Bite of Brainfood Blog

Springing Forward

While it’s been a little grey and dreary outside these past few days, those of us at Brainfood can definitely tell that spring is on its way! Here are a few reasons we know this exciting season is upon us:

1. Seedling Alley is up and running! Lyssa, our masterful garden manager, has a whole plan for this planting season, which she’s mapped out meticulously with all kinds of maps and charts. Over the past few weeks, JaNeya, our DC Career Connections Intern at our Chinatown site, and I have helped Lyssa with planting hundreds of little seeds in trays at our Mount Vernon site. As these seedlings have been warmed and watered in their corner of our kitchen, they’ve really sprouted and grown! We’re all very excited about the prospect of harvesting broccoli, cauliflower, onions, parsley, and much much more in just a few months.


My Introduction to Brainfood

     Hi! My name is JaNeya Lee and I have recently joined Brainfood as an intern through DC Career Connect, a youth employment program through DC Department of Employment Services. When I first heard of Brainfood I thought that I was going to be learning how to cook, but Brainfood is so much more than that. When I was interviewed I was asked many questions that had me think about what I would do if I worked at Brainfood, as well as informed me of what the job was about and what I would be doing. When I went to orientation I did not know what to expect, but with the information I had, I understood that Brainfood was more than simply giving youth somewhere to go after school or giving them community service hours. In addition to Brainfood after school programs, there is also Brainfood Homegrown, a youth-led food venture that makes and sells their own products. Brainfood also has a youth garden, which is something that I have never had experience with. I'm excited that I get to learn how it works!

      My first day at Brainfood was great. I met other people that worked at Brainfood and they explained their jobs/roles. I also spent two hours with Homegrown. We made homemade nacho cheese seasoning to go on popcorn and I also tried some of their other products. Next I attended my first Kitchen All Stars class, and even though there were not many students, I got the sense of what I  was going to do in those classes. I learned the students’ names that were there and the Weekly Classroom Assistants (WCAs). 


A broke college senior learns the importance of a food budget

As a senior in college at UMD you would think I might have a slight handle on how to be budget conscious when it comes to food and grocery shopping, but unfortunately that is not totally true. When I lived at home I would go to the grocery store with my mom, but I never really paid attention to the prices or good deals because I was too busy picking out the food that I wanted.  Once I started college I had a meal plan which allowed me to get food from the dining halls on campus, so I still was not buying food from the grocery store. So when I finally moved to an off campus apartment and started going grocery shopping I didn’t really know how to shop on a budget. Sure I would try and buy the cheaper brands, but that was the extent of my frugal ways. In addition to my cluelessness in regards to budget, I also was not much of a cook. I could make the standard college fare; pasta, quesadillas, salads, etc., but other than the basics I was a work in progress. So when I started working at Brainfood I had a lot to learn about food budgeting and cooking.

You want me to try WHAT??? How not to be a food fuddy duddy.

I’ll admit: I don’t set the perfect example when it comes to trying new foods. Last week I nearly lost my ever-living cool when a friend ordered the Pho Chin, Gan (beef brisket pho containing a horrifying ingredient called soft tendon) and insisted that I try a spoonful of the hot, gelatinous goo for myself. My response? Pure repugnance and adamant refusal.

Sometimes you just have a visceral reaction to a food item. Your gut tells you, Do not touch that thing - not with a 10 foot pole, not even with your fingers, and definitely not with your teeth, tongue, or stomach lining.

I see this kind of reaction every now and then in our Community MVPs class, both in response to the usual suspects like mushrooms and olives, and to more unique items like a salted duck egg or a can of fresh sardines. But I’m consistently impressed by the way our teenage participants overcome that feeling and just take a bite anyway.

Like when Ronnie resisted adding mushrooms to a dumpling recipe and then decided to just try one raw… and liked it.

Learning the Brainfood Way

Asia Love is currently interning at Brainfood through the DC Career Connections program. Asia wrote the following reflection after her first experience in a Kitchen All Stars class. 

When I first heard about Brainfood I thought of eating healthy. I didn’t expect Brainfood to be much more.

My interview at Brainfood left me enthusiastic and eager to see the ins and outs of the program. My first day wasn’t just a typical first day at a new job; I got the chance to learn something new, meet new people, and eat a nice meal prepared by Brainfood’s youth participants.

To Be Known and Seen: Get to Know Team Homegrown!


What daily rituals have you developed that define a normal day? Is it the barista who knows what drink to make you as soon as they see you walk through the door? Or maybe it’s the phone call you know you will receive from your sister at 6:30pm California time as she rides the bus home from work. Or the salute you share with your security guard when you enter your office building each morning. Our days are composed of a variety of intersecting structures and moments that we come to count on to support our needs as social beings with a place and value in our different workplaces/schools/families/communities. At Brainfood, the opening and closing activity that starts and ends every class is the structure that satisfies a basic human need, as researcher Brené Brown describes, the need to “show up and be seen.”

Staff Favorites at Brainfood

The wonderful thing about the Brainfood family is that it is ever growing. Every youth participant, volunteer, staffer, Board member, Guest Chef, and community supporter who has ever walked through Brainfood’s doors (literally or figuratively) remains part of the family. Yet each new face is welcomed with undiluted excitement.

The same could be said for recipes, curriculum, and activities in Brainfood programs. Some recipes have been staples in our first-year Kitchen All Stars program since its inception, while we continue to experiment every year with new additions. Returning participants in our Community MVPs program are seasoned veterans when it comes to dicing an onion “the Brainfood way,” but they consistently take on challenges and work to present new healthy cooking workshops throughout the city.

In the spirit of celebrating both the tried-and-true and the yet-to-be-discovered gem, I recently asked our Brainfood instructors to recount their favorite Brainfood class to teach, sharing what makes it special, in addition to a favorite Brainfood recipe or two. Here’s what they had to say:

Four Things at Brainfood That Warm Our Hearts on Cold and Snowy Days

 Winter has officially arrived in DC, but here at Brainfood there is plenty to bring us warm fuzzies in the midst of icy weather:
1. Teamwork from our youth Participants and Volunteers
With smaller groups of students present in class due to this wintry weather, our adult volunteers have therare chance to dosome hands-on cooking! While the volunteers and students see each other on a regular basis, they really got to know each other we

ll working one-on-one to create some super delicious food.

2. Team Homegrown making fresh ginger soda
The warming, spicy flavor of ginger is the perfect ingredient for a wintry all-natural homemade soft drink. Ginger’s natural qualities can also help boost your immune systems, which is important for anyone who’s been walking outside or shoveling during this winter storm!

Looking Back and Looking Forward

Making a New Year’s resolution is a common practice for many people around this time of year. At Brainfood, we figured we’d give it a shot too! But what does it really mean to make a resolution? To answer this question, I went to the dictionary. According to Merriam-Webster, a resolution is “the act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict, problem, etc.” Although the dictionary is usually a pretty reliable resource, I don’t find this answer so satisfying. Why’s that? Let’s break it down.

First, at Brainfood, we begin the process of making resolutions by looking back at our growth and improvement so far this year. Self-reflection is important, as it helps us to figure out what we want to improve upon and how we can best get there. While resolutions help us to think about the future, they really start with thinking about the past.

Game Day Favorites


I’m having trouble keeping my mind on work today. For the first time since 1981, my alma mater Clemson University is playing in the National Title Game. I’m counting down the hours and minutes until 8:30pm tonight.

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