Saying Goodbye to our Beloved AmeriCorps Member, Annette!
Thinking back on my year as an AmeriCorps with Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters program, many fond memories come to mind. There were certainly some low points (thinking I could roll a bin full of kitchen supplies off of a too-tall curb; the contents spilling out onto the cold, rainy, wintery pavement while cars drove by as I scrambled to pick everything up before all of Omaha knew of my mishap) but for the most part all of my recollections are positive. In order to feel like I am moving ahead in life, I must be working towards a greater goal of some kind. This is exactly the opportunity Cooking Matters presented me with.
“Cooking Matters empowers families with the skills to stretch their food budgets and cook healthy meals so their children get nutritious food at home.” What a mission to be a part of! Nutrition and healthy living have always been goals of mine. I have known, ever since I stopped eating Doritos with every meal, when I eat well and exercise I am able to live a happier, more fulfilling life. It is extremely satisfying to see folks from all walks of life realizing this for the first time at age 30, 50, even 60 after participating in one of our Cooking Matters classes. Here is what makes all of the kitchen supply-lugging, towel cleaning, and dish wishing worth it: “I have learned that eating healthy makes me feel better throughout the day. My family also enjoyed the recipes. I have cooked them on several occasions. I have learned to appreciate my health and my family’s health and enjoy life and live.” (Participant from a Cooking Matter for Adults class at CharlesDrewHealthCenter)
Teaching others to cook healthy meals on a dime (and by that I mean under $10.00 for a family of four) is another aspect of the Cooking Matters curriculum I feel strongly about. As an AmeriCorps, believe it or not, I do not have wads of cash to throw at fancy organic food stores and neither do the individuals we teach. If you do have the cash to buy lobster and caviar a couple of times a week, by all means spend away and invite me over for dinner. Most people do not, though, so it is necessary to equip ourselves with the tools to cook up delicious, seemingly gourmet meals on a limited budget. It is a common misperception that we have to spend way beyond our meager food budgets in order to eat healthy, tasteful foods. This is simply not true and I love it when we can prove this to our participants time and time again. Just try our Ratatouille or Barley Jambalaya recipe; we can prove it to you.
As the year draws to a close, I am realizing how grateful I am for the opportunity to learn these real-life skills of eating healthy on a budget and to allow others to learn them as well. It was a wonderful mission to work towards this year and I hope that I am given another opportunity to work for Cooking Matters, or another similar organization, in the future. In what other employment capacity can you can steal tips from chefs on how to perfectly dice an onion, see a child’s face light up when you ask them to “be the chef” for the class, and talk passionately with others about whole grains, all while working towards the greater goal of helping others feel their best in this short life? If you have an answer for me, let me know. I would love to send them my resume.