A Grandview Heights Girl Scout's Gold Award project gave clients at a local food pantry the opportunity to pick up more than just sustenance.

Georgia Ryan also provided notecards with recipes using ingredients available at the Heart to Heart Food Pantry, a bag filled with the ingredients needed to prepare one of the recipes and a new slow cooker to take home.

Ryan, 17, is a senior at Grandview Heights High School and a member of Girl Scout Troop 2219. She has worked as a volunteer for four years at Heart to Heart, operated by First Community Church at its campus in Marble Cliff.

The idea for the Gold Award project -- the highest honor a Girl Scout can receive -- came to her as she helped Heart to Heart clients shop at the pantry, Ryan said.

"I noticed there were some food items that I would cook with at home that they weren't taking," she said. "I thought it was possibly because they didn't realize there were simple and nutritious dishes they could prepare for their families using those items."

Clients are more likely to select food items they are familiar with, said Lamar Graham, Heart to Heart's director.

"If people don't know how to prepare a meal using something like lentils, they aren't going to choose them," he said. "I wasn't sure how to use lentils until I saw Georgia's recipe for lentil soup.

"It's really important for our clients to have access to healthy, nutritious foods, and Georgia's project is great because she's providing them some great healthy recipe suggestions," Graham said.

Ryan said she also wanted to encourage family togetherness.

"Preparing a meal in the kitchen is a fun way for families to spend some quality time together," she said. "I like to spend time with my mom in the kitchen."

Ryan used Facebook and other social-media platforms to seek recipes from the community and church members.

"They had to be recipes that only included ingredients that were available at the food pantry and there could be no more than five ingredients in a recipe," she said. "I wanted to make the recipes simple and easy to prepare."

In all, she collected 21 recipes, including several she contributed herself.

Ryan printed the recipes on notecards that she distributed to clients who visited Heart to Heart on July 30 and Aug. 6.

She also prepared some of the dishes that clients could sample during their visit to the pantry.

In addition, she distributed bags containing the ingredients to make one of the recipes: chicken fajitas July 30 and spaghetti with meat sauce Aug. 6.

The food bags were donated by Giant Eagle, Ryan said.

Over the two days, more than 70 slow cookers were doled out to clients, she said. Some of the cookers were donated by community members; Ryan also bought some using funds from her Scout troop.

"People have such crazy schedules," Ryan said.

"The great thing about a Crock-Pot is that you can prepare a meal and keep it warm, so whenever someone comes home, they can have a hot and nutritious meal."

"Most of our clients are employed, but they may work different shifts or more than one job," Graham said. "Having a Crock-Pot is so helpful, because many of the families we serve are single parents who may be at work when their children come home from school. The Crock-Pot will allow them to prepare a good meal rather than just having the kids fend for themselves."

First Community Church, 1320 Cambridge Blvd., has operated the Heart to Heart pantry since 1986, he said.

The pantry typically serves 50 to 60 households every Tuesday and Thursday, Graham said. In 2018, Heart to Heart served 11,313 people and distributed 101,790 meals to families.

The pantry serves all of central Ohio, though most clients live in the 43204 and 43228 ZIP codes, he said.

More than 90 percent of the food Heart to Heart distributes is obtained from the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, Graham said.

"We're always looking for donations, but the way people can best help us is to donate money or their time as volunteers," he said. "Working with the food bank, we can turn every $1 donation into $10 of food."

The pantry also donates food to a number of local organizations, including homeless shelters, Graham said.

For additional information about Heart to Heart, go to h2h.fcchurch.com.

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