When Jackie Buffaloe talks about "whole grains," she hopes to plant "little seeds" in the minds of consumers, cooks, bakers and — most importantly — children.
Buffaloe's nonprofit educational program, Hands on Grains, put whole grains into the hands of some local elementary-school students this past year. This summer, the 70-year-old Eagle Point resident is bringing her cooking and baking lessons to several Medford venues, including summer camps on farms that grow grains.
"In order for there to be a market here, people need to know what to do with them," says Wendy Siporen, executive director of THRIVE, a local nonprofit economic-development and food-advocacy group.
Medford nutrition counselor Kellie Hill also endorses Buffaloe's take on incorporating whole grains into a healthful diet. Hill's The Right Plan is hosting two July classes with Buffaloe. The first features whole grains in salads; the second walks participants through baking bagels with whole grains.
"She's going to provide them one way to get these whole grains into their diets," says Hill.
Buffaloe's classes contrast breads and other products containing refined flours that nevertheless may be labeled "whole" and those baked with truly whole grains. She grinds whole wheat, kamut, spelt and buckwheat into flour immediately before baking her weekly bread. Buffaloe planned to demonstrate the same start-to-finish process in a class last week at The Right Plan and will repeat it for next month's bagel class.
"They're gonna walk away with their own bread," says Hill of participants' results. "I'm not really a baker, so I was really excited to meet her."
Buffaloe's classes, says Hill, are timely companions for the government's recently released dietary guidelines, dubbed MyPlate. Replacing the food pyramid devised in 1993, the new guide illustrates a plate comprising half fruits and vegetables, the other half mostly whole grains with a smaller amount of lean protein.
Among the "key consumer messages" written in large red type is: "Make at least half your grains whole grains."
"I feel it's so important, and particularly now it seems to be a wide-open door," says Buffaloe, insisting that baking bread only takes about 20 minutes of hands-on time.
Although there's been buzz around whole grains for about a decade, most people still talk about "grains" in terms of bread and pasta, says Hill. Rice, she adds, is about the only grain her clients consume in its mostly whole form.
"If we didn't have Chinese restaurants ... I don't know if they'd get that."
Hill says she introduces clients to grains such as amaranth, buckwheat, millet and quinoa, which originated in other cultures and are commonplace in the natural-foods movement. All can be purchased from local grocers' bulk and natural-foods sections and eaten simply steamed. If soaked overnight, preparation can be cut to five minutes, says Hill.
"I try to get people to eat it plain," she says. "You can't have a more instant breakfast."
Yet Hill, who holds a bachelor's degree in nutrition from Kaplan University and certification from the Nutritional Therapy Association, says she expects to learn from Buffaloe's 30-year commitment to eating whole grains in a plant-based diet.
"I use them practically for every meal," says Buffaloe. "It's so sustaining."
Reach Food Editor Sarah Lemon at 541-76-4487 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.