Written and Developed by Cathy Collins, Originally published on June 11, 2014.

This past Saturday was a delightful treat for me and quite a few other people in our community. For the first time ever, one of our local pantries decided to open on Saturday afternoons. The impetus was the generous donations from our local farmers and Farmer’s Market vendors and the Veggie Drop volunteers. St. John’s/LUM pantry on the corner of 6th and Ferry in Lafayette gets fresh produce donations on Saturdays. In the past, they’ve held the donations until Monday when the pantry opens. The downfall to this is that much of the fresh produce goes bad and has to be thrown away. The director of the pantry and the generous volunteers made the produce available to the community on Saturday, the day it was dropped off. I was privileged enough to be able to participate in this event.  Oh YUM!  Beautiful fresh shallots, dinosaur kale and other fresh, early summer greens filled the tables at St. John’s. What a beautiful sight. Fresh vegetables are a luxury and I’ll take them when I can get them.

The story appeared in the local news on WLFI Channel 18 News and in the Sunday, June 8, 2014, issue of the Journal and Courier.

I would like to publicly and personally thank all the volunteers for giving up a beautiful Saturday afternoon. There were people there from Food Finders, the director of the St. John’s/LUM pantry and a handful of helpful, kind people helping make sure we got what we needed. Thank you.

As a recipient of these gifts and a person who utilizes our local pantries to survive, I am eternally grateful for the gifts I have received. The business of surviving poverty is a full-time job. I have little time to volunteer at the pantries when they are open. I have to earn a paycheck.

I am an advocate of giving back to the community in whatever way possible. The best way I can give back to my community and repay the generosity of its people is to find creative ways to utilize the food I receive. Even better, I now have the opportunity to share the recipes I have created and found to utilize the food I receive.

One of the hazards of produce is that it almost always needs to be used or put up immediately (canned, frozen, dried or processed in some way to preserve it). In surveying my cupboards and freezer for ingredients I discovered I had the following:

Frozen macaroni noodles (a reclaimed food from one of the Mobile Pantries)

Canned Carrots, green beans and corn (almost always available at many of our pantries)

Canned tomato products (specifically Hunts Fennel and Red Pepper, Hunt’s Rosemary and Oregano and Hunts No Salt Added tomato sauce)

Another 4 lb bag of diced pepperoni (Hooray, more pepperoni pizza muffins and maybe Pantry Pizza Pockets)

A couple of cans of chicken broth (sporadically available from the pantries but always useful when I can get them)

I also have 3 or 4 cups of prepared kidney beans, ones I cooked several weeks ago for just such an occasion.  The pantries typically have a variety of dried beans.  I cook a couple of varieties once in a while, bag them in quart sized freezer bags and put them in the freezer for future use when I don’t have the time or inclination to spend all day watching a pot boil.

When I saw the deep green, leafy kale my first thought was, “Oh, perfect! Minestrone!” one of my all-time favorite soups, especially in the summer.  Because of the Veggie Drop and its kale, a variety of other mixed greens and the shallots; I have the opportunity to feed my family and friends.

Check out Cathy’s Veggie Drop Minestrone recipe here and try it for yourself at home!