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Gifts for food lovers: Gifts of giving (Recipe: fried sweet potatoes) {vegetarian, gluten-free}

Part Seven of an eight-part series.


All I want for the holidays is a piece of a water buffalo*.

Or a hand pump for drinking water**.

Or a few meals on wheels*** (and I don't mean pizza delivery).

Yes, I'd also love a wooden spoon or two, some puffy slippers, the latest Kay Scarpetta, a few romantic comedies on DVD, or a CD of the Colombian cumbia that I heard in a Brad Pitt movie and now can't seem to get out of my head, but I don't need any of these things.

I have food and clean drinking water and a roof over my kitchen. But around the world -- and, yes, shamefully, here in America -- millions of people do not.

You can make food lovers like me very happy with gifts to hunger relief organizations at home and abroad, and there's still time to donate before the holidays. Here are nine ideas to get you started:


Ending hunger in America

Share Our Strength: Tackling the problem of childhood hunger in America through nutrition programs, teaching, and advocacy, with the help of chefs, nutritionists, corporations, and volunteers.

Feeding America (formerly America's Second Harvest): Supporting more than 63,000 local charitable agencies that distribute food directly to Americans in need, through food pantries, soup kitchens, Kids' Cafes, and after-school programs.

Meals on Wheels Association of America***: Providing meals to home-bound seniors and addressing broader issues of senior hunger.

Ending hunger abroad

Heifer International*: "Teach a man to fish..." Even vegetarians will be happy to receive a gift of part of an animal, provided by Heifer to help villages become self-reliant by providing for their own food needs and sharing the offspring of their animals with others.

Action Against Hunger**: Working internationally on issues of health, food security, water safety and malnutrition.

Freedom from Hunger: Combining microfinance with health and life skills services to equip very poor families to improve their incomes, safeguard their health and achieve lasting food security.

Doing something

Bid on a food or wine prize from Menu for Hope, and help support the United Nations World Food Program.

Give a Kiva gift certificate. For as little as $25, you can introduce the food lovers in your life to this micro-loan program that lets investors choose which projects to support. (You can see the loans I've made by clicking on the Kiva link in the sidebar at right.)


 (Photo from Kiva.org)

Buy grocery store gift cards, and donate in your food lover's name to a food pantry or food bank. One size fits all, and always the perfect gift.

[Next Tuesday: Last-minute stocking stuffers]
[Last Tuesday: Gifts of food]
[Previously: Gifts of books for cooks; Gifts of art and craft; Gifts from travels near and far; Gifts for kids who love to cook; Think outside the box] 

Fried sweet potatoes

Adapted from Home Food: 44 Great American Chefs Cook 160 Recipes on Their Night Off, written by Debbie Shore and Catherine Townsend, and published to benefit Share Our Strength. This recipe comes from Sylvia Woods, owner of Sylvia's Soul Food Restaurant in New York City. Serves 8-10.


4-5 lbs medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed and unpeeled
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1-1/2 cups sugar mixed with 3 Tbsp cinnamon


Preheat oven to 350F. Slice the potatoes into 1/2-inch thick pieces. In a large frying pan, heat 2 Tbsp of butter over low heat. Add a single layer of potatoes, and fry 4-5 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Repeat in batches until all of the potatoes are cooked, adding more butter (up to 4 Tbsp) as needed.

Transfer the fried potatoes to a large bowl and toss with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Transfer to a 13x9x2 baking dish. Cut remaining butter into small pieces and scatter over the potatoes. Cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil , and bake for 15 minutes. Serve hot.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Sweet potato, lentil and raisin stew
Sweet potato latkes

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


Now there's a gift idea that I can really get behind! You know, we are so blessed and really have so much (though I know sometimes it may not feel that way)it's so important to share with those that are less fortunate. Of your list, my favorite is Share Our Strength. I love how the empower communities to work together to alleviate (end?) hunger.

Great suggestions, all. I've often supported the Heifer Project - and have recently given a number of gifts of bees, which is becoming more and more important. I also like "The Food Project" near Boston which teaches innner city teens about organic agriculture hands-on.

When I contemplate how much I have in terms of food, shelter, access to medical care, and safety as compared to much of the world I am beyond grateful.

Your suggestions for gifts through these organizations are excellent. Gifts of this sort are much more meaningful than receiving "stuff" for Christmas. I can do with less stuff, as I imagine we all can.

Wonderful ideas and great ways to help.
Most of our giving this year is going to be with these kinds of groups.

Julia, of course you know I have a soft spot for Share Our Strength and the Operation Frontline program.

TW, The Food Project is a great one -- their original garden was not too far from our house in Boston, and we were able to purchase their produce directly from the kids at one of the farmers' markets.

Julie and MyKitchen, same here.

It is awful to think of other people without the very necessities that we take for granted, unless they are not there...

What a wonderful roundup of great ways to give... thanks for the ideas, Lydia!
We are all truly blessed.

Kelly-Jane and Kristen, we are very lucky indeed. This list is just a starting point -- there are many opportunities to help in every community.

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