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One local agriculture group is working with the Food Bank to expand access to fresh produce

The Food Bank For Central and Northeast Missouri building. It is a large grey building with a giant orange spoon sculpture outside.
Katie Quinn

The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri works with local growers to have a diverse group of fresh produce. The newly harvested crops promote healthy eating in food insecure homes. Over this past year, The Food Bank began Pantry 2 Plate- a food demonstration and education program.

Katie Adkins is the spokesperson at The Food Bank.

Katie Adkins: Our staff at the food bank is able to help educate neighbors about how to use some of those different types of produce, how to store them really well, how to cook them in simple, easy, delicious ways.

Food insecurity often means families are missing out on key food groups like vegetables. Adkins says Pantry 2 Plate was created to teach community members about how to cook with the ingredients that The Food Bank offers.

Katie Adkins: Just because we are so focused on foods to encourage and providing healthy foods here at the food bank and its central pantry, we can't do that without produce.

Partnering with Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture or better known as CCUA, The Food Bank has a continuous supply of fresh produce.

Tony Minnick is the Agriculture Park Manager. He says through monetary donations and volunteers, CCUA is able to support The Food Bank with produce grown at their farm near the Columbia Farmer’s Market. The summer season is of course in full-swing. Currently, there’s a diverse group of vegetables to choose from.

Tony Minnick: We've got kohlrabi, we've got turnips, we've got cucumbers that we just brought for the first week, a lot of leafy greens, Swiss chard, kale, collard greens.

When it comes to harvesting, freshness is key. The geographical closeness of CCUA to The Food Bank means these crops travel only a few miles down the road.

So, The Food Bank patrons can sometimes put their favorite veggies onto their plates the same day they are harvested. Minnick says the fresher the produce, the more nutrient dense it is.

Tony Minnick: We're really giving the best kind of quality products we can give to folks to cook with at home, and hopefully inspiring people to eat more vegetables, because they're able to notice it through that flavor enhancement, that increased nutrition. Hopefully their taste buds are firing off at home.

Once the crops are dropped off at The Food Bank, it’s time for Pantry 2 Plate to do its thing. Registered Dietitian Alma Hopkins is in charge of the program’s food demonstrations. Her goal is to showcase nutritious options in easy-to-make meals.

My mission is to grow appetites that keeps people happy and healthy. And so that involves, at this moment, doing food demonstrations.
Alma Hopkins

Alma Hopkins: My mission is to grow appetites that keeps people happy and healthy. And so that involves, at this moment, doing food demonstrations.

Hopkins has seen a positive reaction to her recipes. Particularly, people are adding new foods to their diet. CCUA offers The Food Bank a wide variety of crops and sometimes ingredients are not what you would typically see at the grocery store. But, Hopkins says, patrons adjust well to the unfamiliar produce.

Alma Hopkins: It's really empowering to have them turn around and ask us where the produce is, so they can select it and put it in their basket.

Spokesperson Katie Adkins says one of the best parts of Pantry 2 Plate is teaching families about new kinds of vegetables.

For example, The Food Bank has been highlighting Kohlrabi. It’s basically a hybrid between a turnip and cabbage.

Katie Adkins: So it's all about that, that experiential learning and recognizing something that's on the shelf that you might have not been familiar with before.

Looking toward the future, the plan is to expand Pantry 2 Plate to include online video recipes. Registered Dietitian Alma Hopkins hopes to reach more people with her food demonstrations. If you are food insecure or want to learn more about The Food Bank go to sharefoodbringhope.org.

Katie Quinn works for Missouri Business Alert. She studied radio journalism and political science at the University of Missouri- Columbia, and previously worked at KBIA.