Bite of Brainfood Blog

Jet-Setting Around the World

Jet-setting around the world is a dream many of us have. And thanks to food, we have the opportunity to experience brand new cultures and countries right from our very own homes.  Here at Brainfood, we are ‘traveling’ to different countries and the ride is about to get wild.

Our first stop: Jamaica. Well known for its vibrant colors and spiciness, Jamaican food has a unique mixture of tastes from the rich native history and colonizing countries. The coconut crop from the Spanish, porridge and sweets from the British, and curry from the Indians showcase the influences from many different cultures worldwide. And at the root of the cuisine, is the strong history of the Maroons (Jamaican slaves who were able to escape into the mountains during British power) and their survival.

Maroons created the Jerk as a way to preserve and cook their meat and fish. Jamaican Jerk consists of two main ingredients: allspice (pimento) and scotch bonnet peppers. 

Signs of Spring from the Brainfood Youth Garden


Our kale’s first visit to the garden! After spending their entire 23 days of life indoors under grow lights, they need some time to adjust to the variability of living outside in the garden. They spent their first hour outside swaying in the breeze and soaking up their first rays of real sunshine. Thank you to our Kitchen All-Stars for starting our first spring plants!



The garlic that has been cozily nestled in a bed blanketed by straw and row cover finally stretches towards the springtime sun. Look forward to some garlic scape pesto!


But It's a Tradition!

I started thinking about the importance of food traditions one night  after one of my favorite Brainfood classes, led by Community MVPs weekly classroom assistant, Ceci and her mom, Fina (her dad also made a guest appearance just in time to taste the food). Ceni and Fina, who are both Cuban, taught MVPs how to make delicious Arroz con Pollo, Tostones with a garlic sauce, and Natilla. When it came time to eat, with each bite of a new dish Ceci would say, “This reminds me of my childhood so much!” Even Fina had to admit that the Arroz con Pollo made by MVPs was better than any version she has made- quite a testimony to how awesome our MVPs are.  Class ended with students interviewing each other about their family’s food traditions, which got me thinking about my family’s food traditions.   

Food Day Post: Youth Voices from Brainfood!

This week on the Bite of Brainfood Blog, we thought we’d feature the blog post that Brainfood recently contributed to the Food Day Blog. For those of you who may not be familiar with it, Food Day is a national event that uses the phrases “real food, just food” to describe its focus. Food Day seeks to “inspire Americans to change their diets and our food policies.” Food Day is a project of the Center for Science and the Public Interest, and has dozens of national partner organizations. The Food Day Blog is a wonderful collection of stories, recipes, articles, and other glimpses into inspiring work happening all over the nation that is transforming the food system. When Brainfood was contacted about publishing a post on the Food Day blog, we were honored to be a part of such an important project! And our first thought, of course, was to put our student voices front and center. We were thrilled to be able to use this opportunity to amplify youth voices and give our participants a national audience for their writing about Brainfood.

Did I ever tell you about the time...?

You know the scene that usually plays out when you go home for Thanksgiving? The one where your older relatives start getting nostalgic and telling stories about the past? If your family is like mine, it looks like this: Great Aunt Thelma settles into the cushy arm chair after dinner with a cup of hot chamomile in one hand and a crossword puzzle in the other, adjusts her glasses, and says, “Did I ever tell you about the time…?”


In my family, she would begin with the classics, like the one where uncle Mike, when he was 16, snuck away in Grandpa’s Lincoln Continental and drove doughnuts and figure eights through the neighbor’s front yard. Then she might jump ahead 15 years or so and pull out a picture of me when I was four years old, dressed up as an 80’s rocker, chomping on bubble gum, and banging kitchen pots and pans with wooden spoons.

How to Find Sunshine in the Winter

First, picture this: a D.C. high school at 9:00 AM.  It’s 30 degrees and windy walking through the parking lot, and the ramps and stairs that lead to main entrance are crusted in snow, thanks to the late February freeze.   But despite the weather and the early morning, despite the fact that it’s a Saturday, the folks streaming into the atrium at Wilson Senior High School look more like a group that’s heading to a sunny recess break than a group braving the cold to get to Saturday school.

And that’s because, in a lot of ways, the experience that awaits inside has more similarities to a sunny recess break than an interminable winter class day.

5 Grocery Shopping Hacks I've Learned at Brainfood

As a youth worker, my job is not primarily about food or cooking. However, grocery shopping perpetually occupies a line on my to-do list. As is the case for many of us at home, groceries do not magically appear in our Brainfood refrigerators and pantries prior to class.
Grocery shopping is one of the unassuming tasks that keeps Brainfood programs running, and, while it’s a necessary undertaking, we have many other things to keep us busy. That is why we Brainfood teachers are motivated to be proficient grocery shoppers.
In a blog post last month, a fellow Brainfood staffer wrote about kitchen tips and tricks she’s picked up while teaching at Brainfood. Here, I am going to share 5 pointers I’ve learned at Brainfood for an efficient grocery shop. If you are like us, shopping on a budget and limited time, these tips might be helpful for you too!

You can cook anywhere!

Written by Brainfood Instructor Ibti Vincent

Just looking at three tote bins full of kitchen equipment sitting quietly on a table at Johnson Middle School, you'd likely have no idea what fun and deliciousness can be whipped up in a classroom. Unless you happen to be there on Thursdays between 3:30 and 5pm, that is....

We just wrapped up week 4 of our healthy cooking pilot program at Johnson  Middle School, and boy has it been an adventure! From Healthy Snacks to Breakfast Day, and from a Veggie Taco Bar to Healthier Classics, we've been having a blast (and eating well) with DC Scores' poet-athletes. One added bonus about this program? Over the past month, we've learned just how much cooking can be done without all the standard fixtures of a full kitchen.


If you were an herb or spice, what would you be?

Herbs, spices and humans have had a long standing relationship.  There is evidence that the spice trade has been in existence for over 3,500 years.  Herbs were even mentioned in the first chapter of Bible. Herbs and spices add excitement to our food in the forms of color, taste and smell.

In my own encounters with herbs and spices I have come to realize that they can symbolize our personalities and human experiences. Once I thought to myself, if I were any herb or spice, which one would I be?
So I quickly turned the question to Brainfood participants to hear their answers. To no one’s surprise, I got back creative and thoughtful responses:

I would be cinnamon because it’s so versatile and it complements so many sweets and baked goods, but tastes good in savory dishes like soups and roasted vegetables too.

Service, Justice, and Brown Fried Rice: Community MVPs Deliver Workshop #1

We hear them all the time: “So…Brainfood does food access for teenagers, right?” or “If you’re a public health organization, shouldn’t you be tracking your students’ weight loss?” or “I knew a drop in center that basically offered Brainfood programs for kids.”  

Misconceptions abound about youth development, food education models, and what it means to let youth build their own programs at Brainfood.  Some days, we laugh it off with a co-worker and swap stories about our individual messaging campaigns that haven't hit home yet with some of our closest family members and friends.

But some days, feeling like people don’t see the totality of our work can feel heavier.  Some days, the voice of doubt keeps nagging you, making you wonder if what happens in our kitchen is really social justice work at all.  Does making vegan pumpkin muffins as a group build a more just society?  Is letting students vote on what recipes to make really justice practice?  And how does it all stack up against those images in our head of social justice being about rallies and marches, big signs and bigger crowds?

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