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Douglas County

SNAP-Ed Community Outreach Meal KitsSkillet Manicotti meal kit at New Assembly of God food pantry

In recent years, meal delivery services, grocery pick-up, ordering food online, and subscription services for meal planning have grown in popularity. With the busy and fast-paced lifestyle of most Americans, it's no wonder this trend is growing! We hardly have time to shop at the grocery store, let alone prep and cook a homemade meal. We all want more convenience and ease in our everyday lives. It’s the little things that count.

It’s essential for all people to have access to healthy food but also the resources to cook that food and feed it to their families. Our goal is to create meal kits that include seasonal produce, ingredients available at food pantries, and meals that are packed with flavor. This meal kit initiative has the potential to give food pantries an edge and help them move more food out of the pantry and into kitchens.

The SNAP-Ed Nutrition Educators at K-State Research and Extension Douglas County have begun to partner with food pantries around Douglas County to create meal kits for families who utilize food pantry services. The food pantry meal kits are similar to delivery services, like “Hello Fresh,” in that it contains a recipe and all of the ingredients needed to cook it, so it’s a great way to cook at home and try new meals. We tested the recipes in the office, obtained its nutritional analysis, and approved it with the food pantry to confirm they had the ingredients needed.

On November 5th, 2019, we assembled meal kits and distributed samples for a vegetarian Apple Chili at Just Food (1000 E 11th St, Lawrence, KS 66046). Apple Chili may sound different, but pantry clients found it to be delectable. Boxes were assembled and displayed, and samples of the recipe were given out, all with the assistance of volunteers. At Just Food, they use a point system to distribute food to families. The size of the family determines the number of points allotted and each family gets ten points per member.

The Apple Chili was priced at only 4 points, which was an excellent deal for pantry goers. The Apple Chili meal kit was a success. With the help of Just Food staff and volunteers, we packaged twelve Apple Chili meal kits and gave samples to pantry patrons. At the end of two hours, ten of the twelve Apple Chili meal kits were taken by pantry shoppers, and we are sure the other two were taken off the shelf not long after we left.

We are excited to extend this initiative to the New Assembly of God food pantry (118 5th St, Baldwin City, KS 66006), located in Baldwin City. For their first meal kit, they will have ingredients for a delicious manicotti skillet meal for their pantry clients to take home.

We can’t wait to see how the pantry meal kit initiative will grow; only time will tell. A big thank you to all the volunteers in Douglas County. We appreciate your support and helping hands.