Fantastic Freestore Lunch!

I'm a big fan of the Freestore Foodbank in OTR - obviously they do amazing work - but I never knew HOW MUCH amazing work they do!

A couple of weeks ago they held a contest asking folks to submit recipes that make up meals for one person for one day for less than $4.50. After a little Twitter banter back-and-forth I decided I had to enter!

My recipes weren't that original - egg & toast for breakfast, salad with chicken breast for lunch and a shepherd's pie for dinner - but I won!

So what did I win? I won lunch provided by their Cincinnati Cooks group and a Cincinnati Cooks apron! For lunch I was allowed to bring friends so I grabbed a coworker and Twitricia who is a Food Hussy reader and friend!

First we got a tour of the facilities and wow - we learned a lot! They used to be in an old building by Taft High School and this site was something else entirely. The owner of the building on this space donated the building and the new facility was built for Freestore Foodbank with Cincinnati Cooks in mind.

The kitchen is state-of-the-art and has all the accouterments to make meals for hundreds! The Cincinnati Cooks program is a 10-week program that costs nothing to the participants and trains them for work in the food industry. The program costs about $4500 per student but is paid for by donations and grants. It's targeted towards low-income and people re-entering the work force that may have had road blocks in their way from getting employment.

While in the kitchen we learned we were on Day 4 of the new class - but they have new classes start every 5 weeks so the new guys get the benefit of the pros. Also - there are numerous former students that have come back to help out and teach all the new participants.

Cincinnati Cooks has a 78% graduation rate and I hear the graduation ceremonies are very emotional! The program is like a job to the participants - if they're late - they could lose their job - so they all take it very seriously.

There are also partnerships at every corner - we spotted P&G in the building. They're providing the sanitation products which also teaches the students about the proper way to handle food, prep, etc...

Everyday these folks cook up hundreds of meals for kids around the Cincinnati area. If you haven't heard of the Kids Cafe - check out their page! There are 19 sites around the area and they provide free hot meals after school to kids who might not get that anywhere else. Hard to imagine going to school and not having eaten - but it happens - it's reality. Where does all the food come from? Cincinnati Cooks makes it all every day! Great work being done for kids - really - the Freestore Foodbank amazed me at every turn. It just kept getting better and we hadn't even eaten our lunch yet! 

Okay - finally - the food! First we got a really huge salad - all the folks that are in the CC program eat there too - so there were quite a few salads ready to go. Good stuff!

Then - as we could smell - it was pizza day! All of the participants get to make "normal" pizzas for the kids but then they also get the opportunity to be creative and make unique pizzas for each other and the visitors.

And here's the thing - did you know you can go to CC and have lunch anytime?! Yeah - if you'd like to help get the word out about CC - call them and set up a day/time to have lunch - they're more than happy to show you around and you get great food.

Just contact my twitter friend AnnaGoBlue - she works there now! It was great putting a face to the tweets...! 

After the grand tour and a million questions - we sat down for some pizza. Anna was preparing us that it was only Day 4 - so some of it might be a bit unusual! The students get excited about having some we were prepared for anything!

One pizza (on the left) had tomato sauce, ricotta, spinach and POTATOES! Not sure who thought to put potatoes on the pizza - but it worked! It was excellent!

The pizza to the right was carmelized onions, ricotta and BUTTERNUT SQUASH! Again - very unique and while I was a fan of the potato pizza - all the girls loved the squash pizza. Every one of them said they were going to try that at home.

Freestore is just an amazing place and I really enjoyed finding out about it. And I can't forget to tell you - Cincinnati Cooks does catering! Every office in town uses a caterer sometime during the year - make sure you let the people in charge know about this service. How much better would it feel to eat your catered box lunch and know that you're helping people change their lives? They do weddings, parties, box lunches, etc... and the food looks fantastic! Take a look at their menu - cuz I'm salivating just thinking about it!

What a fantastic contest to win? I got an apron, pizza and a brainful of knowledge about a fantastic program. Thanks so much to Twitricia, AnnaGoBlue and the Freestore Foodbank!

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