By Emily Miller, Community Life Coordinator
I can’t believe it is already September! These last few months have been extremely busy at Hammer trying to squeeze in all the fun (and food) that summer has to offer. We have had walking and running groups, hiking and biking events, fishing outings, kickball games, a tomato planting party and a canoe excursion! While outdoor fun is always a priority, so is eating fresh local fruits and vegetables. As the Community Life Coordinator it is my job to encourage healthy eating and increase the number of nutritious meals provided to those we serve.
One way we do that is through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares. I know you’re thinking…what in the world is Community Supported Agriculture? The general idea is that you purchase a share of a farm’s crop, and then you are entitled to a box of fresh produce each week for that year’s growing season (June-September). For the past four years Hammer has partnered with and purchased CSA shares through eQuality Pathways to Potential, a nonprofit day program that assists adults with developmental disabilities in finding and maintaining employment. eQuality Farms is one of their subsidiary programs which pays wages to eight adults with disabilities that work the farm, staff farmer’s markets, and deliver the CSA shares to Hammer!
The CSA is a convenient way of getting fresh produce weekly, and each year more and more Hammer sites take advantage of the program. In 2011, Hammer piloted a CSA program with five homes. By 2012 the program grew to include 16 programs. This year, that number has more than doubled with 36 of our 46 programs receiving weekly produce. The influence has also expanded 9 staff members who order personal shares and one family member. These are encouraging numbers, a true indicator of how healthy Hammer as a whole is becoming.
CSA shares come with some of the expected veggies like tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and carrots. However, not all of the produce is so conventional. We have come across kohlrabi, rutabaga, beets, bok choy, spaghetti squash, and eggplant. Many of us entered the season with little or no idea how to prepare these wacky veggies. So, the Community Life team worked hard to provide resources that educated us all on how to identify, prepare, enjoy, and preserve the CSA veggies. Some of these resources included a laminated vegetable identification form, the weekly CSA newsletter, weekly recipes, and a comprehensive Pinterest site with boards dedicated to each vegetable.
The Community Life team also organized a monthly Healthy Meal Challenge with a featured vegetable. Our homes and apartments have been competing for Hammer gear and kitchen goodie bags. Entries are judged on the creativity and nutritional content of the recipe as well as involvement of both staff and individuals in the preparation of the meal. July’s contest was for creative use of kohlrabi and there were 8 competitive entries. The winner was Emery with their sautéed kohlrabi, onions, and basil! In August, Broadmoor won with a delicious eggplant parmesan recipe. The September challenge involves any type of squash. I’m looking forward to getting some inspiration from the creative squash recipes that come my way!
Phew, we really have done a lot this summer. I can’t wait to see what the fall and winter seasons have in store for our fitness, wellness, and nutrition. Have fun and eat healthy. You are all wellness champions!