Friday, November 18, 2011

Decoding 'Best Before' Dates

Quest volunteer Florence did a little sleuthing and cleared up some misconceptions about best before dates. Read on!

I always find it tricky to decipher the “best before” date on a pre-packaged food item. Does “MA” refer to March or May? Is it the year first or the day first? Is the food safe to eat after the “best before” date?

As long as the food is kept in proper storage conditions, it should still be consumable and not thrown away. The “best before” date is an indicator of freshness, not food safety. Dry products, such as dry pasta and seasonings, are unlikely to support growth of bacteria and can be kept months (a full year, in fact!) after the “best before” date. Even the makers of Hellmann’s Mayonnaise say that their product can be consumed 4 weeks after the “best before” date, provided it has been stored properly.

So don’t throw away food that is completely edible! Every year, 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted globally and some of that food is perfectly safe to eat, as long as it has been kept in proper storage conditions. By understanding food labels, we can all do our part to minimize food waste!

Quick Facts from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)

Best Before Date

•You can buy and eat foods after the “best before” date
•Must appear on pre-packaged foods that will keep fresh for 90 days or less
•Foods that have a shelf life greater than 90 days are not required to have a “best before” date
•Does not guarantee product safety, but gives information on the freshness and potential shelf-life of the unopened food

Expiry Date
•Found on dietary supplements and infant formula
•After the expiry date, the food may not have the same nutrient content indicated on the label and should be discarded

Format
•Year, Month, Day
•Months: JA, FE, MR, AL, MA, JN, JL, AU, SE, OC, NO, DE

To learn more see this CBC article: http://www.cbc.ca/news/story/2009/03/26/f-bestbefore.html

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

General Operating Grants Received from Sook Ching Foundation and Marin Investments Ltd.

The Quest Food Exchange was recently the recipient of two generous grants for our general operating expenses. The first was from Sook Ching Foundation, who donated $5,000 and the other was from Marin Investments Ltd., who donated $3,500.

"We’re especially grateful for undesignated grants since this allows Quest to put the funds toward the area of most need" said Elizabeth Crudgington, Quest's Executive Director. She continued: "over the course of the year many unforeseen expenses arise and having these funds is a real gift to the organization."

The Sook Ching Foundation is a private foundation located in Vancouver that supports select organizations across Canada with an interest in education and health projects in developing countries. It also supports organizations which feed, educate, counsel, and set up health programs across Canada. Jessica Choo, President of the Sook Ching Foundation stated: "we’re pleased to help Quest with its general operating expenses; they are a proven organization with strong financial stewardship. We are confident that the grant will go in direct support of fulfilling their mission."

Marin Investments is a Canadian, privately-held, investment corporation located in Vancouver, British Columbia. Marin manages a diversified portfolio of assets consisting of private and public equities along with a variety of real estate projects on behalf of its principal owners, the Young family. The company has grown and operated successfully since its incorporation in 1952. Current and previous investment assets have been located throughout North America with a weighting towards western Canada and the west coast of the United States. Marin supports and is interested in pursuing the expansion of existing enterprises, merger and acquisition opportunities, and management buyout activities.

Thank you to both organizations for their continued support!

UBC Land and Food Systems Project for Quest

This is the first post in a series detailing a Community Food System project by six UBC students helping Quest this semester.

Hi! My name is Fion, I am currently in my third year studying Nutritional Science in the faculty of Land and Food Systems at UBC. In my faculty, Land and Food Systems (LFS), we explore topics such as sustainability, food security, and issues relating to the food system both in our community and globally.

In our LFS 350 class, Land, Food, and Community, all of the students are involved in a different Community Food System Project for the term. My group members and I have been fortunate enough to be able to help Quest Food Exchange. This is the first year Quest is participating as a UBC LFS community partner.

We will be trying to help Quest find farms in the Lower Mainland that have an excess of fresh produce that are not marketable and can be donated for use in their programs. Of course, many of you may know that Quest is a not-for-profit organization, so it relies on food donations to run the grocery markets. Currently, Quest receives produce from Fresh Direct, but could always redistribute more. This is why we hope to find donations to increase the variety and quantity available through Quest's programs. With that said, we are also achieving a more sustainable practice because we can reduce the amount of food loss on the farms themselves. As of right now, we are still in the middle of trying to find farms to donate produce. Hopefully we will soon find further food vendor partners for Quest and clients will have even more options in terms of types of vegetables and fruits that they can obtain in the grocery markets.

Another little project that my group members and I are working on is putting up Canada’s Food Guide displays around the grocery market at 2020 Dundas. The purpose of this is to increase the knowledge and understanding of the daily intake of the various food groups. By promoting this idea, we can begin to influence eating habits and help people maintain a healthy diet. This can also be a great shopping experience for people wanting to learn more about the foods that they are consuming.



Stay tuned to see what the students come up with!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Quest's Partnership Appreciation Event 2011

As we've talked about previously, Quest has been fortunate enough to be able to collaborate with Growing Chefs, an amazing not-for-profit aimed at educating children on gardening, cooking, and healthy eating. The partnership between our two organizations seemed to be a natural fit.

On October 13th, 2011, we invited our food vendor and social service agency partners, as well as other stakeholders in the community, to our 2020 Dundas location for our annual Partnership Appreciation event. Last year, we held an Iron Chef competition, but this year, we went with a little bit of a different approach.

For this year’s event, we added an educational component with the help of Growing Chefs. We invited several families who shop at Quest to participate in a workshop on shopping for and cooking with healthy ingredients. Executive Director of Growing Chefs Helen Stortini and her volunteer chefs developed three recipes for this demonstration, based on food we typically stock in our grocery markets. A dietitian from At the Table Nutrition, Colleen McGuire, provided an in-depth nutritional analysis for each of the recipes.

After the participants took a tour of our grocery market with the chefs and dietitian, the workshop was ready to begin. We had set up three stations in our downstairs space; each chef (Helen, Alexander, and Tanya) was designated to a station. Armed with a hot plate and some other basic utensils, the chefs and the families whipped up a salad, a vegetarian entrée, and a dessert option, using local and organic ingredients where possible. Once they were finished, they trooped upstairs to where the other guests were mingling and presented their creations to the crowd. The families were asked about their favourite parts of the workshops. One of the participants, Carlos, age 10, had never tried vegetarian chili before, and loved the version the chefs made that day.

Other features of the event were a video about Quest, and speeches by some of our partners who continue to be very involved with our organization. Speakers included Sue Ross from YVR Airport Authority, Chris Porte from Youth Spot Employment Centre, Jean Robertson from Natural Factors, and Gord Alteman, Vice-President of Quest’s Board of Directors.

We had nothing but positive feedback on the event from both workshop participants and stakeholders. We’d like to thank our event planner, Kristy Masaro, for her help in organizing the logistics of the event, and Bread Garden Catering for providing the delicious hor d’oeuvres.

We hope to provide more workshops such as this in the near future, with the continued assistance and guidance of Growing Chefs.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Quest Video

Check out this video made by our Marketing interns, John-Michael Parra and Julie Petrynko. It includes interviews with agency partners, vendors, financial sponsors, and clients. Let us know what you think!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJdcbBuKcLM

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

UBC Students Donate to Quest

A few weeks ago, I was asked by Dennis, a lecturer at UBC, to explain to his class a bit about what Quest does. I was honoured to be invited into their classroom. All of his students are part of the Global Academic Internship Program (GAIP) at UBC and are fairly new to Canada. This meant that they were also unfamiliar with some of the social issues that face Canadians. My challenge was to get across the importance of food security and poverty reduction initiatives, specifically in Vancouver.

I couldn’t have asked for a more attentive and engaged group of students. It was nice to see a group of people so inquisitive about the culture and issues of their new country. We even brainstormed ideas in which the students could help fundraise for Quest. We threw around ideas of food drives and monetary donation matching. I was just glad to have piqued their interest on social issues in Canada and perhaps make them think twice about food waste.

This week, I was invited back to the GAIP classroom. The 16 students (pictured above) had raised $125 out of their own pockets, which was then matched by Dennis and Jennifer, Senior Program Leader at UBC, for a grand total of $250! I was so happy to receive the donation on behalf of Quest and so proud of them for taking the time to do this. Their donation will likely go toward paying for our new wheelchair ramp (pictured at right) at the Dundas location. This will facilitate access to our grocery market for our clients who have trouble with their mobility.


Thank you so much to Dennis and the students for their kind donation and for inviting me in to speak!



Wednesday, September 21, 2011

First West Foundation Funds Purchase of Cooler for Surrey Store

Visitors to the Surrey location of the Quest Food Exchange will have better choices in fresh produce thanks to a $10,000 donation from the First West Foundation that helped Quest purchase a used walk-in cooler and freezer. The addition of this amenity will allow Quest to collect and store more perishable items on site, so that donations last longer and our clients will benefit from having fresher items to choose from.

Johanne Larochelle, manager of the Surrey food market says “the walk-in cooler has allowed us to reduce the amount of perishable items we have to compost because fruits and vegetables can be stored in the cooler until the shelves need to be restocked. She also adds, “our customers have noticed the increased selection and comment on the freshness of the produce.”

Quest was pleased to have the opportunity to show representatives from the First West Foundation the walk-in cooler and freezer in August.

Executive Director, Seline Kutan makes a point of visiting the projects that the Foundation provides funding to. “Right now it’s manageable to visit our donees. It’s a great opportunity to see first hand where the Foundation’s money goes and to get to meet the individuals involved in running these successful organizations.”

Ms. Kutan was joined by board members Lois Wilkinson and Peter Podovinikoff who were both impressed by Quest’s food exchange model, which not only addresses reducing hunger with dignity, but also offers important volunteer opportunities while fostering environmental sustainability. “Quest fits perfectly within our funding mandate to provide much-needed support to community organizations that are working diligently to lend a helping hand to people living in our communities”, states Mr. Podovinikoff.

The First West Foundation (previously named Envision Credit Union Charitable Foundation) was established in 1996 by the management and Board of Directors of First West Credit Union. Its purpose is to support initiatives that enhance the quality of life in our communities and to create capital for sustainable community support by encouraging philanthropy. Since inception, the Foundation has proudly distributed over $1.6 million in grants to charities.

For more information about the Envision Credit Union or the First West Foundation visit their websites at www.envisionfinancial.ca or http://firstwestfoundation.ca respectively.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Kiwassa Neighbourhood House Opens Up Shop for All to Visit


All are welcome to attend Kiwassa Neighbourhood House's third annual Open House. Kiwassa is a wonderful supporter of Quest's programs, ordering items from us for their Family Food Bank on a regular basis. Besides the Food Bank, they work diligently to provide a range of low-cost or free services to people of all ages.

Located at 2425 Oxford St in Vancouver, the event runs from 3 to 7 pm on Thursday, September 15th.

Kiwassa originally started this annual gala as a 40th anniversary celebration. Since the event was enormously popular, they chose to continue it each year. Come and enjoy a myriad of activities for all ages! Whether you would like to learn to salsa or brush up on your hip hop moves, Kiwassa has you covered. Once you're too tired to swing your hips, be treated to an Aboriginal drumming ceremony and a beautiful traditional Chinese performance. This year event attendees will also find pony rides and balloon animals, DJ lessons, a DIY button station, arts and crafts, and many other activities.

Snacks and refreshments will be provided, as will a celebratory cake.

For more information, call Jennifer at (604) 254-5401.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Quest Welcomes Clients to Grand Opening


As we approach the end of summer and we all begin to prepare ourselves for the fall, it has been my experience that there is a tendency for many of us to be filled with a sense of loss as we anticipate the onset of shorter days and rainy nights. Regardless of the inevitable weather shift, this upcoming fall is an exciting time here at Quest as we embark on a variety of new beginnings and exciting partnerships including the official grand opening of our new store at 611 East Hastings Street.

The staff at Quest are excited to have the opportunity to acknowledge the major gains that the opening of the new location signifies for both Quest as well as the community. Quest has invited several community partners to join us at the new location on August 31st in order to showcase the final result of our collaborative efforts.

The new store continues to promote Quest's underlining mantras of providing low-income communities with the means to access healthy and affordable food in an environment that promotes a culture of dignity and respect. Our clients may have, at times, had to receive food within a context that can be demeaning to service users. In our new location, there are large shelves stocked with grocery items like any other store, donated by the suppliers who help keep Quest providing food to those in need.There are coolers for dairy items, tables full of produce, freezers for proteins, as well as a shelves full of canned and dry good, vitamins, and other personal-hygiene products.

After 10am on August 31, 2011, all of our clients are invited to partake in coffee, tea and treats at the new store! We hope to see you there.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Red Peppers Will Put a Pep in Your Step



Another recipe post brought to you by Quest volunteer Kelsey.

For all of our blog followers out there who shop at our Dundas store location, I wanted to put the word out that we just received a shipment of fresh sweet red bell peppers that look so good they deserve their own blog post.

With their wonderful combination of tangy taste and crunchy texture, sweet bell peppers are the adornment of the vegetable world with their beautifully shaped glossy exterior that comes in a wide array of vivid colors. However, their beauty is not only skin deep.

Bell peppers are packed with several nutrients. They are a good source of vitamin C, thiamine, vitamin B6, betacarotene, and folic acid. Bell peppers also contain a large amount of phytochemicals that have exceptional antioxidant activity. Those phytochemicals include chlorogenic acid, zeaxanthin, and coumeric acid and additionally, when compared to the nutrient values of the different bell peppers, studies have shown that red bell peppers have significantly higher levels of nutrients than their green counterparts largely because they contain lycopene, which is a carotene that helps to protect against cancer and heart disease.

Need I say more? Red bell peppers are amazing! Below I have provided one of my own personal favourite recipes that I hope all of you try. It's tasty and easy to tailor to one’s ingredient availability and individual dietary needs. This recipe is bound to put a pep in your step!

Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients:
• 6 bell peppers (any color you like, however we currently have an abundance of red ones)
• 1 tablespoons butter
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1/2 cup chopped onion
• 1/2 cup chopped celery
• 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
• 1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
• 1 clove garlic, crushed
• 1 teaspoon dried leaf oregano
• 1/2 teaspoon dried leaf basil
• 2 teaspoons salt, divided
• 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
• 1 egg, lightly beaten
• 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
• 1 1/2 pounds lean ground or chunked beef, turkey, chicken or tofu
• 1 1/2 cups cooked long-grain rice ( or try quinoa and up your nutritional value)
• shredded mild Cheddar cheese, about 1/2 to 3/4 cup, optional
• Recipe for stuffed peppers serves 6.

Directions:

Cut tops off peppers; remove seeds and membranes. Chop edible part of tops and set aside. Rinse peppers under cold water. Place peppers in a large pot; cover with salted water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain peppers and set aside.
Heat olive oil and/or butter in a large skillet over medium heat until hot. Sauté chopped pepper (from tops), chopped onion, and chopped celery for about 5 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, crushed garlic, oregano, basil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, combine egg with remaining 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. Gently stir to blend; add ground meat or meat substitute of choice, cooked rice, and 1 cup of the tomato mixture. Mix well. Stuff peppers with meat mixture and place in a 3-quart baking dish. Pour remaining tomato mixture over the stuffed peppers. Bake at 350° for 55 to 65 minutes. If desired, top stuffed peppers with a little shredded Cheddar cheese just before peppers are done; broil until cheese is melted and slightly browned.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Lentils: Yummy and Environmentally Friendly



Here is another blog post from Quest volunteer Kathleen. Lentils are good for you and the environment too!

This is a good staple recipe that is very cheap to put together when you are
trying to stretch your dollars. Lentils are not only tasty and nutritious, but also
quicker and easier to prepare than other dried beans, because they don’t require
pre-soaking. Lentils are an excellent source of dietary fiber, which helps to lower
cholesterol and stabilize blood sugars. Lentils also provide a good source of
molybdenum, folate, iron, protein, thiamin, and potassium.
This recipe is good eaten as-is, but I often spice it up with any vegetables I have
in my crisper and more or less curry depending on my mood. Suggestions: carrot, celery, pepper, potato, yam, etc. It is also delicious with a spoonful or two of plain yogurt.

Indian Rice with Lentils




1 tbsp. butter (or vegetable oil)
2 ½ cups onions
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups quartered mushrooms
(or 1-2 small canned mushrooms)
1 cup rice
1 cup dry green lentils
1 tbsp. minced ginger
1 tsp. curry
¼ tsp. cinnamon
2 cloves garlic
fresh or dried parsley (optional)
salt & pepper to taste




1. Melt butter and cook onions until tender and slightly browned.
2. Meanwhile, in a saucepan combine stock, mushrooms, rice, lentils, ginger,
curry, cinnamon and garlic. Bring to a boil and cover.
3. Simmer for 25 minutes (check to make sure lentils are done).
4. Stir in parsley and salt & pepper.
5. Top each dish with sautéed onions when serving.
6. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Up for a Sustainable Challenge?

This post has been brought to you by Quest volunteer Kelsey. Another good one!

August is an exciting month here in the Lower Mainland. The sun is finally shining and the city has a stack of outdoor activities, events and other awesome opportunities for people to get outside, and connect with their communities. We at Quest encourage you to get out there and enjoy it! Summer has been predicted to be short and sweet so there is no time to waste.

What better way to make use of what summer has to offer than by taking advantage of the wide variety of fresh local produce in BC? Now is the time when summer fruit and harvest vegetables forge together to create an abundance of local food. Subsequently what better time to commit to eating locally! If you are looking for an event that can help you do just that we encourage you to check out and participate in the Growing Chefs: Eat Local Challenge on August 14th to 20th. This fundraising event is hosted by one of our favorite community partners, the Growing Chefs Project, and has been put together in order to reach their goal of raising $4,000 to support their upcoming Growing Chefs Classroom Gardening Projects in classrooms in the fall.

Growing Chefs is a classroom gardening project with the goal of providing children and youth in our community with the opportunity to grow, cook, and eat their own food. The program aims to promote a culture of food sustainability through incorporating urban agriculture projects into the classroom while encouraging awareness amongst urban children and youth.

The challenge asks participants to commit to eating locally from August 14th to the 20th in a way that they consider to be “do-able” and conducive to their lifestyle (although the 100 Mile diet is recommended, it is not mandatory). The challenge asks participants to encourage their family, friends, and colleagues to support their efforts through pledging a donation on their online profile. However it should be noted that although participants are encouraged to fundraise it is not necessary in order to participate. A pledge of one dollar spreading the word about the program as well as the larger underlining focus of food sustainability is all you need to take part in this exciting event.

If you or someone you know are interested in participating in this fundraising event, check out the Growing Chefs: Going Local website. So get a head start and register online today!

Monday, July 25, 2011

That's corn-y!

Quest volunteer Kelsey has provided us with another great post, this time about seasonal vegetables.

The treacherous weather that seems to have cursed the Lower Mainland this summer may have left some of us feeling as though it is not really summer at all. However despite the grey skies and damp weather, we are rapidly approaching an exciting time in the Canadian culinary world: the fall harvest is approaching and the beautiful berries of summer are readily available. One veggie that is often equated with the summer months is sweet corn.

As a result of its delicious flavor, corn is not often thought of in the same “veggie” category as, say, brussel sprouts or cabbage. However, corn is definitely vegetable calibre: it's a good source of several nutrients and fibre! Corn is one of the most popular and versatile vegetables, and is a low-fat complex carbohydrate that deserves a regular place on any healthy table. These high-fibre, fat-fighting kernels of goodness are also a hearty and satisfying veggie that can be purchased locally throughout the later summer months.

Below, I have listed one of my own favorite simple and affordable corn salad recipes. I encourage all of our corn loving blog followers to go ahead and post your own favorite corn recipes below.

Ingredients

6 ears sweet corn, boiled or grilled
1 handful cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small red onion, sliced very thin
1 Tbs. minced cilantro
Juice from one fresh lime

Directions

Mix all ingredients and squeeze the lime juice over it all. Season with salt and pepper, and enjoy!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Poem for a Friday

Quest volunteer Kelsey found this lovely poem about kitchen tables and thought it'd be a brilliant addition to the blog. We agree!

Perhaps the World Ends Here
By: Joy Harjo

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what,
we must eat to live.

The gifts of the earth are brought and prepared, set on the table.
So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the
corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means
to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around
our children.

They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put
ourselves back together once again at this table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy and sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are
laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.
“Perhaps the World Ends Here” from The Woman Who Fell From The Sky by Joy Harjo. Copyright 1994 by Joy Harjo. Reprinted by permission of W.W. Norton & company, Inc.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

City of Vancouver Finally Gets Behind Composting

Quest volunteer, Kelsey, has done research on the City of Vancouver's improved composting program. 'Bout time!

It was announced this week that Vancouver City Council has approved plans to expand the multi-family food scraps collection pilot project throughout the city by next fall. The project will work toward decreasing the amount of waste the city produces through mass compost collection.
By next September, 2,000 homes in the Riley Park and Sunset neighborhoods will be able to compost dairy products, meat, and bread in addition to conventional compostable food scraps like fruits, vegetables, eggshells, coffee filters, teabags and yard trimmings. Additionally, residents and business owners in the area can expect their garbage pick-up to decrease to once every two weeks.

While changing one's household routine no doubt takes some getting used to, it is evident that the benefits far outweigh the costs. Currently, in Vancouver alone, about 130,000 tonnes of food go to waste every year; about 20 per cent of that comes from residential properties and subsequently the project being approved can be viewed and a significant political and environmental gain for the city. At Quest, we know all about how much food goes to the landfill unnecessarily!

The program will not affect homeowners other than changing which bin they put their garbage in. There have been concerns that a bi-weekly garbage collection will draw rats and vermin, but Chris Underwood, Vancouver's manager of solid-waste management has assured people that this will be minimal.

If the pilot is deemed successful the project will be expanded to other surrounding areas next year and will be a significant step towards creating a sustainable waste management system in Vancouver.


What are your thoughts on the composting program? We love it!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

611 E. Hastings

Word has been circulating on the streets.

We’ve mentioned it on Twitter.


Someone let the cat out of the bag on Facebook.



Quest’s Hastings store moved!



For months, we have been strategizing and executing tiny details. Just last week, our 346 E. Hastings location shut its doors and, at long last, we opened at 611 E. Hastings, a mere three blocks from our previous location.

Our new store is part of the retail space in the freshly-built Union Gospel Mission building, located at Hastings and Princess. We are excited for the opportunity to be so closely situated to a venerable institution in the Downtown Eastside.

Quest staff and volunteers were working diligently to stock shelves up until a few minutes before opening this morning. The feeling in the air was one of anticipation.

A few minutes after nine, the front doors were unlocked. As they streamed in and shopped around, customers commented on how bright and open the new space is. Natural light streams in over the produce tables and an orange feature wall lends a mood-lifting splash of colour. The store is already bustling!

Moving is an extremely arduous process, as we learned firsthand. Now that we’re (mostly) settled, we’d like to thank everyone who helped us during this time. Whether it was a large or small contribution, we could not have done it without you!

Let us know your thoughts on the new store if you get a chance to stop by.

Edit: the new space is wheelchair accessible! We are still working on getting a push button for the door, although it is usually open anyway.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Strawberry Season Signals Summer

It may not seem like summer just yet, but here is another post from Quest volunteer Talia that will make it even harder to wait for warmer weather.

As the summer months continue to approach, BC's local berries are becoming more plentiful. Starting last week, local strawberries began to make appearances at local grocers and farmers' markets. While the strawberry season tends to be short, there is absolutely no shortage of recipes to incorporate these delicious and nutrient-rich foods into our diets. British Columbia accounts for one quarter of Canada's strawberry production. This represents over 3 million kg of strawberries every year! Most of the strawberries grown in BC come from the Fraser Valley. Buying local berries is not only economical, it also supports our local farmers. When preserved properly, they can be enjoyed well after the season is over. Here are a couple of recipes to get your berry juices flowing:

Strawberry Summer Cake (Courtesy of Smitten Kitchen)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for pie plate
1 1/2 cups (188 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 cup (200 grams) plus 2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup (118 ml) milk
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 pound (450 grams) strawberries, hulled and halved

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 10-inch pie pan. Whisk flour or flours, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 1 cup sugar until pale and fluffy with an electric mixer, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg, milk and vanilla until just combined. Add dry mixture gradually, mixing until just smooth.

Pour into prepared pie plate. Arrange strawberries, cut side down, on top of batter, as closely as possible in a single layer (though I had to overlap a few to get them all in). Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries.

Bake cake for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 325°F and bake cake until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter, about 50 minutes to 60 minutes. (Gooey strawberries on the tester are a given.) Let cool in pan on a rack.

Frozen Strawberries

Freezing whole strawberries is an excellent and economical way to incorporate local strawberries into your diet year round. Frozen starwberries can be thrawed when needed an incorporated into smoothies, pancakes, baking, etc.

Before freezing, remove the stems and caps. Sort, wash and drain the fruit carefully. Do not soak in water, or the strawberry will lose flavour and nutrients.

Freeze strawberries individually in a single layer on cookie sheets. After completely frozen (about 24h) place into freezer containers or flexible freezer bags.

Strawberry Freezer Jam

Freezer jam is an excellent way to have strawberries all year round. This type of jam can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 weeks and will keep in the freezer for up to 1 year.

2 cups prepared fruit (buy about 1 qt. fully ripe strawberries)
4 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl
1 pouch CERTO Fruit Pectin
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Rinse clean plastic containers and lids with boiling water. Dry thoroughly.
STEM and crush strawberries thoroughly, one layer at a time. Measure exactly 2 cups prepared fruit into large bowl. Stir in sugar. Let stand 10 min., stirring occasionally.

Mix pectin and lemon juice in small bowl. Add to strawberry mixture; stir 3 min. or until sugar is dissolved and no longer grainy. (A few sugar crystals may remain.)

Fill all containers immediately to within 1/2 inch of tops. Wipe off top edges of containers; immediately cover with lids. Let stand at room temperature 24 hours. Jam is now ready to use. Refrigerate up to 3 weeks or freeze up to 1 year. Thaw in refrigerator.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Quest x Vancouver Farmers Markets

The folks at Vancouver Farmers Markets offer a great initiative for community organizations whose mandates pertain to food systems: Community Tables. These tables are booths just like the other vendors have, but no food is for sale. In true Farmers Market tradition though, there are still conversations started and information shared. Quest Food Exchange will have educational outreach booths at four markets this summer.

I worked the first Community Table at Trout Lake on June 11th. The Trout Lake location sees up to 5,000 people each Saturday! Everyone I spoke to (a fraction of the 5,000) was very interested in what Quest does and many wanted to know how they could help. I was happy to have these intrigued minds willing to listen to me wax poetic about Quest.

I personally enjoyed this opportunity to interact with people at the Farmers Market. I find that those shopping at the markets are generally inclined to care about food security, whether or not they know much about it at first.

There is always the continued struggle regarding ways to engage those who are not interested in food security. I believe it is important to talk to as many people as possible, and hope that they spread the word to friends who have yet to learn about how relevant this topic really is.

This outreach is not necessarily about Quest, but about being a part of the community. My goal is to make people think twice about their relationship with the food they eat. The more people who are informed, the better chance we have to make changes to our current food system.

Other Farmers Markets dates I will be at are the following:

June 22 at Main Street Market (3-7pm)
June 26 at Kits Market (10am-2pm)
July 2 at West End Market (10am-2pm)

If you can make it down to one of these markets, be sure to say hello. I’d love to meet you!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Gluten-Free Banana Bread Recipe

This post comes from a new volunteer at Quest, Kathleen. Kathleen is learning how to accommodate her gluten intolerance, and has showed some interest in posting recipes that are gluten-free. Without further ado, here is her first recipe!

Hearty and Healthy Banana Bread

This is a great way to use up leftover or overripe bananas. Instead of letting brown bananas to waste I freeze them and then thaw them when I have time to make this healthy and delicious snack or breakfast food. Made from gluten-free whole grain flour mix, this loaf will surprise you as I have been told by non-Celiacs it is even better than the normal wheat flour recipes. It is high in potassium, vitamin B, lower in fat, and the brown rice flour and banana make it a decent source of soluble fibre to jump start your day. This can help normalize movement through the digestive tract and reduce IBS symptoms. And lastly I recently discovered that for anyone suffering from depression or low mood, bananas contain tryptophan, which is an amino acid that can be converted to serotonin, which then can lead to improved mood. So enjoy!

Yield: 12 muffins or 2 small loafs

2 cups GF Flour Mix* (see below for detailed ingredients or use premixed flour that has been appearing at Quest Food lately for only a dollar a box)

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 packed cup very ripe chopped banana (about 2 medium bananas)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

2 large eggs

1/2 cup milk (recommend low fat or for those with dairy restrictions try almond/soy milk )

1/2 cup canola oil

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Position rack in center of oven. Grease muffin pan with cooking spray.

2. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt, and cinnamon in large mixing bowl.

3. Add bananas and walnuts; stir to coat evenly.

4. Combine milk and oil in small bowl; remove 1 tablespoon of combined liquid and discard it. Beat in eggs. Add liquids to banana mixture and stir until just blended.

5. Pour into loaf pans or fill muffin pans until 2/3 full.

6. Bake 45-50 minutes for loaf or 18-25 minutes for muffins (They should be golden brown on top). Remove from pan and serve immediately or cool on a rack.

7. Optional extras - I love to add brown sugar and cinnamon to the top before baking, and as a special treat, try mixing in chocolate chips/or chopped chocolate or nuts.


*GF Flour Mix (or use premix of gluten free flour boxed available at Quest)

2 cups brown rice flour

2/3 cup potato starch

1/3 cup tapioca starch


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Spot Prawns: A Sustainable Local Delicacy

A post from Quest volunteer, Talia, on her introduction to BC spot prawns.

This week, I had my first spot prawn experience. In the past few years, I had stopped eating shrimp as I had learned that the international shrimping industry was wreaking havoc on the environment. Spot prawns are native to BC waters and are wild (rather than farmed), sustainable, and less vulnerable to fishing pressures than other types of seafood. Sixty percent of the prawns we consume in North America are pond-raised in Asia and Latin America by an industry that is clear-cutting mangrove forests and causing poverty for coastal dwellers.

In the early 1980's coastal farmers in countries such as Thailand (now the world's largest producer of pond raised shrimp) learned of the profit to be made in the shrimping industry. Rice farmers began to convert their coastal farm properties into shrimp ponds, clearing the mangrove forests which once surrounded these lands. Mangroves are rich ecosystems which support many species of fish. It is estimated that up to 90% of commercial seafood species which live in tropical waters spend some part of their lives in the mangroves. Mangroves have also been credited with protecting against coastline erosion and flooding. Since the 1980's, is has been estimated that 35% of the world's mangrove forests have been lost. Up to a third of this loss is attributed to the shrimping industry.

In addition to its impact on mangrove forests, the shrimping industry has other harmful environmental consequences. The waste water from farmed shrimp ponds contains large amounts of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and antibiotics which have negative effects when dumped into the environment. Typical shrimp farms can only be used for a few years. Once abandoned, the farm lands can no longer be used due to high levels of acid and toxic chemicals in the soil. One study suggested that it could take up to 30 years to rehabilitate abandoned shrimp farm lands from the environmental devastation they have caused. Many have suggested that mangrove ecosystems would assist in the rehabilitation of these lands. However, many of these forests have also been destroyed.

While the international shrimping industry proved lucrative for thousands of farmers, the short life span of shrimp ponds seriously impacted small-scale coastal farmers who could not afford to obtain more land once what they had was rendered unusable. Thailand's east coast is now baron land left with nothing but toxic ponds and contaminated water.

The shrimping industry in North America has its own set of problems, even when it comes to catching wild shrimp. The trawler method used to catch shrimp in the wild is estimated to result in the death of one to 20 pounds of fish for every pound of shrimp caught. In addition, trawlers have been linked to the death of thousands of sea turtles a year. New regulations have led to changes in trawling methods. These changes have reduced the number of sea turtles and other large sea creatures caught by the trawls, however, smaller fish continue to be negatively impacted by these shrimping methods.

I have recently learned, however, that not only are spot prawns local to the Vancouver area, but they are fast-growing, short lived, and have a high reproductive capacity, making them less vulnerable to fishing pressures. Spot prawn fisherman use baited nets so the amount of other species caught or affected is relatively low. A number of regulations have also been put in place to ensure the health and sustainability of the spot prawn population. These include limits on licenses, single haul per day limitations, and regulations to ensure that other species are not negatively affected in spot prawn traps.

Spot prawn season begins in May and only lasts for approximately 80 days. For more information on local and sustainable spot prawns as well as other seafood, visit the SeaChoice website at http://www.seachoice.org/page/bcspotprawns. SeaChoice is a watchdog organization concerned with the health and sustainability of our fisheries and oceans.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Good Things Are Growing at Windermere Secondary

This week, Quest volunteer, Talia, and I took a little trip to Windermere Secondary School in East Vancouver. I had heard amazing things about their gardening and farming project, and wanted to check it out firsthand. Two students there, Brendan and Cassandra, were kind enough to give us a tour of their facility.

I’m not sure what your high school courtyard was like, but mine certainly did not look like this.

Brendan and Cassandra said that this garden was originally a student initiative started in 2007. A few years ago, a grant request was submitted for the composter, and it went from there. Only three schools in the Lower Mainland were recipients of the grant. The composter aerates the organic material by turning it and heating it, thus speeding up the decomposition. The students use the soil for their own planter beds and will give some away to farms in the area if they have extra.

One of the first things I noticed was that the garden housed a small hive of mason bees (whose importance was outlined in our last post) and lots of flowers to try to attract more to the area.

The garden included several cedar planter beds filled with various vegetables, including kale and lettuce. There were also quite a few garlic plants, which the students will dry later for their use.

Not far away stood a greenhouse built entirely by Windermere students. The greenhouse had an aquaponics system, which is a combination of hydroponics and aquaculture. Aquaponics “combines the two practices to form a co-dependent farming ecosystem that capitalizes on the benefits of aquaculture and hydroponics and minimizes the negative effects of each”. In this section, the students are growing lemon cucumber and lettuce. The fish in their system are currently goldfish, but Cassandra mentioned the students were looking to get tilapia eventually. Talia and I were amazed that these plants were thriving with no soil in the beds, only gravel. The students also had a fair-sized citrus tree, which had been grafted five times. It now bears five different types of fruit, including limes and tangerines. Last but not least, Brendan and Cassandra pointed out a beautiful gardenia plant, which is their teacher’s personal project.

The students spend on average about 5 hours per week in the garden, watering and tending to the plants. More time is required for replanting.

All of the food that is grown in the garden is used in Windermere’s school cafeteria. This allows the students to see the full cycle of food production: from garden to plate. Quest may even be able to benefit from some of the extra produce this year!

Thanks for the tour Brendan and Cassandra!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bee-ware a decline in the pollinator population

Recent declines in bee populations are beginning to bring about more awareness regarding the importance of bees to our food system. While most people think of honey production when they think of bees, the critical role they play in the pollination of many of the foods we consume often goes unnoticed. It has been estimated that 1/3 of the human food supply is dependent on insect pollination. The role of bees is important in ensuring that our food systems are healthy and stable. It is estimated that the total value of bees to Canadian agriculture is over $1 billion per year.

Farmers rely on bees to pollinate thousands of crops: strawberries, melons, cucumbers, apples, cherries, and tomatoes, just to name a few. The degree to which a crop is pollinated determines its yield. Materials used post-pollination, such as fertilizers and pesticides, are designed to protect and preserve a crop, not increase the amount produced. To increase crop yields, some farmers enlist commercial beekeepers to bring mobile hives to their farms, as they cannot rely on wild and feral bees to complete such a large task. In order to pollinate California's 420,000 acres of almond trees, for instance, farmers require up to 1 million colonies of bees. Without bee pollination, the availability of thousands of crops would sharply decline.

There are over 1000 types of bees in Canada alone. The honey bee is the most important, since it is an equal opportunity pollinator, and will pollinate more plants than other specific types of bees which may gravitate toward only some plants.

The phenomenon of dying honey bees has been dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Although colony decline is expected during winter months, declines within the past 5 years have been unusally high. Some beekeepers report a loss of 30-90% of their colonies. Many theories have been generated as to why this is. Some scientists have suggested that mites and other hive pests are partially responsible, which others speculate that the use of pesticides and chemicals have something to do with it. It could be a culmination of a number of environmental and chemial stresses that has caused this widespread die-off.

There are simple things we can do in our own backyard to help rejuvenate the bee population:



  • Keeping a garden is a simple way to start. Planting an array of wild flowers native to your local environment provides a rich and diverse supply of pollen and nectar.

  • Reducing the use of pesticides and insecticides can also help to ensure the health and safety of bees.

  • Learning more about bees can be an invaluable contribution to their wellbeing. Learning where they live, what they eat, and how they behave can help all of us to understand and save our local bee populations.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thoughts on Change Through: Food Systems

This week, I had the pleasure of attending a fantastic discussion put on by the organizers of Change Through ______. The topic of the day was Food Systems. In Vancouver, there are many passionate people who gather to discuss local issues, and this was a good representation.

The format was not completely lecture-style, but instead welcomed much more participation from the audience, and opened the floor to anyone who wanted to contribute.

There were three speakers and a moderator to get the ball rolling on the topic. Anthony Nicalo (@foodtree), chef and entrepreneur, asked questions of Arzeena Hamir (@arzeena) with Richmond Food Security Society, Herb Barbolet, food activist and author, and Mijune Pak (@followmefoodie), author of the blog Follow Me Foodie.

Here are some of the notes that I took away from this event:

Most of the work done in this world is still related to feeding ourselves in some manner. However, we are still so detached to the process by which we get this food and how it is made. Many people do not participate in the system other than as consumers. This is due to the globalization, corporatization, and consolidation of resources to just a few suppliers.

Food is a commonality between every single person. We all need it to survive and it should act as a binder to bring people together.

Change to food systems is already taking place on a neighbourhood scale, with people who have shown an interest. How do we reach those who are not attending events like Change Through _______? There is very little representation of minority and low-income communities with food system/policy dialogue.

A question was brought up: should we continue to eat food not grown in BC/Canada and how does it affect those who have immigrated here? For example, should rice be made unavailable to Asian Canadian or Indo-Canadian families? How will this change their culture? On the flip side, why are we not open to learning more about other systems used around the world, which have been around longer and are more sustainable than our own? Perhaps we should take advice from other cultures instead of making new Canadians assimilate to our way of life.

It is not a problem of not making enough food, just that we export much of it. For example, quinoa, a nutrient-dense grain/seed, has become a hot commodity in North America as of late. Those producing it in South America (mainly Peru and Bolivia) are earning money by exporting it, but they also lose the chance to use the food to feed their own people. To put it a bit closer to home, we learned that many people who use food banks in Canada are farmers in the prairie provinces. The producers of our food are not even able to enjoy the fruits of their labour (pun intended).

The conversation then turned to the language of food. It is a loaded topic; morality and judgment are inherent in it. Without even realizing it, one might place judgment on a fellow shopper’s items in the checkout line at the grocery store. A change in policy goes along with a change in our perception of the subject, and language is a big part of that.

In that vein, there is a group working on changing Vancouver’s policies surrounding food. They are very aptly named Vancouver Food Policy Council. Check out their website for more details.

If anyone else attended this event or something similar, please feel free to add your comments.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Volunteer Entry: Talia Starts at Quest

We're excited to welcome our newest office volunteer, Talia, to the Quest team. Talia has quite a bit of experience with food security and will contribute her knowledge to our fundraising and outreach efforts.

My name is Talia and I recently started volunteering with Quest Food Exchange. As a newcomer to Vancouver, I was very excited to find an organization that was so passionate about ensuring that all people, regardless of income, were able to access fresh and healthy food at an affordable cost. My previous work in Ontario focused largely on issues of food security and I am so pleased to be able to continue with this work in a new city.

In my previous job, I worked for a local poverty reduction strategy which attempts to ensure the social and economic well-being for all residents in the area. Most of the concerns I heard from local residents had to do with access to affordable food. Many of them utilized services like food banks, and were frustrated with the lack of choice and limited amount of nutrition in the items they found there.

Out of the important concerns, residents began to bring forward innovative ideas to address many of the food security issues faced by those with lived experience of poverty. Some residents advocated for more community gardens, while others pushed for increased access to local farmer's markets for people living on a low income. Many of the people we worked with strongly advocated for a $100 healthy food supplement for those in receipt of social assistance. These extra funds would allow for increased access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and protein. The ability to purchase nutritious items and live a healthier lifestyle is a critical step in ensuring the well-being of citizens.

Coming to a new city, I was thrilled to see that the passion for food security issues extends clear across the country. I am so excited to have the opportunity to share some of my experiences and volunteer with an organization like Quest.

Thanks Talia! We look forward to collaborating with you. Keep an eye out for more posts from Talia in the future.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Building Community through 'Third Places'


Much of the activity in cities occurs in its various public and private spaces. How this space is organized is a means by which our interactions can be choreographed and encouraged.

One space that is important to citizen wellbeing is called the third place. Not the home and not the workplace, a third place is somewhere that promotes conversations and encounters with friends and neighbours, often with some sort of shared connection. The feeling evoked is a sense of belonging. This could be a café, a pub, a park, or a library. Imagine what Vancouver would be like without our beaches, Stanley Park, or the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Ray Oldenburg, author of the book “The Great Good Place”, calls these spaces essential to community and public life. He argues that third places are “central to local democracy and community vitality”. He adds that though they are radically different from a home-like setting, the third place is “remarkably similar to a good home in the psychological comfort and support that it extends”.

At Quest, part of our mandate is to build community. We have relationships with many social service agencies in Vancouver, and provide volunteer and work placement programs for those in the neighbourhood. We also operate several of our very own ‘third places’: our three low-cost grocery stores. Food can be an item that evokes a shared connection. It is a basic necessity of life and has the incredible ability to bring together people. Food can become a powerful relationship builder with family members, friends, and even strangers.

Our stores provide a welcoming environment from people of all walks to life to shop for the food they need to fuel their bodies. Most importantly, we provide a variety of options for people to choose from. We believe that income level should not prevent people from having access to healthy, nutritious food on a regular basis.

We can thank our friendly staff, helpful volunteers, and wonderful clients for creating this environment in our stores.

What’s your favourite third place?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Welcome, Marilyn!


Quest would like to take this opportunity to introduce and welcome our newest board member, Marilyn Bergen, the Operations Leader at British Canadian Importers.

Marilyn brings with her 15 years of experience in varying aspects of food service distribution. In her time with Gordon Food Service (GFS), she moved from the purchasing department to national brand development, and eventually to the position of Director of Marketing and Procurement. Her work at GFS took her to several different cities around North America, but she eventually found her way back to Vancouver.

She even has a connection to a piece of Vancouver history: she worked for one of the original Woodward’s department stores for 12 years before they closed their doors in 2001.

Marilyn has three children. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, gardening, and spending time with her new granddaughter.

Marilyn will contribute her commitment, compassion, leadership, and vast work experience to the Board of Directors.

We look forward to collaborating with her on Quest business in the future.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Daily Shop



Here's another installment of "What did Amy buy with her $13 volunteer voucher today?"
  • 4 hefty celery bunches
  • 8 green bell peppers
  • An enormous bag of baby carrots
  • 3 yellow zucchini
  • A box of hummus
  • A package of sfogliatine, a tasty Italian puff pastry
  • A loaf of raisin-cinnamon swirl bread
  • A loaf of Irish soda bread
  • A bottle of ranch dressing

To note, all of these items actually fell a bit short of $13. My rabbits will be pleased with all of the vegetables I was able to secure for them, but since I also discovered some ranch dressing, I figure they won't mind if I borrow some celery, carrots, and green bell peppers for some healthy snacking this week. The hummus would definitely go well with the above, too.

Other items in-store today which I could have easily picked up instead included some nutrient-rich fennel, lots of honey mandarin oranges and baby Brussels sprouts, bags of bread flour, bananas, many packages of medium-smooth tofu, huge bags of spinach and iceberg lettuce, and a delicious-looking trifle dessert (which I did my best to stay away from, hence, the sfogliatine).

Don't know what to do with some of the produce you can find in-store? Here are a few recipe ideas:

Friday, February 18, 2011

Comfort Food Recipes


Aromatic Veggie Chowder

Ingredients

2 tbsp Cooking oil
1 litre Sweet corn soup
1 Small head of cauliflower
1 Small head of cabbage
1/2 Red onion or fresh fennel
1 Medium white onion
2 tbsp Tarragon
4 cloves of Chopped garlic
3 tbsp Hummus mix
1 Bay leaf
1/4 tsp Caraway seed
1/4 tsp Cumin
1 Lime, juiced
Salt and pepper to taste

(Serves 3-4 adults as a meal)

Method

1. Core and chop cauliflower and cabbage
2. Dice onions and garlic
3. Saute above ingredients until slightly browned
4. Add cumin, salt, sage, and caraway
5. Reduce heat and add corn soup, bay leaf, tarragon and pepper. Simmer for 1/2 hour with the lid on
6. Add hummus mix and be sure to mix well
7. Add lime juice and simmer for 5 minutes
8. Serve!

///

Beet Soup

Ingredients

1 litre Veggie stock
2 tbsp Cooking oil
6 Medium beets
1 Small head of cabbage
1 Medium onion
2 tbsp Dill
4 cloves of Chopped garlic
1 head of Chopped fresh fennel
1/2 tsp Salt and pepper

Method

1. Heat oil on medium heat
2. Peel and chop beets into half-inch pieces
3. Chop onions, cabbage, garlic, and fennel
4. Saute all vegetables
5. Reduce heat -- then add stock, salt, pepper
6. Simmer till beets are cooked
7. Add dill, and let stand for 5 minutes
8. Serve!

Other Notes

*Add sour cream if desired

Another Shopping Experience at Quest


Ever the delightful surprise when I do my volunteer voucher-shopping at Quest, last week I was able to pick out the following: a round of fresh Italian focaccia bread (can't wait to have it for dinner with a balsamic vinegar and olive oil dip); 2 generously-sized mangoes; 2 lovely celery bunches; seaweed ramen noodles; a bag each of chicken skewers and barbeque chicken wings; a Polish sausage roll; a bottle of ketchup; sour cream and onion rice chips as well as cheese pizza chips; cheddar cheese snack crackers; a carton of beef broth; and because breakfast hadn't quite filled me up, a passionfruit soda and a bag of apple-cream danishes for lunch.

When I did my shopping earlier in the week (I volunteer twice a week), items such as green peppers, carrots, bok choy, and bananas filled my shopping bag and provided me with a number of healthy lunches and dinners. Although I ended up with fewer produce items today, I feel there's absolutely no reason I can't enjoy a nice and nutritious dinner of chicken and whole wheat pasta (which I always have on hand) with focaccia bread to start. Yum.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Shopping Experience at Quest


As a recent recruit to the Quest volunteer team, I feel constantly both thrilled and fortunate to be able to spend a $13 voucher in exchange for working a 4 hour shift. Shortly after taking photos of the day's produce at our 2020 Dundas Street location, I typically do my shopping. Today I was able to pick up the following with my total falling just short of $13: a French baguette, naan bread, and a package of 6 pizza shells; a package of rice crackers that I know for a fact are 3 times the price at my local grocery store; an head of cabbage; 5 bunches of dandelion greens which my rabbits will enjoy thoroughly; 2 hefty and healthy-looking celery bunches; some crispy kale; a bottle of marinated herbed garlic cloves; packages of firm and medium tofu; and 2 bottles of mango fruit smoothie.

Needless to say, I can deal with the ever-changing in-store supply - for instance, last week I was able to find some great cherry tomatoes, a 4 litre jug of milk, and Greek yogurt, items which I'd never seen in stock before - especially when my voucher allows me to feel much more comfortable about my own food situation and security, granting me that piece of mind which not surprisingly often comes with real and good food.

Amy Tran,
Quest Volunteer

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Cam and Gardein

It was great meeting the staff from Garden Protein International, GPI, at our 2020 Dundas Street location on Friday January 29, 2011. They are very nice folks who really care about helping others. I’m glad they got a chance to work with their own products and to hear some feedback about how their products are helping people here at Quest.

During their time here I was able to explain how the Gardein products benefit Quest’s members. For example, I have often spoken with Quest members about the nutritional value of the Gardein brand protein burgers and how they are a lower cost, protein rich alternative to feed to their children. Many of these members were not aware of the product or the advantages to its use.

I was so impressed with the Garden Protein International staffs’ enthusiasm for their products and for helping Quest members and staff understand their products. I look forward to the ongoing positive relationship between Garden Protein International and Quest Food Exchange.

Cameron Imayoshi
Store Manager 2020/346
Quest Food Exchange

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Gardein Protein International Employees Experience “Goodness Growing” at Quest

Several employees from Vancouver’s Gardein Protein International, makers of Gardein, had an opportunity to volunteer at Quest Food Exchange on Friday, January 28.

Here’s what they had to say about the experience:

“Volunteering at Quest was a great experience for all of us—especially me,” says Pamela Singh, logistics and warehouse administrator at Garden Protein International. “Working within Garden Protein’s logistics department, I assist with the regular pickups of our donated foods and see first-hand the local organizations we help in our community.”

“Having the opportunity to volunteer onsite at Quest was so inspiring. All of our volunteers witnessed how our foods benefit local citizens and experienced the hard work and effort that goes into ensuring people have access to quality food including meatless options from Gardein,” adds Pam.


At Garden Protein, we are committed to helping our community on many levels, including food donations and volunteering at organizations that truly make a difference in our community.

Our company “THANKS” all the members at Quest Outreach Society for their continued support and all the goodness they provide to the local Vancouver community.

Together, we’ll keep “goodness growing!”

The Psychology of Quest: A Shopping Experiment

As the food security project is beginning to get underway, trying to convince almost 400 social service agencies that it would be easy, healthy, very cost-effective and just plain smart for them and their clients to use Quest’s food programs, I thought I should really begin to see, and feel, how the programs work for myself. So, faced with the challenge of buying groceries for ourselves for a two week period with only $50 each, my co-intern, John-Michael, and I headed to the Quest low-cost grocery store to see if we could each honestly pass this test.

I have to admit that I had a few doubts quietly resting in the back of my mind as we walked through the door. I am a salmon eating vegan with a soy allergy and to top it off I’m a bit of an obsessed label reader; I’m always making sure that I am getting enough fibre, iron and protein without getting too much saturated fat or sugar. I am a sincere pain. However, once I began the shop-a-thon I realized that even I, with my confusing, picky and contradictory diet, could buy just about everything I buy in my regular weekly shop at a big grocery store chain. Here is what I achieved:


 3 lbs of salmon for $8.55
 8 pears $1.65
 8 apples $0.60
 5 tomatoes $1.18
 1 onion $.25
 1 large squash $1.40
 2 heads of cauliflower (I love it!) $1.20
 1 head of cabbage $.60
 1 head of lettuce $.60
 1 yellow pepper $.35
 2 containers of hummus $3
 Happy Planet juice (946 ml) $.75
 1 litre vegetable soup broth $.50
 Mustard (250ml) $.60
 Case (12) of 1 litre containers of organic sweet potato soup (deal of the day!) $4
 Porridge oats $1.75
 Bran Flakes cereal $2.10
 Oatmeal muffin mix $1
 Gypsy Love tea $1

 Seven grain bread $.80

…and the grand total is…. $30.88

Unbelievable! I could easily buy what I normally buy for about 80% cheaper! My resting doubts have definitely been ousted and absolute support and confidence in Quest’s programs have taken their place. Not only is the food inexpensive, but I felt happy during the experience and had a few laughs with other shoppers along the way too. If I can shop at the low-cost grocery store and find everything I need then everybody can.
Until next time!

Julie Petrynko
Marketing Representative Intern
Quest Food Exchange
julie_quest@hotmail.ca
Reducing Hunger with Dignity, Building Community, Saving the Environment.


We are indeed much more than what we eat, but what we eat
can nevertheless help us to be much more than what we are.

-Adelle Davis (born February 25, 1904, was an American author and pioneer
nutritionist. She advocated whole unprocessed foods, criticized food additives, and claimed that dietary supplements and other nutrients play a dominant role in maintaining health, preventing disease, and restoring health after the onset of disease (wikipedia.org/wiki/Adelle_Davis).

Friday, January 28, 2011

Quest Partners with Gardein!


Garden Protein International, Inc. (GPI) produces an award-winning line of tasty and healthy plant-based foods with a ‘meaty’ texture marketed as gardein™. These meat-free and dairy-free foods are sold throughout the United States and Canada in the produce cooler and freezer sections at more than 10,000 grocery stores. GPI also provides a line of meatless foods for universities and food service organizations across North America.

The Vancouver-based company was founded in 2003 by Yves Potvin, a chef and innovator behind the first convenient health food – the veggie dog, and is a strong supporter of local charities. In 2010, GPI provided more than 180,000 meals to less fortunate members of the community through donations to agencies like Quest Food Exchange. GPI and its employees are honoured to work with Quest to help feed local residents with quality foods and are working together to reduce hunger. For more information, please visit www.gardein.com.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Gardein-ing!

As an environmentally conscious citizen of Vancouver I am overjoyed to find Gardein products available for sale at Quest Food Exchange. While we are increasing our demands on the planet’s resources it is great to see socially responsible organizations like Quest and Garden Protein International, Gardein products manufacturer, collaborating to bring healthy vegetarian foods to those less fortunate. I never expected to be in economic hardship; however, since I am currently unemployed and under financial duress I feel blessed to have Quest offering the Gardein products in their stores.

The Gardein products are a delicious meatless, dairy free, vegan protein source which I have been regularly using for a long time. I am impressed with the variety of their product line and I love their convenience. Gardein products allow me to eat healthy while saving me “meal preparation time” that I can then use to focus on job hunting and learning new skills which I hope will help me to find a job in the near future. Whatever the future holds, I am grateful to Quest and Garden Products International for making this vegetarian protein available to those of us who are less fortunate. May your continued partnership be an example to those us in need that there is hope for a better future.

Sincerely,

Ann Marie

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Having fully cooked meals on hand is an asset to anyone. The catch is making time to cook. Often I find it beneficial to make a large meal and freeze the leftovers into individual portions.

This week at Quest, I came across some tasty and versatile wraps. Initially, I planned to freeze them and use them on a later date. Once I did my shopping, I realized I had more than enough for a mid-week cooking session! For me, food preparation is a labour of love. I am truly in my element when I’m in the kitchen.

I proceeded to make three different wrap combinations. First up was Mexican style. Ingredients included refried beans, red peppers, mushrooms, onions and rice. Next, I made a huge pot of chicken curry with cauliflower, various vegetables, and coconut milk. Panic whacked me when I realized that it had the consistency of soup which, of course, is not suitable for a flat bread wrap. I rummaged through the pantry, assessing different ways to thicken the sauce. I eventually decided to try using the dried hummus package I previously purchased at Quest. This was so much better than using flour or cornstarch to thicken, and it added flavour, fibre, and protein. I was very pleased with the result. Lastly, I whipped up some breakfast wraps. I used ham (from Quest), eggs, home made hash browns, and salsa that I had frozen last week. Only one ingredient for this project was purchased outside of Quest. My yield was 18 wraps and now I have healthy and handy lunches for the rest of the week.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Muffin Madness

Muffin Madness!

This weekend my nephew came for his inaugural sleep over at Auntie Starla's house.
Unfortunately, my current budget doesn't allow much for extra curricular activities, so we decided to fins some fun things to do indoors. My newphew and I both share a love of food, so thanks to Quest enabling me to fill my cupboards, I was able to pull together some fun cooking projects for us.We were lucky to be joined by fellow adventurous cook and "Questie," Draya.

Muffins are one of those foods that hold endless possibilities and flavour combinations. I hauled out anything and everything that could possibly be used as a muffin ingredient and placed it on my kitchen table. My nephew was perplexed by the amount of white containers I had stacked around us, all from Quest, of course. The most effective use of Quest is to buy what is in the store even if you don't need it right away. A full pantry always comes in handy!

We made three different types of muffins, which Draya photograped for Quest's blog. Keep in mind that all of my ingredients, with the exception of three eggs, came from Quest.

Each of us chose a different combination for one batch. I went somewhat traditional with chocolate chunk zucchini. My nephew chose to go with white chocolate, walnuts, and dried cranberries infused with orange. Draya and I used our collective brains to come up with walnut, currents and a touch of Eggnog flavoured coffee syrup. Our yeild was 30 muffins.

Once the muffins were cooling on my windowsill, Draya and I used the remaining white and dark chocolate to make nut and fruit truffles. Not only did this leave us with no waste but we got an extra little treat. I sent my nephew home with his muffins to share with the household. I hope everyone enjoyed eating them as much as I did making them.

Introducing Julie, Marketing Representative Intern!

The Psychology of Quest

Sometimes you walk into a new place and know instantly that this is a place where good things happen; this is a place inhabited by respect, cooperation and vision. The first time I stepped through the doors at Quest, I knew this.

My name is Julie and I am so excited to begin working with Quest! I am a counselling psychology grad student at Adler School of Professional Psychology doing a part-time practicum placement at Quest for the next six months.

I feel so fortunate to be working with Quest, especially since we share the same passion and values. I strongly believe that protecting and building a sense of self-empowerment is vital for all of us to be the best we can be for ourselves and loved ones. Plus, as a bit of a health nut, I also believe that a nourishing diet and having choice over our own fuel is the basis of an energized and focused way of living life. Empowerment, respect, energy, choice and a sense of community all existing in one organization; what more could a practicum student ask for?

I will be spending the bulk of my time working on one specific project. This food security project will entail connecting with many social service agencies in Vancouver that could potentially be utilizing programs that Quest offers, such as the bulk ordering program and the stores. In addition to gathering data about the agencies, the core idea is to inform and familiarize these agencies with Quest so that they realize how beneficial it would be for them to use Quest as their main food supplier. If these hardworking agencies can save time and money on feeding their clients, then they will have more resources to put towards fulfilling their own mandates. It sounds too good to be true, but it isn’t…everybody wins!

I will be blogging regularly and keeping everyone on the edge of their seat, waiting to hear about the sure-to-be ground breaking discoveries and progress that will be made. I will also be doing a bit of research on food security programs from a psychological perspective and will be posting any interesting tidbits of information I uncover there.

Thanks for reading!

Julie