Hotdish or casserole?

The great Hotdish/casserole debate. It is a Midwestern story as old as time.

I grew up in a suburb north of the Twin Cities, and the only hotdish I knew of was tater-tot hotdish, and the only casserole was the tried-and-true holiday green bean casserole.

So, imagine my surprise when I married into a local farm family and discovered that there were not only different definitions for the terms lunch, supper, and dinner (I learned quickly to clarify noon lunch or evening dinner with my mother-in-law to avoid confusion.) but a myriad of hot dishes: Tater-tot, funeral, tomato-based, mushroom soup with chow main crunchy noodles and refrigerator to name just a few.

Then the mind-blowing debate of what vegetable should be allowed and if a layer of cheese is acceptable in the beloved tater-tot hotdish. Whether you add all the mixed vegetables, a layer of cheese, or call it a hotdish or casserole, this is a staple midwestern comfort food. We are lucky that our favorite comfort foods are readily available.

Next month, Passover and Easter will be upon us, and families will gather to celebrate. For most of us, the traditional foods we love to celebrate with are easily accessible for our enjoyment.

But what if you are looking for something not so midwestern?

What if you need Matza to make Matza ball soup or a kugel which can be considered a casserole?

How accessible is that?

What if you are new to our community and desire your cultural comfort food?

Could you find your traditional staples on our local food shelves?

Many of our diverse communities need to see themselves or their cultures reflected on local food shelves. For immigrants, refugees, and communities of Color who disproportionately rely on food shelves, finding food they are accustomed to eating can be challenging.

Here at United Way of Southwest Minnesota, like many United Ways across the State of Minnesota, we are joining Greater Twin Cities United Way in participating in a new statewide program called Flavors of Our Community to fill local food shelves with culturally specific food items supplemented with fresh foods to create access to nutritiously healthy and culturally relevant meaningful meals.

Join us and get involved. Because comfort food isn’t always tater-tot hotdish or casserole with or without a layer of cheese.

To help everyone feel at home in our community, you can drop off donations now until March 31st for any requested items listed below, and we will distribute them among our local food shelves.

• 12 oz can Jalapeno

• 8 oz Goya Seasoning

• 8 oz Chili Garlic Sauce

• 7 oz Fish Sauce

• 10 oz Hoisin Sauce

• 17 oz Siracha Sauce

• 14 oz baby corn (whole)

• Box green tea

• Box black tea

• 1 oz Cardamom

• 2 oz Coriander

• 0.2 oz Dill weed

• 2 oz Ginger

• 6 oz Dried Cranberries

• 16 oz Sunflower Oil

If you cannot volunteer, you can still donate to our work in food security to help people facing hunger in our community.

To sign up to donate, please visit: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/904094ca9ae2ea2f49-flavors#/

Thank you for joining us for Flavors of Our Community 2023

Meg Louwagie is CEO of United Way of Southwest Minnesota


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