Solid Ground’s Cooking Matters is a program that offers no-cost 6-week classes that combine cooking, nutrition, menu planning, budgeting and kitchen safety. Its aim is to empower families and individuals at risk of hunger with the knowledge, skills and confidence to shop for and prepare healthy yet affordable meals.
However, behind the lights, camera and action of a Solid Ground Cooking Matters class, there are those who do not share the spotlight of a Week 6 graduation ceremony.
I was introduced to Eliece a few weeks before writing this piece. Eliece is our volunteer shopper. She shows up at Solid Ground’s offices on Fridays at 11am, sometimes with her 2-year-old son Henry in tow, ready to receive the grocery list I put together.
Eliece will drive to Safeway and spend an average of three hours there, then drive back to our offices and re-stock what I consider to be the heart and soul of Solid Ground’s Cooking Matters program – our food cabinets, fridge and freezer. Even though our storage area is in a dark and freezing basement, I have great and deep reverence for this tiny, bare, makeshift space. It holds the ingredients central to our classes.
Every week, Eliece shows up. Few know about Eliece at Solid Ground. Class volunteers and participants don’t get to meet her, and she isn’t mentioned in any of the classes.
I am reminded of the unheard stories of all the other unsung heroes who contribute to bring food to Solid Ground’s basement. Farmers and immigrants who toil on the land, truck drivers and seafarers who transport produce, laborers (sometimes minors) in processing and packaging factories … individuals in this convoluted global and domestic food system who also aren’t mentioned at Week 6 graduation ceremonies. What are their stories in helping to bring food to Solid Ground’s Cooking Matters classes? Do we stop to reflect on this as we sit down and enjoy cooked meals with each other?
I shared a story with Eliece that just the day before, a participant at a Week 6 graduation ceremony said that she had never cooked before taking the Cooking Matters class, and she had now started to cook. She was also telling her family that they needed to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their meals.
I told Eliece that she had helped to do that. That that was her life-changing impact.
I wish we could tell all the other unsung heroes of their impact.
If you meet Eliece at the Solid Ground lobby, Fridays at 11am, I hope you’ll consider going up to her to say ‘thank you.’