Kitchen Scrap Gardening Offers Hands-On Learning

How Compost Can Support Experiential Learning

While almost all food scraps make great compost, certain scraps can make something even more wonderful – more food! Families can engage in hands-on experiential learning by collecting bits of these special foods and creating their own mini-gardens. Young gardeners can learn about how plants grow, and can enjoy delicious homegrown foods with ease! Read how in our post, 17 Kitchen Scraps Born Anew for Experiential Learning.

[Photo credit: (cc) mannewaar]

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The Art & Science of Fermentation

Lessons in Local Food Preservation

Western Mass really drops an abundance of local food into our laps every summer! It’s an incredible bounty that brings with it a possibility of some waste, as storage can prove difficult. Enter Fermentation…a healthy and educational technique to repurpose delicious & healthy food into… delicious & healthy food! Did we mention fermentation is also educational? Involve your kids and they’ll get some experience with cellular biology & chemistry. Read on for some excellent insights in our post, Learn About Local Food & Chemistry through Fermentation.

[Photo credit: (cc) feministjulie]

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Summer Opportunities to Connect People to Place through Wild and Cultivated Food

Summer Opportunities to Connect People to Place through Wild and Cultivated Food

Summer offers learning opportunities that integrate culinary arts with botany and agriculture. In addition to many, year-round offerings of culinary workshops and resources in Western Massachusetts, seasonal events such as guided wild plant walks can open up new doorways of interests and add local, fresh ingredients to your cooking practice.

Whether you are interested in wild plant walks, gardening, farming, or cooking, there are ample opportunities for you and your family to connect with your community through food and plants. Here are several community-based educational resources and events to support your interests while engaging in your community this summer: Read the rest of this entry »

Service-Based Learning at The Food Bank of Western MA Supports Neighbors in need

Volunteers play critical role in feeding our neighbors in need

Volunteers from Amerprise visited The Food Bank to help sort, inspect and pack food for distribution.

Volunteers play critical role in feeding our neighbors in need
Each year, dozens of local farms collaborate with The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts to donate thousands of pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables. From carrots, to potatoes, to apples and squash, our local farmers are working hard to support our vision of a region where everyone has access to healthy food.

Last harvest season, local farms donated more than 452,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to The Food Bank. We distributed all of that healthy food to our member agencies in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire Counties. We were also able to distribute that produce through our Brown Bag: Food for Elders program (which served 7,893 seniors last year) and our Mobile Food Bank (providing food to more than 22,000 people).  Read the rest of this entry »

Lend your Voice to Close the SNAP Gap

Closing the “SNAP Gap” for 570,000 hungry Massachusetts residents

At The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, we have a vision of a region where no one goes hungry, and everyone has access to healthy food. Unfortunately, there are still thousands of our neighbors who are going to bed hungry despite the fact that we provided the equivalent of 9.2 million meals last year. From young children to vulnerable seniors, the overwhelming reach of food insecurity in our community continues to widen.

A recent White House report revealed that the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is one of the most effective methods of lifting people (especially children) out of poverty. SNAP has a dramatic impact in our region. Last year, SNAP provided vital food assistance to 150,000 people in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties, allowing them to purchase healthy food from local grocery stores, farmers’ markets and farm stands. Not only did SNAP feed so many people, but it also injected nearly $20 million of federal nutrition dollars into our local economy. Read the rest of this entry »

Maple Sugar Season: A Sweet Point of Entry to Community Engagement… and Learning!

2016 Maple Sugar Season

How sweet the end of winter is here in western Massachusetts – and not just because the snow is beginning to melt! Warmer temperatures signal the start of sap flow in sugar maples, whose frozen and sleepy roots and limbs come alive when the landscape begins to thaw. Maple sugaring is a centuries-old tradition in New England, and the seasonal industry remains an important part of the foundation upon which local agricultural is built. Additionally, maple sugaring brings opportunities for families to engage in intergenerational community-based learning through visits to farms, community meals, living history, and experiential hands-on activities.  Read the rest of this entry »

Local History Through the Lens of Food: Nutritional Anthropology in the Pioneer Valley

Exhibit Chronicles Northampton History Through Food

Interested in the history of food? Take a peak at the new exhibit in Northampton. Come see how people produced and sold food and how people cooked and ate it, through the years. The exhibition is curated by Barbara B. Blumenthal, a member of Historic Northampton’s Board of Trustees. Barbara was a museum guide and hearth cook at Historic Northampton in the 1980s and early 1990s. Her passion for local history and food history led her to poke around in our collections looking for tasty tidbits to share with the public.

Historic Northampton offers a food-centric take on the city’s history through Table Talk: Food, Cooking, and Eating in Northampton Then and Now, an exhibit chronicling the production, purchase, and preparation of the foods enjoyed throughout two and a half centuries of Northampton’s history. With its focus lying on the city’s food-filled downtown, the exhibit offers a new take on the history of local food : rather than sharing the history of farming in Northampton, the exhibit emphasizes the role that local businesses – especially restaurants – have played in the local food chain.

On view from now until May 1, 2016, Table Talk: Food, Cooking, and Eating in Northampton Then and Now has much to offer. Made up of a collection of photographs, food-related objects and tools, and historical information and anecdotes, the exhibit speaks to more than just food history.

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Soup’s On: How Cooking Shows Teach

Why I Will Let My Kids Watch Cooking Shows

Cooking shows are robbed of their central sensory features – the ability to smell and taste the food being prepared. To compensate, they have to create a full-spectrum visual and audio show that captures and keeps the audience’s interest. How do they do it? By treating the viewers like toddlers.

When our kids are very young, we’re taught to envelop them in a cloud of words – to narrate their actions, what they might be thinking, and to explain the steps of our own thought processes as we maneuver them through the day. It often sounds something like, “And now we’re getting in the car, and I’m going to buckle you in, and then we’re going to the post office…”

A variety of published studies have touted the benefits of talking to our kids, but there does seem to be a cutoff – an age where a child’s questions begin to steer the conversation, rather than our pattering observations. This is totally normal, and kids’ inquisitiveness certainly leads us to a variety of conversations we might have never otherwise had. (“Well, I don’t know if giraffes ever feel angry; what do you think?)

And at some point – much to many parents’ relief – the ceaseless questioning begins to taper off, as kids find their own tools for discovering the world. However, when I teach kids in the kitchen, I find myself reverting to the patter-narrative patterns that I would use for much younger kids. Why? Because like driving cars and tying shoes for the younger set, the methods of kitchen work are often a mystery to older kids, even kids with parents who love to cook. Read the rest of this entry »

New Year’s Resolution: Volunteering with Your Family

New Year’s Resolution: Volunteering

Volunteers help pack bags of food at a Brown Bag: Food for Elders distribution location.

Each day, The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts relies on the hard work and dedication of our volunteers that share our vision of a Western Massachusetts where no one goes hungry and everyone has access to healthy food. Their tireless work and generous support are just one of the many “ingredients” in the recipe to end hunger.
With the need for emergency food in our region continuing to grow, it takes many hands — all working together — to help feed our neighbors in need. Read the rest of this entry »

The Universal Language of Food

Cooking for Intercultural Competence and Compassion

By Andrea Caluori-Rivera
MassLIFT AmeriCorps Member at Hilltown Land Trust & Kestrel Land Trust

Submitted by Andrea Caluori-Rivera

Food connects us. From the hands and land that grow and nurture our ingredients to the moment we gather together and share a meal, food has the power to reveal the cultural layers that help us learn more about identity and place.

While living in Italy in 2008, I stayed with an older couple in Cernusco sul Naviglio, a town along the outskirts of Milan in Northern Italy. The husband was from Morocco and the wife a native Italian.  As a foreigner in another country, it wasn’t easy making new friends.  Even though I spoke the language and understood the culture, I often found myself alone, reading a book in my room or taking long walks to the center of town. The husband, Ahmed*, noticed my loneliness. One afternoon, he brought me to a nearby small city where his extended family lived. It was one of the few times I ventured outside of Cernusco.

When I arrived, everyone was helping to prepare an early afternoon meal.  Ahmed’s nephew, (later to become one of my few friends in Italy) asked me: Vorresti una forchetta? (‘Would you like a fork?’)  I thought, “A fork? Of course I’d want a fork if I were to eat, wouldn’t I?”  Before I could answer, Ahmed responded. To be sure I understood, he spoke in Italian rather than his native Moroccan dialect: No, lei mangerà come noi. (‘No, she will eat like we do’).

We all sat down at a small round table, a large plate in the center with couscous and lamb stew.  Each person was given a large piece of bread, a small plate, and a napkin; I saw no silverware. Ahmed looked at me as I watched everyone else use the bread to scoop up delicious mouthfuls of the tender lamb and I understood. So I picked up my bread and joined in the feast.  It was the most memorable meal I had in Italy.

I share this story because it was one of the first few moments in my life where I understood what it meant to be culturally aware.  Food became the door to not just being an outsider but rather a companion.  When I came back to the United States, I took a basic course on intercultural competence, the ability to communicate with other cultures appropriately and – I would also say – compassionately. I realized that the preparation of a meal and gathering together in the spirit of community is a profound way to reach beyond the point of observation and build the foundation for empathy, awareness, and most importantly – friendship.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Symbolism of Food on New Years Eve

The Tradition of Food Has a Major Part to Play in Celebrations All Over the World

Families can celebrate the beginning of Japan’s new year by enjoying toshikoshi soba – a dish that symbolizes long life and good luck in the coming year.

On December 31st, most of the world celebrates the coming of a new year. Throughout the last day of the year, many countries mark the new beginning with different cultural celebrations. Food in particular plays an important role in these celebrations, and is thought to serve as a  symbol of things to come in the new year. This year, learn about cultures around the world while adding fun and delicious customs to your family’s traditions for marking the new year.

Countries on Asia’s Pacific coast celebrate the new year hours before we do here in western Massachusetts, and families can celebrate the beginning of Japan’s new year by enjoying toshikoshi soba – a dish that symbolizes long life and good luck in the coming year. In English, the dish’s name means “year-bridging,” and it’s very important to slurp entire noodles (rather than biting them in half) in order to ensure that toshikoshi will in fact ensure a long life. Since Japan’s new year begins about fourteen hours before ours does, make toshikoshi for a New Year’s Eve lunch!

On New Year’s Eve in Spain, tradition dictates that everyone eat grapes at the stroke of midnight. Grapes are eaten quickly – one for each stroke of the clock – and symbolize the twelve months of the upcoming year. Taste them carefully, though – while each sweet grape symbolizes a sweet month to come, a sour grape symbolizes a month to watch out for! Begin your dinner with grapes in order to celebrate along with the Spaniards, whose midnight comes six hours before ours… Read the rest of this entry »

Soup’s On: A Story From Cooking Class

On Food, And How to Make It

A Story From Cooking Class…

“It’s not fair!” seven-year-old Ethan cries from the back seat as I reveal the big surprise on this week’s menu.  “Robbie (age nine) always gets a treat because he likes soda and I don’t and that’s always the treat.”

Shopping with Robbie and Ethan is always a bit of a great adventure, and they are terrific sports.  They’re learning their way around the market, tasting new fruits and vegetables with part of every snack (starfruit! pomelo! cauliflower!), and also figuring out what I can be persuaded to buy – and what I can’t.

“Pleeease can we have these? You said we were going to make soda and I don’t want any but I could have this instead!” Ethan’s attempts at negotiation are both understandable and in that particular pitch of whine that could rival a mosquito.  I raise an eyebrow and give my standard line – cool, calm, mildly incredulous.

“That doesn’t look like food.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Family Volunteer Day with Hilltown Families & The Food Bank in the New Year

Winter months put further strain on struggling households

On a chilly December morning, Volunteers at a Mobile Food Bank distribution in the north end of Springfield finish setting up, as they await the arrival of hundreds of individuals in need of assistance. — In partnership with Hilltown Families, The Food Bank will be hosting our January Family Volunteer Day on Saturday, January 16 from 9 – 11 a.m. All ages are welcome, as families are invited to help prepare food to be distributed to our neighbors in need across Western Massachusetts.

As the days and nights grow colder in Western Massachusetts, we are reminded of the thousands of low-income families that will be forced to choose between heat and hunger this winter season. High costs of heat will further strain the budgets of households already struggle to make ends meet, forcing them to turn to food pantries, soup kitchens and other community agencies to access emergency food. It most instances, these community agencies — many of which are experiencing a slump in donations following the holidays — find it increasing difficult to keep up with the high demand in the winter months.

In a recent report produced by Feeding America, it was determined that many families in Western Massachusetts that are struggling with food insecurity are already faced with crucial choices to keep food on the table. 61 percent reported choosing between paying for food and paying for utilities (such as heat and water). 59 percent reported having to make a choice between food and medicine/medical care. In addition, 53 percent reported choosing between paying for food and paying for housing. Read the rest of this entry »

Soup’s On: Books Cooking Up Interest in the Kitchen

Books For Growing Foodies

As a cooking teacher, many people assume I got my start as a wee tiny child, probably peeling potatoes at my mother’s knee, or learning my grandmother’s matzah ball secrets. The truth couldn’t be farther from these sweet tales! It’s true that I did help out in the kitchen periodically, but I don’t remember taking much joy in the tasks I was given, and I didn’t start cooking on my own until late into high school.

No, readers, before I was a cook, I was an eater.

And before I was an eater, I was a reader (well, a listener-of-books-read-to-me.)

The first memories I have of being excited about food (well, excited in a larger way than the simple excitement of being hungry and eating) all sprang from the pages of children’s books. These weren’t necessarily children’s books about food – some of them had a single illustration or passing description that I latched onto and savored.  Read the rest of this entry »

“Giving at Thanksgiving” Family Volunteer Day with Hilltown Families at The Food Bank

Coming together to end hunger

At a Family Volunteer Day earlier this year, families work together to sort and pack fresh produce to be distributed to our neighbors in need throughout the four counties of Western Massachusetts.

While getting food to people facing hunger is essential throughout the entire year, it takes on special significance during these holiday months. With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, food is on the minds of many people. But, probably none more so than those that are forced to go without during times that are supposed to be plentiful.

Currently in Western Massachusetts, there are more than 235,000 people that rely on food pantries, meal sites, shelters, and other emergency programs to get food. An estimated 33,580 of them are children under the age of 18 (according to Feeding America, the national network of food banks). Of these, 22% (or about 7,000 children) are from households that don’t qualify to receive SNAP benefits, but yet their income is still too low to pay for basic household expenses and put adequate food on the table.   Read the rest of this entry »

Soup’s On: Trust in the Kitchen

Kitchen Knife Lessons

When kids are trusted – really trusted – with true responsibility, they rise to the occasion. They will always know if you’re holding back, or if you’re counting on them to mess up. But the moments I’ve connected most deeply with kids in the kitchen are the moments in which I was just a tiny bit nervous – and trusted them anyway.

I love the sight of a young kid with a knife in their hands.

I love the transformation that happens when they’re handed a real blade. Even the kids who spend their days turning branches into swords and spoons into catapults and every single blessed thing into a gun (down to their own fingers!) – even these kids pause when they take the knife.

I watch the enormity of the moment settle over them – true responsibility, in its most concrete form. I watch their shoulders relax, and their focus narrow. Some parents wonder why I save the safety talk until the knife is actually in their hands – and this is why. Once you are holding the knife, wielding that power, the safety lessons make much more sense.

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How Local Farms Support Food Security in Western MA

Local Farms Help Cultivate Our Community

Last year, local farms contributed a more than 480,000 pounds of fresh produce to The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

We are fortunate to live in a very special part of the country, allowing for the growth and harvest of a multitude of fresh fruits and vegetables. There is a seemingly endless number of farms in our region, many of which generously provide a portion of their annual harvest to The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts throughout the year. Their commitment to helping feed our neighbors in need has continued to strengthen our community.  Read the rest of this entry »

Soup’s On: Lunch Box Ideas

Lunch Box Ideas

It’s back to school time, and that means the family meal schedule – whatever it’s been since the end of June – is about to take a left-turn swerve into school lunches, after school snacks, and many, many exasperated conversations about where lunch boxes get left and why we don’t get to have what every single other child on planet Earth gets to have for lunch.

Here are some guidelines that I use with the families I work with when it comes to school lunches… Read the rest of this entry »

Family Day: Celebrating Parent Engagement & Healthy Happy Kids

Monday, September 28th is Family Day

Monday, September 28th, 2015, is Family Day, and the Communities That Care Coalition is encouraging families to celebrate by spending quality time together as a family.  Family Day is a national movement, launched by Columbia University’s Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) to celebrate parental engagement as an effective tool to help keep kids substance-free, healthy and happy.  Read the rest of this entry »

Symbols & Rituals of Rosh Hashanah

Symbols & Rituals of Rosh Hashanah

From our archived column, “Not Your Grandparents’ Shtetl: Exploring Jewish Culture in Western MA,”  Amy Meltzer shares different symbols and rituals of Rosh Hashanah.  Also known as the Jewish New Year, or the first day of the traditional Jewish lunar calendar, this year Rosh Hashanah takes place sunset, September 13 – nightfall, September 15, 2015.

SWEETNESS OF ROSH HASHANAH

One of the themes of Rosh Hashanah is sweetness. (A traditional greeting is “May you have a good and sweet new year.”) Apples and challah (Jewish egg bread) dipped in honey symbolize that sweetness. Before Rosh Hashanah, we make a trip to a local apple orchard to collect several varieties of local apples. On the holiday we sample the apples, and sweet recipes made from the apples…

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Solving Hunger: Keeping Communities Healthy & Strong

Healthy Food Leads to Stronger Community

Volunteers prepare to distribute healthy food at a Mobile Food Bank distribution site in Springfield last summer.

There is more than enough food in America to feed every man, woman and child. Yet, here in Western Massachusetts, more than 235,000 people are at risk of hunger and health problems that come with not having enough nutritious food to eat. As individuals, charities, businesses and government, we all have a role to play in getting more food to people in need. Together, we can solve hunger and help keep our communities healthy and strong.  Read the rest of this entry »

Soup’s On: Picky Eaters, Part 3

Picky Eaters, Part 3

Welcome back to the kitchen. In June, we enjoyed a lengthy discussion about picky eaters, and the roots of restrictive eating. July saw us tackle the task of getting young picky eaters to broaden their horizons. This month, we’re going to talk about older youth and young adults, and how NOT to turn dinnertime into a battlefield of exasperation.

But first, a review of things we know about older youth and food:

  1. By the time people reach the age of 9 or 10, they’ve begun to develop the “catalog” of experiences and tastes that we talked about in the earlier articles. They may be able to identify preferences for sweet foods over salty ones, or have a list of favorite foods.
  2. Their taste buds are still changing, as they will continue to do into adulthood. They may not taste things as strongly as they did when they were younger. It can help kids to know this, especially if they’re being asked to try something they remember disliking as a youngster.
  3. They are old enough to prepare simple meals for themselves, or even the family. That’s helpful, as we’ll see later on.

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Hunger Action Month Empowers Our Community to Support Food Security

You can take action to support our community during Hunger Action Month

You can ‘Go Orange’ on Thursday, September 3 to help raise awareness of food insecurity. Share your photos on social media, using #HungerAction.

September is Hunger Action Month, a time when the Feeding America nationwide network of food banks unite and ask everyone to take action to fight hunger in their community. It is your opportunity to join a movement that has a real and lasting impact on our effort to feed more people than ever before.

Hunger affects communities all across our region—rural, urban and suburban. In cities and towns across Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties, more than 235,000 people struggle with food insecurity. As individuals, charities, businesses and government, we all have a role to play in getting food to our neighbors in need. During Hunger Action Month, you can find a way that’s right for you to make a difference. There are a number of ways to help, including raising awareness of hunger issues, advocating for change, donating food and funds, or volunteering your time and skills. We all have a role to play in getting food to our neighbors in need.

Here are just a few of the opportunities you have to get involved:  Read the rest of this entry »

17 Kitchen Scraps Born Anew for Experiential Learning

Kitchen Scrap Gardening

While almost all food scraps make great compost, certain scraps can make something even more wonderful – more food! Families can engage in hands-on experiential learning by collecting bits of these special foods and creating their own mini-gardens. Young gardeners can learn about how plants grow, and can enjoy delicious homegrown foods with ease!

Compost bins are filled with all kinds of special wonders – worms and bugs, favorite foods in all stages of decomposition, and a host of smells both sweet and savory. Did you know, though, that some of the bits of food that land in your compost bin can live a second life? Many of the food scraps that we discard can be turned into new plants and, eventually, more food! Creating a kitchen scrap garden is incredibly easy and equally as fascinating, and it can lead to fantastic experiential learning on the topic of plant growth and biology.

Plants possessing the ability to regenerate easily fall into a few different categories. Edible bulbs, like scallions and green onions, will happily continue to produce flavorful green shoots so long as their white bulbs are preserved. Biennial green stalk-y plants like celery, bok choy, lettuce, and cabbage can grow anew if the portion of the plant where the leaves and stalks originate from is saved. Plants whose roots we enjoy, however, work a little bit differently. Rather than saving a small, inedible portion of the plant to regenerate more edible stuff with, food scrap gardeners actually use the edible portion of the plant to sprout more. Ginger and potatoes both grow in this way.

Read the rest of this entry »

Soup’s On: Picky Eaters, Part 2

Learn About Local Food & Chemistry through Fermentation

The Art & Science of Fermentation: Lessons in Local Food Preservation

There’s lots of space for learning about food science when you turn your kitchen into a fermentation station!

This time of year, it’s so easy to forget how badly we longed for crisp pickling cucumbers and fresh local tomatoes during the winter – sometimes, it all comes in at once, and it’s all we can do to keep the bounty of our gardens and farm shares from going to waste. Gardening is, of course, a great way to expose kids to cycles of growth and the joy of producing your own food, and the cooking that eventually follows. A solidly planted garden brings with it a myriad of other kitchen-based learning experiences (measuring math, recipe literacy, and lots of fine motor skill development for small folks). But what do you do when you’ve cooked all you can eat and your self-sufficient kiddos have already mastered the ins and outs of your kitchen? Start fermenting! Read the rest of this entry »

Family Volunteer Day Summer Series Supports Food Security All Summer Long

Hunger Doesn’t Take a Summer Vacation

During the summer months of June, July and August, food pantries and meal sites across Western Mass. see a 45% increase in visits over the holiday season. (Photo courtesy of Feeding America)

By now, you’ve probably heard the national news about a public school kitchen manager in Colorado who was fired for giving a free lunch to a crying first grader who was hungry. The manager was fired because the child wasn’t officially qualified for the federally-subsidized lunch program. However, what you may not have heard is that thousands of kids in schools across Western Massachusetts are in this same situation. They are relying on cafeteria staff, teachers and even their classmates to feed them because they don’t have enough food at home.

With so many families struggling with free or reduced school meals, image the challenges they face in the summer when those meals disappear. June, July and August are, by far, the busiest months for our member agencies in Western Massachusetts (which includes food pantries, meal sites and shelters). Approximately 44,665 individuals were served at our member agencies during those three months last year. That’s nearly a 45% increase over the winter months of December, January and February.  Read the rest of this entry »

Soup’s On: Picky Eaters, Part 1

Picky Eaters, Part 1: The Root

Where does picky eating come from? Dealing with picky eaters can be a challenge for the omnivorous or adventurous cook. Let’s explore some of the reasons some folks keep a limited diet – and how we can address those needs and help them expand their tastes!

If you’ve ever used one of these words to describe yourself, your child, or someone you know, you probably know the frustration of trying to feed someone who doesn’t seem to like a wide variety of foods.

Perhaps it’s your screaming toddler, who’s latched onto a diet of grape juice and animal crackers; your nine year old who would eat peanut butter sandwiches for every single meal if she could, or even your spouse, who methodically reads the online menu and identifies what he’s going to order before you hit the restaurant.

Let’s talk about some of the reasons that people get labeled “picky eaters.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Family Volunteer Day Summer Series Supplements Food Deserts in Western MA

Food Deserts in Western MA Leaves Many Families Without Access to Healthy Food

Residents of a Springfield community line-up to receive fresh and non-perishable healthy food from The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts’ Mobile Food Bank. To learn more about Family Volunteer Day, including other dates throughout the summer, check out the post, The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts & Hilltown Families present Family Volunteer Days!.

The USDA defines a food deserts as a part of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthy foods. They are typically found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers. These areas rely heavily on local convenience stores that provide a wealth of processed sugar- and fat-laden foods that are known contributors to our nation’s obesity epidemic. The USDA has identified several areas right here in Western Massachusetts considered to be food deserts.

As the leader of emergency food assistance in our region, The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts has been working to reach these communities to ensure that everyone has access to fresh, healthy food. It’s been nearly two years since we launched our pilot program for the Mobile Food Bank — a delivery truck full of fresh and non-perishable groceries from our warehouse in Hatfield, shipped directly to a community site. The program reaches underserved populations throughout our region that don’t have access to fresh, healthy food. These food deserts lack local grocery stores, farmers’ markets and other healthy food providers. Read the rest of this entry »

What to do with Fiddleheads?

Fiddlehead Arugula Salad

One of the most joyous culinary moments of the year for me is the arrival of the season’s first fiddleheads. It’s among the first of the “just-picked” cooking rituals that will continue to unfold until late autumn. Each year I repeat the simplest of preparation techniques for my first fiddleheads of the season: blanch (cook in boiling water) for 4–5 minutes; drain well; sauté briefly with butter or olive oil and salt. Simple, elegant, and delicious. Then I move on to soups with fiddleheads. Last week, Amy and I were inspired to create a new dish, Fiddlehead Arugula Salad. We wandered the aisles of the Old Creamery and gathered ingredients that “spoke to us.” We found some fresh and crisp arugula, organic hazelnuts that had just arrived (now less expensive than many of the other nuts), perfect ricotta salata cheese from Italy, and some Cattani white balsamic vinegar and aged Castello d’Este balsamic vinegar that had just been featured in our vinegar tasting. With the addition of a couple of other standard Old Creamery ingredients, we prepared a stupendously delicious salad! We enjoyed it so much, I’m going to prepare it again for lunch today.

♦  Print Recipe: Fiddlehead Arugula Salad [Vg/GF/WF]

Vegetarian (V) | Vegan (Vg) | Nut-Free (NF) | Gluten-Free (GF) | Wheat-Free (WF)
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