On this day in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln established the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Today, people associate nutritional standards and food safety regulations with the USDA, but the department also created the first federal food stamp program at the end of the Great Depression.
Food was scarce during the Great Depression, and even before that, food was rationed during the First World War to supply food to troops overseas. In an effort to rally Americans around rationing, Herbert Hoover developed a Clean Plate campaign, encouraging people to eat all of the food on their plate at mealtime and not eat anything between meals.
Food was again scarce after World War II, and President Harry S. Truman officially formed “Clean Plate Clubs” in elementary schools across the country. The Clean Plate Clubs focused on teaching young children to eat everything that was offered to them and not on the impact of the difficult times that originally prompted the campaign.
The message behind the Clean Plate Clubs was a good one: be thankful for what you’re given and don’t waste anything. That message, however, was lost somewhere along the line of the longest trans-generational game of Telephone: ingrained in the minds of Depression-era kids, they told it to their Baby Boomer kids who in turn told it to their Millennial kids, and America now has the highest percentage of citizens who are overweight or obese.
Food portions are much larger today than they were in the 1940s, and the food that Americans eat today is often processed and contains added ingredients like sodium and sugar. Because of factors like these, eating all of the food on your plate might not be the healthy choice.
Health experts have said that the idea of finishing everything on your plate may contribute to problems like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and eating disorders. A lot of factors contribute to being overweight or obese, like genetics, but one thing we can change right now is what we’re eating. Every recipe on The Clean Food Club is made from whole, clean food with no additives, and every recipe always will be.
In my basket:
5 cups fresh Spinach (from Freitas Farms, Middleborough MA)
1 large small of Asparagus (from Freitas Farms, Middleborough MA)
1 large Zucchini (from Freitas Farms, Middleborough MA)
3 small Red Onions (from Freitas Farms, Middleborough MA)
5 large Tomatoes (from Freitas Farms, Middleborough MA)
From the pantry:
1 cup uncooked Couscous
1 tbsp Butter (optional)
1 15.5 oz can Garbanzo beans
4 tbsp Olive oil
4 cloves of Garlic
Salt and pepper
Spring Vegetables with Couscous and Chickpeas
Makes five servings
Total time: 20 minutes
- Wash all of the fresh ingredients. Cut asparagus into bite size pieces. Large dice zucchini, onions and tomatoes. Mince the garlic. Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans.
- Heat large sauté pan over medium high until hot, add the olive oil. Add the garlic when the oil starts to sizzle, cook for 30 seconds. Add the zucchini, season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- While the zucchini cooks, bring water, salt and butter to a boil in saucepan. Remove from heat and quickly stir in the couscous. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes, or until all of the water has been absorbed. Transfer couscous to a large serving dish.
- To the pan of zucchini, add the onions, asparagus and tomatoes, season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garbanzo beans, cook for 1-2 minutes or until vegetables have cooked down a little and zucchini is soft when pierced with a fork. Using a slotted spoon, transfer cooked vegetables to the serving dish, reserving the liquid left in the pan.
- Add the spinach to the pan of leftover liquid, season with salt and pepper. Cook no more than 1 minute, just long enough to heat the spinach and absorb the juices. Fold the spinach into the vegetables in the serving dish (the heat from the other vegetables will cook the spinach the rest of the way).
- Plate your meal. Enjoy!
Garbanzo beans (chickpeas) are nutritious and a perfect addition to this meatless recipe. They’re a great source of protein, fiber, and iron, and they’re very low in sodium, cholesterol, and saturated fat. Eating two cups of garbanzo beans meets the daily requirement for fiber, which helps you feel full all day, and because they’re so high in protein, they’re a great substitute for meat. Keep cans of garbanzo beans in your pantry as an easy addition to any meal.
Suggestions for leftovers? Post your recipes below and I’ll give you a shout out next time.
Alice Kathryn Richardson is a new media photojournalist based in Boston, MA. She created The Clean Food Club on May 1, 2016, and previously spent two years working on Deserts in the District, a series of short-form documentaries exploring food access and hunger in Washington, DC. Follow her on Twitter @AKR_Pictures.