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September 6, 2016

Healthy Eating on a Budget

With rising interest in organic produce, artisan food products and exotic ingredients, a trip to the grocery store can leave you feeling price-gouged.  Healthy eating doesn’t have to break the bank though, as long as you avoid certain pitfalls.  Read on to learn the mistakes commonly made at the grocery store and at home that undermine your food budget:


“I didn’t plan ahead”
Did you know about 60% of food purchases are unplanned?*  Not only do these purchases tend to be less healthy, but they also add to your total spending.  Save some money by planning out your shopping trip ahead of time.  By deciding on a few meals in advance, you can take into account what you already have at home and streamline your visit to the grocery store.  If you still need help avoiding those impulse purchases, challenge yourself to get in and out of the store in a certain time limit.

“I didn’t look for the deals”
Competition is fierce among grocery stores, which is why so many of them offer loyalty programs for their “valued customers”.  Loyalty programs usually come with a card you can swipe at check-out for extra discounts.  They also give you access to online coupons that you can’t find in the store.  On top of that, grab a copy of the store’s circular, a weekly printout of in-store sales and specials.  Most are available online, so you can even use the circular to plan out meals before you shop (just remember to avoid the junk food).

A cooking class held by one of our registered dietitians
“I didn’t stock up”
Healthful eating is so much easier when the ingredients are at home and ready to use.  Keep your fridge and pantry stocked so you’re not tempted by the convenience of fast food or takeout.  Sometimes it’s helpful to prepare chopped ingredients the day before and refrigerate them in a ziplock bag to save time later.  Big sales can also be a great time to fill your cart with healthy staples like canned fish, dried beans and grains, and frozen veggies.

“I wasted my food”
You may have heard Americans waste a lot of food—specifically, $371 worth of food per person per year.  There are many ways to save your food from a landfill (and save money in the process).  Large cooked dishes can be individually portioned and frozen on standby for your next quick meal.  You can repurpose leftovers and fruit and vegetable scraps.  For example, beet greens can be used just like chard or collards, and carrot tops make a bright pesto.  Even orange zest from discarded peels makes a flavorful addition to salads and baked goods.  Also note that “Best Before”, “Use By” and “Sell By” dates are used to indicate peak freshness and NOT when a packaged food is spoiled, so don’t be too quick to toss it out.  However, regarding perishable foods like meat and dairy, refrigerate or freeze as appropriate and consume before the date specified.  Also, be sure to throw out anything showing signs of mold or off odors.

Healthy eating can be expensive, but it certainly doesn’t have to be.  Use our tips to improve the way you shop and cook.  Small changes in planning ahead, looking for discounts, storing food properly and reducing waste can translate to huge savings.

* Inman, J. Jeffrey, Russell S. Winer and Rosellina Ferraro (2009), “The Interplay Between Category Characteristics, Customer Characteristics, And Customer Activities on In-Store Decision Making,” Journal of Marketing, 73 (September), 19-29. 

August 29, 2016

Making an Impact: One Volunteer Goes Above and Beyond to Care for a Client

By Craig Shniderman, Executive Director, Food & Friends

This past weekend while I was checking my email, I found an unusual and particularly heartwarming message. Our Client Services Manager reported on an out of the ordinary encounter between a client and volunteer delivery person. One of our clients, a 91 years old woman in hospice care, received her regular Saturday delivery from Daniel, a regular volunteer. What was unusual about this delivery was that Daniel found the client in distress and took it upon himself to ensure her well-being. He contacted the client’s family member and the hospice provider, as well as Food & Friends staff, to alert them of the situation. Working together, our teams made sure to quickly get the appropriate care to the client.

I found this quite remarkable because our volunteers’ responsibility is limited to simply delivering the food. But like many others here, Daniel has developed a personal relationship with several of the clients to whom he delivers. After Daniel completed the rest of his delivery route on Saturday, he went back to the client’s house to make sure she was receiving the help she needed. She lives in the District, so this was not particularly convenient for Daniel, who lives in Arlington.  His attachment to this client and his sense of responsibility compelled him to go this extra step.

I called Daniel on Saturday after I heard this story from Rachel and had a wonderful conversation with him. I learned that Daniel and his wife Elisa became volunteers at Food & Friends 22 years ago and have remained interested in the organization ever since. They lived away from the Washington area for a while, but when they returned, Daniel told me that one of the first things they did was to reestablish a volunteer relationship with Food & Friends. 

When people ask what about Food & Friends is different than other food delivery programs, we generally talk about the specialty diets and nutritional counseling that we provide to all of our clients. But one of the things that really sets us apart beyond this is the degree of engagement by many of our volunteers. 

We recently surveyed our volunteers, and one of the striking revelations is the extent to which our volunteers are invested in our clients and wanted to grow those relationships. Many expressed a desire to interact more with clients, or simply know more about how the clients are faring. One way we have responded to these requests is to introduce a pilot volunteer delivery program called “Delivery Jumpers.” These volunteers will accompany our staff drivers on their delivery routes and assist with bringing the meals door to door. It will be a great opportunity for volunteers who are looking to interact with clients, but may not be able or comfortable with delivering on their own. It will also a boon for our drivers who will benefit from the extra help. 

The value of the Food & Friends experience comes not just from the food, but from the impactful relationships that so often develop between the volunteer and client. This commitment to excellence is something that we often talk about in terms of staff responsibilities and interactions with clients, but we also see this exemplary compassion in volunteers like Daniel and Elisa.

July 18, 2016

Visit Food & Friends! Summer Tours Starting this July!

Visit Food & Friends!

Sign up today!  
Include your preferred date and time and we'll get back to you right away. 

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
*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.