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Better Bites St. Croix hosts first major fundraiser

Better Bites Board Secretary Lori Jurek helps prepare meals Monday night. Better Bites brings food and education to local food shelves. (photos by Rebecca Mariscal)

Better Bites St. Croix is working to put food — and education — on the table.

The organization, which started in Hudson in May of 2015, works with local food shelves to provide not only meals to those in need, but cooking, nutrition and foods safety information as well.

“Everything has an education piece that we put on it,” said Better Bites Founding Director Karyn English.

The organization provides participants with three phases to transition them into cooking, English explained. The first is microwavable meals that expose them to how to cook familiar vegetables and new vegetables and lean meats.

The second phase provides participants with frozen slow cooker meals they cook on their own. This gives them experiences planning meals and seeing ingredients in their raw form. The final stage provides them with a bag of groceries and a recipe.

Each phase lasts three months. The program introduces participants to 20 different vegetables and five lean proteins.

“For people that are living primarily off of their food stamps, that is important for their kids,” English said.

All necessary tools are provided through the program, including slow cookers and other kitchen utensils. The program also provides education on how to use each tool, if necessary.

“One of our big drives is to try to get people to use the services that are out there already by introducing them to these vegetables,” English said.

Initially, Better Bites St. Croix started as an education-focused program. English said the group worked with different partners in the area to host free cooking events and classes. But very few people showed up. The group attempted to solve transportation and childcare problems, but were still struggling to get people to participate.

“There were a variety of reasons but one of them was that people just didn’t think they could cook,” English said. “They thought it was something you were either born with this skill or you weren’t.”

So the group transitioned to providing meals as part of the education.

“Just like a box of cereal, if it’s on someone's kitchen table you’re going to read the back of it,” English said.

The program has seen a lot of success.

“So far what we are seeing is people are cooking more at home. They are eating different vegetables, they are taking more fresh vegetables than frozen vegetables from the food shelf,” English said.

English knows first-hand how important this education can be to change perceptions and nutrition.

“It was only a couple years ago that I was using the Hudson Food Shelf, and talking to people, there’s so many barriers,” she said.

The program also sells these meals as part of a fundraising effort. Other ways people can get involved include volunteering in the kitchen, donating, running food specific drives, and buying gift certificates for the meals.

“We have a lot of people that love what we do and it's just trying to get out there what we need and how people can help us,” English said.

The group will also host its first large fundraising event this Sunday, Nov. 13. The fall celebration will be 6-9 p.m. at the River Falls American Legion and will feature food from Better Bites Culinary Director Paul LaPean and music from The Steve Kenny Quartet. Tickets are $35 a person or $60 per couple. Visit betterbitesscv.org for more information.

As the first major fundraiser, English hopes it will help provide the funding necessary for her favorite part of the program — the success stories.

“It’s really heartwarming to hear that kind of stuff,” she said.

Rebecca Mariscal

Rebecca Mariscal joined the Hudson Star Observer as a reporter in 2016. She graduated from the University of St. Thomas with a degree in communication and journalism. 

(715) 426-1066
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