Thursday, July 28, 2011

Summer Update

I have a non-recipe post today, telling you more about all the exciting things I've been doing this summer! (since I'm sure everyone is deeply interested...)

On Tuesdays and Thursdays I've been interning at the Governor's Office for Children (GOC) in Baltimore, MD. It's been a great experience learning about the legislation and "behind the scenes" work on Maryland's Partnership to End Childhood Hunger. As you may know, I am a strong supporter of Share Our Strength, the non-profit organization that co-chairs the partnership with the GOC, so I am very excited to see what goes on in the government side of things to meet our goal of ending childhood hunger by 2015.

So far at the GOC, I've  attended a few meetings regarding Maryland's progress with the partnership--updates on how many people are using the WIC program, SNAP (food stamps), free and reduced-price school meals, and summer meals programs. I have also been working diligently on a publication known as the Results and Indicators, which is pretty much what it sounds like. It's a book that compiles results from research comparing Maryland to surrounding states and the entire U.S. in numerous topics filed under three themes: Health, Education, and Family and Community Environment. Basically, it's like a report card for how Maryland is coming along with subjects regarding the well-being of children. I got to do a lot of research on the specific indicators labeled "Educational Attainment," "Food Insecurity," and "Poverty." (From what I've found, Maryland has a higher percentage of people completing higher education and a lower percent of food-insecure and poor children than the national measures, which is great!) I also wrote several summaries of the themes I listed above and the results that fall under them. I'm feeling pretty productive!

In addition to looking in to the government side of childhood hunger, I've been working on the front line with a program called Cooking Matters on Wednesdays. Cooking Matters is a series of cooking classes funded by Share Our Strength, but run by food banks on the local level. I'm participating in a class series for teens run by Capital Area Food Bank at Mary's Center in Washington, DC. Every Cooking Matters class is run with a nutrition expert who gives lessons on how to eat a healthy, balanced diet, a chef instructor, who teaches participants to make cheap, easy, and healthy meals, and a few class assistants to help out when needed (that's me!).

The class meets each week and most of the classes consist of a nutrition lesson, recipe reading, cooking, eating, and reviewing. At the end of each lesson, each participant receives a bag with ingredients and recipes so they can make some of the dished they made in class that day. However, yesterday's class was different. We set out to a nearby grocery store with a scavenger hunt--comparing the fat content of whole, 2%, 1%, and skim milk, learning about unit prices and how they can help you to find the best deals, comparing the cost of frozen produce and fresh produce, and learning lots and lots of tips to find the cheapest, easiest, and healthiest foods in the grocery store.

Instead of receiving a bag of food and recipes at the end, the participants were challenged with coming up with an idea for a meal and buying all the ingredients they needed for $10 (they received $10 gift cards).
One of the teens I was helping out managed to purchase a box of whole wheat pasta, a jar of tomato sauce, a bag of low-fat mozzarella, a bag of salad, and frozen fruit and yogurt for dessert. All that was under $10! Another bought a tub of yogurt, a box of granola, a box of strawberries, and 2 mangoes (which she learned how to cut in a previous lesson) to make parfaits, a recipe we made a few weeks before. This may have been my favorite lesson yet, because I feel like the participants really understand the concept of putting together an inexpensive and healthy meal when they are placed in a realistic situation, like shopping at their local grocery store.

On top of all that, I've been cooking as much as I can and keeping up with training for Cross Country next year, which is coming up way too fast! It's been a busy summer, but definitely an enjoyable one as well (with the exception of this 100+ degree weather).

Are you having a fun and busy summer? I'd love to know what everyone else is up to (besides my parents who I already know are spending their summer driving me to and from Baltimore and D.C...).

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