fbpx

To Be a “Foodie”

My name is Lindsey Seegers, and I hereby admit to photographing my dinner.

My name is Lindsey Seegers, and I hereby admit to photographing my dinner.

Lindsey here. Did you know that FOOD DAY began in 1975? When I first heard of a designated FOOD DAY, I’ll admit: I thought it was just another excuse for foodies to get together to celebrate balsamic reductions, kale chips, quinoa, and squash bowls.

 

While I, too, find food glorious and glamorous, I work at Manna Food Center, where pallets piled high with hundreds of pounds of butternut squash and onions and cabbage make veggies feel, well, far from trendy. Food is this whole “thing” now, especially to millennials like myself. Eating is not merely a physiological obligation, it is a pastime to be tweeted and instagrammed, shared and envied.

Yep, I came home from the farmer's market and took a picture of my swiss chard. Guilty.

Yep, I came home from the farmer’s market and took a picture of my swiss chard. Guilty.

There are magazines and television networks and podcasts making a big deal out of food. And while, even as a foodie, I can tire of the ‘Ten New Ways To Cook Tomatoes’ posts, I am glad there is an increasing conversation around food. Because food is a big deal, and how we share it is even bigger. There are many ways, big and small, we can help improve food access and food quality; and many stories that illustrate why we should:

 

Through Manna, I meet individuals who cannot afford food for the month. I hear the firsthand account of an elderly man who makes a single can of sliced green beans last for four meals. I listen to a voicemail from a mother who did not have enough food for the entire family to last the weekend, until her daughter brought home brown rice and oatmeal and canned produce in her Smart Sacks bag. At the Clarksburg Farmer’s Market last month, I met a farmer whose crops didn’t respond to this summer’s weather and faces financial loss as a result.

 

While food has become a source of exploration, experimentation, and joy in my own personal life, at my day job I’m often reminded that food is always a serious matter. It turns out, FOOD DAY is, too; it’s about improving our diets as well as our food policies. October 24 is a day to resolve to make changes in our own diets and to take action to solve food-related problems in our communities at the local, state, and national level. In 2015, Food Day’s theme is “Toward a Greener Diet.” FoodDay.org says, “Eating Real can save your own health and put our food system on a more humane, sustainable path. With America’s resources, there’s no excuse for hunger, low wages for food and farm workers, or inhumane conditions for farm animals.”

 

Although October 24th has passed, every day is truly “food day” at Manna Food Center, where we take steps to end hunger through food distribution, education, food rescue, and advocacy. Surf our site to find out how we’re working towards change, and how you can take part.

 

 

wheaton Catholic CharitiesLindsey here. This week, I visited our clients at one of Manna’s busiest distribution sites, Catholic Charities in Wheaton. After receiving food, about twenty people joined me for a community conversation and nutrition workshop inside Catholic Charities.

 

In my two years at Manna, I have led many workshops, conversed with many clients, listened to their stories. But there were two things about this evening that surprised me.

 

Garnering participants for any event can prove challenging. People have obligations with work and family, not to mention transportation hurdles. I hoped that advertising snacks might prove appealing to those leaving home around dinnertime.

 

We first took turn introducing ourselves and naming something “good or new” that happened to us in the past few days. Think about that phrase for a moment: happened to us. For so many people who find themselves in need of Manna’s food, it is not always the actions one takes in life that leads to poverty, but rather life happening to a person. Chronic illness, job loss, medical bills, divorce, relocation—the “stuff happens” circumstances. As the men and women in attendance listed their “something good”, the responses went like this:

There is never a time for me that these stories will feel commonplace or acceptable. They are simultaneously heart-wrenching and maddening.

jobless looking for a job

At Manna, we serve families challenged by food insecurity who don’t always know when that next meal will be available—or the quality of the food they can afford. I spent so many years studying food insecurity, I don’t often think about our families as physically hungry. Hunger is that state we have all experienced, that discomfort relieved by eating. Where some of us can alleviate that hunger with food whenever we want, families facing food insecurity have limited foods available to them. The next meal may be out of reach financially, geographically, or both. When I visit their children in school, I rest assured these kids have breakfast and lunch among the safety of their peers.

 

But on Tuesday night, I spent time with their parents, and with unemployed singles. This group responded to my spread of apples, cheeses and whole grain crackers as if they had not eaten all day. It was at the end of class, when I passed out the leftover apples and boxes of crackers that I realized: maybe they hadn’t.

By the time I arrived home after class, it was just 30 minutes before I typically go to bed. Still, I stared at my bursting pantry and rummaged through the fridge, then freezer, eventually deciding I would stay up late to digest my impromptu dinner so I would not wake up hungry.

 

For no good reason, I have that choice. For now, my husband and I still have jobs to afford our house, our food and our fun. For now, we have our health and separate cars to get to our full-time jobs, and to the multiple grocery stores we frequent. For no good reason—not because I am good or worthy or luckier than most: I woke up to a refrigerator with multiple options for breakfast, I packed a lunch I had time to cook, I’m returning home to a delicious, healthy and homemade dinner. I have food in my home, with plenty to share.

 

For no good reason, I have that choice.

 

Lindsey here, with some photos of what we’ve been up to. I hope you came hungry…

DSC_9051  DSC_9000

Last week, Manna’s Nutrition Team (Jenna & Lindsey) enjoyed a second annual friendly-competition of CHOPPED! at the Clarksburg Farmer’s Market. With crisp produce from Scenic View Orchards, Chef Charley and Team Manna went knife-to-knife for the grand prize: bragging rights.

green beans apples chopped knife

 

Our dishes were very different. Chef Charley went the tartine route, topping herbed bread with marinated beets, heirloom tomatoes, and cheese. What did Jenna and I make? Check out the recipe below!

 

Three common fruits and veggies transform into an unexpected, aromatic autumn sidedish. Stir in chickpeas for a vegetarian entrée, or serve alongside your favorite protein and brown rice.

LINDSEY’S INDIAN-SPICED AUTUMN SAUTÉ

Cook time: less than 20 minutes

 

1 pint fresh green beans, tips trimmed & sliced into 1 inch pieces

5 yukon gold potatoes, ½ inch dice

4 apples (we used Gala), diced

3 tablespoons cooking fat (butter, olive oil, coconut oil; we used half butter, half olive oil)

½ tablespoon curry powder

½ teaspoon saigon cinnamon

1 teaspoon honey

Juice of 1 lemon

¾ teaspoon salt

 

In a large pan over medium-low heat, heat oil/butter until melted. Sprinkle curry powder and cinnamon into melted butter and stir for 30 seconds. Add potatoes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are just tender. Watch the heat, the potatoes should not get crispy or brown.

 

Once the potatoes are just fork-tender (not overcooked!), stir in the sliced green beans along with ½ cup water. Increase the heat to medium and cover pan to steam beans for about 2 minutes. Add the apples and stir, covering for 5 minutes. Add more water if the mixture sticks to the pan.

 

Toss with honey and lemon and taste the mixture: the apples should be slightly soft, the potatos and green beans tender. Add salt and additional curry powder or cinnamon as you like. The curry powder should be present, but not overpowering. Gobble up!

A word or two about spices:

“Curry” is a word that needlessly intimidates unfamiliar eaters. It is simply a sauce of spiced vegetables. The story goes that the British invented Curry Powder to bring the aromatic flavors of Indian cuisine to home kitchens. Store-bought curry powder is just a spice blend of tumeric, ground ginger, coriander, cumin and paprika—flavorful, but not necessarily spicy.

Saigon Cinnamon packs more punch that traditional ground cinnamon. I find it at conventional grocery stores among the jarred spices.

DSC_9070

All proceeds from the dollar-votes went to Manna. The votes, for the second year in a row, were split down the middle–meaning shoppers and tasters enjoyed a might delicious morning. Thank you to all who came out!

 

 

I spy with my little eye some lofty promises around what looks like a candy bar.kelloggs-fiber

“Get 35% of your daily fiber, antioxidants Vitamin E and zinc, plus whole grains in this delicious flavor from the folks at Kellogg’s FiberPlus®. With tasty ingredients like real peanuts and peanut butter, plus a chocolatey drizzle on top and dipped in more chocolatey goodness on the bottom, these bars make nutritious snacking a real treat.”

Fights cancer!

Strengthens Bones!

Have phrases like these ever caught your eye on a box of food? A high-sodium, sugary kids’ cereal may read, “Made with whole grains! Whole grains support a healthy heart!” 

While whole grains do support a healthy heart, whole grains like plain oatmeal, brown rice, and whole wheat are healthier grain choices than a sugary cereal. A bag of chips may say “Made with canola oil! Canola oil is low in saturated fat and reduces your risk of heart disease!” Of course, you already know potato chips are not really the way to prevent disease.

WORDS TO WATCH: these phrases can be deceiving
“Promotes”,   “Improves”,   “Defends”,   “Guards against”,   “Boosts”

HEALTHY GROCERY GUIDELINES: these phrases can be helpful

Less, Low, or Reduced (sodium, sugar, or fat)

Lean (cuts of meat)

Good Source of (fiber or vitamins)
The best foods have no labels at all. Foods like fruits, vegetables, herbs, beans and fish don’t need to convince anyone what great choices they are! When shopping, stick to the perimeter of the store, away from the packaged and boxed food.

These are just some of the lessons I teach in my weekly Cooking Matters at the Store tours with Manna’s clients. We have offered this class to now over 500 residents of Montgomery County! Of course, the juiciest discussion in my classes is always What’s For Dinner.  That’s why I started Manna’s Healthy Recipe of the Month. If you would like to receive the simple recipes I collect and cook at Manna, just send me an e-mail: Lindsey@mannafood.org

Happy, Healthy New Year to You!

 

At Manna, I post recipes in our lobby and send out health tips in all of our closed food boxes. While I create them for clients, I’m especially tickled when volunteers and visiting donors take a recipe and tell me what a hit it was with their families.

As Manna’s Nutrition Educator, I like to think my role is to share the good news of good eating with the entire community. Those small, simple choices YOU make around food—that your kids see, your friends and neighbors see—cultivate the conversation that nourishing ourselves, and others, is essential.

 

Three small steps you can take today:

 

Eat all of your meals at the table.

Plate of vegetables
Eating while working, driving, or watching TV can lead to mindless over-eating.
Try decreasing your screen time to two hours a day. Tune in for your favorite shows and then find active hobbies you enjoy in place of watching TV. If you’re going to snack while watching your favorite show, this is a great chance to fix a plate of fresh fruit or raw veggies.

Balance out your day.

new-year-balance

Grab a tote of apples or pears, a bag of carrots or celery. When you get back from the grocery store, chop up fruits and veggies into snack-sized strips and keep them in the front of the fridge. Or, enjoy as an edible centerpiece on your kitchen table!

Keep healthy snacks in sight.

new-year-snacks

I certainly can’t type up these yummy vegetable ideas and leave you hanging for delicious dip! Inspired by a visiting nutritionist at Manna: Combine one cup plain Greek yogurt (whole or low-fat doesn’t affect the recipe) with two tablespoons Mrs. Dash Onion & Herb seasoning. Stir and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and enjoy this healthy “ranch” dip with all your favorite veggies.
Craving more recipes? Subscribe here: Lindsey@mannafood.org

I’ve shared before how much our clients value our Cooking Matter at the Store grocery store tours. We’ve reached over 500 participants in this wonderful program, and at least once a month a client calls to share: “I really never knew that it was cheaper to buy in bulk! I’m saving on my grocery bill and cooking more at home.”

These classes allow Manna to impact the lives—and lower the grocery bills—of so many clients. Just as important are the many partnerships that form among helpers in our community. These tours bring interactive nutrition education to moms groups, teens, adults with disabilities and seniors, as well as individuals transitioning to independent living and employment.

potato-2

Out of a partnership with AARP Foundation , and their donation to our program, came the opportunity to purchase translation headsets for my nutrition education workshops and classes. An interpreter uses the microphone headset and participants simply tuck transmitters into their pockets to hear my content through earphones. This allows for an uninterrupted, hands-on class with clients.

When Impact Silver Spring requested a Spanish-language store tour, I realized our new equipment made this possible!

potato-3Technology is a remarkable thing, and it’s allowing Manna’s Nutrition Education program to reach clients of all cultures in ways I didn’t imagine just a few months ago. This also means I will be holding a workshop for Rockville seniors in Mandarin next month!

potato-4
A very special thank you to the many agencies who respect the value of this program, and encourage their clients to hang out with us for an hour to talk—of all things—apples and oranges. With gratitude to AARP Foundation, now we’re also talking manzanas y naranjas.

These “April showers” are certainly living up to their reputation. So far, the spring is warm, but not so much yet that our farmer’s markets are open and bursting with vibrant produce. The conventional grocery stores into which I’ve stepped lately feature piles of pineapple and citrus. Give me some veggies, too, please!

During conversations with Manna’s families, I find that most shoppers find fresh fruits and vegetables too expensive for their budget. Shopping seasonally is one budget-friendly technique, but this can be confusing at conventional stores with year-round tomatoes, apples, and peppers imported from all of the world. Thankfully, there are more places in the store to find wholesome foods.

We often forget about the wonder of the grocer’s freezer section. I’m not talking about frozen TV dinners, pizzas, and waffles. Plain frozen fruits and vegetables are a great year-round bargain when you stick to the store brand. Not to mention, this is the ultimate prepared convenience food to which a nutrition expert can offer a hearty stamp of approval. The two-pound bag of frozen broccoli, less than $2, lasts far longer than the fresh broccoli and all need not be cooked at once. This inexpensive purchase means a healthy green veggie that lasts the entire month!

frozen-vegetables
I almost always have an array of frozen veggies in my own freezer: broccoli, cauliflower, edamame, corn, mixed peppers, spinach, peas, and butternut squash. Quick quesadillas, stir fries, and rice dishes are easily made more nutrient-rich by just stirring in a handful. I also love to mash frozen veggies (after roasting) for flavorful soups and lasagnas.
cauliflower-forzen
Consider frozen fruit, too! Berries, mango, and pineapple are longer-lasting and require less chopping than their out-of-season siblings in the fresh departments. I love to add these to whole wheat pancake batter, smoothies, yogurt, and oatmeal–most do not even require thawing.

If you are passionate about good food, and have a interest in helping Manna’s clients learn how to shop healthy on a budget, write me! Lindsey@mannafood.org

Happy, healthy shopping!

June rounds out another series of Cooking Matters at the Store tours–that’s 200 Manna clients attending in-store nutrition classes in just three months! While I’ve shared some exciting updates about our bi-lingual store tours, we’ve begun an additional class format that allows us to reach even further into the marginalized area of our community.

“Pop-Up tours” allow me to bring the grocery store to residents who are disabled, or otherwise unable to access public transportation. My special teaching box contains packages of breakfast foods, cans of fruits and vegetables, nutrition labels and ingredient lists for common products at the store. In just two weeks, 97 community members attended pop-up tours at Holiday Park Senior Center (Silver Spring), The Jefferson House (Rockville), and Rehabilitation Opportunities Inc. (Germantown).

Here is the question I hear the most: “What can I have for breakfast?” Many participants share their doctor’s advice to reduce sugar intake, but that can feel unachievable given the usual sweet ritual of cereal and juice to start the day.

My response: who says breakfast has to be sweet? For individuals living with diabetes or prediabetes, or for those just looking for a healthier breakfast routine, check out these savory inspirations (with links to their recipes):

  1. Smashed avocado toast & veggies
  2. Veggie breakfast tacos
  3. Breakfast burritos
  4. Breakfast pita pizza
  5. Mexican breakfast pasta
  6. Southwest sweet potato breakfast hash
  7. Ham and veggie breakfast hash
  8. Southwest scramble
  9. Savory oatmeal
  10. Red velvet smoothie

Smashed-Avocado-Toast-with-Veggies-2

In my house, we even create savory breakfast menus for dinner when we’re low on ideas or our budget. Just last week, my sweet potato, zucchini, carrot & chive pancakes were an indulgent-tasting treat we enjoyed for dinner and again for breakfast the next morning. Give one of these savory dishes a try, and open your mind to the new possibilities of breakfast.

Manna is the coordinator of Community Food Rescue, a network designed to feed more and waste less, in Montgomery County.  Read about the latest round of mini-grants awarded to build the capacity of local partners to fill bellies, not landfills.

See more here: http://communityfoodrescue.org/blog/

At Manna, I post recipes in our lobby and send out health tips in all of our closed food boxes. While I create them for clients, I’m especially tickled when volunteers and visiting donors take a recipe and tell me what a hit it was with their families.

As Manna’s Nutrition Educator, I like to think my role is to share the good news of good eating with the entire community. Those small, simple choices YOU make around food—that your kids see, your friends and neighbors see—cultivate the conversation that nourishing ourselves, and others, is essential.

 

Three small steps you can take today:

 

Eat all of your meals at the table.

Plate of vegetables
Eating while working, driving, or watching TV can lead to mindless over-eating.
Try decreasing your screen time to two hours a day. Tune in for your favorite shows and then find active hobbies you enjoy in place of watching TV. If you’re going to snack while watching your favorite show, this is a great chance to fix a plate of fresh fruit or raw veggies.

Balance out your day.

new-year-balance
 
Grab a tote of apples or pears, a bag of carrots or celery. When you get back from the grocery store, chop up fruits and veggies into snack-sized strips and keep them in the front of the fridge. Or, enjoy as an edible centerpiece on your kitchen table!

Keep healthy snacks in sight.

new-year-snacks
 
I certainly can’t type up these yummy vegetable ideas and leave you hanging for delicious dip! Inspired by a visiting nutritionist at Manna: Combine one cup plain Greek yogurt (whole or low-fat doesn’t affect the recipe) with two tablespoons Mrs. Dash Onion & Herb seasoning. Stir and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and enjoy this healthy “ranch” dip with all your favorite veggies.

 
Craving more recipes? Subscribe here: Lindsey@mannafood.org