A couple of Saturdays ago, on a gorgeous sunny day when many Berkeley residents were likely heading out for a hike, contemplating another coffee, or barely out of bed, I stopped by a cooking class taught at Ursula Sherman Village on Harrison Street, a transitional living facility for the homeless in West Berkeley.
Sponsored by Operation Frontline, a national program that offers cooking classes to low-income families, the class of eager kids and interested adults was the final in a free six-week series designed to help people living on a little to eat healthy, inexpensive, tasty food.
Starting June 22nd, Kitchen on Fire, a cooking school in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto, offers their latest round of Operation Frontline classes. This series, serving mostly African American seniors, is full for both participants and volunteers.
Operation Frontline is a program of Share Our Strength, a non-profit organization dedicated to ending childhood hunger.
This January, the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association and Fresh Approach were selected to implement Operation Frontline’s cooking curriculum in the San Francisco Bay Area. “In the six weeks we try to cover a lot of bases — new foods, healthy eating, and how to plan meals,” says PCFMA’s Sarah Nelson, who oversees the program.
What I watched going on that Saturday was inspiring. Yes, inspiring is an overused word. Sorry, that was my takeaway observing a trio of good samaritans, actively engaged in the prepping, cooking, and consuming of nutritious food with families of wee ones. On the menu that day: Freshly squeezed orange juice and make-your-own omeletes chock full of veggies like spinach, squash, and peppers.
So kudos to Johnasies McGraw, Elyssia Schtaklef, and Aaron Hardisty. “Feeding people is a form of love,” says Kaiser Permanente employee Hardisty, explaining why he volunteers his time. (Kaiser provides grant funds for the classes.) “And I like that this program brings together both the personal and professional parts of my life.”
For recent nutrition graduate Schtaklef, the classes are a way to put her academic training into practice. “I love how the kids are really open to trying new food,” she says. “And how excited they get about making food and eating different dishes.”
Says class chef McGraw, an avid home cook: “This is a no-brainer for me. I love food. I’m interested in food justice and food access issues. It’s a great opportunity to teach people about simple, nutritious ways to eat well.”