“My name is Jean Dickinson. There are 4 boys and 1 girl in our family – all grown now – maybe because I fed them.”
Jean Dickinson is a lively and frugal Vermonter and long-time supporter of the Vermont Foodbank. We met with her in May, during Older Americans Month. We won’t reveal her age, but we will say that she’s been married to Charlie for 68 years and she says they “haven’t agreed about anything yet.” Jean is a mother, educator, and a true believer in the economics behind home economics, which is why we asked her to help find ways our clients can make the most of their CSFP boxes.
CSFP is a senior nutrition program and stands for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program. Seniors must be low-income and over 60 years of age to be eligible. Before we met, we asked Jean to work with a standard CSFP box of food. Here’s Jean’s take on it:
The Foodbank delivers a box of “staples” once a month, so let’s see what we can do with what’s in it and how long we can make it last, and use every bit of it – nothing thrown out or still on the shelf when the next one comes. There is canned tomato, mixed vegetables, peas, corn and peaches. We also find peanut butter, two boxes of cereal, two packages of cooked chicken pieces, macaroni, and onions, two peppers, two cucumbers and two boxes of milk that can stay on the shelf until we need them.
And, as we call it: PM, dry, powdered milk. I can feel the shudder from the computer at the thought of powdered milk! But I also have had a box handy ever since I got mad at the milkman and started mixing it with regular milk in a pitcher for my family. Powdered milk is a lifesaver, great for cooking and cheaper than regular milk.
With the contents of the box, Jean made something of a casserole, with the chicken, peas and soup, utilizing powdered milk for creaminess and adding the cereal to the top as an extra crunch. She pointed out that if you don’t have a rolling pin to crunch the cereal, you can just use an old jar, such as a jelly jar! Refrigerated portions could last a week, stretching this out into multiple meals over multiple days.
She cut up some of the veggies and put them in a small jar that made them seem extra kid- and snack-friendly. For the cucumbers, she gave us a simple recipe for cucumber relish that doesn’t require any cooking.
Jean’s Cucumber Relish
- 4 cups cucumber, ground
- 1 cup onion, ground
- 1/4 cup salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
- Mix ingredients.
- Let stand overnight.
- Drain in the morning and put in jars.
- Add vinegar.
- Seal cans tightly.
Jean has several older cookbooks that prominently feature uses for leftovers, which you don’t see often in modern books. But she actually started this project by listing everything she received in the box, then she created a meal plan for all of the ingredients. It’s possible, for example, to stretch the chicken into five meals, such as chicken soup, chicken pot pie and by putting the last bits of chicken into macaroni and cheese.
She knows how to make meals stretch, with five kids and all.
And with that many to feed and clothe and send to school, we didn’t spend money we didn’t have to. I watched the price of food and the kind very carefully. We also had to stay healthy. It was a challenge, but also fun and the kids started helping as soon as they were old enough.
It was great to spend the day with Jean, a Foodbank supporter and volunteer. We love learning about why people connect with the cause of hunger in Vermont, and she helped us develop new recipe content for our CSFP clients!
CSFP is always looking to serve more seniors who are income eligible. Learn more about CSFP here.
And thank you, Jean!