Slow Cooking for a Fast Food World

“Most parents would like to provide a tasty, low-cost, healthy meal for their family but many struggle with minimal available time for preparation and planning. This leads to last-minute, expensive, high-fat meals. Wouldn't it be awesome to go back to the time of slow food even though we live in a fast food world?”

That's the idea Beth Rowan successfully pitched to the Austin chapter of the Awesome Foundation. Her mission: “To help interested, low-income family leaders enhance their slow cooking habits through a network of support (email/cell phone reminders), key ingredients/coupons and slow cookers (provided free or on a sliding scale),” with the larger goal of combating diabetes and obesity in the community.

A mother of two, Beth says her inspiration for the project came from seeing “hard-working moms who get home at 6 or 7 at night with ravenous children.” For many working families, she says, “fast food often seems like the best (or maybe the only) option. But by using your imagination, a meal plan, and hardly any prep time, a slow cooker can have a hearty meal all prepared when you walk in the door.”

Beth plans to recruit participants by connecting to community agencies such as the Austin Housing Authority as well as other outreach organizations. Slow cookers (known to many people simply as “Crock Pots”) are a great tool for families on a budget, Beth says, because they make it easy to use inexpensive ingredients such as dried beans as well as less-expensive cuts of meat.

Recognizing that a slow cooker can be a big investment for a family living on the edge of poverty, Beth has already lined up an agreement with appliance-maker Hamilton Beach to provide slow cookers at a sizable discount. She's currently working on fine-tuning recipes for tasty, healthy meals that combine inexpensive ingredients with a minimum of prep time. The initial menu will likely include pulled pork, hearty black beans, simmered chicken, Moroccan chick peas, and easy pot roast, but Beth says suggestions for all types of recipes, especially culturally diverse ethnic food, are more than welcome, via the project's Facebook page. As the program develops, Beth expects the project's Facebook page to grow into a community where participants can share recipes, meal plans, shopping tips, and more.

Beth says she was “surprised and thrilled” to find out she had been named the Austin chapter's third-ever $1000 grantee. “The Awesome Foundation made it possible for me to move from 'just thinking about it' to making it happen!”

Funded by Austin, TX (May 2012)