Saturday, May 28, 2011

Searching for Healthy Summer Snacks Ready in a SNAP?

Healthly summer snacks are easy to create now that fresh, local fruits and veggies are in abundance at local grocery stores, farmers' markets and maybe even in your own garden. 

What I love about creating healthy snacks for summer picnics and just hanging out in the backyard is that they are easy to prepare, keep well and truly taste like summer. 

As the Austin Food Blogger Alliance and Capital Area Food Bank SNAP Recipe Challenge wraps up, I thought I might offer a few healthy, seasonal and affordable snacks for Memorial Day weekend and the start of summer. 

The SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) program helps hungry Central Texans by giving them additional funds that expand their ability to serve nutrient dense snacks for their kids, meals for those with dietary restrictions or to meet the nutritional needs for their family. 

Local honeydew melon wrapped in ham or proscuitto makes a quick snack!
SNAP funds could mean the difference between a child enjoying a healthy morning breakfast or going without during the summer when reduced and free lunches are not available through school. Capital Area Food Bank also developed a program last year to help fill this need by creating 22 summer feeding sites

One of the facts that I found interesting is that SNAP funds are already in place regardless of whether or not they are being used. Funds help fuel economic activity in Central Texas. Local farmers benefit and local shop owners benefit as well as the kids that would otherwise have to sit through their summer days with hunger pangs. When funds are not used, Central Texans do not benefit from the additional economic activity. 

SNAP funds are added to a Lone Star card (similar to a debit card) that can be used at grocery stores and farmers' markets. What a great way to support local farmers and feed Central Texans! The following recipes use ingredients found from local farms that are also available at local grocery stores around town and are GLUTEN-FREE and CORN-FREE. 

PEACHY Summer Salsa
(a not so spicy version for kids)

2-3 local peaches, peeled and cubed - local varieties available at many local grocery stores and farmers' markets around town

2-3 local tomatoes, cubed - local varieties available at many local grocery stores and farmers' markets around town, but we've loved the Angel Valley Farms tomatoes available at Wheatsville 

zest and juice of one organic lime

one very small sweet 1015 onion, thinly diced, our garden and abundant at the farmers' markets - We love Milagro Farms for their onions and green garlic and Chris's friendly service :)

one very small clove of green garlic, thinly sliced 

1. Add the ingredients to a bowl and serve with local Beanitos chips (corn free and wheat-free) (available at Wheatsville, People's Pharmacy, HEB, Central Market and many other locations around town)

CRUNCHY Cucumber Salad

cucumbers - fully or partially peeled and cubed or sliced - local cucumbers available at Wheatsville or Austin Farmers' Market

dill - chopped - Ours came from our garden, but there are many local options available at the grocery stores and farmers' markets around town

queso fresco - cubed - at only $2 a package, it's a great deal and so salty and delicious!

1/4 cup olive oil I used Texas Olive Ranch Olive Oil available at Central Market, Wheatsville and Austin Farmers' Market)

pinch of cumin

1/4 - 1/2 cup of white wine vinegar

juice and zest of one organic lime

thinly sliced red onion (optional)

1. Combine ingredients and let sit for 10-15 minutes before serving. I have also strained out the herbs for kids that don't like to see the green specks, but I still want to have them experience the flavors. 

Carrot and Candy Slaw
(okay, so it's really candy striped beets...but it's just as sweet)

Adapted from Carrot Slaw: My (July 20007)

3-4 local carrots, shredded - Johnson's Backyard Garden (available at Wheatsville, Austin Farmers' Market or through a CSA membership)

3-4 candy striped beets (or golden), peeled and shredded - Johnson's Backyard Garden 

Zest and juice of one organic lemon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon local honey - I like Goodflow's Orange Blossom honey with this recipe (available at Wheatsville)

2 TBSP olive oil - I used Texas Olive Ranch Olive Oil available at Central Market, Wheatsville and Austin Farmers' Market)

1. In a bowl add the first 5 ingredients and let sit for 30 minutes. 
2.Add the olive oil just before serving. Keeps up to a week in the fridge. 

SNAP Program Tidbits

Why are eligible participants not using the funds? Unfortunately, there are many barriers that keep participants from taking full advantage of the program including transportation, having young children, misinformation about the program that causes undocumented workers to not get help for their children, long forms that must be updated every 6 months and required in-person interviews for the program. Some of the participants don't have a mailing address or cell phone and don't realize that they can apply for emergency assistance by visiting one of the three HHSE sites. They can have a LoneStar card with funds in just 24-48 hours after completing an in person interview in some cases. 

However, the barriers are optional and Texas chose to enact these requirements as part of our state program. We were able to see several forms from other states that were much more user friendly. So, what can you do to help? Contact your state representative and tell them that we want more straightforward forms and less requirements to feed our hungry state. 

Waste and fraud are also at the lowest levels in history. 4.3 % of benefit errors are due to overpayment or underpayment. 

Children in the program have access to funds even if their parents do not qualify. Visit the Hunger is unAccepteable site to view the surprising infographic on SNAP Eligibility and Enrollments Requirements and information. 

Captial Area Food Bank Tidbits

Capital Area Food Bank not only provides area shelters with food, but they also help fill gaps by taking one of their two mobile food pantry to residents that do not live close to a food pantry. It is truly a pantry on wheels with WiFi so that interviews for eligibility can be determined, awnings to protect them from the sun, a fridge for keeping food safe and many of the items usually available at the food pantries. Food pantries and soup kitchens pay 10 cents on the dollar to cover CAFB's administrative costs. A small price to pay to feed so many. 

CAFB also "rescues" approximately 40 million pounds of food each year that would otherwise be thrown out. All food is checked for safety, but many times the larger chains like Wal-Mart or HEB have leftover bakery items, meat and more that hasn't expired and is still usable. 

CAFB even has a teaching garden out back so that they can donate their own produce and have a nice place to take volunteers and employees to enjoy their lunch. There is even a sensory garden for sight-limited guests and volunteers to explore the garden. 

Capital Area Food Bank depends on its many volunteers to run. Volunteers put in a combined 6,000 hours a month to make it run smoothly. They even offer a family night for kids 8 and up to volunteer with their family.

If you would like to help, please considering volunteering or making donations of nutrient dense items such as fresh produce, dried berries and nuts, natural sweeteners such as honey or real maple syrup, olive oil, or spices for flavoring dishes without saturated fats. Monetary donations are always preferred as it allows the food bank to provide the food pantries, soup kitchens and crisis centers.

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