LAURINBURG — Bags of food distributed at Church and Community Services on Wednesday came with a few tips for getting creative with canned goods.
Handing out samples of vegetable soup and cajoling them to try bites of avocado, N.C. Cooperative Extension agent Sharon English and Scotland Community Health Clinic Director Andy Kurtzman set up “Food Bank Chopped” to help the organization’s food bank users get the most out of their regular allotment.
“We’ve been here while the fresh foods were brought in, and we noticed that there were lots of items that were not being selected by anybody,” English said, noting that nutritious foods like mushrooms, asparagus, and squash are often passed over.
“We try to show them other ways that they can utilize some of this produce and make it stretch to feed their family.”
She pointed out that the vegetable soup on offer — incorporating canned mushrooms, black beans, and tomatoes, noodles, chicken broth, and cabbage mix — can be made, using a slow cooker or hot plate, by those without access to a range or cooktop.
“The soup here is prepared with stuff that normally they pick up in their food bags,” said Kurtzman.
“We’re trying to show those who are here picking up their food how they can use foods they haven’t tried and how they can use healthy foods. Avocados people don’t always try because they look funny.”
English demonstrated piercing the pit with a knife to remove it from the soft green fruit, which is high in healthy fat, potassium, and vitamins A and B6.
Other tips included the use of pita bread to contain sandwich fillings, roasted vegetables, or serve as the crust for a miniature pizza, and how to gauge appropriate serving sizes relative to common objects: a tennis ball for cooked pasta or rice and the palm of a hand for a serving of meat.
With pre-measured vials, the session also covered the high levels of sugar and sodium in common foods.
“It’s really good to think about your spices and your seasonings too, instead of using so much salt,” said English. “A lot of fast foods have a lot of sodium, so we need to pay attention.”
A dessert of apple slices with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon, was prepared in a matter of minutes with a microwave.
“A lot of the stuff that we get here, I don’t really know how to use and it’s very helpful information,” said Margaret Blackmon, who left with new ideas for using the variety of soups frequently stocked at the food bank. “They also talked about healthy portion size, which I really needed to hear.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.