Blog post written by Rania Abdullah, IUPUI Dietetic Intern
On September 3rd, 2021, Afghan refugees began arriving at Camp Atterbury, which is just south of Indianapolis. The evacuees are expected to arrive in waves, and Indiana has the potential to host 5,000 Afghans.
Gleaners Food Bank is seeking to understand the Afghan food and culture in order to welcome these new neighbors and better meet their needs. This blog post will take you on a tour of some of the customs, values, and foods that are important to the people of Afghanistan.
Afghanistan country outline and flag inlay. Image from commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flag_map_of_Afghanistan.svg
Language, Art, and Culture
There are more than 48 languages spoken in Afghanistan, but the most common are Dari (Farsi), and Pashto. Afghans live in tribes, divided into many subcultures, that share the same food, clothes, art, and lifestyle. Afghans are famous for handwoven rugs and ancient oil paintings found in caves. Musical instruments played in Afghanistan include harmonium, santur, tabla (small drums), sitar, and zurna. Afghanistan has many important architectural sites such as Herat, Mazar-l-Sharif, and Ghazni.
Foods and Dietary Practices
Mutton (lamb) is the most popular meat eaten in Afghanistan. Chicken is also common, and it is usually served with long grain rice, and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Favorite produce items include eggplant, spinach, potato, carrot, peas, tomato, cucumber, lettuce, dates, and melons. Fresh mint and coriander are also very common.
Popular Afghan dishes include:
Festivals and Holidays
Islam is the major religion in Afghanistan. Islamic holidays are celebrated according to the lunar calendar:
Ramadan is a very important month for Muslims. Image from ucf.edu.
Hi! My name is Olivia Vosmeier, a dietetic intern at Purdue University. For my 3-week community nutrition rotation, I had the pleasure of being placed at Gleaners Food Bank.
During my time at Gleaners, I have had the opportunity to expand my knowledge of ways we can all reduce and prevent food waste in our homes, minimizing the effects of food insecurity in our communities. I am excited to share some helpful facts, tips, and recipes that you can incorporate into your lives to not only protect our Earth, but also our wallets!
Did you know that about 90 billion pounds of food goes uneaten and thrown away every year? This amounts to about $370 per person each year, with the majority of the money coming from wasted protein foods, vegetables, and dairy items. With all the food that is being wasted, significant amounts of nutrients are being lost as well. On average, 1,217 calories, 146 grams of carbohydrates, 33 grams of protein, and 57 grams of total fat are wasted per person per day. This is the same as throwing away a meal which consists of spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread, Caesar salad, cooked broccoli, mozzarella sticks, Pepsi, and Tiramisu!
So, what can you do to help reduce and prevent food waste?
Photo from www.eco-business.com/news/global-standard-to-measure-food-waste-aims-to-put-more-on-plates/
How to Write a Grocery List
To write an effective grocery list, it is important to begin by setting a budget. This saves you from spending money on items that you may not necessarily need. It’s also a great idea to plan out your meals for the week by looking at the food items you already have along with looking at the weekly grocery ads for any coupons, sales, or promotions going on that week. Lastly, organizing your list by different areas of the store is beneficial for reducing your time spent in the store.
Understanding Dates Applied to Packages
There are many common phrases that we see on packages that suggest how long the food item is good for. Phrases such as “best if used by”, “sell-by”, “use-by”, etc. are placed on food packaging for an estimate of when the product is at its peak quality or flavor. However, there is a lot of confusion around these phrases, resulting in many wholesome foods being thrown away. In fact, these food dates are not used for the safety of the products, but rather the overall quality of the item. When a package says, “best if used by” or “use-by”, it is still perfectly safe to use or consume after this date. “Sell-by” labels are primarily used by the stores to know how long the product should be displayed or on sale.
Repurposing Leftovers by Trying New Recipes
Many times, leftovers are thrown away because they become boring, or the appearance and texture may change, making them less desirable to eat. One option for using these items instead of throwing them away is to try out a recipe that specifically uses leftover ingredients. These recipes are a great place to start:
Need more ideas? Click here to search for recipes that use specific ingredients you already have on hand!
Turning Scraps of Fruits and Veggies into Compost
A great way to turn food scraps into usable material is by composting! This saves from adding to our already very full landfills, reducing methane gas emissions into our atmosphere. Composting consists of a chemical process which turns plant material into usable, organic soil or mulch. Composting enriches the soil, helps it to retain moisture, reduces the need for chemical fertilizers, and overall reduces our carbon footprint!
Through this experience, I learned that there are so many easy ways that I can practice reducing my food waste. Here is a short video along with a handout that you can watch for more information on reducing and preventing food waste. For more nutrition and cooking tips, click through the NutritionHub website, Facebook page, and Instagram page!
Hello! My name is Emily Korte and I am Gleaners’ 2021 Summer Nutrition Intern. Over the past few months, I have worked with Sarah Wilson, RDN to create and facilitate kids' nutrition education lessons for our Summer Nutrition Club (SNC) program. SNC was created in 2018 as a supplement to Gleaners' summer feeding program in Marion County. In addition to providing nutritious food to local families, we wanted to offer an interactive nutrition education opportunity to get youth excited about the impact food can have on their health and wellbeing.
COVID-19 has continued to impact every aspect of Gleaners’ operations and SNC was no exception. To ensure the safety of our community, virtual and in-person lessons were offered to our partners. We were very fortunate that three sites welcomed us back in-person (while wearing masks and being socially distanced of course), and a fourth virtually. It was wonderful to once again hear all the giggles, watch faces fill with joy, and share a passion for learning in-person together. I am very grateful for this amazing experience and am looking forward to becoming a Registered Dietitian in the future!
Emily Korte, Summer Nutrition Intern, with Rainforest Energy Bites.
In the past, the SNC lessons focused on the five food groups of MyPlate, making healthy choices, and general health and wellness. This year’s lessons followed the same model while also incorporating new themes to encourage exploration. All of the recipes required no baking, contained simple ingredients, and featured kid-friendly cooking concepts to allow for their participation. These themes were brought to life through fun and engaging activities in each of the three weekly lessons.
In a world where we are so often told "no", we were able to tell the children "YES". Yes, you can try a new food! Yes, you make your own snack! Yes, you can sometimes have sweet treats! I wanted the children to be open to learning about new cultures, new ideas, and new foods. I wanted them to be able to experience Asia, the Amazon rainforest, and space, all without even leaving Indianapolis. My goal was for participants to gain independence, confidence, and knowledge about how they can positively impact their health. This summer, all of this and more was accomplished at Summer Nutrition Club!
The recipes, learning concepts, and themes that were covered in this year's program included:
1. MyPlate Around the World - Introduced foods found across Asia and where they fit in MyPlate, featured a highlight on how to use chopsticks, and made Cucumber "Sushi" Roll-Ups
SNC "Nutrition Explorers" try eating their Cucumber Roll-Ups with chopsticks
2. It’s a Jungle Out There! - Introduced different sources of protein foods and whole grains, explored animals and the layers of the Amazon rainforest, and tried Rainforest Energy Bites
SNC participants roll their Rainforest Energy Bites into fun (and tasty) shapes
3. Discover Dairy - Introduced dairy foods and how scientists modify food so it can be eaten in space, featured an activity to promote physical activity, and made Astronaut Pudding
The SNC "Nutrition Explorers" thought the Astronaut Pudding was out of this world!
Each child that participated in SNC got to take home a reusable shopping bag filled with tools to help them continue being a "nutrition explorer". Items in the bag included a spatula, vegetable peeler, cutting board, colander, reusable storage bag, MyPlate, and more! The summer came to a close with a Family Cooking Night. Westminster Neighborhood Services welcomed us back to demonstrate how to prepare a meal that the whole family could enjoy. The featured recipes were Veggie Quesadillas and Chunky Mango Pico. This meal supplies a serving of all five food groups and is quick, easy, and affordable to prepare. I demonstrated how to cut all fruits and vegetables including mango, zucchini, pepper, onion, jalapeno, and cucumber. I also provided general cooking tips. Westminster provided ingredients to each family in attendance so they could make the recipes at home. Gleaners supplemented these items with fresh produce and kitchen utensils for each household, as well as a few raffle prizes to give away!
Emily prepares samples for Family Cooking Night
The summer of 2021 certainly brought a unique set of challenges. However, due to assistance from Gleaners’ staff, my wildest dreams were able to come to life to make Summer Nutrition Club a success. I learned more from the children this summer than any nutrition textbook could teach me. I am forever grateful for this opportunity and hope my small input can make a larger impact on the health and wellbeing of this community!
Gleaners’ 2020 and 2021 SNC lesson content is available year-round on the Summer Nutrition Club page for anyone interested - feel free to check it out and share with others!
Thank you to all the wonderful community sites who hosted us for Summer Nutrition Club this year!
Blog post written by Elizabeth Kuras, IUPUI Dietetic Intern
Warm weather offers the perfect setting for a get-together with friends and family. While enjoying the fresh air and tasty summer cuisine, it is important to keep basic food safety in mind. Every year, health officials see a summer spike in foodborne illnesses, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Foodborne illnesses are caused by eating spoiled foods or beverages. Many different disease-causing bacteria can infect foods, so there are many different types of foodborne illnesses that cause symptoms similar to the stomach flu. By following these five food safety tips, we can enjoy outdoor picnics and barbecues with our loved ones while keeping everyone safe.
Image from www.ecowatch.com/healthy-summer-cookout-2587570276.html
1. Proper Handwashing
Handwashing should always be the first step in cooking food, and should be done often, especially after coming in contact with raw meat, fish, or eggs. Simply wiping your hands on a towel isn’t enough. To kill harmful germs, you must wash your hands with warm, soapy water, rub for at least 20 seconds, then dry your hands with a single-use paper towel.
2. Be Cautious of Cross-Contamination
Keep raw meat separate from ready-to-eat foods. For example, do not slice your watermelon on the same cutting board that just held raw hamburger patties. It is a good idea to use color-coded cutting boards to prevent this – use a red cutting board for raw meat, and a green one for fresh fruits and vegetables that are ready-to-eat. Wash the cutting boards in hot, soapy water after use.
Also, make sure you are not cross-contaminating food with your utensils or plates. As soon as you put raw items on the grill, get a clean plate or serving dish ready for when the items are done. You should also pay attention to the utensils used while grilling – those tongs you used to place the raw burgers on the grill could contain harmful germs, which could spread to the fully cooked burgers being pulled off the grill. It is not safe to use the same plate or utensils you originally used to place raw items on the grill, unless they have been fully washed and sanitized.
Image from www.insider.com./best-way-to-grill-mistakes-2018-6
3. Cook Food to the Proper Temperature
When grilling meat, you can’t tell if it’s done by simply looking at color and texture alone. Cooking food safely requires it to reach a safe internal temperature, which is the temperature hot enough to kill harmful germs that can cause foodborne illness. Food thermometers are fairly cheap and are useful if you plan on throwing an outdoor party or two this summer!
The target temperatures to remember are 165 °F for poultry, casseroles and leftovers. Ground meats and egg dishes need to be cooked to at least 160 °F. Fresh beef, pork, veal, lamb and ham should reach 145 °F and then rest for at least three minutes. Fish and seafood (all types) should be cooked to 145°F. Hot foods should be held at or above 145°F.
Image from www.southernliving.com/kitchen-assistant/best-grill-thermometers
4. Keep Cold Foods Cold, and Hot Foods Hot
When cold/hot food is left out at room temperature, the general rule is place it into the fridge within 2-4 hours. In the hot summer months when the temperature outside is over 90°F, food should only be left out for 1 hour or less. This prevents the temperature of the food reaching the “danger zone,” which ranges from 40°F to 140°F. When food is in this temperature range, it causes germs to grow at a fast pace, which may cause foodborne illness. During cookouts or other outdoor events, it is common practice to place food on a table and have guests graze the food when they want. However, this can put people at risk for eating unsafe foods.
To avoid this, keep cold food in the refrigerator and place it on the table (in the shade) right before the meal begins. You can also serve cold foods inside to keep them out of the summer heat. Another great idea is to use a cooler or shallow pan filled with ice to keep your cold food less than 40°F. For hot foods, keep your grilled items on the grill (away from direct heat) to keep them warm or store them in an container.
5. Consume Leftovers in 3-4 Days
At the end of your party, chances are you’ll have some leftover food. Place it in the refrigerator ASAP in a sealed container. Consume all leftovers in 3-4 days tops, and remember to cook leftovers to 165°F, or until steaming hot.
Image from canva.com
Grilling out with loved ones is a classic summer activity enjoyed by many. Use these five tips, and you’ll have delicious and safely prepared food all season long, with peace of mind knowing your friends and family will be protected from foodborne illness. For additional information, visit FoodSafety.gov or download our "4 Bases of Food Safety" Handout.
Blog post written by Julie Summers, IUPUI Dietetic Intern
June is National Dairy Month!
National Dairy Month started as a way to distribute extra milk during the summer months. The celebration was established in 1937 as “National Milk Month.” By 1939, June became the official “Dairy Month.” Dairy foods include milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream and more. In general, one cup of milk or 1 ½ ounces of cheese can be considered as one serving from the dairy group. Three daily servings of dairy is recommended by MyPlate.
Dairy products contain essential nutrients that can promote health, help manage weight, and reduce risk for high blood pressure, osteoporosis and certain cancers. Dairy farm families focus on producing wholesome dairy foods. Having worked on a dairy farm myself, I know how much eating dairy foods can benefit both the nutrition of our nation and the farmers who work hard every day to take care of their cows.
Image from independent.co.uk
Essential Nutrients Found in Dairy Products
Image from loseitblog.com
Key Takeaway: Dairy provides essential nutrients that are important for health. Celebrate National Dairy Month all year long by choosing three servings of dairy foods every day!
Looking for some inspiration to eat more dairy? Check out these recipes on NutritionHub or visit winnersdrinkmilk.com!
Blog post content contributed by Joel Hollow, IUPUI Dietetic Intern
Approximately 24,000 individuals from Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) live in Indianapolis. Many are refugees who have fled their home country to escape religious or ethnic persecutions. Others have immigrated here in search of a more promising and prosperous future for themselves or their families. A majority of local Burmese households has settled on the south side of the city (Perry Township, Southport, and Greenwood), making this area home one of the largest Burmese refugee populations in the United States.
The country of Myanmar (formerly Burma). Image from worldjusticenews.com
The people of Myanmar celebrate many different rich traditions and events throughout the year. These celebrations often involve special meals or dishes and time spent with loved ones. It is important that Gleaners is familiar with the cultural practices of the diverse community we serve so that we can better understand and meet the needs of our neighbors.
Some of the most popular Burmese holidays and celebrations include:
Chicken Potato Curry and Garlic Oil Noodles from The Rangoon Sisters Cookbook. Images from thehappyfoodie.co.uk/articles/10-burmese-dishes-to-discover-in-the-rangoon-sisters-cookbook
Thingyan water festival. Image from www.myanmartours.net/myanmar-thingyan-festival.html
Festival of Lights celebration. Photo from www.aljazeera.com
Blog post written by Kelsey Black, IUPUI Dietetic Intern
March is National Nutrition Month®!
To celebrate this time of focusing on good nutrition, let’s take a closer look at the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines provide advice on what to eat and drink to meet nutrient needs, promote health, and help prevent chronic disease. The newest addition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (released in 2020) is the first to provide information on healthy dietary patterns by life stage. This includes birth through older adulthood, as well as women who are pregnant or lactating. If you would like more information, visit DietaryGuidelines.gov or MyPlate.gov.
Making Every Bite Count
Adults who regularly exercise and eat a balanced diet tend to feel better, have better bone health, and reduce their risk of many diseases (such as heart disease, diabetes, depression, dementia, and certain types of cancer).
So, what does a balanced plate look like? Use MyPlate as a guide! This tool can help you "make every bite count" by eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, and dairy or soy alternatives at each meal. Eating a well-rounded mix of foods from each food group is important for promoting health at each life stage.
Key Messages for Every Life Stage
Blog post written by Melissa Elliott, IUPUI Dietetic Intern
Happy American Heart Month! February is a time meant to encourage heart disease prevention by sharing healthy lifestyle tips and increasing awareness of heart health. Heart disease is one of the most common causes of death for American men and women. The good news is that up to 80% of heart disease is preventable by following a heart-healthy lifestyle.
Photo from blog.publix.com
Nutrition is a key factor to a heart-healthy lifestyle. What are some ways you can eat to protect your heart health?
Photo from food-guide.canada.ca
Try these heart-healthy meals from our Recipes Page to get started!
You can also download our Heart Healthy Eating handout for more information.
Content contributed by Ricah Lucero and Samantha Presslor, IUPUI Dietetic Interns
November was National Diabetes Month, but you can take steps to prevent or manage diabetes all year long. This is especially important as we enter the holiday season, which can be filled with tempting treats, stressful schedules, and cold winter weather!
Good nutrition is one key step in diabetes prevention and management. Choosing nutritious foods in the right amounts can help you reach your health goals, whether that is controlling your blood sugar, maintaining a healthy weight, or reaching a healthy blood pressure. However, it can be overwhelming to try to track the exact amounts of each food that you eat. A simple first step is to be mindful of portion sizes.
Serving Size vs. Portion Size
A serving size is the recommended amount of food that is listed on a package or used in nutrition guidelines, such as MyPlate. For example, the serving size of ice cream listed on this Nutrition Facts label is 2/3 cup.
Photos from walmart.com and lmld.org
A portion size is the amount of food that you actually serve yourself and eat. This can be more or less than the recommended serving size. For example, you may fill your bowl with ice cream, which actually holds 1-2 cups. Portion sizes at restaurants have increased over the years, and one entrée can sometimes have 2 or more servings!
Reading labels and monitoring portion sizes can help you limit added sugar, sodium, and saturated fat in the foods you eat. In turn, this can promote blood sugar control, weight management, and an overall healthy lifestyle.
A "Handy" Guide for Estimating Portion Sizes
A good way to portion out food is to use measuring cups. However, since you may not always have measuring cups with you, there are other simple ways to estimate portion sizes. One way is to use something that is always with you: your hands!
Different parts of your hands are about the same size as common serving sizes:
Image from fitstylebyshana.com
Estimating Portion Sizes with MyPlate
MyPlate is a another tool that can help you estimate portion sizes and plan balanced meals. The goal is to fill your plate with foods from different groups so you get all the nutrients your body needs. Here are the basic guidelines:
Some people with diabetes may be able to manage their blood sugars by following these simple guidelines at meals. Others may need to look more closely at specific serving sizes.
The image below shows common serving sizes for each MyPlate food group. You will notice that fruits, vegetables, and dairy are measured in "cup equiv", which is short for "cup equivalents". Grains and proteins are measured in "oz-equiv", which is short for "ounce equivalents" These are simply ways of measuring different foods in a way that provides a similar nutrition value. For example, 1 slice of bread has about the same carbohydrate content as 1/2 cup of oatmeal. One egg has about the same protein content as 1/4 cup of beans.
The chart below shows how many servings of each food group the average adult needs each day. Let's say a 40-year-old woman wants to plan out how many servings of grains she should eat each day. The chart lists "5 ounce equivalents", which means she can have 5 servings of foods that each equal 1 ounce equivalent. This could be 1/2 cup of oatmeal at breakfast (1 ounce equivalent), a sandwich with 2 slices of whole wheat bread at lunch (2 ounce equivalents), and 1 cup of brown rice at dinner (2 ounce equivalents).
Your exact needs may be different based on your age, gender, weight, activity level, insulin sensitivity, etc. Visit ChooseMyPlate.gov and talk to a doctor or dietitian to make a plan that meets your specific needs.
I started by working with the Immigrant Welcome Center (IWC) in order to get a better idea of how COVID-19 has been impacting the immigrant population and what Gleaners can do to help. The IWC reported that 38% of the immigrant population surveyed considered themselves to have less food security compared to before the pandemic. With more data from the IWC, I looked into Marion County zip codes with the highest numbers of immigrants reporting a need for food or rental assistance. This was an important step in my initial research that helped us better understand where immigrants are located and what resources are currently available to them. I continued by looking into how many American grocery stores, international grocery stores, convenience stores, food pantries, and food deserts are in these areas.
I also talked to IWC Natural Helpers (immigrants who volunteer to assist other immigrants), read research articles on food insecurity and food pantries pertaining to immigrant populations, and joined the IWC weekly partner calls. Through all of this information-gathering, I learned that there are several barriers that many immigrants face in consistently accessing nutritious foods. These include:
Image from IWC
These barriers fall into three categories:
All three categories of barriers must be addressed in order to create stable and sustainable solutions to food insecurity among immigrants.
What I learned from this experience:
From my background research, I learned that increasing access to foods that are familiar to immigrant households is crucial for improving food security among this population. I explored some ways that Gleaners might be able to partner with international grocery stores to increase the availability of culturally and religiously appropriate foods at pantries. I decided to visit an international grocery store myself to see how the selection of foods might differ from what is typically available at a traditional "American" grocery store. Watch the video below for a 30-second tour of the Saraga International Food Market that I visited on the northwest side of Indianapolis.
There were two key differences that stood out to me from my visit:
Images from Allison Drook and saragaindy.com
Exploring New Foods:
Wanting to look into more about foods from other cultures, I ended up buying some Fufu flour from the international market. This food comes from Nigerian culture and contains some of their staple foods: mashed plantain, potato granules, cassava, saffron and turmeric. I chose to focus on this culture because Nigeria is listed as one of the top countries of origin for immigrants served by the IWC, and I was not familiar with many of the common foods in this cuisine. Watch the video below to see how easy Fu Fu dough is to make!
Click the links below to view the other recipes and handouts that I made during this rotation. These were all designed to help immigrants utilize the foods they might receive from food pantries, as well as to introduce some new cultural dishes to anyone who likes to explore different cuisines!
I am excited to see how Gleaners continues this collaborative and important work! Some next steps for Gleaners and IWC include exploring ways to source more culturally appropriate foods and spices, helping agency pantries be more welcoming and inclusive of immigrant clients, and translating recipes and educational resources in different languages. Stay up-to-date on the progress of this project and other nutrition outreach programs by visiting the NutritionHub website, Facebook page, and Instagram account regularly!
Sarah Wilson, RDN, Nutrition Manager at Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, along with guest blog posts by dietetic interns