Produce Education and Enjoyment Loop (PEEL) at Concrete Jungle

09 Nov 2020, by Admin in Education

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Produce Education and Enjoyment Loop (PEEL) at Concrete Jungle

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Produce Education and Enjoyment Loop

Written by: Lorie Bonham, Strategic Programming and Expansion Manager VISTA. Updated by Meggie Stewart, Communications and Program Expansion VISTA.

Concrete Jungle’s nutrition education program, Produce Education and Enjoyment Loop (PEEL), lowers the barriers to trying new, local produce by providing direct education at food pantries. The program was launched in 2018 and has adapted to the needs of Concrete Jungle’s partners over the years. 

Prior to the pandemic, PEEL mostly provided food preparation assistance for Concrete Jungle’s soup kitchen partners. Food preparation involved volunteers from Concrete Jungle working together with volunteers and recipients from the food pantry to clean and chop donated produce, which could later be used for cooking at the soup kitchen. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, PEEL helped grocery delivery program (GDP) clients by providing recipes and nutrition information with the food boxes delivered to their homes. Many GDP clients were homebound due to the pandemic, so the recipes were developed to use common household ingredients together with the produce that clients received. 

As restrictions related to indoor gatherings and food service have lifted, PEEL has adapted. Now, a PEEL representative visits a few food pantries on a regular basis to do hands on cooking lessons with the clients. The lessons are tailored to what resources the clients have access to. For folks without access to a kitchen, there are no-bake recipes such as overnight oats with persimmons or vegetable dip. One example of a PEEL cooking lesson is making tasty pear syrup using locally foraged pears (baking pears), which are often more firm than pears available at the grocery store. The PEEL representative demonstrated how to peel and cook the pears on the stove with water and sugar to create a syrup with lots of nutrients, which is easier to eat than a hard pear. Then, participants in the lesson practiced making their own syrup and took pears home to cook.

In addition to cooking lessons, PEEL representatives often attend food distribution events at pantries when a new, locally foraged fruit is being introduced, to provide samples or answer clients’ questions. Clients can make informed choices about whether to add the new fruit to their diet and how to use it at home.

This year, the PEEL program will collaborate with the Produce Buyers Club (PBC) to provide educational materials and recipes to clients at more food pantries. When a food pantry manager places a produce order with PBC, they will also receive educational materials to distribute which are relevant to the seasonal produce in the order. Educational materials include recipe cards, posters to display, and information about seasonality and how to store the produce so it lasts longer. For example, when buyers place orders of red cabbage and cucumbers, they will receive the relevant educational materials. This is an example of the educational materials for cucumbers. The recipe included on the card is cabbage and cucumber coleslaw, which is easy to make with only 4 other common ingredients: mayonnaise, lemon juice, pepper, and salt. 

By providing recipes, storage information, and nutrition facts, PBC and PEEL bring more value to a food pantry than they could get by purchasing vegetables at a grocery store or restaurant depot instead. Even though Concrete Jungle can’t send a representative to every food distribution event, they can help food pantry clients empower themselves to learn about local, seasonal produce and cook it at home.

See the attached example of educational materials.