March is National Nutrition Month, an annual campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which is meant to engage people in conversation about making informed food choices and developing healthful eating and physical activity habits. It’s the perfect backdrop to celebrate PA Eats’ one-year anniversary of working with Feeding PA on our Nourish PA video and recipe project. This joint effort empowers people to make healthy, accessible, affordable meals, with a focus on ingredients commonly found in food pantries across the state. Our videos teach basic cooking skills and highlight fresh, nutrient-dense ingredients.
“Feeding people facing hunger is about more than simply providing food. Through our network of food banks and pantries, we found that it wasn’t enough to simply supply more fresh produce and promote healthy options, but to also provide an educational resource for our clients that teaches them how to use the ingredients they receive, and explain basic cooking skills so they can prepare nutritious meals for themselves and their families,” says Jane Clements, Executive Director of Feeding Pennsylvania.
As we reflect on one year since the launch of Nourish PA, we are honored to contribute these resources in the fight against food insecurity in Pennsylvania. Thanks to our sponsors, Dish Works and Tröegs Independent Brewing, and PA Eats donors, the Nourish PA series has so far developed 14 recipe videos and 21 recipes, including 12 kid-friendly recipes, which were distributed across the state to over 34 food pantries. The original recipes were contributed by volunteer chefs, recipe developers and nutritionists, and the videos and photographs were produced by professional videographers.
Feeding PA’s research and input was invaluable in making the Nourish PA series relevant. They dug deep to identify and understand the barriers to eating healthy among food pantry clients, and worked with Nutrition Educators that were funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Health through the Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Nutrition Educators were hired to work at Feeding Pennsylvania food banks and to directly assist food pantries in their designated territories. Through their relationships with the pantries, they were able to identify several key factors. Lack of familiarity with certain foods being the top barrier.
“So often, the pantry staff and volunteers are verbally teaching folks about how to cook with everything from kale to ginger root to spaghetti squash,” said Alex Evenson, Nutrition Educator of Philabundance. “The PA Eats videos are a crucial visual tool for the Healthy Pantry Initiative and a great way to simply and quickly demonstrate a recipe, step by step. The videos also lessen any language barriers, ensuring that all clients can access the content.”
And this is just the beginning! As more pantries participating in the PA Healthy Pantry Initiative become aware of the resources, more pantry clients will be engaged in conversations that encourage healthy habits and nourishing meals. The partnership plans to continue to expand, recruit chefs, and receive sponsorships to create the recipes, videos, and other digital content.
“The most important benefit of providing resources to the families coming to our pantry is the encouragement it brings to try a food the family is not familiar with. The recipes are suggestions that stimulate thinking about how the item can be used with foods, like simply adding new spices to make a new, appetizing dish. The availability of these resources adds value to our pantry service. We’re not just delivering food; we’re educating families on the use of the food,” said Edward Riehl, Pantry Coordinator of the Delaware Valley Fairness Project.
Do you want to help contribute to this awesome collaboration? Consider donating or becoming a sustaining member of Friends of PA Eats today! We also have opportunities for businesses and organizations to sponsor future Nourish PA videos. Or, perhaps you’re a chef who can help us develop new recipes for upcoming Nourish PA videos? If so, let us know! There are so many ways to get involved so that, in another year, we can all look back together at even more great recipes and videos that have helped out the individuals and families experiencing food insecurity in Pennsylvania.
- Photos and videos: Dish Works