Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Shout-out to our Sponsors

One of the most amazing, inspiring things about being part of this program has been all of the strong, widespread support we have received. It's so wonderful to see the ways in which this community works together. I'd like to take a few minutes to talk about some of our main supporters and sponsors, in terms of food, resources, and general good karma.

Community Food Initiatives is an Athens-based nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing local food security and self-reliance. They are responsible for a number of programs around the county, including community gardens, workshops, and the Donation Station.

The Donation Station sets up a booth at the Athens Farmers Market every Wednesday and Saturday. Shoppers at the market can make donations of food or money to the booth; the money is then used to purchase fresh vegetables from the farmers vending at the market. The farmers, for their part, regularly donate extra produce that they have on hand. This was how we got a large percentage of our food for the SFSP, especially the fresh fruit and vegetables. Sometimes we had to get creative to use whatever happened to be in season, but personally I feel like that's the best way to cook!

We absolutely could not have done this without Kids on Campus. Based through Ohio University, this program offers ongoing enrichment at many sites throughout the county. It provides a mixture of educational, recreational, and nutritional activities through after-school and summer programs. CFI partnered with KoC for the summer program at Fed Hock, and we were very lucky to do so, as they provided resources, funding, staff - and just the fact that they supported our very ambitious project speaks worlds.

Shagbark Seed & Mill is a company based in Athens that focuses on producing and providing staple beans and grains. These elements compose a major part of our diet, yet usually they are sourced from thousands of miles away. Through a grant from the Wallace Foundation, we used their spelt (an ancient form of wheat that is more nutritious & easier to digest) flour, spelt berries, and amaranth grain. We made muffins, pancakes, breakfast cereal, and so much more with this fresh local product, and really enjoyed the support of this forward-thinking company.

We went through a LOT of Snowville milk this summer. Produced just down the road in Meigs County from happy, grass-fed cows, this fresh, non-homogenized, flash-pasteurized milk is chock-full of creamy nutrition. We received invaluable support from the folks over at Snowville (and a few donations!), and every time we needed more, a few crates of milk "the way it used to be" that was just as fresh as could be was delivered for our use. Once the kids got used to the idea that their milk was not going to be full of corn syrup and food coloring, they drank it down!

Crumbs Bakery has been turning out healthy, tasty bread products in Athens for decades. We used their bread for sandwiches and French toast, their pizza dough for breadsticks, their scones for breakfast (and tasty snacking!), sandwich buns for sloppy Joes. They sell at the Athens Farmers Market on Saturdays, so we were able to procure a lot of their whole-wheat bread via generous donations to the Donation Station. Throughout, they too provided enthusiastic support and were ever willing to spend time putting together an order for us.

The Appalachian Staple Foods Collaborative supports Shagbark and works "to create a model staple food system that gives farmers a market for growing healthy, high nutrition beans, grain, and oil seed. We want to see staple food farming move away from chemical dependent and low nutrition GMOs to crops and methods that help us feed each other while caring for the soil, the very foundation of good, healthy food."

Ohio Foodshed is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in supporting local food. One great connection through this website is the Chesterhill Produce Auction. Located about 40 minutes away from Athens, this biweekly event brings together farmers who grow in large quantities and can thus sell cheaply and people who need to buy a lot - or even a little. Bidding commences. Duane, master of the Donation Station, made frequent trips to the auction for us to acquire some fresh produce. What a great resource!

The Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks is the one who signs our checks (those of the four Americorps/VISTAs who have been working away this summer!). Located in Columbus, they organize and collaborate with Ohio's 12 Feeding America foodbanks and provide constant support for increasing food security in our state.

I'm going to stop here for now; if I excluded any organization from this list, it was surely unintentional. There's a long list of individuals who have also contributed countless amounts of time, energy, support, love, etc, etc. who hopefully someday I will have time to come through and thank.

Continuing Culinary Creations

It's hard to believe that it was just last week that we were still in the throes of the SFSP! So much got accomplished last week; I feel that in a lot of ways we were really just beginning to hit our stride, in terms of food preparation and working with the kids. However, all of us who've been working with the program are equally exhausted, so amid the bittersweet farewell I think we breathed a collective sigh of relief.

One way or the other, I wanted to share with you some of the meals we prepared over the last few days. On Wednesday morning for breakfast, we toasted Crumbs cinnamon-currant bread and served it with scrambled-farm fresh eggs loaded with plenty of fresh cheese - a perennial favorite among the kids. All of our meals this week were complete with an array of fresh fruit - a testament to the hot summer growing season and our generous local farmers' ample bounty. One morning we had enough extra peaches, apples, and other fruit to cook up a batch of fresh applesauce!

Thursday's lunch was another smorgasbord of color, roundly filling the plates with exciting food. We made hummus, a delectable, savory dip made from chickpeas, and served it with fresh veggies, whole-wheat pita, and organic corn chips for dipping. An Italian-inspired vegetable salad and a hard-boiled egg rounded out this meal, perfectly light for a hot summer's afternoon.

We stayed busy in the classroom, too. This week's lesson reviewed the food groups, serving sizes, and the nutrients contained therein. We also got to have a little treat, also perfect for a summer's afternoon, as Cindy and Dane showed the kids how to make fresh whipped cream, which they lavished over fresh-cut melon and Crumbs scones. How fancy (and delicious!)

The week continued a-hustle and a-bustle. We whipped up one last batch of toasty oat breakfast cereal (aka granola), which served with an assortment of fresh fruit, went over very well. The last morning, breakfast was a sweet bread pudding, although in retrospect we probably ought to have named it something other than "pudding" as a cooked breakfast pudding differs just a little from Jell-O chocolate pudding. Nevertheless, it turned out wonderfully and went over very well. Even to the last, the kids were taking any new stuff we could throw at them and gamely eating it! I'm really impressed by these students; they experienced at least one new food every day for five weeks, and kept coming back.

For lunch the last day, we had a special treat! Campers were invited to bring their parents, siblings, friends, etc, and the camp had a celebration of sorts. A talent show and dance party took place, among many other fun activities. And for lunch? Hot, fresh pizza! We made the whole-wheat dough from scratch the night before and loaded it with mixed cheeses and colorful fresh bell peppers. Delicioso!

But lunch Friday was not limited just to delectable pizzas. Amid the gala festivities, I didn't get a chance to take any more pictures, but we had a green salad (in fact, two enormous buckets of green salad for all the guests!), the ever-popular ants on a log (celery + natural peanut butter + currants), and beautiful fruit kebabs threaded with small watermelon and cantaloupe balls, pineapple, grapes, and strawberries, and served in a hollowed-out watermelon bowl. We had a lot of help putting this meal together; the Kids on Campus VISTAs did a beautiful job with the kebabs, and everyone teamed up to make lunch, and the whole camp, something to be proud of.