This week I spent an afternoon at Food Share, where I was nourished in both body and mind. In operation since 1985, Food Share has been working to put good food into the hands of the people who need it most. I've known about this organization for some time, but I realized with a bit of a shock, that I really had no idea about the depth of their programmes or the greatness of their vision.
These people are not interested in quick fixes, but rather have a long term strategy that they have been evolving and increasing over the years. They are interested in every possibly aspect of food production from the seeds that go under the light tray, to the growing, to distribution, and then on to purchasing, cooking and consuming, and then back to the garden with their extensive composting.I'll be writing more about Food Share over the next week, but today I wanted to start with what they call The Good Food Box. Each week they fill reusable containers that are sent out to different parts of the city where customers pick them up. The boxes I saw being packed yesterday contained 1 bunch bananas, 1 bunch broccoli, 1 bag carrots, 1 head of lettuce, 1 8 ounce package of mushrooms, 2 pounds of onions, 4 oranges, 3 pounds of pears, 1 red pepper, 2 pounds of sweet potatoes and 1/2 pound of plum tomatoes, all for a total $13.00. Not only that, half of the items on that list are locally grown, and it's mid-November. Inside each of those boxes is a list of the contents and a newsletter with recipes from the Food Share kitchen, as well as some information on the chosen vegetable. Today's recipe is from the newsletter, and there is another for spicy beans on baked sweet potatoes that I'll be trying out in the next week.
The workshop where they pack the boxes is bright and busy when we visit, but surprisingly quiet for the number of people working there. The workshop is extremely efficient and the constant movement of skids of produce and removal of empty boxes is almost balletic. Everyone has their job to do and they all worked together in a constant rhythm as the food boxes moved down a belt being filled and placed on skids. Lots of smiles and quiet chat made this feel like a very relaxed and happy place, despite the enormous amount of work these volunteers are doing. Yes, people volunteer their time every week to get this food out of the warehouse within a day of its arrival. One part time staff member spoke with us and she was actually putting in volunteer hours on her day off. She told us that most organizations give you bus fare, but she was happy to discover Food Share when she discovered that they feed volunteers lunch. Every day they feed volunteers, staff and any visitors a full, and believe me, delicious lunch. These people work together and eat together and create their own community, a powerful thing. This photo shows only part of the meal. They were serving two salads, the burritos which were turkey, or vegetarian with cheese in it, or vegan, with a corn and tomato salsa, as well as minestrone soup and an apple and granola dessert. This was all made by the kitchen staff (along with some volunteers and interns) on the premises using fresh ingredients.
This recipe for sweet potato and parsnip mash got a tiny sweet boost from the little bit of brown sugar, which would make it a popular item with kids. I was lazy and didn't bother to clarify the butter, and it was fine. I had some leftovers, so I added some vegetable stock, some cauliflower and a bit of srirhacha sauce to spice it up a bit and had a tasty soup for lunch the next day.
Sweet Potato and Parsnip Mash
3 sweet potatoes
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 tbsp clarified butter
1. In a pot of boiling water cook sweet potatoes until tender, and mash them together.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients to the mixture of sweet potatoes and parsnips, stirring until you get a soft consistency. Serve hot.