Some staple commodities are given out each time, such as dry milk, pinto beans and cheese, said Meeks. Other foods, such as peanut butter, cranberry juice and applesauce, are sometimes distributed as specials.
The commodities are distributed by volunteers with Casey County Community Ministries, said Bill Roark, one of the volunteers. "It's a community effort," Roark said.
At Meeks' first commodities distribution, the Wednesday following the third Monday of May, the friendly young woman with a wide smile offers samples from her newest recipe for peanut butter balls to area residents who come to the Casey County Road Department to pick up their commodities.
She also offers packets of recipes for goodies such as pumpkin muffins and meatballs to sweet potato pudding, recipes with one ingredient in common - each one uses dry milk, a staple commodity.
How it is in real life
As residents file by, Meeks smiles and hands out recipes and her peanut butter balls.
"Everyone may not be taking the samples, but they're all gung-ho about taking the recipes," Meeks says. "It makes me feel good seeing the difference being made."
Meeks, a rising junior at the University of Kentucky, is a family and consumer science major in the university's College of Agriculture. Planning to pursue a career at the Casey County Extension Office, Meeks says she "wanted to see how it was in real life, not have someone just tell me about it."
This summer, however, Meeks may have gotten more than she bargained for.
Right now the Casey Extension office has two rather than the typical three agents, said Debbie Shepherd, the Casey Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences. Thus the extra responsibilities fall to Shepherd and her intern, Meeks.
"We don't want to scare her off, but give her a good taste," says Shepherd, laughing.
In addition to her work with commodities, Meeks will work at a local 4-H camp, help out at the Casey County Fair, judge surrounding county fairs, and work at an area after-school program called Kids' Team.
Meeks and Shepherd, planning their sample for the next month, discuss the unorthodox ways commodities can be used. "I want to try that applesauce chocolate cake recipe out," says Meeks.
"Applesauce can be substituted for oils and fats in a recipe." Shepherd adds. "You can't even tell."
Right now, however, Meeks' attention is focused on welcoming and helping those people receiving commodities - and handing out her dwindling supply of peanut butter balls. "I am pleased with how they turned out," Meeks says. "This morning, when we first came, I just stood with my tray while people took them out of my hands. We didn't even have a table. ... They were popular."
Chocolate Cake using applesauce
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk (or substitute 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice plus milk)
2/3 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour bottoms of two 8-inch round cake pans. In a large bowl, blend all ingredients at low speed until moistened, then beat three minutes at medium speed.
Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Dust the cooled cake with powdered sugar.
Peanut Butter Balls Using Dried Milk
Makes about 6 dozen small cookies. About 100 calories for two cookies.
2 1/2 cups crushed crunchy cereal (save half for coating)
1 cup honey
1 cup raisins
1 cup chunky peanut butter
1/4 cup nonfat dried milk
Mix 1 cup crushed crunchy cereal with honey, raisins, peanut butter and dried milk. Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in the remaining crushed cereal to coat. Refrigerate for at least one hour.