Archive for the 'Outreach' Category

Something To Warm The Soul

Picture this. We’ve  just finished our Power Point for our capping presentation tomorrow. The week has finally started winding down, and tonight is the first time we can just have together time. So, naturally, we make some hot chocolate and settle down in our living room. Turn on the TV. Food Network. Chopped is on. Perfect.

But this is a different kind of episode. We learn early on that the four chefs featured in tonight’s episode are not the typical professional chefs usually featured on the show. The contestants are actually four lunch ladies, or school cafeteria chefs, who work in under-privileged school districts.

The four school cafeteria chefs featured as competitors on Food Network's Chopped series. Photo courtesy of

To our great surprise and excitement, we eagerly listened as we learned that this special episode was sponsored by Share Our Strength, the same foundation that sponsors the Great American Bake Sale. We couldn’t believe it! Well, we could, because this kind of thing is just what Share Our Strength is all about, but we were just so excited to know that because of doing our own bake sale, we were in some way connected to this other great cause. That we were a part of an organization that continues to make a difference to children in our country.

Not only that, but the special guest judge was none other than White House Chef Sam Kass. He, along with First Lady Michelle Obama, is a major supporter of bringing healthy and nourishing food to our nation’s youth.  The collaboration of a White House initiative with Chopped and Share Our Strength made us feel even more proud to be a part of such an important cause.

First Lady Obama and Chef Kass work side by side in the White House kitchen as a part of the "Let's Move!" campaign for healthy eating and lifestyles. Photo courtesy of

But back to Chopped. The showdown begins, and it is immediately clear that these women mean business. They are competing for a grand prize of $10,000 and you can see how badly they want to win the money to help their schools.

We are pretty big fans of the show, so it was exciting for us to see such an intimate episode. The judges were notably more relaxed in their expectations and demeanor, and were subsequently “wowed” by each of the lunch ladies’ performances.

In the end, Cheryl Barbara, who works at the High School in the Community in New Haven, CT ultimately took the cake (and the grand prize) with her twist on fruit ambrosia-stuffed grilled cheese.

A take on the winning dessert grilled cheese featured on the Food Network's Chopped series, episode "Class Acts." Photo courtesy of

This was a particularly teary episode for some of the more emotional ones in our house (Lina & Molly). It was just that you could see their passion and dedication for their work, how they put their heart and soul into every dish they prepared. They were fighting their way through the baskets of secret ingredients so that the at-risk youth at their schools could get a fighting chance for a bright, healthy future.

If you haven’t done so already, take the pledge to end childhood hunger, along with students from the Marist community, Share Our Strength and the Food Network! It takes less than a minute to sign up and will make a world of difference. Is that too corny? Maybe so. Deal with it. Tis the season, after all.


Sweet Supermarkets, Sodexo and… SURPRISE bakery

On our first trip two weeks ago, we had lots of luck getting donations from the smaller, local bakeries in Poughkeepsie. This week was the opposite. On Wednesday we went back into the community, again seeking donations for our bake sale. The small-name bakeries we approached (The Pastry Garden, Sugar & Spice Cafe, to name a few) told us that they had already exceeded their donation quota for the year.

This required a change of our game-plan. We decided to ask chain grocery stores for their help. While we didn’t get exactly what we expected, we got what we needed regardless. Price Chopper in Poughkeepsie could not give us baked goods, but were able to provide us with a $10 giftcard that will allow us to buy essentials for our bake sale, like plates, trays and napkins.

Price Chopper, we appreciate your donation! Photo courtesy of

We had a similar experience with Stop & Shop in Hyde Park. We spoke with the store manager, and he was very enthusiastic about our project. He said he hated to see food go to waste, but nowadays there are so many legal concerns that companies would rather throw away food than face a potential lawsuit.

He told us that he would see if there was any wiggle room in the matter and that he would get back to us with an answer.  We left that day and got a call from him that very night! It was so great to have someone call US for a change… usually we are the ones tracking people down! The manager ended up telling us that Stop & Shop could not donate food to our bake sale, but they could provide us with a $25 gift card.

Thanks again, Stop & Shop! Photo courtesy of

We were really excited and put the gift card to use right away, buying more essentials like baking tins and frosting.

We also had some major help from Sodexo. Instead of asking for a donation of baked goods, we decided to ask Sodexo for their large containers of coffee and hot chocolate. This way, we will have one of each at all four of our selling locations. Sodexo has really come through for us, answering our questions so quickly and efficiently… they have really helped make this such a smooth process!

Sodexo cares! Photo courtesy of

And of course I’m saving the best news for last. You know that amazing local diner that is basically its own branch of the Marist campus? You know, the one that was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives? The one whose menu brings us to tears because it so extensive? The one where your table is silent the second the food is brought out because everyone is too busy feasting to make conversation? And now, the one that will be donating to OUR BAKE SALE?

Yeah, that’s right. We got it. We got the EVEREADY. Brace yourselves, Marist. If we hadn’t already given you enough indication, now you have it. It is going to be one sweet bake sale.

Another reason why we LOVE the Eveready Diner! Photo courtesy of

Shaking Hands, Making Deals

Today, the mighty trio trekked out into the world, determined to complete the task at hand. We weren’t quite sure what to expect, but we brought with us our greatest resources: passion, enthusiasm, and three bright smiles.

What was this mission, you ask? We ventured into Poughkeepsie and Hyde Park, seeking bakeries who would donate to our bake sale.

We drafted a proposal letter using a template on the GABS site. We explained our cause and listed the most important information of all: the date of our bake sale. (In case you forgot already, it’s Wednesday, November 2nd).

Here’s an overview of our bakery crawl. All of the places we visited today are definitely worth a visit in person. But our bake sale will give a good idea of what to expect from each!

Babycakes Cafe:

Located right across the street from Vassar College, Babycakes is frequented by college students and locals alike. There are so many menu options…each one had our mouth’s watering. Unfortunately, the manager was not in that morning, so we left our letter with the cashier. We will definitely be calling to confirm because Babycakes would make a tasty addition to our bake sale!

Caffe Aurora:

The next stop took us through downtown Poughkeepsie to a pleasant bakery, decorated with antiques. There was lots of seating and we all agreed it would make a great spot for hitting the books. While the cashier prepared coffee for a customer, we were content to gaze at the beautiful desserts filling the glass display cases. Cakes, pastries, biscotti… this place had it all. And the prices seemed reasonable to boot!  The manager came out to talk with us and was so friendly. He was enthusiastic about the bake sale, and we were excited to have our first local bakery on board.

Outside Caffe Aurora. Photo courtesy of the Poughkeepsie Journal.

La Deliziosa Italian Pastry Shop:

This adorable bakery was only a stone’s throw away from Caffe Aurora. The second we walked in the door, we were greeted by the smell of biscotti, a smell that flooded Lina and Lindsey with memories from their time studying abroad in Florence. There were so many different kinds of authentic Italian biscotti and cookies… we want to go back and try them all! The woman behind the counter agreed immediately. La Deliziosa will provide our bake sale with a large tray of cookies, customized with red, white and blue ribbons.

A sampling of La Deliziosa's cookies and pastries. Photo courtesy of La Deliziosa.


This place requires a little bit of a trek, about 10 minutes down Rt. 9. This was another cafe that just had such a great ambience. Cool-looking tables and chairs, comfy couches, friendly staff, and most importantly, a great menu! So many types of coffee to choose from, baked goods, sandwiches…this might be the perfect place to escape the craziness of finals week or, dare we say it, your capping project! Still waiting to hear back on this one too, the manager wasn’t in, but we trust that the boys behind the counter will come through for us.


We are very excited to be working with Caffe Aurora and La Deliziosa. But we still have a lot of work to do. This week and the next we will continue to recruit local bakeries.

If you are interested in baking, working a table or promoting our event PLEASE e-mail us at We check it all the time and would LOVE to work with you!