Breaking Bread and Sharing Learnings

Posted November 6, 2014

Nutrition Expert Recollects on Wheat Safari Adventures

I met Christine Palumbo at the 2014 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo. This Chicago-based registered dietitian nutritionist participated in both the 2012 and 2014 Wheat Safari. After the conference, we connected to chat about what she learned about wheat during her visits to Kansas and North Dakota. 

Christine Palumbo, MBA, RDN, FAND, quickly pointed out that she is Italian, so good bread and great pasta are never absent from her pantry shelves. When asked why she decided to travel from her Chicago suburb home to wheat fields in Kansas in 2012 and North Dakota in 2014, she simply replied, “I got an invitation.”

“I just had to be there. I was intrigued and I wanted to find out more,” she elaborated. “I knew I would learn a lot, breaking bread and sharing learnings with an amazing group of nutrition leaders. And I did.”

Photo: Palumbo at AIB International.
Palumbo is one of 25 of the nation’s top nutrition bloggers, freelance food writers, dieticians and health professionals that the 2012 Wheat Safari, sponsored by the Wheat Foods Council, brought to Kansas for a three day, firsthand experience from farm to fork. The event included riding the combine on Ken Wood’s farm near Chapman, a hands-on baking workshop at AIB International, a tour of Kansas State University’s Hal Ross demonstration flour mill and a visit to the Farm to Market Bread Co. bakery in Kansas City. A second Wheat Safari took place in North Dakota in 2014

The Wheat Safari, however, was not Palumbo’s first wheat education. Dr. Julie Miller Jones, who Palumbo referred to as “a walking encyclopedia about grains,” was one of Palumbo’s professors at St. Catherine University. 

Jones is an expert in gut health. Her 2014 Wheat Safari presentation expanded Palumbo’s understanding of whole wheat foods and improving beneficial microbes, a topic receiving more attention in the medical world. She quoted Jones, “Feed your gut, do not just feed your heart.”

Palumbo has integrated her Kansas wheat field lessons into her work, including her Good Sense Eating column for Chicago Parent, regular appearances on a Chicago AM radio food show and expert insight to national and local media outlets. 

At the end of January, she is speaking on nutrition myths at an event in her hometown Naperville, a large suburb of Chicago. Her sneak peek includes information on the gluten free diet fad. 

The Wheat Safari events armed her with the facts – that gluten free diets are often low in fiber, low in nutrients, high in glycemic carbohydrates and more costly.

“Having information presented to me allows me to choose the right words,” she said. 

Even the best know-how, however, can’t compare with meeting wheat farmers and their families. 

“I learned about farming culture, how important it is to be good stewards, almost a calling for them,” she said. “It is a privilege to be in that type of position, and it was a privilege to meet them.”  

Find out more about Palumbo on her website.  

By Julia Debes

Photo: Palumbo in wheat field.