Betti Wiggins wants Houston students to eat better. Will Houston help her?

It's lunchtime. A food service worker at Woodson Elementary School in Sunnyside calls Betti Wiggins over. A hip-height first-grader slides her tray down the line. Most of her peers stopped in front of a pile of cheeseburgers and placed their orders, but the girl pushed her Styrofoam tray past the warmer and toward the lettuce. After the worker tops the fresh greens with carrots, chicken and cheese, the girl sits at a cafeteria bench, her colorful fare standing out among the brown burger buns.

Two Houston Restaurants Working To Put Locally Grown on the Menu

Sourcing locally is worth the extra effort but not always that easy. It was neither flash nor fanfare that inspired Aaron Lyons to start a restaurant that serves meals made from local produce. It was hunger for something new. “There were only a handful of farm-to-table restaurants,” says Lyons of Houston before the entrepreneur opened Dish Society in 2014. “They were James Beard-y—not a place I’d go twice a week when I had 30 minutes for lunch.” So Lyons opened the kind of place he wanted to see

Why can't urban farming feed Houston?

Tommy Garcia-Prats grows his greens just blocks from a Metro train that cuts through Loop 610. He started the farm with two of his brothers in 2014, and it's become a Second Ward staple. The harvest of eggplant, peppers and arugula is ample for a farm that sits on just three-quarters of an acre, and, under the watchful shade of three oak trees, life is bustling at Finca Tres Robles. Butterflies whir through herb bushes while moringa trees dance in the breeze. Nearby residents pick up bags of whatever fruits, vegetables and herbs are in season with the neighborhood discount. Students amble along rows of tomatoes, pausing now and then to pick a snack. Locals seat themselves at wooden picnic tables to savor a communal meal made from a recent harvest.

Everything's Bigger in Texas—Except Its Support for Small Farmers

Judith McGeary wanted answers that the State of Texas wasn’t willing to give, so the lawyer-turned-farmer fought the law—and won. When McGeary learned she needed a food manufacturer’s license to keep selling meat at her local farmers’ markets, she contacted the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) for clarification. “The response was, ‘that’s for you to decide,’” says McGeary. Without the license, McGeary would have been unable to store packaged meat in a home freezer during the da

Blue Needle In A Red Haystack: Why One Texas Woman Is Taking on the Odds This November

An expectant mother goat bleats at Lisa Seger from a wooden stall perched on the 10-acre Blue Heron Farm. In a few hours, labor will turn to delivery, and Seger will help the Nubian birth two kids. Seger’s fuchsia bangs brush her cat-eye glasses as she meets the goat’s gaze, smiling and cooing words of encouragement. Though the pose seems natural, it’s one she had to learn. In 2006, the farmer and her husband, Christian, were urbanites who took a goat raising class in Houston on a whim. At the

Advocates Speak Up as Ghost Bikes Run Out

Houston Ghost Bike organizer Steve Sims was scrambling to find a bike for Sudipta Roy. Two days after a dump truck driver killed the 30-year-old woman at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Main Street near Rice University in April, Sims sounded the alarm on the Houston Ghost Bike Facebook page: “I hate that this has happened but we’ve officially run out of bikes.” For five years Sims and a group of volunteers have monitored the rising rate of cyclist fatalities — over 50 since 2013, by th

In the Arizona Desert, Tucson Models Affordable Food Access

Tucson is a foodie town. But rather than artisan breads and local avocados drawing crowds of tourists, it’s the relationship between diverse plants and people that earned it the distinction of being the first UNESCO City of Gastronomy in the United States in 2015. The UNESCO distinction came as a result of Tucson’s long agricultural history and its wide-ranging efforts to preserve its food heritage and increase access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods for all residents. And a recent repo

Race Matters When Reporting on Police Shootings

Unarmed Black man. Seldom, if ever, is the phrase used to describe anything but a police killing like the one that took place last week on the streets of Greenspoint in Houston where Harris County Deputy Cameron Brewer killed Danny Ray Thomas, an unarmed Black man. Initial news stories like those from Houston Chronicle, ABC 13 and the Associated Press reported that Thomas was unarmed when he was killed by Brewer on March 22, but most omitted the fact that Thomas was Black. In eliding that detai

Making Almond Milk Is Wasteful, but It Doesn’t Have to Be

Stroll through the Eastside Farmers Market on a Saturday morning and it won’t take long to spot someone sipping from a glass bottle coyly labeled “NOT MILK” in the font once used for a nationwide dairy campaign. Call them not-milks, call them nut-milks, call them what you will, beverages made from nuts are crowding cow milk out of the American refrigerator, but they’re also wasting opportunity for culinary ingenuity by the gallon. Over the last five years almond milk sales have skyrocketed up 2

Where To Satisfy A Chocolate Craving In Houston

There’s never a bad way to eat chocolate, whether it’s drizzled on a waffle, enjoyed with a glass of wine, or sipped all by itself as velvety cup of hot cocoa. Houston has a rich collection of talented chocolatiers and pastry chefs that churn out treats of all shapes, sizes, and flavors, from bars crafted with coffee beans, to colorful candies infused with spices, to fluffy crepes marbled with shaved “shawarma chocolate.” The plethora of amazing choices makes it difficult to compile roundup of

The Beto O’Rourke Campaign Took Over Houston Last Weekend

Pouring rain didn’t deter the line of people waiting outside to see Congressman Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke speak in a Missouri City courtroom on Saturday. From the front door to the judge’s bench in the back, the room was packed with approximately 300 citizens, grandmothers, parents, children, activists, and curious onlookers waiting to hear from man aiming to unseat Ted Cruz in November. O’Rourke waited in the courtroom aisle, rolling up his sleeves as Judge Joel Clouser, Sr. delivered a l

How Houston Chefs Collaborate With Refugee Farmers to Produce Some of the City’s Best Dishes

Once the bright greens wilt into dark tendrils, Chef Adam Dorris of Presidio Restaurant will braise the coils of baby bok choy in the juice of a cut of beef chuck from a nearby cattle ranch. But for now, the leaves and stems sizzle on a flat top cooker, waiting to take their place on a new special that features sweet potatoes and pureed sunchokes. For years, the chef has served greens grown by the founding farmers of Plant It Forward Farms, one of the first farms in the Houston city limits and

North America’s Only Native Tea Plant Is Back — And So Is Its Complicated History

From the James River in Virginia to the Rio Grande in Texas, there’s a powerful crop masquerading as a weed. A lot of landowners burn the yaupon brush, calling it an invasive species. Others pay professionals to remove the effusive plant. Nick Panzarella and his friends are about to make tea out of it. The 26-year-old Kingwood native and his crew will spend the morning romping around his uncle’s “gentleman’s farm” in New Caney, about 30 miles north of downtown Houston. Sitting on several acres,

Where to Find Crispy, Flaky Baklava In Houston

Beloved around the world, baklava is a lot like beer in that it refers not to a single type of pastry, but to an entire classification of sweets. Though it’s understood that the dish will typically contain some combination of phyllo dough and nuts drenched in syrup, baklava can mean anything from a fat triangle stuffed with walnuts, to a flaky square full of pistachios. Various renditions of the sweet treat claim roots in Greece, Turkey, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East dating back hundre

A sitting duck? It's an especially active hurricane season — is Tampa Bay all that prepared?

Cat Modlin-JacksonIt happens every summer; the fear that strikes with four words: “A hurricane is forming.” Last week Tampa Bay braced itself for Harvey, but the storm ultimately trained its wrath on Houston. This week there’s talk of Hurricane Irma, which rapidly developed into a powerful storm Thursday and as of Tuesday was a Category 5 storm aimed at Florida. As of CL's print deadline, where or even if Irma makes landfall is anyone’s guess. This time last September, classes were cancelled an

A pedestrian-friendly facelift for Tampa's congested Fowler Avenue?

Cat Modlin-JacksonFowler Avenue is a six to eight-lane concrete slab that few would describe as safe, let alone charming. Situated between I-275 and I-75, Fowler runs along some of Tampa’s big-name employers, including the University of South Florida. Drivers heading east from I-275 pass budget hotels, gas stations, parking lots and strip malls. Pedestrians roast in the mostly unshaded sidewalks separated from the road by overgrown ditches. Crosswalks are few and far between. Alongside the ditch

Bitter pill: How is Florida handling its opioid addiction crisis?

Cat Modlin-JacksonEvelyn Wesel rips up T-shirts and twists the fabric into braids, weaving charms and ornaments into what become works of art. But the 31-year-old is not your average artisan hipster. Wesel has just celebrated one year of full-time entrepreneurship and two years of sobriety, and now she’s donating part of her profits to a fund for addiction treatment. Heroin and other opioids continue to shock communities throughout the country, with as many as 10 people a day dying from opioid

Castor, Shaw rail against GOP Florida lawmakers' "education" bill

Cat Modlin-JacksonFlorida lawmakers made public education a private matter and they did it wrong, say education advocates. On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Tampa) called on Governor Rick Scott to veto a massive education bill that advocates say would fund charter schools at the expense of public schools. And she wasn't alone. Standing in front of West Tampa Elementary School, State Rep. Sean Shaw (D-Tampa), Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins, parents, school board mem

Getting there from here: America’s cycling renaissance needs to be about more than fun and fetish

Cat Modlin-JacksonSteps away from the Florida State University campus in Tallahassee there’s a 6,000-square-foot warehouse known as Bicycle House. Inside, hundreds of bicycles line the floor, surrounded by walls of tools and wheel rims dangling from the ceiling. There, founder Scot Benton works with volunteers to fix up used bicycles for locals. The fee? Free. The operation is entirely donation-based. Benton, a sinewy man with a serious face, described Bicycle House as a “non-hipster kind of pl
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