When I first moved to Austin, long before I started writing about food for living, my interest in sustainable agriculture led me to a brief volunteering stint with the Sustainable Food Center.
At the time, the employees, and volunteers like me, worked out of cramped office space inside a trailer on the grounds of Sanchez Elementary School, just east of Interstate 35. As I translated news releases announcing that the nonprofit's farmers markets were accepting WIC (Women Infants and Children) vouchers for the first time, I marveled at the programs they were able to run out of such tight quarters.
Since then, as the SFC's efforts to help low-income families access locally grown food have expanded, so has its need for a permanent home.
Two weeks ago, with the help of dozens of dignitaries, elected officials and supporters, the 19-year-old nonprofit with roots going back to 1975 took a major step toward that goal with a groundbreaking ceremony on the East Austin site that will one day be the SFC headquarters.
The 7,000-square-foot building and 2.3-acre teaching gardens will be on land donated by the Meredith family, who have been influential in developing the area just south of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard next to the MLK MetroRail station. (PeopleFund is already based in a building on the land, and Theater Action Project will also build a facility there, too.)
Inside the center will be a commercial kitchen, which will allow SFC's Happy Kitchen program to expand, as well as meeting areas so the center can host film screenings, hands-on workshops and public forums. But for the most part, it will allow the employees to let their own roots grow deeply into a space that they know isn't just a temporary fix like that trailer many of them remember so well.
SFC has just more than $1 million more to raise to meet the $4.5 million capital campaign goal. You can find out more about the project, as well as ways to support the center, at www.sustainablefoodcenter.org/capital-campaign/about .
Getting kids to eat their meatloaf
I took a break from working on today's Meals on Wheels and More story last week to help serve lunch to almost 100 children who are spending much of the summer at El Buen Samaritano, the South Austin agency that has been a longtime partner with the Capital Area Food Bank. (All the food-focused nonprofits in Austin work well together, but CAFB and Meals on Wheels have another connection: Before Dan Pruett took the reins at Meals on Wheels, he was the president of the food bank, which is now in its 31st year of serving Central Texas.)
For the second year, chef David Bull hosted a cooking demonstration and came up with a kid-friendly, nutrient-dense lunch to show that healthy food can taste good, too. He brought a team from his downtown restaurant, Second Bar & Kitchen, to plate the food so servers — who included state Reps. Donna Howard and Elliott Naishtat, Telemundo anchor (and budding chef in her own right) Karla Leal and Monica Williams of the Austin Community Foundation — could bring the dishes to the kids' tables.
Although Bull's turkey meatloaf quickly became the talk of the luncheon (thanks to Bull's chef de cuisine Ethan Holmes for whipping up recipes you can make it at home), the fact that thousands of kids are at a greater risk of going hungry during the summer break wasn't far from any of our minds. Two out of 3 students in the Austin Independent School District receive free or reduced lunches during the school year, and when school is out, the Capital Area Food Bank helps bridge the gap from one school year to the next through the USDA's Summer Food Service Program, which will reimburse the CAFB for providing 30,000 free snacks and lunches to children in Central Texas through partner agencies like El Buen and local Boys and Girls clubs.
The meals won't be served with whipped carrots topped with candied quinoa, which both the kids and the adults got a kick out of eating, but even something as simple as a ham sandwich and a carton of milk will help.
Stay up to date with the latest food news by following food writer Addie Broyles on Twitter (@broylesa) or on her Relish Austin blog, austin360.com/relishaustin. Contact her at 912-2504 or firstname.lastname@example.org
3 Tbsp. grapeseed or canola oil
1 cup yellow onions, chopped
1 cup Anaheim chiles, seeded and chopped fine
1 1/2 lb. ground lean turkey
3 whole eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cup panko (Japanese dried bread crumbs)
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 tsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat the oil in medium sauté pan. Sweat the onions and chiles until they are translucent. Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, working in a large bowl, add the turkey, eggs, bread crumbs, tomato paste and seasonings along with the cooled onions and peppers. Using wet hands, liberally mix and knead the mixture until all the ingredients are well mixed and there are no streaks of tomato paste. The mixture will seem a bit loose.
Next, pack the turkey meatloaf mixture into a nonstick loaf pan that has been lightly greased and lined with parchment paper. Bake the meatloaf for 45 minutes or until an inserted thermometer reads 170 degrees.
Cool the meatloaf slightly in pan before removing. Remove parchment. Slice into desired slices and enjoy.
— Ethan R. Holmes, Second Bar & Kitchen