A goodbye message from our AmeriCorps Patrick O’Leary. Patrick helped to bring Operation Frontine, a six-week cooking and nutrition class that teaches skills and knowledge about eating healthy on a budget.
It is hard to believe that almost an entire year has gone by since I first arrived at the Capital Area Food Bank. Since last September, I have had the incredible opportunity to work with so many incredible people, learn about this community, hunger and even about myself. For lack of a better way of summing up my experience, let me just recount just a few of the things I’ve learned this year.
• I learned that when you can barely afford to put food on the table, “trying new things” is a luxury you often can’t afford. One of the great elements of the six-week Operation Frontline cooking and nutrition class is simply allowing participants to cook and eat new, healthy foods, so they can be confident that buying these foods will be money well spent.
• I learned that kids will eat and love just about anything they’ve had a hand in cooking. I will never forget seeing one nine-year-old boy run up to his dad at the end of class and beg him to let him take home a bag of extra zucchini he helped cut.
• I learned that a lot of people desperately want to eat healthier and feed their families better, but grew up in households where nobody cooked and just lacked the basic cooking skills necessary to make healthy, homemade meals. It is incredible how empowering it can be to learn basic skills like chopping and roasting.
• I learned that our city is full of people who have dedicated their lives to improving our community and serving their neighbors. One of the great joys of being an OFL coordinator is being able to work with site coordinators who have been in communities for decades and just to hear their stories.
• I learned that organizations like the Capital Area Food Bank are remarkable places filled with truly remarkable people. For decades, this organization has managed to put out millions and millions of pounds of food each year to feed the hungry. The people I’ve had the chance to work with are inspiring in their dedication, but they are also some of the funniest, nicest people I’ve ever met.
• I learned that oftentimes the only thing preventing people from getting more involved in their communities is a lack of communication about opportunities. I think one of the great things about OFL is that it not only brings chefs and nutritionists in to teach classes, it also brings them into communities where they establish relationships. Nothing made me happier than seeing my volunteers continue to work with sites long after our class series were over.
• I learned that everyone has something to teach and that this is especially true in a cooking class. Something about spending the last twenty minutes of each class in fellowship over a meal leads to some really wonderful conversations, and without the sixth-class potlucks I never would have learned just how delicious West African cuisine is!
This year has flown by and it’s sad to have to say good-bye to all the wonderful people at CAFB, the sites I’ve worked with and Share Our Strength. One thing that’s for sure is that I will never forget the things I’ve learned this year. Whatever the future holds for me, I plan on staying involved in the struggle to end hunger for the rest of my life.