Fresh, colorful and tasty salads are a hit with Open Arms’ clients.

A summer partnership with local nonprofit organization Open Arms of Minnesota brought teen-created entrée salads to local residents with life-threatening illnesses. The fresh, colorful and tasty salads were a hit with Open Arms’ clients, and the Strawberry Milanese Delight, in particular, was a fan favorite with just about everybody.

Fans have missed the cart and the youth.

ROOTS for the Home Team began with the premise that youth from local community garden programs could create and sell salads at Twins’ home games. Wow, have we grown. Over the years, programming has expanded to include an educational curriculum through the University of Minnesota, new venues for in-person and in-store salad sales, and ongoing opportunities for career advancement and entrepreneurship for ROOTS’ teens.

While sales at Target Field are still a core part of the model that teaches leadership, hospitality and customer service, the organization also has branched out to find new ways for ROOTS participants to bring their sumptuous salads to other communities in the Twin Cities area. This summer, a partnership was renewed with Open Arms of Minnesota and ROOTS’ salads were delivered directly into the hands of local residents with life-threatening illnesses. Youth worked Thursday evening shifts in the Open Arms’ kitchen, using their own recipes to make help prepare their salads.

“I love seeing the kids in the kitchen,” said April Bogard, senior director of programs at Open Arms. “This has been an eye-opening experience for them, and I love that we can be a part of that. I know we aren’t the ballpark, but we have lots of big, shiny commercial equipment, and our chefs love to talk with them and answer questions. And, I love telling them stories about the great reactions their salads have been getting.”

It feels really good when you help others, says ROOTS participant Mochny Velasquez. “Knowing our salads were helping people be more healthy and then being able to work as a team while having fun made it that much more special. It was a great way to use your time and learn new skills. I’ve learned a lot of techniques from the chef and it helps me every day in my life.

Bogard reported plenty of thumbs-up from Open Arms’ clients for the colorful and tasty ROOTS salads. “Everyone raved about the Strawberry Milanese Delight in particular,” she said. “It’s a really nicely balanced salad, and it’s so pretty to look at. You really do eat with your eyes, after all.” Created by Pillsbury United Waite House youth and chef coach Bertrand Weber from Minneapolis Culinary and Wellness Services, the salad features hominy, brown rice, carrots, strawberries and green beans, served with an avocado cilantro lime dressing. Feeling hungry already?

Feeling hungry already? Here's the recipe.

“I’m so grateful that ROOTS reached out to us,” Bogard said. “I don’t think we would have thought of this partnership on our own. It’s been great all around. Our clients have loved the salads. We’ve had an opportunity to host new volunteers who may not have known about us otherwise. And the teens have been able to work in a real commercial kitchen, interacting with professional chefs. I hope the teens are inspired by this experience to consider careers in foodservice, customer service or business. There are so many points along the way that could lead to future jobs for them.”