Tomato basil soup simmered in the crock pot and peanut butter chicken stir-fry sizzled on the electric cooker while Rachel put the finishing touches on her Dining on a Dime cookbook display and food samples in the Lorton Community Action Center (LCAC) Food Pantry. The Food Program Manager and several volunteers hustled around the pantry addressing last minute items before the doors opened at 5:30 p.m. “I’m a little nervous,” said Rachel, “I just hope people will find the cookbook useful.” After 30 minutes of food distribution, the expressions on people’s faces clearly indicated their joy at receiving a complimentary food sample and a free copy of the cookbook, especially since it was in English and Spanish.
The Dining on a Dime project began a year ago when Rachel approached LCAC about conducting her Girl Scout Gold Award Project as a service to LCAC. The Gold Award, the Girl Scout equivalent to the Boy Scout’s Eagle project, must be an original idea and, if the project is associated with a charitable organization, it must be a project that endures beyond the immediate project completion. After discussing her skills and talents with the Food Program Manager, the concept of a cookbook quickly emerged as a viable project.
In preparation for creating the cookbook, Rachel spent time touring the LCAC Food Pantry and talking with the Food Program Manager to understand the realities of cooking on a budget; to learn about food items typically distributed to families, and to appreciate the diversity of people served through the pantry. Then, she hit the grocery store aisles to price food items…and she learned that eating healthy and on a budget is a challenge! “Certain food items that I thought would be a good ingredient for a wide range of recipes turned out to be too high-priced,” said Rachel, “For example, I thought honey would be a great item to use in recipes; however, I learned that it is very expensive.” Rachel collected recipes from family and friends and researched recipes as well as basic nutrition information. After compiling all of her research, she arrived at three criteria to help her prioritize and narrow the list of possible recipes: price, health and ethnic diversity. Rachel also took into account ease of preparation and versatility when selecting the recipes.
The end result is Dining on a Dime, a cookbook containing 23 recipes – in both English and Spanish – with a section on basic nutrition. Inspired by what she saw in the pantry, Rachel included several recipes that utilize peanut butter (who knew?!) as well as a dinner recipe that uses corn flakes! The book is organized by meal of the day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Rachel prepared almost all of the dinner recipes for her family and photographed them to illustrate the cookbook. Each LCAC household will receive a copy of the cookbook and recipes will be highlighted on LCAC’s website. There is no doubt that Rachel’s Gold Award project has, and will continue to provide, a golden service to LCAC and the low-income individuals and families served by this local nonprofit!