A Beacon of Light for the Blind - Capital Area Food Bank
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A Beacon of Light for the Blind

By Kim Le January 26, 2010

“Can you guys smell and hear the sizzle? If it’s sizzling, that means that the vegetables still need to cook.” Chef Mitch was describing the cooking process to a room full of Operation Frontline participants. But this was no ordinary class—this was an extraordinary group at the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind in the Eating Right class series.
Planning for the class was challenging because most of the nutrition education activities were sight-dependent and needed to be modified. Instead of reading nutrition labels on cans of food, we decided to have a taste-test of canned fruit and vegetables to investigate sugar and sodium levels. Instead of showing pictures of food portion sizes, our nutritionists created models using a 9-volt battery (cheese) and a deck of cards (meat). We utilized activities that employed the four other senses in order to teach the nutrition aspect of food.
The most challenging and awe-inspiring part of this class was the culinary aspect. When asking the participants why they were taking our OFL class, the majority of the responses were, “To gain some independence by learning to cook better on my own.” There were a variety of skill levels, from experienced household chefs to those who had never correctly chopped an onion. One woman who was brought in by her daughter told us, “I never liked to cook especially now that I’m losing my vision, but being with others in this class who are blind and cook for themselves makes me believe that I can do it too.”

Chef Mitch Greene, a two-time volunteer for Operation Frontline, had experience with this type of class as he had taught with the program before. One day during class, Chef Mitch decided to teach the class how to cut an onion, a seemingly impossible task. Yet the descriptive instructions created a vivid mental image for the participants which made the skill easy to pick up. It became clear that it didn’t suffice to just point something out; the vibrance of the details was equally important.

To get a better perspective on the class, the class leaders and I even tried cooking at home with our eyes closed. The experience was a bit disorienting and even terrifying but it instantly became clear why confidence in the kitchen had the power to provide greater independence. Learning to cook for oneself is a fundamental skill that should be taught to everyone, regardless of age, gender or even disability.
It doesn’t matter what skills you already have, anyone can cook. In our Columbia Lighthouse class, it was often the blind who actually had the strongest vision on life.
This post is also on the Share Our Strength No Kid Hungry blog.