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From Farm to Sidewalk

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It's an overcast day at the Addison Terrace farm stand in the Hill District, but the heady aroma of sautéeing garlic and greens fills the air.

This is one of several farm stands operating from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Wednesday or Thursday across the region. (Other locations include Hazelwood, Homewood, North Side, Brookline, Turtle Creek, Millvale, Clairton and Lawrenceville.) They provide low-income families with access to fresh, locally grown fruit and vegetables. 

But the stands are more than just a convenient place to shop for carrots and apples. While it's important to help people get the produce, it's equally vital to make sure they're cooking it and using it in a healthy way.

That's Matthew Bolton's job.

Bolton is the nutrition supervisor with the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank. Each week, he and the bank's two nutrition educators attend the farm stands. There, they prepare a dish to show residents various healthy options with the seasonal produce available. This week, it was collard greens, sautéed with garlic, lemon juice and hot sauce.

"This program is important because it not only gets people to sample a recipe with flavors they maybe haven't [experienced] before with a particular product," Bolton says, "but it also teaches cooking techniques. Some people don't know how to peel a clove of garlic, for example." 

Or the shopper may be familiar with the produce, but could benefit from learning better preparation methods.

For instance, Bolton explains, "There's a tendency when cooking collards to over-salt them. We teach people how to use things like lemon juice and garlic -- much healthier alternatives -- in their cooking."

The Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank is a nonprofit that collects, stores and distributes food and groceries to its 382 member agencies across Allegheny County. While Bolton always wanted to be a nutritionist, he envisioned himself working at a place such as nursing home. But after interning at the food bank in 2008, his career path was changed forever.

This is Bolton's second year doing the farm-stand cooking demos, and he's been pleased with the positive feedback his recipes have generated. "I love my job," he says. "It's a really good cause, and my job is feeding the people."

For more information, contact the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank at 412-260-3663.

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