Thursday, January 19, 2006

Fun with volunteering

So yesterday I had my first volunteer gig with Brain Food, a nonprofit whose mission is "Brainfood's mission is to use food as a tool to build life skills with youth in a fun and creative setting." As a professional community organizer and a self avowed foodie (well, obviously!), this was the perfect volunteer gig. I love the approach of using cooking as a tool for community organizing and empowerment. Two great tastes that taste great together!

I had a total blast. The students came from DC public high schools and had varying levels of skill of the kitchen. This group I am volunteering with was predominantly people of color. My job was just to help out, get to know the students, and support them where I could. It was fun standing back and just seeing where they needed me as opposed to being directive and telling them how to proceed. Each session, the students break up into three groups to make three different recipes. At the end everyone gets to taste the finished dishes. It being grain week, the dishes were cornbread, shrimp fried rice, and granola bars. I particularly loved how the two Chinese girls in the class immediately chose cornbread. One thing that I really enjoyed was that skills of cooperation and division of labor were really reinforced. I liked that these students were cleaning as they went and made sure that noone was stuck doing all the dishes. I was tickled pink when one of the Chinese girls was schooling the fried rice group on how it's done. There's an amazing cross cultural dialogue that was happening and I enjoyed being a part of that.

The other piece of the class that was remarkable is that the students were encouraged to think for themselves. They didn't have to LIKE what they made and were encourage to think about how they would have made those dishes differently for their own tastes.

I already know what the highlight of my year will be - the Brainfood graduation. The graduation is an Iron Chef style cooking competition in a hotel kitchen with "celebrity" judges and guest chef's helping the teams. I am so fricking there!


culocho said...

Oh wow! That sounds like so much fun. I'm jealous.

Stef said...

That sounds like a great group - good for you!