The Pizza Challenge
“I want to give you a challenge, a pizza challenge to try one new topping on your pizza. Will you accept this challenge?” asked Rebecca Marson, Program Assistant with Oregon State University’s (OSU) SNAP-Ed program. For the last three summers, OSU Extension’s Food Hero program has come to Arbor Glen, one of Human Solutions properties, to teach elementary school children how to cook nutritious meals.
One summer Tuesday, nine kids raced up the stairs to accept her challenge. The ingredients they chose from included foods from all the MyPlate food groups: green peppers, red onions, mushrooms, olives, pineapple, marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese and pepperoni. In place of dough, they placed their toppings on half of an English Muffin, which the My personal pizza recipe from Food Hero suggests (it’s do-able at home!).
Like true chefs, the kids sampled the ingredients before designing their pizza. Of course not every child was eager to experiment with new flavors! When asked about her favorite toppings, Harmony answered “olives and bacon.” She piled olives on top of her pizza until they were falling off.
There is an incredible sense of community among these kids; they are eager to help each other. Julian, one of the youngest, asked for help crafting his pizza, until he saw his friend JuJu making one all by himself. Wanting to be like his friend, Julian tried to make his own but when he struggled a bit, MaKaylah, one of the oldest, stepped in to help him.
While impatiently waiting for their food to cook, the kids colored pictures of pizzas. “This pizza has a lot of colors,” Tristan said, as he was eager to show off his artwork. Food Hero recipes incorporate colorful ingredients, so they’re not just nutritious but appealing to kids, too.
All Food Hero recipes meet rigorous recipe criteria, including:
- Appropriate for a busy household.
- Utilize limited number of ingredients.
- Lots of fruits and vegetables whenever possible.
- Are low cost.
- Nutritious (of course!)
Pizza is certified kid-friendly, but some of the program’s recipes have really expanded beyond stereotypical kid food. Dished like Asian Beef and noodles, Mushroom Bulgur pilaf and Banana pancakes. The kids LOVED the pancakes. “We cut up the bananas,” Shaelynn recalled her favorite part of making the pancakes. When asked about what other tools she used, she shouted with joy “THE SMASHER!!”
OSU’s Rebecca asked the kids to raise their hands if they thought they could make the pizzas at home, and all arms shot up with smiling faces. Kids are encouraged to take recipes with them as they leave. Harmony grabbed an extra pizza coloring page for her brother, who is too young for the class, and decided her mom also needed one.
We are grateful that OSU’s Extension Program partners with Human Solutions’ Resident Services team to provide such fun, hands-on programming for the community. They work hard to bring opportunities like this for residents to master new skills.
Special thank you to Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon for coordinating a fun Summer Meals kickoff party at the Human Solutions' Family Center this past Friday.
Thanks also to Portland Timbers and U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder, Darlington Nagbe, who stopped by and enjoyed a healthy summer lunch with kids at Human Solutions' Family Center. Organizers served a free meal as part of the Summer Food Service Program to about 85 kids from Human Solutions' Family Center and two other nearby Home Forward affordable housing communities.
Thousands of kids around the state depend on free or reduced lunch during the school year. Now that school is out for summer, families can check out summerfoodoregon.org for free meals for kids at sites around the state!
From The Portland Tribune:
Human Solutions opened its new family homeless shelter Tuesday, just 10 weeks after the organization announced the purchase of the former strip club on the border of Portland and Gresham.
Andy Miller was just a few days into his job as the nonprofit's executive director when he had to sell Multnomah County commissioners on the idea of converting the Black Cauldron club into a shelter.
“It wasn’t just a strip club,” Miller remembered. “It was a dark, vegan playground. That’s what the sign said. It was dark and dirty. The poles were still up.”
Miller announced the purchase in October, around the same time that Human Solution's shelter at Southeast 161st Avenue and Burnside Street was opening for the winter. That shelter will now close.
Gresham-based Human Solutions was in desperate need of a new place that could be open year-round, 24 hours a day, seven days a week with more space for families and individuals.
“The housing crisis that we’ve been reading about is all too real,” said Miller. “There are forces of displacement punching this community in the face.”
On the outside, the Black Cauldron still looks like a neglected A-frame mountain lodge that was once the Woodshed restaurant. Inside, it’s now unrecognizable as a strip club. There are crisp, white walls and new hardwood floors. The bathrooms are big and bright and have showers. There’s a play area for children, a meeting room and an outdoor sitting area.
The shelter accommodates up to 130 adults and children and has semi-private areas for mothers and infants.
Human Solutions purchased the Black Cauldron for $950,000 with the county providing about three-quarters of the money. HDC Community Fund also helped finance the project.
Last year, Human Solutions served 960 people, with over 50 percent of those people being children.
“A project that moves this quickly requires a ton of people to move toward the finish line,” said Miller.
He gave special thanks to Holst Arhitecture, which did design work for free, general contractor Colas Construction, shelter director Charles Hodge and his staff.
Celebrating opening a shelter is tricky business for an organization whose goal is to end homelessness, Miller acknowledged.
“We are thankful and thrilled to be delivering the shelter, but I wish we didn’t need one,” Miller said. “I wish we were closing one."
Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury echoed those sentiments.
“It is with mixed emotions that we come here today,” Kafoury said. “The fact that we are opening a shelter that is necessary is troubling.”
Kafoury became emotional when she talked about visiting the shelter and seeing children waiting out in the cold and rain to get inside to a warm bed.
“It is not enough,” Kafoury said. “We need to work together to ensure that there is a home for everyone.”
Jo Ann Hardesty, a member of the Human Solutions Board of Directors and president of the Portland chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was grateful to see the strip club become something positive for the community.
“I live four blocks down the street so having a strip club turn into a family center is near and dear to my heart,” Hardesty said. “I live in a community that most of the time feels like it’s forgotten. This is what it looks like when leaders listen to the people they represent.”
Hardesty finished her comments with a challenge to the politicians in the room, including Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and Gresham councilors Kirk French, Lori Stegmann and Council President Mario Palmero, to address the need for affordable housing.
“I want to remind you this is not a home,” Hardesty said. “When talk about affordable housing, let’s talk real numbers. “If you’re working for minimum wage, you cannot afford to live in the city of Portland.”
Human Solutions recognizes the importance of summer meals for kids. That’s why we work with our partners to provide summer lunch’s at eight of our housing complexes. The lunches are provided by the Centennial, Reynolds and Gresham Barlow School Districts. We also received a grant from Partnership for a Hunger Free Oregon to support staffing costs. We provide parents and teens living in the complexes stipends to help serve lunches and organize fun activities for children. Last year, we served nearly 10,000 lunches, and expect to exceed that number this year.
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