Author Archive

Volunteer perspective: 'I too have been inspired'

My name is Kelly Lashbrook and I am a new volunteer recruit for OFL. I came to know of the organization through MSU Extension, another service organization. I was looking for a possible new career path and have always had an interest in nutrition, which became more center stage when my son was born. I blindly called up the organization in Detroit wanting to ask career questions and I got to speak with Sarah Stephison. We had a great conversation; she was so inspiring and I could tell she loved what she did and believed in it. She explained the nutrition classes: How there was the partnership between the Chef and Nutrition instructor; how they targeted low-income families and how they got to eat and go home with groceries to make the food for their families. I couldn’t believe how much sense that made.

Sarah said they were always looking for volunteers so I went to volunteer training and was so impressed. It was such a positive group — all loving food, fun, and healthy eating and all wanting to help make a difference. I started training with Rachelle Bonelli as a volunteer coordinator for a couple classes in my area.

It has been a wonderful summer of classes. Watching participants get excited to tell us what they cooked from last week’s classes. Telling us who in their lives ate the recipes and liked them or how they would adapt the recipes to match their own tastes. Watching participants eat a food they have never ever tried or heard of is very rewarding. I feel very lucky to be a part of this organization and surrounded by such positive hardworking people all striving to get the participants to make positive changes.

I too have been inspired. I wanted to help women and children learn to make healthier choices for their families and OFL definitely has allowed me to accomplish that goal and more. I am lucky that they believed in me and I definitely believe in this organization. Glad to help whenever and however I can.


August 11, 2010 at 1:14 am 1 comment

Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act: Talk to your legislators now!

We received a letter from our national director at Operation Frontline. She writes:
As you know, we are running out of time to reauthorize child nutrition programs before they expire on Sept 30th. Members on the Hill are saying that they are not hearing from their constituents that this is important. So, the anti-hunger and nutrition community is doing a huge push to reach out to representatives and urge them to pass CNR this year.

This week, Share Our Strength joined 127 other national organizations urging Congress to pass a strong child nutrition bill. This legislation would strengthen programs like school meals, WIC, and summer and afterschool feeding programs. With 1 in 4 children struggling with hunger and 1 in 3 obese or overweight, the Child Nutrition Reauthorization could not come at a more critical time.

Congress is poised to make significant progress against child hunger and childhood obesity by increasing children’s access to these important programs and the nutrition they provide. But Congress is running out of legislative calendar days to bring the Child Nutrition Bill to the floor and complete the reauthorization before it expires September 30.

If a Child Nutrition Bill is not passed this summer, millions of children will miss out on improved access to the nutritious food they need to learn and grow. Your voice is needed to demonstrate national support for completing a strong Child Nutrition Bill this year. Please call or email your members of Congress today!

* Call your Representative with a simple message: America’s children can’t wait. Pass Child Nutrition Reauthorization now. Call 1-866-277-7617 and ask to be connected to your Representative’s office. Don’t know who your Representative is? Look it up online:

* Email your Senators and Representative in support of Child Nutrition Reauthorization.

July 22, 2010 at 10:04 pm 1 comment

Volunteer spotlight: Tricia Bischoff

Kids Up Front participant Kijuan really enjoyed learning about nutrition that he made this adorable picture for Trish!


At the Urban Farming Summit, I (Dorothy) met the lovely Trish, whom I immediately recruited as a volunteer for OFL. With her passion for health, nutrition and food sustainability she was a perfect fit for the program. She’s already done a Kids Up Front class this spring.

The mother of two took some time to answer some questions. Here’s what she shared with us.

Q. You are currently a dietetics student at Madonna. What led you to decide to pursue this route?

A. After the birth of my first son, and being inundated with baby talk and all the other baby stuff, I wanted to have some adult conversation and stimulate my brain beyond “Mommy Brain” so I decided to take a course at community college.  Nutrition had always been an area of interest for me so it was a logical choice that basic nutrition was the course I chose.  The science behind food and its interaction within the body was (and continues to be) fascinating.  I was hooked!  Since that first class in 2006, I’ve continued my nutrition education and have moved from community college to Madonna University pursuant of a dietetics career.

Q. Why did you volunteer for OFL?

A. Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeast Michigan is an affiliate food bank of OFL.  I’ve volunteered for the Pontiac Gleaners in their food distribution operation for the past eight months and was notified of OFL nutrition education courses while sorting food earlier this year.  The educational component of Gleaners through OFL instantly piqued my interest.  Having a philanthropic belief system, I wanted to do my part in nutrition education as well as hunger relief.  I loved how OFL focused on realistic nutrition within the budget of those that it serves.  Working with a chef to facilitate learning of nutrition via hands-on meal preparation encompassed another love of mine—cooking.  After attending an orientation and gaining more insight of the OFL programs and curriculum, the decision to sign-on with OFL was easy.

Q. Your first class for us was Kids Up Front with Peaches and Greens. What did you like best about teaching that class? And, what do you like best about OFL?

A. Working with Kate and the kids from Peaches and Greens was great.  The kids even after a long day of school were eager to learn.  Of course, cooking and eating food added to their enthusiasm.  Activities that incorporated nutrition education and physical fitness were instrumental in applying the nutrition knowledge they were gaining.  It was always amazing to me to hear their recall of the previous lesson and how their food choices were impacted by the lessons.  We were making a difference and it was evident in the stories the kids shared.  The well-developed curriculum and well-trained OFL staff provided for a very positive learning environment for the children and teaching environment for the chef and nutrition educator.

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about your background (i.e. education, family, where you’re from)?

A. Michigan has always been my home from attending public schools in Sterling Heights in the 1970s and 80s to obtaining my BS in 1992 from Western Michigan University in Secondary Education and currently at Madonna University in Livonia.  It is now where I choose to raise my children, Josh (5) and Joe (2) with my husband Scott.

Q. What are some of your interests?

A. I enjoy organic gardening and have dedicated much of our backyard this year to preparing a garden.  The kids have been instrumental in maintaining regular watering not to mention the soaks they have given me.  Family time is the most special to me.  I work hard at my studies.  I’m deeply involved in Native American ceremonies which help to provide balance in a chaotic life.  Sundays my family attends a lovely Methodist church.  When I have time for myself, I like to read nutrition literature, paint and sew.  And, I’m a fan of Biggest Loser.

Q. After you get your degree from Madonna, what would be your dream job?

A. I’m very interested in food sustainability and the impacts of food choices on our environment.  I’d love to incorporate my education background with nutrition in the efforts of increasing awareness of each.  Possibly this will be an inclusion of sustainable agriculture with Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move and the further enhancement of Chefs Move to Schools with school gardens and hoop houses as supplements to reading, writing, and arithmetic curriculums.

Q. As a mother, what are some tips in getting kids to eat their veggies?

A. Kids need to be involved in making choices and preparing meals.  Choices should be healthy ones, such as which vegetable do you want for dinner green beans or broccoli? I personally feel when choices are allowed and children are actively involved in preparation they are more apt to eat the foods provided.  Remember that kids require multiple exposures to foods before trying them.  Their tactile sense is greater and texture is often more the issue for little ones than with adults or older children.  Don’t give up.  Those little guys and gals may surprise you one day by asking for salad on their plate.  Planting a vegetable garden allows children the chance to see how vegetables develop and if they are involved in planting, growing and harvesting more than likely they will be involved with eating.  For those kids who just won’t budge, sneak vegetables into the foods they like especially those that have a creamy consistency like mashed parsnip and potato.

Q. Finally, can you share with us one of your favorite recipes that you like to prepare for your family?

A. I like to sneak healthy stuff in when I can.  Here is a great recipe that sneaks in avocado, applesauce, flax and a nice supply of omega-3 fatty acids.

Banana Walnut Muffin

1 ¾ cup whole wheat flour (can use gluten free flour pancake mix)

3 Tbsp. ground flax

½ cup oatmeal

1 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

3 med. mashed bananas

1 tsp. vinegar (add this to the milk)

1 ½ tsp. vanilla

¼ cup butter or margarine

½ avocado (creamed—no lumps)

½ cup applesauce

½ cup packed brown sugar

2 eggs

½ cup milk (soymilk works too!)

¾ cup chopped walnuts


Preheat oven to 350°F. Cream avocado and butter with sugar.  Add one egg at a time and mix until fluffy. Fold in applesauce.  Alternative between dry and liquid mixture additions.  Add mashed bananas and mix well.  Fold in walnuts.  Bake in greased muffin pan for 22-27 minutes. Makes 12 large muffins.  Enjoy!!

July 7, 2010 at 4:49 pm Leave a comment

Chefs Move To Schools: OFL Detroit volunteers talk about what's next in the fight against childhood obesity

Last night we held a panel of seven of eight chefs who went to Washington, D.C., earlier this month to help first lady Michelle Obama launch her Chefs Move To Schools campaign, her latest effort to fight childhood obesity.

The chefs — Aaron Bruck, Ina Cheatem, Barbara Hughes, Jim Kokenyesdi, Karen Lee, Stewart McWilliams and Pat Parko — shared their experience of being among hundreds of chefs nationwide who descended on the nation’s capital on June 4, the challenges they face and what’s next in their mission to help schools serve healthier meals to students.

From left: Karen Lee, Barb Hughes, Stewart McWilliams, Jim Kokenyesdi, Pat Parko, Aaron Bruck and Ina Cheatem

The chefs discussed at length some of the challenges they’ll face in the schools’ kitchens, ranging from funding (according to this Washington Post article, the federal government allocates $2.68 per child per lunch) to resistance (i.e. administrators or complicated relationships with vendors and catering companies). During a breakfast symposium hosted by Share Our Strength before the launch event on the South Lawn, the chefs learned that while this is a very huge task, it’s important to take baby steps, i.e. start by planting a garden and getting the discussion going.

We know it’s not going to happen overnight but with the dedication of these chefs, as well as others across the country, this is a huge step forward in fighting childhood obesity.

Chef Jim summed it up best when he talked about how he alone couldn’t change 20 schools but by building a network of equally passionate chefs, as a team they can work together in helping students eat healthier.

Thanks, chefs, for all you do and we look forward to seeing your passion translate into healthier food for students.

Also, a big thank you to Stewart McWilliams who graciously hosted our group at his restaurant Mind, Body and Spirits. For pics of the awesome food and even more awesome chefs, check out our Facebook page.

June 23, 2010 at 3:18 pm Leave a comment

Volunteer spotlight: Mary Gisslander

Mary Gisslander proudly shows off MyPyramid after a class at St. Matthews and St. Josephs.

Mary Gisslander is an Operation Frontline Detroit volunteer who loves to share what she knows with others. That makes OFL a perfect fit for the Macomb Culinary Institute student!
Mary took some time out from her jam-packed schedule to answer a few questions for us.

Q. Where were you born and where do you live?

A. I was born in Detroit and currently live in Sterling Heights.

Q. How did you hear about OFL and why did you want to be a part of it?

A. I first heard about OFL while taking the Culinary Techniques class at Macomb Culinary Institute during the Fall 2009 Semester. Chef Ray Hollingsworth showed the class a flyer, I was interested, wrote down the website, went on line, read about OFL and decided it would be a great way to help other people to learn what I have learned. I observed a few of the classes and decided it was definitely something that I could do.

Q. When you get your Macomb culinary degree, what are your future plans? Why did you decide to go to culinary school?

A. At this point I am not exactly sure where my focus will be in the culinary world. There are so many different areas to consider. If everything goes according to “the plan” I will be involved with a culinary internship that will give me exposure to all areas that are covered in the Associate Degree of Culinary Arts. After that, I will have a better view on where I would like to head. I have worked for many seasons at the Franklin Cider Mill. Chefs around the area will come in to purchase fresh apple cider and choose from our cheese selections for their menus. During conversations with them, I learned of Macomb’s culinary program and decided that eventually that was something I would like to do. Finally the time was right and I decided to enroll in a few classes, and while I was at it, why not earn the Prep-Cook Certification. After taking the Culinary Techniques class I was hooked, and declared my Associates in Culinary Arts.

Q. What do you like best about OFL? The participants? The classes?

A. There are so many good things about OFL it is hard to pick out what is “best”. In six weeks the program touches on proper nutrition, eating healthy, proper portion sizes, the food pyramid, sanitation, food safety, reading and preparing recipes, knife skills, kitchen safety, working and eating together, cutting up poultry, menu planning, budgeting, how to shop at the grocery store, organizing a shopping list and creating an economical meal. So, in this six week program the participants learn a little about everything I will learn to earn a degree. These are the basics that everyone needs to make healthy, nutritious, and safe meals.

Probably the best thing about OFL are the participants. They are eager to learn, like the hands on participation and ask many questions.

Another thing that I am very appreciative of OFL is the opportunity to share the knowledge that I have with others and hope that they in turn will share what they learn.

Q. What do you like to do in your spare time other than cook?

A. In my spare time when not working or attending classes I help in the community as an American Red Cross volunteer and as a member of the Historic Fort Wayne Coalition help the city of Detroit maintain Historic Fort Wayne.

Q. Do you cook at home often? Do you have a tasty, budget-friendly, healthy recipe you’d like to share?

A. I cook at home every day. I am a proponent of the one pot meal, but don’t tell Mom! Apparently when I was younger I didn’t like any of my food touching and she would tease me that she was going to get me a plate with dividers! One of my favorite meals is cube steak, rice with mixed vegetables, side salad with red wine vinegar, and a glass of milk. This one meal provides food from all five food groups.

Mary’s Cube Steak, Rice with Mixed Veggies
Cube steak
Seasoned flour
Olive oil
Rice, any kind–white, brown, wild (Of course we’re going to advocate some whole grains!)
Low-sodium chicken broth
Frozen or fresh mixed veggies

The cube steak is already run through the store’s mechanical tenderizing process, but I either have them run it through a few more times or take it home and pound it out even thinner.
Dredge the meat in seasoned flour and fry it in a little olive oil until juices form on top, then turn over once. This only takes a few minutes since the meat is so thin, and the flour gives it a nice crisp coat.
I cook the rice (any kind – white, brown, wild) in low sodium chicken broth for flavor and add a medley of frozen (or fresh) vegetables (beans, peas, carrots, corn etc).
(For the salad) The side salad consists of any vegetables and fresh fruit (or dried) I have in the fridge, a few nuts, and top it off with red wine vinegar or lemon juice.

June 4, 2010 at 1:09 am Leave a comment

Diana Says Goodbye

After a full year of working at Gleaners and Operation Frontline, my AmeriCorps obligation will sadly end on May 12th. As many of you know, AmeriCorps is a federal program that poses a challenge to its volunteers – complete 1700 hours of service in a year, and you’ll get a living stipend, emergency-based health care, and $4725 to be used for educational expenses.

Reflecting on those 1700 hours reveals how difficult that challenge really is: I was often tested with my financial limitations. With all of this, though, I found myself in a unique situation where I closely identified with the stories in the OFL classroom. Receiving food stamps myself, I felt much more personally attached to the mission of supporting a healthy lifestyle on a limited budget.

Of these 1700 hours, my favorite moments were those spent with participants, learning and being open to new experiences. I was fortunate enough to coordinate a Comer Bien class three blocks from my house, which provided a chance for me to connect with my Spanish-speaking neighbors in a way that I never had before.

I have also treasured meeting OFL volunteers and Gleaners staff, as well as the staff of neighboring organizations – people who are dedicated to improving the food system in our region. As affiliates of Gleaners, we have a powerful voice in shaping the public’s view of hunger, who is affected by it, and ways in which we can create sustainable solutions. I am proud to have been part of this conversation for a year, and I hope to continue creating meaningful discussions in the future.

Thanks, everyone, for a wonderful year!

April 20, 2010 at 9:19 pm Leave a comment

Food budgeting: Feeding a family on a food stamp budget

Did you see the AP article that featured three chefs planning meals for a family of four on $68.88 a week? Check it out here if you missed it.

Food budgeting is an important topic that we cover in Operation Frontline classes. Two of the chefs went over budget so after reading the story, I started thinking about how I would go about it, and most importantly stay within budget. I figured that with my OFL experience and limited budget myself as an AmeriCorps, this was right up my alley.

Last week I got my box of fresh, beautiful produce through Fresh Food Share, which is a community-based food distribution program run jointly through the Green Ribbon Collaborative (made up of Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeast Michigan, Greening of Detroit and Eastern Market). For $17 this month’s box contained oranges, apples, grapes, romaine lettuce, garlic, carrots, celery, potatoes, eggplant, broccollini, tomatoes and the most gorgeous peppers I’ve ever seen. Armed with enough produce to get through the week (and I’m sure far beyond that), I already had a good foundation for my meals. In our classes we like to tell our participants to take stock of what they have and build from there so you’re not buying superfluous goods, especially with produce, which goes bad really fast. Other than berries, bananas, peppers and cilantro, I pretty much stuck to the veggies that were in my box (I got the $10 box, which still had more than enough produce for the week).

The budget buster is almost always the protein, which made up a huge portion of the chefs’ budgets in the article. I usually buy meat from Honey Bee Market in southwest Detroit because they have such great deals, including chicken legs for 49 cents a pound and tilapia for only $2.99 a pound (compare that with $9.99 sometimes at Whole Foods!!). I picked up beef for stir fry so I could use up some of those mouthwatering veggies in my produce box and tacos for meat. Honey Bee also has very cheap produce and I almost always pick up peppers, cilantro and avocadoes there on my way home from work.

For staples, I pop in to Kroger near my apartment. You really can’t go wrong with the 10 for $10 deals plus they have good meat sales. You can get a whole chicken for less than $1 per pound and that chicken goes a long way in feeding you for the week. I also got a big bag of rice here for $2.69 but I like to buy my rice at Asian markets–you definitely get a lot more bang for your buck. Same goes for seasonings such as soy sauce and sesame oil. You can get a much bigger bottle of these things than the smaller container found in the international aisles at the supermarket.

Finally one last tip for shopping on a budget is to shop in season. Strawberries are one of my favorite fruits but they’re pricey most of the time–except for now. I saw strawberries for $1 at Meijer this week while shopping for a class; at Kroger they are on sale for 2 for $3.

Check out my menus and shopping list here and here. I ended up with nearly $6 to spare but I had some of the items on hand such as soy sauce and sesame oil.

What about you? Share your own menus and shopping list in the comments below!

April 19, 2010 at 1:47 am Leave a comment

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USDA Statement

This material was partially funded by the State of Michigan with federal funds from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by way of the Michigan Nutrition Network at the Michigan Fitness Foundation. This work is supported in part by the Michigan Department of Human Services, under contract number ADMIN-10-99011. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Michigan Fitness Foundation or the Michigan Department of Human Services. In accordance with Federal law and USDA policy, these institutions are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, political beliefs or disability. To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202) 720- 6382 (TTY). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides nutrition assistance to people with low income. It can help you buy nutritious foods for a better diet. To find out more contact the toll free Michigan Food Assistance Program Hotline at (855) ASK-MICH. Space-Limited USDA/DHS/MNN Credit Statement This material was partially funded by the State of Michigan with federal funds from the United States Department of Agriculture Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by way of the Michigan Nutrition Network at the Michigan Fitness Foundation. These institutions are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, political beliefs or disability. People who need help buying nutritious food for a better diet call the toll free Michigan Food Assistance Program Hotline: (855) ASK-MICH.