‘Date With a Chef’

Central Pennsylvania Food Bank and area chefs join fight against hunger

The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank in Williamsport is partnering with local chefs to more effectively fight hunger in the region. On October 30, chef and owner of Moon and Raven Public House, Chip Roush, along with his wife, Erin Roush, owner of Freshlife, with staff and volunteers from Hope Enterprises’ “Innovations” program, kicked off the Food Bank’s newest outreach program, “Date With a Chef.” Future volunteer chefs include, Liz Miele from The Peter Herdic House, Maria Daniele from Franco’s Lounge and Francis Daniele from Cloud Nine. Laura Kittle, with AmeriCorps, was the community liaison in bringing together community members to kick off the program.

This monthly program will connect local chefs in the community with the Food Bank to join its mission of “fighting hunger, improving lives, and strengthening communities.” For the opening, individuals from Hope donned their student caps to see a demonstration preparing a fresh and nutritious meal with food entirely from the Food Bank’s Healthy Food Hub store. Since 1952 Hope Enterprises, Inc. has provided services to developmentally disabled individuals in the 7 county region in which they serve, and these students were eager to be a part of the event.

Carla Fisher, marketing and communications coordinator for the Food Bank said, “The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank is mission driven: fighting hunger, improving lives, strengthening communities. ‘Date With a Chef’ hits our mission on all levels. Connecting with the community is a great way to get our mission into the communities we serve and will make this a successful partnership.”

The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to reduce hunger in 27 counties across Pennsylvania. By working with nearly 1,000 local agencies, the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank provides nearly 650,000 nutritious meals to people in need every week. In 2016, 46 million meals were distributed with the support of food donors, financial donors, and over 5,000 volunteers. The Healthy Food Hub in Harrisburg implemented “Date With A Chef” in 2012 with their newly renovated demonstration kitchen as an educational nutrition-based workshop with agency partners. Williamsport is now implementing the program due to its recently renovated Healthy Food Hub with a demonstration kitchen.

The newly renovated, $3.3 million facility will serve as a food hub for 13 counties in the Northern Tier (Centre, Union, Northumberland, Montour, Clearfield, Columbia, Snyder, Sullivan, Lycoming, Clinton, Potter, Tioga and Bradford counties). Highlights of this new Healthy Food Hub include expansion to 30,000 sq. ft.; increased freezer and cold storage to over 3,000 sq. ft.; and providing more nutrition awareness through the demonstration kitchen offering educational nutrition-based workshops for their growing network of over 275 partner agencies in the region.

Food is a basic need for people to be healthy, engaged citizens. Lack of food affects people’s health, children’s development, and their educational success, to name a few. Based on research by the Food Bank’s national partner, Feeding America, they learned they are likely reaching only half of the individuals who are “food insecure,” similar to national trends. After receiving these staggering statistics, the Food Bank announced a ten-year Bold Goal of providing access to enough nutritious food for everyone struggling with hunger in each of the 27 counties served by 2025.

Their analysis indicated that expansion of the Food Bank in the Williamsport facility was critical to achieve the Bold Goal. With a grand opening in December 2016 of the expanded and modern Healthy Food Hub, the Food Bank will be able to annually distribute more and healthier food to over 109,000 food insecure people in the northern central Pennsylvania region, in particular more fresh and local food, and create a space for unique educational and volunteer opportunities.

As we gathered in this modern kitchen facility at midmorning, student introductions were made as Chip and Erin were busy prepping vegetables and potatoes for the meal while soft jazz music played in the background. Chip explained to the students that music is “beautiful energy” that inspires him in the kitchen. “It’s all about love energy,” he said.

The meal they had planned consisted of a French style White Bean, Cabbage and Ham Soup with Hasselback Baked Potatoes and tossed garden salad. The first task required the use of a sharp knife, and they

issued a clear warning to us all about the dangers of using them. While Chip cut slices in the potatoes, Erin worked on the butter, Rosemary infused olive oil, and chive dressing that would be drizzled over the potatoes and then baked.

Once the potatoes were in the oven they turned their attention to the soup. This portion of the instruction allowed the students to help in the various stages of the soup’s preparation: adding ingredients, stirring, joking, laughing, and clapping when someone did a good job. As they gathered around the oven, they explained the base for this soup would start with bouillon and mirepoix, diced vegetables, cooked over low heat with butter or oil, in this case a light Canola oil. When the vegetables were tender they added the mirepoix to the soup pot. Then Chip trimmed ham steak into what he described as, “pallet friendly” pieces and added them to the soup pot. He said in his restaurant he usually leaves soup overnight for the flavors to marry, so after cooking a while he called it “new soup.”

Lunch time was approaching and several students expressed their hunger as we all sat down at the tables in the Food Bank Demonstration Kitchen’s dinning/classroom space. We thanked Chip and Erin for their instruction and for coming to prepare such a delicious and healthy meal. There was gratitude to the many donors and volunteers who made it possible, and as Erin was leaving she said, “My love tank is full.”

Throughout the holiday season, the Central Pennsylvania Food receives thousands of requests for frozen turkeys, and to meet this need, it holds an Annual Holiday Turkey Drive, asking the public to help by donating frozen turkeys, free turkey coupons or funds to purchase a turkey. A donation can help provide a traditional holiday meal for a family facing hunger in our community. For complete details visit www.centralpafoodbank.org.