Bite of Brainfood Blog

Community MVPs: We're looking for Brainfood grads and enthusiastic volunteers!

Our kitchen's still empty, and our fridge is too, but my oh my, are we excited about this fall.

You'd be excited too, if you were in charge of building a fully mobile youth teaching unit to bring low-cost workshops on healthy eating to DC residents.  Stay tuned as we launch our pilot year of Community MVPs and welcome our new class of Kitchen All Stars.


We're still deep in planning mode at Brainfood, but if you've got a hankering for more Brainfood, here's a few things to consider:


- Volunteer with us!  We have two upcoming volunteer info sessions on Wednesday, August 31st and Thursday, September 8th.  We're looking for assistants for both the Kitchen All Stars and MVPs program.  Email Carina to RSVP for an info session.

My summer at Brainfood

From our Guest Bloggers  and summer interns Zoe Middleton & Matt Grunewald...

My time as one of Brainfood’s Summer Institute interns has been incredibly rewarding.   I was generously given the support I needed to flourish and the flexibility to combine youth development and cooking with my interest in wellness and food access. Even more notable than the easy-going and civilized office culture at Brainfood were the students that filled our kitchen between June and August. It is the time spent with any of our twenty students – either en masse, in smaller groups or individually – watching them grow and challenge their thinking while kneading pizza dough, washing dishes, perusing a farmer’s market or sitting down to a meal that truly thrilled me.  The progress they made in the space of five weeks as chefs and young adults was inextricably linked and profound.  In many ways, I grew alongside these students, becoming more committed to my career interests of public health and community development as well as learning how to communicate and execute fieldwork.  My great wish for our Summer Class of 2011 and myself is that the lessons of Brainfood (whether imperceptible or obvious) resonate long after the final leftovers from Open Kitchen Night are eaten.

Week 5: ‘Kudos’ to another amazing Brainfood summer

This last week of July has caught quite a few DC citizens taking cover from the muggy, constant heat.  Here at Brainfood, there was nothing more enjoyable than hanging out in our cool, underground  kitchen for one last week of summertime cooking. 

The week kicked off with a guest chef visit from Brainfood hall of famer, Teddy Folkman.  Once again bearing a 10 lb. sack of his favorite bi-valves, Teddy showed students how to whip up mussels two ways: one mussel dish featured endive, cream, and tarragon, while the other dish got its kick from a lemony thyme sauce with roasted chicken stock.  Despite some initial reservations, students stepped up to the plate and sampled the finished product.  Whether it was Teddy’s exuberant kitchen presence or developing a new taste for mussels, it was a memorable Monday for all. 

But after a full day of following Teddy’s lead and a summer of meticulously recreating Brainfood recipes, participants were ready to make their own signature dishes.   On Tuesday, they got the opportunity to do just that, except, since it’s Brainfood, there’s always one extra challenge.  For our Grocery Store Challenge, teams of students cooked up a full meal (of their choosing) for a family of four while sticking to a budget of $15.  The $15 budget was used to buy fresh food from our mock Brainfood grocery store; the recipes and execution of the meal were left up to each individual team.  Breakfast was the prevailing theme among student-made meals, but then again, how can you find fault with a hefty breakfast burrito and whole wheat chocolate chip pancakes? 

The End is Nigh

From Guest Blogger Zoe Middleton, Brainfood summer intern…

Brainfood's fourth week of Summer Institute revolved around applying knowledge gleamed from the last few weeks (MyPlate, knife skills) in unfamiliar and delicious ways. 

On Monday, our students took breakfast beyond the cereal box, creating multi-grain pancakes, miniature (but protein-packed) quiches and honey-based granola bars. 

Midsummer Fun

From Guest Blogger Matt Grunewald, Brainfood summer intern…

This week at Brainfood was one filled with learning new skills.  At the beginning of the week we learned about cross-contamination and the importance of keeping a safe cooking space.  This was accompanied with many new chicken recipes, and with the rapidly progressing cooking skills of all the participants, these recipes were handled with ease and came out tasting delicious.  Once again Brainfood returned to the new MyPlate recommendations and learned a lot about whole grains.  After learning all about the many different types of whole grains we got down to cooking, making many tasty creations with whole grains that many of us had never heard of.  Finishing up this week we made some quick and healthy snacks, such as salsa and hummus with homemade chips, and then went on our first field trip to the Penn Quarter FRESHFARM Market, where we split into groups and toured the farmers market, talking with many of the vendors and buying some fresh, locally grown and harvested produce and meat.  We learned quite a bit about farmers’ markets and the differences and benefits of shopping at them as opposed to large super markets, and got to sample some surprisingly flavorful samples.

Gurus we're not, but boy do we love to talk about work

What's one of the few things that's more fun than meeting fun, diverse, passionate high school youth each year?  Getting to know weekly classroom assistants who are equally fun, diverse, and passionate about supporting DC youth in the kitchen and beyond.  We've had lawyers, college students, non-profit folk, and nutritionists volunteer with Brainfood and enrich our programs with their energy and interests. 

Classroom assistants are a huge part of what makes our well-oiled machine, well, oiled.  So when Ashley Rasmussen, one of the Chinatown classroom assistants from 2010, requested to interview me for a blogpost on nutrition, cooking, and high school students, I was happy to help her out.   Also -- check out the sleek and colorful Nutrition Gurus site for streamlined tips and articles on health and well-being. 

Thanks again Ashley for the interview, and for keeping Brainfood on your radar!

Forging ahead with Knife Skills

From Guest Blogger Zoe Middleton, Brainfood summer intern…

The Fourth of July holiday made for a short second week at the Brainfood Summer Institute.  Whatever Brainfood participants might have lost in time was amply made up for in new skills acquired.   Upon their return to the kitchen on Tuesday, students were (carefully) handed their chef’s knives and instructed on knife safety and the finer points of dicing an onion along with an overview of French cuts (batonette, chiffonade, julienne to name a few).   Building on their new knowledge, students honed their skills over the next two days on a range items that proved both familiar (oven baked fries) and foreign (fruit gazpacho).

Summer has begun: Week 1 recap

From Guest Blogger Matt Grunewald, Brainfood summer intern…

The first week of Brainfood Summer Institute was very successful, with everyone familiarizing themselves with the kitchen and learning new baking skills.  After an introduction day and baking oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, we all dove right in to baking on Tuesday, making many delectable creations, such as almost vegan pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, and sweet potato biscuits: with the delicious smells of the baked goods wafting through the kitchen over the laughs and jokes of all of the group participants, most of whom didn’t know each other just two days before.


Catalogue for Philanthropy has 7 Questions for Brainfood

The Catalogue for Philanthropy is truly a non-profit's non-profit.  Since 2003, they have been an essential resource to both donors and funders who want to invest in "high impact, carefully evaluated, community-based nonprofits with budgets below $3 million."  The catalogue's vetting process provides a streamlined tool to evaluate organizations, and their catalogue publication helps raise awareness for smaller organizations that often lack the resources to launch large media campaigns.  Holding small non-profits accountable is a service that benefits the field, as well as a trend that we hope continues to grow with the assistance of third-party evaluators like the Catalogue for Philantrhopy. 

Brainfood was honored to be selected for the 2008-2009 catalogue and to be listed alongside innovative small non-profits that continue to do great work in the DC area.  We were also honored that Julia Cain from CFP checked in with Carina for their 7 Questions blog feature.

What We've Been Up to: Picnics and Planning

The short window of time between the end of Brainfood After School and the beginning of the Summer Institute is always a little hectic at Brainfood.  Hard-working interns are suddenly wrapping up long term projects, students are graduating, and there's an entire summer program to plan.  The biggest news from Brainfood headquarters these days is our latest day assisting at the White House and our upcoming Summer Institute. 

State Fair on the South Lawn
It's picnic and grilling season again! And for 8 enthusiastic Brainfood graduates, it meant that they got to kick off their summer by assisting at one of the biggest summer cookouts in town: the White House's annual Congressional Picnic.

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