With the New Year upon us and a renewed emphasis on eating healthy, a farm-to-table knowledge-base may be just what the doctor ordered for consumers, notes Marcia Scheidemann, president of the Wheat Foods Council.

Farm to Fork

With the New Year upon us and a renewed emphasis on eating healthy, a farm-to-table knowledge-base may be just what the doctor ordered for consumers, notes Marcia Scheidemann, president of the Wheat Foods Council, Parker, Colo.

    Bread doesn’t come to being in the grocery store. We all know that, but to many of the people buying our products, bagels sprouting from store shelves might as well be reality. Maybe it’s that Americans move too quickly to stop and think about where their food comes from or perhaps they skipped that lesson in school.

    Whatever the reason, the Wheat Foods Council believes that educating people about their food’s journey from farm to plate can better equip them to make healthier food choices. With the New Year upon us along with a renewed emphasis on eating healthy, a farm-to-table knowledgebase may be just what the doctor ordered for consumers.

    The farm-to-fork platform is the cornerstone of the council’s consumer education efforts. Late last year, we brought wheat’s farm-to-fork journey to life in New York City with our Urban Wheat Field Experience. Thanks to the support of our members and partners, we were able to bring a live field of wheat, full-size combine, functioning mills, a bread-baking oven, a nutrition lab and more to the big city. This unconventional approach to grain education successfully excited people of all ages and ethnicities as well all sectors of the industry from the producers right on up to the bakers.

    The 8,000-plus visitors who explored the exhibit received an all-encompassing wheat education otherwise unavailable to city dwellers. They were guided through a growing field of hearty green wheat by our wheat farmers, ground kernels into flour with our millers, tasted fresh bread baked by our wheat commissions and talked one-on-one with registered dietitians about wheat’s many health benefits. A portion of this education also is available at www.wheatfoods.org, which covers agriculture, milling, baking and nutrition and our videos from the event that has also been posted on YouTube.

    We knew now was the right time for this program because, now more than ever, consumers crave information on the nutrition and ingredient composition, as well as the origin of their food. Proof of this includes the Country of Origin Labeling initiative and the Smart Choices Program.

Additionally, the industry and nutrition community, as well as the public, are exerting increased pressure on the Food and Drug Administration to improve the Nutrition Facts panel and ingredient lists.

    At the Urban Wheat Field, we had a unique opportunity to connect directly with consumers and walk them through enlarged nutrition facts panels and engage in meaningful conversations about label reading, serving sizes and calorie, carbohydrate, fiber and folic acid content.

    In addition to nutrition dialogue, we spoke with consumers about value, which is another timely and important issue. The downtrodden economy and rising cost of food have consumers on the hunt for economically efficient, nutrient-rich foods. They need look no further than grain foods. The minimal cost per serving of the majority of grain-based foods really hit home with consumers.

    In this New Year and with the economy in a difficult state, the grain industry has a relevant, compelling story to tell. The Wheat Foods Council will continue to spread the word thanks to our long-time members, our new members and our future members who will help us to increase the depth and breadth of our programming and the reach of our message.

    With 2009 will come the evolution of the Urban Wheat Field, more robust interactive elements, the potential for an at-shelf educational showcase, additional markets, increased member exposure and involvement and more.

    Though I can’t give it all away here, I can assure everyone that what’s next will not disappoint. We plan to continue the momentum, the excitement and the widespread education in bigger and better ways than ever before. There will be more opportunities for members to get involved.


Editor’s Note: For more information on the Wheat Foods Council and its programs, check out