Feed Families in Appalachian Ohio

by Community Food Initiatives
Feed Families in Appalachian Ohio
Feed Families in Appalachian Ohio
Feed Families in Appalachian Ohio
Feed Families in Appalachian Ohio
Feed Families in Appalachian Ohio
Feed Families in Appalachian Ohio
Feed Families in Appalachian Ohio
Feed Families in Appalachian Ohio
Feed Families in Appalachian Ohio
Feed Families in Appalachian Ohio
Feed Families in Appalachian Ohio
Feed Families in Appalachian Ohio
Feed Families in Appalachian Ohio
Feed Families in Appalachian Ohio
Summer squash and other produce on the CPA floor
Summer squash and other produce on the CPA floor

The Donation Station at Community Food Initiatives in Athens, OH, is in the midst of yet another busy season! We’re at our local farmers market every Wednesday and Saturday, and at a local produce auction every Monday and Thursday, which means that we’re spending the majority of our time out gathering produce to distribute to people in need. Just last week we received nearly 2,000 pounds of produce at the produce auction alone, enabling us to distribute more than a ton of fresh, local, food to pantries and other organizations working to fight food insecurity in southeastern Ohio.

While we love to highlight our wonderful staff and volunteers, during the summer, we are especially grateful for the abundance of local produce that goes through our hands. During this time of peak produce we distribute twice weekly, and we have some special pickups during the week for programs like the Athens County Children Services (ACCS) PB&J Project, which helps provide meals to children in need when school is out of session. ACCS staff member Diane Stock comes to the Donation Station to add produce to the peanut butter and jelly supplies they already distribute: “To have fruit and vegetables to go with that [the PB&J] makes us feel like we’re providing more whole nutrition to children and families.”

Throughout the growing and harvest season, we provide a variety of produce based on what is seasonally available. But, if there is one crop that is a staple for us this time of the year, it’s summer squash. We often have plenty of this easy-to-use, familiar, and versatile yellow veggie to distribute each week. The produce we provide to ACCS and other partners most often starts at the stalls of the Athens Farmers Market or on the floor of the Chesterhill Produce Auction (CPA), like these summer squash.

We purchase bulk lots of produce at the Morgan County-based CPA every Monday and Thursday afternoon. After these squash were purchased last Monday, our staff weighed them in to track how much we distribute and transported them to a large cooler space at our offices in Athens. This squash was set aside for the special pickup by ACCS on Wednesday afternoon, so it was repacked in their coolers that afternoon before going out to families in need in our area!

This example of the Donation Station in action is just one small way your donations positively impact food access in our area. Providing healthy, local produce to supplement non-perishable items typically available in food pantries, we can build healthier communities! As Diane said, “Families get excited and line up because we have a limited supply of produce to go with what we are able to provide. The fact that we get this [the produce] at no cost is the only way we can provide this service to the community. We wouldn’t have the funding otherwise.”

You can help us increase our buying power at the CPA and be able to provide increasing amounts of produce to our community partners by making a donation today. We distribute around 1,000 pounds of produce each month just to the PB&J project. We are on our way to hitting our target of 100,000 pounds distributed in 2019, and your donations during this busy time of year will help ensure we get there!

Produce is stored in our cooler until distribution
Produce is stored in our cooler until distribution
Transferred to ACCS coolers & ready for families
Transferred to ACCS coolers & ready for families
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A lot is happening at CFI!  It's because of our community of support that we're able to do what we do, so THANK YOU!  We'd like to share with you about two big initiatives. 


On Friday, March 22, CFI hosted its annual seed potato giveaway, distributing nearly 30,000 pounds of seed potatoes to individuals and organizations throughout the region.  Given an average of 8 pounds of potatoes produced from every pound of seed potatoes, this event enabled future provision of 240,000 pounds of food.  How amazing!  With the generous contribution of time and energy from businesses, partner organizations, and individuals, we were able to get all of these taters to families throughout Appalachia. 


The Discovery Kitchen events that CFI has been hosting at OU have been a huge success!  These free workshops are part of the Initiative for Appalachian Food and Culture, and help drive the demand for local food on campus through hands-on experience preparing recipes that highlight seasonal, regionally-grown food.  OU and Athens community members make and share a meal together while learning about food access and the importance of a sustainable, thriving, and equitable local food system. 

The workshops are led by COMCorps member Sierra Faris and Discovery Kitchen Intern Jackie Stevens with the help of Tom Stevenson, Visiting Assistant Professor for the Restaurant, Hotel and Tourism program.  Recipes have featured winter squash, kale, and other produce available during these non-peak production months.  Additionally, we have been fortunate to partner with the Patton College of Education in the use of their McCracken Hall kitchen.   

This is what Stevens (DK Intern) has to say about the project: 

The goal of Discovery Kitchen is to provide OU students and Athens community members with knowledge about food accessibility and local produce. The workshops are hands on. The community members get hands on experience cooking the meals! 

We always incorporate local fresh ingredients from the farmers market into the recipes. In the past we have used kale and sweet potatoes, which come in all funky shapes and sizes. Some potatoes are the size of a small dog! 

Those who attend step away with a new found confidence in the kitchen. One of our repeat attendees, Sharon, told us that “I had never used kale before, to be honest it intimidated me. But after working with it during Discovery Kitchen I cook with it all the time. It's so delicious.” 

Working directly with community members as a grassroots organization, we see the need that exists in this region first-hand.  It's so inspiring to witness and experience the incredible support that's out there for organizations working for positive change!  Thank you for your continued support as we move forward in our mission
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Discovery Kitchen Tasting Table
Discovery Kitchen Tasting Table

Twice a year our Discovery Kitchen partners with the Athens County Public Libraries to put on ~Tasting Tables~ a series of tasting demonstrations at all of the Library branches, highlighting seasonal and healthy food recipes. We all tried some tasty dishes together and I had tons of fun preparing the food and interacting with the tasters!

For more upcoming workshops at the Athens County Public Libraries, check out the F.E.A.S.T program going on now through April 2019!

The first week was Fun with Ferments which featured fermented carrots, ginger, and sauerkraut.The second week was Bubble & Squeak which is a traditional British dish that is meant to use up some of your leftovers! The third week was an Aromatic Granola that was made entirely in a toaster oven. The final week was a Stuffed Pumpkin which was this beautiful centerpiece of a dish with an Italian style stuffing.

Bubble & Squeak 

Bubble and Squeak is meant to be a hodgepodge of whatever you have in your fridge, with the base usually being mashed potatoes. For my bubble and squeak, I had mashed potatoes, pureed butternut squash and fresh cabbage. You could use cabbage, peas, corn, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, etc. and it will turn out amazing.

Mashed potatoes 2 cups
Mashed root veggies or roasted veggies 1 cup
Salt and pepper to taste
Butter 1 tbsp.
Optional: ½ cup peas, ½ cup cabbage, 2 to 3 scallions, chopped


1. Combine the mashed potatoes and mashed root or roasted vegetables in a large bowl. The measurements are more of a guideline, so if your mixture is falling apart, add more potato!

2. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and mix into a thick kind of dough.

3. Grease a skillet over medium heat (use the 1 tbs. of butter to follow the original recipe or swap for an oil like canola or grapeseed)

Add the mixture into to the pan and press it into a flat pancake that fills the pan all the way to the edge.

Let it cook for 5-7 minutes without disturbing it.

4. Check the underside of the pancake. When it is golden, flip it! If you’re feeling brave, you can try to flip it all at once or flip sections of it and smoosh it back together into one pancake.

Brown the other side of the pancake for about 10 minutes.

Once there is a nice golden crust, turn off the heat and let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes.

5. Slice into wedges and serve.



Rolled/whole oats 1 cup
Shredded coconut (unsweetened) 1/2 cup
Hulled pumpkin seeds 1/2 cup
Maple syrup 5 tbsp.
Pumpkin pie spice (or spice of choice) 1 tsp.
Salt 1 tsp.


1. Preheat the (toaster) oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, stir together the oats, coconut, pumpkin seeds, maple syrup, pumpkin pie spice, salt, and sesame seeds.

3. Transfer the mixture to the lined baking sheet and spread it out for even baking. Bake at 350 F until lightly golden, about 20 minutes.

4. Allow the granola to cool on the pan completely before removing it. Use your hands to break the granola into smaller pieces and store it in an airtight container until ready to eat.

5. Granola can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week or in the fridge for up to a month.

Stuffed Pumpkin
As a grand finale, I took on the adventure that was a stuffed pumpkin. Many of the tasters told me they thought it tasted like lasagna! You can use any stuffing recipe you see fit!


Perfectly-shaped pumpkin, about 6 lbs. 1
Water 1 3/4 cups
Dry/uncooked lentils 1/2 cup
Dry/uncooked brown rice 1/2 cup
Poultry seasoning 2 tsp.
granulated onion 1 tsp.
Medium white or cremini mushrooms, chopped 5
Large rib celery, sliced 1
medium yellow or white onion, chopped(optional) 1
Freshly chopped garlic (4 to 5 medium cloves) 1 tbsp.
Old-fashioned rolled oats 3/4 cup
Tomato paste 1 can
Minced fresh sage 1 tbsp.
Minced fresh thyme 1 tsp.
Minced fresh rosemary 1 1/2 tsp.(up to 1 tbsp.)

Preheat oven for 375 degrees.Cut off lid of pumpkin & scrape out the seeds and strings. Sprinkle a little bit of salt inside and set upside down to drain while you prepare the stuffing.
Place the water, lentils, rice, poultry seasoning, and granulated onion into a medium saucepan over high heat. When it begins to boil, reduce the heat to low, then cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 10 minutes with the lid still on. (Prepare your remaining ingredients while the rice and lentils are cooking.)
Place 1 tablespoon of water into a medium frying pan over high heat. When the water starts to sputter, add the chopped onion, mushrooms, and celery, and cook while stirring for 3 to 5 minutes, adding a little water, as needed. Add the garlic and stir for 2 minutes more until the vegetables have softened. If you're using dried herbs, stir them in with the garlic; if using fresh herbs, you will add them in step 4. Remove from the heat.
Place the oats, tomato paste, and nuts (if using) into a large bowl. If you're using fresh herbs (sage, thyme, and rosemary), add them to the bowl as well. When the cooked vegetables, rice, and lentils have cooled for at least 10 minutes, add them to the bowl, and stir until all of the ingredients have been mixed thoroughly.
Transfer the mix into your pumpkin, with the lid wrapped in foil, and bake for 40-60 mins until the outside of the pumpkin is tender enough for a fork to go through.
Slice into slivers, serve, and enjoy!


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Food that is distributed to families in Appalachia from the Donation Station reflect the foods that are seasonally abundant at any given time. Every month our Donation Station and Discovery Kitchen Coordinator reaches out to all of the food pantries that recieve fresh, local produce from the Donation Station and gives them ideas to pass on to their clients about how to use (and preserve!) the fresh abundance. We've decided to share the message with you! Enjoy a couple of seasonal Cabbage recipes below. 


Cabbage will be in season through October, and fermenting cabbage yourself will keep it available for use months beyond its harvest or purchase. Cabbage is extremely nutritious! ½ cup of cabbage provides 45% of the daily recommended amount of Vitamin C. It is also an excellent source of vitamins A, K, and B6; and minerals folate, and manganese. Cabbage also contains quercetin, an antioxidant that is a natural antihistamine that can benefit allergy sufferers. Learn more about the nutritional benefits of cabbage here



1 medium cabbage (cored and shredded/thinly sliced)

2 tsp. sea salt (up to 1 tbsp.)

4 tbsp. whey (optional: for casein/dairy free recipe, omit and use twice the sea salt)

1 tbsp. caraway seeds (optional)

If you do not have any whey handy or would like your sauerkraut to be vegan, simply replace the whey with double the amount of sea salt!


In a large container, mix all of the ingredients together. Then pound with a wooden pounder or food hammer for 10 minutes to release juices. Or just get in there with clean hands! I did not have a pounder at my apartment so I chose to use my hands and it was incredibly effective (as well as a good hand exercise).

Then place in a wide-mouth, quart-sized mason jar and press down firmly until the juices cover the top of the cabbage. The top of the cabbage should be at least 1 in. below the top of the jar.

Cover tightly (but not too, too tight*) and keep at room temperature for 3 days before transferring to cold storage.

The sauerkraut can be eaten right away but, like many things, it improves with age! I would suggest going as tight as possible and then doing a quarter turn backwards to let some gas escape. Learn more about making Sauerkraut here

I continued my journey with the Eastern European dish Kapusniak, which is made with fresh cabbage during the summer & fall months and sauerkraut in the winter time.

I specifically wanted a recipe with ginger and garlic since I could feel a little cold coming on, and ended up with a warm and hearty dish that was quick to prepare and produced many servings.


  • 3-4 medium potatoes, cut into small cubes
  • 1 large carrot, coarsely grated 
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped 
  • handfull of cherry tomatoes, diced 
  • 1 tbsp white miso paste (substitute for soy sauce or liquid aminos)
  • 3 cm piece of fresh ginger, thinly sliced
  • 1 large garlic clove, sliced or minced
  • 1 tsp Chinese chili flakes (optional)
  • about 2 cups sauerkraut 
  • 2 liters vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, for cooking


1. Heat olive oil in a large pot on Medium-High heat. Add onion for about 4 mins. Then add garlic for about 30 seconds.

2. Add potatoes and carrots for 5 minutes. Then add ginger, miso paste, chili flakes and tomatoes. Stir constantly for about 2 minutes.

3. Add vegetable stock to pot and boil, then reduce to simmer for 10 minutes. (I only used 1 L and was successful and still had a large portion of soup)

4. Add sauerkraut and cook until tender but still crisp.

Serve warm and top with cilantro and green onion if desired! Learn more here



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To get to the Vest Berries farm you drive on roads that wind back and forth and up and down hills, between fields, and beneath arching trees that turn road into tunnel.  Other than a post displaying the address, there’s no obvious sign marking your destination, but through the fence and down a short lane you can clearly see you’ve arrived at a place that knows produce: High tunnels and carefully tended fields create a patchwork of greens and browns on gently rolling land bordered with trees.  


Anyone who’s worked in a garden or on a farm knows that the labor is tiring and the hours long, that fields don’t magically produce food.  So while the beauty here is serene, it also represents countless hours of sweat, exertion, and persistence. Today we learn that maybe there’s magic here after all -- in the fact that effort put toward growing and harvesting food is rendered enjoyable and rewarding through cooperative effort.  I’m not a full-time farmer, so maybe those who’ve spent more time in the field would disagree, but from my experience, to toil alone can be back and spirit breaking. To toil together can be energizing and healing. Today we’re harvesting potatoes, together.


When I arrive farm owners Rick and Terry meet me.  Three of CFI’s incredible AmeriCorps volunteers, Alex, Bailey, and Sierra, have been harvesting for more than an hour, and they’ve already managed to fill several 30-60 pound sacks of potatoes.  We head down the hill to join them, Rick taking the tractor and a potato-harvesting implement to unearth another row. The potatoes were planted in long hummocks, and as Rick pulls the implement along one of the hummocks a sort of conveyor-belt of posts passes under the soil to lift the tubers up from darkness.  It’s not an exaggeration to say the whole process effectively transforms this humble, staple vegetable into something incredible and beautiful. (We do occasionally cross paths with a rotten potato. These are smelly and less beautiful.)


Sierra, Bailey, and Alex have established an efficient system for harvesting and I’m able to join without interrupting the flow.  Sierra and Alex move along the row gleaning the potatoes that the potato harvester exposed completely, while Bailey and I follow, kneeling against the hummock and raking through the soil with our hands to find any taters that remain buried.  The rhythm -- repeatedly reaching into the dirt, seeking with both eyes and fingers for the little bulbous treasures, depositing treasure into potato sack, moving down the row -- is meditative. The four of us ride waves of conversation then quiet, learning more about each other as we work, listening to the sounds the world makes when we’re not covering its hum with our chatter.  


Berry Patch Cat either keeps us company or silently judges us from an adjacent plot -- depending on your perception of feline friends.  We are dirty, and with noon approaching the sun has gotten warm enough to make us sweat, but there’s next to no complaining. Most comments revolve around how therapeutic it is to feel the dirt against our skin and be working out under the sky.  I don’t mean to overly romanticize this sort of labor; on the contrary, doing something like this for just one morning makes you all the more aware of how difficult it can be, and how unjust a system is that doesn’t compensate field workers fairly.   


Alex, Bailey, and Sierra need to go so that one of them can make it to a COMCorps commitment, and I stay to finish a row.  A new rhythm of picking up surface potatoes and then digging in the dirt emerges; what seemed like silence after my colleagues first left quickly fills with bird and insect songs.  After a little while Rick comes and helps in order to speed up the process, and we load the final crates into the back of his tater-gator. (So, it may not have actually been a Gator, but tater-gator was irresistible.)  The next day, Alex and another volunteer return to harvest one final row, for a grand total of over 600 pounds of potatoes donated to CFI from Vest Berries -- that we then easily distribute to pantries and other food assistance organizations.


Over and over again in the midst of this busy harvest season I find myself thinking that the name Community Food Initiatives is appropriate in so many different ways.  Today, the togetherness that naming something “community” implies is obviously apparent. The communal effort of growing and harvest food supports a community of people that, in turn, will be able to better return the invested time and energy.  It’s a beautiful model of resilience, all packed into the humble skin of a potato.

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Community Food Initiatives

Project Leader:
Maribeth Saleem-Tanner
Athens, OH United States
$38,596 raised of $50,000 goal
664 donations
$11,404 to go
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