Without volunteer Erika Whittier, Cooking Matters (Solid Ground’s cooking and nutrition education program) would have trouble putting food on the table for some of our classes.
Erika has been our go-to grocery shopper for the past year, weekly obtaining groceries for our Cooking Matters recipes. Her work means we can make a healthy snack and meal in every class session, in addition to providing the ingredients of the meal for participants to practice cooking at home. Grocery shopping isn’t as easy when you’re buying cans of beans and tomatoes in bulk (they’re heavy!) and comparing unit prices or reading ingredient lists with expertise! Erika has shown amazing patience and optimism with our grocery lists. Without her assistance, the Cooking Matters team of volunteer chefs and nutrition educators would not be able to work with the same standard of efficiency.
Along with regular grocery shopping, Erika has also volunteered as a class assistant. The role of class assistant entails many key class responsibilities, including but not limited to washing all equipment and dishes, and packing take-home ingredients for participants.
For all she has given to the work, Erika appreciates what she has experienced through her involvement. “It made me really appreciate it after I had been class assistant and saw how people responded to being in that class, and over the six weeks how they were really getting something from it. They really appreciate it, the work that they put into it. That is a really rewarding thing. … Doing the shopping, … I know that it’s all helping make that happen. So that makes it worth it. It takes everybody to make the machine run.”
We appreciate having such a wonderful team-focused volunteer who also maintains the importance of individual responsibilities that go along with a program like Cooking Matters.
Erika’s take on nutritional wellness & cooking fun
Erika describes herself as an “experimental cook.” Aligning with the Cooking Matters ideology of using a recipe as a framework, Erika explains how this form of cooking can lead to new ideas and excitement with cooking.
“My favorite way to cook is to not follow the recipe. … ‘What do I have that I can throw together?’ It just kind of becomes a little surprise. And I’m like, ‘Let’s see what develops out of this.’ There’s a lot you can learn about cooking that way too. About how things go together or how small you need to chop things up. … I rarely go by recipes.”
Along with cooking, Erika also emphasizes an enthusiasm about nutrition throughout her interactions with others and through the format of her strong volunteer work.
“If you can’t nourish yourself well, you’re not going to be your best self and you’re not going to be able to move towards wellness,” she says. “I think it can hold you back or hold you down if you’re not getting proper nutrition and nourishing yourself. And I think that it’s definitely intentional that I’m using the term nourishing, because it’s not just getting nutrients in your body and meeting your calorie needs, it’s the ritual and act of caring for yourself and preparing your food that kind of adds to your experience, feeds your soul too.”
Thank you, Erika, for helping promote good nutrition and how to have fun while cooking or even grocery shopping!