Earlier this month I was asked to represent the East Side Table group for a potential funding opportunity that may expand the program's efforts in the years following our pilot (funding for the first 18 months is available but learning from our findings and implementing them on a larger scale or through another pilot are options we've discussed). Reflecting on my own experiences and discussing all the work we've accomplished recently was a wonderful opportunity to stand back and appreciate all that has been, and will soon be happening here on the east side of Saint Paul. Since the new year, our East Side Table (EST) working group has spent the winter preparing for the roll out of the Meal Kit & food education pilot with objectives I wanted to share here:
- Provide input and collaboration between organizational members to hire a EST Coordinator, including the interview process.
- Work alongside University of Minnesota business students to brainstorm and finesse our target market and a business plan for the meal kit pilot.
- Assess Local Crate as a provider with the potential to reduce the logistical weight of said program and allow deeper effort in community engagement, education and impact measurement.
- Contribute culturally appropriate recipes and ensure dietary relevance of recipes with Local Crate.
- Create a shared resource calendar of events held by EST Members and other Community Groups - emphasizing the importance of meeting community members where they are and using events as pilots within a pilot to test appropriateness of recipes and delivery logistics.
- Plan events to start March 21st and actively determine more events and partners for community events. The Meal Kit program is slated to run for ten weeks and will begin in late August - at the peak of local produce season.
- Work together to identify themes and a cohesive marketing vision for the EST including key wording, colors, iconography, logos as well as brainstorm potential providers of design and website - ideally, local residents/businesses.
This past Tuesday, the first community cooking class and tasting of recipes was introduced. Youth participants for the urban gardening and conservation nonprofit Urban Roots, along with their families and representatives from the project, prepared Thai Beef with Basil & Brown Rice and Moroccan Lemon Chicken with Kale & Couscous. I’m excited to hear feedback at our next meeting in April, and for all the upcoming events planned throughout this spring and summer. Also exciting for me is the opportunity to learn what works and what doesn’t. I’m thankful to Diane Tran and the rest of the HealthEast team who have advocated for the foundation board to provide funding for these pilot programs and hope to see a similar investment from other health care system foundations across the U.S. (Please share any you have had experiences with as well!)
Expect another update mid-summer as we finalize our meal kits and participate in community events!