Second Harvest Community Food Bank tends to receive donations of uncommon ingredients that some people might not know how to incorporate into their meals. But now, there’s a solution.
Melissa Ryser, the development specialist at Second Harvest, spent about a year compiling recipes to create “Pass the Plate,” a cookbook that uses common food bank ingredients.
“The cookbook was one of those things that we know we have certain foods that we give out at times that people aren’t used to using … and so, we want to be able to give people a resource of these are ways you can use this product that taste good and it’s not complicated,” Ryser said.
She said lentils, for example, are a common food that’s distributed to those who are food insecure, but many people don’t know how to cook with them.
“We receive a lot of lentils, we distribute a lot of lentils, but it’s not something that in the Midwest that we use a lot of or historically know what to do with,” Ryser said. “So, there’s lots of recipes that utilize that type of grain, give you ideas on how to cook it and ways that make it tasty.”
When people receive large amounts of one product, the cookbook offers multiple recipes that show different ways to cook the same item.
The cookbook will be given out to the partner agencies that Second Harvest serves to be used as a resource. That way they can offer people new ways to utilize the products they receive.
“Lots of the partner agencies are excited about it because there are so many questions about certain foods that we distribute that it will be a relief for them to be able to have a reference and something that can guide them,” Ryser said.
Ryser said the goal is to have the cookbooks distributed to partner agencies by the end of 2021. Then, they’ll work to put all of the recipes on their website, www.shcfb.org/, so that anyone can get online and have access to them.
This will coincide with the Food for Thought program online, where local cooks share recipes and demonstration videos for how to utilize common food bank foods.
Most of the recipes in the cookbook come from other food banks or Second Harvest’s partner agencies. Ryser said around the holidays, their partner agencies give out tips for how to make holiday dishes with the food they distribute, and a lot of those recipes made it in the cookbook.
“How to do hot chocolate using dried milk as opposed to a gallon of milk, that type of thing,” Ryser said. “All those ideas are included in here. And so people can make use of the product. Even if they’re not used to it, they can find ways to utilize it.”
A few personal recipes made it into the book as well, with one of Ryser’s favorites coming from her mother-in-law.
“My mother-in-law’s barbecue meatballs I had to add to the cookbook just because they’re tremendous,” Ryser said. “They’re just really good. They’re ground beef and evaporated milk and oatmeal and things that are basic pantry staples, but put together can be really good.”
Second Harvest received the published version of the cookbook just in time for its 40th-anniversary celebration in September. Ryser said the anniversary sparked staff to work on some new ideas, such as the cookbook.