2017-10-02 / Dishing

From the Field, with Love

Spend October exploring the vegetable bounty of Central Pennsylvania with Centre Moves’ “Fall in Love with Veggies” campaign
Michele Marchetti | Photos by Matt Fern

Stacey Budd doesn’t just want you to eat your vegetables — she wants you to fall in love with them.
Now is an ideal time to experience veggie allure, she says. At area farmers markets, happening three out of seven days weekly (aren’t we lucky?), the colors alone will seduce you. Flashy tomatoes, eggplants and other holdovers of summer glisten alongside the more reserved but equally delicious squashes of autumn. Hearty greens inspire daydreams of stunning salads and nourishing smoothies ideal for afternoons that find us shedding morning sweaters and coats.

For the month of October through National Eating Healthy Day on Nov. 1, Budd is helping spearhead a campaign devoted to celebrating the harvest and getting people to fall hard for veggies. The campaign is the brainchild of Centre Moves, a community action group and coalition helping Centre County residents choose healthy habits that beget better lives.​

“This campaign grew out of the fact that we have to get more people eating vegetables,” Budd says. “The more we can embrace vegetables and incorporate them into our meals, the more nutrients our bodies are taking in to fight disease and illness.”

“Fall in Love With Veggies” provides easy, fun ways for community members to up their consumption. A downloadable kid-friendly Veggie Bingo​ contest challenges kids to drink their veggies or name two reasons why they should eat them. A recipe contest invites community members to submit yummy, original recipes — “bake it, smash it, grill it or toss it into salads, soups, stews or even a casserole.”

The focal point of the campaign is a 21-Day Challenge that offers an equal number of ways to welcome more plant-based food into your life. On Oct. 6, try wrapping your sandwich inside leafy greens like lettuce or kale. For Oct. 12, select your next new veggie by color. Budd’s advice: try a roasted beet salad. (Check out her recipe at right.)

Participants who complete just 14 days of the 21-Day Challenge are eligible to win a limited membership to a local farm’s community supported agriculture (CSA) program — basically a farm subscription. All the information about the campaign, including a helpful Tips and Tricks section, is available at

The campaign is yet another effort to turn into the community’s one-stop wellness hub. With one quarter of the Centre County adult population qualifying as obese, it’s a vital education resource. By forming relationships with companies, government agencies and organizations  — from healthcare and yoga to local food and wellness — Centre Moves is positioning itself as a clearinghouse of events, resources and information that promote physical activity and nutrition and reduce the stigma associated with managing diabetes and obesity.

When it comes to the nutrition component of this effort, Budd is an ideal spokesperson. A local food proponent who greets local farmers by their first names and brings their harvest into her kitchen with immense care and gratitude, Budd approaches vegetables according to the season. In late September, she was savoring tomatoes; by fall she’s turning gnarly kohlrabi into fritters.

Stacey Budd in her garden.Stacey Budd in her garden.

“My personal passion is getting people thinking about how they source their food, to explore and have fun with what’s abundant,” she says. “Now is the perfect time.”

Equally important to Budd, and central to the campaign, is making people feel supported in their efforts toward healthier food choices. That means breaking down the intimidation factor and including our entire community in a conversation about the benefits of eating and shopping by the season.

“I want local, fresh food to be a choice for everyone, not just for those with time and money,” she says. “There is a misconception that it costs a lot to eat local. You’d be surprised at the abundance you can take home when you spend $10-20 with a local farmer.”

Take fall squashes. Buy them in season at the farmers market and the price will be comparable — and sometimes cheaper — than the grocery store. “If you store them in a cool, dry place, they’ll last a long time,” she says. Local greens are another good choice. Available year-round (check your indoor farmers markets once the outdoor season is over), they’re nutrient-dense and can be easily incorporated into just about any meal. Chop them into scrambled eggs, swirl them into stews and blend them into your smoothies.

The focus is on small, easy steps that “can make a huge impact in both your health and the viability of our community,” Budd says. Get out a sheet pan and try dicing and roasting a new veggie with a heart-healthy oil and salt or hot pepper flakes. Sweet potatoes, Budd says, “are divine” roasted with a little bit of chili powder, garlic salt and some maple syrup. It’s quick, simple and so delicious that the end result might not even make it all the way to your dinner table.

Ultimately, falling in love with veggies requires an investment in time. But it also means reprioritizing how we spend it. Budd hopes the campaign will inspire community members to dig into some kitchen prep work and linger around their dinner tables. In our incredibly hectic lives, “food is a reason to pause,” she says.

And food that comes from the very land that surrounds us is worthy of love. With each successful meal, after-school snack or smoothie, what begins as a vegetable dalliance just might turn into a longstanding, healthy relationship. •SCM

Lentil, Beet and Feta Salad

4 medium beets, golden or chioggia (striped), cubed
2 tsp. plus 1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1 c. dried French green lentils, rinsed  (look through to remove any stones)
1 carrot, grated
1 bay leaf
Juice and zest of 1 large lemon
1/4 tsp. salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. fresh flat-leaf parsley
6 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat beets with 2 tsp. olive oil, wrap in aluminum foil, place on baking sheet and roast until tender (45-60 minutes). Once cool enough to handle, peel and cube.

2. While beets are roasting, combine lentils, carrot and bay leaf in pot. Cover with water (1 inch over top of lentils), bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer gently for 25 minutes or until soft. Drain off any excess liquid and remove bay leaf. Set aside.

3. While lentils are simmering, combine lemon juice, zest, salt, cayenne and garlic in a small bowl. Whisk in 1/3 c. olive oil. Taste and add more lemon juice and zest if desired.

4. In large bowl, combine lentils and feta. Pour dressing over and gently toss. Add beets, toss gently and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle parsley over dish and serve.

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