Tag Archives: healthy eating

5 Simple Side Dish Recipes for the Holidays

When you’re thinking about, working with and helping others get access to food as often as we are at Chester County Food Bank, it’s impossible to ignore the significance that the holidays can have for our neighbors in need. For many families in Chester County, even if they can get by week to week, the big, festive meals that for many of us are a time of joy can present lots of extra stress.

Our partnerships with local food pantries and our ongoing programs like our Senior Food Boxes, which provide nutritious ingredients to nearly 800 seniors in our region, help to ease the burden for families during the holidays and all year long.

As we round the corner to the winter holidays ahead, we wanted to remind you that preparing food for special gatherings doesn’t have to be an overwrought or expensive undertaking. Even if you love to cook, it can be hard to eke out the time or spend extra on specialty ingredients at the market. And while we all love to tuck into our favorite comfort foods around the holiday table, extravagance is not what these holidays are about. They are about togetherness, love and gratitude.

One of the things that we’re grateful for is that our favorite holiday side dishes require little more than a few veggies, a handful of herbs, a splash of milk or broth and a good recipe to guide the way. Here are five recipes for simple, affordable and nutritious holiday classics that you can bring to the table this year:

Sweet Potato Hummus: This recipe from Food & Wine puts a new spin on sweet potatoes, one of the most wallet-friendly, nutrient-dense root veggies around. For far less than the cost of prepared hummus, you can make a giant batch of this creamy, mild dip to serve before the meal with crackers and baby carrots. Bonus points for the canned chickpeas, which add a huge boost of protein to this crowd-pleasing appetizer.

Massaged Kale Salad: Though it used to be a bit more of a “health food” staple, kale has risen through the ranks of the food world to become a mainstream veggie. And we’re glad for it, too: Our farm-grown kale is bursting with vitamins and minerals. This recipe from Eating Well keeps it exceedingly simple: A quick massage with olive oil tames the kale’s crunchy texture, and garlicky lemon dressing will have guests reaching for seconds.

Classic Herb Stuffing: Stuffing can be one of the worst holiday culprits in terms of being overly complicated (think oysters, raisins, sausage and so on) and also one of the most calorie-laden. That’s why we appreciate this no-nonsense (but oh-so-delicious) classic stuffing from Cooking Light. Whole grain bread, just a few veggies and herbs, chicken stock, eggs and butter are all you need to whip up this craveable carb.

Green Beans with Brown Butter: Brown butter is an amazing kitchen hack to add to your arsenal. Just a few moments over gentle heat transforms regular butter into a fragrant, nutty, rich sauce that elevates everything from oatmeal to ravioli. It takes green beans from standard to stellar in this three-step recipe from the fuss-free cooking pros at Real Simple.

The World’s Easiest Cranberry Sauce: No holiday meal is complete without a dish of bright, zesty cranberry sauce on the table! Skip the jellied, jarred stuff and try this recipe from the acclaimed food blog Serious Eats, which uses fresh cranberries from the acclaimed food and claims to be the world’s easiest version! The fresh fruit means a whopping dose of vitamin C and tons of juicy, tart flavor.

What are your favorite holiday dishes that are both economic and a snap to make? Let us know! Check out our resource of recipes including those featured with our Fresh2You Mobile Market weekly recipe bundles.

Want to learn more? Check out our mission video, sign up for our newsletter and stay connected. You can also donate food, funds and time to help us achieve our mission. Call (610) 873-6000 to speak to someone about getting involved or requesting a tour. Thanks to you, we’re growing a healthier community.

The Chester County Food Bank is the central hunger relief organization serving more than 120 food cupboards, meal sites and social service organizations throughout Chester County. We mobilize our community to ensure access to real, healthy food.

Emily Kovach

Featured photo: Chester County Food Bank; all other photos: Pexels

Meet the Community Partner: La Comunidad Hispana

Here at the Chester County Food Bank, our mission is to end food insecurity in the communities in our county. It’s an ambitious goal — the problem of hunger is a complex one, touching on economics, access to food, nutrition and cooking education, advocacy, legislative policy and so much more. While our organization is going nine years strong and has accomplished so much during that time, we definitely can’t tackle these issues alone. It’s thanks to our strong bonds and relationships with community partners that we’re able to continue reaching our neighbors in need in effective, sustainable ways.

One such community partner is La Comunidad Hispana (LCH), a diverse, bilingual Federally Qualified Health Center in southern Chester County. Its mission is to “change lives by serving southern Chester County as the leading provider of integrated health and community services.” Founded in 1973 by Peggy Harris and Margarita Quiñones with the support of Kennett Square residents, clergy and advocates, LCH set forth to serve the needs of the primarily Latino population who came to the region to find jobs in the mushroom industry. LCH was established as a place where vulnerable adults and families could go for health and medical issues large and small.

Now, more than 40 years later, the committed, passionate team at LCH continues this mission at various sites: its Health and Community Services office and Dental Center in Kennett Square, its Community Health Center in Oxford and its brand-new Women’s Health Center in West Grove. The Women’s Health Center is an exciting new development for LCH; all of its women’s health services will be provided out of this office, and with an additional provider added to the staff, the organization will be able to serve more women than ever.

CCFB’s relationship with LCH began about five years ago, when we started our EatFresh program. During that time, we sought organizations to partner with, specifically health clinics in the county.

“LCH was one of those, and the idea was that they were connecting with food-insecure families whom we believed we could teach some basic healthy cooking options to and also be able to give them some fresh produce at the end of each class,” said Wendy Gaynor, director of Food Security Initiatives at Chester County Food Bank. “It turns out that the people [served by LCH] have a wealth of knowledge surrounding cooking, so what we’re now doing is building community. They’re coming for the produce, for the connection and to have an experience together. They get to come together with other people and enjoy good food.”

We’re still working with LCH on EatFresh, and are pleased to announce that we’re extending our partnership with them to offer the Fruit & Vegetable Prescription (FVRx) program to some of the families there. Families are identified through the clinic and are given “prescriptions,” which are like vouchers that can be redeemed for fresh produce at CCFB’s Fresh2You Truck.

These components of our partnership exemplify just what makes LCH so special. It’s not simply there to administer medical treatment and services — aims to serve the holistic health of the families and individuals it serves. One example of this is LCH’s Family Fitness Program. It piloted this program two years ago, with the support of the Edna G. Kynett Memorial Foundation, and has been such a success, LCH decided to continue it.

“The goal of the program is to provide intensive health interventions for families with children at risk of chronic disease (such as heart disease and diabetes), based on overweight/obese status,” explained LeeAnn Riloff, director of Development at LCH. “We enroll the entire family into the program and over the course of a year, offer them regular clinical check-ins, health education, consultation with a nutritionist, free healthy food bags and fitness equipment and deeply discounted family YMCA memberships.” The families also receive access to LCH’s special programs, including walking/running groups and the FVRx partnership with CCFB. LCH also hosts three raised beds that are part of our Raised Bed Garden Program — these help to supplement the fresh produce CCFB brings to on-site EatFresh classes.

“These food bank programs are critical elements of the program for us,” said LeeAnn. “Our nutritionist can give families advice to eat lots of fruits and vegetables instead of loads of empty carbs, but unless they can access the produce and know how to use it, it isn’t all that useful!”

La Comunidad Hispana is just one of the many community partners we work with, and is such an important resource for the communities of southern Chester County. To learn more about its mission, visit its website and Facebook page.

Want to learn more? Check out our mission video, sign up for our newsletter and stay connected. You can also donate food, funds and time to help us achieve our mission. Call (610) 873-6000 to speak to someone about getting involved or requesting a tour. Thanks to you, we’re growing a healthier community.

The Chester County Food Bank is the central hunger relief organization serving more than 120 food cupboards, meal sites and social service organizations throughout Chester County. We mobilize our community to ensure access to real, healthy food.

Emily Kovach

Featured photo: La Comunidad Hispana; all other photos, top to bottom: La Comunidad Hispana, Chester County Food Bank (next two photos), La Comunidad Hispana

A Healthy Dose: Introducing the Fresh2You Fruit & Vegetable Prescription (FVRx) Program

They say laughter is the best medicine, but at the Chester County Food Bank, we believe nutritious food is a close contender. Fresh produce does a world of good for bodies young and old, but not everyone has access to fruits and vegetables. Our Fresh2You Mobile Market, which opened for the season on June 13, seeks to address that issue by bringing a produce-market-on-wheels to various locations throughout Chester County. We’ve seen a lot of success from this program (which is generously supported by QVC) and have gotten lots of positive feedback from residents in various neighborhoods who otherwise find it difficult to locate and purchase affordable fresh produce.

This year, we’re taking this idea a step further with our pilot Fresh2You Fruit & Vegetable Prescription (FVRx) program. This innovative initiative is in partnership with The Clinic in Phoenixville, a nonprofit health care facility whose mission is to “provide quality health care to the uninsured in an atmosphere which fosters dignity and respect for our patients.” FVRx is partially funded through a grant provided by the Chester County Health Department, and also in part by the Chester County Food Bank.

The goal of the FVRx Program is to address the adverse effects that food insecurity has on health. The program will do this by offering doctors and their patients the opportunity to discuss nutrition, and give patients the tools necessary to establish great dietary habits and practices. We are aiming to increase access to and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables for patients of The Clinic, and to improve the overall well-being and food security of program participants.

At present, The Clinic has enrolled about 75 patients into the program; each participant is given a real “prescription” for Veggie Bucks, which are vouchers that can then be used to purchase fruits and vegetables at the Fresh2You Mobile Market, which parks outside of The Clinic on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The prescription is renewed each week the participant shops at the market.

Because we know that knowledge is power, and that not everyone knows what to do with a head of cauliflower or a bunch of mustard greens, the Fresh2You staff, including a number of volunteers, holds interactive recipe demonstrations at each market location including The Clinic. Every week, a new recipe is featured to highlight a seasonal vegetable. Volunteers cook and offer samples of the recipe at the market, and customers (including all FVRx participant shoppers) are welcome to take the recipe home. At the market, we sell the ingredients in a handy “Recipe Bundle” for just $5.

If you’re a patient at The Clinic, be sure to ask your care provider about enrolling in the FVRx program. To find out where the Fresh2You Mobile Market will be this summer, take a look at our weekly schedule. We hope to keep the residents of Chester County eating great seasonal produce all summer long!

Want to learn more? Sign up for our newsletter and stay connected. You can also donate foodfunds and time to help us achieve our mission. Call (610) 873-6000 to speak to someone about getting involved or request a tour. Thanks to you, we’re growing a healthier community.

The Chester County Food Bank is the central hunger relief organization serving more than 120 food cupboards, meal sites and social service organizations throughout Chester County. We mobilize our community to ensure access to real, healthy food.

Emily Kovach

Photos: Chester County Food Bank