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Making Smart Choices: Organic Produce
When to splurge and when to save on organic food

We’ve all heard the terms organic, cage-free, free-range eggs, multigrain, etc. But what do they mean? Better yet, are these foods worth it? With inflation is at an all-time high, it’s important to be smart when grocery shopping. This week, we will be discussing organic produce. 

1. Understanding Organic Produce

2. When to Buy Organic: The “Dirty 12” and “Clean 15”

3. Local Farmers’ Markets in South LA

Understanding Organic Produce

First, it’s important to note that organic doesn’t necessarily mean better or more nutritious. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) produce is certified as organic if it has been grown without synthetic (meaning manmade) fertilizers and pesticides in the last three (3) years. Exceptions to this rule may be granted with USDA approval. This means that organic produce may not be more nutritious than non-organic; it simply has fewer pesticides. To learn more about which substances are allowed, visit the USDA website.

When to Buy Organic: The “Dirty 12” and “Clean 15”

For nearly 20 years, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has conducted annual tests on fruits and vegetables. Their findings identify which products can be bought conventionally and which are recommended for organic purchase. EWG ranks the produce and divides them into two (2) categories: Dirty 12 and Clean 15.

Dirty 12– Produce to Buy Organic

These products have higher pesticide residue– chemicals meant to protect plants from pests, but potentially harmful to humans. It is therefore recommended to purchase these products organically; look for the USDA Certified Organic sticker.


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  1. Strawberries
    • Spinach
    • Kales, Collard & Mustard Greens
    • Nectarines
    • Apples
    • Grapes
    • Bell & Hot Peppers
    • Cherries
    • Peaches
    • Pears
    • Celery
    • Tomatoes

    Clean 15– Produce to Buy Conventionally

    The following items have little to no traces of pesticides and are safe to purchase conventionally- saving you extra cash while adding nutrition to your meals!

    1. Avocados
    2. Sweet Corn*
    3. Pineapple
    4. Onions
    5. Papaya*
    6. Sweet Peas (frozen)
    7. Asparagus
    8. Honeydew Melon
    9. Kiwi
    10. Cabbage
    11. Mushrooms
    12. Cantaloupe
    13. Mangos
    14. Watermelon
    15. Sweet Potatoes

    *EWG has noted that the sweet corn, papaya and summer squash sold in the United States are reproduced from genetically modified seeds. To steer clear of genetically modified produce, they suggest buying these products organically.

    Packaging produce for shipment often requires preservatives and/or chemicals. Therefore, we recommend shopping at your local farmers’ market for produce. Shopping locally allows for a healthier community and may be a safer alternative. 

    Local Farmer’s Markets in South LA

    Central Avenue Farmers’ Market

    Offers fresh produce and dried nuts. It is open on Thursdays from 9am-2pm and is located at 4301 South Central St, Los Angeles (on Central and 43rd street). They accept CalFresh EBT, WIC, and even offer a Market Match, which doubles CalFresh up to $10/day. Be sure to stop by the information booth for your Market Match. Learn more here

    Crenshaw Farmers’ Market

    Can’t make it out on Thursdays? No problem! Visit Crenshaw Farmer’s Market on Saturdays between 10am and 3pm. The market is located at the AFIBA Center (Fire Station 54) parking lot- 5730 Crenshaw Blvd, Los Angeles. They also accept CalFresh EBT, WIC, and will Market Match. 

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