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Natural Awakenings Sarasota / Manatee / Charlotte

Where Your Food Comes from and Why It Matters: Q&A with Café Evergreen

by Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer  

According to a recent poll from the University of Minnesota, less than 25 percent of Americans trust information about where the food they eat is grown or sourced from, as well as how it’s manufactured for consumption. This might seem like a low number, but as it turns out, we as consumers do have legitimate reasons to be skeptical. 

An essential part of making wholesome dietary choices is becoming more informed about the nutritional profile of the foods we seek out. Are they cultivated with ethical, sustainable practices in mind? Do they contain ingredients found in nature, or are they injected with artificial fillers and chemicals that can harm our bodies? What about the labels on these food items? Are they transparent, or do they omit some crucial details? 

Considering that March is “National Nutrition Month,” I want to use this installment of the Community Spotlight to delve into the current state of our American foodways—so we can all contribute to healthier solutions. To lead this conversation, I reached out to Ted Weinberger, chef and co-owner of Café Evergreen in Nokomis. He was kind enough to share a wealth of insights, information and action steps below.  

Natural Awakenings: Why is it often harder to purchase nutritious, high-quality food here in the United States than it is in many other countries?  

Ted Weinberger: In the U.S., consumers are at a disadvantage when it comes to making informed choices about their food. That’s because our nation’s FDA is reactive, while FDA agencies in other parts of the world are precautionary. As such, our food ingredients or additives are innocent until proven guilty, whereas many other countries do not allow the use of an additive unless it’s definitively safe.  

As a result, you will often see ingredients in our food that you can also find in yoga mats and hair straighteners. Our food labels are not required to print this information either. Most countries have a mandatory listing of the 14 food allergens, which must be posted in the ingredient section. But here, it’s only required to list eight of those allergens. We also have no control of the labeling on GMO foods, whereas other countries must label all GMO food items—or ban these ingredients entirely.   

NA: How can our modern scientific advancements work to improve the quality, availability, and nutritional density of this nation's food supply?  

Weinberger: We can use science as a way to measure which food supply methods are currently working. But we can also use it to determine which methods we want to experiment with and implement in the future. Science also helps us to track the effects of climate change and its consequences on our food chain. 

To offer some real-world examples, we know it requires five times more fungicides and six times more pesticides to grow tomatoes in Florida than it does in California. Therefore, science tells us certain produce varieties should not be grown in a sub-tropical climate with sand for soil. Also in 2022, we canceled the Alaskan snow crab season due to billions of snow crabs dying off as a result of their native waters becoming too warm.  

NA: Based on your own personal and professional insights, why should we strive to eliminate our intake of processed or artificial ingredients if at all possible?  

Weinberger: I believe the human body is overwhelmed with artificial, processed ingredients. Our systems are not meant to function in this way, but there are simple adjustments you can make. First, look for “non-GMO” and "100% organic” labels on the food items you consume. Whenever possible, use fresh ingredients rather than processed items, as these contain both salt and sugar as cheap, unhealthy preservatives. Then, be sure to detoxify with certain herbs, anti-inflammatory foods or infrared saunas.  

To become a more informed consumer, cut down on chemicals and ingredients not meant for human consumption. If enough Americans choose to stop buying foods that contain these ingredients, the marketplace will reflect this choice, and those foods will not be as prevalent. Do not expect the government to prioritize health—take initiative for yourself.  

NA: Where does Café Evergreen source its ingredients from, and how does your restaurant make healthy food more accessible here in Southwest Florida?   

Weinberger: Here at Café Evergreen, we’ve been using nutritious foods from all-natural sources for over 14 years. We partner with an organic micro-green purveyor in Englewood, an organic hydroponic grower in North Port and an organic coffee roaster in Tampa. Our matcha tea comes from a family’s 700-year-old farm that also grows tea for the Japanese emperor.  

We also focus on healthy preparation to maintain the food’s nutritional integrity. We don’t use fryers, and we choose to make all of our dressings, soups, sauces, and other condiments or seasonings in-house. By making these items from scratch, we can monitor the salt and sugar content. For our customers with dietary intolerances or preferences, we also list the ingredients in plain English, rather than unpronounceable chemical terms.  

NA: What advice or information would you share with someone who wants to improve their eating habits, but is not exactly sure where to start?  

Weinberger: In order to improve your eating habits, be aware of how companies in the U.S. use legal phrases to fool the consumer. For instance, consider the label “organic.” To most of us, this means GMO-free. However, the truth is, “organic” foods can actually contain GMO ingredients.  Therefore, you need to look for a “100% organic” label to be completely safe. Another simple but effective way to safeguard your own health is to avoid salts, sugars or other processed ingredients. Remember, fresh is best.  

Café Evergreen is located at 801 S Tamiami Trail, Nokomis, Florida 34275. The juice and smoothie bar is open Monday–Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Friday–Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. The café is open Monday–Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Friday–Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Breakfast is also served on Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call 941-412-4334 or visit 

March 2023 Digital Edition











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