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North Hills Monthly

Food Bank Teams Up with Pirates Charities to Provide Healthy Recipe Cards

Aug 31, 2015 11:39AM ● By Shelly Tower Rushe

Healthy eating is sometimes viewed as boring, complicated and expensive. And trying to encourage healthy eating with kids? That’s an even bigger challenge.

Early in the 2013 Pirates’ baseball season, Jesse Sharrard, food safety & nutrition manager at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, decided to rise to the challenge. He was watching an early season game when the announcer mentioned that the Pirates were spending more time that season focusing on nutrition, and, understanding that healthy eating could bolster their efforts to advance to the playoffs, Pirates’ Head Clubhouse Chef Tony Palatucci was developing recipes meant to support the athletes’ overall health, while still tasting delicious.

Sharrard instantly saw an opportunity to teach kids how eating right could help their performances, so he reached out to Pirates Charities, who jumped at the idea of creating recipe cards that families could follow. They worked with Palatucci to adjust the players’ favorite recipes to work in an average kitchen using regular ingredients, including those that were readily available to people receiving assistance through the food bank.

“Twenty-four percent of the food we distributed last year was fresh fruits and vegetables,” explained Sharrard, adding that the food bank serves approximately 360,000 individuals in a given year. Sixty-five percent of these households have incomes below the federal poverty level, or less than $23,850 per year for a family of four.

“We usually have staples such as potatoes and onions, but if a grocery store overbuys produce, we often get that surplus of seasonal items,” said Sharrard. The food bank receives fresh produce through several programs, including a gleaning program where local farms donate excess crops. Home gardeners can also donate surplus produce through the food bank’s Community Harvest program.

While encouraging healthy eating habits in children is a top priority with the recipe cards, Sharrard also hopes to reach baseball fans in general, and to encourage families to cook healthy meals together. “We hope to connect with someone who isn’t necessarily interested in cooking but loves baseball,” he explained.

There are currently six Pirates’ recipe cards available, which include main dishes, salads and even some snack foods. Pitcher AJ Burnett’s favorite is Fiesta Lasagna, which also happens to be gluten-free and vegetarian. This quick dish relies on tortillas, canned beans and corn, salsa and cheese for a filling, low-cost meal.

Centerfielder Andrew McCutchen chose frozen Mixed Berry Yogurt Pops as his favorite. Made with just five ingredients, it’s a healthy alternative to sugar-filled popsicles, and no special molds are needed—just spoons and paper cups.

Manager Clint Hurdle chose Chicken Caprese with Spaghetti Squash, which uses spaghetti squash in place of a high-calorie, carbohydrate-loaded pasta as the base of the chicken, tomato and mozzarella dish. Additional player favorites include Neil Walker’s Apple Sandwiches, Starling Marte’s Peanut Butter Banana Burrito, and Josh Harrison’s Zoodles (zucchini ‘noodles’) with Roasted Tomatoes.

The Pirates’ Charity-sponsored recipe cards are available as a free download on the Pirates’ website, and the food bank will also be distributing the cards through its children’s programs. Sharrard hopes that the team will have a chance in the off-season to add more player recipe favorites to the site. In the meantime, anyone in need of assistance obtaining food for their family should visit the food bank’s website at To download the cards, visit and look under the ‘Community’ tab and ‘Pirates Charities.’ You can also download these recipes at