Team Up with MyPlate for a New Year’s Challenge

by Callie Brust MPH, RDN, CHES, Nutrition & Wellness Educator

Hope everyone had a happy and healthy holiday season! Are you ready to face a new year? Do you have any new resolutions you’ve set out to accomplish?

I just wanted to share a resource for those of you who may want encouragement in achieving your healthy eating or physical activity resolutions.

On January 3, SuperTracker kicked off a public New Year’s Challenge that encourages participants to start slowly and develop a healthy eating style over time. SuperTracker is a fitness and food tracker supported by the USDA and does a great job incorporating MyPlate based goals. Not sure what MyPlate is? Click here. Over five weeks, participants will be challenged to incorporate the five MyPlate food groups – fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy – into each day. To officially join the challenge and receive encouraging messages along the way, individuals will need to create a free SuperTracker account.


Each week you’ll be challenged to incorporate healthy foods (for example: week 1 is dairy) and to log your physical activity. This is a super easy interface, not too detailed, and can be used as an accountability tool. For every healthy food of the week and physical activity you enter, you’ll receive points and those can be compared to other participants around the nation.

If you just need that little nudge to keep you on your healthy path, this challenge might be the perfect fit for you. There is no counting calories, measuring amounts, or entering in detailed physical activity logs. This New Year’s SuperTracker Challenge inspires you to make small changes to your healthy eating pattern you can sustain it throughout the year. Keep it up and even by August you can say you’re sticking to your New Year’s resolutions!

Carlos and Hernan, who work in our Nonprofit Food Center, help our nonprofit partners pick up nutritious food like fresh produce to take back to their respective distribution sites.

Thankful Thursday: San Diego Food Bank Warehouse Staff

by Michael Minjares, Grant Writer Manager

At any time of the year the daily work of the Food Bank warehouse staff fills a full day and then some. Stocking the Food Center space with dry and canned goods, fresh produce, bread and dairy, ensuring a safe and accessible space for all organizations picking up food, and cleaning and re-stocking regularly keep our dedicated employees busy. The hard work of this staff enables the Food Bank to welcome our non-profit partners to a clean, organized and efficient food distribution center each and every day.

The same can be said for the Food Bank’s volunteer crew as they greet the thousands of community members who come to the warehouse to roll up their sleeves and contribute to our good work for their neighbors in need. Starting with the volunteer check-in and orientation process, our volunteer crew sees that our volunteers’ experience is memorable for the work accomplished and the manner in which it takes place. Staff sets up work stations, delivers supplies, oversees workflow, ensures compliance with safety guidelines, responds to questions, and meticulously cleans up at the end of the volunteers’ shift, several times a day, six days a week.

Now, throw in one of the Food Bank’s many special or media events and the skill of these hard-working individuals shines even brighter. The Food Bank Gala, Annual Meeting, and numerous news conferences, like the recent public launch of this year’s Holiday Food Drive, find an ideal backdrop in the Food Bank’s extensive warehouse. The same staff that interacts with our volunteers and sets up, stocks, breaks down and cleans our Food Center, often bears responsibility for the in-house logistics associated with hosting our business and community members. It’s a task they tackle with enthusiasm and a can-do attitude.

“Holding events here allows the public to see our warehouse for themselves, but it is a balancing act,” said Food Center Coordinator, Carlos Hernandez. “The daily activity is important to continue while we also arrange the warehouse for the event. We always pay careful attention to perishable items and try to supply what our partners want for their organizations. At the same time, we’re clearing things out quickly, sweeping and cleaning floors and assisting in the event set up. We receive a lot of positive feedback about the look of the warehouse as people arrive for events. It has the look of a formal gala, for example, and the feel of a working warehouse. It’s nice to have those two distinct looks.”

Carlos and his colleagues on the warehouse floor, including the volunteer crew and warehouse management staff, take pride in their ability to maintain the daily workings of an 80,000-square foot space that more and more serves multiple purposes.

As the Food Bank heads into its busiest time of the year for community involvement and support, we take a minute to salute the All-Star warehouse and volunteer staff who do a tremendous job in meeting their daily responsibilities and deliver a little extra for those special occasions when we showcase the best the Food Bank has to offer.

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month!

Nutrition Notes: National Diabetes Awareness

by Divya Denduluri (MS Nutritional Biology, CLEC), Nutrition Education Volunteer

Food, when broken down in our bodies, provides fuel in the form of glucose in our bloodstream. For this glucose to be utilized by our bodies, insulin (a hormone produced by the pancreas) is essential. It helps carry the glucose from the bloodstream to various parts of the body. Diabetes affects how the body uses energy (glucose) from food.

The body is unable to make sufficient insulin in type 1 diabetes, which occurs mostly in children and young adults. Insulin needs to be given at regular time intervals in type 1 diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, the body either does not produce sufficient insulin or is unable to utilize the insulin. Treatment includes medication or insulin administration. Though there is no cure yet for diabetes, it can be successfully managed through a combination of healthful eating and physical activity, and medication (as prescribed by your medical professional).

Prediabetes is a condition in which the blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be in the diabetic range. Prediabetes increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, apart from increased chances of getting diabetes later on in life. Eating healthfully, increasing physical activity, quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy body weight can reduce the chances of getting diabetes later on in life.

The American Diabetes Association 2016 theme for Diabetes Month is “This Is Diabetes.” Real-life stories of friends, family and neighbors – how they manage the daily triumphs and challenges of diabetes will be showcased to raise awareness and capture the authenticity of those who understand and manage diabetes.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics provides useful informative on eating healthy and exercising with diabetes – CLICK HERE.

Stay tuned for some fun and healthy recipes.

Join us for National Diabetes Awareness Month and help raise awareness!



Nutrition Notes: F is for Fall… and Figs!

by Divya Denduluri (MS Nutritional Biology, CLEC), Nutrition Education Volunteer

We are celebrating National Fig Week on the first week of November. Fresh figs are usually in season from late summer through early fall, although dried figs are available all year round. Figs are sweet, succulent, and packed with fiber, calcium, potassium, iron and disease-fighting antioxidants.

Four popular varieties of figs are grown here, in California:

1. Brown Turkish figs have light purple to black skin, pink flesh and a robust flavor.
2. Black Mission figs have purple to black skin, pink flesh and an intense, earthy flavor.
3. Calimyrna figs are large yellow-skinned figs with a sweet, nutty flavor.
4. Kadota figs have a light amber color with a light, delicate flavor.

Here is a recipe for a quick, and delicious fig bar.

Recipe: Fig Bar

Preparation time: 20 minutes | Number of servings: 6 to 8 bars


- ½ cup of dried figs – mashed or chopped fine
- 1 ½ cups of nuts and/or seeds – chopped, powdered or as is
- A pinch of salt (optional)


1. Mix the ingredients together and knead until evenly mixed.

2. Line a tray with parchment paper and place the fig mixture on it.

3. Top the mixture with another sheet of parchment paper. With a rolling pin, roll the fig mixture flat, to desired thickness.

4. Remove the parchment paper on top and cut the flatted fig mixture into bars.

These bars can be stored at room temperature for a week, and longer if refrigerated.

Try adding figs to guacamole for a fun new twist. CLICK HERE.

Figs with couscous and feta make a delectable combination. CLICK HERE.


Gajar Ka Halwa (carrot pudding) is a custom dish often shared during Diwali!

Nutrition Notes: It’s Time to Celebrate Diwali!

by Divya Denduluri (MS Nutritional Biology, CLEC), Nutrition Education Volunteer

Foreword by Callie Brust, Nutrition & Wellness Educator for the San Diego Food Bank:

The San Diego community is wonderfully diverse and the San Diego Food Bank is proud to serve many of these varying culture groups. With all these international influences, we get to learn and share amazing recipes! The San Diego Food Bank’s talented Nutrition Education Volunteer teaches us about a recipe she enjoys during Diwali, the Indian Festival of Lights.


Diwali is an Indian festival of lights, celebrated each year in the fall. The festival celebrates the victory of light over darkness, and good over immorality by lighting lamps and fireworks. It’s a time for families to come together and share the happiness and excitement of the festivities. Prayers are offered to Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity and this marks the beginning of a new fiscal year in India. Family members create beautiful rangoli designs using colored rice, flour, sand and flower petals and light lamps in the evening. Diwali is a time for gifts, new clothes and lots of delicious treats, both savory and sweet. Here is a recipe of one of my favorite sweet treats, gajar ka halwa. It is a simple dessert made with grated carrots, milk, sugar and ghee or clarified butter. Though it takes some time to make it, the resulting delicacy is truly wonderful. Carrots contain beta carotene which is necessary for good vision. Research also suggests that beta carotene may help reduce the risk of certain cancers, slow ageing and diabetes-related symptoms.

Recipe: Gajar ka Halwa
Preparation time: 1 hour | Number of servings: 1 – 2


- 1-1.5 cup of grated carrots
- 1 cup of milk
- 1 tbsp. of ghee or butter
- 2 to 3 tbsp. of sugar
- 1 tbsp. of chopped, roasted almonds or cashews
- 1 to 2 tsp. of raisins
- 1 to 2 pinches of cardamom powder


1. Cook the carrots in the milk in a thick bottomed pan on a medium flame, until the carrots are cooked and the milk has almost evaporated.

2. Add the rest of the ingredients and keep stirring on a low flame until the milk has evaporated and the gajar ka halwa comes together.

3. Gajar ka halwa tastes delicious served either hot or cold.

Here’s wishing you all a very happy and prosperous Diwali!!


Rich in potassium and fiber, bananas are always a healthy snack choice, especially on-the-go!

Nutrition Notes: Go Bananas!

by Divya Denduluri (MS Nutritional Biology, CLEC), Nutrition Education Volunteer

Bananas are always popular and can be found year round.

This sweet, tropical fruit is packed with potassium, fiber and vitamin C. Bananas provide instant energy and are like whole food ‘cereal bars’ that are delicious, nutritious, economical and widely available.

Here is a recipe for a quick, and easy banana bread.

Recipe: Eggless Banana Bread
Preparation time: 15 minutes | Bake time: 45 to 55 minutes

Number of servings: 8 to 12 servings


- 1 ½ cups of all-purpose flour
- ½ cup of sugar
- A pinch of salt
- 1 tsp of baking powder
- ½ tsp of baking soda
- ¼ to ½ cup of plain yogurt
- ¼ sunflower oil
- 2 big, overripe bananas, mashed with a fork
- 1 tsp of vanilla essence


1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line a baking tin.
2. Mix all dry ingredients together, except sugar.
3. Beat the oil, sugar, yogurt, bananas and vanilla essence together.
4. Fold in the dry ingredients and mix the batter well.
5. Pour batter into the baking tin and bake at 350°F for around 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Here are links to a few quick and easy recipes with bananas:


It's true what they say! An apple a day is good for you.

Nutrition Notes: An Apple a Day

by Divya Denduluri (MS Nutritional Biology, CLEC), Nutrition Education Volunteer

An apple a day may indeed keep the doctor away! Apples are packed with fiber, vitamin C and potassium. Pectin in the fiber helps lower bad cholesterol levels and helps feel full longer. Antioxidants in apples help fight against certain cancers and may increase immunity. Apples do not contain sodium, fat or cholesterol, and are perfect to snack on. These juicy beauties come in varied colors including golden yellow, pink, red and green.

There are a variety of apples available in the market with unique tastes, textures and colors – some apples are perfect for using in salads, while some are perfect to make pies with. Click here to read about common varieties of apples and the best ways to enjoy them.

- Tip for keeping sliced apples from browning – squeeze some lemon juice on sliced apples to prevent them from turning brown.

Apples are used to make apple juice, cider, pies, applesauce, salads and many more interesting dishes. Applesauce is used to replace eggs in cakes and cookies.

I am sharing a recipe for a flavorful apple-cranberry relish that I use with burgers, in sandwiches and wraps and as a salad dressing.

Recipe: Apple Cranberry Relish

Preparation time: 30 minutes | Number of servings: 6-8


- ¾ cup grated apple (sweet varieties like gala or Fuji are great)
- ½ cup fresh cranberries, minced
- 1 stalk celery, grated
- Juice and zest from 1 orange
- 1 tbsp sugar
- A dash of salt (optional)


1. Mix all the ingredients together and refrigerate for 2 – 3 hours before use.
2. Left-over relish may be cooked for 10 – 15 minutes and used as a delicious glaze for meat or as a spread for breads and wraps.
3. For some added family fun, pick your own fresh and delicious apples from apple orchards near San Diego in Julian.

2. Gerhauser C. Cancer Chemopreventive Potential of Apples, Apple Juice, and Apple Components. Planta Med 2008 Oct; 74(13):1608-24.

The roof of the San Diego Food Bank’s warehouse is covered in 1,400 solar panels  that generate power while reducing the Food Bank’s carbon footprint and significantly  lowering energy costs.

Baker Electric Solar Helps San Diego Food Bank Go Green with Solar

by Noelle Friedberg, Content Marking Coordinator (Baker Electric Solar)

In the summer of 2015, the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank went solar with Baker Electric Solar in order to save money on energy and mitigate their impact on the environment.

Joan and Irwin Jacobs donated $1 million to cover the cost of the 350 kW (kilowatt) system. The solar installation will yield $120,000 in annual savings. This huge reduction in electricity costs allows the Food Bank to further invest in the community they serve. In fact, the savings the Food Bank realizes from going solar will result in 600,000 additional meals to San Diegans in need each year.

The significant reduction in energy costs also allows the Food Bank to afford more costly fresh produce on top of doubling its cooling capacity, allowing them to keep more food than ever fresh. Kevin Weinberg, of Baker Electric Solar’s commercial solar division, explained that “any nonprofit that handles refrigeration or has a lot of lighting, such as SDFB, is a good candidate for solar.” He continued by saying, “It’s about energy consumption. If an organization has a large roof or space on the ground, such as a parking lot with existing carport structures, they can benefit from solar.”

In addition to the Jacobs’ generous donation, the Food Bank also tapped into an incentive through the Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE) to supplement the funds spent on going solar. According to Casey Castillo, Vice President of Finance and Administration for the Food Bank, because they’re able to meet targets for energy use reductions, they’ll receive $90,000 annually from CSE over the course of five years, which will bring their ROI down to just five short years.

The solar system isn’t just financially sustainable, however. It will also save the CO2 emissions equivalent of 594,747 pounds of coal, the equivalent annual greenhouse gas emissions of 1,318,356 miles driven by an average passenger vehicle and produce 803,000 kWh of energy for the Food Bank annually – enough to power 125 family homes for an entire year. Each 4-foot-by-5-foot solar panel alone will enable the Food Bank to provide an additional 513 pounds of food to families in need through energy cost savings.

Switching to solar was one step in the Food Bank’s goal of becoming a LEED certified organization. The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification program was launched in 2000 “so that the world’s leading businesses would have a tool that would deliver the immediate, measureable results they need to prove that what is good for the environment is also good for the bottom line,” said Rick Fedrizzi, CEO and founding chair of USGBC.

On top of installing solar, the Food Bank also undertook related projects including installing energy-efficient lighting and controls in order to achieve their LEED certification. This involved a lighting retrofit from old, inefficient incandescent bulbs to newer LEDs, as well as the installation of new highly efficient air conditioning units and participation in SDG&E’s demand-response program. Through this program, the Food Bank has agreed to reduce energy usage in peak demand times in order to increase savings.

Going solar also benefited the Food Bank by demonstrating to donors that they’re responsible stewards of funds. Castillo said that “because we are a non-profit, that is something that also helps to bring in more donors.” This allows them to do even more in the communities they serve, effectively allowing the Food Bank to reach more families that struggle with food insecurity in San Diego.

Washing your food thoroughly before consuming is always a good idea for proper food safety!

Nutrition Notes: Keep Your Food Safe

by Divya Denduluri (MS Nutritional Biology, CLEC), Nutrition Education Volunteer

The food we eat is our fuel, our sustenance. Food can get spoiled, which makes it unappetizing, not as nutritious and even dangerous to our health. Consuming spoiled food can cause food-borne illnesses including food poisoning and botulism, which can be fatal.

Older adults, pregnant women, newborns, and people with kidney disease, cancer, diabetes or AIDS are more susceptible to food-borne illnesses. So how do we keep food safe and unspoiled, so as to get all the goodness it has to offer without getting sick?

Here are some suggestions to keep food safe:

- Wash your hands thoroughly before, during and after preparing and handling foods.

- Wash produce thoroughly before us.

- Cook meat, poultry and seafood to proper temperature.

- Thaw food in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave – but not on the counter.

- Do not consume raw eggs or food containing raw eggs like cookie dough.

- Replace dish rags and sponges periodically, while sanitizing them daily.

- Perishable foods (including cooked food, produce, meat, poultry, seafood, eggs and milk) need to be stored by refrigerating or freezing. If refrigerated, perishable foods need to be
consumed in a few days.

- Semi-perishable foods (like flour, grain products, dried fruit and dry mixes) can be safely stored up to 6-12 months.

- Non-perishable foods (like sugar, dried beans, spices and canned foods) do not spoil if handled and stored properly, but they may lose quality over a long period of time.

- Leftovers should be stored in shallow, airtight containers for rapid cooling and preventing the spread of bacteria.

- Refrigerate leftovers as soon as possible – there is no need to cool leftovers to room temperature before refrigerating them.

Some useful tips on how to handle and buy food safely can be found. Just click here.

This September, let’s start keeping our foods safe and disease-free, while celebrating Food Safety Education Month!







Nutrition Notes: Kids Lunchbox Ideas

by Divya Denduluri (MS Nutritional Biology, CLEC), Nutrition Education Volunteer

It’s fall and school is in full swing. Growing children have additional nutritional needs to meet for growth, development apart from regular wear and tear and maintenance of body organs. It is important to send a variety of healthy, substantial and appetizing foods to school as kids spend at least half their waking time at school. A little bit of planning, shopping and prepping can go a long way for packing kids lunches.

Here are some useful suggestions to send your kids lunches they will eat and enjoy:

1. Plan ahead and make a list of lunch box foods including fruits, vegetables, fruit juice, cheese, yogurt, milk, crackers, cookies and other ingredients.

2. Shop for ingredients from the list, preferably before the week starts, on weekends.

3. Prep ingredients – cut, chop, slice, and store fruits and vegetables in individually portioned boxes.

4. Make a list of plan-ahead recipes and/ or instant, quick recipes and use them throughout the week.

5. Invest in good quality, leak-proof containers, cold and hot packs and lunch bags to pack school lunches in.

Plan-ahead recipes can be make the previous night and stored, like zucchini and banana muffins, stews or chili, cornbread, breads and rolls, dips like hummus.

Quick recipes like quesadillas, pasta with veggies, fried rice, sandwiches, mini pita pizzas, burritos and wraps, and whole grain blueberry pancakes may be made and packed just before going to school.

I like to add a note with a message or a riddle to my kids’ lunch bags – as a special touch.

More tips are available here.

Here is a simple and delicious recipe for veggie sushi.

Recipe: Veggie Sushi Bites
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Number of servings: 8-10 bites, enough for 1 kid


- 1 sheet nori seaweed
- ¼ – ½ cup cooked calrose or sushi rice
- 6 strips of julliened carrots
- 6 strips of julliened cucumber
- 6 strips of julienned avocados
- 6 strips of julienned red bell pepper
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar or to taste
- ½ tsp sugar
- Salt to taste
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- A few pieces of pickled ginger (optional)


1. Mix vinegar, salt and sugar together.

2. Add the vinegar mixture to the cooled, cooked rice and set aside the rice.

3. Take the nori sheet and spread a thin layer of rice on it, pressing the rice to the sheet.

4. Arrange the julienned vegetables in a line on one end of the sheet on top of the rice.

5. Roll the nori sheet with rice and vegetables, and once the vegetables are covered with the nori, compress the sheet slightly and roll the rest of the sheet tightly.

6. Seal the roll using a little water and slice into sushi bites using a knife.

7. Drizzle with soy sauce and top with pieces of pickled ginger if desired. Pack the sushi bites in the lunch box.

For more lunchbox recipe ideas, click here.

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