A practical guide to sustainable cooking

Summer Harvest Chili

Summer Harvest Chili

Food access and nutrition education are two facets of food sustainability that are often overlooked in favor of the debate of the diets, but they are arguably more important to food sustainability than vegetarianism and veganism. While eating less meat and animal byproducts is indeed a great way to decrease the amount of support for the meat industry, which utilizes massive amounts of water and fully indulges in the use of factory farms, of which animal cruelty is a byproduct, food access and nutrition education are the basic tenets of food sustainability.

This past spring semester, I had the opportunity to intern with The Food Trust, which primarily works to increase food access and nutrition education in the Lehigh Valley and the Philadelphia area.  Food accessibility means that all members of a community have access to nutritious food. There are several factors that can play into food accessibility, including location and affordability. In some communities, there is a lack of retailers that provide fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as other nutritious options. These communities are often referred to as food deserts.

Nutrition education plays a large role in alleviating the effects of food deserts by providing children and adults with the resources and knowledge they need to seek out more nutritious food and successfully include these foods in their everyday lives. This can be done by teaching them about the food pyramid, the specific health benefits of a wholesome diet, and how to incorporate nutritious foods into their diet.

The Food Trust has an extensive program dedicated to nutrition education at local elementary schools, after-school programs, community centers, and local food pantries. One class in particular that I was involved with was an after-school program for middle school and high school students at a local neighborhood center. The class involved an informational session about that week’s food category, in addition to a cooking session, in which the students were taught how to use ingredients from a particular food category in preparing a meal.

One week, we tried an Apple Tofu Chili recipe, which included red bell peppers, cilantro, chopped apples, corn, black beans, and tofu. Below is my spin on that recipe.

Instead of using fresh apples, I used applesauce to add a subtle sweetness that balances out the spices. I used lentils instead of black beans for protein, which add texture to the chili.

The bright flavors of the bell peppers and basil, when combined with the sweet corn and delicate zucchini, create a blend of fresh, summery flavors that make this dish perfect on a hot day.

Serve with a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream and enjoy!


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