Wallowa County families in need receive meal kits with Food Hero recipes

A meal kit sits on a shelf among canned food in a food pantry.

Emergency food boxes help families in need, but the recipients don’t always know how to use all the foods that are in the box or what to make with the ingredients. In 2019, Oregon State University Extension Service’s Supplemental Nutrition Education Program (SNAP-Ed) unit conducted a Healthy Pantry Survey that identified the need for meal kits with ingredients and a recipe.

In response, Extension in Wallowa County worked with the Enterprise Food Bank and Wallowa Food Bank to produce “Just Scratch It!” kits to be distributed in emergency food boxes. Extension selected Food Hero recipes based on the probability that the major recipe components would generally be available at the food pantries on a regular basis.

Food Hero is a statewide initiative of OSU Extension SNAP-Ed. All the recipes are tested according to criteria, such as overall flavor, color and texture. Food Hero meals are low-cost and feature easy to find ingredients, easy to follow instructions and minimal preparation time.

The recipes in the Just Scratch It! kits included easy skillet chili, one-pan spaghetti, stovetop tuna casserole and tasty hamburger skillet. Many of the recipe components were the same: pasta, beans, tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, canned corn or other canned vegetables, canned soups, shelf-stable milk and tuna. Wallowa County’s pantries could add the protein, such as hamburger, or fresh vegetables, such as onions or carrots, that were called for in the recipes.

As a result, OSU Extension in Wallowa County has assembled more than 120 Just Scratch It! kits at the Wallowa Food Bank, with enough ingredients to provide a total of 480 meals. The kits allowed families to make a healthy, hearty meal that they could enjoy together. The concept has been adopted by SNAP-Ed units in other Oregon counties and well-received by their partner organizations.