Next time you're out and about -- at the grocery store, the mall, your child's football game -- take a look around you and consider this: one of the people you walk passed will go to bed hungry.
More than 400,000 people face hunger in the 13 counties served by Northern Illinois Food Bank, a nonprofit organization in Geneva. The food bank provides nutritious food to more than 60,000 people each week through a network of 800 community food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and youth and senior feeding programs, but that's just a drop in the bucket.
To generate awareness of the issue of hunger in our communities, the Northern Illinois Food Bank and food banks across the country ask people and businesses to "Go Orange" on Thursday Sept. 4.
How? Wear orange to work and strike up a conversation about hunger with co-workers. Ask your employer to change the lights to orange. Start a food or fund drive in your neighborhood, school or book group. Post your thoughts on what hunger means to you and pictures of you wearing orange on Northern Illinois Food Bank's Facebook page and tweet to @ILFoodBank using hashtag #HungerAction. Schedule a time to volunteer with the food bank; opportunities include packing snack bags for schoolchildren, helping with mailings and working with the mobile pantry. Head to www.SolveHungerToday.org/HAM for more ways you can help.
Patty wagon: I admit to being cynical when I first got the news release for a drive-through meat market. Who would trek to a suburban church parking lot for meat?
When the price it right, it turns out many people will.
This drive-through meat market is called Zaycon Foods and here's how it works.
Head to zayconfoods.com and check to see what's for sale and what pickup spots are nearby. Each month Zaycon offers different products. Earlier this summer it was ground beef and ribs (thank you, Zaycon, for providing ribs to today's Cook of the Week Challenge contestants); in October it's chicken -- as in fresh boneless, skinless chicken breasts for $1.89 a pound.
The products are sold in bulk. So you're getting 40 pounds of chicken breasts or in the case of the ribs, a 36-pound box with 12 pretty big racks. My advice: clear space in your fridge or freezer, or find a friend (or two) and split the order. (I bet some local food pantries could even take what doesn't fit in your fridge.)
On pickup day, Zaycon loads the meat onto a refrigerated truck and heads to the rendezvous spot. You pull up into the line of cars, give your name and workers load the meat (it will be in a heavy cardboard box) into the car. Even with gas prices on the high side, you might find it's worth driving to Elk Grove Village or Oak Brook or even Gurnee to get chicken at $1.89 a pound instead of $3 and up in some stores.
Going bananas: My boys started school recently and as I was searching for after school snack ideas a recipe from The Associated Press' Alison Ladman jumped out at me. She stole a family favorite! Well, almost.
When my sons were younger, I'd give them a special treat on nights I was going out. Hannah Banana Desserts were named for my cousin Hannah, who used to baby-sit for us. The idea was simple: cut a ripe banana into chunks and let the boys dip it into chocolate syrup and then into cereal crumbs. It was a great way to get them to eat fruit and to use the crumbs in a box of Frosted Flakes or Cheerios.
Alison kicks the treat up a notch with homemade sauce made by melting 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips with 2 tablespoons orange juice. She cuts two bananas in half crosswise, sticks forks into the flat end of each then dips the bananas in the sauce and rolls them in granola. Put them on a pan lined with waxed paper and freeze several hours. Don't like granola? How about crushed peanuts or Frosted Flakes?
• Contact Food Editor Deborah Pankey at firstname.lastname@example.org or (847) 427-4524. Be her friend at Facebook.com/DebPankey or follow her on Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram @PankeysPlate.