Mobile Kitchen Teaches How to Cook Nutritious Meals

A trial run of the Nutrition on Wheels program featured samples, recipe cards and cooking demonstrations from a inside a food truck.

Second Harvest Food Bank (SHFB) piloted its Nutrition on Wheels program at the Tuesday.

The program aims to teach people how to eat healthier through cooking demonstrations with a food truck, samples and recipe cards—since many people don’t know what to do with the produce that they receive, according to Janet Leader, a registered dietitian and director of services at SHFB of Santa Clara and San Mateo Countries.

"You can give out produce, but if people don’t eat it, it doesn’t do any good," said Leader.

During the trial program SHFB prepared a broccoli pasta salad—with broccoli, pasta and carrots—and a stone fruit salad with peaches, plums, orange juice, yogurt and nuts.

When people try the samples, Leader said, "Most of them say 'Mmm, yeah it’s good.'"

Approximately 60 percent of individuals try the recipes at home, which equates to about 10,000 people using these recipes per month, said Leader.

In the third week of piloting the program, Mountain View Senior Center was the tenth trial run. Previously Nutrition on Wheels visited various pantry sites as well as Brown Bag and Family Harvest distribution locations. During the first week more than 500 recipe cards and samples were distributed.

At the Feeding America Conference Natalie Caples, nutrition educator, inspired Leader to implement her mobile kitchen idea, currently being used by the Fresno Community Food Bank (FCFB). Leader said she thought bringing a food truck to the Santa Clara and San Mateo counties would work well despite being less rural than Fresno.

Borrowed from the FCFB, the licensed kitchen on wheels allows for preparing samples onsite as well as demonstrating how to cook foods. The mobile kitchen has a TV monitor with four different screens that provide various angles of the kitchen inside.

At the senior center, SHFB community nutrition educators handed out samples and recipe cards while people waited in the food bank line. At Crossroads Church in San Jose, the activity revolved around the food truck. Leader said people instantly crowded the mobile kitchen when they arrived, looking at the TV screens and inside the kitchen.

Part of the pilot is the evaluation of the logistical aspects of the program, including perhaps the purchase of a food truck. Leader said they want to determine the effectiveness and practicality of the program.

In the future, Leader hopes the program can expand and become a routine in the Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

"It’d be nice to have our own food truck and be able to use it in both counties," she said.

To find a Second Harvest distribution site near you, call the Food Connection at 1-800-984-3663 or visit shfb.org


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