So far, I have collected Iron Shawna posts from May-August 2011.  There have been posts since August (approximately one per week), and I am hoping to organize Iron Shawna into an ongoing user-friendly, database-style space so that readers can look up ingredients, ideas or recipes as they like.  This website is just one more step closer to that goal.  Eventually, there will also be a book and a podcast for the Iron Shawna Project, as well.

Recently, I challenged my readers to both a) tell me their favorite use for dill and b) tell me how they would use dill based only on what they have in their kitchen right now. My intent is to co-learn how to start with the ingredients on hand instead of relying on an extra trip to the grocery store in order to complete a rigid recipe. This skill, to me, will be an important way of sustaining myself in a healthy manner whether or not I am buying my own food.

Example: I’d never heard of or seen mangosteens before, but took them (to the food bank volunteers’ surprise: they asked me to report back on how I used them).  I made a smoothie with the mangosteens, frozen blueberries and grapes: tasty and high in antioxidants.  Would I have purchased mangosteens from a grocery store?  Definitely not.  When I have money again, will I buy them in the future?  Sure!

The value in making foods from whatever supply is on-hand is great, especially for food bank recipients who don’t get much choice about what they receive.  This is the nugget from which The Iron Shawna Project both helped me maintain a healthy lifestyle and keep from spiraling into hopelessness.

In August, a friend called me to say that some people were not picking up their Community Support Agriculture (CSA) boxes from his house (he serves as a CSA pick-up location for his neighborhood).  He didn’t want to waste the perfectly good produce and guessed that I might appreciate a fresher alternative to food bank food.  I enjoyed a couple of said CSA boxes full of fresh produce before getting connected with the farm owner and working out a barter agreement: work a couple of shifts in exchange for my very own weekly CSA box.  Once a week from September through mid November, I bicycled 16 miles round-trip from my home down to the Amaranth Farm to harvest, sort, clean, weigh, and pack produce for both the CSA program and catering contracts.  The farming days were long, but the benefits were great: great exercise and extremely fresh organic produce.  How many people can say that they know exactly what part of the earth their food came from, and how it was handled before it arrived at the table?

I still post my Iron Shawna challenges on a mostly weekly basis, even though I have now returned to accepting food bank supplies.

Am I disadvantaged?  Truly, I think not.  My perspective and choices are making me a stronger and healthier person at the moment. I can only hope that my example inspires others to inspect their own current perspective and choices to see about taking a stronger, healthier stance for themselves.

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