It’s butternut squash season! Here’s what you need to know

By Martha Wasserbauer
Foodlink dietetic intern from Cornell University 

With the fall season in full swing, a variety of colorful squashes, gourds, and pumpkins can be found at most markets in the area. Winter squash and pumpkins are often used as decorations to celebrate autumn, but did you know that many varieties are edible and are a great source of nutrition?

Winter squash are high in alpha- and beta-carotene, both of which are forms of vitamin A that support eye, skin, and immune system health. They also contain high levels of vitamin C, which fights free radicals and supports cell healing and repair. Most winter squashes provide around 6 grams of dietary fiber per cup, which provides about 25% of most people’s recommended daily needs. Squash and pumpkins are good sources of folate, potassium, and antioxidants, which help prevent chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Edible pumpkins and squash are easy to store and have a long shelf-life, due to their tough and protective skins. They do not need to be refrigerated, but should ideally be stored in a cool, dark environment to give them a shelf-life of at least one month.

When purchasing winter squash and pumpkins, choose squash that have a hard, intact skin without bruises, cuts, or mold. 1 pound of raw squash or pumpkin will yield about 1 cup when cooked and/or mashed.

There are a variety of methods for cooking edible squash and pumpkins. To boil or steam, peel and cube squash, place in a pot, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil or put in a steamer basket and cook until soft. Try baking squash by cutting in half lengthwise, removing the seeds, and placing in the oven on a baking sheet at around 400 degrees F.

How to Peel and Cut a Butternut Squash

1. Using a heavy chef’s knife, cut off 1/4 – 1/2 inch from the top of the squash at the stem end.


2. Cut off about 1/2 inch from the bottom of the squash. 

3. Use a sharp vegetable peeler to remove the skin from the squash. *If you do not have a sharp peeler, you can go to the next step and cut the squash in half. Then, use the knife to slice off the peel while standing each squash up vertically.  


4. Lay the squash on its side and cut it in half at the neck where the squash begins to curve.


5. Place each squash half on its flat end and cut in half vertically. You should end up with 4 squash quarters. Using a spoon, scrape out the seeds.


6. Lay the flat side of each squash quarter on the cutting board and cut into 1/2 – 1 inch slices. Repeat with each squash quarter.


7. Cut the slices crosswise into cubes. The smaller the pieces, the faster they will cook. 

RECIPE: Holiday Roasted Butternut Squash

Serving Size – Serves 6, ¾ cup per serving

Ingredients

• 2 pounds butternut squash

• ¼ cup walnuts

• 2 tablespoons canola oil

• 1 teaspoon dried sage

• ¼ teaspoon salt

• ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

• 1 tablespoon butter or canola oil

• ¼ cup dried cranberries

• 1 ½ tablespoons maple syrup

 

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.

2. Rinse and peel squash. Cut off ends and discard. Cut squash at the neck, creating a narrow end and a round end. Cut round end in half and scoop out seeds with a spoon. Cut both ends into ¾-inch, even-sized cubes.

3. Coarsely chop walnuts. Set aside.

4. In a large bowl, add squash. Toss with oil, sage, salt, and ground black pepper.

5. Spread squash evenly on a baking sheet. Roast, stirring once until tender, about 35 minutes.

6. In a small skillet over medium heat, melt butter or heat oil. Add walnuts and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in cranberries and maple syrup.

7. Gently toss cooked squash with cranberry mixture.

References

Winter squash. United States Department of Agriculture website. Updated November 8, 2017. Accessed November 9, 2017. 

Swartzendruber K. Enjoy the taste and health benefits of winter squash. Michigan State University Extension website. Published September 24, 2012. Accessed November 9, 2017.

How to peel and cut a butternut squash. Gimme Some Oven website. Published November 29, 2016. Accessed November 9, 2017.

Lucarelli K. Holiday roasted butternut squash. Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters website. Accessed November 9, 2017.

Annual produce & protein distribution: By the numbers

Onions and sweet potatoes line the racks of Foodlink’s distribution center in early November.

Each year, Foodlink provides a free holiday produce and protein distribution to about 100 local emergency food providers. Our warehouse is filling up with mountains of hearty, fall produce and we’re ready to start delivering orders. 

Here’s a breakdown of what we’ll be distributing throughout November and December to 110 pantries and soup kitchens in our service area:

PROTEIN

  • 23,233 roaster chickens

PRODUCE

  • 17,549 bags of apples
  • 18,055 bags of onions
  • 18,328 bags of potatoes
  • 13,840 bags of sweet potatoes
  • 1,825 cases of squash

 

Foodlink provides welcome baskets for families that fled Puerto Rico for Rochester

When a natural disaster strikes, it’s common for food banks to mobilize to meet the rising food needs of a community as rebuilding efforts get underway and lives get pieced back together. 

The devastation in Puerto Rico has resulted in a full-scale effort by the Feeding America network to help the island clean up in the wake of Hurricane Maria. For some, staying on the island was not an option. Rochester, home to an already strong Puerto Rican community, became their new home — at least temporarily. 

The Rochester City School District is trying to welcome these families — about 35 of them –with open arms by inviting them to Saturday’s Latino Parent Conference, an event organized by the district’s Office of Parent Engagement and the Bilingual Education Council. Foodlink was approached with the opportunity to provide basic food items for these families, and delivered those baskets to the David F. Gantt Center on Friday afternoon. 

Volunteers from The Arc of Monroe helped us assemble the baskets on Friday morning.

“We would like to provide some of the families with a few needed resources and we would like them to feel welcome to our district and community,” said Maria Encarnacion with the RCSD’s Office of Parent Engagement.

Foodlink baskets included several staple items, such as cereal, pasta, sauce, peanut butter, raisins and other snack items. Blankets and Wegmans gift cards were also included. Volunteers from The Arc of Monroe helped assemble the baskets on Friday morning at Foodlink’s distribution center. 

“Helping these families was a no-brainer for us,” said Chief Programs Officer Mitch Gruber. “We can’t imagine the hardships that so many Puerto Rican families have faced this past month and we hope these baskets allow our newest neighbors to adjust to life in Rochester a little easier.” 

Since Maria caused widespread devastation in Puerto Rico and Dominica, Foodlink has engaged with local groups’ hunger relief efforts, and has sent food and supplies to both areas. 

Saturday’s event is at 11 a.m. at the Gantt Center (700 North St.), where Latino parents can learn ways to support their children’s education. There will be student performances, door prizes, food and a raffle. Transportation and child care is available if requested. Contact the Office of Parent Engagement for more information: (585) 262-8334.

Foodlink’s Lexington Avenue Urban Farm vandalized

Some plants, such as the eggplants pictured above, were damaged inside the hoop house at the Lexington Avenue Urban Farm Oct. 13-14.

Foodlink staff, volunteers and gardeners are assessing the damage done this past weekend to the Lexington Avenue Urban Farm, Foodlink’s community garden in northwest Rochester. 

Between Friday night and Saturday morning (Oct. 13-14), vandals apparently broke in and vandalized the 1.3-acre garden that provides food for many refugee families in the neighborhood, as well as some of Foodlink’s programs. Sections of the fence were damaged, sheds were broken into and some gardening equipment was stolen, including a weed wacker. The exterior walls of the hoop house were slashed, and several fruit trees were damaged. Foodlink has estimated the cost of the damage at $1,000, however it’s too early to tell just how many of the trees won’t survive. 

HOW TO HELP: Donate to the Lexington Avenue Urban Farm
(On Foodlink’s online donation page, you can designate your gift directly to the Lexington Avenue Urban Farm.)

  

“While we’re discouraged about this weekend’s vandalism at the Lexington Avenue Urban Farm, we still remain very committed to supporting urban agriculture in this community,” said Mitch Gruber, Chief Programs Officer at Foodlink. “This farm will yield more than 5,000 pounds of food for dozens of low-income, refugee families by the end of the growing season. This incident will not deter us from our mission of improving food access for vulnerable populations and building healthier communities throughout Rochester.”

The incident got a significant amount of media attention, which has led to several inquiries from community members about how they can support the farm, and help Foodlink make the necessary repairs. Foodlink is also exploring new security measures, such as cameras, to deter any future incidents. All monetary donations can be made through our online donation page by selecting “Lexington Avenue Urban Farm” in the designation menu.

For those interested in volunteering or if any businesses are interested in donating fruit trees, you can reach out directly to Nathaniel Mich at nmich@foodlinkny.org. 

MORE PHOTOS: Visit the farm’s Facebook page

 

Foodlink partners with MCC, Chamber for workforce training program

Forklift training in Foodlink’s distribution center began Sept. 25, 2017.

MCC’s Corporate College, the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and Foodlink have teamed up to provide power industrial vehicle training and evaluation this fall to better prepare folks to advance their careers or obtain employment in regional warehouse and manufacturing positions.

Sept. 25 marked the first day of class, which was taught by Foodlink’s Shawn Poutre (Director of Distribution Center Operations) and Nathan Boor (Safety and Facilities Supervisor). Ten participants attended the class. 

This full-day training included both hands-on and classroom instruction and evaluation. The program also includes support with resume development and job search training.

The program and partnership is made possible through an America’s Promise grant through the United States Department of Labor. America’s Promise grants are designed “to accelerate the development and expansion of regional workforce partnerships committed to providing a pipeline of skilled workers in specific sectors.”

We’re looking forward to assisting with this exciting opportunity, and further Foodlink’s involvement as a local leader in workforce development!

The program was made possible through a partnership with MCC and The Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, and a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Monroe County announces partnership with the Curbside Market

Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo gets ready to speak at a news conference on Sept. 20. to announce a new partnership between the county and Foodlink.

***

One mission of the Curbside Market, aside from providing healthy food at affordable prices, is to seek out those with SNAP benefits and educate them about the program. 

In seeking out new sites to host the program — and there are now more than 80 in the regular rotation — one building on Westfall Road makes perfect sense. The Monroe County Department of Human Services, where many residents go to apply for and receive SNAP benefits, will soon host the Curbside Market in its parking lot on a regular basis. 

News coverage: Foodlink Curbside Market coming to county DHS offices on Westfall Rd. (WHEC)

“By regularly hosting Foodlink’s mobile market at our central DHS campus, we can help make fresh, healthy, affordable foods accessible to local families who need it most,” Monre County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo said in a statement.

The county and several Foodlink staff members made the announcement at the DHS campus on Sept. 20 in conjunction with Hunger Action Month. 

Officials from Monroe County join Foodlink employees Sept. 20 for a Hunger Action Month photo at the Department of Human Services on Westfall Road.

Curbside customers who frequent the Curbside Market are not only eating healthier, they’re stretching their food budgets through the Double Up Food Bucks program. For every dollar spent (up to $10) at the market, customers will get an extra dollar in return to purchase more fresh produce. 

“Your health is everything,” Dinolfo said Wednesday. “Health is the foundation — the key to success in this community. We want to make sure that when our kids go to school, they’re not hungry. That when our families come home, there’s food on the table. We want to make sure that our families have the ability to put their best foot forward, and having fresh, healthy food is certainly a key component to that. We can’t do this alone, and we have to make sure that we identify great community partners, like Foodlink, to get the job done.”

Foodlink and Monroe County are working out the logistics of the optimal day and time to host the program, and the partnership will be up and running this fall. 

 

Curbside Market Manager Flo Clemmons shows Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo the newest vehicle in the fleet.

Foodlink, Excellus celebrate partnership at Lexington Ave. Urban Farm

Mitch Gruber, Chief Progams Officer at Foodlink, gives an interview at the Lexington Avenue Urban Farm on Sept. 8, 2017.

On Sept. 8, Foodlink and Excellus BlueCross BlueShield celebrated a growing partnership focused on improving food access and health outcomes in the Rochester region.

Excellus and Foodlink hosted a press event at the Lexington Avenue Urban Farm, which will soon be the site of a new, natural play space. Construction will start soon on the area, which received funding through the 2017 Excellus Community Health Awards. 

“Foodlink is grateful that Excellus BCBS has partnered with us to improve food access in our region, both through the Lexington Avenue Urban Farm, and our Curbside Market,” said Foodlink Executive Director Julia Tedesco. “We’re excited to provide dozens of families with a safe space for children to play, and our newest Curbside truck has helped Foodlink distribute even more produce in neighborhoods where fresh fruits and vegetables are less accessible.”

The play space will feature many natural elements, and might not look like a conventional playground. The play space will include logs, stepping stones and “willow tunnels.” Items such as kick balls and hula hoops will encourage physical activity, along with a painted tire play area.

A rendering of the new play space at the Lexington Avenue Urban Farm. Construction will take place this fall.

Excellus also provided crucial funding for the newest vehicle in the Curbside Market fleet. A newer fleet results in more reliable service, which allows Foodlink to reach more sites, serve more customers and sell more nutritious food in low-income/low-access communities. 

The addition of the new vehicle has helped Foodlink increase the number of people it serves through its Curbside trucks by about 35 percent. The Curbside Market made more than 4,100 transactions in July of 2017, compared to almost 3,100 in July of 2016.

“Good nutrition is the key to good health, yet too many people in our communities don’t have access to affordable fruits and vegetables,” said Holly Snow, Director of Community Health Engagement, Excellus BCBS. “As we work to build healthier communities, we must find ways to combat hunger and Foodlink has found innovative ways to do just that.”

Holly Snow, Director of Community Health Engagement at Excellus BCBS, speaks to the media on Sept. 8.

Foodlink sending truckload of food, supplies to flood-ravaged Texas

One could argue that every day is an emergency for food banks around the country.

Many of the people we serve, whether it’s 85 and sunny or 5 below and windy, are in dire need of emergency food. We are their lifeline. Their last resort.

The emergency unfolding in Texas and Louisiana this past week, however, has reached a historic level. Hurricane Harvey’s devastating rainfall has left thousands homeless and wreaked havoc on the Texas emergency food system. 

BLOG: Feeding America’s Continued Response to Harvey

The numbers are staggering. 50+ inches of rain in some areas of Texas … More than 30,000 homes destroyed by flooding … In excess of $125 billion in damage. Some perspective for western New Yorkers: The total rainfall in Texas could equal the volume of water that flows over Niagara Falls … for an entire year

This is why the Feeding America network exists, and Foodlink is proudly assisting in the relief efforts. This week, we are sending a truckload of food and supplies — 30,551 pounds worth — to our food bank partners in Texas. Items include: Water, hygiene products, snacks, crackers and cookies, and juice pouches. 

24 pallets of food, water and supplies, sit in Foodlink’s distribution center, ready for pickup.

As you can imagine, food banks in the disaster area face a deluge of requests in the days following a disaster. This is why Feeding America acts as the central hub for out-of-state food banks offering to help through the donation of food, water or staffing assistance. With so much of the Texas food banks focusing on local relief efforts immediately following an emergency, the Feeding America team helps handle the logistics for donations such as ours. 

Feeding America food banks affected by the storm include: Houston Food Bank, Food Bank of the Golden Crescent, Southeast Texas Food Bank, Food Bank of Corpus Christi, San Antonio Food Bank, North Texas Food Bank and Brazos Valley Food Bank.

Foodlink is not alone in demonstrating our collaborative spirit. Dozens of food banks, from New Jersey to California, have offered their support by sending food, water, supplies, personal hygiene products and more to our friends in Texas. Others are offering personnel support, too. 

How can YOU help? You can click on any of the links above and donate to any Texas food bank, all of which will see a dramatic increase in need in the days, weeks and months ahead. Food banks are just one type of emergency relief organization that need our help. Other nonprofits that serve children, animals, people with disabilities and the homeless are also in need. NPR has done a nice job providing links to a variety of services

>> How to donate safely and avoid charity scams

Foodlink will continue to monitor the situation in Texas, and pray for those affected by this disaster. We wish all of our food bank partners the best in the weeks ahead, as Houston and all cities and towns affected by Harvey, recover and rebuild.

Constellation Brands’ Nourishing Neighbors initiative organizes massive food drive

Constellation Brands, an internationally renowned beverage producer and distributor, understands the importance of giving back locally.

Based in Victor, Constellation Brands launched its Nourishing Neighbors initiative in 2014 to help combat food insecurity. It has partnered with Foodlink on numerous events and projects, and will add one more to the list in the coming months. Throughout the rest of August and September, the beverage company is encouraging patrons to drop off non-perishable goods at participating local restaurants and wine stores in the Rochester area. Constellation hopes to surpass its goal of donating 1,000 pounds of food to Foodlink.

“Our employees really embrace this ongoing partnership with Foodlink and understand how hunger can have a devastating impact on the Rochester community,” said Tom Kane, Chief Human Resources Officer at Constellation Brands. “Plus, with September being Hunger Action Month nationwide, we felt it was an appropriate time of year to bring this serious issue to the forefront once again.”

According to Feeding America, more than 156,000 people in Foodlink’s 10-county service area are considered food insecure, which means they lack reliable access to a sufficient amount of healthy food. In the four years since Nourishing Neighbors was launched, Constellation Brands has donated more than 200,000 pounds of food to area food banks and employees have volunteered more than 9,000 hours of their time.

Food donations will be accepted at the following locations:

Participating local wine & liquors stores include: Chateau Liquor, Irondequoit Wine and Liquor, Liquor box, Latta Long Liquor, Georgetown Liquor, Fowler’s Canaltown Wine and Spirits, Lisa’s Liquor Barn, Hoffend’s Liquor Store, Pinnacle Liquor, Basin Wine and Spirits, 5 O’clock Somewhere, Chili Liquor, Country Club Liquor, Ryan’s Wine and Spirits and Bombace Wine and Spirits.

Participating local restaurants include: Cottage Hotel, Grappa, Mr. Dominick’s at the Lake, Mr. Dominick’s Fairport, Trata, Remington’s, Jojo Bistro & Wine Bar, 6×50 Victor, Warfield’s Bistro, Pomodoro Grill, Cottage Hotel, Pane Vino and Signature’s.