Friday, April 11, 2014

Women Poverty & Justice

· A third of all families headed by single women with children under 18 live in poverty;
· 80% of households on Reach Up are women participants with children;
· 55% of minimum wage workers are women; and 72% of tipped workers are women.
· 3SquaresVT households are twice as likely to be headed by women;
· Vermont women only make 84 cents for every dollar earned by men.

Statistics like those above are what inspired Chris Curtis of Vermont Legal Aid to start telling the story of the real people using state programs in Vermont. He wanted to stop referring to these people as "beneficiaries" or "participants" and instead wanted to illustrate who the human beings are that are utilizing these programs to make ends meet. And the fact of the matter is, when looking at who the real people are that are living in poverty, the majority are women with children.

Last November, we hosted the 3SquaresVT Challenge and Melinda Moulton, Burlington-based business leader, lived on the $36 food budget as part of the Challenge. She shared her experience in the media and when she was on the Mark Johnson Show, Chris Curtis was tuned in. He was struck by her experience and reached out to Melinda to discuss what he had recently been grappling with: how to focus attention on poverty and its disproportionate impacts on women. 

From this conversation, the event Women Poverty & Justice was born. On Monday, April 14th, at Main Street Landing in Burlington, leaders working closely on social justice issues in Vermont will discuss topics such as minimum wage, paid sick days, Reach Up, 3SquaresVT, and affordable housing. The event will feature keynote speaker and Vermont Law School Professor, Cheryl Hanna. Following opening remarks, Professor Hanna will moderate a panel of experts including Karen Richards (Executive Director, Vermont Human Rights Commission), Marissa Parisi (that's me!), and Tiffany Bluemle (Executive Director, Vermont Works for Women) who will share insights and poverty solutions. Guests include local community and opinion leaders who will be asked to send a message to lawmakers to support poverty reduction initiatives in Vermont.

To find out how you can add your voice and help influence policy that addresses hunger, housing, and promotes financial security for women, contact us!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Nutrition & Justice

by Marissa Parisi, Executive Director at Hunger Free Vermont

Today is the last day of March Nutrition Month.  I hope you’ve enjoyed our blog posts from staff, board members, volunteers, and interns and thank you to all who contributed.  Hunger Free Vermont and the citizens of our state are lucky to have these committed Vermonters working every day to ensure that no one has to face the consequences of hunger and malnutrition in our state. 

I often remind people that hunger and malnutrition carry as many mental and emotional hardships as they do physical consequences.  Throughout the last month we’ve celebrated food and cooking on this blog, but too many Vermonters feel left on the sidelines of the wonderful social aspects of Vermont’s vibrant food culture.  When you don’t have the resources to purchase enough food for your family, you make things stretch as long as you can.  You might not want to attend your town meeting if you don’t have a dish to contribute to the potluck.  You might not feel you can afford to go to your local farmers’ market and miss out on meeting your local growers.  You might not attend local spaghetti suppers or pancake breakfasts or bake sales.  For me, and I know for all the bloggers this month, we think all aspects of hunger and malnutrition are unjust.

Going forward, let’s use our love for food and our fellow citizens as a motivator to keep up our fight for justice to ensure that all Vermonters experience everything good food has to offer.  Together we can and will end hunger and malnutrition in Vermont.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Super Mushrooms

Guest Blogger, Jon Harris, Administrative and IT Specialist at Hunger Free Vermont

Someone once told me they don’t like mushrooms because they “grow in the dirt”. Doesn’t everything? As a kid, I had a positive introduction to mushrooms, in Super Mario Bros. Without super mushrooms, I couldn’t have saved the princess; I would have remained un-super and been taken out by the first Koopa Troopa I bumped into.  Mario was such a fun guy.

As it turns out, mushrooms are more than just super – they are delicious and nutritious. I like almost every mushroom I’ve tried (and the ones I didn’t like probably should have been cooked!). Grilled portabellas are my favorite, and I add baby bellas (crimini) to all my salads as well as many soups, sauces, and stews. 
There are many yummy types of mushrooms. The white and brown button mushrooms (the kind that are easy to find in the supermarket) are good sources of potassium and selenium.  We need to get both from the foods we eat, and I’m happy to have more reasons to eat mushrooms. It doesn’t hurt that they are pretty inexpensive, either!

My fiancĂ© makes delicious stuffed mushrooms that we bring to parties with family and friends. I can’t divulge her secret recipe, but here’s an easy one to try. If you like some heat, try replacing all or some of the garlic with jalapeno!

  • 8 oz package of button mushrooms
  • 3 large cloves of garlic minced
  • 4 cups of baby spinach leaves chopped
  • 2 tbsp (10g) parmesan, shredded
  • Kosher Salt & Pepper
  • Olive Oil cooking spray
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees
Clean the mushrooms and remove stems. Mince the stems and set aside as they will be part of your stuffing.
Mince the garlic.
Heat a small non-stick skillet over medium heat, spray with cooking spray. Add the minced garlic and mushroom stems. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper. While cooking, chop the spinach into small pieces and remove stems.
Add the spinach to the skillet a little at a time and cook down sprinkling a bit more salt and pepper.
Remove filling from heat. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Stuff the mushrooms with the spinach mixture. Really jam it in there you just have more then enough.
Top with parmesan cheese and bake for about 20 minutes!

Picture and recipe from

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Eating Seasonally: Asparagus

Guest Blogger, Kaitlyn, 3SquaresVT Intern at Hunger Free Vermont

During the deep arctic freeze that is a Vermont winter, the once colorful farmers' market basket dwindles down to a handful of roots and a bag of cold-storage apples.Don’t misunderstand me, I love beets and parsnips as much as the next person, but after a while they do get a bit old. Spring, however, is a whole different story. With the thawing of the ground in mud season comes a much greater array of fresh produce that livens up our diets considerably.

One of my favorites? Asparagus. Roasted with a little butter and lemon pepper, it makes my mouth water just thinking about it. Here, we’ll hopefully see the first crop come in sometime in May, and continue for a few more precious months. Even then, however, it can get a bit expensive, especially for people using 3SquaresVT funds to make ends meet. How can we make eating fresh veggies more affordable? By pairing that delicious asparagus with a handful of other veggies and stretching it out with a bowl of pasta, a bit of cheese, and some balsamic dressing. This dish would be perfect in the beginning of summer, when fresh veggies from the farms around town will be in-season and cheaper.

Fresh Pasta Primavera
    1 (12 ounce) package penne pasta
    1/2 zucchini, chopped
    1 large carrot, sliced thin
    1/2 green bell pepper, sliced thin
    1/3 pint grape tomatoes, cut in half
    10 spears asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
    1/4 cup olive oil, divided
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
    1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
    1/4 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
    2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
    1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
    3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
    1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1.    Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
2.    Cook pasta for 10 to 12 minutes or until al dente; drain.
3.    In a bowl, toss zucchini, carrot, bell pepper, tomatoes, and asparagus with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and Italian seasoning. Arrange on the baking sheet, and roast 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until tender.
Heat remaining olive oil in a large skillet. Stir in the onion and garlic, and cook until tender. Mix in cooked pasta, basil, and balsamic vinegar. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. Toss with roasted vegetables and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese to serve.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Beet It! My New Favorite Salad on a 3SquaresVT Budget

Guest Blogger, Angela Smith-Dieng, 3SquaresVT Advocacy Manger at Hunger Free Vermont

As a working mom of two young children, I am always looking for relatively quick and easy ways to get healthy foods onto the dinner table for my family.  Last fall, just as my CSA turned into a heavy basket of root veggies, I discovered a great recipe for a root veggie salad that incorporates kale, carrots and beets with a sweet and tangy dressing.  I love how colorful it is with the bright red beets and deep orange carrots contrasted by the dark green kale.  I love that so many good nutrients come with those colors, like the B vitamins, folate, and potassium in the beets.  I love that it tastes awesome.  Most of all, I love that my six-year-old loves it too!

I’ve made this salad many times now for different community gatherings.  I keep going back to it not only because it’s easy, healthy and a hit, but because it’s easy on the budget, too.  Kale, carrots and beets are plentiful in Vermont’s cold winters so stay relatively inexpensive at the grocery store. While the recipe calls for nuts and dried fruit, they aren’t necessary, and the dressing can be modified to use different oil or vinegar depending on what you have on hand.

For many Vermonters, especially those on 3SquaresVT benefits, the food budget is extremely tight, and cost is a major concern when it comes to planning a meal.  It’s nice to find a recipe that’s healthy, local and affordable at the same time.  I look forward to making this salad just a few more times before the season changes and spring greens come back to Vermont!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

"Pear" it with Lunch!

Guest Blogger, Danielle, Child Nutrition Intern at Hunger Free Vermont

School nutrition programs have so much potential to be further integrated into the education system, and Vermont schools are on the right track toward doing just this. Through programs like the Fresh Fruit and Veggie program, after school meals and school breakfast, educators across the state are thinking up new ways to promote healthy eating and nutrition education. Vermont is known for having a strong local food movement, and many schools already incorporate produce from their school garden or local farms into the lunch menu. Additionally, the new USDA guidelines for school meals are pushing food service directors and cooks to be creative while balancing the finicky tastes of young students.

This is where the "secret ingredient," a pear, comes in! Pears are a delicious fall fruit and one of my favorite recipes to include pears in is a simple grilled cheese sandwich. What better way is there to promote eating fruit in school than to “pear” this fall treat with some Vermont cheddar!? An easy side that could also be served with this cheesy sandwich to make it a more balanced meal is a green salad, possibly even with lettuce from the school garden or from a farm nearby. Although pears are a pretty common fruit in Vermont, the day before serving the pear grilled cheeses, the school lunch program could have a pear tasting at some point during the day to introduce the ingredient to the kids and get them all excited for tomorrow's lunch. 

Ingredients (this recipe makes 2 sandwiches)
·  1 ripe pear, cored and sliced
·  2 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, thinly sliced or shredded (use 4 oz. for extra cheesy sandwiches)
·  1 tbsp. butter, softened
·  4 slices bread

1.     Heat a griddle or skillet on medium-high heat. Butter two slices of bread on one side; place buttered side down onto the skillet. Top bread with pear slices and cheese. Butter remaining bread slices and place them on top of the sandwiches, butter side up.
2.     Cook until bottom of sandwich is browned, 3-5 minutes. Flip over and cook 3-5 minutes more.

3.     Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

It's Snack Time, for Apple's Sake

Guest Blogger, Anna Kaufman, Anti-Hunger & Opportunity Corps –VISTA at Hunger Free Vermont

One thing I love about apples is that they are available locally ALL year long in Vermont. With such a short growing season for most fruits and vegetables, it’s delightful to be able to purchase a local fruit staple during these long winter months. Apples also come in all sorts of fun varieties, are relatively inexpensive, and can be stored for up to six weeks in the refrigerator!

I recently started working at HFVT as an AmeriCorps VISTA; I’ll just make my point quick and simple- I’m living on a tight budget.  As someone who typically devotes a large sum of money to fruits and vegetables weekly, I’ve been finding my trips to the grocery store a bit more challenging than normal. I’m in the process of learning how to shop on a budget while continuing to eat a diet plentiful with nutritious fruits and vegetables.  Thankfully, apples come in very handy in this situation. 


Aside from being local and inexpensive, apples are highly nutritious! They are full of dietary fiber, B complex vitamins, vitamin C, iron, and a handful of other minerals and phytonutrients. The fiber content helps to ensure a healthy colon, while the nutrient density in apples help to lower blood cholesterol and blood pressure as well as stabilize blood sugar.  Most of the fiber and antioxidants are in the peel of the apple, so I always wash it well and eat the whole fruit!

There are so many delicious apple recipes, but I have to admit my favorite way to eat apples is for snack time. When eaten on an empty stomach, apples (and fruits in general) help jumpstart the digestive process by getting the stomach juices flowing. I’ve learned that the stomach is better able to process and absorb the nutrients when eaten alone. So when your stomach starts growling mid-morning or afternoon, try slicing up an apple and pair it with your favorite nut butter like I do! With that said, eating fruit anytime is better than not eating it J