Bite of Brainfood Blog

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?

5 Kitchen Hacks I've Learned This Month at Brainfood

One of the perks of being a Brainfood teacher is that as we go through the curriculum with our students, we pick up lots of culinary tips and tricks ourselves. We're all self-taught home chefs who love learning new things in the kitchen, and this job provides plenty of opportunities to learn about cooking alternatives, shortcuts, and tricks! Though of course the focus of our work is first and foremost youth development, the food and cooking piece is fun to focus on sometimes too. We're not even a month into the year, and here at Brainfood we've packed in plenty of learning during January classes. Today I thought I'd share some little kitchen gems I've picked up in Kitchen All Stars during the first few weeks of the New Year.

Five Kitchen Hacks I've Learned in 2015 at Brainfood

Gathering Around the Table, the Brainfood Way

Although we encourage exploration and creativity in all of our Brainfood kitchens, our classes are designed with a consistent structure. Brainfood participants arrive knowing that the whiteboard displaying the day’s agenda can answer their often-foremost question (“What are we making today?”) as well as provide the order of events for our time together.
Each Brainfood class starts with an opening—a time for everyone in the room to welcome and check-in with one another, as well as designate an expectation/goal for themselves for the day. We then transition to a period of information sharing. This is a time for instructors to engage participants in a lesson (“Let’s talk about how yeast works.”) or demonstrate a new skill relevant for that day’s recipes (“Today we’re learning how to cut chicken wings!”).

A New Year, A New Skill

Happy New Year! And welcome back to Brainfood classes. There are a lot of changes happening in the Brainfood kitchen as we kick off 2015. One of the biggest changes you will see in our kitchens is the presence of MEAT!

Many of our students eat meat regularly and have been eagerly asking us, “When do we actually get to cook with meat at Brainfood?” since October.  Well, the answer is…now!

8 Unsung Heroes of Brainfood in 2014

You’ve seen it on this blog a zillion times: the heartfelt “thank you.” There are so many people who we appreciate at Brainfood, and we’re often bragging about how great they are, from our high schoolers to our staff and volunteers, guest chefs, and donors. At Brainfood, we’re lucky to have so much support, and we’re all about giving credit where credit is due.


But there is also a brigade of behind-the-scenes helpers - a low-profile, tenacious bunch - who we rarely stop to thank publicly and who make our jobs easier, more effective, and just all around more fun. So today I’m shouting it from the (blog) mountaintops: Unsung Brainfood heroes of 2014, this one goes out to you!


1. The jumbo stand mixer – for boosting our output of challah bread, cookies, pizza dough, and other multiple-batch edibles in Box Project this summer. Jumbo stand mixer, we’re in awe of your shiny beaters and paddles. 

Getting Into the Holiday Spirit

The holiday season is here. And, boy, have we been celebrating here at Brainfood! We kicked it all off with our delicious Thanksgiving menu comprised of smoky macaroni and cheese, green bean casserole, spinach artichoke dip, stuffing, pumpkin pie and an apple crumble.              

And as we moved into December, it was time for even more holiday foods. In an effort to be as inclusive as possible, we made potato latkes (a staple of Chanukah and the Jewish tradition), Hoppin’ John (a traditional Southern New Year’s Eve food), and a Bouche de Noel (a classic French dessert for Christmas time). These dishes all represented a taste of different religions and cultures.

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