LIMA — Activate Allen County was at the YMCA Annex on Monday for a “focus-group discussion” about food deserts, with people who live in one.
They wanted to hear from low-income people who live in an area with barriers to fresh, quality food. But, in reality, they already had an answer about how annex residents felt about fresh food. The West Ohio Food Bank was dropping off produce on Monday and it was being tossed out on Tuesday.
It turns out, the men who live there don’t have a means to say, prepare a pineapple. And they don’t have knowledge of some kinds of food, such as eggplant. Activate Allen County, which this year is working on making healthy eating an easy choice, is responding to the issues with a few ideas and helps. The group has turned to the versatile, no-fuss slow cooker.
“Who cooks in the building?” chef Alisa McPheron asked the group of about 25 men. Just a couple of hands went up. And they were using the word “cooking” loosely. Heating up canned soup in a microwave, for example. Most everyone else said their meals came from soup kitchens, snacks and fast-food.
McPheron had two recipes to share: minestrone and corn chowder, both slow-cooker meals. The men could sample two pots already made, and they could help chop veggies used in the dishes. Activate Allen County also gave out donated slow cookers to men who pledged to volunteer time in the building to help pay for them.
Phillip Moore, a resident who cooks for himself as best he can, thought the annex didn’t allow slow cookers. It didn’t, but after Activate Allen County worked with the annex, the policy was changed. Moore took a cooker.
“I’m going to prepare a very slow simmering soup,” Moore said. “Something I can take my time to enjoy, and offer to people.”
In fact, other men were discussing organizing community slow-cooker meals — someone making a soup, with someone else making an apple crisp, to feed a floor.
Activate Allen County is also knocking down another barrier. While residents still won’t have access to the kitchen, Denise Barnes, with the group, said the YMCA is giving access to Activate Allen County once a week. When produce is delivered, people will be there to prepare it for recipes.
Barnes also took some feedback on the mobile produce bus, a new project. One man said he didn’t like the apples on the bus, especially at this time of year. He was not inclined to bother for those shiny and waxy, but ill-tasting, apples when fall’s variety and bounty of other apples was available.
“Write it down,” Barnes told the man. “We’ve added all kinds of things to the bus after people told us what they wanted.”