[Review] Hungry Harvest: ugly food, beautiful heart

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full-veggie
Photo courtesy of Hungry Harvest

We are not the type of family who can do a CSA (community supported agriculture). First of all, I eat the lions share of vegetables in our house and a CSA box is more than I can handle alone. I hate the idea of wasting food, so the CSA makes me feel pressured into eating everything on my own. Second, we are not creative enough chefs to spontaneously incorporate some of the more unusual foods that come in a CSA, like rhubarb or Hakurei turnips. I don’t want to have to Google my produce. However, I love the idea of supporting local farms, so when I heard about a company called Hungry Harvest, who delivers recovered produce to reduce food waste and fight hunger, I was excited to learn more.

My first question was: what is recovered produce? I imagined browning apples or squishy avocados. I learned though that “1 in 5 fruits and veggies go to waste because of aesthetic imperfections or logistical inefficiencies.” This isn’t rotting food, it’s food that wasn’t otherwise sellable for a variety of reasons that do not affect taste. Sometimes farms overproduce certain crops and can’t sell it off quickly enough. Hungry Harvest seeks to gather these edible items that would otherwise end up wasted.

My next concern was whether or not the produce would be things that my picky children would actually eat. Their produce diet consists primarily (almost exclusively) of apples, watermelon, broccoli, carrots, and pomegranate. I learned that Hungry Harvest allows you to create a “never list” of foods that you never want them to include in your delivery. My never list included mushrooms, eggplant, and artichoke.

My concerns were answered when I received my first Hungry Harvest delivery. Posted on the website is “this week’s harvest” so you don’t have to be surprised. There are also recipes there for the non-chefs among us. Here was what was in my mini harvest: 2 avocados, 0.5 lb Brussels Sprouts, 2 bi colored corn, 2 Valencia oranges, 1 lb strawberries, 0.5 lb guava, 2 organic yellow squash, and 1 bunch kale. I don’t love surprises, so I was happy to see what to expect and it allowed me to plan better while I was grocery shopping for the week. In terms of quality, there were a few blemishes but overall they looked just like things I would have bought on my own and tasted the same as well. I’m looking forward to making a kale and avocado salad first.

Interested in getting your own Harvest? The options include 3 sizes (mini, full, and super), with an option for organic produce. You can get veggie-only, fruit-only, or mixed produce bundles. There is also a cool “office harvest” option with snackable fruit that is great for break rooms or office kitchens and so much better than a vending machine! There are also add-ons that vary each week, like an avocado toast kit, eggs, or jam. The prices in general range from $15-$55, but Mommy Call readers can get a special discount (see below).

One of the coolest things about Hungry Harvest though is that they are committed to reducing food deserts and fighting hunger. That sounds great, but how do they do that? For every harvest they deliver, they donate 1-2 pounds of produce to help feed someone in need. In Maryland, they have partnered with Baltimore Public Schools to help food insecure families. You can also use your SNAP/EBT (formerly food stamps) to buy food from Hungry Harvest. In Philadelphia, they are donating produce to Philabundance.

Thanks to a deal on Shark Tank, they expanded to Philadelphia in the past year. They also deliver in areas across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. You can search online to see if they deliver specifically in your zip code. I conveniently got a text when my delivery was about to arrive.

Pretty impressive for a company that started in a college dorm!

Coupon Code: Mommy Call readers get 25% off their first harvest with code: CALL

[This is a promotional post. I received a free mini harvest for this review. All opinions are my own. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of my employer, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. I am not responsible for the content or quality of your Hungry Harvest purchase.]

Learn more about food insecurity with my podcast: https://soundcloud.com/childrensphila/primary-care-perspectives-episode-4-food-insecurity

[Review] Hosting an Office Party with Paperless Post

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Paperless Post invitation
Paperless Post invitation

I recently took on the task of co-hosting an office-wide party to celebrate our first year in our new office. We knew that we wanted to have an event that would be celebratory and inclusive, but managing the details of such an event can be challenging. How do you find a venue that not only can accommodate everyone but that everyone will like? How do you choose a date and time that is best for most people? In the city, the issues of space and parking were especially challenging. In total, we had approximately sixty guests to plan for, ranging in age, gender, sex, race, and SES. In short, there was no way to satisfy everyone. Our strategy? Know that you can not satisfy everyone and be happy with aiming to please most.

When planning an office party, the best piece of advice is to manage expectations. A Winter holiday party is full of expectations– typically the office pays, there should be alcohol, there may be gifts, and the attire is more formal. So when working on a limited budget and diverse audience, a holiday party was bound to fail. We called our party an anniversary fiesta because who knows what that is supposed to be! It could be anything and therefore we were bound to meet expectations, and hopefully surpass them.

Who doesn’t like Mexican food? We hoped no one, as we chose a Cantina close to our office as our venue. This solved the parking issue, as everyone could walk from our office. We also chose an evening when no one had to work and the fewest people were on vacation.

When it came time for invitations, we chose a Paperless Post fiesta invite. It would have been easier to send a creative email, but a Paperless Post invitation made it more formal and also distinguished it from the onslaught of regular emails that we receive at work each day. A printed invitation is not as environmentally friendly and is more likely to get lost. I cannot tell you how many times I have scrambled to find a wedding invitation to find out where the church was on the day of the wedding! As a host, Paperless Post allowed us to easily track the status of our invitations and count our RSVPs. Guests were also able to message us with questions and send regrets. I also use Paperless Post for birthday party invitations (who has time to look up postal addresses for an entire class??).

I love hosting parties, but over the past six years they have mostly been geared toward small children, so it was fun to plan one for adults. Parties will always have some minor glitches– a spilled punch, an entertainer who doesn’t show, late guests or unaccounted for guests, cold food, etc. It is hard when you are the host to not take these malfunctions personally and let them ruin the fun. Whether  a party for adults or children though, it is important to remember that if you are having fun, your guests will too.

 

[This is a promotional post. I was compensated for this post with Paperless Post tokens. All opinions are my own. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of my employer, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. My office party was not affiliated with Paperless Post.]

Mom Yoga at Home

samiCan you maintain focus on your breathing while in pigeon pose as someone digs furiously through a tub of Legos next to your head? Sami can. The other thing Sami can do is motivate this exercise-phobic mother of two to get back into yoga. I have never enjoyed exercise, unfortunately. As I get older though and want to stay healthy, I know I need to maintain an exercise practice that is practical and beneficial. Yoga has been the one thing that I have been able to stick with over the years, albeit inconsistently, but there are two big barriers. 1) finding the time as a busy working mom, and 2) cost. Joining a gym or yoga studio is expensive, especially when you are not planning on going daily. This is why I was so excited to meet Sami.

Sami Fioravanti is a yoga instructor who comes to your home for 60-minute sessions that focus on your fitness preferences and tailored to your ability level. She has expertise in particular with mothers and loves to work with mothers and children together. Sessions are $25 if purchased individually or $20 each if you purchase 4 or more. Considering that you do no need to leave your living room, this is a highly competitive rate.

Sami and I met on a day when I had been rushing from work to the grocery store to my son’s school; otherwise known as a Wednesday. She came bearing a certificate of liability insurance, a short questionnaire about my goals, and a few props. My son has some experience with yoga from his school and I envisioned that Sami would help us practice together, but once he met Sami he was too intimidated to participate. So instead of joining us on the mats, he built with Legos around us, providing a lot of distractions and a noisy background. Sami remained professional though and guided my out-of-shape body back into the asanas. Afterwards I was the perfect balance of sore and energized.

I’ve tried mommy-baby yoga classes before but not only is it hard to get to them as a working mom now, but having your baby or child at a studio where they can disturb others is sometimes stressful. Having Sami work with you at home gives you flexibility that you don’t have in a studio. I really enjoyed our first session and look forward to more. Namaste.

mommaPromotion: Mommy Call readers get a free 30-minute session! Also, currently you get 10% off group package purchases. Contact Sami at hello@yogawithsami.com.

[Disclaimer: The above is not medical advice for any particular patient. You should talk to your health care provider before starting an exercise routine. I have no affiliation with Yoga w/ Sami and I was not compensated for this post.]

A Scarring First Impression

When you start your clinical rotations in medical school, they say that you should not start with the specialty that you desire for your career. The thinking is that you need a rotation or two to work the kinks out. You need to get your bearings as a physician-in-training so that once you get to your chosen field, you are ready to impress.

Some medical students do not yet know what specialty they are interested in, but I was firmly committed to pediatrics. So when I got my schedule and saw Pediatrics listed as my first rotation, I was nervous that my chances of making the best first impression would be hindered but was determined to not let that happen.

Although my white coat was bestowed to me during medical student orientation, I had not had much opportunity to don it until my clinical rotations started. With too few hours of sleep behind me, I decided to iron my white coat, hoping my professional appearance would help add to my first impression. Not only did I need to impress my supervisors, but also earn the trust and respect of my patients. My ironing board at the time was a small tabletop board, which I lay on the floor of my bedroom and knelt beside. In my haste, the edge of the iron grazed the fleshy part of my thigh above my knee, branding me with a linear scar that would shine as a pearly reminder of this first day for years to come.

As a pediatrics resident, each time I pushed a leg through my scrub pants, I saw this scar and remembered those first-day nerves. On the days in the middle of the Winter when the hours are long and the thanks are few, it felt good to remember the days when I was so eager to be the best doctor I could be. Most days of my training were spent dressing in the dark while my husband and the rest of the world around us lay sleeping. My scrubs and fleece jackets were barely different from my pajamas and my hair spent more days in ponytails than not. I shudder to think what impression some of these appearances left on my patients. However, my scar reminded me of a day when I ironed my jacket and although the skin on my left thigh stung from its new mark, I never let the smile fade from my face. I think about this as I teach eager new medical students, and even new interns each July. Eleven years later I find it hard to see the scar anymore but will always remember its symbolism.

Tech-free Dinner Conversation

img_3458My family knows I have a tech-free dinner rule. I might be more lax at breakfast or lunch on occasion, but dinner is for family time and conversation. Frequently though I am frustrated by the lack of responses to my questions of “how was school?” or “what did you do today?”.  I tried more unique questions like “what was the funniest thing that happened today” but that usually fell flat as well. So when I heard a local Philadelphia area mom created conversation starter cards that were age-specific ways to spur discussion, I was excited to try it.

Tiffin Talk is a box of daily cards with conversation prompts centered around a weekly theme and season. I chose the kindergarten box and our themes were: memories, yum, by yourself, what do they have in common, idioms, how do you feel, singing, nursery rhymes, the favorite part, all done, magical thinking, hide and seek, and what’s up. In addition to the main question, the cards are decorated with puzzles, number games, images, and facts to entertain. There are guidelines about how to use the cards, but it is meant to be fun and flexible. We used them routinely for a few weeks and will continue to use it sporadically as needed.

We enjoyed some of the questions, like “What is your all-time favorite food? Is it something that is made from other foods put together? Can you make it?” These types of questions prompted us to learn something new about each other. My biggest complaints was that some of the questions were a little abstract for my kindergartener, like “Can you remember tomorrow yet?” In these cases, the cards made dinner a little frustrating.

A thirteen week box of cards will cost you $60. There are multiple options, including some for parents, counselors, and seniors. In addition to sets based on age, there are themed packs for things like addiction, grief, and self-image.

The CEO, Kat Rowan, is passionate about creating moments for people, especially parents and children, to engage without using technology as an interface. In India, a “tiffin” is a food carrier used for lunch, but Tiffin Talk cards are much more than your average lunch notes. These are thought-provoking questions that will lead you away from the usual answers of “fine” and “nothing” and toward real connections.

 

[Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Tiffin Talk. I was not compensated for this post and all opinions are my own. I did receive a complimentary box of Tiffin Talk cards. The above does not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.]

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