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A casserole from the Food Bank of Iowa Chopped- Hot Dish Edition contest at the Iowa State Fair.

Making the Best of What We Have

Everybody eats and all food starts at the farm. Agriculture is a culture, and any culture thrives with diversity. We are no different. There are so many different types of people with different backgrounds that make up our agriculture and food value chain. But there is one thing that makes us all the same. We all know how to make the best of what we have.

Times are crazy right now. I mean really crazy.

Each day can feel like we don’t know what’s going to happen next. After all of my time traveling and meeting new FarmHers, I’ve found you always make the best of what you have. Whether that is starting school again or just being a busy family, you make the best of it.

A woman teacher reading book to young students sitting on the ground in her classroom.

Making the Best of the Busy Season of Life

If there is one person I know who is in the season of life that is the busy family schedule, it is Erin Leifker. She is our Chief Experience Officer, and you have probably heard her voice on our podcast or saw her on our website before.

Sometimes for busy families, making the best of what you have starts at dinner time, digging through your pantry to put something together.

According to our social media audience, FarmHer moms’ biggest hack for making the most of what we have at mealtime was meal prepping of some sort.

The Best Meal Planning Hacks

For me, keeping prepared chicken is my hack. If you need a single serving size for one kid, it is ready. On the other hand, you do not have to worry about having frozen chicken breasts not defrosted at 7 pm to whip up your favorite meal.

For Erin, it’s packing a whole bag of clementines. Whether you are on a farm or just need a sweet treat in the car, clementines are perfect! Not only are they “naturally packaged”, but they also provide a nutritious snack no matter the environment.

But easy hacks like this are not always available for all families.

Unfortunately, food insecurity is something that some busy families in rural communities suffer from.

Solving Food Insecurity One Recipe at a Time

That’s why Nationwide sponsored the “Food Bank of Iowa Chopped—Hot Dish Edition” at the Iowa State Fair this year. The contest highlights simple and affordable options for all Iowans.

Cooks were asked to create casseroles using foods readily available to food bank clients. The casseroles were judged on taste, affordability, and appearance.

Judges tasting casseroles at the Food Bank of Iowa Chopped- Hot Dish Edition contest at the Iowa State Fair.

The judging panel was Governor Kim Reynolds, Nationwide executive Brad Liggitt, and Versova executive Ross Dean.

The blue ribbon went to Olivia Smith from Winterset with a “Family Favorite Skillet Casserole”. The casserole included a yummy but affordable mix of tater tots, ground pork, vegetables, creamy sauce, and seasoning.

Winner of the Food Bank of Iowa Chopped- Hot Dish Edition contest, Olivia Smith, holding her casserole after winning first place.

And delicious it was. I was able to sneak a few bites of the winning casserole after the contest was completed. As wonderful as the casseroles were, taste testing was not my favorite part of the contest.

You Can Help Today

Mine was seeing the difference Food Bank of Iowa makes for individuals every day. With food insecurity at record levels, Food Bank of Iowa distributes more than a MILLION pounds of food EACH MONTH to help those suffering in Iowa.

To learn more about how you can help, check out the Food Bank of Iowa’s website.

Michelle Book, President, and CEO of the Food Bank of Iowa at the Food Bank of Iowa Chopped contest.


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