By Allison Forrer
Before the start of each Cooking Matters class, AmeriCorps member Veronica Palladino has to make sure she has all of her people and supplies prepped and ready to go. She is responsible for recruiting enough volunteers for each class, training the volunteers, and coordinating with the site to make sure they are ready for the course. She also must have enough groceries and equipment to make the recipes for the day.
As Veronica reflects, “everything you do isn’t going to be the a-ha moment, but everything leads up to that — those day-to-day things are really important.”
Eating Better for Less
Those day-to-day things are what make Cooking Matters classes possible. Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters teaches participants to shop smarter, use nutrition information to make healthier choices, and cook delicious, affordable meals as part of the No Kid Hungry campaign to end childhood hunger in America.
For 20 years, Cooking Matters has empowered families with the skills to stretch their food budgets and cook healthy meals so their children get nutritious food at home. For 10 of those years, more than 150 AmeriCorps members have served with Cooking Matters. Members like Veronica have worked with our partners across the country to prep, coordinate, grocery shop, recruit, train, and teach in order to create hundreds of “a-ha” moments for low-income families who want to eat better for less.
The Value of Sharing a Meal
Even before she started serving with AmeriCorps, Veronica understood the importance of the family meal. She grew up on a dairy farm, where her family also kept a small garden in the yard for their own use. Food was what brought all seven members of her family together at the end of the day to laugh, reflect, and share. Veronica carries the value of sharing a meal into her daily service with Cooking Matters. She takes the time to know each of the class participants by name and likes to discover their interests so she can make the learning experience meaningful for each participant.
Volunteering has always been an important part of Veronica’s life, so serving with AmeriCorps was a natural fit and has given her a way to dedicate a year toward impacting the lives of others even as she grows and learns.
“A lot of what makes a job enjoyable is how you are actually spending your time,” Veronica said.
For her, the diversity of tasks and the purpose behind her work — keeping families from going to bed hungry — has made her AmeriCorps service year time well spent.
Every day matters when there’s the possibility to make an impact on someone’s life. Every day, AmeriCorps members serving with Cooking Matters are bringing families together to share meals, learn to make healthy choices, and create moments of discovery that make a difference.
Allison Forrer is the national volunteer program manager at Share Our Strength. March has been designated Healthy Futures month for the AmeriCorps 20th Anniversary celebration. To learn more about the celebration, visit the AmeriCorps 20th Anniversary portal.