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Nutrition Education Helps Alleviate Hunger

February 13, 2014

The Big Picture
In addition to distributing healthy food through our network of 450 community partners, the Food Bank also teaches nutrition classes and provides cooking demonstrations for pantry participants.

“We teach pantry participants how to prepare simple, healthy and low cost recipes with the wide variety of fresh produce that they receive from the Food Bank,” says Amy Orlandi, Food Bank nutritional education program manager. “We also empower participants to make healthy food choices for themselves and their families by educating them about basic nutrition, understanding food labels, menu planning and preparing healthy meals on a budget.”

Targeted classes: Pantry to Plate
The Food Bank’s Pantry to Plate cooking demonstration shows participants how to make healthy meals from the groceries they receive from food pantries. Many cooking demos are customized for particular situations, like living in single room occupancy hotels.

“Not all of our pantry participants have access to a full kitchen – some of them only have a slow cooker or a microwave, so we adjust our cooking demonstrations accordingly,” Orlandi said.

At a recent Pantry to Plate demonstration, Orlandi showed attendees how to cook acorn squash in the microwave.

Learning the food culture
The Food Bank also tailors its cooking demonstrations to those who have recently moved to San Francisco from other countries. While commonplace in American food culture, squash, potatoes, raw carrots and hotdogs can often give international participants pause.

During a recent Pantry to Plate session, Orlandi gave a cooking demonstration to more than 80 Chinese speakers while the pantry coordinator translated through a microphone at the front of the room. Written copies of the recipe were also distributed in Chinese. The day’s lesson? How to make potato soup.

Christina Hom, pantry coordinator for Chinese Christian Mission, says, “The nutrition program is important because many of our families are new immigrants from China, and the food here is different and Chinese cooking is different. The cooking demonstrations are very useful for my clients so they can learn how to use the food for their families.”

“They enjoy it very much,” Hom said as volunteers passed out samples.

‘Food Smarts’ and food safety
The Food Bank nutrition staff also teaches a six-week course that covers nutrition basics, understanding food labels and tips for healthy food preparation. During the Food Smarts Workshop, participants learn how to make healthy choices and simple changes in their diets.

The Food Bank also holds food safety trainings for our agency partners to ensure the food delivered from our warehouse to our pantries meets food safety standards. We hold regular trainings so pantry coordinators and meal providers can learn best practices in safe food handling, storage and distribution. 

Nutrition, cooking skills and food safety are all part of the equation of helping to end hunger in San Francisco and Marin.  

“The nutrition component is so important because we want to help our pantry participants make the most out of the food they receive from the Food Bank,” Orlandi says.