Wednesday, February 23, 2011

food bank triumphs

My work food situation is a little weird. The extra 8 pounds on me since starting the job would tell you this.

Basically, there is TONS of it and it is always around, and I am always all up in it.

The afterschool program at which I work serves low-income children and, as such, gets money from the Capital Area Food Bank to give the kids a daily “snack” (more like dinner). An official part of my job is processing weekly food bank deliveries, preparing and serving the snack, and writing reports about it.

An unofficial fact is that kids are picky eaters and there is always a ton of extra food which we feel compelled and/or lured to eat.

A work lunch:

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Hot tea (a necessity), leftover yogurt (the kids actually LOVE yogurt. I wish it were something more feasible to donate during a food drive or something. It’s so nutrient-rich! Incidentally, if you’re looking to make a donation, may I recommend oatmeal? It’s a whole grain and our kids LOVE it, even if it does seem slightly random as an afterschool snack), apple slices (from home), and a taco salad.

Now, let’s talk about this taco salad. The lettuce I brought from home, but the topping was black bean-pineapple-cheddar salsa. Classy, no?

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The cool part? Our kiddos made it! The food bank offers a program called Kids Cook that sends volunteers (who are well-meaning and enthusiastic, if ever so slightly inexperienced with children) to teach the kids simple recipes (meaning ones that do not involve knives/stoves/measuring/etc.) that they can make at home.

Jarred salsa+ canned pineapple and black beans+ shredded cheese is ADDICTIVE! And includes an impressive quantity of food groups.

As for that beautiful sandwich I had the other week during that picnic?

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Along with avocado, it was filled with a recipe that was also culled from Kids Cook leftovers.

The previous week they’d made mashed bean burritos (it involved sticking pinto beans in a bag and punching them. Good times!) and there was leftover filling of the aforementioned black beans and more salsa and cheddar.

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I brought that home and, wishing to amp up the vitamins and amp down the fat, I decided to stretch it out with some beautiful local butternut squashed.

Cubed and sauteed for awhile til golden…

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Then in went the bean mixture, plus some extra salsa I had on hand, plus some water for stew-ification, and I let that all cook until the squash was tender (as an added bonus, the cheese had gotten all melty and awesome. It was beautiful to behold!)

The ensuing dish was SO MEATY! Something happens when mashed pinto beans, butternut squash, and cheddar cheese meet! Totally vegetarian and this STUCK TO YO’ RIBS!

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Plus some roasted squash seeds :D Waste not, want not!

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The cooking part of my job is definitely a lot of work: I make a meal for 40 people every single day.

Sometimes that means setting out trail mix, but I’m often cutting up fruit (I am stoked that they send fresh produce and don’t at all begrudge the time it takes to prepare it but multiply 40 oranges into 8 slices and it takes aWHILE), or making stovetop recipes on an extremely large scale (8 boxes of mac and cheese, anyone?).

Some of the food bank ingredients that they send are just challenging to make appealing to children, who in general are reluctant to try new things and are highly distrustful of vegetables.

The latest case in point? Canned carrots. Canned diced carrots. Honestly, even my coworkers and I were skeeved out.

The solution popped into my head: carrot cake muffins! Disguise vegetables in a sweet and delicious outer shell! Create a marketing campaign that says CAKE, not carrots!

I googled vegan carrot cake muffin recipes (due to the fact that the food is sent long distance in a truck, we absolutely never have eggs; they’d be totally impractical) and settled on this one, which I amended by tripling it, substituting canned carrots, omitting walnuts, etc.

The result?

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EVERY SINGLE CHILD ate one. I was so stinkin’ proud.

2 comments:

Rebecca said...

I love the idea of "kids cook"-- i think it's so important that we instill values in them in this every-increasing fast paced/busy life!

Lydia said...

When I was at PSO I talked to another VISTA who is working with the Capital Area Food Bank (I think she works with DC Hunger Solutions, or no, this person works with DC Central Kitchen!) about your Food Bank issues (the picky children and the too much food, specifically). I don't know if she did anything but I could talk to her again!!

ALSO your post is kind of my life right now. Today for lunch I am eating lentil mess on top of a pile of spinach in a paper bowl. As it was heating, I was looking around at the warehouse food and there were canned carrots!! I thought that was strange.. glad you made use of them. It was a TEFAP allotment so you probably have the same ones our food bank has. Ah, the USDA.. I think it tries, but it don't always win.

Also your trip to New York looked like a lot of fun! We should talk sometime!