Cape Cod Organic Farm owner Tim Friary shares the harvest bounty with Cape food pantries
PHOTO/ LAURIE HIGGINS
A truck full of one ton of butternut squash that farmer Tim Friary of Cape Cod Organic Farm in Barnstable donated to Cape food pantries last week.
In honor of Food Day on Friday, farmer Tim Friary of Cape Cod Organic Farm in Barnstable donated one ton of butternut squash to local food pantries. The donation took place at the Barnstable Senior Center, where the Cape Cod Hunger Network held its autumn quarterly meeting.
"It's a good match," says Friary. "I've wanted to do something with the food bank for a long time. We had a great growing year — our best growing year ever — and we figured we might as well share."
Food Day was started by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (as an advocate for better nutrition and food safety) and other food leaders in 2011, and quickly grew to 8,000 events from coast to coast this year alone. Justice throughout the food chain — from farm workers to child consumers — was be a special focus for the fourth annual Food Day, as was increasing Americans' access to healthful food.
"Many Americans don't have access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and other healthy, whole foods, and Food Day is a great opportunity to celebrate our food system when it works and try to fix it when it's broken," says Lilia Smelkova, Food Day campaign manager. "At thousands of Food Day events, in the news, and on social media, we want to inspire everyone to take action to solve food-related problems in our communities at the local, state, and national level."
Both Friary's donation and the choice for the date of the Cape Cod Hunger Network meeting were a local effort to raise awareness of the goals of Food Day. In addition to promoting healthier diets, the Food Day movement supports sustainable and organic farms and works to reduce hunger and improve food access, meaning that the meeting and the donation were both in keeping with this year's goal.
The Cape Cod Hunger Network is a coalition of organizations dedicated to coordinating food programs Capewide. It includes representatives from many of the approximately 30 food pantries on the Cape, as well as representatives from the Greater Boston Food Bank, Project Bread, WIC, the Department of Transitional Assistance and the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension among others.
Brenda Swain and Mary Anderson, executive directors, respectively, of Falmouth Service Center and the Family Pantry of Cape Cod in Harwich, co-chair the group. Those two pantries are the largest on Cape Cod and serve as pick-up sites for smaller pantries. Much of the available food comes from the Greater Boston Food Bank.
One of the priorities of the Hunger Network is to get more fresh vegetables for clients and most pantry representatives say they are encouraged that pantries are doing so much better than they have in previous years. Kim Concra, who is in charge of Community Nutrition and Food Safety at the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension, says that a grant from the Bilezikian Family Foundation, allowed her to create "Cook Well, Eat Well, Live Well" materials that included the creation of a cookbook utilizing common food pantry items.
"It was a way to bring nutrition education to more pantries," Concra says. "When we did it in 2011, not many pantries had fresh produce, so there aren't a lot of recipes using them. Now more pantries get and grow produce so I want to do the veggie version."
In the meantime, pantries, includng the Family Pantry of Cape Cod, Falmouth Service Center and the Bourne Food Pantry, are willing to provide recipes to clients who don't know how to cook fresh vegetables.
One of the best things the Hunger Network does is share ideas. The director of one pantry said that her clients wanted to eat healthier, but her pantry didn't have access to much fresh produce. Another director suggested that it was still possible to educate clients because knowledge is power. Since many of the people who visit food pantries also qualify for the SNAP Food Stamp program, pantries can encourage people to use their food stamps to buy fresh produce and then supplement that with shelf staples offered by pantries.
Erika DelCioppo from the Greater Boston Food Bank acknowledged that some of the local pantries have had problems with produce shipped in the past, but says they are actively working on a fix.
"We're still trying to increase the quality of produce," she says. "We hope that if you haven't gotten produce from us in a while that you'll give it another try. We had some potato issues recently but apparently that was from the packer and not what we're doing with the produce at GBFB. So please try again and if you have anything that goes wrong let us know and give us feedback."
After the meeting adjourned, everyone headed out to the parking lot to wait for the delivery of squash. AmeriCorps volunteers cheerfully loaded boxes and bags and carried them to the food pantry directors' cars. This week at least, many local pantries will be offering fresh organic produce grown on Cape Cod.
Kim Concra from the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension made two versions of butternut squash soup for attendees of the meeting and shared the following recipe:
Butternut Squash Soup
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup tomato puree
1 small fresh hot chili pepper, seeded and chopped (use gloves when handling hot pepper)
1 pound butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about 1/2 a squash)
2 1/2 cups chicken broth, low sodium, non-fat
Pepper to taste
Lime wedge (optional)
- Wash and prepare vegetables. In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Stir in onions, carrots and garlic. Cook for three minutes then cover pan. Lower heat and cook for three to four minutes until vegetables are very tender.
- Stir in tomato puree, chilies, squash and chicken broth. Bring soup to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Mash squash pieces with a potato masher or the back of a spoon (soup does not need to be completely smooth).
This one is almost my husband's recipe (I cut back cream, used no heavy cream and increased stock!)
2 1/2 pounds of peeled, cut butternut (or cook the squash in the oven and weigh after taking the seeds out
1 quart vegetable/chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/3- to 1/2 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 cups light cream
Simmer squash and stock until squash is soft (if starting with raw squash). Puree squash and stock mix with an immersion blender or standing blender, then add pepper and maple syrup. Simmer 10 minutes. Stir in cream and heat gently, do not boil.