I’m an alchemist in the kitchen, making magic happen when I transform the simplest ingredients into something extraordinary.
One trick I don’t mind sharing is a recipe for making hunger disappear.
I add a dash of my passion for cooking and fold in a generous measure of nutrition awareness, drawing on my professional experience.
Getting it right didn’t happen overnight, however.
A few years ago when I was a student at the University of the District of Columbia, a representative of the Capital Area Food Bank came to one of our classes recruiting volunteers for Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters® program .
The program mission attracted me, but time passed, and despite receiving monthly e-mails asking to join a series, I never joined.
Several years later, while working as a community nutritionist at an outpatient clinic, a manager re-directed my attention to Cooking Matters®. Finally, I contacted the Capital Area Food Bank, made all the arrangements and our first Cooking Matters series began, with we me serving as nutrition instructor and class coordinator.
I fell in love with all aspects of the program, which uses simple concepts, easy, inexpensive recipes and involve the participant in cooking and learning nutrition concepts.
Using that experience as a springboard, I went on to work with a group of parents and kids at one of the Catholic Charities sites in Washington D.C., which subsequently became a Cooking Matters satellite site.
My responsibilities grew to include recruiting volunteers, planning and implementing the classes, and purchasing the groceries, while working with a wonderful team of colleagues.
Looking back, I’ve noticed that participants were most “spellbound” or receptive to new information when they could see how basic, accessible ingredients can become delicious, healthy meals.
They take joy in knowing how to gain proper nutrition that improves the quality of life and health for their families, and communities.
Through Cooking Matters, I found a way to combine my two passions: food and nutrition in a way that empowers individuals to personally combat hunger.
The real trick, you see, is in recognizing an opportunity to leverage the skills you’ve developed to proudly serve your community.
I encourage you to get involved with Cooking Matters or any other initiative that will fuel your passion and help to end hunger. Don’t put it off. You never know how many lives you can touch by your efforts.
Mabel Hernandez, a licensed nutritionist, is a 2013 Sodexo Dietetic Intern, and a 2008 Graduate of the University of the District of Columbia. View this video to learn more information about Cooking Matters.