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Getting Creative In The Food Cupboard

Getting Creative In The Food Cupboard
This guest blog post was submitted by Adam Hudson, RD, Port Hope CHC. Thank you for your contribution! 
Every Thursday afternoon our community health centre (CHC) food cupboard is available for those in need to stock up on food. Staples such as beans, rice, cereal, canned goods and quick fix frozen meals are often available, and during the harvest season, we are lucky enough to offer a great mix of fresh vegetables. However, at this time of year, what food we are allocated from the warehouse is anyone’s guess.
When our food delivery arrives, it is quite the spectacle watching the volunteers sort through the boxes, calling out all of the unique odds and ends they are excited to hand out to clients. They are most excited when quality produce comes through the door, especially in the middle of winter. Today’s delivery happened to contain two full cases of perfectly ripe avocado, a rarity for sure. Volunteers immediately started brainstorming how they could encourage some of the clients to take this bright green, pear-shaped food.

Unfortunately staff and volunteers have seen healthy ingredients available to our clients in the past be passed over for more familiar products. After consulting with clients about this very issue it was revealed that many of these foods were being looked at as foreign objects. Clients were not comfortable taking foods they didn’t know what to do with, or know how they would taste.
Once staff and volunteers realized this was a barrier action was taken to make clients more comfortable and confident with previously scoffed at foods. Now, each week, if any unfamiliar food arrives, such as turnip, eggplant, daikon, red cabbage, parsnip or avocados, every effort is made to provide information to the clients about that food. Simple, easy to follow recipes are provided, often accompanied by tasty samples, to help encourage clients to try them on their own. Nutrition information or methods of cooking is also provided in an easy to read manner. If we have an abundance of ingredients we are trying to push, we will often create a recipe including those foods and create a starter kit for clients to take home. Below is an example from today’s offerings; a basic avocado salsa with which we were able to provide all of the ingredients. These recipes, and the foods that go with it, were gone within the first hour…as well as the samples!

Over the past five years the Port Hope CHC has seen a steady increase of people relying on the food cupboard. As a community dietitian, I feel it is extremely important to do whatever I can to make food choice easier, more appealing, and more enjoyable for our clients. I have realized that creating a simple recipe, preparing a tasty sample or just discussing foods with clients will provide that acceptance, and that at least is a start. 
Samples of food kits provided to food cupboard clients that come with ingredients and simple steps for putting the food together:
·       Lentil Soup: bagged lentils, dry onion/garlic powder, cumin, turmeric,  soup stock
·       Stewed Red Cabbage: shredded cabbage,  apple, cinnamon, allspice, cloves
·       Roasted Root vegetables: parsnip, turnip, beets, mixed spices, olive oil, parchment paper
·       Rice and Beans: canned black beans, portioned rice, mixed chipotle spices.
·       Salmon Burgers: canned salmon, egg, breadcrumbs, mixed herbs

As a community dietitian, Adam Hudson uses his nutritional education and culinary background to take a client-centered approach that focuses around nutritious and wholesome food when working with people. He is an advocate for bringing food back to the table and believe that culinary education for both clients and members of the community will enable them to adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle.


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