During my time at Freedom House, the highlight of my week is always a cooking class I participate in with a group of residents. Gleaners Community Food Bank offers a program called, Cooking Matters, which has a curriculum designed to offer healthy cooking options for those with a tight budget. As a college student who will spend three out of four years on campus living in a dorm, I would not consider cooking my forte… or my favorite thing to do on the planet. However, it is so much fun to get to spend two hours chopping vegetables or explaining the concept of tofu to the residents.
This time can also act as a cultural exchange. Sometimes, they will have me look up fish that are native to their country to give me a sense of what their local cuisine is like. We also share funny moments. For example, when asked if they were familiar with carving a whole chicken, most residents explained how they have single-handedly butchered a live chicken from their backyard. So you could say they were quite familiar.
This cooking program is a useful tool for residents to have. Here in the States, they do not always get to have access to the food they have spent their entire lives cooking back home. Also, here in the States, we have McDonald’s and Burger Kings on every corner. With this class, residents are able to familiarize themselves with affordable options available in a local grocery store. During one class in particular, we discussed the difference between retail price and unit price for food. In another class, we made pizza in the same amount of time it would take to have a large pizza delivered for a portion of the cost.
I hope the information will be useful for residents to have when they move out of the house and transition into independent housing.