Today I wanted to talk about Feeding America, a program that I learned about through my husband’s work and which turned out to be not only a useful tool but also a way to force me to expand my tastes.
First, Feeding America is an organization that deals with the issue of hunger in America. According to their website, one in six Americans is fighting hunger. On their website you can find information about the organization, ways in which you can donate, and also a link to find your local food bank. It’s the food bank aspect of this organization that I’m going to focus on.
Due to my husband’s company participating in Feeding America by donating food to a local food bank, I already knew where to go. However, if you don’t you can find a local food bank by using the food bank locator found here.
The food bank I went to is located in a church and held from 8 am to 12 pm on Tuesdays. What they offer will depend on the donations they receive, and how they distribute the food will most likely be unique to each individual bank. At the one I went to this past Tuesday, we stood in line for a short while before being allowed to go in the building (they did this to control the number of people in the room at one time). We then filled out a sign-in sheet that included information about our name, address, family size, the age of the family members, and signed a release saying we wouldn’t hold the food bank or the donators liable if the food wasn’t good. Next, we got to walk around several tables that had food laid out on it (things like bread, fruit/produce, deli pizzas, bakery items, etc) and select what we wanted. We were then given a box and bag of frozen goods and pantry items (canned and boxed goods) based on our family size.
Every one was nice and friendly and it cut a great deal off of our grocery bill for the week. Where normally we spend $80.00 dollars for a week’s worth of meals, we spent about $60.00 dollars for 10 days worth of meals.
It also had the unexpected side-effect of causing me to HAVE to look for new recipes. Instead of getting ingredients I know I like, for recipes I pick out ahead of time, I had to look at the ingredients I received and find recipes that would use them. I used http://www.foodnetwork.com to accomplish this, but any online recipe search would work just as well.
Our first meal using food bank food resulted in us having chicken parmesan (a frozen item that we received), Brussels sprouts (a produce item that we received; I had to remove several layers of leaves, but it turned out well), and some shredded parmesan cheese added on top of the chicken (also an item we received and which we will be using again later in the week). It saved us money, saved the food from being wasted, and didn’t taste that bad–even though I was having a bad day and REALLY didn’t want chicken even more than I normally don’t want chicken. Below is a picture of the meal:
For those of you who don’t have a food bank nearby or simply don’t feel the need/desire to use one, you could achieve this same “expansion” of your menu items by setting up an exchange with friends or family. Gather up the items that you tried and didn’t like or the items that have been sitting around unused for a while and find someone who would be willing to take them off your hands. Offer to do the same for their unwanted food items. Then make yourself use them. You might be surprise what new dishes you come up with and you’ll be saving the food from being wasted.
To my readers: What items do you have hanging around in your freezer or cupboard just waiting to be used? What’s keeping you from using them?