Before the start of a recent Mobile Food Pantry in Broome County, a group of about 15 is gathered around vehicles at the Colesville Volunteer Ambulance Company to taste a recipe for a pinto bean salad.
Elisa Rocks, one of the Food Bank’s two registered dietitians, mixes ingredients together, answers questions about substitutions, and encourages the use of dietary fiber.
“That was really good!” says Beverly Maine, of Chenango Bridge. “That will be on our table.”
The Mobile Food Pantry (MFP) visitors leave with recipes, nutritional magazines, and a complimentary measuring cup from the Just Say Yes to Fruits and Vegetables program (JSY).
Using nutrition education workshops and food demonstrations, JSY helps low-income families eat nutritious foods, make the most of their food budgets, prepare foods in a safe manner, increase physical activity, and drink healthier beverages.
JSY is one of New York State Department of Health’s nutrition education services available to low-income families who are eligible for Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) funds. Led by food banks, a statewide network of nutritionists delivers comprehensive nutrition education activities primarily in food pantries and soup kitchens.
Each workshop provides practical nutrition information using USDA-approved lesson plans, cooking demonstrations, and recipes for fruits and vegetables.
“They are great. Very educational,” says Beverly, who attends JSY classes frequently. Today, she brought her daughter Jennifer Maine. Both women also volunteer at other area MFPs. “Too many people say, ‘What do you do with this?’ My family are farm people; we know what to do with vegetables. But so many people don’t,” Beverly says.
Clients can locate and sign up for JSY classes at www.foodbankst.org/find-food Food Bank dietitians also spearheaded a recipe card initiative last year, providing pantries with seasonal recipe cards using healthy foods found at pantries and mobile sites. This year, the cards will be available at MFP locations, and families can pick up kid-friendly recipes at Kids’ Farmers Markets.