PEELing Off! And Meet Claire!

My name is Claire Fendrick, and I am the new PEEL Program lead here at Concrete Jungle! I am a second year Masters student at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health. During my senior year of college, I developed a deeper interest in the food justice movement, and decided that it was the field in which I hoped to explore when I moved to Atlanta for grad school. This interest led me to Concrete Jungle, where I’ve been working since the fall of 2020. During the 2020-2021 school year, I co-led the COVID-19 Grocery Delivery Program from September to June. Now that we’ve wrapped up GDP, I’m moving on to helping the transition back into PEEL programming for the fall!   

You’re maybe thinking, what is PEEL anyway?! PEEL is the Produce Education and Enjoyment Loop, a CJ program that was developed back in 2018 in response to our pantry partners reporting that many of their clients were unfamiliar with some of the produce we were donating, and therefore hesitant to take it home. When PEEL was started, the aim was to improve culinary skills and knowledge, while also increasing clients’ willingness to cook and consume more fresh, local produce. We accomplished this by distributing our produce in collaboration with community partners, while also offering food demonstrations, taste tests, and recipe cards for the purpose of increasing nutritional knowledge and developing cooking skills and confidence in preparing healthy meals. 

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, PEEL had to take an indefinite break due to the nature of our classes and distributions being entirely in person. Now that vaccination rates are rising, many of our partners have started in person distributions again, and we have made the decision to safely return to doing PEEL taste tests and produce distributions (our cooking classes are still on hold for the foreseeable future)! This fall, we are piloting some events with the intention of developing a system and protocol to bring PEEL back in full swing next spring. 

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of participating in our first PEEL event since March 2020 at Intown Collaborative Ministries (ICM). Our featured produce for this event was zucchini, which was showcased in the Zucchini Pasta Salad recipe. I worked the distribution with my coworker Ivan, who came to Concrete Jungle through the PEEL program pre-COVID. Ivan was a key PEEL volunteer, and because of his dedication, we decided to make him a permanent member of the CJ family.

Ivan and I distributed multiple cases of zucchini, and talked to so many great members of the community during our event. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to give back to the community that I’ve been a part of for the past year here in Atlanta. The pasta salad recipe was a huge hit, and a few community members even said that they would attempt to make the recipe at home! I would consider my first PEEL event a success, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me in the future.

RECIPE: Zucchini Pasta Salad

Cook Time: 40 mins
Side dish for 6 people

1 cup dry whole wheat penne
2 zucchini
1 tomato
1/4 cup red onion diced
1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded or cubed
1/2 cup salad dressing of choice (Italian, Greek, Ranch, etc)

1. Prepare pasta according to the directions on the package. Place the noodles into a mixing bowl and cool in the refrigerator while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
2. Dice the squash, zucchini, tomato, and onion into small bite size pieces and place into another bowl.
3. Add in the mozzarella cheese and salad dressing.
4. Lastly, add in the cooked noodles and toss to combine.
5. Serve immediately or can be prepared ahead of time and cooled.