Good Cause

Kitchen Tech Saturday – Reduce food waste with the foodkeepr app!

I’m going to try this cool (?) thing for Saturdays, and I’d love some feedback. Every Saturday, I’m going to introduce you to a piece of tech designed to help you out in the kitchen, doing your shopping, keeping track of recipes, etc.

I’m not so clever with the names. If you can think of a better name for all this *waves hand around the post*, please speak up! I haven’t designed a graphic to go with the series because I’m sincerely hoping someone far more clever than me can help.

Anyhoots, this week’s technological wonder is the foodkeepr app. It’s a simple little app that helps you create a shopping list, then, once you’ve made your purchases, keeps track of the expiration dates of all perishables and will remind you to use them up before they go bad. It’ll even connect you to Food Network to help you find recipes to use up those last little bits of things before they’re past their prime.

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$200 BILLION (!) dollars worth of food, or about $1100 per household, is wasted in this country… Thrown away because we didn’t get around to using it before it went bad. That’s both horrifying, and preventable. Little things, like shopping lists based on what you really need, meal planning, and getting over that weird fear you have of leftovers (ok, maybe those of you who have been subjected to 4 day old tuna noodle surprise might not find that so easy) can help.

Join me in the fight against food waste by using foodkeepr grocery list!

Android: http://goo.gl/t0QBZJ

iOS: http://goo.gl/zMIWLq

Food Tank 2017 DC Summit is LIVE!

If you’re interested in hearing some of the nation’s top food activists, scientists, journalists, and policy creators speak about the state of food in the U.S., Food Tank is generously broadcasting the whole day’s program live.

Follow along here: https://foodtank.com/

The full day’s agenda is here: https://foodtank.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/FoodTank_DCSummit_Agenda.pdf

 

 

Giving back in the Lone Star State

Hi all!

I’m in Arkansas now. Visiting friends and looking for my next volunteer opportunity. I spent a week and a half with family in Northeast Texas, and while I was there, I got the chance to help MasterKey Ministries distribute fresh fruits and veggies to over 100 families in Grayson County, Texas.

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Every Friday, MasterKey receives a truck full of produce from the North Texas Food Bank. Volunteers rush to get boxes off the truck as quickly as possible so they can start sorting and dividing it for the two hour pick up window.

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Last Saturday, folks showed up hours before our scheduled 10am start time. By the time I arrived, cars were lined up down the street for several blocks.

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I got the chance to chat with organizer Crystal Brooks, who told me that while MasterKey has only been doing these Friday morning events since the beginning of the year, they opened their food assistance program in 2014 and their “everyone is family” approach has been a part of their mission since day one. On Saturdays, Brooks helps run a “clients choice” food pantry, where Sherman residents who meet the income qualifications can walk right into the pantry and take what they need for the week. They’re greeted by name, escorted back, and given the freedom to shop just as they would at the grocery store. That’s a unique experience for most clients, and one MasterKey is committed to continuing to provide, no matter how big their client list grows.

Along with food assistance, MasterKey also offers an after school program; adult education programs like ESL, GED prep, and Citizenship courses; as well as summer learning programs to help kids maintain their “educational edge” while they’re out of school over break.

I’m so glad I got to help out last Friday. The group of volunteers, some new and some who had a few Fridays under their belts, were so warm and welcoming. What also really made me happy was that so many of the volunteers brought their kids along, and those kids hopped right in, helping us sort oranges and break down bags of carrots and potatoes, without hesitation.

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I personally believe this kind of volunteerism is such a privilege, and knowing that these kids are starting to recognize that early is, well, not to be too cheesy, pretty damn heartwarming.

The food of love

There has been a lot of discussion in recent days, and months, about rights. Constitutional rights. Human rights. Some of them are written down. Some of them are not. We just take for granted that we have them. Maybe we don’t even think about having some of them, because we’ve never been in a position to NOT have them.

No, I’m not about to get political. I promise. But, I wanted to show you a sign that hangs in the Right 2 Dream Too rest site, in downtown Portland, Oregon.

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The last letter up there is blocked, but you can probably tell it’s the word “sleep.” It says, “Sleep is a human right.”
Did you ever think about that, as you climbed into bed at night? I have been in the position of having to sleep in my car a few times over the course of my life, but still, even then, I had a car to sleep in. I could lock the doors. I had a pillow, and a blanket, and a relatively safe place to park so that I could sleep without being bothered. I could exercise my human right to sleep.

I say all of this to explain to you just what a place like the Right 2 Dream Too camp means to those who come there to sleep. As they come into the front gate, they check in with security. No weapons or drugs are allowed on the premises. If they don’t have their own bedding, a pillow and blanket are provided to them. And then, finally, they can lay their weary bodies down, close their eyes, and sleep. It is, as the organization’s website explains, “…a safe space to rest or sleep undisturbed for Portland’s unhoused community who cannot access affordable housing or shelter.” It’s there so that guests of the rest site can exercise their human right to sleep.

Early in the morning, on the last Saturday of October, under drizzly, gray Portland skies, Chef Ryan Spragg, Chef Skye Van Schetsen, and I  teamed up to serve guests of R2D2 breakfast from their on-site mobile kitchen. Under Chef Skye’s leadership, we’re members of an international group of chefs called Kitchen Warfare.

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Thanks to Suzanne Birch and the whole team at Birch Family Services in Portland, we were able to “go shopping” in the BFS food pantry, which provided us with about 90% of the supplies we needed to make the breakfast possible, including potatoes, onions, eggs, fresh pineapple and strawberries, coffee creamer, and enough bagels to fill the trunk of Skye’s car! The generous donors to our GoFundMe campaign helped pay for all the paper goods, forks, spoons, and serving utensils, plus the ever important coffee.

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Thanks to Chef Javier at Urdaneta, a Portland tapas restaurant and Chef Ryan’s home base, we had a kitchen to use (very late into the night) to prep the ingredients for hash browns, and fresh fruit salad.

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Along with the hash browns, and fruit salad, we served scrambled eggs with bacon and burrata cheese, cinnamon pastries, bagels, and fresh brewed coffee.

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As I mentioned in my last post, this was the second breakfast Kitchen Warfare’s had the privilege to serve at Right 2 Dream Too, and we’re hoping to work with them one more time in late spring of next year.  We’ve become quite fond of them. 🙂

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As for me, this experience was the final push I needed to pull the trigger on plans to hit the road next year and really dig into what I’m beginning to believe is a calling… to learn more about our food system through volunteer work on community farms and homesteads, and doing more extensive work with and for organizations that care for those dealing with hunger, food insecurity, and homelessness. I’ll be making stops in New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Chicago, the Pacific Northwest, my home state of Colorado, as well as central and northern California in 2017, and I really hope I’ll be able to expand my adventures into other parts of the country in 2018. Along the way, I’ll meet up with other members of the Kitchen Warfare team to join forces for more great projects, and of course, make some new friends.

This blog will evolve into a bit of a travel/food diary. That doesn’t mean I’ll stop cooking! No way! I’ll keep sharing as many of the yummy recipes I try as I can, but you’ll also see many of my stops between kitchens. Keep an eye on my Instagram and Facebook pages for pictures, videos, and updates, as well. I’m so excited for this journey, which is made so much better because I’ll get to share it with you all.

A Feast of Fermentation

Credit for BFR event photos: Ainslie O’Neil

Sometimes, The Universe conspires to give you a really great opportunity. Typically, it’s not some random chance, but happens as the result of something you yourself put into motion long ago. Maybe you forgot about it, but The Universe didn’t. I guess you could say this post is about the power of intention, and the momentum that can be created simply by saying a thing out loud.

Remember way back in May, when I attended the Forward Food Summit? During our lunch break, I signed up to be available as a volunteer for the Boulder Food Rescue. I didn’t have any real idea how I could be helpful, but, of course, when the form asked me about special skills I wrote down things like cooking and menu planning. Maybe I could teach a cooking class or something? I very firmly believe that community food rescues like the ones in Boulder and Denver are the key to solving our hunger crisis in this country. Being involved in this critical solution has been pretty high on my priority list for a long time now.

Fast forward to July 13th, when an email popped into my inbox with the subject line, “Seeking cook [Boulder Food Rescue].” They asked if I might be interested in helping them out with their annual fundraiser, Feast of Fermentation. I went thinking they were just looking for a volunteer to help cook some food, but after a quick meeting with Hana, the executive director of the BFR, I was officially the head chef of the whole shebang. *GULP*

The event took place on my 41st birthday– September 9th. Our menu included a baked potato bar, taco bar, sourdough waffle bar, and a brats & sauerkraut station. We had tons of great fermented food like kimchi, sauerkraut, and fermented firecracker onions donated by local producers on the menu, along with my own fermented peaches and pickled grapes, fermented Bloody Mary ketchup, and beer cheese sauce, to name just a few of the yummy toppings we created.

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We were expecting somewhere between 180 and 200 people to show up, but ended up with about 240. Thanks to some kind of crazy “loaves and fishes” type of miracle, everyone was well fed and happy. I guess when you’re doing good things, stuff just works out, yeah?

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Along with all that great food, attendees sampled offerings from competitors in a home brew beer competition, as well as local breweries and distilleries. They also bid on a bunch of cool items and experiences, donated by local merchants. in a silent auction. The grand total raised that night? $10,700! That money will go towards continuing the amazing programs the BFR has in place to rescue food from local grocery stores, restaurants, and community farms and gardens, and redistribute it to those in need.

I’m so proud of what we all accomplished that night, and blown away by all the amazing volunteer help we had to prep the food, serve it, set up the event space, and clean it all up at the end of the night. Seeing what a small group of very determined people can do with just a few resources and whole lot of passion has me convinced that the issues of hunger and food insecurity CAN be solved.

On a personal note, I also believe that this type of work is exactly what I’m meant to be doing. I’ll admit, I’ve been struggling to find my place in this movement. Writing about it never seemed like it would ever be enough. Now that I’ve got this event under my belt, I’m ready for what’s next!

What’s that, you ask? At the end of this month, I’ll be headed to Portland, Oregon to join fellow members of a group called Kitchen Warfare in serving breakfast to residents of the Right2DreamToo Unhoused Community rest site. This is the second such meal our group has been involved with at the R2DToo site. I had to organize the last one from here in Colorado, but this time I actually get to be on the ground. I’m so excited!

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We’re looking for just a little bit of financial help to make sure we can cover the cost of food. If you’re able to help, please visit our GoFundMe page. Even $5 helps– but of course, so do prayers, good vibes, and messages of support. We’re hoping this is an effort we can continue at similar camps around the country, so our success in Portland will help provide the momentum we need to keep the love coming.

If you’re looking for a way to help out in your community, just shoot me a message at gonnacookthat@gmail.com, and I’ll help you do the research and provide suggestions. Get on board this love train, folks! There’s plenty of room.