Meal kits have become increasingly common during the COVID pandemic. Delivered right to your door, they usually include all the ingredients and recipes – down to the seasonings and garnishes – for two or three meals. They’re a convenient, contactless way of getting healthy food.
For the Food Bank of South Jersey, meal kits have become a critical way to continue nutrition education and cooking classes – as well as provide their community with healthy food – despite the challenges presented by the pandemic.
Before COVID, the food bank hosted cooking classes at local schools and partner organizations. Instead of pausing the classes during COVID, Tricia Yeo, the senior manager of the health and wellness department, decided to take the classes online.
As part of the classes, participants receive a contactless delivery of meal kits which include all the recipes they learn and the ingredients needed to make those dishes.
“We’re working with people living on a low income, using foods that might be commonly found at a pantry. We’re teaching folks that you can eat healthy on a budget,” she said.
The classes are available for all ages, with some specializing in children or teens. Each class features a recipe, cooking demonstration and nutrition information. And after each class participants can try the recipes themselves using the meal kit.
“By providing the meal kit, it gives [our neighbors] an opportunity to try new foods as a family together,” Tricia said. “Our participants like the opportunity to try something new without spending money, and then they have this new recipe they enjoy.”
To make those deliveries, Tricia and her team needed a little help. Located down the road from the headquarters of Subaru of America, Inc., the automaker who helped provide more than 150 million meals nationwide to support communities facing hunger as a result of the pandemic, offered to provide the food bank with four vehicles to help deliver the meal kits.
“The vehicles have been fabulous,” Tricia said. “People really, really appreciate getting that bag of food delivered to their front door.”
The deliveries are ensuring the food bank can continue – and even expand – its community outreach and education, despite the COVID pandemic.
“A lot of the participants wouldn’t be having that experience, wouldn’t be making those recipes if it weren’t for those classes,” Tricia said. “We’re reaching people that we never would have before. People might have known about the food bank or their local pantry but not about our nutrition program.”
This spring, thanks to the Subaru Love Promise commitment to support communities, Subaru and their local retailers are providing meals and other support to food banks across the country, including the Food Bank of South Jersey.