Amber Bourek Slater has a hunger to help feed thousands within a 26-county radius of Kansas City who are unsure where their next meal is coming from. As a volunteer manager with Harvesters — The Community Food Network, Slater coordinates efforts to provide the area’s hungry with nutritious and delicious dishes.
She and husband Jeremiah Slater regularly mix it up in the kitchen together. Two years ago, the couple took part in the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) Challenge for a week and realized first-hand how difficult it is to live on the allocated amount provided through food stamps.
Q: Why is hunger your hot button?
A: It goes back to my personal experience with my Grandma Fletcher, who was born in 1935 in a small town in northeast Nebraska. Sadly, her father died when she was just 4 years old, which left my Great-Grandma Kingston to raise six children on her own at a time when most women did not work outside the home. In fact, some of her siblings offered to take in some children, but my Grandma Kingston refused to split up her family.
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She worked several jobs to take care of her family, including stringing pearl necklaces for the jewelry store, taking in laundry, cleaning houses and working as a custodian at the local college. My Grandma Fletcher told me stories about how things were pretty tight, and it was a rarity for them to get meat to eat at dinner — only maybe about twice a month. They ate a lot of rice pudding and potato soup. My Grandma and Grandpa Fletcher got married very young and struggled in the early days of their marriage, as well.
One of the ways my grandparents ended up helping their family and the community was by buying livestock — a cow or pig — from a farmer. They would get the animal processed by the local butcher and split the meat between their children. I know how much that meant to my family because, at times, I know my sister and I qualified for free or reduced meals at school.
Q: You seem to be very passionate about feeding people and sharing food with others.
A: After college, I spent two years as an AmeriCorps member working in the public schools. Although my role was mentoring and tutoring children in after-school and summer care programs, I saw the issue of hunger every day. Even on a tight AmeriCorps living allowance, I made sure to buy granola bars to keep in my bag for any of my students who were hungry.
When my husband and I started dating three years ago, cooking was one of the things we enjoyed doing together. In fact, we were both Harvesters donors and had volunteered with the organization prior to meeting each other.
When we got married last summer, we decided to do things a little differently and asked friends and family to join us for a party. They did not need to bring gifts, but we asked guests instead to consider bringing food or making a donation on our virtual food drive page for Harvesters. For the wedding guest book, we gathered people’s favorite recipes and created a wedding cookbook album.
Q: The beauty of this recipe you’ve shared is that you can have many of the ingredients on hand.
A: While you can use canned peaches, most of the farmers markets have a matching dollars program for using SNAP benefits. You can turn $1 in SNAP benefits into $2 to use for fresh fruit and vegetables at the farmers markets. One of my co-workers recently mentioned that the City Market tent is very busy with people utilizing this benefit to get local, nutritious food.
This recipe comes from my mother, Kathy Bourek, and I thought it would be the perfect recipe to share right now as Missouri peaches are in full bloom. Like a heaping helping of Midwestern hospitality, this recipe comes from our church organist, and my mom has been making it for as long as I can remember.
Q: Is people’s hunger in our community sometimes a problem that goes undetected during the summer months?
A: While people around the holidays are very generous, there is even more need for awareness surrounding hunger during the summer months. Hunger knows no boundaries, and children are particularly at risk during the summer, because there are no school breakfasts and lunches available to them. The statistics are staggering: one out of every seven people in our area is food insecure. When we’re just talking about children, it’s one out of every five that is hungry.
There are so many chances for people to get involved with feeding others this summer. People can be part of passing out lunches to kids at area spray parks and helping with mobile food distributions. We always need help sorting and repacking food in our Volunteer Engagement Center. And if you can’t do any of that, you can host a real or virtual food and toiletry drive to collect food during the summer time.
Helping to feed people not only satisfies the hunger of those in need, it also feeds the soul of those who are donating their time and talents.
Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. She also writes a nationally syndicated home column. Email her at email@example.com to nominate a cook.
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Kitchen Klatter Peach Dessert
Makes 9 servings
For the crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup butter, cut into 1/2 tablespoon segments
For the topping:
1 cup pureed fresh peaches
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon almond flavoring
1 (3-ounce) box peach gelatin
3 cups peeled and diced fresh peaches
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
To prepare crust:
Into the bowl of a food processor, pulse flour, sugar and walnuts together. Place butter on top of mixture and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Turn mixture out into a 9-inch square pan and press into the bottom to form the crust.
Bake for 10 minutes and allow to cool while preparing the topping.
To prepare topping:
In a medium saucepan, stir pureed peaches, cornstarch, sugar, lemon juice, water and almond flavoring together. Over medium heat on stovetop, stir until sugar dissolves and until mixture is thickened.
Remove from heat and stir gelatin into mixture. Allow to cool until mixture starts to set. Gently stir diced peaches into mixture and spoon over crust. Place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours or until topping is set. Cut with a sharp knife into 9, 3-inch squares and serve immediately.
Per serving: 399 calories (27 percent from fat), 12 grams total fat (7 grams saturated), 28 milligrams cholesterol, 71 grams carbohydrates, 136 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.