Nutrition Education At The Food Bank - Capital Area Food Bank
Skip to main content

Nutrition Education At The Food Bank

By Chanel Carter May 27, 2011

“What can I do with this?” a young mom asks holding up a head of cabbage. 

This is a frequently asked question at a food pantry distribution; and one the Nutrition Education Department at the Capital Area Food Bank is tackling head on. Each year, the CAFB distributes nearly 30 million pounds of food – half of which is fresh produce. But without the knowledge of how to prepare the produce at home, the fear of the unknown may prove too great and residents choose to forego the fresh produce – most notably the vegetables.

To help combat this problem the Nutrition Education Department brought on Chef Mitch Greene, with grant funding, to launch a recipe database that will be accessible by all partner agencies on the “Partner Zone” online portal.  The goal of the recipe database is to feature ingredients and create demand for healthy ingredients at CAFB. The recipe database is in the development stage, but partner agencies can look forward to its launch and brainstorm ways to incorporate the recipes into their organizations.

The recipes will follow guidelines set forth by the Nutrition Education Department, with oversight by the department director, Jodi Balis RD.  Among other guidelines recipes will include at least 3 out of the 5 food groups (grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, and meat/beans) and cost no more than $1.50 per serving.  Most importantly, they will be tasty. Recipes will include information about what can be substituted, allowing for flexibility and creativity. Currently, most of the recipes are simple one-pot meals that require little preparation or preparation time. As the project continues to evolve, the recipe database will offer as many types, styles, and variety of recipes as possible.

Knowing how to prepare food bank ingredients in healthy and economical ways may seem challenging to both food bank member partners and clients alike.  But these recipes, coupled with cooking demonstrations will provide the food bank network with new experiences and expose them to new ways to use common ingredients in healthy, tasty ways.

—A look at a recipe for Southwest Turkey Soup

Serves 8                 

1        teaspoon olive oil, or canola
1        pound ground turkey
¼     teaspoon salt, or less to taste
black pepper, to taste
2        medium onions, chopped
1        large green bell pepper, chopped
1        tablespoon chili powder
          cayenne pepper, to taste
2        garlic cloves, crushed
8    cups water, or chicken stock, low/no sodium, fat free
1        15 oz. can  whole kernel corn, no salt added
1        15 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1        15 oz. can diced tomatoes, no salt added
13  ounces spinach, frozen, thawed


In a large sauce pan or stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. While the pan is heating up, season the turkey with the salt and pepper.  When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the turkey onions and peppers.  Cook until the turkey is browned completely, stir occasionally (stirring too often will increase the cooking time!).

 Just before the turkey is done to your liking, add the chili powder, cayenne pepper and garlic cloves.  Stir to distribute evenly and cook less than one minute.  Be careful NOT to brown the garlic (brown garlic is very bitter and unpleasant).

Add the water (or stock) all at once.  Stir to scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan (called ‘fond’–like foundation–in French kitchens).  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered 15 minutes.

 Add the corn, drained and rinsed beans and the spinach.  Return to a simmer (adjust the heat if necessary) and simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until thoroughly hot.

Written by Adrienne Griggs in Nutrition Education Department