Monday, February 18, 2013

Fresh Food Basket Programs - Get Healthy

In winter when you don't have access to the farmer's markets, a fresh food basket is the perfect alternative to healthy eating.

Last week  it was cold and blustery outside but in the kitchen at Bracebridge United Church all was cozy and warm as I was joined by a group of ladies and we were cooking up Ukranian and Mediterranean delights. This Community Kitchen group cooks once a month on the delivery day for the Fresh Food Basket Program in Muskoka. Operated through several partners including the District of Muskoka, the program aims to get people to eat more nutritiously. For only $20.00 a month you can sign up to receive a food basket brimming with fresh produce. I find this especially appealling when the ground is covered with snow and there is no access to farmers markets or your own garden. And it's a bargain - last week our basket included: Iceberg lettuce, leaf lettuce, red cabbage, an english cucumber, 4 bananas, a couple of oranges, three lemons, a bag of mini carrots, mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, 2 tomatoes, a bag of locally grown pea shoots, a bag of spinach, a cantelope and a 5 lb bag of potatoes. How great is that! And they even supply nutrition information and recipes for the produce in our baskets.

And so our Community Kitchen group, using the food provided in the basket got cooking. We made yummy Ukranian Pierogies with the traditional potato and cheese filling and a delicious Mediterranean Vegetable stew chock full of tomatoes, cauliflower, onions, carrots, boccoli flavoured with basil, oregano, thyme and of course, garlic. It's a great afternoon of fun and friendship and the ladies each go home with two dishes for dinner. We love to try new recipes covering all different types of cuisine from tradtional familiar home-cooked favourites to African, Asian, Mediteranean and southern specialities. And this same group of ladies is involved in a Community Garden program in the summer, each having a plot to grow their own selection of veg. It's a great program promoting healthy eating. Some of the women with children say that since they have been involved in the Community Garden and Kitchen program, their children have developed a great interest in growing and eating their own produce. And that's what it's all about!

Even if gardening's not for you, I encourage you to seek out a fresh food basket program in your community. Let's get off the fast food feed wagon and back into cooking delicious healthy food at home. Cooking is easy when the produce is fresh and cooking at home can be a great family activity.

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