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Cooking for a Cause

 Spare Change News (USA) 11 June 2019

(Originally published: 07/2009) Seven days a week, Pilgrim Church opens its Columbia Road doors to Dorchester residents so that they can use the chapel. On two of these days however, local residents may enter the church lobby to pick up bread from Whole Foods. Spare Change News vendor, and food science graduate, Robert Sondak explains his routine and the aims of his vendor nutrition outreach work in Boston. (762 words) - By Robert Sondak

Seven days a week, Pilgrim Church opens its Columbia Road doors to Dorchester residents so that they can use the chapel.  Two days a week after 10 am (Wednesdays and Fridays), local residents may enter the church lobby to pick up bread from Whole Foods.

On a recent sunny Wednesday morning, I paid Pilgrim Church a visit.  I first checked in with Reverend Odams to see if he needed help in the pantry.  The Reverend told me that he is fully staffed but thanked me for my offer to volunteer.

I unpacked my blue duffel bag of recipe flyers in the church lobby.  I took the recipe flyers out of the bag and stacked them neatly on the bench adjacent to the front door.  I separated the recipe flyers according to language, English in one pile, Spanish in another.  I then proceeded to further separate the recipe flyers by main entree and accompanying side dishes.  This is the third year that the Nutrition Education Outreach Project has been circulating recipe flyers to the Pilgrim Church community.

At 10:15 am, I started to pass out recipe flyers to Dorchester residents who were referred by Project Bread Food Source Hotline.  I helped two elderly women and their daughters to carry shopping carts of food down the church steps and out the front door.  I took the opportunity to highlight that sunlight is an excellent source of Vitamin D.  Vitamin D regulates the absorption of Calcium, an important mineral for bone health.  I pointed out that only 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure at least twice a week provides adequate Vitamin D.

Later I spoke with another elderly women accompanied by her daughter and grandchildren.  I spoke to this group about Vitamin C, of which green vegetables and fruits are an excellent source.  Vitamin C helps to maintain bones and muscles and also acts as an antioxidant.  It is therefore especially important for young children and the elderly.  Good sources of Vitamin C include broccoli, mustard greens, cabbage, collard greens, oranges and pineapples.

The recipes that Pilgrim Church distributes change monthly, and include food that is rich in both flavor and nutritional value.

For the month of March, Pilgrim Church circulated a recipe in English for chicken jambalaya with a side dish of Italian green beans among its visitors.  The menu in Spanish included Fiesta de Pollo (Mexican chicken) with Vegetales con Crema de Curry, Arroz, y Café (vegetables with cream of curry, rice, and coffee).

For April, Pilgrim Church circulated a recipe for South American chicken with herbed green beans in English.  The Spanish menu included Pollo Cocido con Vegetales (chicken and vegetables) with Ejotes con Albahaca (basil green beans).  During my recent visit, I pass out a set of Spanish recipe flyers including Fiesta de Pollo (Mexican chicken) and Zanahorias (carrots) to a Hispanic women and her daughter.  I emphasized that Pollo (chicken) is a good source of protein and Niacin.  I also pointed out that zanahorias (carrots) have been reclassified by scientists and doctors.  They are now considered a good cancer fighting food because of their high levels of beta-carotene.

The Nutrition Education Outreach Project (NEOP) circulates recipe flyers to Pilgrim Church once a month, every month per year.  On major holidays such as Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, we make special recipe flyers that include traditional dishes like turkey, chicken, ham, and glazed and sugar coated vegetables.

On the day of my visit, I ended by passing out recipe flyers and talking to Dorchester residents.  It had been a successful day; we circulated 35 recipe flyers and gave individual, food-related advice to 7 local residents.  Further, we left an additional 35 recipe flyers on the information table in the church lobby, for people who might come later.

The new USDA Food Pyramid recommends two to three cups of vegetables for adults and one to one and a half cups for children daily.  Following these guidelines, NEOP has created recipe flyers that focus on incorporating vegetables into meals. Such thoughtful menu planning ensures that low-income families meet the government guidelines for vegetables every day.

The bilingual recipe flyers circulated at Pilgrim Church were created by a team of translators experienced with Spanish language and culture.  These translators self-identify as Latino/a and have lived in Spain or Central/South America.

The Church itself operates with a very small staff of professionals, church members and volunteers.  Especially considering the consequences of recent state budget cutbacks on community services, Pilgrim Church is an outstanding resource for the Uphams Corner neighborhood, to which it is very committed.

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