company and the Joy Photography studio at 81 Main St.

The food comes from a variety of sources and is distributed by a regional food hub in Ithaca. Most of the produce, meat and dairy options come from New York farms. Other items, like oats and coffee, come from other locations.

“You can’t grow bananas in the U.S., so some things are imported because we can’t get around that,” Moody said. “People can order just New York state items if they want.”

The two women said they started the group after they learned about the health benefits of eating organic, pesticide-free foods that are grown as close to home as possible.

“I’ve learned that organic food has more nutrients, it’s not that much more expensive, and there are no pesticides and no hormones injected into it,” King said. “More than anything, though, I feel better since I’ve switched to organic.”

The co-op buys food in bulk, which makes the prices on par with or sometimes cheaper than the organic-labeled food found at most grocery stores. Since most people don’t need 25 pounds of rice, members often split the orders.

Organically grown food is generally more expensive than other food, though, and King said she understands that people on a tight budget might not be able to pay more. If those people still want to buy organic, she recommended starting with meat.

“I learned about the importance of really lean meat versus fatty meat,” King said. “The local, grass-fed beef doesn’t have a lot of fat through the nature of how it’s raised. In factory farms they don’t get the exercise and they feed them grain and corn, which is fattening to them. They also inject them with growth hormones, which is harmful to us.”

For King and Moody, the food cooperative is all about giving Tupper Lakers a choice.

“I feel like I’m living in a food desert,” King said. “Saranac Lake has a health food store, Lake Placid has a health food store, and Potsdam has a health food store. It’s all around us, but we don’t have anything.”

King said she’d eventually like to change that by opening a health food store and cafe in Tupper Lake, but first she wants to make sure there’s a demand.

Both King and Moody are also pushing for change on a statewide level. They are actively involved in the group GMO Free Adirondacks and will travel to Albany this February to push for legislation that would require all genetically modified foods sold in the state to be labeled. The bill, sponsored by state Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan, failed in June.

“Food should at least be labeled so we can decide for ourselves whether we want to eat it or not,” Moody said. “Who do you want to pay, the doctor or the farmer? If you want to be healthy, eat healthy.”

For more information, visit www.wholeshare.com/join/1998.

Contact Shaun Kittle at 891-2600 ext. 25 or skittle@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.