The Capital Area Food Bank has been a long-time partner of Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters – formerly Operation Frontline – program. This partnership, which provides individuals with the knowledge and skills to make healthier choices and prepare healthier meals, began in 1993 and the demand for Cooking Matters classes has been growing since. The food bank is projected to deliver over 40 Cooking Matters classes in 2011 – reaching over 600 individuals in the National Capital Region.
The ability to meet the demand for growing class requests has been fueled by the new Cooking Matters Satellite Site program, officially launched at the Capital Area Food Bank in October 2010. While partner sites such as Food and Friends had been conducting classes on their own before 2010, a capacity grant from Share our Strength and the Walmart Foundation provided the resources for making the Satellite Site partnership official. Since October, five new sites, including Mazique Parent Child Center, Family Health and Birth Center, Shaw Middle School, Adelphi/Langley Park Family Support Center and Gilford Elementary School, have been trained to conduct Cooking Matters classes on their own.
One of the most recent Satellite Site partnerships established is with Shaw Middle School (on the campus of Garnett-Patterson), with Registered Dietician Steph Saullo and Chef Amy Parker teaching courses with support from Shaw Principal Kimberly Douglas, Afterschool Coordinator Alicia Prince and Cooking Matters Satellite Site Coordinator Mitch Greene. Parker and Saullo have been loyal food bank volunteers, acting as the chef and nutrition volunteers, for numerous Cooking Matters classes and cooking demonstrations. The two met while volunteering with a Cooking Matters for Families class during the summer of 2010.
In June 2010, Parker attended the Chefs Move to Schools launch event. She left enthusiastic about the opportunity to adopt Shaw Middle School; and with the hope of reforming the school lunch menu, as well as getting parents and students involved in the process. She mentioned the idea to Saullo in July while volunteering together.
On hearing the idea, Saullo responded, “Oh, well, I’ll help!” Parker says “Suddenly I realized I’d hit gold. I had someone who was willing to work, who knew all about nutrition.”
The partnership between Shaw, Share our Strength and the Capital Area Food Bank seemed like a natural fit for Saullo and Parker. “My experience with [Cooking Matters] through the other classes I volunteered with was just so positive. It was well laid out, the organization was there and the students responded well. I really thought it was a great spring board for bringing Mrs. Obama’s message and the Share our Strength and Capital Area Food bank message together,” says Parker.
Saullo and Parker kicked their vision into gear this month, introducing the Cooking Matters Satellite Site partnership to Shaw, and officially “adopting” Shaw as part of Mrs. Obama’s “Chefs Move to Schools” initiative. They are also partnering with the Growing Connection programs – sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – to grow an in-school garden and the Partnership for a Healthier America. The classes began January 10 with 14 students participating in the nutrition and hands-on cooking lessons; another class series is planned before the end of the school year.
You can follow their progress on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/shawcooks.
According to Parker, “This is fun! I have fun doing this! The Share our Strength and Capital Area Food Bank program makes it very easy to do this and have fun doing it. I get to work with people that share my passion and I get to share that passion with other people.”