This salad grew out of a need to incorporate leftovers and produce donations into meals. Often we receive small amounts of vegetables or meat that have to be used immediately before they spoil.

What makes it special to our residents is that they are able to customize their salad to include the ingredients they like. Most of the time, we are only able to make one menu with set components for each meal. This dish represents an entirely different way of eating in our shelter, whereby the residents are selecting from a variety of ingredients to compose a healthy meal for themselves. The day I saw a five-year-old resident picking baby spinach off of her plate and eating it like potato chips, I knew we were on to something.

The dish has slowly evolved in response to changes in the focus of our kitchen program and the USDA’s dietary requirements. It can easily be adapted to whatever ingredients are in season, so we are able to create some iteration of the salad year round.