Cooking Skills and Food Insecurity

I’ve been excited to garden in my space this summer at the ISU Community Garden despite the extreme drought and hot, hot, hot conditions. The amount of produce has been greatly diminished in these conditions but has given us a bounty to enjoy. It is a challenge to work with that bounty, both to prepare and to preserve. It takes time and skills, some of which I’ve had to learn like canning. My mom canned amazing amounts of food every year but I wasn’t “present” enough in the process to fully remember it so the internet was my guide. And now I have lovely marinara and salsa lined up on shelves in my basement ready to provide that boost of summer when the cold winter winds blow.

My sister lives on a farm in southern Clay County and grew zucchini from the plants I started from seed. She doesn’t have a lot of experience with zucchini, however, and soon had fruits the size of baseball bats and no clue what to do with them. So I offered to take them to the Catholic Charities Foodbank and did. Some 45 pounds of zucchini. And some time later, I had a discussion with folks involved in the food distribution to the poor who lamented that fresh produce is often not the first choice when clients are selecting food from their shelves and often goes to waste. Seems a big problem is the lack of food preparation skills among many folks. I certainly understand that. Time, convenience, and the fact that the cheapest foods are generally prepared or fast foods has created a whole generation of folks who just don’t know what to do with a zucchini. Or a green bean. Or 4 pounds of tomatoes.

Then came news of a couple of soup kitchens in the area closing due to a lack of staff and/or volunteers.

And then I learned that people receiving Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) sometimes have a difficult time finding suitable work to fulfill the work requirement to receive aid and I thought: is there a way to connect these dots? What if we could have knowledgeable cooks in our soup kitchens teaching TANF recipients how to cook using produce from our food banks and giving gardens to feed the needy in soup kitchens? Hmmm. I’d be delighted to talk with anyone who has thoughts on this.

Why is this important to Terre Foods? Well, having a community who knows how to prepare and preserve nature’s bounty is essential to its long-term survival and the ability of the local food economy to grow and prosper. Let’s get reconnected to our food!

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