July 1, 2014 10:00

Daphne Olivier doesn't need a whistle around her neck to help food consumers make sensible choices.

Photos by Tyler F. Thigpen  
Food coach Daphne Olivier says son Alex is being raised "a country boy." One of Alex's chores is to gather eggs from the family's chicken coop.  

In this age of "big agriculture"- where companies like Monsanto and Syngenta have lobbyists politicking to control the foods consumers have access to - a passion for local foods has evolved into a form of activism. Slow foods supporters know their farmers, know where their foods are grown, and advocate (strong and loud) for the processes by which these foods are produced. Businesses like farm-to-table restaurants, local foods delivery services and other specialized pursuits that cater to local foods lovers are becoming increasingly popular. My Food Coach, a food coaching business that educates patrons on how to eat healthily, often incorporating slow foods, is an example of unique business that incorporates local, sustainable foods into the business philosophy and practices.

"In my practice, I work with people who are working to improve their eating habits, either for health and wellness or for specific disease processes," says Daphne Olivier, owner of My Food Coach. "I work with them individually or in groups. I merge traditional nutrition with a modern kitchen providing meal plans and recipes, and offer services like grocery store tours, and Pantry Parties, where I go into someone's home and review their pantry, refrigerator and freezer and teach them what products to use and stay away from. I also offer some lab testing such as food sensitivity testing, digestive analysis, and Spectra-cell testing to evaluate the nutrient deficiencies at a cellular level."

Olivier, a UL Lafayette alumna, founded My Food Coach in 2010 after working as a dietician in hospitals in Tampa and New Orleans and deciding that a less conventional approach to nutrition education was a more appropriate career path. Her passion for local foods and her interest in helping others developed into My Food Coach, a turn-key nutrition and dietetics business.

"Daphne is smart, careful, thorough and passionate about what she does," says Dawn Gotreaux, co-owner/operator of Gotreaux Family Farms. "She did a class for some of my close friends and me with the focus on carbs - exactly what they were, when to consume them, the effects it has on our bodies and whether the carbs would be used as fuel or used to pack extra weight on us. There were lots of ah ha' moments."

In addition to incorporating her love of local foods into her business, Olivier is co-director of Acadiana Food Circle and a proponent for the legalization of raw milk.

Earlier this year, Olivier worked with a small group of community members and Reps. Stephen Ortego and Mike Danahay to legalize the sale of farm-fresh, unpasteurized milk. The bill successfully passed the House of Representatives Agricultural Committee (9-7) and the House of Representatives (80 percent support).

The bill lost 4-1 in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, but it gained a lot of community backing along the way. No doubt, politicians will be seeing more of this effort in the future.

"I got passionate about this for two main reasons," says Olivier. "One, because I believe there is a great nutritional benefit to drinking raw milk over pasteurized.

Studies show the benefit for people specifically with allergies and asthma, lactose intolerance, ALS and many digestive disorders. Two, because in a state where we can purchase raw oysters, raw fish, raw chicken, eggs, etc., and we can purchase alcohol and tobacco, I think it's hypocritical for the government to say that we can't purchase raw milk."

When Olivier isn't politicking for raw milk, teaching others how to live healthier lives, writing a quarterly column for Love How You Feel Acadiana, or helping run a nonprofit, she is a mom and a wife. Olivier and her husband - who have a 6-year-old son and have fostered four children in the past two years - sit down as a family each night for communion over a meal produced by farmers Olivier knows personally. And introducing her son, Alex, to where his food comes from is a priority.

"I am raising a country boy," says Olivier. "My father-in-law is an apiarist, and we have yearly honey harvest with the whole family - all seven of my husband's siblings, their significant others, and children. Alex has been a part of raising our chickens. One of his chores is to get the eggs from the chicken coop. He's watched a chicken harvest,' helped prepare fish caught by my husband for a fish frywe watched the butchering of the last cow we purchased, he picks vegetables in our family gardens. At our house, food is a way of life. Everything from harvest to meal preparation, to sitting down with the family and eating supper every night. This is where we connect to each other."

Tyler F. Thigpen is a wetland ecologist, past president of Acadiana Food Circle (www.AcadianaFoodCircle.org) and co-coordinator of Pig & Plough Suppers, a slow foods dinner series celebrating our Louisiana foodways by promoting chef collaborations that feature foods grown and raised in South Louisiana.

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