Good For All

Good For All

Over the past month Gourmet Gorilla raised over $2,200 in support of Chicago’s Polaris Charter Academy. The 7th grade class at PCA is rounding out their school year by focusing on the food system, covering topics like food security, sustainability and healthy food access. PCA, located in the West Humboldt/East Garfield Park neighborhood is a food desert, meaning an area that does not have immediate access to affordable, nutritious food such as whole fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat milk.

Gourmet Gorilla crowdsourced over $2,200 from almost 30 donors, using Go Fund Me, to make 140 produce bags for participating families in the PCA community. The reusable bags were made by Movéo and consisted of broccoli, apples, oranges, lettuce, collard greens, cauliflower, grapes, bananas, potatoes and onions. Also included in each bag was a recipe card for Gourmet Gorilla’s cauliflower soup to provide inspiration for aspiring chefs! We hope that these bags and recipes will help students continue to learn about the food system and their part within it.

At the bag distribution Tuesday night, the ‘Omarion Special’ was served. This meal was designed by PCA student, Omarion, with the help of Gourmet Gorilla’s registered dietitian, Samantha Sullivan. The ‘Omarion Special’ consists of buffalo chicken, roasted sweet potato, kiwi slices and corn bread. As families ate, the room was filled with the smells of fresh produce on one side of the room, and delicious buffalo chicken on the other.

 The food-focused evening ended with families picking up their produce bags, enjoying a delicious student-designed meal and enjoying each other’s company. We would like to thank the Gourmet Gorilla and PCA community for supporting this project!  

- Johnny Sudekum, Sourcing and Customer Service Specialist

Gourmet Gorilla in the Classroom

Here at Gourmet Gorilla we believe education is an important component of health and nutrition. Healthy habits, and conversely unhealthy ones, are learned in childhood. With this fact in mind, Gourmet Gorilla has been offering classes for local students, to teach them all about both nutrition and sustainable farming practices and empower them to make healthy choices in their own lives.

Johnny Sudekum, our Sourcing Specialist and Samantha Sullivan ,our staff Dietitian, have been at the helm of this classroom initiative and recently travelled to Polaris Charter School to share their expertise. Johnny, who led the children in an activity about the benefits and pitfalls of certain farming practices believes that offering these classes allow students to view nutrition in a new way; “We are able to show these kids that people are very passionate about these topics. There are people who have dedicated their lives to studying nutrition, and promoting sustainable farming, and making students aware of that shows them just how important these things are”.  By making children aware of the different farming options available, and the implications of each one, we hope children and their families will take time to consider the impact that their food choices have not only on themselves, but also the environment.

 

All too often children replicate unhealthy habits they see in their households, our Dietitian Samantha stressed the importance of changing those habits; “Kids grow up without learning about the importance of nutrition, and then they pass along poor habits to their children and so on. It becomes a cycle, one that we hope we can help break.” Samantha hopes that by giving children critical information about healthy diets at a young age, we can help lower health risks for them in the future; “Last week the students were asking about diabetes, they were unaware that their diets now could affect their healths so strongly”. Samantha often hears children voicing beliefs that their fast metabolisms means they can eat what they want and not have to worry, because their weights is not affected. “They aren’t aware of the other implications,” she said. With these classes, we hope to change children's views on their diets, and make them more conscious of their food choices. Gourmet Gorilla is dedicated to ensuring that we not only provide healthy meals to children, but that we give them the tools they need to continue to make healthy choices well into adulthood.

- Alyssa Black, Customer Service Specialist

Gorilla Classes

Cooking Up Pizza and Compost

Last Friday the second grade class of Congress Park Elementary School visited us at Gourmet Gorilla Headquarters for a morning of cooking, education and composting.

The class kicked off with a talk about the different ingredients in pizza and whether they are considered to be fruits, vegetables or something else. After going through each component, we let the students put on the ‘chef hat’ and make their own personal pizza. The students rolled their own dough, spread their organic tomato-based sauce and topped off their creations with choices of cheese, olives, peppers, ham and mushroom.

While the pizzas cooked in the oven, the Gourmet Gorilla team went into the next lesson; compost! The Congress Park Elementary students impressed everyone with their knowledge of the different parts that make up compost (brown things and green things) and what it can do (turn into rich soil). After learning about the different components of a compost pile, the students made their own by combining layers of soil, shredded paper and vegetable scraps. While the end product isn’t as delicious as pizza, the students took pride in that their creation.

Before heading back to school each student got to taste and take home his or her specific pizza. We are so happy we were able to share such a educational and fun morning with the Congress Park Elementary students and can’t wait for them to come back soon!

- Johnny Sudekum, Sourcing and Customer Service Specialist

After the Bell

Gourmet Gorilla Mission

“We are committed to working with community partners to provide solid nutrition for all children in order to help them learn and grow.”

From the beginning Gourmet Gorilla has been dedicated to providing healthy, nutrient dense foods to kids all across Northern Illinois. Multiple studies have shown that children need adequate fruit and vegetable intake to learn & grow. The vitamins and minerals found in these foods are essential for brain growth & development. This is such a critical time in a young person's life.

We are able to provide access to these types of foods during the school day but the real trick is helping provide access when the children exit those school doors at the end of the day. We are partnering up with one of our local schools, Polaris Charter Academy, to try and continue to provide access after 3 pm. This project can make a huge impact to the families of these schools, BUT we cannot do it alone. Your donation will help us finance this project so we can provide healthy, fresh produce to Polaris families for free. Each family will receive a produce bag filled with nutrient packed foods! The link is listed below. We believe every child deserves proper nutrition. Please help us fight to make this possible!   

https://www.gofundme.com/bring-fresh-produce-to-pca

 - Samantha Sullivan, RDN, LDN

Spring into Farmer's Market Season

Temperatures are increasing and the city’s plant life is turning to vibrant hues of green, spring is officially in the air here in Chicago! And with it comes the start of the city’s numerous farmers markets. This past Thursday, the largest running farmers market in Chicago, Daley Plaza Farmers Market, opened once again. Crowds were able to peruse collections of richly colored fruits and veggies while strolling through the Plaza. The market is a great way to support local farmers, while ensuring that your veggies are fresh and in season. The Plaza offers a wide variety of product booths and sights, try picking up one of the freshly baked goods and treats offered at the booths and take a perch at the fountain, enjoying the sights of the market as well as the historic square that is home to the renowned Picasso sculpture. Pick up some fresh flowers to brighten up your home, or simply just browse the many sellers’ offerings, taking in all that the local farmers have to offer.

The market is located at 50 W. Washington Street, near the blue line, and runs from 7am to 3 pm every Thursday until October 26. Not located near the plaza? Don’t worry, the city boasts an impressive array of markets across the area, many of which accept Link! Check out just a few of the many additional options below, and for more go online to the City of Chicago’s Event Page.

- Alyssa Black, Customer Service Specialist

Daley Plaza Farmers Market

50 W. Washington Street

Thursday 7am to 3pm

Runs until October 26th

Link accepted

 

Division Street Farmers Market

Division Street and Dearborn Parkway

Saturday 7am to 1pm

Runs until October 28th

Link Accepted

 

Logan Square Farmers Market

2755 N Milwaukee Ave

Sunday 10 am to 3 pm

Runs outdoors through October 29th (Indoor market from November 6th until March 26th)

Accepts Link

Taking the Local Option

 

Eating with the seasons. While there are a few frigid months in Chicago that put farming—for the most part—on hold, eating locally allows consumers’ taste buds to experience the seasonality of their location, like eating fresh greens in the late spring and apples in the fall. This month consumers in and around Chicago shouldn’t have a problem finding fresh lettuce, spinach and radishes at their local farmer’s market.

Meet your veggie halfway. Buying locally attaches less miles to your fruits and vegetables, and therefore creates a smaller carbon footprint. Due to their consistently warm climates Florida and California produce most tomatoes for the United States, distributing far and wide to cities including Chicago. In the summer, however, the Midwest’s climate is warm enough to grow these delicious fruits, and many local farms take advantage of this window of opportunity. Going with the local option—weather permitting—gives consumers the same delicious foods but with fewer miles attached. Why should we let vegetables do all the traveling?

Build community, support your local farmer. Every farm has its own unique story and set of growing principles, and we think those are worth knowing! We love learning about the farms we work with, like Windy City Harvest’s Rodeo Farm, which is currently growing spinach for one of our upcoming events in June. Working with local farms also supports local economy. Taking part in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program is a great way to consistently buy locally. By paying a fee at the beginning of the season, consumers receive a share of the harvest each week (or sometimes twice a week) with different varieties of fruits, vegetables and occasionally meat. CSAs come in all different sizes, prices and range in what produce they offer. In fact, some CSAs even allow their participants to harvest their own produce!

- Johnny Sudekum, Sourcing Specialist


Find a list of Illinois farms that offer CSAs here. We hope to see you at the farmer’s markets soon

We're not rolling back.

Congress passed the bipartisan Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act back in 2010. It included new school meal guidelines which introduced more whole grains, lower sodium levels, and more fruits and vegetables into school lunches!

Since it's founding, Gourmet Gorilla has always exceeded nutritional guidelines. When these new guidelines came out, we were ahead of the curve and already integrating these requirements into our meals. With a focus on always including whole grains and freshly made meals and an emphasis on fruits and veggies, grown locally whenever possible, we've been on the front lines in the cafeterias and lunchrooms. Our job has been to make meals great, and to educate and inspire children on how awesome these foods are!

Yesterday, the USDA announced a loosening of these guidelines, providing schools with more time comply with certain regulations and relaxing the standards for others. We see things differently, and Gourmet Gorilla will continue to move the dial forward and not lose the gains and successes we've experienced in our schools.

At a time when one out of three of our nation’s children are overweight or obese, an epidemic that already costs our nation’s economy $1.4 trillion a year, it's more important then ever to continue promoting, educating, and providing access to nutritionally superior foods that will fuel their bodies and minds.

Here are the stats since 2010:

--Over 99% of schools are meeting important portions of the standards

--86% of voters support the guidelines

--Students are eating more fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods that help them reach their classrooms well-nourished and ready to learn.

Gourmet Gorilla understands that healthy eating habits don't happen overnight, and that education needs to take place when introducing new foods on the lunch tray in order to minimize waste. We don't want to see those veggies end up in the trash either! But a rollback is not solution.

Our standards on nutrition should be set as high as our academic standards. The USDA and Department of Education should work hand in hand on these efforts to provide kids with a healthy start. Our children deserve it.

Sugar!

Sugar!

Over the past month, the hot nutrition topic at Gourmet Gorilla has been sugar. What is sugar? What is the effect on the body? And how can we reduce it? All great questions.

There are two types of sugars that I like to focus on, natural sugar & added sugar. Natural sugar can be found in veggies, fruits, some grains, & dairy products. Added sugar includes, “any sugar or caloric sweeteners that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation. This includes putting sugar in your coffee or cereal. Added sugars (or sweeteners) can include natural sugars such as white sugar, brown sugar, and honey as well as other caloric sweeteners that are chemically manufactured (ex. High fructose corn syrup).” -American Heart Association

Obesity rates, especially in children, have increased tremendously over the past 25-30 years leading to the obesity epidemic. The consumption of added sugars has also skyrocketed. There is no doubt that added sugars have contributed to this epidemic. Increased added sugar consumption can also lead to type 2 diabetes, tooth decay, high triglyceride levels, and heart disease. It's a big deal. So how do we monitor our children’s consumption of added sugars? Great question!

The American Heart Association recommends that children have no more than 3 tsp (12 grams) of added sugars a day. The best place to start reducing added sugar is the nutrition label:

  1. Does the product contain fruit, veggies, or dairy? If not, all of the sugar is added.

  2. The ingredient list lists ingredients in descending order by weight. If one of the ingredients listed below is in the top 5 ingredients, it would be best to monitor consumption: brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, malt sugar, molasses, raw sugar, sugar, dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose, syrup, cane juice, evaporated corn sweetener, crystal dextrose, liquid fructose, and fruit nectar. Those are all “added sugars.”

Reducing added sugars in the diet can be hard, but extremely important for the health of your child. If you strive to eat more natural and whole foods and decrease processed food consumption that is a great step in the right direction.. Below are 5 common foods that are high in added sugars.

  1. Regular soft drinks, energy drinks, & sports drinks. Fun fact: 4 grams of sugar = 1 tsp of sugar. This means a 12 oz coke which as 39 grams of sugar has over ¾ cups of added sugar!   

  2. Ice Cream & sweetened yogurts (try to find yogurt with less that 7 grams of sugar)  

  3. Candy

  4. Store Bought Granola Bars (limit consumption of bars with lots of chocolate and peanut butter. They are amazing, but basically a snickers bar in a different package)

  5. Condiments: Ketchup, salad dressing, bbq sauce, ranch dressing

 

Nutrition: The Real MVP!

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We all know that nutrition is an important player in any sport, but have you considered the role that snacking can play on and off the field? This past Friday Gourmet Gorilla hosted the Chicago Kics United Soccer team, where the players learned all about how healthy snacking can give them an edge in their games!

The night began with the young all-stars watching a video on healthy eating and sports, followed by a discussion on two important parts of any any athlete's menu; carbohydrates and protein, and how to integrate them into your snacking routine. Two important components of healthy snacking are power snacks, which are rich in carbohydrates and proteins, and energy boost snacks, which are great for getting in those necessary carbohydrates. Our team member and resident dietitian, Samantha Sullivan, walked the players through the snacking timeline of when to have a power snack versus an energy boosting snack. Have a game starting in an hour or two and want staying power to outlast your opponent on the field? Try putting together a power snack like a smoothie or fruit with nut butter. Have thirty minutes before you game starts and want an extra jump start to give you the advantage? Try a energy boosting snack like a small bag of pretzels or half a cup of yogurt to help you start your game strong. Just won the big game and looking to celebrate while replenishing your empty energy stores? Make another power snack like a bean and cheese quesadilla with your teammates to celebrate a job well done!

The night was finished off with a recap on the importance of healthy eating and a sampling of two power snacks; the Strawberry Banana Stamina smoothie and the Mighty Mercy Sunbutter Smoothie, both excellent choices for healthy snacking!

It’s important for athletes to keep a healthy diet for their performances both on the field and off of it. In addition to working power and energy boost snacks into your diet during game time, be sure to eat a variety of foods during the off season and in between games as well, including lean proteins, whole grains, dairy, healthy fats, and fruits and veggies. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water!

What’s in Season: Spinach, Carrots & Broccoli

spinach-web.jpg

At long last, the weather is warming up. Here in Chicago, late spring weather brings a few welcomed changes—like it’s finally time to put winter jackets in storage (at least for a few months). The change in weather also means it’s time to take advantage of Illinois’ late spring growing window by planting some of your favorite fruit and vegetable crops. Here are a few plants that we love, and grow well around this time of the year.

Spinach, a cool weather vegetable, is an easy crop for any aspiring farmer to populate their first garden, and are compact enough to grow in a window sill planter. With preferred growing temperatures between 40°F and 70°F, Spinach is well equipped to survive Illinois’ often unpredictable spring climate. After buying a spinach starter, plant in moist, nitrogen-rich soil, at 4 to 6 inches apart. In just a few weeks, your spinach will be ready to harvest and enjoyed raw in salads, or cooked down in pastas and sautés.

A hearty, frost-resistant root vegetable, carrots are as appealing in the garden, or window sill planter, as they are on your dinner plate. When searching for the ideal location, look for a space in full-sun, ideally with sandy, well-drained soil. Carrots mature in approximately 2 ½ months, but you can harvest whenever the desired size and maturity is reached. After harvest, carrots offer a wide range of uses ranging from roasting, to serving raw with your favorite dip. If you harvest more than you can eat right away, pickled carrots are a delicious snack that lengthens their shelf life to over a year.

Broccoli grows best in cold weather, with full sun and rich soil, and requires more space than carrots or spinach. Plant your broccoli starters roughly 18 inches apart, in an area that gets at least 6 hours of sun daily. These plants enjoy a steady source of moisture and plenty of nitrogen-rich fertilizer. After 2 to 3 months your broccoli heads should be ready for harvest. While they aren’t commonly sold at grocery stores, broccoli leaves aren’t just edible, but they’re also packed with nutrients. They can be cooked down in sautés similarly to kale, or baked in the oven with salt, pepper and olive oil to make delicious broccoli-leaf chips.

Don’t have a green thumb? Not a problem! You can support your local farmers at weekend farmers markets or signing up for a CSA. We’re excited to source spinach this summer from local Chicago farms including Growing Home and Windy City Harvest

On the Go!

It’s that crazy time of the year again. Between Spring Break, kids wrapping up school, and the start of spring after school activities it seems like you’re always on the run. With always being on the go it is vital that you and your busy little ones are putting the right fuel in your bodies! Check out this easy snack that is perfect for refueling and makes a great alternative to stopping at the closest fast food joint. Enjoy!

Sunbutter & Jelly Sushi Rolls
Nutrient Highlight: Sunbutter is a great substitute for peanut butter if there is an allergy present or you’re just looking for an alternative! Protein from the sunbutter and the whole grains from the bread is the perfect mix to boost your energy and keep you full until your next meal! Sunbutter also contains the antioxidant vitamin E which fights inflammation and is great for your hair and nails! 
Ingredients:

 

- 2 Tbsp. Sunbutter (Any seed or nut butter can be used)

- 2 Tbsp Strawberry or Grape Jam

- 2 Slices Whole Grain Bread

Directions:
Remove crust from bread and with a rolling pin flatten bread. 
Spread 1 tbsp of sunbutter and 1 tbsp of jelly on each slice of bread. 
Roll each slice into a tight spiral. Cut the rolled bread into 4 pieces

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics planned, nutritious snacks are an important aspect of a child’s daily routine. The majority of young children and teens need to eat every three to four hours to meet MyPlate recommendations. Planned, healthy snacks help can kids maintain a healthy weight. A few tips to remember when it comes to snacking:

1.) Wait a few hours after a meal and one to two hour before the next meal to offer a snack. This will help reduce skipping meals.

2.) It is important that snacking is done in a controlled environment. When children eat all over the house it is hard to control what AND how much is being consumed.

3.) Avoid letting children snack while watching tv. Studies have shown that watching tv and eating can lead to mindless eating resulting in eating too much.

Try introducing our new trail mix to your child's daily routine! It is the perfect balance of healthy and fun. Filled with sunflower & pumpkin seeds, raisins, & chocolate chips it packs a nutritious punch with each bite. Sunflower & pumpkin seeds are filled with powerful protein keeping your kiddo full until the next meal!  Raisins are rich in iron which helps move oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body, this is crucial for the growth and development.

Snacking, when done right, can be extremely beneficial to the health of your little one. Keep an eye out for our new Trail Mix making an appearance on a Snack Menu near you!

Let the Children Have Their Say!

Good nutrition is critical in the growth and development of your children. Making sure your kids have enough food and the right type of food will help them stay focused in school, grow strong, and prevent them from developing chronic diseases. One of the most crucial parts of having kids develop a good relationship with healthy food is providing them with a wide variety of healthy options. From those healthy options then allowing them have a say in which one they’re going to pick and how much. Giving them variety to pick from lets them try and experience foods they never have before.

Over the past two weeks at our new Education Space, we’ve been focusing on letting the kids have a say in what they are eating. They’ve had an opportunity to taste what we are currently making as well as design and build their own meals with a hands on approach. They were able to choose from a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, healthy proteins, and whole grains and allowing them to build their own meals.  Not only have them come up with some very creative and delicious meals, but have also helped us develop some awesome meal names! Keep an eye out for some of our new menu name which will start to appear on the Spring men, along with more nutrition and cooking classes for you to bring your groups.

Nutrition is so important, especially in our growing children! Help your children make the right choices by providing variety and letting them have a voice in what is going in their bodies!

Start the New Year Refreshed

More smiling, less worrying. More compassion, less judgment. More blessed, less stressed. More love, less hate.”

― Roy T. BennettThe Light in the Heart

A New Year is upon us! 2017 holds so much opportunity. So much promise. How are you going to make the best of 2017?! This year Gourmet Gorilla is continuing to strive to deliver fresh, delicious, and nutritious meals to the kids of Northern Illinois and Wisconsin.  We are also striving towards creating the best possible work environment for our staff. We are  focusing in on stress management by making time to smile more, judge less, love more, and take a deep breath to de-stress.

Over the last month we have examined what would be the best way as a company to take a few hours a week to stop and refocus. After exploring many different stress management options we have found that the most beneficial would be Yoga and Tai Chi.

Yoga is considered a mind-body practice that brings together physical and mental disciplines to help achieve peacefulness of the body and mind. Research has shown that by taking a few hours a week to stop and practice this discipline it can result in multiple positive health effects. It has been shown to help reduce stress and anxiety and improve your mood and overall well being. It can lead to improved fitness due to the physical strains of practicing different poses which enhance flexibility, range of motion, and strength. Yoga has also been shown to help manage chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and heart disease. Some studies have also shown that yoga has helped alleviate symptoms of depression, pain, anxiety, and depression.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese tradition that today is practiced as a graceful form of exercise. It is a different type of meditative movement but still considered a form of yoga. Tai Chi was originally developed for self defense but is now used more as a form of exercise that focuses on stress reduction and help to manage other health conditions. Research has shown that Tai Chi has shown to decrease stress, anxiety, and depression, it improves mood and aerobic capacity.  Tai Chi has been shown to increase energy and stamina, improve flexibility and agility, and improve muscle strength and definition.  Studies have shown that it can enhance quality of sleep, enhance the immune system, help lower blood pressure, improve joint pain, improve symptoms of congestive heart failure, reduce fall risk in older adults, and improve overall well-being.

By taking these few hours of the week we have  been able to refocus. It is helping us achieve a new level of positivity in the office, allowing us to think at a higher level, and helping us find inner motivation to continue to provide the best possible food to our schools and programs.  With all the craziness of life don’t be afraid to take a step back to smile more, judge less, love more, and take a deep breath to de-stress. Stress is hard on the body and mind. You deserve it. Join us in starting this year de-stressed and ready to take on 2017.

Happy 2017! 

Check out our awesome Tai Chi instructor, Stirling Levine: http://www.stirlingtaichi.com/

Don't Throw Away Those Scraps

 

At Gourmet Gorilla we are continually working towards reducing waste. As a society, whether we are on the supply or demand end, we have a serious food waste problem. One small step in the right direction for us as consumers is to reduce food waste by recycling food scraps. There are so many great ways to reuse food scraps so think twice next time before throwing out those orange peels! Below we put together some great tips for putting common kitchen scraps to use.

Avocado Pits →

– Save your guacamole. Keep your guacamole from going brown by putting the pit in the dip.

– Dry, grind, and put them in a homemade face mask as an exfoliant or in a smoothie for extra antioxidants.

Broccoli Stems →

– Turn them into baby food

– Shred them in place of cabbage in coleslaw

– Freeze and add to stir-fry

Citrus Peels →

– Use lemon, lime or orange peels to infuse water

– Throw citrus peels in your garbage or garbage disposal to de-stink it!

– Infuse your vinegar with citrus to make cleaning smell nicer

Regrowth → save your stems and regrow your food scraps!

– Pineapple

– Green onions

– Lettuce

– Garlic

– Ginger

Eggshells →

– Grind up eggshells and add to potting soil or sprinkle directly onto the garden. It will add a healthy dose of calcium to your garden to promote growth.

Let us know of any other scraps you use around the house!