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It's Your Oregon: Katie McNamara

Nice Cubes was Oregon’s first local organic baby-food business, which was launched by McNamara in December 2006. Currently available at 17 natural food stores, including New Seasons, Whole Foods, and People’s Co-op, Nice Cubes looks at, and addresses, the environmental and health impacts of its products from every angle.

It's Your Oregon: Katie McNamara

Katie McNamara and sons

Katie McNamara is a mom.  Like every mom, she is deeply committed to the health and wellbeing of her two sons. Unlike most mothers, Katie has turned this passion into a full time health- and eco-friendly baby-food business.

Nice Cubes was Oregon’s first local organic baby-food business, which was launched by McNamara in December 2006. Currently available at 17 natural food stores, including New Seasons, Whole Foods and People’s Co-op, Nice Cubes looks at, and addresses, the environmental and health impacts of its products from every angle (see www.nicecubesbaby.com for more info).

All Nice Cubes products are certified organic by Oregon Tilth. McNamara chose to take the additional steps to become an organic product, because, “we are not really sure yet the effects that pesticides have on children’s developing organ systems.”  McNamara is also responding to a growing trend of parents who want fresh, nutritious, environmentally responsible food for their children. Indeed, baby food is the fastest growing segment of the organics market, growing 18% last year into a $100 million market.

Nice Cubes is an example of how consumers are increasingly choosing food that is grown and produced locally. Most of the ingredients used in the five Nice Cubes flavors—gentle lentil, perfect pear, sassy squash, sweet potato pie and bandango—are grown at a farm in Corvallis, Oregon.

“People like to know where their food comes from,” says McNamara, “I just put in an order at the beginning of the year and they send me most of the produce I need.” With both of McNamara’s sons featured on Nice Cubes boxes and photography by her husband, it is hard to find a product more home grown.

And because Nice Cubes are frozen, they don't need to be commercially sterilized. This allows the baby food to retain its freshness and taste.

Because children are especially vulnerabile to toxics, such as pesticides, environmentally-healthy products are an easy choice parents can make to help maximize their child’s long-term health. 

As McNamara notes, our kids' bodies and organ systems are still developing. During these critical periods of development it is especially important to reduce their exposure to toxics. For instance, because lead is absorbed in place of calcium when it is present, a 1- to 2-year-old child will absorb 50% of ingested lead, whereas an adult will only absorb 10%. Common environmental toxics have been associated with increased incidence of learning disabilities, developmental delays, birth defects, asthma, and cancer in children.

Simple steps parents can take to reduce their child's exposure to toxics include:

  • minimizing use of plastics #3 and #7 and never microwaving food in plastic;
  • avoiding pesticides and areas recently treated with pesticides;
  • using biodegradable, non-toxic house cleaners;
  • avoiding idling your car for more than 10 seconds; and
  • recycling all products containing mercury, including non-digital thermometers and compact fluorescent and fluorescent light bulbs.

It is obvious from meeting McNamara that she is happy and deeply committed to the socially and environmentally-conscious business she is growing. “I think I get to work with the best market niche,” McNamara says with a smile, "As adults we have all been trained to believe that baby food is gross. That is not the case with Nice Cubes, and my goal is to demonstrate to a new generation of parents that baby food can truly be yummy!"

Click here to check out more ideas and resources at Tiny Footprints.

 
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