Celebrating Food Heroes

— Written By and last updated by Meghan Lassiter
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A couple of weeks ago I was pleased to take part in a celebration of Food Heroes here in Brunswick County. These Food Heroes are the food pantry and giving garden volunteers and staff that worked hard during COVID and continue to work together to feed the food insecure in our county. This event was sponsored by the Brunswick County Wellness Coalition (BWC). The mission of BWC is to improve the health of residents of Brunswick County with the goal of making us the healthiest county in NC. Leigh Lane, Executive Director of BWC, welcomed and introduced participating Food Heroes.

In addition to recognizing and thanking the pantries and their volunteers, BWC partners offered food tastings that featured foods frequently provided by local pantries. Our Extension Family and Consumer Science team shared samples of a Southwest Confetti Salad that featured brown rice, black beans, water chestnuts, and pimentos. Novant Hospital Community Health had a yummy recipe for Sweet Potato Nachos and the Food Bank from Wilmington shared a Three-Color Bean Salad with homemade vinaigrette dressing. These recipes can be found in our online Recipe Folder.

The outstanding recipe of the evening was prepared by Chef John LaTour from
Healthy Families Healthy Futures. This was a Chocolate Mousse. Chef John developed this recipe that features pureed sweet potatoes in a healthy (yet delicious) treat.

Sweet Potato Chocolate Mousse

This recipe is very flexible. It can be made with monk fruit, stevia, agave, honey or regular sugar—it is your choice. It can also be made vegan by using nut or oatmeal milk in addition to coconut milk.

Chocolate Mousse:

  • 2 fresh medium sweet potatoes (approximately 2 cups mashed/pureed)
  • 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk (don’t substitute another milk)
  • 1/2 cup of milk or water (not coconut milk—this could be regular milk, skim
    milk or nut milk)
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened 100% cacao/cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons monk fruit sweetener (equivalent to 3 tablespoons of regular
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder (optional, but brings out the chocolate flavor)
  • 1 teaspoon fine ground sea salt

Dessert Base:

  • 5 or 6 shortbread cookies, graham crackers, vanilla wafers, chocolate sandwich cookies or chocolate wafer cookies – crushed

Whipped Topping:

  • Could be made from coconut milk or whipping cream or a purchased whipped topping
  • 4 Tablespoons shredded chocolate


  1. To bake the sweet potatoes, preheat the oven to 400 F. Wash the unpeeled sweet potatoes and pierce them with a fork or skewer. Place the potatoes on a foil-lined baking tray and bake for 40-60 minutes or until tender. Cool the sweet potatoes and peel them. Note: sweet potatoes could be microwaved or steamed, but baking brings out the sweetness.
  2. Place the peeled cooked sweet potatoes, coconut milk, milk of choice,
    cocoa powder, sweetener, vanilla extract, espresso powder, and sea salt
    into a food processor (preferred) or blender.
  3. Process until well incorporated and smooth, scraping sides at least twice.
  4. Taste the mousse mixture and add more sweetener, cacao, or vanilla as
  5. In the bottom of the dessert bowls, add several spoonfuls of crushed cookies.
  6. Spoon the mousse on top of the crumbs and refrigerate until chilled. It will thicken a bit as it cools.
  7. Before serving, if desired, garnish with whipped topping and sprinkle with chocolate shreds.

Healthy Families Healthy Futures is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to empowering teachers, school staff, and families of young children to embrace healthy eating habits. Chef John teaches people of all ages to cook and eat healthy. For more great recipes, check the East Healthy NC website.

In celebration of World Food Day, the Brunswick Wellness Coalition partners will conduct a healthy food drive from October 16 through November 4. BWC partners will host drop-off locations throughout Brunswick County. The goal is to increase the number of healthy foods donated to food pantries and, in doing so, increase everyone’s awareness of eating healthier foods. More info about the food drive.

Cheryle Syracuse wrote this article and more similar ones for the Family and Consumer Sciences Column in the Brunswick Beacon. Syracuse is an FCS team member and can be reached at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center, 910.253.2610 or by email at cheryle_syracuse@ncsu.edu.