“I think the desire to be healthy is a desire for every human being,” says Veronica Sims.
She sees them coming from all over Akron, all walks of life and all income groups. Nearly 400 people create quite a din in the conference room of the House of the Lord on Diagonal Road.
Sims hoped for a huge crowd at April’s Growing Hope Food Summit.
Sharing a common goal: better health
But who knew it would be so diverse?
Sims coordinates special events like these for the anti-poverty group, Akron Summit Community Action.
“We intentionally targeted minority, underserved, immigrant communities because there continues to be a deficit in terms of education and having resources to help them have the quality of life they desire. But it was open to the general public.”
Tips, tricks, and expert advice
Small group discussion takes up most of the morning session.
Dawn Tallentino of Northfield sits down with Nicole Soltis of Sagamore Hills and Beverly Williams of Akron to share approaches to healthier eating.
“At the beginning of the week I prepare all my meals, says Tallentino, “So on days when we can’t make dinner, we don’t have to go through the drive-thru.”
“I try to get my husband not to eat all that grease because he loves fried foods,” says Williams. “So we try to bake also.”
“We cut back on eating out,” says Soltis.
How about growing your own food? That’s what Chris Norman of Crown Point Ecology Center in Bath suggests.
“It’s not just eating healthy," says Norman, “but encouraging people to garden, and do more sourcing of local food.”
Norman serves on the steering committee for the Growing Hope Summit and the Akron Summit Food Policy Coalition. He says with knowledge of how to do it, people of all incomes can afford to eat better. And with what we’ve learned about diet and health, he says we can’t afford not to.
“There’s a real cost to not eating healthy,” says Norman. “And I’ve heard farmers say either you’re going to pay for it at the farm or at the pharmacy.”
Participants at the summit are learning where to get locally-grown organic produce in season, how to buy in bulk, how to plant a kitchen garden, and how to cook economically.
Black-bean burgers, peanut butter cookies, broccoli and sweet potato casserole; and more…for less
Chef Julie Costell of Ms. Julie’s Kitchen in Firestone Park demonstrates how to make a nutritious, kid-friendly meal for under a dollar. It's lunch plus dessert made affordable with government help.
“We’re doing black-bean burgers and peanutbutter cookies. Both of which are a high-protein dish. And you can get peanutbutter for free on WIC. And then all the dried beans are also free if you’re on WIC.”
That’s the Women Infants and Children program. Some of Akron caterer Ryan Veney’s customers get that kind of support. But they also rely on him. He’s a personal chef, but not a high-priced one.
“Basically it’s just families that don’t have enough time to cook dinner and are sick of eating out and fast food.”
He recently supplied a week’s worth of meals to a couple with a $60 food budget. All they had to do is take it out of the fridge and heat it up.
“We made whole-wheat pasta with chicken, stuffed spaghetti squash; we also made tilapia actually with the broccoli and sweet potato casserole that I’m serving today.”
Refueled for a mission that continues
After a bountiful pot-luck buffet, workshops on everything from shopping and reading labels, to preserving and canning round out the day.
Last month’s confab was the second annual Growing Hope Food Summit. The Akron Summit Food Policy Coalition plans many more. The group welcomes volunteers and meets the first Monday of each month at the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank.
CHEF JULIE COSTELL’s HOMEMADE AWESOME DELICIOUS BEAN BURGERS!!
2c dry black beans. Boil in water to cover until soft, about three hours, adding water if needs it. And 2 c dry pinto beans. Boil in water to cover until soft about three hours, adding water if needs it.
Drain cooked beans and let cool in the strainer while you continue.
6 carrots-unpeeled but washed
1 green pepper-cut in big pieces
1 onion-cut in big pieces
Boil in water until tender with a fork but not too squishy! Drain the veggies in a strainer in the sink, then let cool. When beans and veggies are cool, mash them with a fork or an old fashioned potato masher.
1c corn meal
1c whole wheat flour
2T chili powder and 2t salt
Mix well by hand.
Form burgers into patties and pan-fry in a little oil on low heat for about 7 minutes on each side. Put burgers on a cookie sheet to cool. Burgers have the best texture if they are made the day before or in the morning. Pack two burgers into a sandwich baggie and lay flat in the freezer!!!
MAKES 17-20 BURGERS
PERFECT PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES
1 3/4c peanut butter
2 1/4c whole wheat flour
1 3/4c sugar
1/2c almond or soy milk
1t baking soda
Blend with your hands like grandma did. Scoop out 1 T of dough and put on oil-sprayed cookie sheet, then mash with a fork dipped in water often. Bake at 325 for 20 minutes until just turning brownish.