About two weeks ago, I stumbled across an initiative in our area called City Fresh. It is a style of community supported agriculture (CSA), in which we pay for a share of produce in advance, then we pick up our food share at a designated place and time. There are so many advantages to a CSA. Here are just a few: it keeps small, local, growers in business, reduces (if not eliminates) the need for pesticides, reduces fuel transportation costs, the cost is pre-arranged (no surprises), it's fresh and convenient. Usually, the disadvantage is that most CSAs require a payment up front for the whole season (say, $400-500), an amount which is not usually available to limited-income families. Also, a family may not need to get produce every week (in my case, I have a garden, but I only have herbs and cherry tomatoes available right now), and shares usually fill up pretty quickly. The difference about City Fresh is that there is a weekly commitment (signed up a week in advance) there are multiple pick up sites, and limited-income families (including seniors) pay half price for the share. They even accept the Ohio Direction card (aka food stamps). So last week, I checked it out and signed up for a full share. A full share is enough produce to feed a family of 4 for a week. It cost me $20(that's the full price). Here is what I got:
zucchini, yellow squash, radishes, green onions, beets, potatoes, cabbage, sweet onions, green beans, mixed cooking greens, romaine lettuce, baby leeks, and 1pt maple syrup.
I enjoy being part of a system that makes quality food available to people of all incomes, and doesn't take you too far away from home to buy it. My biggest challenge in providing nutrition counsel is my awareness that sometimes these very foods are not available in low-income areas, let alone affordable. And, being community-based, some volunteers and participants are people I have met through other activities.
I am really excited about the maple syrup. I haven't bought some in a while so when I had to choose between mulberries or maple syrup, it was a no-brainer (not to mention there is a mulberry tree right at the pick up site).
Best of all, it has forced me to plan my meals and snacks around vegetables, not meat (or another protein source). I have wanted to make this change for quite some time, but just haven't done it. As much as you may hear me talk about eating more fruit and (especially) vegetables, I often find myself planning meals around the entree, and the vegetables become an afterthought, if not forgotten. I get easily distracted and often times when I think dinner is served, I realize I haven't prepared the vegetables or salad. My well-intentioned salad greens often get spoiled before I get around to using them.
I love having foods that I don't normally buy. I rarely buy beets, cabbage, radishes, cooking greens (such as kale) or leeks. It's not that I don't like these foods. It's either not on my radar, a little pricey, or (in the case of beets) hard to find a decent-looking sample. I am sure my husband is secretly dreading eating the beets this week, but I promise it won't resemble anything he was forced to eat growing up. So far, this is what I am thinking of using some of this stuff for (I hope to update with recipes at some point):
- Feijoada (brazilian black bean stew), with mixed cooking greens and rice.
- Beet and orange salad
- Grilled italian sausage with sweet onions
- Grilled chicken, with potatoes, and green beans
- Pasta salad with grilled chicken, grilled squash, leeks and cherry tomatoes (from my own garden)
- Romaine salad with radishes and cherry tomatoes
I still need some ideas for the cabbage and the beet greens. I may make something and put it in the freezer. Any suggestions?