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Orchard To Help Expand Bread For The City's Menu

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Nutrition consultant Sharon Gruber making compote in the kitchen at Bread for the City.
Jessica Gould
  Nutrition consultant Sharon Gruber making compote in the kitchen at Bread for the City.

For years, D.C. social service organization Bread for the City has planted the seeds of nutrition with its food pantry, cooking classes and garden. Now it’s branching out with a new orchard. 

That orchard is leading to the organization's staff to introduce some new recipes as well. At its Southeast D.C. location, nutrition consultant Sharon Gruber is teaching a course on compote. She says it's as American as apple pie -- just different. 

"All that’s in those trays are chopped up apples and cinnamon," she says. "No butter, no sugar, no honey, no nothing." The monthly nutrition workshops are meant to build community through cooking, while promoting fresh fruits and vegetables, according to Gruber.

"We are also distributing healthy food to people. At the end of the workshop, people are leaving with recipes and also with produce to take home," she says. 

Take Janet Lewis. She loves vegetables. But after undergoing knee surgery two years ago, she craves whatever is most convenient. 

"I have a refrigerator in my bedroom and I always have junk food in there. Chips and popcorn," she says. "And I ballooned from about 198 [lbs] to about 235."

Gruber says most of her clients want to eat healthy food. It's just that junk food is easier to find. That’s why she’s so excited about the organization’s new orchard. 

"It will have Asian pears, apples, blackberries, blueberries, tart cherries, and maybe a few other things thrown in for fun, too," she says. 

To build the orchard, the University of the District of Columbia gave the organization access to land it uses for research in Beltsville, Md. Through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bread for the City is getting ready to start cultivating crops. 

"At full production, we’re estimating about 40,000 pounds of fruits, which will be available to thousands of people at our Northwest and Southeast sites," she says. 

Lewis says all the extra fruit will make a big difference in her diet. "You know, an apple a day keeps the doctor away," she says.  And this Thanksgiving, she may even give apple compote a try. 

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