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July 18, 2016

Visit Food & Friends! Summer Tours Starting this July!

Visit Food & Friends!

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This summer, Food & Friends will begin offering regular tours of our 25,000 square foot facility in Northeast DC. Meet our staff and get an insider’s look into how Food & Friends prepares, packages and delivers over 3,000 meals a day. Come visit us to see where the magic happens!

Tours will be held on the following dates, from 9-10 am and 6:30-7:30 pm:
·         July 26
·         August 9
·         September 13
          September 27

To sign up for a tour, contact Luis Ramirez at (202) 269-6893 or lramirez@foodandfriends.org.
*Onsite parking available. For free shuttle from Fort Totten Metro, call: (202) 669-6437.

 


May 12, 2016

Food & Friends Celebrates 15 Years of Partnership with AVON Foundation



By Craig Shniderman, Executive Director of Food & Friends

15 years ago, Food & Friends had no corporate or foundation funder of our newly established breast cancer services. The AVON Foundation took a chance on us and our new initiative. A $50,000 grant in 2001, which, 15 successive grants later, has now turned into a $4.3 million investment, 1.6 million meals, and over 2,000 lives changed. We are so glad that AVON’s support for our program has in more recent years been expanded to the Foundation’s support of similar programs in other major metropolitan areas. 

Many breast cancer survivors are women with children. Through our Pink Ribbon Delivery Service, funded by the AVON Foundation, we provide meals not only for the survivor, but also for household members– her partner, spouse, or children. This wicked illness devastates families as well as individuals, so we’re proud that we can provide for the family unit as a whole.

Food & Friends has partnered with the AVON Foundation for 15 years and for 13 AVON39 walks. This year I cheered the walkers in my drag cheerleader persona, Miss Ivanna Beat Breast Cancer.  As the walkers trudged through rain and gloomy conditions, I reflected on the continued success of the AVON39. Many “thon” events have a life span that eventually leads to diminished interest, but with AVON39, there is a passion for this cause that sustains the event’s success.

That’s not surprising because the incidence of breast cancer is undiminished. While the mortality rate from breast cancer, taken all together, has improved, people of color and of lower incomes fare far less well. And because the incidence remains high among all groups, there has been no turning away from this issue. And so two weekends ago we witnessed more than 2000 people raise a very large sum of money through their personal engagement.

Given our strong partnership with the AVON Foundation, it’s important for Food & Friends to show our commitment to this event and play a unique role. In addition to providing our famous cookies and a delicious lunch for the walkers, Food & Friends fields a support team. In years when I’m not participating as a walker, I don my cheerleader attire and theatrical makeup to join in cheering on the walkers as a member of the support team. 

My participation in drag is the means by which I express my solidarity with these remarkable fundraisers and the women who face this terrible illness. (I’ll add that about one percent of breast cancer patients are men.) I certainly also understand the immediacy of this issue as a man with a wife and four children. Though my drag presence is amusing, I am deeply aware that there is no humor in this disease.   


Our world at Food & Friends is a world of gratitude. We have 9,000 volunteers and we’re grateful to them. We have thousands of donors, and we’re certainly grateful to them also. But among our funders, the AVON Foundation has a unique place in our history.  The Foundation’s gifts include the $750,000 grant that built our kitchen, which not only serves people with breast cancer, but people with HIV/AIDS and other serious illnesses. This was AVON’s gift not only to our breast cancer survivors, but to every client who receives meals from the AVON Foundation kitchen. It’s a generous, inclusive gift and I’ll always be grateful to AVON because when no one else was there, they were. And not only that, they’ve remained there for 15 years. That’s a lot of friendship.


 


April 5, 2016

Spring Breakers Bring Curiosity and Energy to Food & Friends



Springtime means spring break for students across the country, and for Food & Friends, it means fantastic groups of student volunteers! This year we had 15 different spring break groups representing a wide range of schools and student organizations. The unifying factor? The desire to learn about the challenges facing our communities and how they, as future leaders, can make a positive impact. 

Students from around the world through American Councils
We were particularly excited to host the American Councils for International Education, an exchange organization that brings students from around the world to live in the U.S. for a year of learning both in and out of the classroom. The students who visited us came from all over, including Indonesia, Cameroon, Moldova, Bosnia, Kazakhstan, and the Philippines. While many of their countries have been war torn, the students had come to the U.S. with the goal of learning community service-based lessons that they could bring back to their home nations.  

Closer to home, a group from Georgetown University’s Alternative Break focused on the themes of hunger, homelessness, and intersecting issues in and around DC. They sought out Food & Friends for first hand insight into how health and illness factor in these broader problems.

Students from NYU volunteered with us all week!
Each student group’s volunteer experience is unique and tailored to their needs and interests. Some of our groups this year made a sustained commitment by working with us for the entire week, such as New York University’s LGBTQ Student Group and SUNY Purchase College. Others, like those from East Tennessee State, DePaul University, and High Point University, drove over 9 hours in school vans to participate in a variety of community service opportunities in our nation’s capital, including here at Food & Friends. The Ohio State “Buck-I-Serve” group comes every year for spring and winter break, and we were happy to welcome them back again this year!

The Food & Friends Service Learning Program allows students to gain valuable knowledge and see, first-hand, how their service impacts the lives of children and adults facing life-challenging illnesses as well as gain important perspective on issues such as HIV/AIDS and nutrition. If you like to learn more about bringing a student group to Food & Friends, go HERE!


March 21, 2016

Healing with Family: Chef Matt Steiner Says Food & Friends Helped His Stroke Recovery

Chef Matt Steiner walks back and forth at a brisk pace through the kitchen and Expediting (the area where meals are packaged and prepared for home delivery). It’s been a busy day at Food & Friends and he’s wrapping up the last of the day’s volunteers.

Anyone who sees him today would have no idea that, just five years ago, Matt was re-learning how to walk and regain many of his motor skills after a major stroke.
Chef Matt Steiner in the Food & Friends kitchen

“In June of 2011, I had a major stroke,” said Matt. “I had to have open heart surgery and I had a large part of the muscle from my right leg removed. Between the surgeries and physical therapy, I was in the hospital for about six to seven weeks. I also found out during this time that I’m HIV-positive.”

Matt had to start over on a number of fronts. He had to learn to walk again. He couldn’t drive. His speech and other motor skills were impaired.

“I still have a slight stutter,” said Matt. “It’s not as bad here. I’m more comfortable speaking here so it doesn’t bother me as much.”

As part of his recovery, Matt decided to be a volunteer chef at Food & Friends.

“My mom found Food & Friends,” said Matt. “It was her idea to volunteer here to get me out of the house and be more active. If it hadn’t been for her, I would probably be a client of Food & Friends today.”

Matt started on Friday shifts with his mom and his daughter. The short shifts he started with allowed him to walk around and rehabilitate his leg. He also found a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere that would help to quicken his recovery.

“It really is like a family here,” said Matt. “I knew, working as a chef in other places, that I would never find this atmosphere anywhere else. Everyone, from the staff to the volunteers, is so friendly and supportive. And there is much less stress here than I’ve found working in restaurants. It really was ideal for me.”

Matt was hired as on-call chef in September of 2014. One year later, he was hired full time. But this job means more to him than just a paycheck.

“I would do this job even without pay,” said Matt. “Doing what I do means a lot to me. I have friends who are clients and friends who are volunteers so I take this job personally.”

It’s been a long road to recovery for Matt. And he credits Food & Friends with helping him recover faster.

“My recovery would have been a lot slower without Food & Friends,” said Matt. “Being here, getting to walk around a lot, interacting with different people and different personalities, and how nice everyone is – that made a big difference in my recovery.”


February 29, 2016

Take Time to Savor the Flavor of Eating Right: March is National Nutrition Month!


Every March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics celebrates National Nutrition Month. As a month-long celebration of food and nutrition, National Nutrition Month aims to get people thinking about making informed food choices that will benefit their health.

Each year the Academy selects a fun nutrition-related theme to set the tone for National Nutrition Month. This year’s theme, “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right” encourages everyone to take time to appreciate the pleasures, great flavors, and social experiences food can add to their lives. We all have our own unique and meaningful food traditions. National Nutrition Month is a great time to pause and take a moment to ensure we are embracing those traditions fully and enjoying delicious foods that nourish our bodies and lives. 

Eating right starts with making healthy choices most of the time. Whether you are a nutrition-newbie or a seasoned veteran, taking time to periodically reassess your eating patterns is a great habit to develop. You can use the “rate your plate” activity on the next page to quickly assess your own eating patterns and healthy habits. Usually we all have a few areas that we can improve upon!

There are some simple ways to improve your eating pattern that provide maximal health benefits. You can start by adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet, choosing whole grains instead of refined grains, and avoiding foods that are high in added sugar, salt or saturated fats like butter or processed meats. Choosing healthier beverages like water and low-fat milk more often and limiting sugary beverages like juices and sodas reduces added sugars and empty calories. Take advantage of the health benefits of a plant-based diet and try out a couple of meatless meals per week, or swap the meat for seafood (consumption of at least 8 oz of seafood per week is recommended to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease). Making a meal plan each week and sticking to it can help keep your healthy patterns on track, save you money and reduce food waste.

Once you’ve built your healthy foundation by mastering the above tips, you may want to kick it up a notch by adding more flavor to your meals in a healthy way. This can make mealtime even more enjoyable for you and keep healthy eating fresh and exciting. There are many things you can do to add extra flavor to meals without adding sugar, salt or fat. Try using fresh herbs to add a punch of flavor to dishes, or add a tangy taste with citrus juice (lemon, lime, orange) or vinegars. Use aromatic ingredients generously (like onion, garlic, fresh ginger, shallots and chili peppers) to take dishes to the next level. Grilling or roasting vegetables at high heat can give them a sweet, smoky and irresistible flavor. Be adventurous and try new-to-you ingredients and recipes!

Finally, truly savoring your mealtimes can help you stick with your healthy eating habits and promote a positive relationship with food that can last a lifetime. Investing a bit of time into learning to cook your meals at home reaps long-term benefits. Many people find the reward of sitting down to a meal they’ve taken time to prepare brings a sense of satisfaction and pride, and home-cooked meals are almost always healthier than store-bought prepared foods or restaurant meals. Cooking may even become a relaxing and fun hobby once you get the hang of it!

Savoring mealtimes also means enjoying your food in the company of others as often as possible. Making family meal time a fun ritual provides an opportunity to connect with your loved ones on a regular basis. Avoiding distractions while you eat by doing things like putting your phone away and turning off the television gives you the opportunity to appreciate your meals.

So this March, remember to slow down and take a moment to assess your eating patterns and healthy habits. Is there room for improvement? What simple steps can you take to help yourself truly savor the flavor of eating right? Happy National Nutrition Month from the dietitians here at Food and Friends!

RATE YOUR PLATE- from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Do you:
Most days
Sometimes
Never
Consider nutrition when making food choices?
2
1
0
Avoid skipping meals?
2
1
0
Include 3 or more whole-grain foods daily?
2
1
0
Eat at least 2 ½ cups of veggies daily?
2
1
0
Vary veggies with dark green and orange varieties?
2
1
0
Eat at least 2 cups of fruit daily?
2
1
0
Get 3 cups of low-fat or fat-free milk or yogurt daily?
2
1
0
Choose lean meats and poultry?
2
1
0
Vary protein choices with more fish, beans and nuts?
2
1
0
Limit added sugars, salt and solid fats?
2
1
0

Now add up your points to get your total score and see your results below:

16 – 20 points:
Healthy eating seems to be your habit already!
10 – 15 points:
You’re on track. A few easy changes will make your total eating plan healthier.
0 – 9 points:
Sometimes you may eat smart. For good health, add more smart choices to your eating plan.