EUGENE, Ore. – What do you do with an abundance of emu, tofu and frozen, pureed peas?
That's a question that food pantries feeding financially strapped residents of Lane County faced. The Oregon State University Extension Service in Lane County helped them find an answer.
Since 2004, Extension in Lane County has been giving food pantry shoppers healthy recipes that use ingredients that are donated in large quantities and are sometimes unfamiliar to shoppers. The aim is to encourage them to select nutritious food that otherwise might go to waste on pantries' shelves because there's an excess of it or because shoppers don't know how to prepare it.
"It has been an excellent program – it’s one of the many ways we've developed partnerships with the Extension Service over the years," said Linda Kelley, the agency relations coordinator for FOOD for Lane County, the nonprofit food bank that distributes food to the pantries.
So far, Extension-trained volunteers have distributed hundreds of one-page recipe sheets and 11 editions of recipe booklets at 24 pantries. As part of the program, the approximately 40 volunteers make simple, nutritious dishes from the recipes and then hand out samples at the sites. They also advise shoppers on how to use ingredients and teach them about healthy eating. The volunteers visit each pantry once a month.
Deanna Hadley is one of them. Every month, she dons an apron and a nametag and heads to the Oakridge Food Box agency with that month's dish in hand as well as a tablecloth, napkins, spoons, cups and recipe sheets or booklets. As people queue up to select their items, Hadley teaches them about some of the products.
"One time last summer there was an abundance of leeks," said Hadley, who used to receive food from the Oakridge pantry when she was unemployed. "I asked if anyone had used leeks before. They said they didn't know what they were. I got my knife out and cut one open and showed them. I told them you could use them as a substitute for onions in almost anything. I said you can use them as the base ingredient in soups and sauté them in your casseroles and omelets."
Four years ago, Nellie Oehler, an Extension agent in Lane County, came up with the idea of distributing recipes at the pantries when FOOD for Lane County reported a surplus of raisins. She put together a booklet with recipes that included "Raisin-Banana Tortilla Rollups," "Raisin Sauce" and "Carrot Raisin Peach Salad."
When pantries found themselves with an abundance of tofu, Oehler compiled recipes for "Tofu Marinade," "Fried Tofu with Peanut Sauce" and "Cream of Anything Soup." A surplus of frozen, pureed peas resulted in recipes like "Pea Puree Bread" and "Pasta Pea Salad." When a load of emu poultry meat arrived, volunteers handed out a sheet with recipes for "Emu Arizona Pot Roast," "Mandarin Emu" and "Baked Emu Stroganoff."
The latest booklet emphasizes beans, with recipes like "Bean Pancakes" and "Easy Hummus."
In addition to recipes, the booklets, which range from 14 to 18 pages, contain the U.S. Department of Agriculture's food pyramid, information about nutrition classes that Extension in Lane County offers, and tips for handling food properly to avoid getting sick. The recipe booklets are available at http://extension.oregonstate.edu/lane/nutrition/pantry_cookbook.
The following is a recipe for "Spicy Bean Cake" taken from the Fall/Winter 2007 booklet:
¼ cup butter or margarine, softened
¾ cup sugar
2 cups cooked, mashed pinto beans or refried beans
1 cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups diced apples
¾ cup raisins (optional)
¼ cup chopped nuts (optional)
1½ teaspoons vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat together butter or margarine, sugar, eggs and mashed beans until smooth. Combine dry ingredients and add to bean mixture, mixing well. Stir in apples, raisins, nuts and vanilla. Spread into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes. Makes 15 servings. Variation: Add 4 T cocoa to batter to make a chocolate cake.
For information on Extension's food pantry project in Lane County, go to http://extension.oregonstate.edu/lane/nutrition/food_pantry_project. For information about becoming a Food Pantry Project volunteer, go to http://extension.oregonstate.edu/lane/nutrition/volunteer.