Open Arms of Minnesota has been serving free and nourishing meals to critically ill Minnesotans for 36 years. They work with registered dietitians and in-house chefs to make sure their menus have what a person needs to nourish them through their specific diagnoses. With their new Culturally Specific Meal Project, Open Arms is working to develop accessible, culturally appropriate, and authentic “medically tailored meals” to better serve East African, Hmong, and Latinx communities who are disproportionately impacted by severe illnesses, including COVID-19.
“We’ll hear from clients that they love our meals but it would be nice to have something that’s more in line with what they normally eat,” says Yia Yang, the Culturally Specific Meal Project manager.
To do that, they are accepting submissions for recipes from East African, Hmong or Latinx communities through September 5. “We had been talking about doing this project for a really long time but the missing piece was having people with lived experience with those recipes help in creating them and be a part of the process,” says Laura Strait, Director of Nutrition Services.
Recipes have to meet four criteria, including being made up of easily sourced ingredients, being flexible to meet the medically tailored meal specifications, able to be modified to create large batches, and the Open Arms team has to have the capacity to execute the recipe. If a recipe is selected to be in the Culturally Specific Meals Project menu and meets eligibility criteria, submitters can receive $200 per recipe.
“We really wanted to do this right. We’re thinking about things like, culturally, is it more appropriate to make meals family style or in some sort of different delivery method whether that be including raw ingredients or doing some prep on their own,” Strait says. “We want to take into account the things that are important to people culturally because it’s not a one size fits all approach.”