First, the origin story. I walked into a local hunger mission with 3 crates of beets and kale. I had called ahead and gotten “orders” for how much to bring to each place, but with volunteers sometimes communication in the kitchen is non-existent. So I walk in with all this beautiful, organic produce and the kitchen manager–this is a paid position, mind you–looks at me in total panic and says, “What do you with beets? And kale?” I kid you not, he had no idea how to prepare them. At about the same time, I was asked by a couple of other sites if I could provide recipes to go with the produce. So I started accumulating recipes that use cheap and readily available ingredients.

Next, the reality. Soup kitchens and hunger missions get a lot of boxed and canned goods. Very little in the way of fresh produce, and extremely little meat–which means recipes that can stretch meat are in high demand. Their patrons are often unhealthy–seniors, homeless, pregnant, addicted, diabetic–and soup kitchen fare is often heavy in starches. It’s really important to get fresh, nutritious produce into these meals. But another challenge is that paid and volunteer staff alike often have little or no professional training, and rely on an unvarying pattern of scrambled eggs, meatloaf, chili, and macaroni-cheese. So in order to get them to actually make use of the produce we deliver, we have to make it exceptionally easy for them to incorporate seasonal produce into their routine.

So, my series of cookbooks is my way of doing this. I hope to make these cookbooks available for free to every soup kitchen, hunger mission, homeless shelter, safe shelter, food bank and pantry in the U.S — and eventually worldwide.

Please help this effort by submitting recipes

I’m looking for a number of basic recipes that  include seasonal variations and suggestions for other ingredients. Some of the recipes popular in hunger kitchens are meatloaf, lasagna, meaty mac-and-cheese, chili, soups and stews, various pasta combinations. Summer recipes might include frittatas, bean and potato salads, tacos, stir fries and so on. But what I really need are basic recipes that offer exciting, seasonal and versatile variations like a Pumpkin-Pork Meatloaf, or a Peasant Paella.

Basic Guidelines

  1. The focus is on fresh fruit and vegetables. Each recipe should highlight or include large quantities of seasonal produce.
  2. Please see the sample recipes and follow that format.
  3. Please do not submit copyrighted material from other sources unless it is freely available, in which case give attribution to the source.
  4. If it’s your recipe, please let me know what attribution you would like. I am happy to provide website links for your business, restaurant, or blog.
  5. Recipes should be hearty and filling.
  6. Recipes that can stretch meat (peasant stews, bean soups, seasonal meatloaf variations, etc.) are needed. Most of the meat that kitchens receive is ground.
  7. Limit use of dairy. Many soup kitchens do not get a lot of milk (other than powdered) or cheese.
  8. No expensive or rare condiments, spices or ingredients.
  9. Suggest substitutions whenever possible.
  10. Minimize steps and preparation
  11. Soup kitchens may not have a food processor—many have large transient populations and are vulnerable to theft.
  12. Dishes that can be prepped a day or two ahead and then popped in the oven are good. (Although limited in space, some kitchens have volunteers willing to store food overnight.)
  13. Recipes that re-use bread are welcome. These kitchens get lots of bread and donuts and much of it goes to waste.
  14. High-water produce is not used very often and some kitchens don’t want to bother. Items like fruit and cucumbers are often just given away as fresh snacks. But if you have an idea for a nutritious, filling, large scale recipe or seasonal variation, fire away!

I have attached a sample working draft of one of my cookbooks. It’s basically just a rough outline. I start each section with an introduction to what’s seasonal (and likely will be coming from gleaners), some basic ways to cook each item, and notes on nutrients.

Thank you for your support! — From Marc Ford, the Tipstor®.